“I always thought this old friend set up was a bit gauche, but I’m rather afraid I’m too low ranking to change it my good Sir.”
When the Captain had died, he had continued to exist. This had not been a possibility which he had previously considered in detail, and he had been rather thrown by the whole affair. Once that surprise had ceased to surprise him however, he did quite hope he’d left his days of being surprised behind him. After all, the matter is adrenaline and life-preserving ability to act before truly knowing the full context, what use was such a reaction in death? The key factor which he had failed to account for, however, was that there was little room for logic in purgatory. Here he stood in his office, which for all intents and purposes looked as he had intended to remember it. Still there were the posters with regulations printed in bold typeface, and the familiar decanter stashed in the corner - nearly empty not for the amount it had been used, but for the amount of brandy rations could account for. All sense of familiarity the scene may have held was dashed by the firsthand knowledge of the missing dehumidifier which was shared a socket with one of Michael’s sound speakers. His room (as it had so remained in death) had always been in a perfect place to hear snippets from all manner of conversations held in key surrounding rooms. This is why it was the perfect place for Michael’s speakers, as the music easily travelled to the stairs, and three of the other main rooms for renovations at the moment. So too, had the room always held that stale propensity for mould, on account of the dead air.
So yes, his surroundings were surprising. However, this was not entirely - or even mostly - that which was throwing him in this moment.
“It also doesn’t make sense that we aren’t allowed to choose someone you’ve got to know in death, does it? Barring say… Mary? There’s not really any of your spectral counterparts who you don’t know more than you ever really knew this man are there?”
It seemed that the speaker was happy to carry on his monologue. For all that he asked questions, the answers were soaked into the very varnish of his old desk, the underside of which was scratched from anxiety surrounding late night report giving.
“I’ve been in this job long enough now to know what the Big Brains up there are up to though.” He continued softly, though not as kindly as the real thing. “They care about progress you see? And Good God Captain, have you sure gone on to make some! That progress all stems from this… missed opportunity so to speak.” Another pause, as though The Captain was somehow not following the broad insinuations he was making. “That isn’t to say it didn’t take you a minute mind, I’ve been following your case for a while now and I thought for sure that Julian’s arrival woul-”
“Stop-” Having finally grasped at a trail of thought, the Captain decided he had heard enough. “Please, just stop for a second.” His eyes trailed across the clean cut lines of Havers’ stiff hair, down to his starched collar and gleaming buttons. He ignored the slight uptick of his old Lieutenant’s lips, as in this context he rather thought that smirking implied malice of some kind and didn’t that open a whole host of terrifying thoughts?
“I know you’ve just asked me to stop, but it’s not as though your sexuality was the only matter to deal with, was it? Is it deliberate, you not making eye contact? Or are you just more comfortable acting how you need to?” Not-Havers asked.
“You seem to know all about me, and you know that I have learnt lots since Allison inherited Button House. You ought to speak plainly and not beat around the bush on the matter. I have learnt about being homosexual, about autism, about stimming. Not only have I learnt, but I have embraced.” The Captain stared at a point just above the other man’s shoulder and recited monotonously and briefly, those victories which have been decades in the making and among his proudest achievements. “Can you really do nothing about the face you have taken? It really does feel extremely disrespectful to the dead.”
“Ah but Captain, William Havers is about as dead as you have been.” Now the smirk had firmly disappeared.
It was another devastating blow on top of what was proving to be a difficult day. The absolute knowledge that Havers had not found peace in his death, but roamed some desert in whatever state he had died in, and keeping whatever company that entailed.
“No, I’m afraid I cannot change my face, like I said the orders come from a much higher rank than me and this is how they think people ought to be approached on the matter.” The man continued.
It seemed unnecessary, but the Captain still voiced the next line in the script they both appeared to be following.
“And what is that matter?”
“Well, old chap, its about all that progress you’ve been making see? The higher ups think its time you got your reward! You have been marvelous, but you don’t really need to be there any more do you?”
This was, the Captain decided, the thing about surprises. His logic said he had exhausted them, and indeed it wasn’t lack of logic which had proved him wrong, or even lack of imagination to a certain extent. It was that his imagination had never been so absolutely cruel, so depraved, so truly callous, to imagine this as a possibility. To imagine that one day an old missed opportunity would appear out of the blue to tell him he’d done so well stitching himself together and building a family that he would be forced to leave them. Round and round he wound his hands around his swagger stick, but his thoughts remained static despite the friction.
“I assume I’m to have no say in the matter?”
“I’m afraid you assume correctly Sir.” And for a second there did appear to be actual regret on the face of the imposter, but it was soon covered back into the neutral mask that the real Havers had never actually been able to master.
With the confirmation, the Captain stared at the ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ poster, as his lower lip began to tremble and his wringing hands grew more frantic. His mind flashed first to Mary, because despite this man’s apparent close eye, he had failed to note the times spent with the woman discussing gardening. It had been an old hobby of the Captain’s, and he had always been aware that it was best to discuss something which Mary truly knew, in order to stop conversations going ‘off the rails’ so to speak.
When he had died the first time, his life had not flashed before his eyes. Now though, there was enough warning that he felt all the fear and resentment and regret of his two lifetimes in one. Arguments with Thomas and Julian where he had been furious with the pair of them, but which he wouldn’t have changed for anything. Allison’s increasingly unsubtle attempts to make him listen to Gloria Gaynor. Kitty coming to him for comfort when she was sad. Kitty, whom had been dead longer than he, but whom had been making so much progress on unravelling the mess of her own life that he was now to be denied from helping with.
The man in the mask of William Havers had now stood up, and seemed to realise he would be getting little else from the distraught Captain. He did not attempt to speak again, or touch him, or even look him in the eye. His words earlier had implied that he had been doing this job for a long time, and - had the Captain the emotional capacity - he might well have pitied him in that second.
To his left, the wall starts fading, and the illusion of the office becomes black around him. As the grounds of Button House disappear from view, he is reminded of the most recent television programme which Allison had picked as a long term project, Doctor Who. He thinks of Robin’s amazement at the effects, and of Mary’s accusations of witchcraft. He mostly however, thinks of Pat’s sheer joy to his left, and Kitty’s wonder to his left. He wishes he could share this in joke with them, however sad, as he says out loud - for the last time that such a feat would be possible.
“I don’t want to go.”
With a final watery chuckle, the floor fades from underneath him and so the Captain ceases to exist. With a weary sigh, the face of Havers drops into the abyss, and the other man re-materialises into a blonde haired school girl. He walks into the next scene, smirk affixed firmly.