In the growing twilight, Rick could see the trace of a frown pass over Cooper Wilson’s face. He looked to see if Lise had picked up on it, but if she did, she gave no indication. She leaned forward, and put her hand to his chest, but before she could nudge him, his eyes snapped open, and he sat upright.
Startled, she stepped back, as Cooper looked around, blinking in the growing darkness. When he recovered, he acknowledged the presence of his old friend, and asked “What time is it?”
Rick smiled and said “5:30. I must be in the wrong outfit. I don’t get to take naps.”
Cooper smiled and said “I hadn’t really intended to take this one.” He then turned to Lise, and asked, “Where’s Jake? I’m surprised he hasn’t asked about dinner yet.” Wondering at his reaction, she smiled and said “He’s still in the basement. That train set simply makes the hours melt away.”
The trio went inside, and shortly had dinner. Cooper half listened to Rick’s story of his latest trip south, and smiled when Jake told him again about the engines of the train set with the exact same enthusiasm he’d told him about them on the two previous evenings. After dinner, he’d reviewed reports while the others relaxed with their own activities, but time seemed to be running away from him as he realized that he had just finished reading the same page for the fifth time. Jake came in to give him a hug, and say good night, before exiting the room with the Major following behind.
A whiskey glass clunked down in the desk in front of him, two fingers of light brown liquid, swirling in the glass. “I know you’ve always had a taste for this stuff, Hoss, but I’d pay real money for some decent tequilia.” said Rick, as he sat down in the chair in front of Cooper, raising his own glass to his lips. “It is one of the perks of being here.” Cooper said, smiling as he took a slow pull from his glass.
“You were having a dream about her, weren’t you?”, Rick asked Cooper.
“Nightmare is more like it.” replied Cooper. “Still, if that’s the worst I’m seeing when I close my eyes now, I guess I’ve got it pretty good now.”
Rick sat silently for a minute, appraising his friend’s mood. Finally, he said “You couldn’t have saved her, you know. When they decided to come for those they’d targeted, there was nothing that could be done.”
Cooper took another pull on the rye, savoring the burn as it went down his throat. “It wasn’t that she was killed. It wasn’t that I couldn’t do anything about it. It was how we left things…things weren’t good.”
“Hell. I know that.”
“Yeah, but…” Cooper’s voice trailed off.
The two sat in silence, sipping the whiskey.
Outside the study, Lise considered what she’d just heard, and wondered if Cooper’s ghosts would ever let him rest. As she thought about how much informati0n wasn’t in the profile on Cooper, Rick stepped out of the study, and passed her on his way to his bedroom in the residence. “Go easy on him. If you’re going to be there, then be there, but don’t go adding to the voices that he hears every time he closes his eyes.”
Lise looked in, and saw Cooper putting the glasses onto the credenza, his back to her and the door. Quietly, she stepped in, and up behind him as he regarded the books on the shelf in front of him. “Cooper…” she half-whispered. He turned to face her, his eyes betraying the fatigue and sadness he felt. “Major. Shouldn’t one of us be in bed now? I’m sure we have a busy day scheduled tomorrow.”
She smiled, and replied “I’m sure that both of us should be, but I somehow doubt that you’re going to sleep, and I should probably be trying to figure out how to fix that.”
“I slept this afternoon. And I’m not some puzzle to be solved.”
“The hell you aren’t”, thought Lise, but instead of saying anything, she reached out, and took his hand. Cooper flinched, and looked down at her hand, then back up at her face, a look of confusion clouding his features. “Lise….I…can’t…”
She masked her surprise while wondering at his reaction to her touch, and said “You’re alone, Cooper Wilson, but you don’t have to be. And you shouldn’t be.” as she leaned forward to kiss him on the lips.