"Stephen Everett", Lynne addressed the guard by his full name as she stood outside the cell door now. There was an uneasy feeling of déjà vu as the guard peered out at her from the cell door's barred window.
"Yes?" He answered in a callous tone, as though he was trying to sound intimidating.
"Don't you dare give me that tone, Mr. Everett." Lynne replied crossly. "The last time I stood outside this door, there was a man on the other side of it far more dangerous than you could ever be."
"Private Winston." The guard answered, watching as her eyes widened with utter surprise that he knew exactly who she'd been referring to.
"I was one of the guards, along with my brother that apprehended him on the day he'd beaten Private Mathis to a bloody pulp."
Lynne gave a sigh and briefly closed her eyes. "I'm sorry about your loss."
"His name was Ivan." The guard rudely corrected her. "At least address him properly!"
"I'm sorry about Ivan's loss." Lynne corrected herself, trying to keep her own anger in check. "But you're in here because you chose to assault Corporal Sterling. Now you mind explaining to me what your reasoning for that might be?"
The guard clenched his jaw at the sound of William's name. "Because he was acting like an asshole, threatening me, when I had done nothing wrong!"
Lynne shook her head at him. "I spoke with Corporal Sterling in the infirmary a while ago, and he said that you had deliberately allowed a child to walk outside the fences and into the city. Corporal Sterling said that he was leaving to report your insubordinate act to the admiral, and that's when you attacked him. Am I right or am I wrong?" She crossed her arms.
"He attacked me first when I admitted what I'd done." The guard explained then. "Slammed me against the fence!"
"But why would you do such a thing, Mr. Everett?" Lynne asked next. "Why would you put an innocent child in harm's way? Do you think Ivan would have approved of such a vile act? Or do you think he would also feel ashamed of you?"
Lynne could tell she hit a nerve with this man since he'd grown quiet.
"So am I being discharged or what?" The guard asked then, choosing to ignore her question.
"If it were up to me you would be." She answered curtly. "But I'm afraid that's for the admiral to decide."
And just when she'd thought she heard enough out of the man, that's when he decided to put her on the edge even more with his comments.
"I can't believe I'm saying this, but Morane was always right about you people."
"Excuse me?" She replied in disbelief.
"You heard me the first time." The guard chided. "I never saw it for myself until after the second time those alien savages tried to kill us all. So are you all just sitting around waiting for round three to happen or what? Or are our lives so meaningless to you, that you'd give them another free pass to continue living amongst us? We're not safe as long as they're here, why not have Atlantech build them a ship and send them far away if you don't want to kill them? But I still think its best that we do."
Hearing this, Lynne couldn't even begin to find the words to describe how angry and insulted she felt. Yet among the slew of emotions there was also guilt; mainly because she too had wondered if they might be safer without the Tjatey around. But she also knew killing them wasn't the answer.
"I'll discuss the matter with the admiral and get back to you later." She informed him before storming on out of there as fast as her legs would move.
She felt nothing for that guard, not even pity. As far as she could tell he was just another dangerous man that would need to be eliminated from the base before he could cause anyone else any harm, and she would do whatever it took to see that he was.
But as she was making her way down the long corridor which led back into the lobby, her mind drifted back to her talk with William earlier, and how it was possible that guard wasn't the only one still harboring hatred towards them and the Tjatey. It made her wonder just how many others possibly felt the same way, and if they were simply waiting for an opportunity like that guard had to exact revenge.
She had just about passed the wall memorial in the lobby, when she was prompted to stop and turn around so she could look at it once again for the umpteenth time. The sepia toned portraits of the fallen on that wall raised a lot of questions now. She even recognized the guard's brother Ivan in the top row of the portraits. Below him were the portraits of Mick Situp and Eric Mathis, which made her think of Private Fancy.
Lynne remembered the time she had spoken to him briefly a few weeks after their funerals. He expressed much of the same animosity and hatred as that guard did; even claiming that Justin, William, and Stan should have been the ones on that wall instead of his friends. And now she had to wonder if he too was planning some kind of revenge.
She'd last seen him standing right beside Justin in the infirmary outside of William's room. But unlike her previous memory of him, Jayce seemed very different this time around; almost as though he were an entirely new person. But looks could be deceiving, and for all she knew he was simply biding his time and gaining their trust until he got either Justin or William alone somewhere.
She knew he wouldn't dare try anything on Stan, but still the thought of more violence amongst them was reason enough for her to keep a watchful eye on private Fancy as well as everyone else. Trust appeared to be a thing of the past as it were, and there was no telling what might happen next.
But for the time being, Jayce, along with Justin and William, seemed to be having the time of their lives at the Ritz casino, especially once their dinner arrived and they began to dig in. The lobster thermidor Victoria had ordered was served on a large round platinum tray, and placed in the center of the table. She had also ordered a bottle of specialty red wine to go along with their meal.
"This is really something else." Justin commented after taking his first bite. "Are these lobsters from the man-made lake?"
"No, they're actually harvested indoors inside one of Morane's factories." Victoria answered sipping wine from her glass. "The poor things are boiled alive as well. That's why they come out looking so bright red."
Justin appeared both disturbed yet amused by this. "Talk about your third degree burn, ouch!"
"I really like this sauce." Jayce said. "What's in it?"
"That's a white wine sauce." Victoria explained. "It's a mixture of wine, heavy cream, parmesan, and some rosemary. Do they not serve lobster on your base?"
"Are you kidding?" Justin remarked. "They don't even serve us real meat in the mess hall, just this nasty bean curd protein substitute."
"Is this true?" Victoria looked at William, who was seated next to her.
He nodded in response while quietly chewing his food. Justin could tell he was trying a little too hard to win her over with his good manners.
"So this is what it's like being rich, huh?" Jayce asked her then. "I always wondered what showbiz was like."
"Are you kidding me?" she scoffed. "It's a ruthless industry. All work and no play. Why, I'm even fortunate to have tonight off. I'm just so darn busy these days."
"That's the military for you as well." Justin said, talking with a mouth full of food. "We're always training and preparing, but mostly slacking off since there's no real war to fight. Us soldiers become lazy after a while, right Will?"
William nodded and took a sip from his glass.
But while Victoria was appreciative of his politeness, she began to wonder why he wasn't saying much at all.
"Are you always this quiet?" She asked then, prompting him to stop from taking another sip from his glass.
"Sometimes." William answered. "But I am having a good time if that's what you're wondering?"
She smiled softly and patted his hand. "I'm glad you are."
"I think he's just shy." Justin chimed in, stuffing another forkful of lobster into his mouth. "He's just not used to a pretty gal like you giving him attention at all."
Victoria couldn't help but giggle. "Are you telling me there aren't any pretty gals back on your base?"
"Pretty? Sure, but only when they're not chewing your head off." Justin retorted.
"Well I think all three of you are very handsome." Victoria stated. "And very well mannered, nothing at all like the men of this city." She sighed.
There was a brief moment of silence, when all of a sudden Jayce let out a really loud burp.
"Oh my!" Victoria giggled with amusement, when Justin also burped aloud and it suddenly turned into an all out burping contest between them all. Even Victoria allowed herself to join in on the fun and let out a fairly loud burp.
Everyone else inside the restaurant instantly shot disgusted looks their way for disturbing the peace.
"Yeah we're well mannered all right." Justin remarked, laughing.
"I can't believe how much fun I'm having." Victoria giggled, sounding a bit tipsy already. "I don't think I've had this much fun in ages, you boys are a hoot!"
William couldn't help but smile.
"Well I think this wine is going to my bladder." Jayce announced ruining the moment, before standing up from his seat. "Where's the bathroom at?"
"Right down that way, sweetie." Victoria pointed out. "The men's restroom is on the right."
"Thanks!" He replied gratefully and then walked off in that direction.
Victoria sighed happily, wishing this night would never end. "The four of us will have to get together again one of these nights. There's so much to do and see in the city. Why, there's even a carnival taking place in the fall. Of course that's several months away from now, but it's a must for us."
Justin then recalled the last time he visited that carnival when he was eight years old, back when his father was still trying to find his way in life.
"I haven't been there since I was a kid." He mentioned. "Do they still have that rollercoaster?"
"I believe so." She answered pouring herself another glass of wine. "I've never ridden it. I've always been too scared."
Then she suddenly felt a comforting hand on her right shoulder and turned her head to see William looking into her eyes.
"We can ride it together then." He suggested smiling at her. "I won't let anything happen to you."
"Aww, you're too sweet. I'd like that very much." She smiled back, and then offered him more wine as well as Justin.
Both of them happily accepted, even though William could tell she'd been keeping up a barrier between them, as though she were trying not to let herself get too close. Still, her smiles were genuine and he could tell she at least liked him.
However at that moment, Julius Morane and Artis Frederic had just walked inside the building where they were greeted by a host and then shown to a table inside the restaurant. But before they even sat down, Jayce Fancy had walked out of the men's room after washing his hands at the basin, and that's when he spotted Morane and that other man he met briefly back at Atlantech with Justin.
What's that guy doing here with Morane? Jayce wondered as he stood in the background, trying his best not to appear too obvious. He watched as the two men were seated at a table not far from his own party's, and wondered if Justin happened to see this as well.
"Oh man, this is the best red wine I've ever had." Justin commented picking up the bottle so he could read the label.
"That's one of the Ritz's specialty wines." Victoria answered. "Every casino here in Gambler's Strip has its own brand that can only be purchased inside their respective buildings."
"I bet this stuff ain't cheap either." Justin remarked setting the bottle back down.
"Oh heavens no." Victoria chuckled. "That's a three-hundred dollar bottle. Some of them cost thousands, just for the solid gold label alone."
"Yikes." Justin went slack-jawed then. "No wonder downtown Atlantis gets all the cheap booze. Speaking of cheap, what are you doing spending your time at the Card Shack? Not that I'm prying or anything, some of us just happened to notice you coming in and out of there more often. Are you working there now or what?"
"Sort of." She gave a half shrug in response. "I play the part of a cheap tart to lure the guys in, because nobody wants to see Maxwell Graham in a skimpy dress."
Justin snorted at the thought of that.
"But really it's not much of a job at all." She continued. "More like a favor I owe him since he is my former agent." Then she noticed Jayce hadn't gotten back yet. "Not to change the subject but your friend either fell in the commode or he's passed out on the floor somewhere. One of you might want to check on him to be sure."
"I'll go." Justin volunteered himself as he stood up, just so William could have some alone time with Victoria, even if for only a few minutes. "Be back in a flash!" Justin took off, heading in the direction of the restrooms.
Victoria sighed again as she picked up her glass and took another sip. "Just the two of us now. I do hope your red-headed friend is all right."
"I'm sure he's fine." William replied with reassurance. "He's probably just a light-weight since alcohol is prohibited on the base."
"It is?" She jerked her head in his direction. "What do you men even do for fun there?"
"We have to leave the premises to have any kind of fun at all." He answered, beginning to feel a little drunk himself now as well as nervous. "Either that or we have to take the sneaky route and smuggle things in."
"Like your booze?" She asked
He nodded, taking another sip from his glass.
"And your women?" She then teased, nearly causing him to choke on his drink.
Meanwhile, Justin was busy scouring around for Jayce. He first checked the men's restroom, expecting to find him passed out on the floor in there, but there was no sign of him anywhere. Not even in the stalls. Only once Justin walked back out, he was suddenly grabbed by the high collar of his green dress shirt, and yanked around the corner of the wall.
Panicked, Justin whirled around just to breathe a sigh of relief when he realized his surprise captor was none other than Jayce himself, who was looking rather shell-shocked for the moment.
"What the hell, Jayce?" Justin huffed angrily, making a fist. "What's gotten into you?"
"Shut up and look." Jayce answered quietly, grabbing and turning Justin's head in the direction of Morane and Artis's table.
"Oh shit." Justin's jaw dropped at the sight of seeing the very man who wanted him dead, as well as the other man he had come to accept like a stand-in for his own father.
"What is he doing having dinner with Count Dracula?" Jayce asked.
"I have no idea." Justin replied feeling beyond betrayed now. "We're gonna need to get closer somehow, so we can eavesdrop on their conversation and find out what this is all about."
"What do you suggest?" Jayce asked as the wheels were beginning to turn inside Justin's head.
"Okay here's the plan." Justin mentioned. "You go on back and tell Victoria you want to order dessert. If she or Will asks about me, just tell them I'm in the bathroom and I'll be out soon. Ask for more wine too, keep them distracted as long as you can. I'm going to try and sneak my way under that empty table next to Morane and Artis so I can listen in on their conversation."
"Why do you have to eavesdrop on those two in the first place?" Jayce wanted to know now.
"Because there's a huge possibility that Artis is a traitor." Justin answered furrowing his brow in Artis's general direction. "Not to mention he's more likely to recognize me than he is to recognize you. So I have to be the one to do this."
Jayce nodded his understanding. "I Gotcha."
"Go on back now." Justin instructed while he watched as the two men browsed through their menus.
Justin was deeply angered by what he saw, and it was almost too tempting for him to march right over there and call Artis out in front of everyone in the restaurant. But such a stupid move would only expose himself to Morane, so it was better that he take the rational approach instead.
Then carefully, he dropped down to the ground, and began slowly crawling his way in between the rows of tables that were situated across from where Morane and Artis sat. Justin froze in place right as a server walked right past him, nearly stepping on his right hand as he jerked it out of the way in time.
That was a close one, Justin sighed with relief as he continued making his way to that empty table and dove underneath the long white tablecloth. He then situated himself in a more tolerable position, pulling his knees up to his chin and locking his arms around his legs as though to remain completely still.
It wasn't too dark underneath there, but Justin knew there was a high probability of some people being seated there soon, especially since all the other tables began to fill up now. Justin could tell just by the volume increase of chatter alone, which at times drowned out the voices of Morane and Artis, making them near possible to hear. Although whenever Justin heard an F bomb drop, he was positive it was coming from the one and only dictator of Atlantis City.
While on the other hand, Jayce had returned to their table and requested dessert. Victoria happily obliged and allowed Jayce and William to pick out whatever they wanted. And neither did William or Victoria seem too concerned with Justin's whereabouts, especially since they appeared too busy stealing glances at one another along with drunken flirting. Jayce appeared to be the only one who was still sober.
He did however, keep looking over his shoulder at Artis and Morane, hoping that Justin would be able to get the information he needed from them without being caught. Although it didn't take long for William to catch on to Jayce's obsessive compulsive behavior and interrogate him.
"Why do you keep looking behind you." William mentioned. "Is it Justin?"
Jayce shook his head. "Nah, just checking out some attractive broad is all. Dessert should be arriving any minute now."
Victoria chuckled. "Anxious to try that chocolate mousse are we?"
"You bet!" Jayce winked. "How about yourself? I forget, what did you order?"
"I'm not in the mood for sweets." Victoria answered picking up the half empty bottle of wine, pouring herself another glass. "I've got to watch my figure."
"But you have a nice figure." William complimented her, wrapping his left arm around her shoulders."We can share my dessert if you want."
She blushed and giggled. "You are so drunk, Mr. Sterling. Are you always this handsy when you drink?"
"I'm just having a wonderful time." He smiled and caressed her free hand as it lay flat on the table.
"Oh get a room you two." Jayce quipped and then peered over his shoulder again, observing as Morane and Artis began eating their meal, whatever it was.
From underneath the empty table, Justin continued listening. He could hear some talking in between bites of their food. He also picked up on the way Morane kept chiding Artis, almost as if the man was there against his will.
"Don't be so fucking uptight." Morane scolded taking a sip of champagne. "None of those military assholes are here, so you can stop acting like a frigid wife and enjoy your meal."
Artis sighed and took a small bite of his steak, trying to force himself to enjoy his dinner. "I apologize I'm just tired is all. Ready to call it a night soon if you don't mind?"
"Oh but I do." Morane was quick to shut him down. "And you ain't leaving here until I say you can."
Justin growled under his breath as he listened, beginning to feel sorry for Artis now. The guy might be a traitor but he doesn't deserve this kind of treatment. Nobody does.
"More champagne?" Morane asked next, picking up the bottle.
Artis politely declined then went back to cutting up his steak into bite sized chunks.
"Suit yourself." Morane quipped, taking a bite of his own steak, smothering the piece in a pool of leftover brown gravy from his mashed potatoes. Then after he finished the last bite, he picked up his napkin and wiped his mouth clean. "Too bad Stan isn't here to join us. I think he'd love it."
Stan? Justin's eyes narrowed. That's gotta be some kind of coincidence. It's a common name in this city, right?
Artis said nothing more as he quietly finished his dinner. He prayed the night would be over soon.
Not a minute after, Justin heard a group of people approaching his table and he began to panic.
"Here you are." Announced the host to a group of four; two men and two women. "Your server shall be with you shortly."
"Thank you." One of the men replied taking a seat.
"Ah shit", Justin grumbled under his breath once he realized he was surrounded by legs. How the hell am I going to get out of here unnoticed now?
"Your friend sure has taken a long time in the restroom." Victoria mentioned to Jayce then. "You think he's passed out?"
"I'll go check on him after I finish my dessert." Jayce replied, stuffing a spoonful of chocolate mousse and whipped cream into his mouth.
Victoria smirked with amusement as she lit a cigarette. "Seems I'm the only one able to drink the rest of you under the table."
"You must have a bladder made of steel." Jayce commented. "You haven't had a single bathroom break since we've been here. Where are you keeping it all?"
Victoria chuckled playfully while taking a drag from her cigarette. "Wouldn't you like to know?"
"I haven't had any breaks either." William chimed in with a drunken smile plastered across his face, as he toyed with his bowl of vanilla ice cream.
Jayce couldn't believe how sloshed they both were.
"How many glasses of wine have you had?" Jayce asked William now, who looked like he could hardly sit up straight.
"I've lost count." William answered stifling his laugher as he picked up his glass and took another swig.
Jayce shook his head at them.
"Don't worry he won't be driving you fellas back tonight." Victoria joked while lovingly stroking William's face and gazing into his eyes.
With the looks those two were giving each other, Jayce was half expecting them to start necking in front of everyone.
But in the meantime, Justin was still stuck underneath that table trying to come up with an exit plan. It had been several minutes since he'd last heard Morane or Artis's voice, and began to believe that it was possible they had already left. But of course he couldn't be too sure of that, especially since most of the outside noise had been completely drowned out from the voices above him. The two men were especially loud, while the women had much softer voices. They were dressed nice, with one of the women wearing a sparkly blue dress that cutoff at her knees, practically exposing her undergarments as far as Justin could see.
What a nice set of gams, Justin thought checking out the woman's legs, when an idea suddenly dawned on him.
There was laughter and giggling coming from above, when all of a sudden Justin reached out and touched the woman's leg, causing her to freak out.
"Did you just touch my leg?" The woman then accused one of the men sitting across from her. Justin started snickering.
"No of course not!" The man answered defensively. "If I did it was an accident I assure you."
Justin cupped a hand over his mouth and snickered, and then proceeded to touch her leg again.
"I said stop it, Harry!" The woman exclaimed madly. "I'm not in the mood!"
"But it wasn't me!" The man argued. "Was it you, George?"
"Nope, sure wasn't me." The man's friend replied.
"Then who is touching my leg!?" The woman snapped. "Was it you, Ethel?"
"Of course not!" The woman's friend answered. "Perhaps it's the table cloth. It is rather long you know?"
Justin now had tears in his eyes from laughing so hard.
"I know darn well what a tablecloth feels like, Ethel!" The woman exclaimed. "And what I felt is a damned hand. This darn place must be haunted!"
"I think you've taken too many crazy pills today, Maurine." One of the men responded then, as Justin began to crawl out from under the table, making his way to the next empty one behind them, when all of a sudden, the man sitting on the end dropped a fork on the floor and reached down to pick it up, just to come face to face with Justin.
"It was you!" The man seethed at Justin, clenching his fist.
Justin immediately sprung to his feet and took off running.
"You little pervert get back here!" The angry man yelled after him, getting up from his seat as though to chase after him.
Nearly out of breath, Justin ran back to the table with his friends and dove behind William's chair to hide.
"Whoa, why were you running?" William asked him.
Justin couldn't believe how bloodshot his friend's eyes were. He'd never seen William so drunk before in all the time he had known him.
"No time to explain, we have to leave now." Justin answered urgently in between breaths, while peering out from behind William's chair for any sign of that angry man.
"Oh okay, is it past curfew?" William asked.
Justin spotted a clock on the wall behind them and looked at the time. It was now twenty till midnight.
"Twenty till." Justin answered. "It'll be close but we'll make it."
"Oh don't leave now." Victoria whined as she clung onto William's arm, wrinkling up the fabric in the process. "I'm having such a lovely time I don't want it to end now."
Justin couldn't help but roll his eyes. He was thankful that Jayce was at least still sober enough, because he would definitely need his help in getting William back to the base.
"Sorry doll, but we've got to get back before we get in trouble with our commanding officer." Justin apologized to her. "You have no idea how venomous that woman can be."
"Oh screw her." Victoria quipped then, refusing to let go of William's arm. "He wants to stay with me, don't you, sweetface?"
William nodded in his drunken state of mind, smiling at her like a lovesick fool while she caressed his face and kissed him on the cheek.
Seeing this, Justin could tell William had become putty in this woman's hands to the point she could probably convince him to do anything she wanted. It was both amusing and pathetic.
"In fact I think he'd rather come home with me tonight." Victoria mentioned next, which immediately set off alarm bells inside Justin's head, especially once he heard William respond with, "I'd like that very much."
Even Jayce was equally just as shocked, as his mouth hung open looking to Justin for answers.
"Okay it's definitely time to go, Will!" Justin intervened, grabbing his friend by his other arm, while nodding at Jayce to get over there and assist him.
"Hey, what's the big idea?" William groaned, practically toppling over as both Justin and Jayce stood on either side of him, trying to stand him up.
"We're saving your ass from making a horrible mistake." Justin quipped, throwing William's right arm around his neck, while Jayce grabbed his left.
"You're leaving me?" Victoria cried out, attempting to stand up herself while reaching out for William's hand.
"Look, you're a swell dame and all, but Will isn't normally like that." Justin replied apologetically. "He's never been this drunk before in all his life."
Hearing his caused Victoria to frown, especially once she noticed that William had now passed out, and both Justin and Jayce were practically dragging him around.
"Thanks for dinner and dessert though." Jayce thanked her kindly. "It's been fun but we have to leave now."
Victoria still had that pouty look on her face as she reached into her purse and then handed them some cash. "For your ride back home." She offered.
"Keep your money, we've got it from here." Justin declined, as he and Jayce started dragging William out of the building. Justin didn't even care whether or not Morane or Artis saw him at all now. All he cared about was getting the three of them back to the base before curfew, especially now that he was committed to turning over a new leaf and being more responsible.
He also knew there was a chance that William would hate him for coming between him and Victoria as well. But on the other hand, Justin knew William wasn't the type to just go home with any woman, and he knew that if he had let him go with Victoria that night, he'd regret it forever. They were both drunk as it was, which made it even more wrong in Justin's eyes, but he knew William would have done the same for him.
Soon after, they hailed a cab and were on their way back downtown. William was muttering incoherent babble in between waking up and passing back out while Jayce remained quiet the entire ride back home. Justin knew this had been a long night for all of them and he was ready for it to be over with. They all were.
Getting back to the base on time wasn't the issue, but once they reached the front door of William's bungalow they had to prop him up against the door like a dummy while the two of them searched his pants pockets for the key. It was something neither Justin nor Jayce took any joy in, especially when William suddenly came to and began freaking out, demanding to know where he was and what they were doing.
"Calm down already, you're home." Justin answered tiredly, when he finally found the key and pulled it out.
"Ow my head." William groaned as he placed the back of his palm against his brow and winced. "What time is it?"
"Most likely ten after twelve." Jayce replied taking the key from Justin's hand, unlocking and pushing the front door open.
"Where is she?" William then looked around for the sight of his beloved.
"Hopefully safe and sound at home." Justin answered, helping him back up to his feet along with Jayce as they led him right to his sofa and sat him down.
Jayce closed the door behind them and took a seat in the living chair, while Justin collapsed onto the floor on his backside and lay there sprawled out.
"What a night." He groaned.
"I don't remember much at all." William yawned. "But whatever happened has left me with a pounding headache."
"I'll get you an icepack, hold on." Justin then got off the floor,walked into the kitchenette, and opened the freezer door but it was empty. "Okay scratch that since you have no ice pack. So what now?"
"I've always heard that scrambled eggs can absorb the alcohol." Jayce mentioned. "Check his fridge and see if he has any."
"Okay then." Justin replied opening the fridge, and pulled out a small carton of eggs. "Uh, how do we make these again? I'm a scientist not a chef."
"You just fry them I think." Jayce replied in a sleepy voice. "I can't remember if you use cooking oil or not. I only know from watching my mom cook."
"Yeah, not helping." Justin muttered as he pulled out a frying pan and turned on one of the burners.
"Whatever you're doing, please don't burn down my home." William pled from the sofa as he lay there with his eyes closed, listening to all the commotion going on in the kitchen.
Justin groaned as he set to work cracking the eggs, while unsure of how many it would take to produce a large enough serving to absorb all the alcohol from William's system. He estimated at least three, when it suddenly dawned on him that this was the first time he had ever cooked any real food at all. Especially since he usually relied on meals served from the mess hall, as well as ready-to-eat processed snack foods. So this was something new and kind of exciting.
"So what happened tonight anyway?" William asked while Justin was busy stabbing at the frying eggs with a spatula.
"You were drunk off your ass for one." Justin answered. "And two, you almost did something really stupid."
William's face flushed with panic. "What?"
"You almost spent the night with her." Justin replied, half expecting William to react in an angry and bitter manner for stopping that from happening. But he didn't seem to react that way at all.
"Oh my god." William exclaimed, just loud enough to awaken Jayce from his snooze.
"Yeah, exactly." Justin nodded while wondering when the eggs would be scrambled enough.
William uttered a deep sigh as he sat back up. "I can't believe it. What the hell had gotten into me?"
"Hormones and alcohol." Jayce yawned stretching his arms. "Imagine the shock if you had woken up in her bed?"
William buried his face into his hands and groaned. "I can never drink like that again. No matter what, you hear? No matter what!"
"Hear you loud and clear." Justin answered approaching him with a plate of what appeared to be a mass of scrambled eggs. "Eat this it should help."
William stared down at the plate, reluctant to take a single bite of the goopy looking burnt mess in front of him.
"Yeah sorry I ain't no five star chef." Justin quipped taking a seat next to William on the sofa. "It was my first time cooking eggs. Some credit would be nice."
"Only if he doesn't end up with food poisoning." Jayce remarked, which only made William even more nervous about eating them.
"I think my hangover is gone anyway." William set the plate of eggs down onto the coffee table, and then leaned back into the sofa. "Thank you both." He said groggily. "Not just for pulling me out of that bad situation, but for being there with me. You're both good friends to have. Even if you can't cook eggs worth a damn." William turned his head and looked at Justin. "It's the thought that counts."
"If you won't eat them then I will." Justin said picking up the plate. "The only reason I was more sober than you, is because I saw something in that restaurant I'll never forget."
"What did you see?" William asked then.
"Well, first of all, you have to promise that you won't say a single word to Lynne, no matter what." Justin replied taking a bite of the eggs. "Needs more salt I think, but overall not bad."
William looked fearful as he sat back up. "What do you mean? Please tell me this isn't another doomsday scenario."
"It's not, but it's equally bad." Justin explained. "But you have to promise me you won't say a word about it to anyone else."
William groaned in annoyance. "Fine, I won't say a word. Now what is it?"
"I saw Morane." Justin said taking another bite and then setting the plate back down on the table. "But he wasn't alone, Artis Frederic from Atlantech was there with him. They were having dinner and talking."
"What about?" William asked. "And is that why you disappeared for so long?"
Justin nodded. "I was hiding underneath the table next to them, doing a little eavesdropping. I had to find out if Artis is a traitor or not."
"And is he?" William wanted to know next, to which Justin gave a shrug in response.
"I couldn't tell exactly." Justin sighed. "It was also too noisy to make out all the details, but it sounded like the man was there against his will. Makes me wonder what that was all about? There was also this mention of how it was too bad Stan wasn't with them, and I don't know, but it gave me the worst vibe if you know what I mean?"
William couldn't help but shake his head at him. "Not this again." He groaned. "I thought we had gotten past this the first time you said you didn't trust the guy. But you sure flipped your script after he saved your ass from Private Mathis, didn't you?"
"I'm not saying it's him at all!" Justin argued back. "I'm just saying I didn't like the vibe it gave me. No way in hell am I going to accuse Stan of siding with Morane. We both know that's the last thing he'd do. He'd beat the piss out of that loser before ever taking his side. It just left me with an unsettling feeling, that's all."
"All right I get it." William said apologetically. "And for your sake I hope Artis isn't a traitor. But we also know that Atlantech's technology is what powers the entire city, so maybe that's what their meeting was about?"
"I don't know." Justin sighed deeply. "But I'm far too tired to care for the moment, so I'm just gonna head home now if you don't mind?"
"Me too." Jayce announced as he got up from the chair.
"Fine by me." William replied. "I think we all need a good night's rest after tonight."
Both Jayce and Justin headed for the front door, when Justin stopped and looked back at William.
"Thanks for not chewing my head off for stopping you from sleeping with Victoria. I just know what she means to you, and I know it's more than some drunken one-night stand neither of you would remember."
"He would have passed out before anything happened honestly." Jayce chimed in.
"Probably." Justin chuckled opening the door. "Anyways, good night, Will."
"Goodnight to you both." William called after them as they shut the door, before collapsing back onto his sofa, when he suddenly smelled the faint smell of gasoline in the air and leapt onto his feet, hurrying into the kitchen where he noticed one of the burners had been left on.
"Dammit, Church." He muttered to himself, quickly shutting it off, when his sister suddenly walked out of her room half asleep, griping about the smell.
"What the hell did you burn this time?" Alley rolled her eyes, about to light a cigarette when William reached out and yanked the lighter out of her hand.
"Don't even think about it." He warned her. "If you're going to smoke either do it outside or go back to your room. We don't need the kitchen blowing up at this hour.
Alley huffed as she yanked the lighter from his hand. "Fine, I'll go outside. Happy?"
"Whatever." William groaned as he made his way back to the sofa and lay down. He turned over on his side and closed his eyes trying to fall asleep but couldn't.
He groaned as he sat back up, just in time to see his sister heading back inside when she stopped and he looked directly at her with a frown on his face.
"What?" She responded with a blank stare. "I smoked outside like you asked."
"It's not that." He sighed. "I guess I just wish you didn't hate me so much. We never talk and you're always hiding in your room whenever you're home. And I know how you feel about our mother, but do you have to hate me too?"
Alley didn't seem to have much of a response, but surprised William just the same once she plopped herself down next to him on the sofa, even though she still kept a bit of distance between them.
"Look, I don't hate you, okay?" She crossed her arms and turned her head in his direction. "This is just how I am and how I prefer to be. I don't like being social, never have. But it was never about hate. Even if you used to pull the hell out of my hair when we were kids, and made fun of me every chance you got. Mom made me wear those stupid dresses and you always laughed at me for being pissed about it."
William began to remember all the times he had picked on Alley when they were growing up, realizing that her anger towards him was more than justifiable now.
"I'm sorry for all of it." He apologized then, trying his best to show her that he meant it. "I wasn't the best brother to you and I'm sorry. I mean, could you ever find it in your heart to forgive me?"
She scoffed in response as she picked up one of the decorative pillows and tossed it at him playfully. "Like I've got a heart to begin with."
"Well can we at least get along from here on out?" He asked as he threw the pillow right back at her.
"I suppose." She answered as she caught it, when she suddenly remembered a fond memory of them playing tag on the base and getting in trouble. "Hey remember that time we were playing tag and I accidentally hid in the men's locker room?"
"Vaguely." William replied as he tried to recall that day.
"Well you thought I was inside the girl's locker room the entire time and didn't bother coming to find me." She said laughing. "Meanwhile I'm scaring all these guys half to death because I've just seen them all half naked. Man what a rush that was."
William shook his head at her and chuckled. He couldn't remember the last time he'd ever seen her smile or laugh like this. But he was glad she seemed more open to some communication between them.
"Mom was so pissed." Alley marveled with a grin. "She wasn't even sure how to discipline us."
William gave a half shrug in response. "She did her best you know?"
"When she wasn't acting like a tart." Alley quipped getting back up. "Good thing she learned how to use protection or else, there would have been a lot more of us."
"Yeah." William agreed trying to hide the fact he was actually appalled by her words.
"Well I'm going back to bed now." She announced then heading back to her room. "Try not to burn anything else in the meantime." She called back before her door shut closed once again; enabling the barrier between them once again.
"I won't" William groaned as he fell back against the sofa once more and shut his eyes, hoping he would finally fall asleep for good this time.