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 Josh Hamel as Cotton Parr

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Josh Hamel as Cotton Parr Empty
PostSubject: Josh Hamel as Cotton Parr   Josh Hamel as Cotton Parr Icon_minitimeFri Feb 06, 2009 11:00 am

“It’s been difficult to get a hold of you, Dr. Parr.” The transmitter cackled so badly that the man who was in the middle of his fifth cup of coffee had to give it a solid thump with his large hand. “…think I’d be able to locate you.”

“Missed the first part of that, mister,” Cotton Parr informed the fellow on the other end of the boxy transmitter.

“I said I didn’t think I’d be able to locate you,” replied the static-distorted voice. “Your last address was listed as being on Havanista. And here I find you at the New Ford colony.”

“I go where I’m needed, mister,” Cotton replied, and took another sip of coffee. “Who’m I speaking with?”

“Tyler. Cary Tyler. I’m the CCO of Isely Corporation.”

Parr let out a low whistle and leaned back in the rough-canvas chair. “Quite a position, Mr. Tyler. Surely you’ve got better things to do than track down someone like me.”

“You sell yourself short, Dr. Parr,” was the reply.

Cotton didn’t comment. “Mr. Tyler, as ritzy as I feel gabbing with Isely’s CCO, I have seven patients and, while I’m sure they’d be impressed about my sudden leap on the social ladder, they’re also sick and need my expertise more than my society status.”

“Then I’ll make this brief – Isely is funding an expedition to the Carina Arm of the galaxy. An anomaly was discovered by our scientists and, naturally, we want to survey it. We’d like you to sign on as ship’s doctor.”

Cotton leaned forward a little, hunching his broad back. “Why do you need a doctor? Just get a military medic in case someone bumps their heads comin’ out of the hypersleep pod.” He wasn’t insulted at Isely wasting his time on this, but he was vaguely annoyed that they felt they had the right to pull him away from people who seriously needed him. The colony here was only beginning to recover from the virus that had killed more than half of them. The survivors were weak, in pain and struggling to come through. And Isely wanted him to sit on his backside on some survey expedition?

“This isn’t an ordinary excursion, Dr. Parr. It’s imperative we have the best of the best aboard. We don’t want to take any chances of the expedition being in incompetent hands, from any aspect of the crew. And you are the best. A doctorate from Fairwinds, a field medic during the Galactic Campaign and over a year logged with the Hiponi shamans? No one has those credentials but you, Dr. Parr.”

They did sound impressive when listed out like that, Cotton had to admit. But he also knew the stories behind those credentials. How he’d graduated top of his class at Fairwinds only to impress Amy, and how it had worked well enough to see them married that fall. How they’d both decided to be field medics in the Galactic Campaign, when they could have easily set up cushy private practices on Earth, far away from the war. How Amy had lay broken and bleeding in his arms on that distant, barren planet with the sounds of battle all around them, and the top graduate of Farwinds couldn’t do a damn thing to save her. And how he had gone away when the Campaign was finished and given himself over to despair, homeless and destitute until the Hiponi found him and took him in. With them, he’d learned to live again, to hope again and to dedicate himself to healing – for Amy’s sake as much as his own. Now, four years after his wife's death, here he was, moving from colony to colony, world to world, believing that every person whose pain he healed, a little of Amy’s pain in her final moments was lifted as well.

“There are people here who need me, Mr. Tyler,” he told the CCO plainly.

“Captain Crane needs you, as well.”

Cotton smirked. This guy knew how to play dirty. “She’s on board?” He liked Avery Crane. He had been a volunteer field medic for her ground unit during the Campaign. She was tough, cool, capable and one of the few genuinely good human beings he had ever met. Not nice. This man, Tyler, was nice. Crane was Good. Cotton knew the difference all too well.

“She’ll be your Captain. You’ll be traveling aboard the Valdosta.”

Cotton had never been aboard the Georgian-class ship, but he knew that Crane loved it more than she could ever love any human. He also knew that she’d lost the ship after a court-martial involving an air-battle over the planet Evis and, while she wasn’t demoted or discharged, she was relegated to a post on the ground. It was a merciless blow to the woman who’d been decorated seventeen times during her career and was touted as a war hero. She’d even had a planet or something named after her.

“All right. If Crane’s on board, I’ll do it. I don’t trust you, Mr. Tyler, but I trust Avery Crane.” That was the truth. Crane had been there when Amy died, and she had helped – enough that now Cotton felt it was time to do her a service in turn.

“You’ll be departing from Port Alhambra in two weeks. We’ll see you there. Thank you, Dr. Parr.”

Cotton said nothing, just turned off the transmitter and rose to check on his patients.
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PostSubject: Re: Josh Hamel as Cotton Parr   Josh Hamel as Cotton Parr Icon_minitimeTue Mar 10, 2009 2:18 pm

“Captain, may I speak to you?”

Avery turned around in her canvas chair to see the young woman entering her tent, and nodded once. “Of course, Amy. What can I do for you?”

Amy smiled faintly and took a few more steps inward, pushing the door closed behind her. “I wanted to talk to you about something. About a transfer, actually.”

Crane’s brow raised slightly, but her expression revealed little. “A transfer? In the middle of a skirmish? Amy, I know you’re not military, so you may not understand how complicated things are during –..”

“I’m pregnant.” Amy’s voice was quiet.

Avery was still, her surprise shown only in the way her hands flexed against her knees. “Oh,” was all she managed.

“I’d like to transfer out of Carolina as soon as possible,” the young doctor went on. “Me and Cotton.”

“Does Cotton know about this?” Avery asked.

Amy shook her head. “No. Not yet. In fact…you’re the first person I’ve told.” A faint flush came to color her cheeks.

The honor was lost on the Captain. “Amy, I understand your concern, but I’m not going to issue you any immediate transfer.”

This was not the response Amy had been expecting. She stared at Avery a long moment, stunned. Then, she shook her head tightly. “Captain, I…I don’t think you understand. I’m going to have a baby and its life takes precedence over everything else from now on. I can’t stay here and risk-..”

“Yes, you can. I appreciate how important the baby is to you, Amy, but it was your decision to become pregnant during wartime and while under contract with the US Military, whether that decision was deliberately made or the result of negligence in planning.”

“That’s none of your business,” Amy said stiffy. “And I’m married, Captain. It’s not a crime for a woman to have a child with her husband.”

“I can offer you a transfer in three weeks.”

“Three weeks?!” Amy was mortified. “Captain, I can’t keep working on the field for three weeks. The danger is-..”

“I am aware of the danger.” Avery’s tone was dark, and Amy winced, knowing the Captain had seen as much, if not more, carnage and death than Amy had…and had caused her own, to boot. “It will take three weeks to get new medics onto Neville. I can’t have this colony without a doctor, even for a single day, Amy. Do you know how many people would die in three weeks? I’m sorry, but I’m not willing to let people die just to offer a sense of security to an embryo.”

Avery saw Amy’s eyes flash with anger and bitterness. “I see,” she finally said. “We’ll transfer in three weeks, then. Please don’t tell Cotton about any of this – the baby or the transfer. I’ll tell him myself when the time comes.” She pivoted and left the tent. Avery looked at the door where Amy had exited, staring at it for a long, long time. Finally, she turned and went back to working on the regiment lists.

Two days before the ship arrived with the new medics, Amy was killed. She had not told Cotton about the baby or their transfer.

And Avery couldn’t bring herself to tell him, either.
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Josh Hamel as Cotton Parr Empty
PostSubject: The Interview   Josh Hamel as Cotton Parr Icon_minitimeTue Jun 02, 2009 11:03 am

Cotton considered the sleek, gleaming entryway as he walked further into Isley corporate headquarters. Most of Port Alahambra had a slightly patchwork quality, signs here and there of the add-on construction as all the different world governments had expanded the station piece by piece. Former world governments, he reminded himself. It seemed oddly appropriate for the GAF, who were still trying to fit themselves together.

Isley, on the other hand, was a shining monolith, an ivory tower that shone in comparison. The whole place was clean, bright, and completely without clutter, everything in place,holovids of the first spaceships soaring in place on the walls. Even the uniformed security officers and outer employees looked scrubbed and pressed. The whole place sent the same, united message: you are an outsider here. It reminded every supplicant who walked down this interminably long hall that this was the only place to find what they were looking for.

If the stars are your destination, Cotton reminded himself, you're flying with Isley.

He finally reached the front reception area. He sourly noted that the circular reception desk, which was carved from a single Cerrellan geode and looked like it was made of solid ice, could easily have housed two families back on New Ford. He also noted that the receptionist behind it appeared to share a similar hard, icy quality.

"May I help you, sir?" the receptionist asked. Cotton arched an eyebrow at the dyspeptic tone of the 'sir,' but did have to admit that with the dusty leather hat, the wrinkled denim jacket, and the polyceramic-lined miner's boots, he didn't exactly cut a distinguished figure.

"I hope so, Miss..." he looked at the nameplate on the desk, "Aviles. I'm here about a job, and..."

"I'm sorry, sir," she interrupted, not bothering to disguise her sneer any longer. She did it again, Cotton thought. "But I'm afraid this isn't a fueling station where you can just walk up and take an application. If you like, I can give you the wave information for our Career Resources department, and you can contact them at your leisure."

Cotton had never heard a more polite version of 'go away, and leave me alone.' He smiled slightly. "Actually," he drawled, allowing some of his family's old Wyoming speech to slip into his tone, knowing it would irritate her further, "I believe I'm expected by Mr. Carver and Mr. Demine."

Miss Aviles's perfectly shaped eyebrow arched even higher. Cotton decided that she must have had it genesculpted. "Mr...Demine, sir?" That's three, he noted. "Mr. Tovar Demine?"

Cotton smiled beatifically. "That's right, Miss Aviles," he replied.

Her lips pursed, a wrinkle of hesitation in her otherwise unflappable exterior. "So you have an executive guest pass?"

Cotton snapped his fingers and tried to insert as much Aw, shucks as he could into his voice without actually saying it. "Pol's nips!" he exclaimed. "Knew I forgot somethin' on m' dresser!" Reel it back, he cautioned himself.

The eyebrow came down, and the tips of her mouth came up in a slightly curving smile. It was, Cotton noted, entirely without warmth - the sort of smile a cat would give mouse right before disemboweling it. "I'm sorry, sir," she purred. Cotton decided to stop counting. "Guests of the Senior Administration have prearranged executive guest privileges waved to them on all Isley ships, and enter through the private Frost dock adjoining our facility, where they are escorted through our VIP entrance to the upper levels. But I'm sure you weren't aware of that." Actually, I was, Cotton thought, but saw no need to correct her. She was clearly enjoying her feelings of superiority, and Cotton was wondering how much longer he could keep this going until she summoned security to throw him out.

"Dr. Parr!" Cotton cursed. The doors must have iDentichip readers, coupled with automated facial recognition subroutines in the surveillance system. Isley was nothing if not thorough. He turned to greet Carter, who was just stepping off the lift. "Hello, Eli," he replied wryly.

Carter help out his hand, and Cotton shook it firmly. "I see that you missed the private shuttle we sent, neglected to load your GPPs to your chip, docked at port Gibran instead of Frost , AND managed to dodge the people I had sent to keep an eye out for you. I'm surprised you didn't start sending in clones with false chips just to throw us off the scent."

Cotton chuckled. "Well, I was just trying to be difficult, Mr. Carter," he replied. "I thought I should draw the line at violations of the Tokyo Convention."

Carter smiled his polite smile, nodding. "Probably wise," he replied. "So, should I take this to mean that you've accepted our job offer?"

Cotton grimaced. "Let's go upstairs and let me act indignant and morally uncompromising for a bit while you and Tovar ply me with his best vodka, and you can add a few more crude blandishments to the Mephistophelian deal you're offering me."

"Dr. Parr, please," Carter dryly objected. "I'd like to think my blandishments are quite sophisticated, thank you. Shall we?" He gestured to the autolift doors.

"Let's," Cotton agreed. As they walked off, Cotton looked over his shoulder at the stunned receptionist, who looked vaguely nauseous. He smiled and waved as Miss Aviles's expression grew more pained.

Cotton chuckled again. "One more caveat right off the bat, Mr. Carter," he said as they boarded the lift.

"Executive Floor Alpha," Eli said to the lift, then turned to Cotton again. "Oh?" he replied as the lift began taking them up.

"Yes," Cotton smiled. "I'd like the young lady working as your general receptionist for my own personal secretary." He chuckled to himself once more at Eli's puzzled expression. Maybe I can find a place here, he mused to himself. Every garden needs a few thorns, after all.

Last edited by Sammhael on Thu Jun 04, 2009 2:14 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : Spelling errors.)
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PostSubject: Cotton in the Oubliette   Josh Hamel as Cotton Parr Icon_minitimeFri Jul 17, 2009 11:49 am

"Am I very, very sick? You're required to tell me by Terran law if I'm very, very sick, even though I'm a minor." She was a dark-eyed child, small for her age, and she spoke with the seriousness that only a child could manage when they decided they didn't want to be a small child anymore.

Cotton smiled and shook his head. "I'm afraid not, Ursa," he replied, mimicking the seriousness in her tone. "And you're right, since you've asked, I would have to tell you. But I'm afraid that so far, you're a disgustingly healthy young lady."

The girl looked crestfallen for a moment, but then straightened and turned back to her father, who stood on the other side of the room, side by side with Ursa's mother. He leaned forward slightly, gazing intently at Ursa, and she shook her head and pursed her lips. Cotton cocked an eyebrow, but said nothing about their telepathic conversation, simply waiting for them to finish.

"Nebulon!" his wife's tone was gentle, with only a hint of scolding. The reserve of these Ghosts is remarkable, Cotton mused. "Please don't speak silently in front of the doctor, it's extremely rude." She was a pale lady with her child's dark eyes, only tall and willowy.

Cotton smiled and her up a hand. "Please, Mrs. Titania," he interjected. "It's completely fine. I passed through Tsaronna once, and the settlers refused to speak anything but Old Romanian, even the ones who knew other tongues." He looked back at Ursa. "Now, Ursa, I'm going to move on to the physical exam, where I will have to touch you. Do you have any telepathic or empathic capabilities?"

The little girl nodded. "I'm a tactile empath, as well as a biopath and kinetic."

Cotton quirked an eyebrow. "A healer? That's a very impressive ability. On day, you might put me out of a job."

She looked at him consideringly, weighing his decision with the consideration of a Planetary Justice. "No," she replied, after what was no doubt some serious internal debate, "You're a very skilled physician, and you have exquisite manners. I think I'll keep you." Then a slight scowl creased her brow. "But you better watch out. My name means 'Bear' in the old tongue the people who invented medicine used. I'm very scary." She held up her hands next to her shoulders, her fingers curling out. "Rawr," she said, punctuating her point with the same sincere gravity that imbued her every word.

Cotton mimicked the gesture, and replied, "Rawr." with the same seriousness. He found the 10-year old enchanting. "Well, in that case," he continued, "I would like you to know that when I touch you, you might sense some of my emotions." He tapped him chest, looking down at her seriously. "I know that inside me, there's a great deal of sadness and hurt, mixed with some anger. I just want you to know that this sadness has nothing to do with you. It's just an old wound I took a long time ago that just hasn't quite healed yet."

Nebuloun showed no reaction, maintaining the stoic composure that only a telepath could manage, but Titania nodded slightly to him, as if showing her appreciation. Cotton had learned a long time ago that as impressive as his mind was, it was an open book to most Ghosts, so it paid to be honest with them when they could sense the lie anyway.

Ursa looked back at him and nodded. "I understand, Dr. Parr. Should I remove my shift now?"

Cotton smiled and nodded. "Yes, please, Ursa," he replied. He picked up his diagnostic sensors and rubbed the sensor plate with his hands to warm it up. "I also apologize if the sensor is cold at all."

Ursa shrugged as she took after her shift. "Physical discomfort is fleeting, Dr. Parr." She tapped her chest, between her third and fourth rib. "I believe this is the idea location for a cardiac scan."

Cotton smiled and laid the sensor pad where she had indicated. "You're correct, Ursa," he replied. "You're going to make an excellent physician someday."

"Thank you," she replied, straightening up. She remained quiet with he continued with the exam. She didn't flinch when his hands touched her, but when he began feeling her belly for stiffness or distension, she spoke again. "Dr. Parr?"

He looked down into her eyes again. "Yes, Ursa?" he replied.

She laid a tiny hand on his wrist, and said, "I'm sorry you're sad. It's harder to fix emotions than it is to fix the body, otherwise I'd make you all better."

Cotton blinked, and fought the tears that threatened to come. He smiled down at her, and took a moment to compose himself. His grief must surely have felt like and overwhelming wave at that moment, but the girl's reaction was limited to a slight squeeze of her hand. She is going to make a truly excellent healer, Cotton thought, not just a doctor. Ra above, she will. "Thank you, Ursa," he replied huskily. "I wish it were that easy, myself, sometimes."

She nodded. "Me, too," she replied, and let him continue with the exam.

Last edited by Sammhael on Fri Jul 17, 2009 11:52 am; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : spelling and minor editing)
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PostSubject: Cotton in the Oubliette, part 2   Josh Hamel as Cotton Parr Icon_minitimeFri Jul 17, 2009 11:49 am

Cotton sat on the back porch, a cup of tea steaming in his hands as he looked out over the small garden behind the store, just waking up to the first light of day. There was an enterprising cow, a brown, well-fed creature, who was cleverly leaning against a fence post, leaning it further and further, bringing her closer and closer to a nearby tomato plant. Cotton briefly considered stopping her, but figured he could let her try for a little longer. As much effort as she's put in, she deserves a nibble or two, he mused.

The silence, the quiet peace of the oubliette was still surprising to him. After so long traveling, experiencing life in spaceships and all the dirtiest, poorest sections of the galaxy, the oubliette felt like a modern-day land of the Lotus-eaters, where all of his pain and his doubts seemed far-off, remote things, their urgency forgotten. He new it was a poor analogy, since these people's wits were far from dull, and they felt as passionately as any other human being did, but he appreciated the composure, reserve, and self-control it must take for a community of telepaths and powerful psychics to live together as closely as they did. If the rest of the world took a lesson from the Ghosts, he thought, the world might be a considerably more peaceful place. He sighed. And if wishes could change the world, Amy would still be alive, all guns would shoot water, and I'd be the Emperor of Mars.

He looked down in surprise as the fat orange cat jumped up into his lap. I didn't even see you creep up, you rotund little sneak, he thought. The cat belonged to a local boy named Pietro, Cotton recalled, a young man who was as wild and energetic as any young boy, which usually just served to underscore the gravitas of all his elders and many of his peers. Cotton had liked him immediately, of course. The cat, however, seemed to be very bored by such trivial concepts of who may or may not own him, and seemed determined to wander wherever he liked. Cotton, who had learned long ago to never argue with the determinations of cats, began to scratch him behind the ears as the orange tabby curled up in him lap.

Cotton had grown up in the Wyoming Farming Protectorate, in the Lamarie Gencattle Ranch complex, so being on a farm again cast his memory back to his childhood, watching the ranch hands guiding the stock herds, the vets and trainers going over the cows, running through the growth tanks, chasing his brothers and sisters. They were good memories, and he was glad for the respite. He had started doing some of the chores on his first day in the oubliette, and Celestine hadn't stopped him.

He chuckled slightly as he considered his hostess. She was a formidable lady, and it was easy to see where Nova had gotten her strong will, quick wit, and iron determination, even if Nova was gentler and more soft-spoken. The past two weeks, she had been an excellent hostess, however, and seemed content to let him be and find his own pace. She had even spread the word among the community and let people know there was a doctor present, something the Calivada Oubliette lacked beyond a few medics and a minor biopath . She knew that he wasn't capable of remaining idle for too long, and was grateful to provide assistance back to the community that was so hospitable to him as a guest.

Serving as a doctor for the Ghosts had been an interesting experience. He'd done it before, of course, Nova most recently, but serving all Ghosts over the past two weeks had forced him to be extremely honest with himself, and them by extension. He chuckled to himself as he remembered Luna, a lovely, shy young woman who was extreme sensitive to the thoughts of others. Cotton prided himself on his professionalism as a doctor, but she HAD been a very comely young lady, and he was only a widower, not dead. When she had disrobed for the exam, he'd been unsuccessful at stifling a few choice mental observations, and poor Luna had blushed all over while re-dressing in lightening speed. Hopefully young Ursa will grow up to be a skilled doctor soon, he mused. These Ghosts really should have one of their own to help them. He sighed, recalling the young girl's words yesterday. It's harder to fix emotions than it is to fix the body, otherwise I'd make you all better, she had said, and Cotton had believed her. But he knew better.

He heard the door open behind him, and a slight smile returned to his face. Wordlessly, he hoisted up the second cup of tea from the table and held it up to his left side. It was still hot, but just cool enough to drink, and had two spoons of honey and a twist of lemon.

Celestine cocked an eyebrow as she in the chair on the other side of the small table and took the proffered cup. "Are you sure I'm the telepath, Dr. Parr?" she asked.

No, I'm happy to leave that to you, he thought silently, knowing she would pick it up. I only claim keen powers of observation. "And please," he continued aloud, "call me Cotton. If you keep insisting I called you Celestine, it just seems ostentatious to keep flaunting my degree around."

She snorted as she took a sip of tea. "As if you don't love the respect and awe you get when they say Doctor Parr," she retorted.

He chuckled. "True," he replied, "but you always seem to miss the respect, and you're always a little short on the awe. It reminds me of when my assistant calls me 'Sir.'"

He was glad to see the slight smile on Celestine's face. He knew she knew he kidding, but she was a hard person to amuse "I like her already," she said. "She sounds like an excellent judge of character."

He chuckled. He recalled Ms. Aviles, and knew Celestine could scan his memories of her in a blink. "No, you wouldn't," he replied.

She looked sharply at him, but couldn't keep the corners of her mouth from rising into a smile. "No," she conceded. "Probably not." She looked out over the yard, and fixed her gaze upon the brown cow, who had finally pushed the fence post in enough to graze happily on one side of the tomato plant. Then, in a second, the cow lifted back several feet and the fence straightened again, and the bewildered cow lowed in surprise in a alarm. She shook her head as she returned to the earth, and moved back to the fence post to vainly try for the plants that were now firmly out of reach. She cast a reproachful gaze back at the porch, lowed mournfully, and then started to amble off, flicking her tail in an annoyed and dismissive gesture. Cotton looked over at Celestine, who gazed back, and then both of them began chuckling.

"I'll be leaving tomorrow," he said after a few more minutes in silence. "The Valdosta takes off the day after, and I need to pick up a few new supplies."

Celestine nodded. "I figured." She was a woman of few words, which Cotton appreciated. He never imagined a telepath would need that many, anyway. "I hope your time here has been helpful."

"It has been," Cotton replied, meaning it. Lying to Celestine would be worse than useless anyway. "I know there's no magical cure-all, but this place is an exercise in communal solitude. If you can't get comfortable with yourself and your own thoughts, I can't imagine you'd last long here."

Celestine just shook her head. No, not really, he heard in his head.

He nodded, finished his tea, and stood up, causing the orange tabby to mewl his great displeasure to his former seat cushion. He leaned out on the rail and looked out over the yard before he turned back around to Celestine. "Oh, by the way, do you know Nebuloun and Titiana's little girl, Ursa?"

Celestine cocked an eyebrow, and held up her left hand to her shoulder, bearing her fingers outwards like claws. "Rawr?" she asked.

Cotton chuckled and mimicked the gesture. "Rawr," he replied.

Celestine dropped her hand an took a sip of tea. "I do. What about her?"

Cotton smiled. "When she inevitably goes off to medical school, please tell her parents to contact me. I'd like to help her however I can. She's going to be the greatest young doctor in the history of the profession since Hippocrates."

Celestine swirled her tea and nodded. "I'll tell them," she replied.

Cotton smiled once more and started back inside. However, at the threshold, he pause, and he knew the question formed in his mind before he could stop it. He was fairly certain he didn't even want to.

He sensed Celestine stiffen behind him, he even though he couldn't see her. For a moment, there was silence, him looking into the house, her staring off over the farm. When she spoke, he could her the rough edge in her voice, the well of emotion that not even the self-control of a Ghost could hide. "No," she replied. "It never gets better. Not if you loved her." She paused, took in a breath, and let it out. "But it gets easier to live with it. You won't forget, but eventually, you won't remember it all the time. Thankfully, I had Nova to -" She cut off as the grief well up in him anew, a fresh dagger in his heart. It was amazing how he could mourn for a child he had never met, that he hadn't even known about until last month, in the Captain's quarters of the Valdosta. He wondered, again, what his child would have been like. He was surprised again when he felt the warm hand on his shoulder. He turned, and there was Celestine, staring up into his eyes. I'm sorry, he heard in his head, and it was too much. The tears came, and he couldn't stop them. He didn't realize when he reached out, and he wasn't even aware when her arms encircled him, but she hugged him, and he her, and he suddenly realized she was crying, too. They both let out huge, wracking sobs as they cried, he for his wife and child, her for her husband, both lost in a brutal and senseless war years ago. He tried to rein it in, knowing that she couldn't help but feel the agony of his grief as keenly as she felt her own, but the crack of her voice in his mind was like a whip.

You STOP that, her voice thundered in his mind. Don't you DARE. He couldn't have diverted this flood if he'd wanted too, he realized, and he lost track of hold long they stood there in each others arms, lost in sorrow and love for the people no longer with them, tears flowing like twin waterfalls.

After a while, though, the floods stopped, and Cotton realized that he felt...lighter, somehow. He stepped back, wiping his tears with the sleeve of his shirt and scrubbing his face with his hands. He reached down and picked up the tea cups, both dropped on the floor, one of which had cracked. He mutely held them up to Celestine. "Thank you," was all he could say.

She made no attempt to dry her tear-stained face, merely accepted the cups mutely. She reached up and kissed him on the cheek. "No, Cotton," she replied. "Thank you." She stepped by him towards the kitchen, putting the cups in the sink. "Cotton?" she said, turning around to look at him again.

He looked up, his eyes red and puffy. "Yes?" he replied.

She paused, looked at him silently for a moment, and then gestured at the hand towel next to him and the puddle of tea at his feet. "Clean up that mess, please. It'll attract ants." With that, she turned and swept out of the room, regal as a Queen.

Cotton simply stared, dumbstruck. Then the laughter came. He couldn't stop it, and it felt so good he didn't want to. He picked up the towel, wiped off the tears of laughter and grief, and set to work on the puddle. For the first time in a long while, he knew he was going to be ok.
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