Disclaimer: As usual. The property of successful people and not myself...

xx edited the last line for clarity xx

Another Fool

Albel hated funerals.

They were always weepy and melodramatic affairs, with middle-aged women moaning and their husbands patting them on the back, or small children bawling their eyes out.

Unfortunately, Albel's status as a military officer in an active army made it rather difficult to avoid them. Despite his claim that he didn't care what anybody else thought, he would admit to himself that it would be rather crass to skip out when, for example, a few of his own subordinates died.

This particular funeral was another one of those formal occasions that Albel was basically stuck with. After carting Fayt's father's corpse up to the Diplo, the crew had stuck the body in a strange-looking metallic cylinder and conducted an impromptu ceremony in the docking bay so they could jettison the body into space. While most of the crew were those stoic, hardened, military types that would gaze firmly into the distance and later go home to cry in private, there were a few exceptions.

Albel hadn't really been expecting Fayt to be one of the latter.

After blatantly ignoring all of the early tell-tale signs, Albel found himself shifting uncomfortably and trying desperately to continue ignoring the sniffles coming from his right.

Peering out of the corners of his eyes, Albel witnessed Fayt hiccuping suspiciously and repeatedly wiping his nose or his eyes with the back of his arm.

Considering the situation, Albel had come up with a number of possible responses to Fayt's little sob-fest:

"Suck it up, worm."

"The maggot deserved to die, anyway."

"It was his fault for being weak."

"Only fools mourn the passing of fools."

...Somehow none of those really seemed appropriate. (Previous experience has showed him that people tended to cry louder, or sometimes yell and throw things at him.)

Leaving was also out of the question. The docking back was cram-packed full of everyone on the ship; it would cause more of a ruckus than Albel wanted to stir to push his way to the back of the mob.

So Albel was left standing there awkwardly, completely unable to ignore Fayt's drama and equally unable to do anything about it. For a moment, he thought that the situation really couldn't possibly get any worse.

He was wrong.

Albel hadn't made any particular note when Fayt had moved through the crowd to stand on his right side. Once Fayt had grabbed his good hand had proceeded to lean towards him, Albel couldn't help but notice in shock and horror as Fayt moved closer, closer...

Oh, fuck.

Now that Fayt was essentially sobbing into Albel's shoulder and gripping his hand like a desperate widow, Albel found himself wishing quite fervently that Fayt had been standing on his other side. Even a rusty gauntlet would be better than this.

Stiff as a board and ready to jump at a moment's notice, Albel started pointedly in the opposite direction. If there was one thing he really hated more than anything else, it was public displays of emotion. Really, if you were going to flaunt your inability to control your own emotions, you might as well do it in private.

Unfortunately, Fayt had worked past the maggot stage with Albel. He was one of the handful of people that Albel would admit that maybe, just maybe, was worth anything at all. Demotion from that status was simply not an option.

Albel didn't want to think about why Fayt might be crying on his shoulder. That would reek of empathy, which Albel found to be rather repulsive. But as the minutes dragged into what seemed like hours, Albel began to struggle with his own self-imposed barrier.

This was stupid. He wanted to leave, but he couldn't. Albel hated being forced into things. He hated having this stupid kid crying on his shoulder that only reminded him of things that he didn't really want to think about and standing in a room packed with people he didn't know at all and cared about even less and floating in some crazy metal object in a ship that was far away from anything he knew full of people who thought that he was a backwater hick and probably mentally unstable to boot.

He wanted to yell and draw his sword and slaughter every unsuspecting worm in this crowd. He wanted to watch the blood spill onto the floor in an ironically comforting gesture that would show Albel that not everything was so different out here in this other place. He wanted to scream and scream and scream until every maggot in the room backed away from him and gave him some SPACE.

But he didn't. He simply stood there, unmoving.

The fabric of Albel's shirt was balled up in Fayt's white-knuckled fists. Fayt's head drooped onto Albel's chest. In a brief instant, Fayt's head turned and his eyes caught Albel's.

Albel didn't like what he saw. He looked away and squeezed his eyes shut, breathing heavily.

Albel really was just another fool, after all.