In war there are two sets of people, those who go off to fight and those who they leave behind. The war currently being waged under the Red Sky may be infinitely stranger and more desperate then most of the ones that came before it, but in this respect things are the same as always.
As the battle at Blood Dragon Castle raged, a woman in Sunnydale waits for news, of the battle and of her son. She goes through her day as normal, doing her usual shift at the hospital, treating patients with her usual friendly smile. The only obvious outward sign of her worry is a greater than usual caffeine consumption. Staring thoughtfully at the cup that previously contained her latest dose; she’s momentarily surprised when a fresh cup of coffee appears in front of her, then recognises the gauntleted hand holding it and smiles.
“Hello Gabriel. How did you know I was here?”
The mousy haired man puts down his own cup and slips into the seat opposite, Cali banging against the edge as he does so.
“I asked. They said you were on a break, so I just headed for the nearest supply of coffee.”
“Am I that predictable?”
“Only when you’re worried about something.”
The woman smiles.
“Did you come all the way here just to see me?”
“Nah. I just got back from a trip, had to have the standard medical. I figured that since I was here I might as well see how you were doing. It’s been a while.”
“It has, hasn’t it?”
Looking over her friend’s features, she notices that he looks rundown.
“You haven’t been taking proper care of yourself again,” she says, a note of motherly concern in her voice.
“I’ve been busy; there were a couple of long haul deliveries.”
“When’s the last time you ate?”
“On the train.”
“I mean a proper meal, not snack food.”
“Err…probably yesterday morning.”
“Have you been sleeping enough?”
The Courier snorts.
“Do I ever? I haven’t had a full night’s sleep in over twelve years. Don’t worry, catnaps are seriously underrated.”
The bags under his eyes undermine his words.
“You should really take better care of yourself. I don’t want you getting yourself back into the state you were in when we met.”
“Humph. Not much chance of that Aerith, I don’t plan on taking any more six month treks through the hell out there. After that I think it’s safe to say that the occasional mixed meal isn’t going to kill me.”
Aerith nods, then has an idea.
“When’s you’re next trip.”
“Not for a while. I’ve got a couple of days off.”
“Good. Then you can have dinner with me tonight.”
“Are you sure? I don’t want to put you to any trouble.”
“It’s no trouble. It’s not like it’s the first time that you’ve come over for dinner and I’d rather cook for two then eat on my own.”
Remembering the reason why she’d be eating alone her face clouds with worry. Gabriel reaches over and awkwardly pats her arm.
“He’ll be okay. Seph’s a tough kid, plus Vlad’s with him. I almost feel sorry for the bad guys.”
He tries to smile reassuringly but the expression sits awkwardly on his lips and fails to reach his eyes, which as always look equal parts haunted and determined (the fact that he sounds like he’s trying to reassure himself as much as her doesn’t help). Never the less, it’s a major improvement on the thousand yard stare of the battered teenager she’d first met, and she smiles back.
“I’ve got to get back to work. I’ll see you at eight.”
“See you then.”