Love is Bittersweet
Diana DeRiggs and Csillag

The members of the Wraith Squadron were quite concerned that Myn Donos seemed to be back in that self-destructive shell he's stuffed himself into before. Back then, he had blamed himself for the death of all members of Talon Squadron, his former command; he was inconsolable and actually wallowed deeply in insanity. This time around, he was responsible for shooting at former squadronmate Lara Notsil when her cover was blown. Their commander, Face Loran, had inadvertently left his comlink on when he accused her of being a spy. Unfortunately, she was the same spy whom Myn knew had been responsible for the murder of his pilots.

Come Valentine's Day, everyone tiptoed around Myn's unpredictably changing emotions. They didn't want to remind him that he had been in love with Lara Notsil. Pilots tend to celebrate and grab love wherever they could, being that their lives could end at any time. This was even more true for the Wraiths, who were infiltration and commando specialists as well as fighter pilots. But this year, they decided to respect Myn's mourning and forego the party they had been looking forward to. Besides, they were caught on a fleet ship in enemy territory; if the man went mad, there'd be little they could do to help him. So they were being very careful around him.

Myn knew it was Valentine's Day, of course. He just tried really hard not to remember. The less he communicated with the others and the more hostile he was, the less he'd have to face up to losing Lara. He knew it was his own responsibility and his own fault. That everyone was acting as if it wasn't Valentine's Day made him feel even more horrible.

He didn't deserve love. That was all. He didn't deserve anything at all.

* * * * *

Like everyone else in the squadron, Runt Ekwesh was very sensitive to Myn's feelings, but he had been looking forward to the pre-planned party to ask Shalla Nelprin to dance. He'd had a crush on her since she joined the squadron, and had tried to hint at it. But she was so focused and absorbed in her work, she hadn't noticed. Well, at least she isn't seeing anyone else, thought Runt. He still had a chance.

But he'd have to find a way to show his feelings soon, or he'd burst. He couldn't wait any longer.

* * * * *

Myn walked into his room and was startled by the frilly red and gold box on his bed. He hadn't been expecting anything from anyone. Certainly not something that looked like that!

He poked at the bows and lace and finally lifted the lid off. It didn't seem booby-trapped; in fact, it looked like something he never would have thought he'd receive -- a box of hand-made chocolate truffles!

He picked up the box and a small note fluttered down from beneath it. Myn was a bit tentative about picking that up, but his desire to know what this was about prickled at his curiosity.

It has been so long that I have loved you. I will always love you.

It wasn't signed, but a small mark was left at the bottom -- two hearts, inverted, in different colors and intertwined.

But who ...?

Myn's heart soared!

* * * * *

Runt knew that Shalla would understand the intertwined heart symbol -- in a recent mission, they had called each other by Sabaac card designations. He had been "Blue Bottom" and she had been "Yellow Heart." Surely, she'd remember and she'd understand Runt's meaning?

He waited for her response, impatiently.

* * * * *

The squadron members fell silent when Myn sauntered into the pilot's lounge, whistling. Oblivious to the lack of chatter, he very cheerfully greeted everyone with a boisterous, "Happy Valentine's Day!" Confused, they all wondered if this was a new symptom of his insanity?

Runt didn't really notice the uncharacteristically behaved Myn, since he was staring intently at Shalla who was sitting diagonally across the long table from him. She must have gotten them by now? He had paid one of the cooks to put the box of chocolates he'd made into her room, along with his note. He'd been explicit about the location of Shalla's room in the officer's area. He could have broken into her cabin by himself, but he was shy about being in her room without her permission.

The bewildered pilots weren't aware of anyone trying anything new to cure the morose pilot, and they couldn't figure out what had come over the depressed man. Afraid to ask the obvious about Lara, everyone returned Myn's greeting cautiously, looking for signs of violence or further mental damage. He remained cheerful, even tapping out an impromptu dance, which perplexed them all, but they were all very relieved. Especially after Myn handed out handmade chocolates to everyone!

"She forgives me!" he declared to the gathering. "She sent me an unsigned note with this little symbol on the bottom. She always said she was loyal -- "true blue," get it? -- and that she thought I was a coward -- yellow heart, see? Remember? She drew a blue heart and a yellow heart together! They're kissing! See?" By "she", they assumed he'd meant Lara Notsil? Whether they believed him or not, they all smiled and nodded knowingly, for his benefit.

Runt was still concentrating on Shalla when the box of chocolates came to him. He absentmindedly took one and passed the box along. He bit into the creamy, slightly bitter sweet -- then did a double-take. He had made this box and the chocolates for Shalla all by himself, there couldn't be another box like it!

What was Myn doing handing out the chocolates he'd made for Shalla?!?

* * * * *

He lay on his bunk, holding the pillow in his arms, his head lolling off the end of it. Runt sighed -- a long, mournful breath. The box of chocolates had somehow ended up in Myn's room instead of Shalla's. He found out that the two rooms were directly across the corridor from each other. He also found out that the boy he'd hired to deliver the box had directional dyslexia symptoms. Obviously, the young cook couldn't tell right from left.

So the chocolates had ended up with Myn Donos. Through simple bad luck, the intertwined blue and yellow hearts Runt had drawn was interpreted as something that Myn felt represented something between him and Lara Notsil.

First Lesson: No ambiguity in the note next time.

Second Lesson: Deliver the gift yourself.

Third Lesson: Stop comparing love to a bitter and sweet concoction.

When he realized what must have happened, he had thought about claiming the handmade box back from Myn and handing it to Shalla, on the spot. But Runt was simply too shocked and shy to follow through with that, and in the end, he was glad he hadn't done it. He told himself that it was worth a bit of heartache to see Myn so happy again, wasn't it? Runt had suffered during Myn's previous bout of depression, staying up with him every night to make sure he didn't hurt himself. He was happy not to have to go through that again. So he kept his mouth shut and didn't let anyone know that Lara hadn't sent the gift.

As for Shalla ... well, with Myn back on the mend, Runt had been brave enough to propose a late-Valentine's Day party later that night. Everyone was happy to have a fête, after all. Runt would try to screw up the courage to ask Shalla to dance, as he'd originally planned ...

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