(Standard Year 2249)

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Noel DelMonde had arranged things with a few of the other musicians on the Enterprise. Most of them had heard of his talent, a fact that still surprised him, and were more than willing to create another venue for musical expression. Mrraal, a Caitian and fellow engineer, was an accomplished drummer. Ensign Geoff Redford played keyboards. Sharon Intansah was a bassist. It was enough for a small, eclectic musical group, even without the ship’s already popular Valjiir duet. Everyone else wanted to include them, but Del simply wasn’t ready for that yet. He’d promised that Valjiir would certainly be welcome if they expressed interest, but managed to convince the others that it might be insulting to imply that Valjiir’s joined skill needed more instrumental – or worse, vocal – addition. And Del fully intended to sing his anguish away.

They set up in the rec room on Deck Four. Off duty personnel soon gathered curiously, as Del knew they would. It had been the same on the Hood every time he had appeared in public with his guitar. The musicians had rehearsed one particular song in earnest down in the bowels of engineering, with Mr. Scott’s benign permission.

Del waited until the inevitable arrival of Ruth Valley and Jilla Majiir – along with their husbands – before he began singing.

She was a friend to me when I needed one
Wasn’t for her I don’t know what I’d done
She gave me back something that was missin' in me
She could of turned out to be almost anyone
Almost anyone--
With the possible exception
Of who I wanted her to be

What the – damn you, that’s a Valley Collection song! came bitterly into his thoughts and Del couldn’t tell if she intended him to hear it. Still, as he had done so long ago at the Academy, he answered it.

That what they tell me, babe.

Runnin' into the midnight
With her clothes whipping' in the wind
Reachin' into the heart of the darkness
For the tenderness within
Stumblin’ into the lights of the city
Then back in the shadows again
Hangin' onto the laughter
That each of us hid our unhappiness in

The audience was clearly delighted, clapping with the beat, thoroughly enjoying the full sound of an actual band. A few people even got up to dance. Del saw Sulu trying to convince Jilla, as Daffy Gollub tried to convince his former and present roommate, Pavel Chekov. Finally they gave up and began dancing with each other, joining Ramon Ordona and Monique DuBois, Lieutenant Commander Uhura and Lieutenant Tara Ryan, and several others whose names Del didn’t yet know.

Talk about celestial bodies
And your angels on the wing
She wasn’t much good at stickin’ around--but
That girl could sing.
She could sing...

The drums and bass drove the rhythm of the song, a hard, dark sound. Not anywhere near as hard and as dark as the music had been at Black Crescent on Naois, but then, he hadn’t wanted it to be. Jus’ dark enough, jus’ enough despair…

Why are you hurting me like this? This time he knew she was speaking to him.

Non, cher, that not what it fo’, he answered.

What then?

Someone once tol’ me I could cleanse emotion through music.

It wasn’t me.

I not say it was. It not about you.

Oh no? Her voice held barely disguised sarcasm.

I doin’ this fo’ me, fo’ what I need, he said fiercely. I not be like you, cher. I not keep my demons t’ myself.

In the dead of night
She could shine a light
On some places that you’ve never been
In that kind of light
You could lose your sight
And believe there was something to win
You could hold her tight
With all your might
But she’d slip through your arms like the wind
And be back in flight
Back into the night
Where you might never see her again

Why did you come here!? cried in his mind, and it made him wince. He replied the only way he could.

You know th' answer to that, babe.

The longer I thought I might find her
The shorter my vision became
Runnin' in circles behind her
And thinkin' in terms of the blame
But she couldn’t have been any kinder
If she’d come back and tried to explain
She wasn’t much good at sayin' goodbye

He heard the understanding filling her mind. She had never promised him anything, and he was acknowledging it, even while acknowledging the pain it had caused him.

You hurt me, babe, he told her. You gave th' visions an’ I took 'em, an’ thought it meant more than it did. I thought, Ruth, he emphasized, then paused. I be t’inkin’ I not hate you fo’ it, he almost chuckled. No matter I want to.


But you could not have been any kinder if you’d come back and tried to explain.

I wasn’t much good at saying goodbye.

--but -- That girl was sane…
She was sane.

He let the extended ending play out as long as he could feel the enjoyment of the dancers. It crowded out the pain and the loss, his own sense of grief and despair. He tried not to hear Ruth’s mental explanation to her husband – or the fact that Spock understood with quiet grace. There would still be rough spots ahead, he knew that. But he had cleansed the anger, and that was the most important thing. He’d lived with grief and loss and pain and despair all his life – it was the anger that poisoned him, and would poison her if he let it. And that would never be fitting payment for sanity.

The End

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