Fandom: Babylon 5
Note: previously published in a zine
Zack Allen had been living in the deepest pits of despair for two weeks. But he couldn't walk around in a zombie-like daze as Ivanova had been doing or Delenn, for that matter. Ivanova had lost a dear friend. Delenn had lost ... well, what had been going on between her and Captain Sheridan was hardly the best kept secret in the universe.
But what Zack Allen felt had to be kept secret. All he wanted to do was collapse in his room and bawl like a baby. But someone had to be strong! God, what would the Chief say if security went to hell because Zack had given in to his feelings?
What would the Chief say? Zack closed his eyes for a moment and imagined the scene. Well, it's like this, Chief. You were gone, so what did anything else matter?
He stifled a sound that was half a laugh and half a sob. Christ! What a time to realise that you're not the person you've always believed you were! Two weeks ago he was good ol' Zack; a regular guy. A bit of a geek where women were concerned: not a smart, ambitious whiz-kid. Second in command of security more by default than anything else. Busy trying to make up for past mistakes, trying to prove to Garibaldi that he was worth the second chance he'd been given.
Recently, everything he'd done had been geared to win him Garibaldi's approval. He'd thought that it was because he wanted to be a good security officer, wanted to live up to his unexpected promotion...
Two weeks ago all illusions had been wiped out.
Two weeks ago he had woken up in the middle of the 'night'. Woken in darkness to a loss so acute that for a moment he'd thought it was actual physical pain. It felt as if a part of him had been tom out, leaving a gaping hole. He'd almost called Dr Franklin until he'd realised that there wasn't actually anything physically wrong with him. He'd gotten dressed and spent a few hours wandering round the station checking everything, sure that what he was feeling must be some premonition of doom. And then someone had said, 'Wasn't it dreadful about Mr Garibaldi?' and he had felt the same tearing pain that he'd woken to.
God knows how he'd managed to get back to his quarters without someone noticing that something was wrong...
Two weeks later and the pain was still there. Oh, not quite so raw, it was true, but there nonetheless. Being Human, self-preservation had kicked in. It was bearable, except when he was alone in the dark with nothing but the endless night before him. So he worked double and triple shifts and then drank enough to give himself a few hours of dreamless sleep before the next empty, frustrating day began.
When G'Kar had gone after Garibaldi, Zack had been so tempted to join him. Only duty had kept him on Babylon 5. The Chief would never have forgiven him the security of Babylon 5 came first.
Garibaldi had trusted him and he wouldn't betray that trust.
Later, he'd sat in one of the less salubrious bars trying desperately to get drunk enough not to care for an hour or two. When he'd raised his head from his ... sixth?...seventh? drink, he'd found Marcus Cole gazing at him with a quizzical expression.
Looking back, he couldn't quite remember how they'd got on to the subject of G'Kar's quest. But somehow, Zack had told Marcus that the Narn was out searching for Garibaldi.
Marcus had looked at him then with the strangest expression and Zack had known a moment of blind terror. Delenn and Captain Sheridan could have their not-at-all secret love but what Zack felt had to be kept hidden.
'You know, I think I'll toddle off and see if G'Kar needs any help. After all, two heads are better than one. And I'm not quite so noticeable as our respected ex-ambassador. Besides, it'll take my mind off other things...' Marcus had said.
Then, standing to leave, he had walked past Zack, resting a hand on his shoulder for a moment. Zack had looked up blearily and Marcus had smiled at him: a mocking, empathic, blackly-amused smile that managed to send warning bells to Zack's befuddled brain.
'It's a bit of a pig, isn't it? The way things turn out, I mean. Life, love, the whole stupid business, really.'
Zack wondered how he'd managed to betray himself It must have shown in his face for the younger man had suddenly grinned
'Takes one to know one, eh, Mr Allen? Where's there's the chance of life, there's hope. And sometimes wishing for the moon is the only thing that keeps us sane. Like I said, it's a bit of a pig, isn't it?'
And then he was gone.
Zack remembered the not-so-good-humoured bets among the station personnel as to which limb Ivanova would break if the young ranger remained quite so obviously infatuated with her as he had been. For the first time he found himself feeling sympathetic.
'A bit of a pig.' Zack started laughing. Marcus Cole certainly had a unique way with words.
Garibaldi lay on the gurney. Zack stared at him, oblivious to what anyone might see in his expression.
He was safe.
The words repeated over and over in his head like some kind of mantra. Franklin had said that Garibaldi would be okay. He was alive; he was safe.
Zack watched as the Chief turned his face towards the glass. Zack smiled in sheer delight and love. For the life of him, he couldn't have stopped that involuntary expression. Then he schooled his face into a mask of simple pleasure at Garibaldi's survival.
It wasn't to be, Zack knew that. This was his Chief, his superior officer, to some extent, his friend. It was enough. The pain had receded to a dull, bearable, bittersweet ache.
Later, he met Marcus Cole. The younger man came and sat down opposite him. There was a certain peace to him that hadn't been there before. Zack knew that the same kind of peace was reflected in his own eyes.
He wondered what had happened between Marcus and Ivanova. Whatever it was, Ivanova appeared to be oblivious. Ah, but then, so was Garibaldi...
Both men watched as Ivanova and Garibaldi sat at the other end of the room, eating their meal. Zack raised his glass, smiling as Marcus mirrored the gesture.
Then his eyes drifted back to the centre of his universe. Michael Garibaldi was alive. It was enough. For today, maybe forever....
It was enough.