An Halloween story
BY SAGE HARPER
Melody Angel’s first conscious thought as she woke in an anonymous Las Vegas hotel room after foiling the latest Mysteron threat to Nevada, followed by painting the town several coats of red, was that she would never drink again. The second was an awareness that there was someone laid beside her, on top of the coverlet, of the king-size bed.
She rolled onto her side, and carefully opened her eyes against the sunlight which seemed set on frying her retinas.
“Hey, good morning,” Ochre greeted her. “Got much of a hangover?”
“Good.” Ochre smiled. “After all, we wouldn’t want anything to ruin our first day of matrimony.”
“That’s sweet of you …” Melody’s eye widened, the full meaning of his statement sinking in. And sinking was the right word, if the feeling in her stomach was anything to go by. “Whoa, wait, back up. We’re married!?”
“You don’t remember, last night?” Ochre shrugged. “Well I guess a night of drinking might do that. I do hope it comes back to you, though. I mean, it is an important occasion. We should maybe send out wedding announcements or something; are you keeping your last name or hyphenate it?”
Melody leapt out of bed, realised that was a bad move, then moved more tentatively toward the desk.
“Uh, Mag, what are you doing?” he asked, as she powered up her laptop.
“I’m gonna find out how to get an annulment.”
“Why’d you want one of them?”
“Because I figure that’s what any sane person would do, in my position,” she retorted. Then she made an effort to soften her expression, because after all, Rick was a friend. She might even concede under Chinese water torture that he was her best friend; and he was being quite understanding about her inexplicable amnesia. Perhaps if she’d been more herself, Melody might have said ‘a little too understanding’.
“I’ll have you know there are many women out there who would be honoured to …”
“Yeah, well, I ain’t one of them.”
“Really,” he sat on the edge of the bed and looked at her curiously. “I always kinda figured, y’know, that we were friends …”
She sighed. “Sure we are, and I know all those relationship articles say it’s good to marry your best friend. But that doesn’t mean that taking it literally is a good idea, for a whole heap of reasons.” She paused, trying to find a way to express her point without making things even more awkward and complicated. “I mean, you wouldn’t marry Pat ...”
“What’s wrong with Pat?” Ochre exclaimed, offended on his field partner’s behalf.
“You’re totally missing my point. Besides, since when have you been so keen on being hitched? It doesn’t exactly fit your image.”
Ochre gave it some thought. “Yeah, the whole ‘forsaking all others’ is a pretty big deal. But I’d totally be cool with this being an open marriage. If that’s what you want.”
Melody turned around to glare at him.
“We are not having an open marriage, because we are not gonna be married,” she stated firmly. “You got that?”
“Thanks,” she said, as he placed a mug of coffee on the desk for her.
“Least I can do.” He smiled. “In the grand scheme of husband sort of things.”
“Y’know,” she began, “if anyone told me ‘guess what, one of your co-workers got married in a drunken whim in Vegas, and didn’t even goddamn remember it’, I’d totally guess it was you…”
“That’s unnecessarily harsh.”
“But me! Ah Hell, why does it have to be me?”
“Hey, don’t you dare go making out you’re the wronged party here. Last I checked, it takes two to get into this. I’m not exactly crazy about it myself. But we’re here now, in this… situation. I just want to do the right thing. And don’t know why you’re freaking out so much. Am I really such a total bastard that having any kind of relationship with me doesn’t bear thinking about?”
“I’m sorry, that was real mean.” She smiled. “Honestly, it’s nothing personal. It’s just, I never even wanted to get married. Never figured you did either.”
“Hmm, guess so, but I also have a fear of dying alone. So maybe at some point those are balancing each other out and I’ll manage to have a healthy long term relationship.”
“Just not with me, and not like this.”
“Oh, I don’t know, we could have done a whole lot worse.”
“I don’t think you quite realise how serious this is.” Melody looked him in the eye. “Spectrum’s rules on fraternisation are pretty clear. And they aren’t going to take kindly to anyone just happening to break them. Not to mention if a couple were to marry, the policy is that they can’t serve on the same base together…”
“That’s stupid, what’s the point of even getting married then?”
“Rick, I am not going to lose my job over some night of drunken stupidity.”
“This really is your worst nightmare, isn’t it?” he said, as if merely thinking aloud.
“Pretty much, yeah.” Melody rolled her eyes, typed a little, then pointed to the screen. “OK, I found the site, and it’s a really simple process. Soon, it’ll be like this never happened.”
Ochre gave a deep sigh. “Well, if that’s what you want…”
“It is.” She took his hand. “Nothing personal, but it’s just the best thing.”
“Yeah, OK, I’m on board.”
“Great.” Melody grinned, relieved. “First thing, we’re gonna need the marriage certificate…”
“We don’t have one.”
“What? How the Hell is that possible? You damn well better not have lost it!”
“Nope, I can assure you that would be impossible.” Ochre couldn’t keep from grinning. “Check the date, on the computer.”
“Halloween, so?” she said, then she realised, clocking that oh so familiar expression of his. “Trick or treat.”
“Yup.” Then he dissolved into laughter. “Wow, you really did fall for that one. Ha, the look on your face. So, so funny!”
Ochre got up, backing away carefully from her indignant advance.
“Come on, Mag, it was a joke,” he attempted to pacify her. “y’know, funny, ha ha …”
“You bastard!” she spat. “You total bastard, I can’t believe you would stoop so low!”
“Well, you did say Halloween was dumb. And that my, what was it, ‘infantile sense of humour’ and ‘lack of imagination’ couldn’t possibly dupe or scare you.” He smirked. “Now, hey, you gonna admit, that sounds a whole lot like you threw down the gauntlet. So what was I supposed to do?”
She swept the room with a glance that could have crumbled stone, searching for something with which she could inflict damage on her now ex-best friend.
“OK, I’m gone.”
Ochre ran back to the hotel room he was meant to be sharing with Magenta, with Melody in pursuit. He slammed the door behind him. As Melody began to hammer on the door with her fists he locked the door, leaving his hand resting on the handle and looking up thoughtfully, he considered what he’d done, that maybe this time he really had crossed the line.
He didn’t know what would happen then; maybe he’d get a disciplinary, which didn’t sound promising. Yeah, he could just see it now: wasting away in a dingy basement cubby-hole of the Spectrum Headquarters in Azerbaijan or somewhere equally godforsaken, custodian of mountains of mind numbing red tape that even the ingrating protocol obsessed Agent Conners would find soul destroying. Not to mention getting emails from Pat about his latest adventures with a new field partner who naturally would be younger, better looking, and considerably less annoying.
And Mag …
Well that was the real crux of it. He’d thought, apparently erroneously, that as they were friends and that she knew how much he liked her, she might get a bit mad at first but soon see the funny side of all this. But so far she’d only been really hurt and angry. And what if that didn’t change, if she never forgave him? It wasn’t so much that he’d be losing his best friend (well, one of them, much as he liked the guy Magenta wasn’t exactly his first pick to discuss 1940s aircraft with), he’d have deserved it. But it didn’t take his police training to see that there wasn’t really anyone else on base Melody was as close to. So if she didn’t have someone to lean on and hang out with, well then what would she do. No joke was worth hurting someone that much.
This probably wasn’t the smartest idea he’d ever had.
“Mag sounds really pissed,” Magenta noted, not looking up from the paper.
“I might have gone a bit far,” Ochre answered musingly. “You don’t think she will kill me, really? It was just a joke; I didn’t mean to piss her off that much.”
“If she does kill you, I sure as Hell am not cleaning up the mess.”
“Wouldn’t expect you to,” Ochre said, leaving the door and sniggering as he searched for something to eat. Worst case scenario aside it was still pretty funny, especially how horrified Melody had been at the thought of ‘til death do them part’.
“You gonna tell me what you did, exactly?”
“Maybe later… incidentally, you owe me fifty bucks.”
“I wasn’t serious about that. Either way the bet was only to scare the self proclaimed unscareable Mag for a while, by whatever means your devious little mind could devise. Nothing about making her mad enough to pummel the door to woodchips, let alone whatever she’ll do once she’s through.”
“You should have seen it. The whole thing was so funny, I nearly blew it telling her too soon because she totally bought it, worst nightmare for sure. Good thing it was just a joke because I was starting to feel so bad for her. I really have no idea how I’ll beat it next year.”
“Assuming you live that long ... It better have been worth it,” Magenta said, as Melody began shouting in addition to hammering on the door.
Ochre squared his shoulders, then walked to the door. Intent on opening it and facing whatever came of that.
Thanks to Chris for beta-reading, creating the ever endearing Mr Conners, and all her other services to the fandom.
Happy Halloween everyone.