Chapter Twenty-One – Let Lie the Ghosts

Garrett twisted restlessly in the uncomfortable chair, his eyes rolling under his eyelids as he dreamt. Somewhere, in some distant part of his mind, the same scene was playing over and over again, like a broken holo projection.

The guards were everywhere, all firing at the same time, all firing at him. And at Morgan. Men with Dalaxe uniforms poured into the docking bay in an unstoppable tide. Their eyes were as bright and lethal as the bolts of energy from their blasters.

Garrett cursed himself inwardly for the thousandth time, his fingers shifting constantly on the unfamiliar grip of the blaster in his hand. He should be returning fire, he knew, like Morgan was. He should just take his place next to her and help her cover their escape. He should.

But he was scared.

Past the fear, he was disgusted with himself. He was stronger than this. He couldn't afford to be a coward now. Not when Morgan and Merick were depending on him. Not when Morgan was depending on him.

That thought triggered some hidden reserve of strength in him. 'I'll do it,' his mind whispered. All he had to do was take a step forward, raise the blaster….

The whine of the single blaster shot was nearer than the rest. Louder. But the cry of pain was louder still in his ears. In front of him, he watched in slow motion as Morgan's blaster fell from her hand and she dropped to her knees.

'No….'

The world sharpened into focus. The blaster in his hand that had only a moment ago felt so alien now felt as if it could not possibly belong anywhere else. He caught sight of the guard, who was trying to take cover just beyond the closest docked ship.

'No.'

He fired, single-minded rage taking hold. The bolt from his gun found the guard instantly, cover or no. There was a muted, horrible thud as energy struck flesh, and the guard crumpled like useless slag.

There were still more guards. He sought them out, a kind of killer's patience descending on him. One by one, he eliminated the guards. A gray-red curtain filled his vision. But beyond that, he could still see Morgan, curled on her side at his feet. The world was a darker red where she lay.

"No!"

He was still firing. And the guards were still dying.

"NO!"

Garrett gave one final spasmodic jerk that almost tumbled him from his chair, and woke up. He sat still, almost afraid to move, as tremors ran through his muscles. The darkness of the room waited to swallow him up. He had killed….

"Garrett?"

He sucked in an involuntary breath of surprise at the voice, rough and scratched and weak. And so unlike her.

"Morgan?" The realization hit home, and he was out of the chair and kneeling next to the bed in less than half a second. "Morgan!"

Clumsily he hit the light control on the wall, and immediately a piercing brightness lit the room. He flinched, hastily adjusting the light to a dimmer setting.

"Hey, careful, will ya?" Morgan murmured.

"Sorry." He smiled gently. "How are you doing?"

Morgan closed her eyes a moment. "I feel sort of…like I just made a high gravity maneuver without...without inertial dampeners." Her voice was soft, and her words came slowly. "So, really, I feel great."

Garrett laughed. "You really worried us. Merick was—oh." He got to his feet. "I should go get him. He was worried sick, and I know—"

"Wait."

Morgan's hand caught his arm, pulling him back down beside her.

"Not yet."

He suddenly felt a strange mix of affection and foreboding. Her exquisite eyes, shadowed now with pain, watched him with an expression he hadn't seen from her before. Her dark hair fanned around her head like the halo around a black hole. He tried to swallow once, twice.

"What is it?" he asked quietly.

With an effort, Morgan raised her head higher against the pillow. "I wanted to…thank you. For doing what you did." Her fingers still lay lightly along his arm. "I know that…it couldn't have been easy for you."

The still-vivid images of the Dalaxe docking bay and his dream rose before his mind's eye, but he pushed them away, focusing on Morgan. "Don't worry about it," he said. "You're safe now. That's all that matters."

"Garrett." The solemn undercurrent in her voice made him pause. "It—you—do matter. I mean, what happened. It's not something you can…just push aside. You have to…to talk about it."

He hesitated, but Morgan waited patiently. "It had never really sunk in before," he said after a few minutes. "Being on the run, a fugitive from Dalaxe." He let out a bitter laugh. "I mean, it probably should have. Three months. You'd think I would've had a nice long time to think about all the ramifications." He glanced down at her and tried to smile. "I guess it didn't. Not until…the docking bay."

She found his hand and squeezed it gently. "I'm sorry, Garrett."

But he was in his own world now. Black and gray and red shapes collided through his mind. "I never wanted to kill anyone."

"I know."

"And I never wanted to get anyone else hurt either." He looked at her, then glanced away guiltily. "You almost died."

Her fingers moved from his arm to grasp his hand. "But I didn't. Garrett, look at me. I'm still here."

"You're still here," he repeated, his voice almost a whisper.

Morgan lifted her head off the pillow, bringing her face closer to his. Without thinking, Garrett rested his hand on her cheek, drawing her closer. He hadn't realized until now how close he'd come to loosing her, how much she had come to mean to him. His pulse thrummed in his ears. Their lips brushed gently, not quite a kiss….

Abruptly Garrett pulled away. "I should go get Merick," he said quickly, drawing in a breath. "It's not fair to…." He trailed off as he rose to his feet, suddenly interested in nothing but escape. "To keep him waiting. I'm sure he'll want to see you."

Garrett could feel Morgan's eyes on him as he backed out of the room. Only when the door slid shut did he take a deep breath, forcing the knotted muscles in his stomach to relax.

"Get a grip, Braiden," he murmured to himself. His gaze lingered on the closed door, but he shook his head. "Way outta your league."

He ran a hand through his hair and turned around, heading for the cockpit to get Merick…

…And almost ran into the captain himself. Merick was standing right there in the hallway, arms folded and expression unreadable. Garrett had absolutely no idea how long Merick had been standing there, or how much he'd heard.

"Merick!" he said, his voice higher with surprise. "Uhm," he cleared his throat, "Morgan's awake."

Merick's expression didn't change, but at least he unfolded his arms. Garrett thought it made him look a little less dangerous. But only a little.

"So I heard," Merick said.

"Yeah, you should probably go see her." Garrett rubbed at the back of his neck. "I mean, I'm sure she would…."

Merick was simply nodding his head silently, the corner of his mouth twitching upward in the tinniest smirk. Garrett clenched his teeth together, forcing himself to stop babbling; he shifted awkwardly. Without a word, but with the smirk still on his lips, Merick stepped past him and keyed the door control.

"Morgan! You're awake!" Merick said, his voice fading as he stepped into the room and the door closed behind him.

Garrett stood in the hallway for a moment. With Morgan awake, and Merick's disposition rapidly improving, he could almost imagine that the danger had passed. But then he remembered the rigged tracking device in the engine room, the firefight at Taurus 7, and the fate that awaited all three of them if Rekker ever caught them again.

He sighed. There was still a long way to go.