Seattle, 11 November 20xx, 08:17
The airline terminal was filling up with passengers waiting for their flights to board, but three people had managed to find an unoccupied corner near the seating area in which to say their goodbyes.
Ocelot looked his two companions up and down. Aubrey was dressed in his tweed traveling suit, clutching his own carry-on bag in one hand, Winterhawk’s in the other. He stood at his charge’s shoulder, ready to provide assistance if necessary.
Winterhawk, next to him, looked better than he had a few days ago, though he still had a long way to go before he would be fully healthy again. His leg cast had been replaced with a much more manageable one, which barely showed beneath his perfectly-creased trousers. The arm cast was still a problem: his jacket and overcoat were around his shoulders, the sleeves hanging loosely down. He leaned heavily on a thin, elegant black cane, but had insisted that no one was going to help him walk. Aubrey was worried: he knew the long flight was going to be hard on his employer, but there was nothing that could be done, since Winterhawk had been adamant about going home as soon as possible. If he had to convalesce, he was bloody well going to do it at home.
“So,” Ocelot said, a little uncomfortably, “I guess this is goodbye.”
Winterhawk nodded, turned to Aubrey. “Aubrey, will you excuse us for a few moments, please? P’raps you could get us a cup of coffee--that sounds quite good right now.”
“Yes, sir,” the old man said, and hurried off, reluctant to be away from his employer for too long.
“What are you going to do now?” Ocelot asked, looking past Winterhawk and out the window where the plane was finishing its fueling in the slate-colored morning.
Winterhawk shrugged. “Go home, I guess. Heal up, then get back to my classes. Maybe I’ll write my memoirs.” He smiled. “What about you?”
Now it was Ocelot’s turn to shrug. “Dunno yet. I called Sensei--I guess I’ll go back down there.”
“She’s all right?” Winterhawk asked with what would have seemed to anyone else to be too much concern.
“Fine. I called her right away.” He paused, then asked reluctantly, “You having nightmares?”
Winterhawk nodded, looking down at the floor. “Yeah.”
“They’re getting better,” Ocelot said. “Not every night anymore.”
“Not every night. But enough.”
Ocelot fidgeted from foot to foot, his hands in his pockets. “You think they’ll quit?”
“No. I don’t.” A pause, and then, “I think they’ll get easier, though. Less distinct. I suppose that’s all we can really ask for.”
Aubrey was coming back now, carefully carrying a cardboard tray with three cups in it. “‘Hawk?” Ocelot said quickly.
“Keep in touch, okay?” Ocelot handed him a scrap of paper with a number scrawled on it. “That’s how to reach me. I’ll--I’ll call you occasionally, too, if that’s okay.”
“Of course it is. You’ve always known how to reach me,” Winterhawk said quietly.
“Yeah. I know. Maybe I just didn’t realize it was so important before.” Ocelot was sounding uncomfortable again. He was spared saying anything else by Aubrey’s arrival.
“Here we are,” the old man said, handing out the cups. He noticed the silence, looked at Winterhawk quizzically, but the mage said nothing.
In the distance, a tinny voice announced that Flight 7342 bound for London was boarding at gate 52. “Well, that’s it,” Winterhawk said at last. “That’s our flight.” He reached out and gripped Ocelot’s arm. “It was good to see you again, my friend.”
Ocelot nodded. “Yeah. Have a good trip.” He returned the grip, nodded goodbye to Aubrey, and swiftly turned and headed off into the crowd.
Aubrey watched after him, then turned back to face Winterhawk. “You aren’t going to tell me what happened over here, are you, sir?”
Winterhawk shook his head. “No, Aubrey. I’m not.”
“But it isn’t going to happen again, is it?”
“No. Not again. I told you, I’m retired for good this time.”
Aubrey smiled. “Good. That’s all I need to hear, sir. Now let’s get aboard, so I can make sure you’re comfortable before we take off.”
Together, the two men made their way slowly toward Gate 52 and the way home, just two more travelers in a sea of humanity and metahumanity going about their daily appointed business. For Winterhawk, that felt good. Normality was the best therapy in the world for him right now.
Copyright ©1996 R. King-Nitschke. The Shadowrun universe is the property of FASA Corporation.
No part of this story may be reproduced without permission from the author.