What am I doing here? Is it worth this? I'm standing cramped into the train car, the sharp smell of a nasty, expensive cologne burning into my nose. My overnight bag hangs on my shoulder, pinning down my arm now that it's caught between someone's body and the divider I'm leaning against. There's a woman's body pressed hard against mine by the shoving crowd. Her hair tickles my nose, smelling of honeysuckle and hairspray. Even through three layers of clothing, hers and mine, I can feel the heat from her skin and the sharp jut of her hipbone laying so close to my groin that I could scream with the urge to grind into her. It's been so damn long.
Of course, there's also the man behind me. He's build like a teddy bear, soft and round with a Santa Claus beard and soft, stubby hands, one of which settled on my hip a few stations back when a sudden stop caught me by surprise and the crush of bodies wouldn't allow me to change position to keep my balance. His hand is firmer than his figure suggests.
We stop short again in the middle of a tunnel and his hand tightens on my thigh. Suddenly, the lights cut out and the muscles of my back tense up. I think of Ro, ex-partner and still adopted sister and remind myself that I'm not the one with claustrophobia. "Customers, we will be moving shortly."
I wonder at the sudden fear in my gut, then force it down and away. I don't know how Eric survived the Holocaust. I can barely stand being cramped into a train that I know the destination of. I wonder if his family's names are in the museum. I'll have to stop and check. At the very least I can pray for them. That thought calms me. The teddy bear strokes my thigh and I don't shake it off like I think I should.
I think of Jake as the train starts again. He'll be sitting, waiting semi-patiently on the stairs of the Natural History Museum in his Mulder-ish suit and Alex Kryceck hair. He'll be watching the kids play on the bronze Triceratops and maybe be smoking one of his favorite hand-rolled cigars. I relax against the Plexiglas and metal divider.
I'm here because he called me. There's a new gem on exhibit, the Freedom Heart, a sapphire from Genosha. It's supposed to have the most exquisite carving in the world. He wants to see it with me. He wants my opinion.
So, I packed up my overnight bag, lied to the team, and changed my ID's. I'm Sean Quincy Remington for this trip. Remy to my friends. Brown contacts already tint my eyes. They burn already.
I'm looking forward to seeing Jake more than the stone. He's probably the best friend I've got these days. He doesn't expect me to do anything for him. He passes on jobs to me, but that's not the same. He wants me to be Remy and nothing else. We can quote "Star Trek" at each other and insult each other and just sit over a meal and laugh. No expectations when I crash on his couch, except maybe to watch retro-sci-fi until three, drink beer and share a pizza. Hell, he even lets me smoke inside his apartment.
The teddy bear pats my thigh before getting off at Metro center with the rest of the swarm. I miss the warmth of his hand and the press of honey-suckle hair's body against mine.
One stop until the Smithsonian. My stomach twists. What if he got called away by his job? What if I got the date wrong? What if this is just a set up?
I get off at the Smithsonian and haul ass to the Natural History Museum. A smile crosses my face as Jake waves. His trench is open and he's wearing jeans and a white shirt. He grins back at me and offers me a cigarette from the battered pack of cloves he keeps just for me. "Hey."
"Hey." I settle next to him to smoke. I blow a smoke-ring for him and he laughs.
"You look like Hell, Remy. Long trip?"
"Yeah. You could say that." The accent is Mississippi. That's where Sean is from originally.
Jake ignores the new accent, just like I'd ignore a new face. "You can crash later. I have just the thing to cheer you up." He bounces up and takes the butt from my mouth and tosses it to the ground. He pulls at my wrist and I relax as we head up to the front doors.
Yes, it was definitely worth everything.
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