He seemed to be on automatic pilot again, as he poured to mugs of klah, sweetening one to a ridiculous level, and the other plain as could be.
It wasn't until he had stirred the klah well and carried both mugs out onto the deck, that Fog realised that Jesten wasn't there to take the other mug from him.
His breath caught in his throat as he realised his mistake. He stood there looking down from one mug to the other, and ... didn't know what to do. Automatic pilot stopped there and then.
"Suppose you forgot," Barr said gruffly. He'd done a couple of things himself and knew how odd it was to find Jesten missing.
"Oh, dad." He jumped a little, a small splash of klah raising over the rim and running across his hand, "Sorry, I didn't see you there." He turned slowly, still looking down on the mugs he held. "Er, you take sweetener, don't you?" he asked, half heartedly holding out the mug towards his father.
"Not as much as my brother did," Barr said, taking the mug anyway.
"You'll miss him more than most," he commented before taking a sip.
"I'll miss him." Fog agreed, nodding his head. "Jesten was good to me.
Where many others..." he didn't feel he could finish the sentence in his father's presence. Recriminations did nothing for anyone - it was all too late.
"He was so good to everyone he let his son wander off for twenty-five Turns," Barr grumbled.
"You don't think he should have?" Fog asked, taking a sip of the hot klah, and watching his father over the rim of his mug. He had often wondered at the relationship between his father and Jesten, there seemed no warmth there, but then again, his father rarely showed warmth to anyone; though he appeared to have taken a shine to Lineal's son.
"Our father didn't let Jesten go," Barr said, as if what was good for one generation was automatically good for the next.
"May be Jesten remembered how he felt being kept here." Fog asked, glancing away briefly when his father looked at him.
Barr grumbled under his breath. "Foolish," he said eventually. "If he wanted the boy to be captain then he should have had to stay here. But I suppose he thought there were others - Could have been you until your accident."
"No father," Fog shook his head, "Never me, even before, I wasn't interested."
"You should have been. If Lineal hadn't come back and you hadn't been injured ..."
"You pinned your hopes on me, when all I wanted was to follow in _your_
footsteps, not Jesten's." Fog said, his eyes for once showing his emotions as his gaze pinpointed his father. "I always admired you. You made the Sungazer move, not Jesten." His voice choked up, his feelings had been banked down for turns, but now started to rise to the surface.
"Being the engineer's always come second to being the captain," Barr said, eyeing his son as if he didn't know the man - or didn't know him any more. "I wanted better for you."
"I never saw it that way - ever." Fog shook his head, "What would the Captain do without the engineer? The boat wouldn't move if it had no engineer, and much as I loved Jesten, I really don't think he was cut out for the work you do. And he knew it - even if you didn't."
"Jesten never wanted to be an engineer. It was sailing for him - just like Lineal. And if he couldn't have that he was always going to be captain."
"But he did learn the basics of engineering, whether he wanted to or not, it was part of him becoming the Captain. Like Lineal is doing now, refreshing and learning that without an engineer, this old girl wouldn't be going anywhere but drifting on the tides."
"That boy of Lineal's is interested in the engines," Barr commented speculatively. "And since you had no boys ... Don't suppose you'll have any more."
"No." Fog's reply was blunt, with Marilea gone, there was little to no chance of him ever having another child. Even if she had been here, he doubted another child would have been an option. "Well you may as well apprentice him, he's the next likely choice, if he doesn't Impress first."
"Huh. Dragonriding!" Barr dismissed that without thought. It wasn't real work, after all, not like the constant duties of riverboat life.
"Well its always an option for a Weyrbred child, we all know that." Fog replied, with a shrug. "There are other options too, for all we know Lineal and Rahona may have more children, they're not past the age for adding to their brood."
"Two's enough for a riverboat family." It was an adage not everybody abided by, but it was the ideal. Himself and Jesten. Fog and Neke.
Lineal and Barli.
"As long as you have one of each?" Fog asked, lifting an eyebrow enquiringly. "You even said yourself, not a moment ago, about me having more - or not as it stands."
Barr's eyes narrowed as he looked at his son. "You haven't even got a wife to have them with, so there's no need to worry about you overpopulating the Sungazer."
"But if I did, you'd encourage me to have another in the hope I'd father a son to inherit?" Fog asked slowly, tilting his mug so he could watch his fathers expression but cover his own confusion.
"Probably too late for that now," Barr admitted thoughtfully.
"Too old? Rubbish!" Fog almost choked on the last of his klah. He could feel the liquid bubbling in his throat. He shook his head, and threw the last of his klah over the rail into the waters below. "Too old? You mean too slow." he turned and strode across to the common room door and pulled it open. He took one last look at his father and shook his head, before closing the door behind him.
Irrational, he knew, but it galled him to have his father discount his chances of ever finding someone to take him on again, after Marilea had spurned him and the girls. Common sense told him that his father was right, but since when did common sense prevail over feelings and emotions? He stomped into the galley and thrust his mug into the water in the sink, his mind flashing in three or four different directions at once. A blast of pain rocketed through his head again - he hadn't had a headache in a couple of sevendays - trust his father to give him one today.
Last updated on the September 17th 2007