At Night the Lilac Sky

At night the lilac sky, a drunken Baal
turning pious as the sky grows pale.

- Baal's Hymn, Bertolt Brecht.

He caught up with her topside as she leaned against the metal railings watching the colours of the sunset reflected in the ripples of the bay. The light was already beginning to fade and the dark silhouettes of the office blocks and flats on the far shore were limned in damson wine.

She felt the evening breeze off the sea in her hair, blowing the loose strands free from her face. The air was filled with the scent of salt and seaweed; cool but not cold enough to raise goose bumps on her arms. Jack as always appeared oblivious to his surroundings. "It's a beautiful sky tonight."

"Ionization from the Arkans' sub-luminal drive. It will fade in an hour or so."

In the gloom she pulled a face he couldn't see. "Now who's being Welsh?" She breathed deeply, savouring the sensation the salt made on her tongue. "Can't I just be allowed to be romantic for once, without the explanations?" He moved closer to her. She could almost reach out and touch his heavy coat, run her hands along the coarse fibres, marvel at its durability.

"Shouldn't you be out on your hen night?"

Somewhere in the water a dark shape broke the surface and looked around.

"Jack! Look — a seal." Excitedly she grabbed his arm and pointed out the dog-shaped head in the epicentre of the ripples. She waved at it hoping it would turn to look at the source of movement. The apparition vanished as silently has it had surfaced. With its disappearance came a flush of self-consciousness. Guiltily she let go of the Captain's hand hoping he wouldn't have noticed how tightly she had held it.

"Hen night? Half my old work colleagues won't talk to me since I've started work here. And I've been too busy for Rhys most of the time — how can I hope to make time for my other old friends?"

"What about your friends here?"

"Tosh makes two. Unless you're expecting me to thaw out Suzie for the night?"

"There's always Martha."

"Three of us then. I can't see the two of them wanting to go out on a bender."

His voice changed, becoming sterner. "There are other ways to enjoy yourselves. Go for a meal. Watch a movie." He smelled of an expensive aftershave Ianto had bought him on a whim. It reminded her of cats marking territory to keep away others. It was Ianto's unassuming way of staking a claim. "Tomorrow should be the happiest day of your life. Work up to it."

She ran her tongue over the sharp edge of a tooth. "What happens if I'm making a mistake?"

"So make it. Just don't waste the opportunity of living."

"Can I ask you a question?"

"As long as you don't always expect an answer." She knew the rules.

"You and Ianto. How do you know he's the best you can get?"

His fists clenched against the railings. She hoped it wasn't in anger at her presumption.  "When you've been around as long as I have you don't wait for perfection to come bounding towards you. It doesn't exist. You learn to seize the moment. Take whatever life offers you at the time. Hold it close, and dear, for as long as you're allowed. Don't look forward — and don't look back."

His breath steamed slightly in the colder air. For an instant she wondered if she could suck it in and transfer a little part of his vitality to her. "I'm not sure if I'm frightened that everything will be different after tomorrow. Or terrified that it won't be."

"Everything changes, Gwen Williams née Cooper." Somewhere behind them a car's horn sounded in the half-light. He let go of the railing and put his hands on her shoulders. "Don't let your head overrule your heart. But don't let your heart run away with itself."

She wondered if he could feel her thumping heart through his hands. Rhys was a million miles away and all she could think about was the Captain's smile looking down at her. If only…

"Now," he said softly, "go and have fun. If I keep Ianto waiting any longer I'll be drinking instant for a week."

She laughed too, but she had seen it — the tiniest flicker of regret in his eyes. It was a memory she'd treasure for forty years.