Douglas sits on the ground with his back against a rock and watches the stars hang in the air like diamonds above the dark, jagged points of the pine trees before him. A tall, longhaired woman materializes out of the darkness on his left, emerging from the direction of a faint light and muted sound.
"Enjoying the view?"
"Douglas does not turn his head, but after a pause answers her slowly, "It's interesting… We win or we lose, they'll still be there. The stars; they'll still be shining down on us exactly as they are now. Puts things into perspective."
"We are going to make a difference. Look, I understand you're embarrassed or ashamed, but you can still come to the party."
Douglas laughs bitterly, "Shelley, why should I be ashamed of doing my job? My plan worked wonderfully, as always, and I was able to safely account for unforeseen circumstances. I ran away because I saw no need to put myself in danger. As for why I am relaxing here, I would rather be in solitude."
"Aw, come on… Join the party and have a little fun for once. Please?"
Douglas turns to stare at Shelley, and then sighs as he rises to his feet. She smiles at him and then leads him towards the warm glow of the firelight in the distance.
In the main camp of the Rebellion, Douglas watches Shelley out of the corner of his eye as he pretends to drink a goblet of wine. She was standing under a tree watching him with a smile. Douglas thinks to himself, what is that hanging above her head? Mistletoe. At least two choices here. She could be expecting me to kiss her, meaning she really does like me. And if I do kiss her, something I really want to do, I'll be closer to winning her affections than Vince. But on the other had, if she doesn't even know she's standing under some mistletoe, I'll completely surprise her. And if I surprise her like that when she really doesn't like me I'll only succeed in turning her even further against me. It would be highly embarrassing, and I'd lose respect from people here. Since I make the plans for them, I can not afford to lose any respect. So… I shall not kiss her.
Relaxing as he made up his mind, Douglas turns away and bumps into Vince on accident. The handsome leader of the Rebellion was quickly walking towards Shelley with a confident smile on his face.
"Sir, congratulations on defeating the Emperor's latest general." Douglas smiles at Vince, inwardly wincing in anticipation of the coming rebuke.
"Thank you Doug, and uh… nice job running away like a cowardly child," Vince frowns in mild annoyance.
"Were you just hit in the head a few too many times, or could you never tell the difference between running away and retreating from a bad tactical situation?"
"That was a bad tactical situation? I could survive, so you should not be trying to justify your cowardliness. If I made it out alive, you could too. Oh wait, no you couldn't, you couldn't fight your way out of a paper bag."
Douglas just keeps smiling at Vince, his eerily calm visage concealing the cold fury underneath. He turns to Shelley, who has been apprehensively watching this exchange, and bows.
"I beg your pardon, miss." Douglas suddenly spins and catches Vince with a hard right hook to the jaw, sending the rebellion leader sprawling on the ground. Vince quickly recovers, leaping to his feet and drawing the sword at his side as he snarls in anger. Douglas just laughs and quickly borrows a rapier from a nearby spectator's scabbard.
"You should learn to keep a civil tongue in your mouth, sir."
"I am through with your insubordination!" Vince shouts angrily and leaps forward as he strikes at Douglas. The wiry strategist leaps backwards and slices out, but is parried by Vince. The two silently continue their stubborn duel, glaring angrily at each other. Finally, Vince lunges forward as Douglas leaves an opening in his guard and stabs his foe in the left arm. But Douglas has the tip of his blade at his leader's throat.
"Yield to me," Douglas glares coldly at Vince, who pulls his sword out and tries to back away. Douglas steps forward quickly and the tip of the rapier digs into Vince's throat. "Yield or I kill you now and to hell with the rest."
With a frustrated sigh Vince drops his weapon and crosses his arms. Acutely aware of the gathered crowd watching him with shocked expressions and held breaths, Douglas flips his rapier around, returns it to its owner, and walks away without a backwards glance.
"Mark my words, you little bastard, I'll be rid of you yet". Vince glares daggers at Douglas' retreating back as he mutters quietly to himself.
Douglas walks into the medical tent, and without so much as a greeting to the man sitting in there already, takes off his shirt and sits down on a table. The doctor, a man who looks a year or two older than Douglas, still in the prime of his life and possessing a kindly disposition, looks up from his book and sighs.
"Why did Vincent stab you?"
"Might have had something to do with me punching him out for calling me a coward and then dueling him into submission," Douglas chuckles slightly. "Could you stitch me up, Doc?"
"I would have thought you would have been off skulking, seeing as how everyone ignored your nice plan again." The Doctor disinfects the wound.
"It's nice to know you at least can appreciate sound tactics Matt." Douglas winces as Matt starts disinfecting and stitching his shoulder. "But yeah… I was relaxing alone, but then Shelley found me and told me to come to the party."
"Out of idle curiosity, is there anything you wouldn't do for her? Anything at all you would draw the line at?"
"No." Douglas tries to smile as if he were joking, but finds gravity just takes his attempts right off his face.
"Hm. So… why is it you're always at ends with Vince? Do you think you can do better?"
"Ah… No. I mean, he is the destined leader. And I don't have a fraction of his charisma," Douglas sighs as he watches his friend work. "It's like this: I love him, he's a great guy and he is the one who will save all our asses. However, he sees my intellectual and strategic prowess as a threat or challenge to his leadership."
Matt raises an eyebrow. "Oh, so it has nothing to do with the fact that you are both in love with the same woman?"
"…Exactly." Douglas jumps to his feet and pulls his shirt back on. "Great talking with you, Doc".
"One thing," the doctor smiles at his patient. "How did you beat Vince in a duel?"
"Well, Vince is a nice guy, and for all that he hates me he wasn't going to kill me. Especially with Shelley standing there. So I allowed him to stab me and then held the point to his throat and bluffed that I would kill him if he didn't yield." Douglas laughs and then turns to leave. Matt puts back his medical supplies and watches with a wry smile as Douglas walks out of the warm, lit tent and into the cold night.