“Andy, it’s me. Call me back. I have it on very good authority that some really bad bullshit is being planned for tomorrow. My people, not yours. Isn’t that a change? Anyway, I don’t want to go into a lot of detail on your voice messages unless you’ve encrypted them. And I still don’t like you. But I’m calling you because I owe you. So. Call me back. Yeah. Okay. Great. Stay safe. Bye.”
Long before Anders tried to kiss Sophie Gonzalez in the chem lab, he was good friends with Evelyn. Fuck, who wasn’t? And he was also a little in love with Evelyn for a while. Fuck, who wasn’t. They sang old showtunes together, made pancakes, drank too much coffee before exams–Evelyn even helped Anders figure out that he should major in theater arts. Before. Before the king died and everything got all the way out of hand. What was that even like? Anders still remembers all the auditions, all the plays he wrote and the ones he almost produced, but now he hasn’t looked at those files in years. He doesn’t much want to. Does he? He’ll figure that out later, after all this government alien conspiracy crap is over and dealth with.
“Josie, Anders Li. Good to hear from you, basically, I guess. Go ahead and tell me what you need to tell me. It’s all encrypted. You’ve got me a little worried, so please get back to me soon.”
Anders enjoyed watching Jane and then Sophie go absolutely shmoopy twitterpated over the moon for Evelyn. In totally different ways, of course. Jane was absolutely taken with his mind and his verbal capacities, but Anders never got the impression that she wanted to fuck him. Sophie, on the other hand… well, Sophie desired many, many people. She and Anders even had a brief encounter backstage on the opening night of Pippin, after Anders had just about acted his face off as the Leading Player. Dammit, Sophie got way too much mileage out of calling him “Leading Player” for weeks on end. But her want for Anders was transitory, harmless, not burning or lasting for either one of them. Her feelings for Evelyn were, well, something other than that. Anders had never seen her like that before or since, although… did she and Jane have some kind of spark, later, after…? No, don’t think about that right now. The point is, she loved Evelyn madly, and Evelyn loved her… deeply, responsibly, and with great integrity. Even without the war, there was always a good chance they wouldn’t last.
“Okay, Andy, fuck it, here goes. A militia of fucknecks from Medea is planning an extraction. Gonzalez is the objective. I think they’re on Cassandra already–if not, they will be within less than a solar day. The group is goddamn ex-military and ex-intelligence, Li. Not associated with the government anymore–believe me, no one in office here is stupid enough to try to pull this shit–but I’ve read their profiles, and they have just enough weapons and espionage expertise among them to attempt this kind of operation. Probably get themselves killed in the act, but they might kill Gonzalez while they’re at it, which I know would be against your personal preferences and which isn’t really in line with my professional interests either. I still might have let it happen, but, like I said, I owe you. For keeping the fucking farcical Friendship Tour almost sane. For not letting Green get too out of control, even when she was fighting drunk. And for, you know, giving me a little relief when I needed it, too. I have the coordinators where I last heard the militia’s drop ship was going to land, but that’s information that I actually won’t transmit over even an encrypted voice message. Call me again and we’ll figure it out.”
“Please just tell me why.”
The king was dead. Cassandra was at war. Sophie, to no one’s real surprise, had already shipped out. Anders, to very many people’s surprise, was going down to enlist the next morning.
“Evelyn, there are so many people going out there right now who just want to go kill something: out of grief, out of curiosity, out of lack of other options in life. I’m not like that. You know I’m not like that. Maybe Cassandra needs people like me out there who go out there, with no bloodlust, and try to fight without taking any more lives than necessary.”
“Li, do you… do you seriously believe that will work? It’s the Cassandran military/industrial complex. Just because they’ve never fought a real war before doesn’t mean they don’t know how to make a killer out of you. No matter who wins, lad, you will lose. You and Sophie won’t be the same if you come back.”
“No. You’re wrong. I know there are others like me signing up for the same reasons. I’ve talked with them. We can change things and end this war soon, maybe before it even has a chance to really get started.”
“Okay, well, you keep telling yourself that. Just try not to shoot me down when I’m out there blockading your supply lines. And… take care of Sophie, will you? Much as I hate this, the one good part of it is knowing that she won’t be alone.”
“I mean, I don’t know if I’ll even see her, but… yeah. Yeah, I’ll do what I can.”
“Thank you. Okay. Thank you.”
“Hello! Is this the burner phone of the asshole leading a doomed extraction to obtain one Doctor Jane Gonzalez from the apartment of a certain Sophie Green?”
“How the fuck did you get this number?”
“Good question! Really good question! You should absolutely be asking yourself that question and other questions like it. How did I get the number to your super secret spy phone? Who would I have to be to get that kind of pull, I wonder?”
“Listen, if this is some sick joke, you have no idea who you’re dealing with.”
“No, I totally do. You have no idea who you’re dealing with. Literally. Let me tell you what you’re gonna do. You and your buddies are going to get your asses back on that super sweet drop ship that you sunk your life’s savings into, and you are going to get the fuck back to Medea. Otherwise, I know how interested Medean intelligence will be to find out that their former operatives are trying to do a kidnap that will start another goddamn war. Okay? Okay then.”
By the mercy of the universe, they somehow were, in fact, assigned to the same ship. And many times, during transit to the next awful, sloppy war zone, Sophie would traverse the barracks levels to find Anders's bunk. Sometimes she asked for and did receive some furtive, cursory sexual relief (her many lovers had all had their merits, but she maintained that his were the most perfect hands she had ever felt); much more often, she would just climb in next to him, too tired to do anything, and make small, low noises of the deepest comfort and satisfaction as she fell asleep in his arms. She would always be gone before the morning's first muster.
After Evelyn was gone, after she had that awful day powdered out of her conscious, she never sought him out at night again, though they were together in tight accommodations through the Friendship Tour and beyond. He always feared that she might be punishing herself, though he knew she could never remember why.