Title: Everybody's Happy Nowadays

Author: nostalgia

Rating: G

Disclaimer: Paramount. *cough* *splutter*

Summary: Benny's still inside his head.

Author's Babbles: For Miriam, as it was mainly her idea. I wish I was Miriam.

This is something I don't tell people. It might be that's I'll never say these words to anyone real, but if I say them now, when it doesn't matter… It might help. It might be a good idea.

Here's my problem.

In Vic Fontaine's 1960s there is no racism. Sexism is reduced to something minor and played for laughs. Compared to real sixties, Vic's Lounge is a utopia.

It's not real though; none of it is real.

It's a fake on a deeper level than most holographic simulations. Vic, of course, and all the objects around him are man-made objects of light. High on technology, but all too low on reality.

So when I refuse to set foot in that simulated bar, am I over- reacting?

I've never told anyone why I won't drop by an listen to a song, have a drink. They probably assume I'm being professional, retaining a dignified distance from the social lives of my crew. But really?

Benny Russell is the real reason. Benny might not have been real, but to me he is more substantial than Vic Fontaine.

Benny was a symbol, sent to me by the Prophets to make sure I continued along the path they've set out for me. He was created from my own mind and the history of my homeworld to manipulate me, to make me behave as others wished.

But he's real now, to me. He exists in my mind, in my memory. I can still remember being Benny, living his life. I am him, and he was me.

I wonder if he was an alternative version of myself, if the Prophets were showing me what might have been. Time is nothing to them, moving my existence from one point to another would seem perfectly natural to them.

But now they've added something to my existence, given me more than they ever intended. Now I have another life inside my head.

And if I forget about him, he ceases to exist. I will have killed him.

Benny Russell would never have been allowed to set foot in that place. And so if I do, am I denying his existence? Do I negate him in some way? He'll still be there – here – but I know that in his lifetime things were so different.

I have to remember Benny Russell; there's no one else to do it. I have to remember how he lived, what his world was like. Vic Fontaine is an idea of a sixties that never was. He sanitises the world that Benny lived in, makes it all a fiction. And I can't bring myself to interact with a simulation that denies the truth of Benny's world.

I can't kill him like that. I can't let myself forget. If there is no Benny Russell then perhaps I have to be him. Through him I lived another life, saw the cruelties and comforts of another time.

I know that wasn't what the Prophets meant, but it happened all the same. I don't think they really understand linear existence yet. I'm not sure if they ever will. They wanted me to fight the war, to understand that surrender is not an option. And they did. But they also gave me a live that never was, made me worry about a man who never existed. And I have to keep Benny alive, I have to stay away from Vic's.

It sounds stupid, I know. He's just a figment of my own imagination, when you get right down to it. But I can't let him die. I have to remember him.

I have to remember Benny Russell.