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No Time to Waste 
by Martha

"Come on, Byers. Get that skinny ass of yours in gear, or we'll be
too late."

Becca was standing in the doorway of the main office of the Gunmen
headquarters, pulling on her gloves. Their cream color matched her
scarf and the beret perched on her head, marking a deep contrast to
the blackened curls that cascaded down her back. Byers was trying
to put away the paperwork that he had collected over the last few
days in anticipation of taking some time off for the upcoming
holidays. But she was not making it easy by standing over him and
tapping her foot with impatience.

"So, where is the fun couple going tonight?" Langly asked, with a
slight hint of sarcasm. "Moonlight skating? Caroling in the

"Leave them alone," Frohike whispered from the back of the office.

"Actually, we're going to drive by some neighborhoods and see the
decorations," Becca explained. "Can't let all that electricity go
to waste."

Langly's expression changed to one of sudden interest. He started
staring at Byers with wide eyes and making small throaty sounds,
like that of a small puppy trying to get someone's attention.
Byers closed his eyes and sighed, knowing that he would probably
give in to Langly's begging and stole a glance over at Becca. He
would rather be alone with her but left that decision up to her.

She caved in. "Well, if we're all going, we go NOW."

Langly let out a hoot and grabbed his jacket. "Aren't you coming?"
he asked Frohike.

"No, I've got some things to work on."

Becca started to walk towards the back of the office. "Come on,
Moe and Larry would never go anywhere without Curly. Get your
stuff, and let's go."

Frohike looked up at Becca and noticed a twinge of pity in her
expression. He then shifted his view towards Byers, who turned to
avoid his stare. Obviously, Byers' pillow talk had included some
of Frohike's more recent personal problems.

"OK, I'm in." <<It's not like I can't do this over Christmas. I'm
not going anywhere.>>

Frohike turned off all the lights and locked up while everyone
piled into Becca's car. They were waiting for him just outside the
front door, and Becca gunned the accelerator before Frohike could
get settled in the back seat. He sat himself back up and started
fidgeting with the seatbelt. "Where's the fire?"

Becca shifted gears as she approached the freeway. "The best times
to view the houses are right after sunset. That way you get to see
all the lights and still have the full effect of the house and all
the other decorations in the background."

"Don't some neighborhoods discourage the drive-by traffic?" Langly

"Discourage, I don't know," Becca replied. "As long as we don't
cause a traffic backup and are somewhat discrete about it, there
usually isn't a problem. Besides, if they didn't want people to
come and see the decorations, they wouldn't have gone to so much
trouble to put them up in the first place."

"Can't argue with that logic," Langly said, looking back out at the
surrounding traffic.

"Can't argue with *her*," Byers echoed. And immediately regretted

Becca stole a glance at her companion in the front seat and roughly
shifted gears.

"OOPS," whispered Langly and Frohike, from the backseat in unison.

Roughly forty minutes passed - forty quiet minutes - while Becca
weaved through the late afternoon traffic on her way into some of
Virginia's better subdivisions. She had done this every year,
driven for miles out of her way to see the large houses decorated
for Christmas and taken all the tours of those historic mansions.
It was the fulfillment of a dream, kind of like her version of "The
Miracle on 34th Street" where you go to see a beautiful house and
all of a sudden realize that it is yours. She had hoped that Byers
would be as fascinated with this fantasy as she was. She would get
him there yet.

The first subdivision that they drove through had some pretty, but
not quite remarkable, offerings. Becca fiddled with the radio dial
while pulling into the next area and settled on some non-stop
Christmas music. "This should get you guys in the mood."

Frohike tried to suppress a smirk. <<I'm not touching that line.>>

This neighborhood had gone all out with its ornaments. Becca
shifted down into a slow crawl so that they all could view the

"Damn," Becca muttered under her breath, "look at that one."

It had evergreens circling down along the columns of the front
porch with golden bows secured every few feet. Red and yellow
poinsettia plants lined up between the columns, and there were
candles - real candles - lit in each window on the first floor.

Becca spoke first. "Understated, but elegant."

"Less is more," agreed Byers.

The next several houses of Federal and French Neoclassical styles
had varying degrees of lighting - from the small twinkling kind
snaking through the trees to a cool ice blue that framed the
windows. All had the traditional wreaths with red bows hung on the
doors and on many of the windows. Special kudos went to the house
whose sidewalk lighting was made to resemble miniature Christmas
trees. The conversation in the car was carried by Becca and Byers;
very little was forthcoming from the occupants of the back seat.

Until the house at the end. Becca nearly hit the brakes in horror.
It was garishly lit with red and green bulbs, and there were
inflatable snowmen in the yard. On the roof were plastic reindeer
and a fake chimney, with a fake motorized Santa halfway stuffed in
it with its legs shifting back and forth as if signifying being
stuck. It was something that Becca might have found funny as a
child, but as an adult and a serious grader of seasonal
decorations, she was slightly repulsed and embarrassed for the

"Whoa, cool," exclaimed Langly. "I bet kids live here."

Becca could only reply, "I wouldn't be surprised," and looked to

"That's our boy," Byers muttered under his breath.

They toured one more subdivision in the area before deciding that
some hot chocolate would really be appropriate to top off the

Becca drove them back towards DC and stopped off at a roadside
diner just before hitting the beltway. Hot chocolates were ordered
all around, and small talk about the upcoming holidays followed.

Byers had spied a Christmas tree vendor across the street and made
a mention about getting Becca to pick out one for her place. "Why
don't you go ahead and narrow down the choices for me?" Becca

"Me, too," added Langly as he gulped down the last of his drink.
"I haven't done this in a long time." He raced Byers out the door
and into the tree lot.

Becca ordered another round of hot chocolates, two to go and two
for herself and Frohike. She noticed that he had been very quiet
during the evening and barely said three words since arriving at
the diner. Something was on his mind, and she thought she knew
what it was.

"So," she began, "are you one of those people who really hate the

Frohike shrugged. "It's not *hate*. I just don't get as worked up
over it as others do."

Becca went fishing. "Unpleasant childhood?"

"No. Ordinary childhood; real quiet." <<What is she getting

"So, you don't like being alone over the holidays?"

Frohike emptied his mug and placed it somewhat noisily on the
table. "Perhaps we should join the others to help pick out your

"In a few," Becca replied. "I figure Byers has about another seven
minutes of narrowing down the candidates before we have to go out
in the cold. So, how about answering the question."

Frohike eyed Rebecca Foster for a minute. <<She just doesn't get,
does she? Someone who looks like her, with that confidence and
position, would never be without company.>> "I'm used to spending
my free time alone. Holidays aren't that much different for me."

"Perhaps they should start to have some meaning for you." Becca
was not sure if she should go forward with this, with someone she
did not know as well as she knew Byers. But since she had already
stepped in it this far . . . "Pick up the phone and call her."

Frohike looked back down at the table. <<So, Byers had told her.>>
He just closed his eyes and shook his head for a moment. "There's
more to this than can be fixed with a simple phone call. It's just
not going to happen."

Becca halfway leaned over the table, trying to make her point.
"Picking up the phone is the first step. Talking to her is the
second. How many years have you wasted by not picking up that
phone?" She settled back in the booth, almost expecting him to
berate her for not minding her own business. She did not have to
wait long.

"You don't know anything about me, Rebecca. And calling her would
not even begin to resolve anything." He began to pull on his
jacket. "We should go join the others."

"Not yet." Becca fought the urge to grab his arm to keep him in
his seat. "Just stay for a minute, and hear me out. And then I'll
shut up, and we can go, all right?"

Becca shuddered and let out a small sigh. Reliving parts of her
past, especially that time five years ago when she did not know if
she would ever see another Christmas, were not easy for her. She
had made some smartass remark to Frohike around Labor Day about the
mysterious women in his past, not realizing that on that day that
kind of comment sent him into a slight depression. Byers would
later explain to her the sketchy details that he knew about one
woman in particular and begged her not to pursue the subject. But
over the last several months, watching Frohike when she visited the
Gunmen offices and hearing his voice on the phone when she called
to talk to Byers, she could not keep silent. She wanted to grab
both arms and shake him and yell at him, anything to make him
understand that wasted time was an enemy. It was something to be
dealt with harshly and cut out - like the cancer that had been
removed from her breast. For wasted time would just as surely kill
him, was killing him, as the cancer would have killed her if left
alone. And she had vowed from the moment of her recovery and
counseling that she would never let another moment just simply
pass by.

And so she told him. About the circle of her friends from high
school with whom she had lost touch. About her mother who made
some phone calls to gather those friends for her hospitalized
daughter. And how they had arranged their schedules to visit with
her, accompany her home, look after her while she recovered and got
her to physical therapy. The friends who made sure that she got
back to work and went with her to the support group. And without
whom she knew, just knew, that she would have never found the
strength to continue. All because her mother had picked up the
phone when she herself was too full of self pity to care.

"You don't see how it hurts him," Becca continued, "to watch you
day in and day out and not be able to do or say anything because he
doesn't know what to say. Fortunately, keeping my mouth shut is
not something that I do well."

Frohike let out a small laugh, and Becca joined him. Maybe she had
gotten through to him. Maybe she would try a little reinforcement
later. But she had gotten him to relax a bit, and she would accept
that for now.

"Come on," Becca said as she started to slide her way out of the
booth, "we should go and rescue Byers. I can see Langly running
like a maniac up and down the aisles of the trees like a five year
old. And seriously, I know that you guys have your sources, but if
you need some help in tracking down a personal phone number, I have
some contacts who can get it for you."

Frohike followed her out the door and into the parking lot. Too
late, he thought; I've had it memorized for months.