"So long, and thanks for all the fish!"
- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
"I can't believe you," Ansel hung his head over the bottle of beer, the moisture sliding over his hands and dripping to the bar table.
Lirssa sighed and shrugged. "Yeah, well, seeing is believing." The grape Nehi was in much the same position in her own hands, except it was in motion. Steady little circles turned around and around at the tips of her fingers. "Gonna help us out, though, right?"
The snicker was swallowed down with a mouthful of beer. A moment. Another. It dragged by as Ansel looked at the table top. It was the same wrinkled brow look he got when she was explaining quantum jump points. Every muscle in his face was tense.
Lirssa looked away to the windows of Stars End bar. The place was worn down, but the same worn down it had been for decades. Decades. There's a word applicable to her own life. Unexpectedly, inexplicably decades of life. Sure, it was only the start of the third one, just barely in her twenties if counts mattered.
Yeah, they mattered. To some.
"Listen," Ansel got her attention back, "I know you've got this odd loyalty streak. It gets you in trouble."
"What doesn't get me in trouble? If I wanted to stay out of trouble, I would have let one of my deaths stick, ya know?"
She hadn't meant to make Ansel blanch. He looked away, scowling as he shook his head. When he looked back, he was all serious business. His lips in a tight line barely letting the words pass through that tragedy he called a beard. "You haven't got much choice in that. Alive you are. Alive you're gonna stay, no matter what my decision is on this."
"Whatever your decision," she agreed, but smiled. She knew that look. Ansel was all serious business -- which means they were in business.
With a sigh, he chuckled and took another drink. "Just so happens I saw a job come up yesterday. Passed on it -- it's a long haul. Going to have a few jumps in it, going to age odd relative to this place. Might work out we come back same as we left, but most likely..."
"Most likely not." Lirssa knew the risks. "Coach needs this chance, Ansel, and I can't leave him to the authorities for something he didn't do. They've got it all rigged up nice and tight to pin it on him, and that alibi he has will only make the hive buzz all the meaner."
"Yes, I know. I'm amazed I know what you mean. I must be used to your speech now."
With a shrug, Lirssa gave him a smile and a wink. That'd unsettle him some. She was rewarded with a light flush along his throat. "I'll have to square away a few things."
"A few?" This time Ansel out right laughed. "Let's see," he began to count out on his fingers. "You've the theater,"
"The circus classes thing..."
"And the kids."
"Good man. Good friend." And she left that there. She had already spoken of Coach's issue. It was important, particularly in light of what Aric had on his plate. Circle of friends widens and shrinks, but she was sure it would sustain him. And she wouldn't be gone forever.
"All of this for a man you call Coach instead of using his name?" Puzzled lines replaced the stern ones.
Lirssa didn't answer him. It was that loyalty thing. Her pantheon. Gods come and go, but when one asks you for help...
Instead she asked, "So, when can you get hold of this job and get us out in the black, eh?" Lirssa finished off her drink, tossing the bottle so it flipped end over end to clatter into the waste bin.
"Soon. Few days. Getting him on ship...leaving that to you. He's pretty well known."
Standing up, she held out her hand to Ansel to shake on it. "No worries. I've got this."