Never Misses A Thing

Despite his seemingly easygoing-although there are some in his company who would opt for the term, 'reckless'-ways, Cliff Fittir was not the brash, devil-may-care man he portrayed himself to be; well, not completely anyway, he privately admitted. He preferred to make other people think that he was though, for several reasons.

It made procuring information easier for one thing; Cliff found it amusing sometimes, how people would let a lovely tidbit of information slip unnoticed whenever they struck a conversation with him. Confident they were merely dealing with some obtuse, brawn-oriented fool, they would let their guard down and pay less attention to what they were saying. A seemingly innocent, yet carefully placed question here; a confused look that was guaranteed to induce frustration to the other party-which could lead to more explanation and yes, more information-there, and Cliff would walk out of the room armed with all the facts he came for, perhaps even more.

It was how he got Quark running in its early years; people paid little attention to him, allowing him to pool all the necessary resources to develop the organisation into what it is today. No one expected someone like him to be nothing more than a harmless meddler, something which they later regretted when it was time to conduct diplomatic dealings with a planet Quark chose to represent. Cliff enjoyed the negotiations; to be precise, he enjoyed the stunned looks on assorted officials' faces when the man they had dismissed as a 'harmless meddler' was in fact one of the chief negotiators for the planet they had hoped to take advantage of. The looks on the officials' faces when he overturned their agreements, and thus securing a far better deal for the planet Quark sided with however, was even better.

As Quark grew into a bigger and more formidable organisation, Cliff found it much harder to convincingly maintain the devil-may-care image he had carefully cultivated. After all, even the most intelligence-challenged person would realise sooner or later that the leader of such an organisation could not be such a total idiot. Still, aside from certain circles in the Federation and other independent planets, not many people even knew who Quark's leader was, so Cliff figured that it was worth pretending to be somewhat obtuse for a while longer.

When Maria assumed the leadership of Quark, there were quite a few who thought that their previous leader would be slighted. On the contrary, Cliff was more than happy to step into the role of second-in-command. It allowed for him to do what he did best; doing work on the ground and gathering information. Fieldwork was his forte; his duties as Quark's leader did not allow him to do much of that when the organisation had grown. Cliff was far happier on the ground; he could slip into his happy-go-lucky persona again, something he had missed greatly. He felt that he could contribute more to Quark this way-and not to mention that this way just so happened to be a bit more fun and interesting.

Cliff was a Klausian, which meant that he had reflexes, senses and strength superior to those of humans. This also meant that he could do many things that humans could not, such as observe things that humans could not see; hear whispered conversations that were out of any human's hearing, but not his; perform stunning displays of athletic prowess, and other feats.

He was rather proud of the fact that he could be half-asleep in bed, and yet he would never miss a thing.

One such example was when Nel came to his and Fayt's room to say good-bye before she went after her subordinates; all it took to wake Cliff from sleep was the soft, almost unnoticeable creak of the door as it opened. He had kept his eyes closed, but he had not needed to see to know that it was Nel who had entered the room, for all he needed to recognise her was the sound of her voice; the softly spoken words, was loud and clear to him.

He never misses a thing.

And right now, Cliff did not need to strain his hearing to know that Albel Nox was muttering curses under his breath. The Klausian had entered the galley to find the swordsman facing away from him, but Cliff knew by the set of the man's shoulders, and the movement of his elbows that Albel was holding something in his hands-and glowering at it.

"-accursed, wretched, stupid contraption-"

The string of words came to a halt when Albel realised he was no longer alone, and Cliff suppressed a snicker when Albel turned around and glared at him. "Hey Nox," he said in greeting.

Albel merely snorted before he strode to the other end of the galley in a whirl of purple and steel and sat down at a table, his back towards Cliff, as if demonstrating his extreme displeasure of having the Klausian in his presence.

"Well, good to see you up and about," Cliff said as he opened the refrigerator and got himself a can of beer. As he expected, he only got a grunt from Albel in reply. Shrugging, he leant back against the counter and held the can of beer up. "You know," he said, "there's nothing like enjoying a nice, cool, chug of this at the end of the day." Still holding the can aloft, he hooked his finger around the tab ring and tugged it back, opening the can. He took one long draught from the can of beer-and out of the corner of his eye, noticed that Albel glanced at him for a long moment-before he sighed in appreciation. "Man, now that was good."

"Whatever, fool."

Cliff shrugged again and finished his beer before tossing the empty can in the bin. Albel was not in a good mood; then again, Cliff doubted that anyone would be in a good mood after being shot by the Vendeeni. This meant that the odds of the swordsman losing his temper and would start destroying things had increased by at least thrice-fold, and Cliff was far too fond of the Diplo to have even a bit of it smashed to bits-especially from the inside!-and that he was too tired to deal with an enraged Albel should the man indeed go berserk.

Not to mention that Mirage and Maria would kill him if he did provoke Albel into a destructive rampage aboard the ship.

Besides, he was certain that he had taken care of what Albel was losing his temper at earlier. He resisted the urge to chuckle and instead left the galley, throwing only a quick glance at Albel before he left. The younger man was still sitting at the table, but Albel did meet his gaze and acknowledged him with a quick nod before turning away.

Cliff headed for the bridge, whistling. He had noticed when Albel stormed across the galley earlier, the swordsman was cradling something in his artificial hand-even hiding it, Cliff would say. Anyone else would have missed it, but not Cliff.

Cliff also knew that Albel would rather go to extremes than to ask for assistance of any sort. It was far easier just to show Albel how something was done, provided that it was done in a way that would not offend the man's pride; hence the act of getting a drink in order to discreetly show Albel how to open a can of beer.

Heck, he didn't even like beer all that much. He hoped Albel enjoyed his, if it meant the galley being spared from an impromptu demonstration of deadly swordsmanship.

He did however, notice the look on Albel's face. It was only for a fleeting instant, but it was there; Albel was not glaring, nor was he scowling, but he had what Cliff thought was an amused look on his face. And not the sort of amused look Albel had when the swordsman had just dispatched three dozen enemies all in a span of less than a minute either, but the sort of amused look someone would have when something genuinely pleasant-and with no blood in sight-happened.

For that fleeting instant, Albel actually looked somewhat amiable, before his face resumed its glowering expression. And for that fleeing instant, Cliff thought that Albel was not all that bad after all.

Cliff never misses a thing, and he's proud of it.