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Disclaimer: See first post
Note: This section has a new title, taken from the Kelly Clarkson song. There is also a lot of new material, though the basic story is the same.
Previous PostsCh 1 - The Lady And The Major - Part I; Ch 1 - The Lady And The Major - Part II; Ch 2 - The Cost Of Honor

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By Lattelady


Ch 3 - Because Of You - Part I

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


The Wildcard’s Quarters early November 2063

Jenny fought in her sleep. No matter how fast she tied off vessels, she couldn’t get the bleeding under control. The old pattern became a mantra: tie, tie, cut; tie, tie, cut. Nothing was working. There was blood everywhere. She would have given her soul for a laser lig-a-ture. She was back in the cave and it was littered with bodies. Her hands were slick and red as she looked around in despair. She hadn’t been able to save any of them. Then there was a light at the entrance to the cave. Ty was there, holding out his hand and calling her name. She turned and ran toward him, but just as she touched his fingers, they turned to dust and a laugh could be heard echoing back at her. ‘You don’t think I’m really alive do you?’

She jerked herself awake, her hands covering her mouth. She looked around frantically, but everyone else seemed to be asleep. Her heart was pounding and her tank top was damp with sweat. Getting quickly out of bed she pulled on a pair of sweat pants and shoes. Quietly moving to the door, she slipped out of the quarters she shared with the Wildcards. This wasn’t working. She didn’t know which she was more afraid of: her nightmares; or accidentally waking one of the young Marines as she called out their commanding officer’s name in her sleep.

It was the third night in a row her dreams had sent her walking through the darkened corridors of the Saratoga. Tonight’s was the worst since she had left Kordis. She knew the cause was the telegram she had hidden under her pillow. The one she had received today notifying her of Carmine Delaney’s death on an obscure moon in an out-of-the-way sector of space. It was hard to imagine the gentle old doctor dead in a horrific battle.

Breathing deeply she concentrated on the slight rumble of engines that could be heard moving through the deck plating. Daytime noises obscured the gentle voice of the great ship. It was only at night that one could hear it. ‘It’s like hearing footsteps on Broadway at dawn.’ She grinned to herself, ‘You’ve been watching too many old vids, my girl. But oh, it helped take the mind off what was really important.’

“Jen?” McQueen spoke quietly. She’d passed him in the corridor absorbed in her thoughts and hadn’t seen him until it was too late. “What are you doing wandering around at this hour of the night?”

“I…a...” She stuttered. He had caught her completely off guard.

“Insomnia or nightmares?” he deliberately washed all the worry out of his voice. When she wouldn’t meet his eyes, he had the answer to his question.

“A bit of both,” she mumbled, embarrassed. If anyone had to find her, why did it have to be him? Since she had been assigned to his squad, three days earlier, he had taken to sending her terse messages by way of Vansen or West, when he bothered to communicate with her at all.

“Come with me.” He knew how to help her and would tally the cost to his composure later. “I’ve got an idea that might help.”

“I’m not going to the gym at this hour. I’ve already worked out once today.” She noticed his sweatshirt and warm-up pants and knew where he had been heading when she ran into him.

“That’s good.” He turned to head back where he had come from. “That’s one less argument we’ll have, tonight.”

Five minutes, and a number of flights of stairs later they were in a small room high above the port docking bay. The outer bulkhead was mostly clear tri-tainium windows except for eighteen inches of protruding crash doors above and below. McQueen guided Jenny to the right and they slipped through an opening into a small hidden alcove.

“Oh my!” Jen shivered in awe, as she looked out into space with an unrestricted view for 180 degrees. “That’s incredible.” She shivered again, but this time, because her skin had dried and her sweat-dampened tank top felt cold and clammy where it clung to her body.

“Take this.” He pulled his sweatshirt over his head, leaving him in warm-up pants and a black t-shirt. He wasn’t being kind. It was self-protection. Her thin top, over cold female skin, made it evident she wasn’t wearing a bra.

“I can’t. What about you?” Her protests were lost as he shoved it over her head and she was enveloped by the scent of him. His body-warmed shirt felt good against her skin. It was as if she was surrounding by him. Jenny locked her knees so she didn’t fall over as sensations assailed her.

“Don’t argue with me, Jen.” He knew he sounded terse, but he didn’t care. All that was important was getting her covered. His hands itched to warm her cold hard-peaked breasts with his palms. It was far better to give her his sweatshirt. “I’m not the one running around the ship inadequately dressed.” He yanked the waistband below her hips, frowning as he guided her to a ledge that had just enough room for two to sit comfortably.

“Thanks,” she said gathering her arms around her and tucking her nose into the soft black material. She inhaled deeply. Delaying tactics, that's what she needed. The man sitting next to her was too observant and all her defenses were down. She needed to reconstruct her walls before he took a good look at her again, or she would embarrass them both. “Why do I always smell hammerhead fuel when I’m around you?”

He snorted, caught by surprise. It was a thing that didn’t happen very often, but the woman sitting next to him had an uncanny knack for doing just that. “I’m amazed you recognized it for what it is.”

“That and…” she breathed against the neckline again. “…I think sandalwood aftershave or is it incense?” Knowing him the way she did, it could have been either or both. “I remember the mixture of scents as far back as the detox clinic.”

“Very good,” his voice rumbled in the dark. “Anyone who works around the hammers will end smelling like that. It’s from the residue that’s left from the clean burn of helium-3. You can’t see it, but it’s there. It gets on your hands and in your clothes. Even the Saratoga’s industrial strength laundry won’t get it out.” He would grant her knowledge about the fuel, but the topics of incense and aftershave were too personal.

“Now, stop trying to change the subject, Jen. Talk to me.” His voice was just above a whisper, as he stared into the night. He needed to be in control of the conversation. He needed to get her back on track. She knew him too well and it bothered him.

“You’re a quick learner.” She sighed, recognizing words she had used on him more than once.

“I had a good teacher. We’re talking about you, not me, tonight.” He was watching her reflection in the glass. She looked like she was surrounded by stars.

“I keep dreaming about the last months, since the war began.” Her voice cracked. “All the death I’ve seen and couldn’t stop.”

“Why didn’t you come to me sooner?”

“What I’ve seen. What I’ve experienced. It’s so.....” Jen searched for the right words. “It’s hard to talk to anyone about it. And you...well it didn’t seem right to bring it to you.”

McQueen had expected her to say almost anything but that. She might always be a doctor, but he hadn’t been her patient in a long time! It angered him that she still thought of him that way. Would he never get out of detox in her mind? He sat in the quiet, listening to her breathe, trying to pull-in his temper. He let her words play through his mind a second time and didn’t like them any better than he had the first.

“It’s so beautiful here,” her voice faltered as she felt his sudden anger. It vibrated between them as she searched for neutral conversation, anything to make it go away. “It’s hard to imagine that a war is going on out there somewhere.”

“You didn’t think I would understand?” McQueen wasn’t going to let her bury his question in small talk. “That’s why you didn’t come to me.”

“No, it’s not that!” She turned to him hoping her walls were strong enough to withstand his scrutiny in the shadowy corners. “That’s not it at all. I was....embarrassed. My problems seem trivial compared to what you’ve been through. My God, Ty, you were a prisoner of war. I…well…”

“Stop, right there,” he interrupted. “Being a POW was the worst thing I’ve ever experienced. What you went through on Kordis was yours. It’s not a contest to see who endured the most. There’s no need to be embarrassed.” He looked deep into her face, but saw only shadows. “Once when I needed it badly, you helped me and I’m not just talking about those nights when I was out of my head in detox. You shared a part of yourself with me that was private. Do you know when I’m talking about?”

“That first trip to Catalina?” her voice crackled with tears but she refused to let them fall.

“Some people say that in-vitros don’t have souls, but if we do, that trip saved mine.” He wished he could see her face, see what she was really thinking. He could tell she was hurting, but he didn’t know how to make it go away. His ex-wife, Amy, had always said he didn’t have a clue how to give comfort. She was right about that, but up until now, he hadn’t cared.

“I never knew?” She looked up, her hand frozen an inch from his shoulder. She ached to touch him, but forced herself to pull back. “I never knew it meant that much to you.”

“It did. I had hit bottom and you showed me freedom. Not just freedom to leave the clinic, but a freedom of spirit that I had only experienced when I flew.” McQueen looked over Jen’s head at the stars out the window, letting them replenish him. “I knew that I’d be grounded someday. It happens to everyone, though I didn’t expect it to happen so soon,” he sighed and ran his finger over the small scar behind his left ear. “I always envisioned going down with my hammer. But the fear of growing too old to fly or being injured ate at me. You gave me the means to overcome that and much more. I’ve always wondered how you knew what I needed.”

“I looked in your eyes and saw the same thing that I see when I look in my mirror sometimes. You need to touch the stars, Ty. I need to step into the wind.” Jenny had never verbalized her needs to another living soul, but it didn’t seem strange to be telling him. “Those are the things that sustain us. From the deck of my boat you were able to look up and find your stars.”

“The Doctor has the soul of a poet. Who would have guessed?” He should have known. She was perfect in so many ways, why not that as well. “Well Doctor-poet, I can’t give you the wind or the sea you crave, but…” He pointed out the window to nothing but stars. “You’ve got that anytime you want it.”

................................
In-Vitro Health Facility May 2059 (3 1/2 years earlier)

McQueen had finally left his window and gone to bed, but he tossed and turned before falling into a restless sleep. He woke a few times during the night. Twice he thought Dr. Kirkwood was standing over him as he slept. If they were dreams, he was glad they were peaceful ones. She had starred in too many of the violent ones he had had when withdrawal from the Greens had his mind raging out of control.

“Major?” she gently woke him early the next morning. If she had really been in his room during the night, she didn’t look it. She was her usual neat self, with her hair in a complicated braid. Instead of scrubs her lab coat covered a soft looking blouse that was tucked into pleated slacks. “How are you feeling this morning?”

“You probably know the answer to that better than I do!” He growled and wondered how a lieutenant in the United States Navy could get away dressing as she did. He’d never once seen her in uniform.

“Ohhh, not a morning person, are we?” Jen teased. “Okay, here’s the deal, McQueen. I checked with Dr. Werner and he agrees with my assessment. You need to get out of here for a few days. Then it’s back to work to get you fit.”

“I’m getting a pass?” McQueen schooled his features to hide all he was feeling. The terrors of detox were fresh in his memory, but he would do anything to get out from behind these walls for a while.

“Well, a conditional pass. It’s really more of a supervised outing. And I’m the supervisor.” She pointed to herself. “I’ll pick you up around 1400 hours. Pack a bag for four days. I have to have you back by lights out on Sunday night.”

“Where are we going?” he asked as she headed for the door.

“It’s a surprise, but don’t worry. Your reputation is safe,” she laughed as she talked. “The woman who raised me will be there.” Jen made it as far as the door before turning back to the scowling man in the bed, “By the way, pack so you’ve got warmer clothes handy and bring a hat and sun glasses. You’ll need them.”
…………………………………
True to her word Dr. Kirkwood knocked on Major McQueen’s door at exactly 1400 hours.

“Be with you in a minute.” He looked up as he closed his bag and his fingers froze. “Do you ever dress like you belong in the Navy?”

“As seldom as possible,” she chuckled. “My work here at the clinic would be hindered by a uniform and when I’m on my own time, I wear my own clothes.”

“Well you’re definitely doing that today.” He wasn’t sure what to make of her when she looked like she did now. As his doctor she always had a smooth professional quality about her. Gone was the fancy hairstyle from earlier in the day. In its place was a loose ponytail, that looked like it belonged on a teenager. She was wearing a yellow t-shirt with loose sleeves that ended at her elbows. A pair of sunglasses hung from a short strap around her neck and she had on baggy white cargo pants that hugged her hips, while allowing her to move with ease.

“I’m on my own time, more or less.” How could she explain to a man whose life was the Corps, the unease she felt everytime she donned her Dress Blues. “I’d had leave this weekend. Now I can still go and you get the outing you need.”

“Why do you hate the uniform so much?” He’d seen doubt in her eyes and wasn’t going to let her dodge his question.

“I…” she stuttered. It was evident he was a keen observer. Last night hadn’t been a fluke. It was something she’d have to remember. To buy some time, she dug in her tote for sunscreen. “You’re going to need some protection from the sun.” As her fingers gripped the tube, she looked up into searching blue eyes and her glib, politically correct answer died before it could be spoken. Instead she gave him the truth. “I don’t like the Navy because sometimes I feel as if I’ve sold out. I may be natural-born, but I wanted to use my skills working with in-vitros. My only two choices were Areotech or one of the armed services. Areotech wasn’t even a consideration,” her voice was harsh with condemnation when she thought of the mega-corporation. “They would have bastardized any of my research and used it more for harm than….”

“Dr. Kirkwood,” McQueen spoke firmly, but gently and finally wrapped his hand around her upper arm to get her attention. “It’s all right, Doctor. You don’t have to…” Suddenly he was hit with a flash of memory. He recognized the feel of her firm, slim muscles over fine bones. He could see himself as he had tightened his grip in anger, but shook his head refusing to let his nightmare return. The Greens had left him unsure of what was real and what wasn’t. He couldn’t image anyone being stupid enough to have been in a locked room with him when he had been at his worst.

“Sorry I guess we all have our demons to fight.” Jenny had been lost in her own memories and had missed his moment of uncertainty. Taking a deep breath she handed him the tube of sunscreen. “You really should use this. They won’t appreciate it if I bring you back sunburned.”

“If it’s any conciliation, Doctor, I for a one, am very glad you and your group are part of the Navy.” He took the tube from her hand and walked with cat-like grace toward his open bathroom door. “I went through detox once before. I can’t say that the last ten days has been a pleasure, but I’m not sure I’d have survived, if I’d had to depend on my base hospital, like last time.”

“That helps, Major, it really does,” she sighed, but she doubted he heard her because he’d already closed the door to take off his shirt and apply the sunscreen he’d had in his hand. When he returned minutes later, the slight scent of cocoa butter was added to hammerhead fuel and sandalwood that were so much a part of Tyrus Casuis McQueen.

“Will this do?” he asked as he handed her back the cream. He picked up his small travel bag, tossed a black Angry Angels jacket over his arm and quickly grabbed a matching black baseball-style cap.

“Yeah, you’ll do fine.” Jenny grinned at him as she looked him over from head to toe. He wore faded blue jeans and a black t-shirt, with his aviator sunglasses tucked into its neckline.
……………………………
Two hours later they were maneuvering out of the harbor at Newport Beach, in Jenny’s 36-foot sailboat, Windswept. She waited until they cleared the outer marker buoy, and then cut the motor while talking McQueen through raising the sails.

“Ever been sailing before, McQueen?” She tugged the bill of her scruffy old, UCLA Sailing Team hat lower on her forehead and pulled her ponytail out of the opening in the back. He settled on the seat beside her in the aft section of the boat, where the cockpit was located.

“Nope, but there’s a first time for everything.” He looked over the gleaming wood deck and polished brass fittings. “She’s a beautiful craft.”

“Thanks, she’s an old lady of the sea. The man I bought her from told me she was built in the last century --- early 1920’s. He said her original owner used her to run rum up from Jamaica during Prohibition.”

As they talked, the wind changed and thunder of heavy ordinance was heard to the south of their position. McQueen acted on instinct and grabbed the Doctor. He tumbled them to the deck, rolling to take the brunt of the fall, before he shifted her beneath him. His body covered hers protectively, as he reached for his right hip pocket where he kept his butterfly knife. He knew it was useless against artillery fire, but for some reason he was in the middle of a battle without weapons.

On to - ch 3 - Because Of You - Part 2

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Quotes

The moving finger writes: and having writ Moves on. nor all your piety nor wit Shall lure it back to cancal half a line, Nor all your tears wash out a word of it...The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

If I quiet the voices in my head, I would face the day with nothing to write. - Unknown

I must go down to the seas again the lonely sea and sky...J Masefield

Cinderella walked on broken glass,
Sleeping beauty let a whole lifetime pass.
Belle fell in love with a hideous beast,
Jasmine married a common thief.
Ariel walked on land for love and life,
Snow white barely escaped a knife.
It was all about blood, sweat, and tears.
Because love means facing your biggest fears


The heart has its reasons that reason knows nothing of...French Proverb

I have drempt in my life dreams that have stayed with me ever after. They've gone through me like wine through water and altered the colour of my mind ...E. Bronte

To love someone deeply gives you strength. Being loved by someone deeply gives you courage...Lao Tzu

It takes chaos to give birth to a dancing star ..F. Nietzsche

How many loved your moments of glad grace, and loved your beauty with love false or true? But one man loved the pilgrim Soul in you, and loved the sorrows of your changing face...Yeats

Let us go, you and I, when the evening is spread out against the sky...T. S. Eliot

In that book which is my memory, on the first page of the chapter, that is the day when I first met you, appears the words, "here begins a new life".
La Vita Nuova

Midnight courage of the heart...Jen Kirkwood

The three o-clock in the morning courage which Bonaparte thought was the rarest...Thoreau

Did you say it? I love you; I don't ever want to live without you; you changed my life. Did you say it?
Make a plan, set a goal, work toward it, but every now and then, look around, drink it in, 'cause this is it. It might all be gone tomorrow. - Meredith Grey

Shakespeare is easy, life is hard...Wheels

Don't try to be a great man, just be a man. Let history make up its own mind...Z.Cochron

I had a job to do and I was unafraid...Jack to John Creighton

For I dipt into the future, as far as the human eye could see. Saw the vision of the world, and the wonders that can be...RWW Hipwell

Without diviation from the norm, progress is impossible...F. Zappa

The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea, In a beautiful pea-green boat: They took some honey and plenty of money, Wrapped up in a five-pound note. The Owl looked up to the stars above, and sang to a small guitar...E Lear

Sweet and low, sweet and low, Wind of the western sea, Low, low, breathe and blow, Wind of the western sea! Over the rolling waters go, Come from the dying moon and blow, Blow him again to me;... Tennison

Charmed magic casements, opening on the foam
Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn... Keats

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