- So, how it was with the two of you? - Niesha leaned closer, a cup of coffee in her hands. - When did you know that he's the one?
Dave looked at Zach and burst into laughter.
- Oh, from the very first day. You remember?
- Shadows… - Zach blushed, which proved with certainty that he remembered as well. - I thought I'm going to die.
- This sounds like a story. I demand a story. - Andrew pulled himself closer.
- Yeah, no shit - Amelia followed.
Phobos just encouraged them with a nod. Scott's snoring, in turn, wasn't particularly encouraging, but nobody expected that from him anyway.
Zach put his cup on the ground and sat comfortably, with Dave's hand wrapped firmly around his waist. He was talking loudly, gesturing and laughing, and sometimes he laughed so much that he snorted, and Dave had to resist himself from kissing him in the ear. But he didn't want to interrupt the story, because a quite of story it was.
- So, it was the very first day of my service - Zach was telling. - Here I am, scared shitless, eager to make a good first impression, all Sean's teaching in my ears. I got my first assignment from the captain: the time is crucial, the deadline is yesterday, my hands are shaking already, but I'm trying to have my shit together. I'm ready to go, just have to get my gear out of my locker.
I take my key out of my pocket, put it into the lock. It doesn't fit. Trying upside down. Nope. Trying again - it goes halfway through, at most. Put it out. I'm looking at the key. The key is looking at me. No way I can open this locker with this fucker. Should I have another key? Maybe this one was to my room? I'm searching through my pockets again, standing in the middle of the hall. Soldiers around me are about to pull out popcorn any second now.
Of course, there's another key in my pocket; I'm holding onto it like Saint Peter the key to the Kingdom of Heaven. My hands are sweating, I nearly drop this fucker, but lo and behold, I put it into the lock. With a little bit of strength and a lot of determination, but it fits. But it doesn't turn. OK, I think, my fingers are sweaty, I just can't get a good grip. I wipe my hands on my pants, try again. No fuckin way this thing will move.
At this point, I'm sure every living thing in the Barracks is looking at me. What I'm supposed to do? Back to my pockets again; no third key. Trying to turn this one, it almost does, until I notice that I'm actually pretty close to breaking the key inside the lock. I feel like the Dowser himself is frowning upon me. Trying to take it out, my hands are sweaty again, wiping them off, taking the fuckin key out. My fingers hurt, there are dark spots before my eyes and I'm pretty sure I'm about to have a heart attack. In my mind I see already my tombstone: "here lies Zachariah, murdered by a locker", unless captain Eliza will take pity on me and help me, in which case I will just spontaneously combust out of sheer embarrassment. But what can I do? Walk through the whole Barracks to Ryan and tell him that I'm terribly sorry, but apparently I don't know how to use a locker? Leave this blasted thing locked forever and go on the assignment without my weapons?
I try the first key one more time, just in case it magically shrunk down in the meantime. It did not. At this point, I'm on the verge of crying. So I take out my lockpick; my hands are shaking and it takes me a few seconds, but finally, it clicks! I'm opening the door… and inside, it's not my stuff. Some weird clothes, snacks… and a couple of postcards from Greenhope.
Dave remembered. A few of the things he remembered that clearly as the moment when his new technomancer officer spent a good few minutes of his first day of service on breaking into Jeff's locker.
Dave has never wondered before whether technomancers can blush. With no small amount of satisfaction, he noticed that they can. In fact, they even can look miserable, and also quite cute.
Before he could decide, if he had enough schadenfreude for today, Jeff emerged from the very amused crowd.
- Lieutenant! That's great, I mean, I appreciate - he started, gesturing wildly. - I've lost my keys, again, and you took the time to get it opened for me…
- I will always be grateful for this - Zach laughed, taking a sip from his cup. - He didn't have to. He might destroy my career, but damn if he didn't try to save my dignity back then. Wonder what's he up to now.
- I've heard about a man matching his description among the toad hunters - Niesha smiled mysteriously. - I've heard, he's doing fine.
- So that was Zach's crowning moment for you, Dave? - Amelia raised her brow. - Seeing him do dumb shit on his first day of a new job?
- Is this a kink or what? - Andrew seconded, leaning back.
Dave pulled Zach closer, kissed him on the temple.
- I've seen the brass making idiots of themselves all the time. But you know - it was the first time I saw one of them own it.
- You're welcome, Jeff, but it's not like that - Zach shook his head, read as the Dowser's collar. - I thought it was mine. Sorry about that; I didn't mean to look at your stuff. I will get you a new lock, no?
Oh no, Dave thought. He's cute.
It was a time to step up.
- The fuck are you looking at? - he yelled at the crowd . - You have nothing to do? Come on, sir .- He nodded at Zach. - It's nothing. We all were new here once.
- So, the moral is: Zach is a walking, talking disaster - summarized Andrew.
- Quod erat demonstrandum - mumbled Scott, half-asleep.
- Indeed, my good friend, whatever was that supposed to mean. Also, now we know for sure, that he also shouldn't be trusted to stick things into other things.
- What can I say, I have other talents. - Zach grinned from ear to ear.
- You guys… - Niesha sighed theatrically. - Everything always comes down to sex.
- I think it was a very nice story. - Phobos added. - Good tension, a lot of plot twists.
- Man fighting the machine; a solid theme. - seconded Amelia. - And then the hero, coming to the rescue!
- I'm glad that my nervous breakdown brings you such fun, guys.
- Come on, it all worked out for you in the end, right?
Dave looked at Zach. Who would have thought…
He's cute. He's mine.
- Sometimes a disaster is just a beginning, you know?