Site Themes:  ColonialViperCylon
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A Taste of Summer

By Jeb Barr 

Word Count: 1,315
Date: 10/29/04
Series: Mini
Category: Challenge
Pairing/Focus: Tigh, Original Character
Spoilers/Disclaimers:Charna's not mine...

Saul turned the glass slowly in his hand, gazing into the clear liquid that filled the bottom quarter of the tumbler. He lifted it to his nose and inhaled deeply, his tongue moving to wet his lips. He gave a sad sigh and placed the glass down on the table before him.

"Taste of summer." Saul's words were soft, barely spoken above a whisper, and yet they caught the attention of the other person in his quarters, the one he had forgotten about as soon as the scent of the ambrosia hit his nose. Sweet and fruity, crisp and fresh, he knew it tasted exactly like it smelled. After all, if he was going to be a drunk, he was going to be a discerning drunk.

"What did you say Saul?" Saul looked up as Charna spoke, realizing that he was not alone, remembering that he had invited her here to share a drink in celebration for making it back alive from the fueling run. He slipped his finger around the edge of the tumbler, taking a second to consolidate his thoughts before he spoke again.

"It is what a friend of mine used to say Ambrosia tasted like. A taste of summer in every glass." Saul looked down at the liquid, and gave another sigh as he let his head hang lower. He was too old for this, had seen too many summers pass, had to taste too many of them from a lonely glass.

"Did they…" Saul gave a shake of his head as he looked up at Charna, meeting her eyes, it was hardly necessary for her to complete that sentence, people rarely did anymore.

"No, during the war, a long time ago." Saul closed his eyes and leaned back in his chair. He had been thinking about her a lot lately, mainly because Charna reminded him so much of her. They hardly looked alike, Jen had been short dark of hair and dusky skin, and yet their personalities were so much the same. Both were focused, it was all he could think of how to describe either of them. "We had come up through the Academy together. We were stationed to the Aquarius together, flew together, drank together…"

"Loved together?" Saul could hear something fragile in Charna's voice, and he took a long time before answering that question. There was still something deep and ragged in himself that shied away from the answer.

"Yes. It was not much different from now back then. We were fighting for our survival, most of us weren't much more than kids. Moths to the flame." Saul paused for a long time, and picked up the tumbler before him and took a soft sip. "We'd launch, and on a good day the Battlestar would recover half the pilots that left her decks. We'd start out on a patrol with the pods crammed with Vipers, hot bunking in quarters, and come back bleeding, bloody and with over half the bunks empty. She died three months into our first deployment."

"My father…. My father never talked about the war much. Whenever I asked he always said it was better not to know, not to remember." Saul gave a short nod, and an explosive sigh as he took another sip of Ambrosia. Charna looked at him for a long time, and he found it difficult to meet that gaze. "Was it really that bad?"

"We were loosing the war Charna. Slowly but surely we were loosing it. The twelve original battlestars were our only hope, and a dim one at that. The rest of the fleet… the rest of the fleet could do nothing." Saul poured a bit more Ambrosia into the bottom of the glass. Not much, he was trying to cut back, but it dulled the pain, and that right now was something he needed.

"If things were so bad, why… why did you stay in the military after the war was over?" Saul gave a sigh as he swirled his tumbler around, content for the moment only to drink in the scent of the alcohol as he gathered his thoughts.

"Like many who fought in the war, I took leave as soon as it became apparent that the cease fire was going to be lasting. I just didn't… didn't fit into civilian life anymore. I couldn't understand how people could so quickly forget what had been happening, all those lost." Saul shook his head and closed his eyes. "I really did not have anything to return to. My family was killed in one of the attacks on the colony, and during the war I'd burned everything out except my hatred for those tin headed sons of bitches."

Silence reigned for a long time in the room, broken only by the sounds of liquid moving in a glass, the soft sounds of breathing. Saul opened his eyes, and could tell by the look on Charna's face that she was going to say something that he simply could not deal with at this time.

"I'm like too many veterans Charna. I tried marriage, and it didn't work. I was never there and I chose someone who wanted me for my rank, not for me." Saul gave a sigh and rubbed at his forehead with one hand before he continued. "Eighty people died because of my actions at Ragnar. Eighty, such a large number, and yet every one of those lives meant nothing to me. The decision was not difficult to make because of what it entailed, it was difficult because I was no longer used to making them. I'm all used up."

Saul drained the last gulp of Ambrosia out of his glass, and set the tumbler aside with a firm hand. The bottle went into the locker in his desk, the one with the time lock he had requested for it. At least now he was not going to be able to get at it for another twenty-four hours, no matter what he did. He settled back into his chair, his eyes drifting closed as exhaustion he had not allowed himself to feel in days, in years washed over him.

"I'm just… all gone. There's not fire in my life… the only reason I wake every morning is habit, and because I still have a duty to attend to." Saul gave a soft sigh, more of a movement of air over lips than any real sound as he heard her stand up and move. He knew Charna was going to leave, and all but that part he had buried deep inside him was glad to see her go. Life hurt too much to live anymore and she made him want to live it. The hands that touched his face, and the velvet press of her lips against his own, caused exhaustion laden eyes to shoot open. They were gone almost before he realized that they were even there.

"There's still something left Saul. I've seen enough down on their luck spacers to know, if it was all gone, if you were all used up, you wouldn't be sitting here right now. Maybe there is no fire in your life… but maybe that fire has just been banked against a long cold night, and needs to be stirred awake again." Charna's thumb rubbed lightly over his lips before she straightened. "Get some rest, things will look better in the morning."

The words lingered in Saul's ears for a long time after she left, as he sat staring at the blank hatch in front of him. It was hours later before he finally pushed himself up out of the chair which he had slept in far too often, and made his way to the narrow bunk. The words still echoing deep inside his soul.