Epilogue 1 – Las Vegas
"Ladies and gentlemen..."
Colonel White had stood up from his seat at the table, a glass of champagne in hand. He looked at the assembly of people seated before him, offering a smile some of them had not often seen from him. "I raise my glass to the happy conclusion of this adventure," he said with a joyful voice. "Here’s hoping that our last evening here will be spent in peace and quiet - something that every one of us here is in desperate need of at the moment.”
He caught sight of Captain Blue, seated opposite him, his bandaged hand absentmindedly turning his own glass on the table. The young man, half-lost in thought, merely glanced at him under the dressing applied over his left, still reddened eye. White nodded in his direction. “Some more than others," he conceded. Blue acknowledged the remark with a nod.
The evening was extremely comfortable, not too hot, considering how warm it had been during the day, and so, some of the guests at the St.Maurice Hotel had decided to make use of the terrace outside its private restaurant to have a nice, relaxing and quiet dinner. The terrace was set behind the Hotel, on the first floor, with a beautiful view over the city. Just below it was the ballroom, subtly lit with coloured lanterns. Already, the band was playing and several couples were dancing to the soft music.
Five Spectrum officers, wearing their most fashionable – and yet comfortable – civilian clothes, had gathered there for the occasion with Amanda Wainwright and John Svenson, in order to celebrate the end of the adventure with a last meal together before their departure. Colonel White and his officers were due to return to Cloudbase early the next morning, while Amanda was heading back to her ranch in Iowa – and John to Boston. It was obvious that everyone was happy that the escapade was finished, and that some could hardly wait to be on their way. But there were some within the assembly who were keeping unusually quiet. Namely, the Svensons, father and son. The events of the last couple of days had been particularly difficult for both of them; they didn’t feel much like celebrating. Blue, for example, had kept to himself most of the evening, barely touching his meal, answering only when talked to, and obviously not willing to engage in any lengthy conversation. It was true he was still recovering, his bandaged hands and neck and the still apparent marks on his face bearing witness to his recent ordeal, and much of his strength and good humour not yet fully recovered.
After the conclusion of his captivity the preceding morning, he had passed most of the rest of the day and all of the night in the hospital, being checked and treated for his injuries. In retrospect, he had been very lucky. A couple of broken back teeth, bruises and cuts on various parts of his body, his back having taken the worst of his, only one cracked rib, but none of his internal organs had been touched. His left eye, which had at first caused some concern, turned out to be healing just fine. He had a concussion, and had suffered from dehydration, both of which he had been treated for; the doctors had advised him to rest and take it easy for a couple of days. Under that condition only was he allowed out of the hospital, early this morning. Considering the doctors’ prognoses, and since Blue’s last days of furlough had been so disastrous and that he would probably want to take advantage of what little was left of it, Colonel White had deemed it unnecessary to move forward their return to Cloudbase. But the Spectrum commander had insisted that Blue would have to see Doctor Fawn upon his return to base. To which Blue had agreed. But not as earnestly as White would have expected. Already, he was in a gloomy mood – which he had kept until this evening.
Symphony – seated at Blue’s side, and opposite her mother – was putting on a brave facade herself, apparently trying to cheer him up as much she could, but apparently without much success. Blue had merely smiled at her, briefly, in a way that seemed to politely ask her forgiveness for not being as enthusiastic as she would have wanted, but apparently unable to do more. White had some suspicion that, leaving aside his rough hours, there was also yet another reason why Blue looked so glum tonight.
Captain Scarlet, on the other hand, seemed to be in a very good mood. Or maybe it was an attempt to brighten up his moody colleagues’ and friends’ dark mood.
“I don’t know, Sir,” he said tentatively, offering a large grin following his commander’s toast. “The night is still young. Who knows what might happen before morning?”
"Bite your tongue, Captain," White replied, turning an old-fashioned look toward his number one agent. “Or do you have a death wish?"
"With our line of work, sometimes it seems so, sir," Scarlet said good-humouredly, raising his glass in turn. "But I second the toast: to peace and quiet."
"It would have surprised me if I would have had the last word with you," White mumbled gloomily.
It didn't stop him - or the others - from cheering the toast, and clinking his glass with his young compatriot and everybody else. Even Blue joined in, although still without much enthusiasm. He only sipped at his glass before putting it down next to the still half-full plate in front of him.
“Adam? Are you all right?” Svenson asked, gently nudging his son’s arm.
“Yeah, I’m all right. Well… better, in any case,” Blue added quickly, rubbing his bandaged throat.
John couldn’t help but notice that he had flinched slightly under his touch. Obviously, contrary to what he had stated, he wasn’t all right. Or maybe his son was still harbouring some ill-feeling towards him – seeing his father seated at this table, amongst all those Spectrum officers, maybe he was feeling awkward. Maybe he was reminding himself that his father had never supported his decision to join the organization.
No, it was simpler than that. He really hadn’t recovered yet from all those dreadful hours of pain he had endured at Grover’s hands. The memory of it was still too vivid. And the fact that Grover was now dead – and unable to do him any more harm – seemed to be of little consolation to him.
White had sat down again, glancing thoughtfully toward Blue. Inwardly, remembering the doctors’ recommendations, he reflected that the young man would indeed need time to rest – probably, he would have to be signed off-duty for a couple of days. White wondered if he would complain, as he usually did on such occasions. Or if he would comply without any protest, seeing his present state of mind.
“Well, I for one am REALLY glad this is all over.” The colonel turned to his right to look at Amanda Wainwright, who had said those words. She was looking particularly stunning tonight, in that simple but elegant dress she was wearing. She seemed hardly ten years older than her own daughter. She shuffled on her seat. “You have any idea how I felt, all alone in that hotel room, waiting to have news from all of you? Pretty bored and certainly useless. Next time, I’m joining you.”
“Ah, so we have a new recruit!” White remarked with a broad smile. “Well, let’s just hope, dear lady, that there won’t be a next time.”
“I’ll say!” Destiny murmured, rolling her eyes. “Nearly being run down by a speeding van and jumping into a pile of garbage isn’t my idea of a perfect holiday.”
“I’m sorry I caused you so much trouble, folks,” Blue noted, toying distractedly with the contents of his plate with his fork.
“We can hardly hold it against you, Adam,” Scarlet replied with a placid smile. “It wasn’t really your fault.”
“You think so?” murmured Blue. “Maybe not directly, but… I can’t help but wonder if there wasn’t something I might have done to avoid all of this.”
“Adam,” Symphony called to him, taking his arm gently. “Grover was out to get you. And your father,” she added nodding in John’s direction. "He was ready to do anything to have his vengeance. And you weren’t in any position to stop him.”
“I let myself be captured like a common amateur,” Blue grumbled with frustration. “If I had been more careful…”
“It does no good to dwell on what might have happened, Captain… Adam,” White corrected unreservedly. “Everybody makes mistakes.”
“Mistakes like that can be fatal, sir,” Blue replied, locking eyes with his commander.
The latter nodded his agreement. This was all too true. Especially in their line of work, as Scarlet had said. But it wouldn’t do Blue any good to brood over it. Especially at this moment. “The important thing,” the Spectrum commander stressed, “is that you are alive. Free from that man’s evil-doing. And safe from further attempts on his part.”
“Right,” Blue admitted. “And I have all of you to thank for helping me out. How I can start to show my gratitude, I can’t even imagine.”
“Oh, I’m sure we can come up with something,” Scarlet smirked. “Eventually. There’s that little restaurant in Paris that is out of my reach financially, you see, and…”
Destiny landed him a brutal smack on the arm. He cringed, turning to her. “Can’t you think of anything else but eating?!” she admonished him. “For God’s sake, we ARE sitting in a French restaurant!”
“But not in France, chérie,” Scarlet retorted with deadpan humour.
Destiny snorted. “Paul Metcalfe, you are incorrigible!”
Scarlet offered her a mocking smile. “That’s not exactly what they say I am.”
It was so obvious that the banter the two of them had engaged in was their own personal way of taking Blue’s mind off his problems. It did succeed in drawing a thin smile on the American captain’s lips, but that was about all. At that moment, he caught sight of someone in a wheelchair who was entering the terrace. A glitter briefly appeared in the young man’s eyes as he recognized Marsha Billings. For a moment, it seemed as if the woman would come their way. But he saw her expertly manoeuvring the wheelchair toward the railing separating the terrace from the dance floor, at the other end of the terrace; she then stopped there, at an empty table.
He cleared his throat, and got up.
“Will you excuse me, please?”
“You barely touched your dinner, Adam,” Symphony said in concern. “You’re sure you’re all right?”
He smiled down at her. With a real, genuine smile. “I’m fine. Just not hungry, that’s all.” He squeezed her hand reassuringly. “I’ll be back shortly.”
He nodded around and left the table, directing his steps toward Marsha. Everybody at the table followed him with their eyes. They noticed the direction he was taking and understood instantly.
“I didn’t think she would be coming,” Scarlet then remarked. “I thought she turned down the invitation?”
“She did,” Symphony answered with a nod. “I don’t know, maybe she changed her mind.”
“It doesn’t look as if she’ll be joining us, though,” Colonel White remarked, looking in the direction of Blue and Marsha. He turned back his attention towards the people around the table. “I think she may just want to have a private conversation with our friend.”
“She helped a great deal,” Symphony said. “If not for her, I…”
“…You wouldn’t have been able to get into the casino,” Scarlet deadpanned, “and meet us there.” He was still unsure if he should still be angry with her or simply tease her. In any case, she got the message – and reddened violently.
“I was going to say: I would probably have fallen into Grover’s hands myself,” she corrected obligingly.
“Don’t remind me,” Amanda replied, shivering at the mere thought.
“Sir,” Destiny then addressed Colonel White, sensing that it was better to change the subject, if only for the sake of keeping Symphony from embarrassment and Amanda from needless worries, “I wanted to ask you something, concerning the casino… And that poker game you played with Gardenia… You know you took a terrible risk when you presented him with your card-holder.”
“And what risk exactly, Destiny?” White asked innocently.
“What if he had opened it to check your identity? Maybe he would have found it highly strange that Colonel White – the Spectrum commander himself – had come to him in person to negotiate the release of a kidnap victim… And wonder about his prisoner’s identity. Furthermore – he knew your real name.”
“Ah, but not exactly,” White defended himself. “He knew me as someone called ‘Gray’. Which could easily pass as my colour codename.”
“I wonder what the real Grey would say about you swiping his identity, sir,” Scarlet remarked, with a note of amusement.
“As for the card-holder, my dear Destiny, I was hoping that simply seeing the Spectrum stamp on it would suffice to impress Mister Gardenia. Enough so that he wouldn’t feel the need to open it.”
“You were bluffing, then,” Destiny said, nodding approvingly. “You REALLY are a mean poker player, sir.”
White lifted his glass to her, smiling lightly, with obvious amusement. “I had a good teacher.”
John Svenson had barely taken any notice of what was being said around the table, his eyes still following his son. He could see him as he finally reached Marsha and leaned against the railing to engage her in conversation. Even from this distance, John could see that Adam wasn’t totally at ease – not like he was, when he was his usual self.
“He will need some time to recover fully,” John reflected, a note of concern in his voice.
White followed the direction of his eyes. “I’m sure he’ll be on top of things in a very short time,” he noted, turning back to Svenson, and taking on a reassuring tone. “Your son is a remarkable young man, Mister Svenson.”
“I know he is, Colonel,” John conceded. “Believe me, I know.” He nodded quietly, and for the first time, offered a thankful smile at the Spectrum commander. “As I know he’ll be well taken care of…”
* * *
“Aren’t you going to join us at our table?”
Upon hearing Adam Svenson’s kind invitation, Marsha Billings smiled with gratitude, and also sadness. She shook her head slowly, lifting her eyes to meet his. “Thank you, but I don’t want to impose my presence...’’
“How can you say that?” Blue asked with a frown. “We invited you to join us earlier, you remember? And you refused. When I saw you coming through that door I thought…”
“That I had changed my mind?” Marsha smiled and shook her head again. “I had a client to meet…”
“Here?” Blue asked, dubiously.
“I arranged to meet him here,” Marsha defended herself.
Blue nodded slowly. “I thought this was a private restaurant,” he said casually. “Only to be used by the hotel guests and their guests…”
He saw Marsha sighing deeply and giving up. “All right,” she murmured. “You got me. I know you’re leaving tomorrow… That’s why I came. I couldn’t let you go without saying goodbye.”
Blue crouched in front of her, to look her levelly in the eyes. “I’m glad you came,” he said in a low tone. “I never saw you again, after the events of twenty-five years ago… I was too young, and my father never allowed me… And later I… I’m afraid I neglected searching for you…”
“Don’t give it another thought, Adam,” she replied gently. “Why would you have come looking for me?”
“Marsha… I never got the chance to say ‘thank you’.”
“Whatever for? I don’t deserve it. I’m still the woman who helped kidnap you twenty-five years ago…”
“You’re also the woman who saved me, back then. And who saved me again yesterday. And also, if I understand correctly, more than probably saved Karen from falling into Grover’s hands.” Blue shuddered. “I can’t bear to think what he could have done to her to get to me.”
“She is a capable young lady,” Marsha remarked with a smile, remembering what Symphony had done to Butch. “I’m sure she could have managed without my help.”
“Still, I owe you more than I could ever repay you,” Blue insisted.
“I’m the one who feels like I’m indebted to you, Adam. Nothing I could do could make up for the wrongs I did you, all those years ago.”
“Marsha, you spent ten years in prison for that mistake. And have to spend the remainder of your life in that…” Blue gestured toward the wheelchair, as if uncomfortable to even say the word. He lowered his gaze, probably feeling he had some responsibility for her handicap. It was, he had learned, Grover’s knife that had done that to her, when she had helped him escape death, years ago. And maybe his father’s influence was partly responsible for her years in prison. He couldn’t tell for sure, however. He just had some suspicion about that.
Marsha nodded slowly, understanding the mixed feelings brewing inside the younger man’s mind. She put her hand under his chin and gently lifted it.
"The way I see it, I brought this on myself, Adam," she told him. "It was my mistakes that caused my undoing. I learned to live with it."
"You'll be facing trial shortly," Blue remarked gloomily. “For killing that monster… saving my life.”
“Maybe I did it for myself too,” she murmured, looking down.
“No. That, I can’t believe.” Blue forced her to look him in the eyes again. "If you need any help, the best lawyer money can buy..."
"Your father made the same offer," she replied smiling, shaking her head in refusal.
"He did?" Blue asked, just a hint of surprise in his voice.
"Yes, he did. Earlier today, when he posted my bail, for which I’m already grateful. I'll give you the same answer I gave him: thanks, but I can manage. Don't worry, I already have a good lawyer. He assured me that I have a pretty good case. Considering all that had happened in the past with Grover... Your kidnapping, my being in this chair and him wanting to kill you again... It should be an easy matter."
"Remember, you can always count on me," Blue replied, squeezing her hand as it rested on her knees. "You just have to ask, and I'll be there to help you. It's the least I can do."
“You have grown into a very good and kind man, Adam Svenson,” Marsha said with a tender smile, stroking his cheek. “One any woman would be proud to call her son.”
She gave him a gentle kiss upon the cheek, and then looked back into his blue eyes. "Take care of yourself, Adam. I wish you a good life," she smiled lightly, "with a very special young lady who, I think, is made especially for you.”
"And you take care of yourself, Marsha,” he answered, rising to his feet, keeping her hand in his. "You deserve a good life."
She nodded her goodbyes and manoeuvred her chair towards the exit, without turning around once. Blue watched her go, thoughtfully rehashing the events of the two times he had encountered her - and how she had come through for him both times. He truly felt he owed her much more than she was giving herself credit for. He vowed he would someday repay her. Somehow.
“Adam?” Blue turned on his heel. His father had approached him from behind, and was now standing there, looking in the same direction as himself. He seemed awkward, when he nodded in the direction of the departing Marsha. “She didn’t want to come join us at the table?” John’s tone didn’t really sound dissatisfied. He was just stating a fact, asking a simple question. Blue took note, but didn’t pick up the remark. He simply shook his head.
“No, she said she didn’t want to impose. She just wanted to say goodbye.”
John acknowledged the information with another nod. Despite the fact that he owed his son’s life to Marsha Billings, he couldn’t bring himself to trust the woman. For him, she was still one of the people responsible for Adam’s kidnapping, twenty-five years ago. True, she had tried to help him – getting hurt in doing so, but she had been Grover’s accomplice. Even if her actions had redeemed her, John would never feel truly comfortable in her presence. Blue was conscious of that. As he was conscious that his father had made a true effort by offering to help her out earlier.
“She told me you offered her a lawyer?” Blue asked, turning a curious glance at his father.
“It was the least I could do, Adam,” John replied quietly. “She did save your life.”
Blue narrowed his eyes. “Twice, Father.”
“Yes, twice,” John admitted.
There was an uncomfortable silence between the two men. Neither was really sure how to approach the other. For years, it had been that way, each knowing that nearly every one of their conversations often ended up with argument. Neither felt like arguing this time, but still there was that uncertainty that had grown with time between them. In fact, the talk they had had in the van, whilst prisoners of Grover and waiting to know what their fate would be, was the first civil conversation they had had in a long time. There wasn’t much they could add to that.
“I…” John cleared his throat, loudly. It surprised him, how ill-at-ease he felt with his own son at the moment. It wasn’t really in his character at all. “I just received a call from the airport. My plane is leaving for Boston tonight.” He briefly checked his watch. “That is, in less than two hours. I was wondering… if you wouldn’t come with me? I could have a ticket waiting for you.” He saw the suspicion in his son’s eyes and added quickly, “Your mother would be so pleased to see you. It’s been a long time since you came home.”
Blue shook his head. “I’m sorry, Father. I mean, I truly am. But I can’t. I’m due to return to Cloudbase tomorrow morning."
It was obvious that Adam was genuinely sorry to refuse the invitation, but it didn’t make it less disappointing for John. However, he found the inner strength not to show it. And made a supreme effort to accept the refusal, quite graciously.
“All right, then,” he murmured. “I understand. Your duty comes first. Is there something you want to say to your mother?”
“Tell her that I miss her. And that I’ll come soon. To see both of you.”
John lifted an eyebrow. “Is that a promise?”
“Yes, Dad. It’s a promise.”
It had been an awfully long time since John Svenson had heard his eldest son call him ‘Dad’. It had always been ‘Father’, for all his teenage and adult life. Far too long, he considered. For years, since Adam had decided to follow his own path, and distanced himself more and more from his father, and the family business – and seemingly sometimes even his family itself. Something had broken between them, the two men had almost nothing in common – except their own pride and refusal to surrender. It seemed that this terrible experience they had shared lately had brought them closer together. They were not as close as John would have wanted to be. But at least it was a start.
It was only on impulse that John drew closer to his son and took him in his arms. He nearly thumped his back, but stopped just in time, as he remembered the beating Adam had been the victim of. So he contented himself with hugging him. And was so very delighted when he felt his son hugging him in return.
“I thought I would lose you yesterday,” John declared with a catch in his voice. “I mean… REALLY lose you, for good.”
“I felt the same, Dad. I’m so glad you’re okay.”
John nearly snorted at the remark. Compared to what his son had endured, HIS ordeal was really nothing. He broke the embrace, to look into his son’s face. The usual confidence was back in the young man’s eyes. He was going to be okay. John felt that nothing would ever be able to break Adam. He patted his forearm. “You take care of yourself, you hear me?”
Blue smiled brightly. “You too. And keep an eye on the family, will you?”
John nodded, offering a sad, but genuine smile. He then let go of his son and, pretending he had to go prepare his luggage for the upcoming trip back to Boston, said his last goodbye and went on his way, toward the exit. It was only when he reached the door leading off the terrace that he turned around to look in direction of his son; he could see him standing where he had left him, looking back. John saluted him briefly and departed, disappearing from view.
Left alone, Blue let go of his tension with a deep sigh. Despite strong appearances, it had always been difficult for him to face his father – privately or in public. Now was no different, although he was aware that something had changed between them. John Svenson had gained a new understanding of his son’s life, and a renewed respect for him – as well as in the people he was working with. Maybe there was still hope after all that he would, one day, fully comprehend his son’s choices in life and accept them.
There was hope, after all. But Blue wouldn’t hold his breath in the meantime.
A slight smirk appeared on his face as he lowered his head and slightly turned it. "How long have you been there, exactly?"
From behind, he heard an exasperated sigh and turned around, smiling brightly, as Symphony Angel approached him.
"HOW did you manage to know I was there?" she asked him with a brief frown.
He scoffed. "Your perfume. I could recognize it a mile away.”
She answered with a brief, but delighted smile. "I was waiting until you finished your goodbyes with your father. He told us he was going to leave tonight, when he left the table." She took his hand and started walking, drawing him with her. "Come on. I'm inviting you."
"Where?" he asked, unsure.
"To the dance floor, silly!" she laughed, starting down the steps leading to the lower floor. "This is just what you need to relax."
"I don't know, Karen, I..."
"Trust me." She led him in the middle of the dance floor, and then turned toward him, in an inviting way. At first, he hesitated; then, he gave up, took her in his arms, and lifted his right hand. She smiled at him as she rested her left hand on his shoulder and they started to dance to the soft music. She listened to the melody and nodded.
"Fascination", she said brightly. "Quite fitting. That's exactly what I feel towards you."
"You know you're quite the seductress, Miss Wainwright?" Blue remarked with a smile of his own.
"You’re in a better mood than earlier, I note."
"I am in a better mood, thanks. I think you were right: this dance may be what the doctor ordered."
"Not exactly my idea, I must admit. Look." Symphony briefly gestured to their right, for Blue to look that way. At some distance from them, in the middle of the floor, he could see another couple dancing: Captain Scarlet and Destiny Angel who, by the looks of things, were having a great time together.
"They gave me the idea," Symphony continued. "Actually... Juliette did, when she practically dragged Paul onto the floor. He was protesting no end. I don't see him complaining now, though."
Blue shook his head. "So I take it dinner is over?"
"I had your plate packed in a doggy bag," Symphony said, matter-of-factly.
Blue chuckled. "The waiter must have given you one of those looks..."
"The colonel wanted to pay the bill. But then, just before leaving, your father stepped in and offered to cover everything."
"I shudder to think who won that debate."
"Oh, I guess you could say BOTH did," Symphony grinned mischievously. "The colonel is certainly more cunning than a fox... He LET your father think he won - after offering a not too obvious resistance." She chuckled. "From what I learned, the two of them didn't see eye to eye from the moment they met. Maybe it's the colonel's way of getting back at your dad?"
"Good for him," grinned Blue. "My father certainly can afford it, anyway." Inwardly, he was wondering about his father's remark concerning the 'obnoxious Englishman he was working with'. Now Blue was asking himself if he hadn’t really been talking about Colonel White...
He looked toward the terrace, at their table. He saw the Spectrum commander standing there, leaning against the railing; he was looking down at the dance floor, apparently lost in thought. What he could be thinking of was anybody's guess.
“Do you really think he came here to spend his furlough with us?” Blue asked with just a touch of suspicion in his voice.
“That’s what he told us,” Symphony answered. “Why would he lie? And why would he be here, if not for that reason?”
“You have to ask?”
“I don’t know, Big Blue…” Symphony sighed deeply. “I know what you’re thinking. We all thought the same. But if he came all this way through here because he had some suspicion about us wanting to get married – and to stop us doing so – I expect he would have said so early on. He didn’t let anything on that it could be his reason for being here.”
“So… what he said may be true, then,” Blue reflected. “It’s not like he didn’t need some free time of his own. His last furlough having been a harrowing experience for him…”
“Like yours,” Symphony murmured.
“I feel like I spoiled his plans badly,” Blue replied, shaking his head.
Symphony didn’t answer, but her silence was eloquent enough. It wasn’t only the colonel’s plans that had been spoiled. Their own were, too. There was so little time left before they would leave for Cloudbase in the morning. Still, enough for them to pursue their goal – and finally get married.
But it wasn’t as simple as that now.
Something had changed.
“I’m… so sorry, honey. I can’t go through with it.” Blue sighed deeply. It was the moment he had to tell her. He looked her in the eyes, his own reflecting his inner trouble, along with all the regrets he was feeling – and the love he had for her. He thought he would see dismay on her face, but he couldn’t see any reaction. He felt like he had to explain himself anyway. “I DO want to marry you. But not this way. Not by going behind the colonel’s back. I… We can’t do this to him. He’s always been decent towards us – and… well, ESPECIALLY now, after the way he came through for me, it makes me realize that we should never even have considered this. It would be so disloyal – and so unfair to act this way towards him.”
“Not to mention disrespectful.” Blue lifted an eyebrow, hearing Symphony’s further remark. She gently touched his cheek, and smiled, sadly. “I already figured out you would come to this conclusion. And I agree with you,” she said with a nod. “We can’t do that to him. I wanted to tell you all about it, but I didn’t have the opportunity before now.”
“We’ll have to postpone our wedding,” Blue said in a regretful tone.
“I know,” Symphony said painfully.
“But, we WILL get married, honey,” Blue added quickly. “Eventually. We’ll just have to do it the right way.” He paused a second, and briefly looked toward Colonel White; he could see him still in the same place on the terrace, near the railing. Now, Amanda Wainwright had joined him there, and they were talking with each other. Blue blew a confident sigh. “As soon as we get back to Cloudbase, I’ll have a talk with the colonel. And ask his permission for us to get married.”
“You’re going to ask him?” Symphony asked. She didn’t sound as surprised as she had expected to be. As a matter of fact, she was somehow expecting that it would come to that. But that didn’t stop her from dreading what could happen next. “Are you sure? And what if he should say no?”
Blue hesitated a moment. In fact, he was wondering about that himself. He didn't know what Colonel White's reaction and possible answer would be. And how he would react himself should that answer be negative. Anything was liable to happen. One thing was certain: Blue didn't intend giving up Symphony. No matter what happened, he would fight his battle to the bitter end - with every intention of winning - even if it meant facing an adversary as fierce as Colonel White.
"Let me worry about that, darling," he said to Symphony with an indifferent - at least apparently - shrug.
"I'll be at your side, Big Blue. I want to..."
"You'll do no such thing. Let me handle it alone."
"So, now you want to play macho?"
"Being 'macho' has nothing to do with it." Blue addressed the young woman with a faint grin. "It's purely tradition, honey. It's up to ME to ask our commanding officer’s permission to marry."
"I'm not sure I agree with that." Seeing the obstinate expression on Blue's face, Symphony gave up. "All right, he's all yours, then," she conceded. "But you'd better come back with results!" she added almost threateningly, making him smile with amusement.
"I will," he answered, his tone more assured than his actual conviction. He leaned towards her, seeing her still disappointed and pouting face. "Not too angry that we have to postpone our wedding?"
"I'm not angry," she replied. "Disappointed, yes, but... I know we're right in not going through with it. It just that... well, for a time, it was as if we really were going to make it. That we would finally be a couple."
"But we are a couple, honey," Blue retorted with an half-smile.
"But not officially." Symphony shrugged the thought away. "I’m sorry Adam, forget what I just said. It’s just me being selfish."
"You, selfish? Never!" Blue lifted her chin and smiled mischievously at her. "We may not be married but... there's nothing to say we can't make use of the honeymoon suite... We'll be nice and cosy up there... all alone, away from the others..."
"You mean, you want to kick the present occupants out?"
Blue frowned at the intriguing question. He saw Symphony redden a little. "I... er... had a similar idea, you know. Seeing as we’re both actually sharing a room with someone else, I thought we would be able to have some privacy there. But... It seems a couple has already booked it. A 'Mr. and Mrs. Aaron Beaulieu', I was told..."
"Karen, I reserved the suite."
"I know, that's what you told me already. I figured since we're not gonna be married, you cancelled and..."
"No, you don't get it.” Blue sniggered quietly. “I reserved the honeymoon suite under that name.”
Symphony blinked in surprise. “You did?” But… why?”
“I don’t know,” Blue laughed. “Maybe in case somebody from Spectrum traced us back here? And I did well, apparently. You imagine the colonel’s reaction when he found out that ‘Mr. and Mrs. Svenson’ were occupying the honeymoon suite?”
“Right,” Symphony admitted slowly, narrowing her eyes at her lover. “Very clever. You are always full of surprises, Big Blue.” She approached him, and then gently kissed him upon the cheek. Then she came to rest her head on his shoulder, and nibbled at his throat. He gave a low, amused chuckle.
“So I take it that’s a yes?”
The kiss that followed served to confirm the answer to his question.
* * *
Leaning against the railing, Colonel White was thoughtfully looking down the dance floor, silently watching the many couples revolving down there and apparently having a good time. He could easily see Captain Scarlet and Destiny Angel, waltzing merrily, smiling at each other, laughing, and apparently unaware that he was watching them. Well, they certainly have nothing to hide, White reflected quietly. He knew they were not involved, and therefore were not feeling in the least guilty about having fun. They had no reason to think that Colonel White would find their behaviour suspect.
Curiously, the Spectrum commander mused, it seemed that both Captain Blue and Symphony Angel had adopted similar conduct – carelessly dancing with each other as if he wasn’t even there, so close and watching them. Their whole attitude spelled out their true feelings for each other – how close they were holding each other, the way they were smiling and looking into each other’s eyes. And now kissing… Oh yes, they were in love. No doubt about it.
White watched intently as the couple, their backs turned to him, broke off their dance and slowly left the floor. He narrowed his eyes, focusing on the way they were still holding hands.
“They make a nice couple, don’t they?”
White had all but forgotten the presence of Amanda Wainwright by his side. He nearly tensed hearing her words, but caught himself right away, and nodded.
“They do, indeed,” he said very quietly. He didn’t make a move when Blue and Symphony disappeared from his view, but kept staring at the direction they had taken.
“You don’t have any intention of stopping them, do you?”
White turned toward Amanda; only a glitter in his eyes betrayed the surprise he had felt upon hearing her question. He shook his head. “No, I have no intention of interfering with their plans. Whatever they are. If they want to marry – but I don’t think they would – I won’t stop them… However, I’ll be very disappointed in them.”
“Of course you will,” Amanda declared ever so softly.
“I never fooled you, did I, Amanda?” White noted, with amusement now replacing surprise in his blue eyes.
She sighed, and leaned on the railing at his side. “Not for one minute,” she said firmly. “I just knew you had come to stop this ‘secret wedding’ of theirs.”
“Was it that obvious?”
She chuckled. “Not to everyone, it seems,” she replied, nodding in the direction of the dance floor.
White followed her gaze to find Scarlet and Destiny, still dancing with each other. “Strange,” he mused. “My officers have known me for the past three years… while you’ve met me, what… three times during that time? And you found me out instantly.”
“I think your officers haven’t learned to know you, Colonel. Or to be more precise: I think you don’t allow them the chance to know you better.” Amanda paused a second, before adding, “And we’ve met four times, actually.”
“Four times?” Colonel White enquired.
She nodded. “The first time, at my daughter’s commissioning, with my husband. The second – not long after his death, when Karen was injured during a mission. The third… when she was convalescing at home, and you called to find out how she was doing.”
White nearly chuckled. “But that was over the videophone!”
“Well, that counts!” Amanda protested vehemently. She pouted, looking away from him. “For me it does, anyway,” she muttered.
For a moment, Colonel White stared at her, not exactly knowing what she was implying or how to answer her. Her words certainly were perplexing him. His sudden silence finally got to her; she turned to face him, brows furrowed.
“Well, what are you looking at?” she asked vehemently.
He nodded appreciatively. “I’m looking at a very charming and attractive lady,” he said with a faint but authentic smile.
She felt the red coming to her cheeks, and turned away a little, if only to avoid his probing eyes. “It must have taken you a lot JUST to say that, Colonel,” she grumbled.
“Charles.” He lifted a brow. “What do you mean?”
“I have a feeling you usually don’t find it very easy to voice your emotions.” She turned around to look at him again. “Can I call you ‘Charlie’?”
“No.” White shook his head. “You’re right, I’m afraid I’m not very good at showing my feelings. Never have been.” He paused, coming back to the other topic of their conversation. “Only my father called me ‘Charlie’. And my wife, when she was angry at me.”
“Which must have been often, then.” There was only a slight smirk of amusement on the colonel’s lips. “You loved her very much, didn’t you?” Amanda asked carefully.
“She was my life,” White offered simply.
“She must have been a very special woman.”
“She was.” There was fondness and sadness in White’s expression as he thought of those very precious moments he had shared with his long lost love. “She was carrying our child when she died. When I lost them, I thought I’d lost everything.”
“How long has it been?”
“Seventeen years,” White answered, looking into space.
“A long time to be alone,” murmured Amanda.
White nodded. “Well, I’ve… seen other women, over time,” he said in a low voice. “But I must admit… I still miss her. Very much.”
Amanda lowered her gaze. “I understand. It’s been more than two years, and I still miss my Harry. However long it might be, I don’t think I will ever forget him. But I count myself lucky. I still have Karen.”
White nodded. He remembered how distressed Amanda had been a couple of years before, when, closely following the untimely death of her husband, she thought she would also lose her only daughter, after a nearly failed mission almost claimed her life. He had felt a closeness to the woman at that moment. He knew what she was going through and that had made him want to comfort her. But at the same time, he had found it rather unbecoming to approach her at the time, seeing how she had just become a widow and was mourning the death of her dear husband – and that her daughter was between life and death. Colonel White was too much of a decent man to even think of starting whatever relationship he would have wanted with any woman in those dreadful conditions. Let alone with the mother of one of his agents.
The question was to know what kind of thoughts Amanda had about him. He had got the impression earlier on that they were something like his own, but…
“You know,” Amanda then declared, looking up again towards White with a somewhat coy expression, “it’s a terrible feeling.”
“What is?” the colonel asked with a brief frown.
White nodded slowly. Well, if that didn’t answer his question, then…
“It is, indeed,” he agreed, the tone of his voice softening as a slight smile formed on his face.
Amanda smiled invitingly, and reached for his hand resting on the railing, gently squeezing it under her own. “I’m glad there are subjects on which we can agree.”
Her smile was contagious, and White found himself smiling back and drawing closer to her. “I would think, my dear… that there are many subjects on which we will agree… and that we’ll find many others.”
* * *
On the lower floor, Destiny Angel, still dancing slowly with Captain Scarlet, was looking in the direction of the terrace, where she could see both Colonel White and Amanda Wainwright – getting closer to each other. Oddly, the melody then chose that moment to change. Clarinet notes died away, to be replaced by the rich and inviting tones of ‘Strangers in the Night’. No words, simply music. But so very appropriate to the circumstances… Almost despite herself, Destiny chuckled, making Scarlet look down curiously at her. She grinned with her most malicious smile.
“Paul… Who will be sharing your room tonight?”
Scarlet thought he had misheard. “What?” he asked with a frown.
“Will the colonel be sharing your room?” she insisted.
“Er… No… The hotel management found him a room, earlier today.” He was starting to wonder why Destiny was asking those questions. “Adam should be sharing the room. In principle.” He kicked himself for having added the two last words. What if Destiny got the WRONG impression…
Destiny sniggered. “It would surprise me if Adam is in your room tonight. You did see him leaving with Symphony, yes?” And I have a feeling SHE won’t be in our room either… And probably, neither will Amanda.”
Now Scarlet was definitely worried. “Juliette, I don’t know what you’re driving at, but…”
She cut him off suddenly, seemingly oblivious to what he was implying, “I just mean that it’s probably a good thing for the colonel that the management found him a room.” Seeing the dubious frown on Scarlet’s brow, she nodded toward the terrace. He looked toward it just in time to see Colonel White and Amanda exchanging a brief kiss, and then slowly going away, holding each other’s hands. The scene was somehow perplexing. Scarlet turned around, addressing a falsely reproving look to his dance partner.
“My dear Juliette… whatever are you thinking of?!” By the tone of his voice, it was obvious he was thinking just the same.
“Isn’t that lovely?” Destiny added with a sigh.
“And strange, at the same time,” Scarlet answered with a knowing nod.
“You don’t seem at all surprised!” Destiny exclaimed.
“And why should I be? Scarlet replied with a low chuckle. “I did notice that there were sparks flying between these two. But still, the colonel and Karen’s mother… That’s certainly interesting! I wonder what Karen’s going to think of that…”
“Oh please, don’t ask her!” Destiny protested. “ What if she doesn’t know? We shouldn’t be the ones to tell her… In fact, my opinion is that we shouldn’t tell ANYBODY about this at all!”
“Another of those conspiracies you’re so fond of, chérie?” Scarlet asked with a mocking smirk. “Well, I’m in total agreement with you.” He looked toward the terrace, where White and Amanda had disappeared from their view. “One of the reasons being that NOBODY would believe us!” he added, trying to keep a straight face.
“I still can’t believe all that has happened during this furlough,” Destiny said with another sigh, this time sounding rather upset. “Coming all the way here for a wedding, ending up mixed up with a kidnapping, and not having the wedding at all. So frustrating!” Scarlet had just taken the opportunity of this dance together to inform her of Blue’s change of plans – which he had learned himself just before dinner, when he had found himself alone with his friend. For the Angel pilot, it WAS disappointing, but she had to admit, it was also the wisest thing to do. “In a way, I’m glad they won’t carry on with this plan. With the colonel being here and all…”
Scarlet nodded quietly. “There will be another time,” he predicted, vaguely.
“Did either Karen or Adam say anything about that yet?” Destiny inquired with curiosity.
He shook his head. “No, nothing yet. But Adam told me… he had something to clear up first. Whatever that means.”
“Just make sure I’ll be invited that time too!” Destiny warned him. “After all, I’m entitled to participate, considering all that I have done this time, don’t you think? Covering for them and all…”
“Of course, chérie!” Scarlet assured her with a brief laugh. “I’m sure they won’t forget! And if they do, I’ll make sure to remind them!”
Destiny smiled with delight. Then she drew closer to Scarlet, much to his dismay, put her arms around his neck and kissed him quickly, before looking straight into his anxious blue eyes. “Now, that this is settled, Captain,” she said coyly, with just a gleam of mischief dancing in her own eyes, “and seeing as we have been left all on our own, how about one last hurrah, you and I?”
The suspicion and worries she had seen before reappeared in Scarlet’s handsome features. Destiny took unprecedented pleasure in seeing his face draining of colour. He started to sputter, obviously fighting to find the right words.
“Juliette, I’m… really flattered, you know that, but… You know, you and I… It’s… Well, there isn’t anything between us any more, except friendship and… Well, there’s Dianne and… I love her, and…”
“Oh, Paul!” Destiny had forced herself to look at first intrigued, then perplexed, then finally outright surprised by his declaration. She then laughed out loud, unable to pursue the charade. “I meant dancing, silly you!” she giggled, thumping his chest playfully. “WHAT in the world were you thinking?”
He chuckled, not in the least fooled by her false innocence. “EXACTLY what you wanted me to think!” he told her, punching her chin ever so slightly. “You ARE some wicked lady, Destiny Angel!”
“I should tell Dianne about this,” Destiny declared, still playing the innocent. “This, and that little episode with that Dolly lady… Should be pretty interesting to see her reaction…”
“You wouldn’t dare!” Scarlet warned her.
“Oh, I wouldn’t?” she challenged him.
Scarlet narrowed his eyes at her. “Juliette… how much do you value the secrecy of your relationship with Captain Magenta?”
“There is NO relationship between Magenta and me,” Destiny protested with an icy tone, her eyes flashing.
“Then we understand each other perfectly,” Scarlet deadpanned, looking into space, just over her shoulder. “There was no hooker named Dolly in that casino either…”
He had a near absolute poker face, but Destiny could see he was dying to guffaw irrepressibly. She thumped him again, and started laughing. “You really ARE incorrigible, Metcalfe!”
“Yes,” he said, matter-of-factly. “You’ve said that already…” That was all that was needed for him to join his laugher to Destiny’s.
* * *
On the top floor of the St.Maurice Hotel, Adam Svenson and Karen Wainwright had stopped in front of the door of the honeymoon suite; they exchanged a long, lingering kiss, as Adam inserted the key in the lock and pushed the door open.
Symphony, her hand holding Blue’s, stepped first into the room, a smile of anticipation upon her lips. She felt a tug pulling her back after only two steps and turned toward Blue, with an inquiring expression. He was standing in the doorway, looking apologetically at her. She frowned in perplexity.
“What is it?” she murmured.
He shook his head sombrely. “I wish my back wasn’t killing me,” he said in a hushed, slightly bitter tone. “I wish I could take you, and lift you in my arms, and carry you across the threshold, like it’s meant to be…”
Symphony smiled. She threw the keys onto a table near the door and approached Blue, putting her arms around his neck, and kissing him tenderly. “That’s all right…” she whispered with an enticing grin. “It’s not like we’re really married, anyway…” The kiss became a passionate one as she stepped back into the room, forcing him to follow. Hugging her close against him, Blue closed the door behind them with one swift kick.
* * *
Epilogue 2 – Cloudbase
“Captain Blue is waiting outside to see you, sir.”
Seated at his round desk, in the Control Room, Colonel White briefly raised his silver head from the file he was working on, his pen stopping in the middle of the line he was writing. Since his return the preceding day, the paperwork hadn’t stopped coming. Incredible how much work is waiting for you when you come back from a well-earned holiday, he reflected, almost bitterly. He glanced over toward Lieutenant Green, seated at his station, in front of the computer wall.
“Has he been waiting for long, Lieutenant?”
“No, sir, he just arrived.”
White nodded thoughtfully. He finished his paragraph, and started another one. “You may tell him to enter, Lieutenant.”
“S.I.G., sir.” Green pushed a button on his console to invite Captain Blue in. The green doors behind him opened and the captain stepped onto the conveyor leading to the Control desk, thus passing behind Green. The lieutenant had turned around to greet him. His jaw dropped, and he gasped upon seeing his battered face and the dressing on his left brow.
“Good God, Captain!” Blue turned a inquiring look in the younger man’s direction. Green could only stare at him slack-jawed. “What happened to you? You look as if someone’s used you for a punching bag!”
Almost despite himself, Blue smirked at Green’s choice of words. He touched his bruised left cheek with his bandaged hand. Good thing the turtle-neck collar of his uniform was hiding the bandage around his neck, or that would have shocked Green ever more. “Well, you know, Lieutenant… That’s actually what did happen to me.”
Blue didn’t say more, and Green was left pondering what exactly had happened to him. Oddly, the lieutenant couldn’t help thinking how Colonel White had stormed out of the Control Room, some days ago, apparently so very angry about something he just had figured out, to leave Cloudbase and go to Las Vegas where Captain Blue was supposed to be at that time – along with Captain Scarlet, Destiny and Symphony Angels. At that moment, Green had reflected that he wouldn’t want to be in the shoes of the person who had angered his commander… But it seemed hardly possible to him that White could be responsible for Blue’s appearance! Surely, he wouldn’t…
I’ve got an over-active imagination, Green irritably told himself, shrugging the crazy thought away. He tried to go back to his work.
Captain Blue had stopped in front of the colonel’s desk and had come to attention, putting his cap under his arm and saluting his commander. The latter didn’t even glance at him. He was still busy working on his report. Seconds passed by, that seemed like endless minutes to Blue. Seeing that White wasn’t about to acknowledge his presence, he cleared his throat.
“Colonel White, sir, I…”
White silenced him with a swift gesture, demanding that he wait an instant. Blue instantly closed his mouth and put himself at ease. The colonel continued to write on his paper.
The wait was becoming increasingly excruciating for Blue.
Finally, White put down his pen, checked his watch and looked up at the captain. “You wanted to see me, Captain?” he asked matter-of-factly.
“Yes, sir,” Blue said, snapping back to attention.
“I hope it’s important. As you can see, I’m quite busy.”
“It is important, sir. And also… very personal.”
“Is that so?” White mused. “At ease, Captain.” As Blue obeyed, the colonel intertwined his fingers, and settled himself comfortably on his seat. “Lieutenant Green,” he called to the communications officer. “Captain Scarlet is due to bring me a file this morning. I’ll need it shortly. Would you do me the favour of fetching it for me?”
“You want me to call Captain Scarlet to the Control Room, sir?” Green asked, unsure of what exactly he was being ordered to do.
“No, Lieutenant,” White replied patiently. “I want you to look for Captain Scarlet yourself and bring that file to me. And take your time, I’ll manage communications in the meantime. And while you’re at it,” he added, as if as an afterthought, “I’d very much like a cup of coffee, thank you.”
Green blinked. That was an unusual order coming from his commander, to say the least. He hesitated only a mere instant, wondering what was going on exactly, staring at the colonel with perplexity. As usual, he couldn’t read anything on his set face. White was patiently waiting for him to obey. As for Captain Blue… he was standing rigidly in front of the colonel. Understanding that White really wanted him out of the room, Green acknowledged the order and stood up to leave.
White waited until the door had closed on his communications officer, before turning once more toward Blue.
“I thought Doctor Fawn had signed you off duty after your return from Las Vegas, Captain. What are you doing in uniform?”
“Sir. Doctor Fawn put me on light duty. He said I should be back on full duty in a couple of days.”
White raised an eyebrow, eyeing the still bruised face that was looking past him, Blue still more or less standing to attention. “You have no significant injuries from the treatment you received over these last few days, I take it?”
“No, sir,” Blue said, shaking his head. “I just need a few days rest, that’s all. And a visit to the dentist this afternoon. I have a couple of broken back teeth.”
White nodded thoughtfully. He sat back even more comfortably on his seat, his eyes set on the young man. “You haven’t come up here just to give me a report on your health?” he stated quietly.
“No, Colonel!” Blue stood up once more to full attention. He fought the urge to take a deep breath, before diving in. “I came to ask your permission to get married, sir.”
For a moment, there was silence in the room, as White simply stared at his officer, without blinking. Blue was like a statue, looking straight ahead, barely noticing his commander’s stare, and waiting. He didn’t know what answer he could expect; it could be anything. The present hush was like a bad omen for him.
“Who is to be the lucky girl?” White asked in an level tone.
“Symphony Angel, sir,” Blue responded, as evenly.
Another silence followed.
“How long has it been going on?” The colonel’s tone was picking up in intensity. Blue was about sure he would lash out at him – eventually. Telling him how bad an idea it was – that Spectrum and Cloudbase ran on military rules – that discipline forbade romantic liaisons between senior officers.
“A long time, sir,” Blue said, keeping himself from sounding miserable, just thinking that his request was doomed to fail.
“Do you love her?”
Blue swallowed hard. “Sir, I’m aware there are regulations. I’m ready to…”
“JUST answer the question, Captain,” White cut in rather abruptly.
Blue nodded nervously. “Yes, sir. I love her. Very much.”
“And does she love you?” White insisted, pointedly.
“I… believe she does, sir.”
White slowly nodded. He leaned on his desk, his eyes flashing brightly, not leaving Blue for one second. “One last question, before I give you my answer, Captain,” he said between clenched teeth. “Why, in Heaven’s name, have you waited so long before asking my permission?”
“Sir?” Blue queried, with uncertainty.
White slapped his hand on his desk in an annoyed gesture, nearly making Blue jump. “Confound it, Blue! Don’t you think I noticed that something was going on between the two of you? Almost from the very beginning, I knew!” He stood up from behind his desk and rounded it to stand in front of an obviously astonished Blue. “Did you think me so blind, Captain?” he grumbled ominously, his face only inches from his junior officer’s.
“N-no, sir.” Blue frowned, still stunned by his commander’s declaration. He lost his attention stance, and lowered his gaze, locking eyes with his commander. “You knew all along?”
“Oh, yes. It was so obvious! You might as well have put up posters!” the Spectrum commander scoffed derisively. “I doubt there’s a soul on Cloudbase who doesn’t know!”
That revelation was pretty annoying. As was the expression of superior satisfaction White was displaying on his face. He looked like a policeman who had caught his man. Blue stood his ground, staring at his commander with a mixture of disbelief and irritation. “Then… why didn’t you say anything?”
“And what would you have had me say?” White replied, stepping back to lean on his desk. “As long as you were both doing your jobs properly…” He crossed his arms on his chest, offering the younger man a slightly mocking grin. “And besides, you looked so… ‘cute’, I think is the word.”
Now, that was even more exasperating. Being referred to by their commander as ‘cute’ was just – unbelievable. However, Blue now had a new perception of the colonel’s recent behaviour. He nodded his understanding. “You knew about our plans in Vegas,” he ventured.
There was a dangerous glow in White’s eyes. “I guessed, to be precise,” he corrected icily.
“That’s why you joined us,” Blue realized. “What were your intentions?”
“I wanted to stop you from making the biggest mistake of both your lives!” White lashed out suddenly, now fully letting go of his irritation. “WHAT were you thinking, going behind my back to elope? Don’t you realize how close you both were to catastrophe? Breach of regulations! Indiscipline! Conspiracy! And more charges that could have been brought against you! I would have been forced to kick you out of Spectrum! There was nothing I would have been able to do to prevent it!”
“I see,” Blue murmured, looking down, thinking he had figured out the colonel’s answer to his question. “You don’t approve then…”
“I don’t approve?” White moved on. “I’m just glad you finally decided not to go through with your plans. My God, man! A secret wedding?! In Las Vegas?!” He approached the uncomfortable-looking captain who now found he was not willing to look him in the eyes. “Don’t you think the girl deserves better than that?” White added in a low, calmer tone.
Blue instantly raised his eyes. “Sir?”
White nodded briefly. “Permission granted, Captain.”
He then turned on his heel to go back to his seat, as much as not to show the mischievous smile spreading across his face as to allow Captain Blue to swallow the news. As he sat down, he could see the many reactions consecutively appearing on the younger man’s face. From complete disbelief through doubt to total joy, that made the American captain chuckle nervously, once he realized that he wouldn’t need to fight his commander for what he wanted so much. It was incredible. It had been so easy…
“I can’t believe it,” Blue murmured. Then the doubt returned and he stared in White’s direction. “But… But what about Spectrum regulations? If Symphony and I get married… what…”
White arched a brow. “Oh, yes… Spectrum regulations. So NOW you’re concerned about them, are you?”
Blue cringed, hearing the underlying reprimand. He opened his mouth to protest but stopped right away, without saying a word, realizing that there was little he could say to justify himself without actually pushing himself even deeper. White grumbled irritably and pointed an accusing finger at him. “Before going to the kind of extremes you already achieved, you should have come to me first. I would have found a way to get round the regulations. As I will now.”
“Sir?” Blue murmured.
“Am I not Spectrum’s commander-in-chief?” White reminded him forcefully. “You are one of my finest officers. Symphony Angel is part of Spectrum’s team of interceptor pilots. Both of you are invaluable to this organization. I’ll find a way to arrange this. I don’t know HOW, right now, but I will do everything in my power to arrange it. God knows WHY I’ll make that effort…”
“Sir,” Blue said with a faint smile. “I can’t believe…” He swallowed hard. “How can we thank you?”
“By not acting as selfishly as you did, in the future!” White answered, still plainly angry. “And by not pulling ANY MORE stunts like this last one! Captain, I’m not taking disciplinary action for TWO reasons. First, it will be difficult to bring up charges on the basis of intentions only. It is very fortunate for the two of you that you changed your plans at the last minute… whatever your reasons were.”
“Sir, you’re part of the reason why we changed our minds,” Blue answered truthfully. “We couldn’t… we felt like we’d be betraying you, somehow.”
“Well, I’m glad you finally realized that,” White said in a very low tone, his eyes nearly disappearing under his furrowed brows. He kept from telling Blue how very disappointed he had been when he had discovered their plans, some days ago. Considering how events had finally unfolded, there was now little point in mentioning it. And White wasn’t so sure he wanted to reveal how hurt he had been. And how relieved he was at their decision not to go through with their plans.
“Er… Sir,” Captain Blue said tentatively, “If I may ask… What is the second reason?”
White grumbled with irritation. “In view of what you’ve been through, I consider you’ve been punished more than sufficiently,” he finally conceded. “Now, I don’t EVER want to hear about secret weddings. ANY MORE! Next time, you’ll do it the proper way, or else!”
“I… That is, WE will, sir, I promise.” Blue was literally ecstatic. Seeing how his luck had turned out these last few days, he was having a hard time not to show his happiness – even in front of a more than obviously fuming White. Of course, he and Symphony would do it the right way next time – they had the consent of their commander, what else did they need?
“A warning, Captain,” White continued, his tone now deadly serious, “and I will have to see Symphony, and your other co-conspirators concerning this too: NEVER AGAIN will you go conspiring behind my back, WHATEVER the reason for it. I won’t accept such behaviour from my officers.”
“Sir, I must say, on behalf of Captain Scarlet,” Blue remarked cautiously, “he tried to dissuade us from going through with our plans.”
“Did he, now?” Colonel White replied very icily, narrowing his eyes. “But you managed to convince him, didn’t you, Captain?”
“I…” Blue stopped, conceding defeat. He sighed and lowered his head. “It won’t happen again, sir,” he finally said.
“Good! Because I can assure you, Captain Blue, that next time, I won’t be so keen to forgive and forget.”
Blue slowly nodded his agreement. “Yes, sir. I understand, sir.”
“In that case, Captain,” White said, his eyes still glowing intensely, “this interview is over. “You’re dismissed. I have work to do. And I’m sure you’re dying to tell your fiancée the good news.”
A large smile appeared on Blue’s face. “Yes, sir… She’ll be so thrilled… Thank you, sir!” As White was picking up his pen, Blue turned away from the desk and started walking toward the exit, his step now light and lively. He stopped suddenly, as a thought crossed his mind. He slowly turned around, unsure again. “Er… Sir? One more thing, if you please?“
White threw his pen down on the desk. “What, AGAIN?” he said with exasperation.
Blue quickly came back to the desk. “Sir… It’s something Symphony said to me… Just before we left Vegas. We… discussed things between us, after we decided not to go on with… you know, the initial plan?” White’s brow furrowed into a warning expression. Blue cleared his throat uncomfortably, and continued quickly, “Well, sir, it’s really quite simple… We… That is, after we agreed that I would talk to you, Symphony was wondering, if ever by any chance you should agree to our marriage…”
“To the point, Captain!” White nearly shouted.
“…She was wondering if you wouldn’t act as father of the bride at the wedding ceremony?”
White’s jaw dropped several inches. He was left speechless. Well, to say I wasn’t counting on this reaction… Blue reflected.
“You mean ‘give her away’?” White asked.
“Well… Karen wasn’t so sure she would use that exact sentence,” Blue replied, with an apologetic smile. “She said she would consider it an honour if you would do it, Colonel.” White kept silent. He was looking away, apparently pondering, a strange expression on his face. That gave Blue cause for concern. “Sir? Are you all right?”
“Of course I am,” White replied, snapping back to reality. “It’s just that I wasn’t expecting this at all…” He blew a deep sigh, trying to get his composure back. He stood up to face Blue levelly. “The honour will all be mine, Captain.”
The smile on Blue’s face now threatened to crack it in two. “Thank you, sir!” he said eagerly. “Karen will be so excited about that too!”
“Well, if you don’t mind, I’d like, at least, to tell her that myself.”
“Of course, sir. It’s your privilege. I… I’m going right away to see her, with your permission.”
Without even waiting for White’s agreement, Blue quickly turned to go; right away, the colonel’s voice called him back to attention. “One minute, Captain Blue.”
Blue turned back, with an inquiring look. Gravely, Colonel White extended his right hand, at the same time as a smile was slowly spreading across his face. “Your hand, if you please.” Blue clasped his hand into his commander’s, and the latter squeezed it fervently. “Congratulations, Adam. You both deserve it!”
* * *
As he passed the door of the Control Room and it closed behind him, Captain Blue, still not believing what had just happened, saw Lieutenant Green and Captain Scarlet standing there, waiting. He addressed them a curious and interrogative look, wondering what they were doing there.
“Been here long?” Blue asked.
“I found Captain Scarlet without almost searching for him,” Lieutenant Green explained with an apologetic look. “When I told him you were in a meeting with Colonel White, he insisted that we waited outside before entering.”
“ESPECIALLY when the lieutenant told me the colonel was asking me for a file I didn’t have,” Scarlet added. “Obviously, it was an excuse to get him out of the Control Room to be alone with you.”
“I had already figured that out, Captain,” Green remarked. “The colonel seldom asks me to get him a coffee. What exactly went on in there?” he asked Blue with trepidation.
By the look on Scarlet’s face, it was fairly obvious the British officer had a good idea of that – and that he was also somewhat concerned. As for Blue, he was now leaning on the green door leading to the Control Room, his legs shaking a little, betraying the excitement he was feeling. The American captain blew out a deep breath, closing his eyes, as if letting go of a great tension.
“Adam?” Scarlet asked, worriedly. “What happened? How did it go?”
“Fairly well, thanks.” A smile appeared on Blue’s features, and he opened his eyes, now bright with happiness, to stare at Green, and then at Scarlet. “He said yes.”
“He said yes?” Scarlet repeated with scepticism.
“After giving me a lecture, he did, yes,” Blue confirmed, laughing.
“I can’t believe it!” Scarlet yelled loudly, laughing in turn, taking Blue into his arms and thumping his back with vigour.
“Be careful!” Blue grimaced, his good humour not fading.
“Sorry, old chum, I nearly forgot…” Scarlet took Blue’s hand to pump it heartily. He grinned at a confused Green. “I can’t believe it,” he repeated. “He said yes!”
“He said yes to what?” Green demanded, on the verge of losing patience.
“To me and Karen getting married,” Blue informed him.
Green’s reaction was one of pure amazement. And then of total joy, as he took Blue’s free hand with both his and shook it with such enthusiasm that the American captain thought he would pull it out of his shoulder. “Oh, that’s grand! All my congratulations, Captain!”
“Thanks, Seymour. Thanks to the both of you. And I’m counting on you both for the ceremony!”
“I wouldn’t miss it for the world!” Green promised, laughing heartily.
“Especially you, Paul,” Blue said, facing Scarlet. “You know I want you for my best man.”
“Nothing would stop me being there,” Scarlet declared in a very solemn tone, squeezing his friend’s shoulder. “Nothing.”
It was at that exact moment that the speakers suddenly came to life and a deep, low voice, seeming to come straight from the grave, made itself heard in all parts of Cloudbase. The three officers in front of the Control Room door froze instantly, knowing very well what was coming.
“This is the Voice of the Mysterons… We know that you can hear us, Earthmen. Our next act of retaliation will be to kill the Prime Minister of Australia… We will be avenged!”
“Not even them…” Scarlet said between his teeth, finishing his earlier statement, and looking with antipathy at the speakers. It had now grown silent, the Mysterons having said all they had to say.
“Right to the point, this time,” Captain Blue declared gravely, putting on his cap. “Right, the colonel will want to see us, gentlemen. Let’s go.” He pressed the button to open the door and went back into the Control Room, closely followed by his partner and Lieutenant Green.
“Not you, Blue!” his partner advised sternly. “You’re supposed to be off-duty, remember?”
“During a Mysteron threat?” Blue replied with a derisive scoff. “Over my dead body!”
To that, Captain Scarlet could only smile.
“I believe that’s my usual line,” he added simply as both of them walked toward Colonel White’s desk, and Lieutenant Green took his place at his station.
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