He chose to walk back to the dorms, rather than catch the shuttle. He couldn't remember the last time he'd actually taken the easy route back, but it hadn't been within the last couple of months. Before, the notion of walking out in the rain when there was an easy alternative was best left to fools, romantics and people itching to catch a cold... now he found it gave him a chance to think on his own without the direct influences of anyone else.
Not that anyone had ever been able to influence Scotty's way of thinking. Maybe his life, maybe even his career, but not how he thought, not how he dealt with things. Now suddenly they could and it was eating at him with the persistence of a hungry lion... somehow, these people were able to disrupt his perfect formula, this balance he'd achieved between life and work, work and life until they were both the same thing. They could get to him without even being there, just by what they'd said in the past.
Like Barrett, and the moral that was supposed to make it all make sense. The nature of wind, which tickled at the back of the cadet's mind almost constantly, and which he still didn't get
. Logic said that it had something to do with destiny and the winds of fate... what else could it be, with a reference like that? But his heart was telling him otherwise, telling him very much against his will that this could be something more important than a simple end-of-the-story moral that went right along with the 'happily ever after' line.
So he thought about it, tried to understand it like he understood how to repair a piece of equipment. It resisted being figured out, though, just like he resisted being figured out, and just like Corry's motives for the career switch resisted being figured out.
In that sense, maybe Scott did understand.
He still wasn't quite ready to give up on Corrigan, however, even though it seemed more hopeless by the day. Morals could wait, but friends could only wait so long before they became complete strangers... oh, sure, you could sit down and chew over old times with a cup of coffee or a shot of Scotch, but that was it. There was nothing more to it besides the sad ruminations of what could have been and should have been if it hadn't all gone so bloody wrong.
Stepping into the gate and nodding to Security, he did his best to mentally prepare himself for the idea that Corry might be there when he walked in, and that he might be called on to converse in a manner that wouldn't be blatantly picking a fight. He didn't want a fight, no... but everything he wanted to say would get him one.
The walk was like death row, up the steps and down the hall -- it went too quickly and he was still desperately unprepared. All he could say was that he felt dread. It was a force of will just to turn the door knob and step in.
Any ideas of conversation gave way to having that dread realized.
Corry glanced up from his dresser, offering a half-smile of greeting. "Evening."
His bags were packed... literally. They sat beside his bunk, which was made and squared away with the Starfleet issue blanket rather than the blue wool blanket he usually had on it. The bookshelves were cleared off, the computer tapes were put away... it was almost like walking into someone else's room. Scott frowned, putting it all together in his mind with the speed of desperation. "Leavin'...?"
"Yep!" The older cadet finished shoving his knickknacks from the dresser top into his carryon. "I'm outbound at midnight for pre-med training."
Corrigan raised an eyebrow, looking at his roommate through the mirror. "Because my transfer came through."
Blinking a few times, still almost out of the door, Scott wasn't sure what to think. He had been so sure that the transfer wouldn't have come through until after he had a chance to finish the Lady Grey
and maybe sabotage Corry's career change using her. Now... now every bit of work he'd put into her had been for nothing. Corry was really going to do it. He was really going to leave, all smiles and joyous celebration at something that could be the biggest mistake of his life.
"Ye're makin' a mistake," Scott said, with a certainty that harbored no hesitation. He didn't have anything left now but words, and if Corry was just going to walk away, he'd at least say his piece before then. "I think this'll be the biggest mistake ye ever make."
"Yeah, you and everyone else." Corry shrugged, nonchalantly. "This is what I want, though... at least wish me good luck."
"No?" Well, that wasn't the common answer. Corrigan paused in his packing, turning to look at the other cadet. "Whaddyou mean, no?"
"Now or never,"
Scott told himself, shoulders set in defiance of this, life and everything else. "I'm not gonna wish ye luck on screwin' yer life up."
Corry's eyebrows drew together, and he crossed his arms, no less defiantly. "Who says I'm screwing my life up? How do you know that this isn't the best thing for me?"
"'Cause I know
you," Scotty answered, finally giving voice to at least some of what he had been wanting to say for the past months. It wasn't easy... Hell, it was downright hard, but this was it. His last chance. "I know ye care about yer father, an' ye're scared t' death of losin' him, an' I know ye dinna wanna go into space, an' that ye somehow think this is gonna make it all right, but Christ, Cor, it's not
. There's no runnin' from what's chasin' you."
"That's the problem with you." Corry shook his head, but he was obviously stung by the words. "You don't have faith in anything, do you? You don't trust me to make a decision like this."
"No, I don't," Scott said, bluntly.
"Gee, thanks. Nice to know that you really care that much, so much that you're willing to tell me I'm a screwup who needs you to guide me."
If he knew how much Scott cared... but he didn't. Not quite able to force himself to explain it all, Scotty just shook his head. "I dinna say that. I'm sayin' that ye're about to walk out o' here, an' dammit, I know
ye'll regret it."
"How?" Patience wearing thin, see-through thin, both of Corry's eyebrows went up at the challenge. "Are you gonna tell me that you're able to see into the future, too?"
"No! But what'll happen when ye go through all of this, an' give up four years... count 'em, four years of yer life, just on a maybe?" Unable to stop himself, Scott launched into an imitation of Corrigan that was downright eerie, "'Well, cripes, my Dad's okay and now I'm lieutenant and it only took me until I was thirty-five, but that's all fine because now I'm out here charting bacteria that floats around on solar currents billions of miles from home on this ass-backwards little ship. Life's wonderful!'"
"Exactly when did you start to give a damn?" Corry finally asked, deadly calm, once he got over hearing a close copy of his voice and inflections parroted at him. His fists were still clenched, though. "Since when did you start to give a damn about me, about anything other than being an engineer on the Constitution
Caught off guard, the younger cadet paused for a moment before stammering, "I... don't know." And he didn't. There was just some time, over the months, that he decided that Corry was worth it. Worth caring about. Even worth dying for.
"Right. And that," Corrigan said, sharply, hoping to drive the point home, "is because you don't. Because the only thing you're worried about losing is a drinking buddy. Well, I'm sorry if I care about more than machines! I'm sorry if I give a damn about something besides a starship or some idiotic class project!"
more'n a project!" Scott shot back before he even had time to think about it.
Seeing that the other ensign was close to on the ropes, Corry didn't even hesitate. "It's a pile of wood! You said it yourself, she's a waste of time, completely foolish! What, you're going to tell me that you care about that ship now? No, you don't. Christ, I wouldn't be surprised if you were some kind of machine on the inside, because I sure don't see someone made of flesh and blood writing off as much as you do. What if it was your Dad, huh?"
"I'm not writin' anything off!"
"You wrote me off," Corry said, his voice low and cold. "Know what? That's fine. It goes both ways. I'm glad I'm getting out of here... it's sure better than listening to you pretend like you actually give a good Goddamn."
Trying to get back up on his feet, mentally anyway, Scott let the silence hang for a long moment. He really was on the ropes, trying to understand how his best friend
, the singular reason he'd even thrown his heart into that schooner could think any of this. "Is... is that what y'think?"
"Oh yes," Corry snapped, unhesitant. He picked up the model of the ship and tossed it at the other cadet's feet. He didn't look down, just kept his gaze leveled on Scott, who met it without so much as a breath drawn. "If this is all you claim to care about in your life, then God help anyone who thinks they might have a shot in the dark at being your friend."
Scott didn't breathe immediately, trying to come to grips with all of this and wondering where it all went so wrong. He didn't take his eyes off of Corry, didn't want the other cadet to think he'd been hurt, but it was all in vain anyway. He was.
He finally had to close his eyes, though, because he wasn't so badly wounded as to let someone else see it. Trying hard to find stoicism and only managing shocked, he made his way back out of the door in complete silence.
The first breath he took after getting out of there was almost a sob.
Dammit all to Hell, no! He wasn't going to give anyone the satisfaction of making him that upset, to the point of tears. Growling under his breath at himself, Scotty tried hard not to shake as he made his way down the steps and out of the window in the basement. Fine, if Corrigan wanted to think that he was all alone in the world and no one cared about him or his future, just great; he could go and be the great doctor or scientist without anyone to tell him that it might be a mistake.
Scott climbed the fence without the ease he usually was graced with, scrambling over the top and falling over the other side like a drunk. It was luck alone he hadn't broken his ankle, but he wasn't thinking about luck, he wasn't even thinking about where he was going. He just had to get away and find something to make it stop hurting.
All for nothing. It was all for nothing, the ship, the nights working, nothing... just a broken wish to make it right and a failure. He'd failed
. He'd actually failed and now he was going to lose a friend and because of that he was going to lose the Grey
... God, it wasn't right, it was never right and now it could never be right.
And now he couldn't see the damn road.
Brushing the tears out of his eyes with an almost violent motion, Scott snarled -- at himself for finally breaking down under the pressure, at the circumstances surrounding it, at life itself because in that moment, he couldn't understand any of it. Wasn't it just this morning he'd watched the sunrise on the pier, and wasn't it just last night when he'd really seen the Grey
, and now, another eternity later and the answer he'd been hunting for was gone for good.
The only really coherent thing left in his mind was the same thing that had echoed throughout the ages, a broken cry against the universe for its injustice.
The universe didn't stop, not for him and not for the hundreds of thousands who came before him with the same cry. It went on without a pause.
But in that moment, it sure felt like it was falling apart.