“I’m telling you, just ask her,” Cal told him. “Rita’s really something. And she likes you.”

“Nhhh.” Dax peered at the amount of beer left in the glass he was drinking from. “Maybe.”

They were sitting at one of the tables in the dark beyond the bar. The lights from the dance floor burned and wheeled in the air, flickering off the silhouettes of the dancers while Lights of Euphoria’s Reaching Out pounded through the air. For now they were alone – Sam had headed off to play pool, and the girls had gone to the ladies’ room. There were several empty glasses on the table, but Dax was a little vague on which glasses belonged to whom.

Cal leaned forward, an earnest expression on his face. It looked out of place on him – he was fine-featured with dark red hair, and looked more like a roguish aristocrat than a police officer. “Look, is everything okay with you?”

Dax blinked. The music had been hammering the migraine’s spike deeper into his eye all evening, but after three beers he had decided that the hangover would cancel the headache out, and screw his medication. “Yeah. I’m fine. Why?”

“No girlfriends you’ve been keeping quiet?”

“No.”

“Then for god’s sake, ask her out. She’s cute, she’s smart, she’s talented –“ Cal drained his glass and slammed it down on the table. “No one lives forever, man.”

Truer words were never spoken, thought Dax, muzzily.

“Who lives forever?” demanded Rita, coming from nowhere and dropping back into her seat.

“Poets,” Dax told her, too loudly. “Tax collectors. People in pyramids -”

“You get talky when you’re drunk,” Cal said, chuckling.

“That reminds me,” said Rita, shaking a finger in Dax’s face. “It’s my birthday and it’s your turn to buy me a drink.” She bounced back to her feet and started tugging at Dax’s arm, pulling him towards the bar, past the dance floor. “And I want a martini,” she added, shouting over the noise.

Dax waved at the barman, ordered for both of them, then turned back to her. “Martini. Expensive tastes for a DJ.”

“I always wanted to be a Bond girl,” Rita said, with a teasing grin. “And my tastes aren’t that expensive.” She paused, then said: “Might even be…within your budget.”

Their drinks arrived. Dax handed Rita her martini and turned away from the bar, intending to lean against it, maybe, and say something – something honest, something meaningful. He wanted very much to say it. But he never got a chance to. Because what he saw when he turned around made the blood drain from his face. The glass of beer he was holding slid between his fingers and crashed onto the floor.

“Dax?” Rita was speaking, sounding anxious, but her voice was drowned out in the music, in the fear. “Dax, are you okay?”

 

 

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