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Disclaimer: See first post, Chapter 1
Notes: Additions to this section and some changes from the orginal version.
Previous Chapters: Ch 1 - The Lady And The Major - Part I; Ch 1 - The Lady And The Major - Part II; Ch 2 - The Cost Of Honor; Ch 3 - Because Of You - Part I

Photo/Art by scottishlass

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By Lattelady

Ch 3 - Because Of You - Part II


“Major!” Jenny struggled beneath him. He was pushing her into the deck and her arms were caught between them.

“Quiet!” he ordered and covered her mouth with his left hand. “Stay down…” Something was wrong, his knife was missing. He looked into the face of the woman beneath him. Her sunglasses had been knocked off and her cap was askew, but she met his gaze with trust and understanding. The sound of artillery had ripped away his reality. For a very short time he had no idea where he was.

He heard a sudden sharp sound of canvas flapping close over their heads, the boat creaked and the deck tilted under them. It brought him back to the present, despite the weapons booming in the background. “Damn,” he muttered and pulled himself to his knees. “Damn! Am I hallucinating?” there was desperation and pain in his voice as he shook his head in an attempt to silence the guns.

“No, but you’re safe. Keep your head down and hold on until I take care of the boat.” Jen moved quickly beside him. With one hand she winched in the boom and with the other she steadied the wheel.

The whole thing hadn’t lasted more than thirty seconds, but McQueen felt adrenaline shivering through his system as if he’d been in combat for hours. He didn’t remember tossing his aviators to the deck, but he must have done it as he swept Kirkwood off the bench. His hand shook as he reached for the sunglasses and carefully put them back on.

“Are you all right, Major?” Once she had secured the mainsail and checked the compass, she entered their course into the computer and let it take over the boat. She didn’t like using the autopilot, but McQueen’s needs came before her sailing prejudices.

“Just great," his voice was ragged with sarcasm as he took deep breaths and tried to ignore the familiar notes of battle echoing over water. "What the hell is happening?”

“It’s Camp Pendleton. I’m sorry I should have warned you.” They were still crouched between the wheel and the bench. Worry lit her gray eyes as she searched his frozen features. “The base owns a number of islands along here. The wind changed, carrying the sounds with it. It was remiss of me not to mention the possibility before we left Newport.”

“Are we participating in the war games today?” McQueen grunted. The Greens had robbed him of his iron control. It had caught him by surprise that it wasn’t back yet. He finally understood what Dr. Kirkwood had been trying to tell him the night before. He really wasn’t in any shape to face the world on his own.

“No, no war games for you, not for a while.” Her voice was rough with sorrow. “Please, let me see your eyes so I know that you’re really all right.” She reached for his sunglasses and carefully removed them from his face. “This trip was supposed to be something to help you, not make things harder on you.” She nibbled on her lip as she met his gaze.

“What about you? Did I hurt you?” he spoke just above a whisper.

“No, no, I’m fine.” She smiled tightly and handed him back his aviators, relieved that despite being badly shaken, he was recovering. “In fact you were very gallant. You took the brunt of the fall. If you’d landed on me, I might have been squished.”

“Gallant—right.” He shook his head and touched her arm to help her up. Before they could get to their feet, he was struck again with a memory of slim strong muscles and small delicate bones under his hands, but it was much more real this time. He tried to tell himself it was from when he’d tossed her to the deck moments earlier, but he was getting a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach. On impulse he pushed the sleeve of her t-shirt up her arm.

“Major,” she gasped and pulled it back into place.

“No, let me see.” He gently held her elbow in one hand and raised the yellow material until her bicep was exposed. Her smooth pale skin was marred with four finger shaped bruises.

“It’s nothing, really,” Jenny tried to reassure him, but she could see her words weren’t penetrating.

“You were in that room with me.” He closed his eyes, suddenly dizzy and very glad they were still crouched on the deck. He knew where he’d felt his fingers wrapped around delicate bones and it was like a punch in the gut. “That wasn’t another of my nightmares?”

“At the time you were hallucinating. It wasn’t your fault.”

“I did that to you. There’s no excuse….” McQueen lightly touched her sleeve where he knew there were dark marks underneath. What he’d done that night hadn’t been a nightmare as he’d thought. He had really tried to hurt her.

“You didn’t mean to. Once you trusted me again---”

“Damn it!” He surged to his feet and tucked his sunglasses into the neck of his shirt. He was a seasoned campaigner and knew his frozen blue glare was a strong weapon when he was fighting a war of words. “I could have killed you,” he spat. “What were you thinking being anywhere near me at a time like that?”

“I had to do something. You could have gone so far over the edge; I’d never have been able to get you back! You were tearing yourself apart trying to get free. We had to get those restraints off of you.” She stood quickly knowing he would always have a height advantage, but she was damned if she’d appear to cower at his feet. “For that I owe you an apology. You didn’t come out of it unscathed, either.” Her left brow lifted as she indicated the bruises on his wrists. “It never should have happened.”

“Doctor, do you know what I could have done to you?” McQueen was horrified when he remembered slamming her against the wall. His voice became lower and quieter as his anger grew.

“Answer me this, Major.” Stormy gray eyes met cold blue ones. Her hands were in tight fists on her hips. “Could you kill me right now? Could you have killed me a while ago when your heard the guns.”

“That's differ--” He wanted to keep on protesting, but he knew it wasn’t any different.

“Answer-my-question,” she spoke each word as if it stood alone. “Do you or do you not have the ability to kill me as we stand?”

“Of course I do!” He had to grit is teeth to keep from shouting at her. “I almost proved it a few minute ago! Do you know how lucky you were that I didn’t decide you were the enemy who was attacking us? I could have just as easily strangled you as tried to protect you.”

“No you couldn’t have, Major. If you wanted me dead I would be dead.”

“That’s ridicules. This conversation is over!”

“No it is not!” She held up her hand as he was about to interrupt her. Her body swayed gently as the boat moved over swells. “You aren’t a man plagued with indecision, drugs or no drugs! Lesson number one of phyllophetamine addiction: it doesn’t change the basic character of a person. It often brings out their darker side, but.....”

“What basis did you use to risk your life with my darker side?” He was furious. He remembered his fear and paranoia even if she chose not to. “Damnit woman are you insane or do you have a death wish?”

“Give me some credit. I am a professional. I know what I’m doing and I don’t have a death wish. I’d read your service record. That says a lot about a man.” Her usual even temper was about to boil over. “I had been working with you for three days before that night. I knew you pretty well by then. Besides, there was a guard outside the door at all times.” She didn’t mention the ketamine hypospray, deciding it would only weaken her argument. Jenny didn’t know why she had believed in him that night. All she knew was that she had, just as she had been sure he wasn’t going to harm her when he’d thrown her to the deck earlier. She doubted those argument would strengthen her case, either.

“What if you’d been wrong? You’re a petite woman, Doctor. If I’d wanted you dead, you would have died before the guard had keyed in the code.”

“That’s just what I’ve been saying all along, you didn’t want me dead.” She slipped behind the wheel and took over the controls as she disengaged the computer. “My size is an advantage in these situations.” McQueen looked at her as if he doubted her sanity again. “There was a time when you had a choice to attack either my Corpsman, who is 6' 2" or me. You went for him.”

“That’s supposed to make me feel better?” His hands were low on his hips. He stood, leaning over her, using his size to press his advantage; his eyes cold and distant.

“It proves my point,” she shot back, not intimidated by his stance. “You would never hurt anyone smaller or weaker than you. Besides, he deserved the scare. He was the one who strapped you down.” McQueen could hear the venom in Jen’s voice. “Lesson number two of phyllophetamine addiction: it slows the reflexes as it binds with oxygen receptors. You never laid a hand on him.”

“No, but I did you.” He reached for her arm, but pulled back before he touched her. “I’m sorry.”

“Apology accepted, if you’ll accept mine?” She held out her hand to him. “Pax?” she offered.

He raised his hand slowly to shake hers. He’d never met anyone like her, natural born or in-vitro and he was beginning to think her never would again. “Pax,” he sighed with a nod. “But I still don’t like what happened.”

“Neither do I!” Both knew they were talking about different things and both decided to ignore it.

“Promise me one thing.” He held onto her hand, refusing to let it go until he’d won one concession from her. “Promise you’ll never do that again, not with me or anyone.”

“It’s not my usual practice.” She wasn’t going to tell him she’d never done it before, because they’d end up arguing again. A part of her knew he was right. It had been a dangerous thing to do. She looked into his face and read real concern instead of his usual cool mask. “All right, I promise.”

“Good.” He acknowledged by shaking her hand one last time to seal their second agreement. “So if we’re not going to take on the 5th Marines at Pendleton, where exactly are we going?” McQueen was wise enough to settle for the small victory, and change the subject. But he also knew that he’d be keeping a close eye on the news for problems at The In-Vitro Health Facility.

“I think I’ve fought all the Marines I plan to for today.” She hoped her voice sounded as glib as she wanted it to. His question reminded her of a childhood incident that had cost her a great deal and could have cost her more. “We’re going to Catalina for the next few days. And before you make a face like that, no we aren’t going to play tourist. I grew up there. My home is above Catalina Harbor on the Pacific side of Two Harbors. It’s at the Isthmus end of the Island. We’ll avoid Avalon completely.”

“All right, if you say so.” He ran his eyes over the sails and churning water. It felt good to have the wind and sun on his face. The quiet speed of the sailboat was like a different kind of flying. Though he was still jittery from adrenaline, his muscles began to relax. “This seems familiar and.....better.”

“I had hoped it would. This is hardly the same as a hammerhead, but it’s always given me a sense of freedom.” Jen tipped her head to admire the gentle curve of sails taught with wind. “I hoped it would do the same for you.” Her hands were sure and steady on the small wheel, as she was careful to give McQueen time to digest her words.

He was stunned at the gift she had given him. Not only had she shown him a small slice of her private self, she was willing to share it with him. He stood beside her unsure what to say or do. His body swayed, as the Windswept cut through the water. He felt something stiff and unyielding release deep within him. It took all his effort not to stare at the woman whose casual words had reached in and touched a piece of his core.

“There’s a thermos of coffee in the galley, would you get it?” She motioned toward the open hatch with her chin. “I think you’re ready for a bit of caffeine to be reintroduced into your diet. Though if you prefer, I’m sure there’s some herbal tea down there, somewhere.”

“Hump,” McQueen grunted as he watched a grin spread across her face. “I’m sick and tired of that tea you’ve been serving me.” He was glad for the excuse to go below. He’d learned some unsavory things about himself and he needed time to digest them.

In the privacy of the small galley he forced himself to face some truths. What he’d done when hallucinating couldn’t be undone. All he could do was be very sure, he never allowed himself to get caught in a trap that made him susceptible to loss of control like that again. According to the United States Government, he was an officer and a gentleman. Attacking Dr. Kirkwood wasn’t an action that fit under either category. He had to kick the Greens and get his life back.

He looked over his shoulder and out the open hatch at the top of the small companionway. He could see Jenny Kirkwood seated quietly at the helm. It took him by surprise that she was really as small in stature as she was. He knew she was a bit on the short side, but her personality was so strong that he’d never seen her as she really was. She would have been no match for him, not earlier in the afternoon and especially not in a detox cell with him out of his head. As glad as he was that he hadn’t harmed her, he found it unsettling, that sometime in that cell, he’d unknowingly extended his fierce protective barrier to include her. This afternoon had proven that.

Minutes later he was topside with two cups of coffee.

“Thanks,” she murmured as she looked at him from under the brim of her hat, one hand reaching for her cup, the other lightly gripping the wheel.

“Your welcome, Doctor”

“We could spend the weekend stumbling over ranks and titles. Is it all right with you if we go by first names for the next few days?” Jenny had never been one for protocol, but she was sure Major McQueen was.

It was seldom that anyone worried about his feelings. “No, I guess that would be fine…Jenny.” He’d heard one for the nurses call her that, but it didn’t fit. “Ah...Jen?” He liked the way it sounded when he said it, though it felt strange to call her anything other than doctor.

“Okay.” She smiled at him. No one had ever called her that but it pleased her that he did. “Okay....Tyrus.” She wrinkled her nose at the complicated names that were chosen for in-vitros and was rewarded by his chuckle.

“It is rather a mouthful isn’t it.” His lop-sided grin told her she hadn’t insulted him.

“Don’t even get me started!” In-vitro rights were an issue with her, but this was neither the time nor the place to get into politics. “Is it all right if I shorten it to Ty?” she asked tentatively.

“Yeah, that would be fine,” He hadn’t expected her to choose that version of his name and it made him smile. The only other person who had ever called him that was Glen Ross. Even Amy, his ex-wife, had called him TC. It had always made him feel impersonal, distant, lacking in an identity. He realized that he had begun thinking of himself in that manner, as well.

“You want to try this?” Jen indicated the wheel.

He looked at the smooth wood in her hands. It was almost the same size as the controls on his hammerhead, though it was round instead of the broken oval he was used to. His fingers itched to try it.

“It’s okay,” she urged softly. Though his eyes were hidden behind aviator sunglasses, she was sure she’d see deep longing in their depths if they were visible. “Slide closer, and put your hands over mine until you get the feel of the way the boat moves. Watch the bow and line it up with the compass heading.” His arms went around her as he reached for the wheel. “This will probably feel sluggish after your fighter, so no sudden movement.”

She felt his hands cover hers and heard him take a deep breath. ‘Yes this is what he needed. He’d been like a caged panther in that room last night. Major Tyrus McQueen was happier in the driver’s seat. It went against his instincts to be a passenger.’ Looking up she saw pure ecstasy cross his face and realized how close they were sitting. ‘Not a good idea Jenny.’ She was adept at keeping men at a distance, but there was something different about this one. For one moment she was very glad he was her patient, or was she?

“You’ll get a better feel for it if you’re holding the wheel directly.” She ducked down under his arm, so he no longer surrounded her.

“Are you sure this is such a good idea?”

“I’m not letting go. I’m right here.” She assured him, as she knelt on the deck and reached across the control box where the compass and computer were housed. Her hands rested lightly on his and she nodded encouragement. “That’s it. Can you feel the sea moving?”

“It’s like I’ve done this before, but in a dream.” McQueen felt free for the first time in weeks. Though, there was something familiar about all this.

“That may be my fault.” She looked sheepish. “During your worst night in detox, the sound of my voice seemed to keep you calm. I talked about sailing, recited every sea poem I know, and then took you on a verbal guided tour of this boat. I had one particularly bad moment when I was afraid you’d end up seasick while still on dry land.”

He shook his head at her, knowing that anything he said would likely cause an argument again.

McQueen felt his soul brushed clean as they sailed toward the hazy smug on the horizon that slowly became clearer until he could see an island in the distance. It wasn’t flying a hammerhead, but riding the back of the wind had a lot to be said for itself. With the wheel in his hands, as the sun set and stars came out he felt new again. Jen had moved to sit by his side watching and helping where needed, but for the first time in a long time, he felt in control of something.

Hours went by as they sailed in companionable silence. Jenny kept them on course with a gentle word. She’d gotten up once to retrieve their jackets from below and another time to get the thermos of coffee. Other than that she was always there, quiet and unobtrusive.

McQueen let the experience wash over him. He had to give her credit, Dr. Jennifer Kirkwood had him pegged. This was what he had needed. He felt a connection with a part of himself that had been missing for a long time, if it had ever been there at all.

Looking back he realized that during the early days of his marriage, he had lost himself along the way. His control over his personal life had slipped further and further out of his grasp, until the only time he felt in charge was when he was in a cockpit. The disaster his marriage had become was a given after that. Then he had even lost the cockpit by going back to the Greens. No wonder he had thought about putting a bullet through his head.

“I’m going to radio our position, so Patsy will know when to expect us, but I’ll be right here if you need me.” Jenny broke the silence between them as she flipped back the top of the sophisticated computer guidance system and accessed communications. “Come in Cliff house. This is Windswept calling.”

Windswept, this is Cliffhouse. I read you loud and clear. How’re you doing kiddo?”

“We’re doing great. We had a following wind all the way and will be rounding the Isthmus shortly. We should be docking in about 45 minutes. I hope you have something hot for us to eat. Ever since the sun went down, it’s been cold out here. Windswept, over.”

McQueen heard a woman’s bright laughter on the radio. “Jenny, you say that every time.” The silver toned laugh came again. “Dinner’s on the stove and there is a fire in the fireplace. See you two soon. I’ve left the lights on at the slip, but I’ll be waiting at the house. Cliffhouse over and out.”

Jenny looked at the radio transmitter in her hand, wanting to ask more questions, but it was too late, Patsy had already signed off.

“You okay?” McQueen had caught her worried look. He hadn’t missed the affection between the women as they had talked, so he couldn’t understand why she was bothered.

“Patsy usually comes to the dock when I’ve been away, but even with steps, it's steep. She only stays away when her leg is giving her trouble.” She frowned, as the doctor in her worried about the woman who was the closest thing she had to a mother. “Patsy’s knee was crushed in an accident while building The James Lovell Orbital Assembly Facility. I’ve told her we can completely replace the joint. Joint replacement surgery has been around for almost a century. It would leave her pain free and give her back the mobility she lost, but she won’t do it.” Jen frowned and shook her head, dismissing the accident. She focused on the cure.

“Wait a second. The woman who raised you helped build the Lovell?” McQueen was beginning to see the pieces of the puzzle that was Jennifer Kirkwood fall into place. “Most of the labor for that was done by in-vitros, working off their indentured servitude.”

“Yes, Pats was about 1 1/2 when it happened.” Jenny had taken the wheel for the entrance to Catalina Harbor. “That's why she was in Sickbay when my mom went into early labor. My mother and father were spending time on the Lovell because he was gathering data for his research project.”

“You’re telling me that a natural-born was raised by an in-vitro? What about your parents?” McQueen didn’t know if he was more startled by the casually affectionate way she talked about Patsy or the apparent lack of a parent in her upbringing.

“I’ve heard it said that dad had two loves, his work and his wife.” Jen was completely relaxed as she sailing, and spoke more freely than she normally would have. “When mother died giving birth to me, he bought out Patsy’s contract from Aerotech and moved the two of us to Catalina Island.”

“Where was he?” McQueen had always wanted to be a father. The idea of a man not raising his own child was unbelievable to him.

“He spent most of his time either on the Lovell Facility gathering research or at Berkeley where he taught courses on the impact of space phenomenon on particle physics.” She used the gears at the helm to lower the sails, and then started the motor for the last mile to the dock. She didn’t need help when she sailed. She did it as she always did, all alone. She had allowed the computer to be installed to calm Patsy’s fears, but that was as far as it went, she’d never used a first mate until tonight. “Father would make flying trips to the Island to check up on us about twice a year.”

“Your father was Harrison Kirkwood, the man who won the Nobel Prize for the discovery of the Black Hole Inversion Phenomenon?” McQueen watched her work, independent, capable, and alone. Something about it felt familiar, but he couldn’t place it.

“Yes, he was.” Jen shook her head as she squinted into the distance, her parentage forgotten as she caught her first gimps of home. “See that light to the left beyond the point? That’s where the Windswept lives. The house on the bluff above is where we’re headed.”
Catalina Island Spring 2059 - Three years before the Chig War

That night McQueen met Patsy Howard. She was an in-vitro, like none he had experienced before. She was tall with chestnut hair streaked with gray. The lines around her dark brown eyes and mouth were laugh lines, instead of the usual worry lines present in most in-vitro faces. If he had to guess, he would bet that she had been produced to be a soldier. She had the tall long bones and finely chiseled features that spoke of warriors. Her neck-navel, which peeking out from her fashionably cut short hair and her stiff right leg were the only clues that she was one of his kind.

They ate dinner in a many-windowed kitchen that was Patsy’s obvious domain. It was warm and cheery and the two women chatted away, including him in the conversation. A small black cat, named Cinders was curled-up, asleep, under Jenny’s chair.

“So Major, does Jenny still drive that little blue car of hers as if she owned the freeways?” Patsy grinned at Jenny, whose eyebrows had risen.

“I kept checking the dashboard for a LIDAR display to warn for in-comings.” McQueen picked up the teasing tone of Patsy’s voice and did his best to join in. “It was definitely fangs-out all the way from L.A. to Newport Beach.”

“I know when I’ve been insulted.” Jen stood with her fists on her hips in mock anger. “I think I’ll take the last two slices of pie, across the lawn, to Lars and Magda.” She looked at the older woman who was covering her mouth to keep from laughing. “Pats, my driving is sedate compared to yours and McQueen, you don’t fool me a bit. You fighter jocks are all the same; speed is your middle name.” With a nod and complete satisfaction that she’d gotten in the last word she swept out the door.

“Lars and Magda Morgans were the housekeeper and groundskeeper when we were growing up,” Patsy explained once she was able to get her laughter under control. “They live in the gatehouse at the foot of the lot. Lars tinkers in the gardens but mainly he keeps that boat of Jenny’s in shape. Magda still helps me with the chores.”

“You grew-up here?” McQueen was struck by the incongruity of the statement. In-vitros didn’t grow up, they were born adults.

“When I was born, my body may have been mature, but my mind and emotions weren’t. You remember what it’s like when they take you out of the tank?”

“That’s not something I’m likely to forget,” he repressed a shudder. He remembered every sensation and they were all unpleasant. He’d been wet, cold and confused. Strong feelings that no one had taught him to control had surged through his adult body. When the teaching did started it had been that his only purpose in life was to obey and then die. Looking back he wondered why so many Tanks bothered to live, at all?

“I can see from your eyes that you remember it vividly.” She looked guilty. “Sorry about that, Jenny would be upset if she knew I had brought it up. This is supposed to be a pleasant few days for you.”

Schooling his face, McQueen turned to her. “You’re secret is safe with me.”

“This place, and everything that woman brings to it, are a bit overwhelming, aren’t they?” She smiled at him knowing exactly how he felt. “Jenny and I have been together since she was born. Imagine what that was like for an 18 month old in-vitro. Overwhelming didn’t begin to cover it,” she laughed.

“I suppose it was.” He wondered if it was the effect of the Greens, or if there was a kinship between Jenny and Patsy that gave them the ability to blind-side him. ‘Always know who wants what from you,’ he thought, still working the problem in his mind.

“Remember I’ve been there too, Ty.” She reached for his hand then thought better of it. He looked like a man who liked to keep his distance. “Is it all right if I call you that, like Jenny does, or would you prefer Major?”

“Ty is fine.” He nodded not completely comfortable with the situation. Neither women fit into any of the safe, neat classification he always used when dealing with members of the opposite sex. He wasn’t sure if it was an after affect of the Greens or not. Kirkwood had been easy when she was simply his doctor, but now he didn’t know what to make of her. And Patsy Howard may have been an in-vitro, but he’d never met one of his species like her before.

“More coffee,” Pats offered. While he’d been mulling over the unusual women, she’d gotten up to get the pot that had been brewing on the counter. “It was a long time ago, but I still remember too.” Her gentle features twisted in pain as old memories returned as if they’d happened yesterday.

“Thanks, I’d appreciate that.” He kept his eyes on his cup as she poured, to give her time to regain her control. It was as he watched her stiff movements and her halting gait that it sunk in that she really did understand. “That’s why you won’t let her have your knee fixed, isn’t it?”

“Exactly,” surprise and wonder were evident in her tone as she met his eyes once again. It was obvious Jenny had told him about the accident on the Lovell. “But can we keep it between ourselves? Jenny understands on an intellectual level, but her emotions, well...” she shrugged her shoulders. “Let’s hope she never has to find out for herself.”

For a moment Patsy’s eyes darkened and McQueen knew she was seeing into the distant past. The two in-vitros exchanged a knowing look that spoke of badges of courage and a tribute to those who hadn’t been as lucky as they had. They knew the exact cost of honor and hoped the young doctor would never have to pay it.

“Have you and Jen always lived on Catalina?”

“She was born on The Lovell. Professor Kirkwood was there doing research. I’ve never understood what possessed him to have his wife, Emma, with him. But because of that, my life was changed,” Pats shrugged. “Jenny told you about this didn’t she?” It was another surprise, Jenny never spoke of her parentage to anyone.

“A little bit, but what I’d really like to know is what it was like for you.” McQueen’s eyes met Patsy’s in a look of complete understanding, one in-vitro to another. Each seeing, in the other, what their life could have been.

“I had been stationed there for five months, when I was in an accident on one of the construction sites. My knee was crushed. The doctor did what he could for me, but I’m an in-vitro, and our Sickbay was rather primitive.” She could see that McQueen understood. “Afterward, I was terrified that they would send me to one of the pleasure stations.” She confided, ignoring the ghosts that haunted McQueen’s face. “It was a given that I wouldn’t be doing heavy labor again.” She pointed to her damaged knee.

“I was working in Sickbay, while they were trying to figure out what to do with me, when Emma Kirkwood was brought in. She was in an advanced stage of labor and bleeding badly. The Professor refused to leave her side, even when he was ordered out.

“They handed the baby to me as soon as she was born. The doctor was too busy trying to save Emma’s life, to deal with the living. But it wasn’t to be. Emma died an hour later. Jenny was left in my care for the next three days. I didn’t have a clue what to do, but I figured it out fast enough.” Patsy could only shake her head as she remembered fumbling with the tiny girl-child that would change her life.

“The next thing I knew I had agreed to help the Professor with the baby, if he bought out my indentured servitude. I found myself on a shuttle to Earth before the ink could dry on the papers.” She gave McQueen a knowing smile. “My plan at the time had been to get back to Earth and then run off somewhere. That changed the night before we landed. It was late. I had just fed Jenny and was rocking her to sleep. She felt warm and good against me. I looked down and that tiny baby opened her eyes and smiled at me. It was as if she looked deep into me and tugged at my heart. I’ve been with her ever since.

“I get the feeling you didn’t think much of Professor Kirkwood?” He had been listening to what Patsy hadn’t said, as much as to what she had.

She stood to get herself another cup of tea, using the time to think. “Exactly how much has Jenny told you?”

“Not much really. She mentioned growing up here and you, of course. She did say that her father had provided a home for the two of you. I think she was too busy keeping an eye on me, making sure I didn’t capsize her boat, to do much talking.” That wasn’t quite the truth, but it would do.

“Jenny let you sail the Windswept?” Patsy was caught off guard. Not only had Jenny talked to this stranger about her childhood, but she had let him sail her boat. No one but Jen ever sailed that boat, not even Lars, except when it wasva necessity due to maintenance. The Major’s presence in her kitchen took on a new meaning and she wasn’t sure how she felt about it.

“Most in-vitros think we have it pretty rough, because we don’t have parents; no one to love us and guide us as we mature. But having a parent isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, if it’s the wrong kind of parent.” Pats looked McQueen straight in the eyes. Jenny seemed to trust him. The older woman was going to see if he was worth that trust.

“There are parents that don’t love their natural born child. They don’t care about them as people. They are filled with anger and blame. Blame to the point of blocking out any feelings or paternal caring.” Patsy’s anger was boiling over. “Yes, you could say I didn’t think much of Harrison Kirkwood. May his soul never find peace in hell!”

“He treated Jen that way?”

The anger that was present on McQueen’s face was gratifying to Patsy. ‘Maybe this man wasn’t so bad after all?’

“He provided for her material needs. She had a home, a very good education, and he made sure I was here.” Patsy’s laughter was bitter, “But even that was for his own convenience. He knew nothing about me. I was an injured in-vitro who needed help, when he needed someone to care for his child. I was damn lucky it was only his child's needs he wanted taken care of.” She shuddered in distaste at the idea of that man touching her. “For all he knew I could have been a criminal or worse. The Professor planted his daughter here with strangers and took off. He visited about twice a year, to make sure she was progressing as the daughter of Harrison Kirkwood should, but that was it.

“I’m only 18 months older than Jenny in real time.” She smiled as she remembered all the happy times they’d had over the years. “I was savvy enough to keep us from dying young, but just barely. We terrorized this end of the island for a while. Thank goodness for understanding neighbors, and Magda and Lars!” She shook her head as she thought how foolish Jenny’s father had been.

The kitchen door rattled and Jenny returned with a gust of wind and rain at her heels. “I thought I was gone long enough for someone to have done the dishes?”

“No such luck, my girl. I cooked. You clean up. The house rules haven’t changed since you’ve been off the island.” Patsy grinned as she picked up the small black cat that had begun complaining because the younger woman’s noisy entrance had disturbed its nap.

After Jenny and McQueen had headed to their respective rooms for the night, Patsy sat in the living room, watching the glowing embers in the fireplace. Her tea was left to grow cold on the table beside her. ‘What’s going on in that head of yours, Jennifer Kirkwood?’ Something wasn’t right. She’d brought McQueen to Catalina when she’d never brought anyone here, not even a friend in college. She’d told him about her childhood. But most significant of all was that she’d trusted him to sail the Windswept. The boat was special to her and she didn’t trust easily. This man was different.

Patsy remembered the summer when Jenny was 11 and the two of them had decided to check out San Clemente Island. They had known that the Marines used it for war games, but had decided it would be fun to play Marine for the day. They had ended up as guests of the Corps for a number of hours. Harrison Kirkwood had been summoned from Berkeley. When he had finally secured their release, they had each received a severe dressing-down and were grounded for the rest of the summer. It had broken Jenny’s heart to spend three months on dry land. That was when she’d sworn, that one day, she would have a boat that no one could take away from her. The Windswept was that boat. It was the tangible evidence of her freedom.

To that day Pats didn’t know what threats Harrison had used to keep his daughter from rebelling, but they must have been something drastic, because she finally gave up trying to gain his approval. Though the habits she’d formed over the years were so ingrained, that she was still the classic overachiever. She’d graduating from high school at 15, UCLA at 17 1/2, and UCLA Medical School at 21. It had been a relief to the older woman when Harrison had died in Jen’s last year in medical school. It was one less graduation the Professor wouldn’t attend because he was too busy elsewhere.

Over the years Patsy had watched Jenny carefully construct a wall to keep the small hurts her father aimed at her from hitting their mark. Sometime in her teens that wall had been extended to include all men. There had been one small dent in Jen’s defenses in college. Pats’ remember her being excited about one of the boys who’d been on the sailing team with her. She was going to bring him home over spring break, but it hadn’t happened. She’d arrived on Catalina alone and refused to talk about the incident.

Now suddenly, she showed up with a man in tow. Why this man, why out of all the men in the world, did she choose him to open-up to? She had plenty of men friends, but she kept them at arms length. Anytime a man tried to get too close, Jenny sabotaged the relationship or ignored him until he went away. Patsy had been helpless to prevent it. Her own natural tendency toward distrust and lack of knowledge of how relationships worked prevented her from being any help to the girl she had raised

She was sure that Jenny was blind to the significance of McQueen’s presence in their home. He was her patient and that was all there was to it. The doctor in her would stay in command of the woman. Unfortunately, the woman behind the doctor was peeking out. Why him, an in-vitro who looked like he’d had a rough time of it?
The next morning, McQueen came down to find Jenny working in a study off the living room. She was seated at a large desk, her back to one of the many bookshelves that lined the walls of the room. There was a stack of wood in the fireplace opposite the desk, waiting to be lit. Cinders, the small cat that followed Jenny around was daintily licking her paws in the sun that beamed through one of the floor to ceiling windows at either end of the room. Like all the rooms he’d seen so far, this one, had a comfortable lived-in look. The chairs and small couch were placed in a way that invited people to sit and read.

“Good-morning,” he called out. Jenny had been lost in whatever she had been writing and didn’t hear him enter the room.

“Hi there, how did you sleep?” She looked up, her mind making the transition from her writing to her patient.

“Fine, great,” he sounded a bit sheepish. “I haven’t slept like that in a long time.”

“Good, I like to hear things like that.” She stretched in her chair.

“What’re you working on?” He wondered what could have her so absorbed. “Is it a Navy secret and if you tell me, you would have to shoot me?”

“Pleeaassee!” She rolled her eyes. “That’s a Marine thing. The Navy would never do that. We would send you swimming with hungry sharks.” She kidded as she decided if she would show him what she was writing. No one but Patsy and the agent from the publisher knew about the book. “Have a seat,” She indicated the chair on the other side of the desk, as she handed over a stack of paper, her decision made. “This is only the first two chapters. Let me know what you think.”

He scanned the first page: ‘In 1978, in England, Dr. Edwards, an embryologist, and his research partner Dr. Steptue, a gynecologist, succeeded in the first In-Vitro Fertilization. This break-through allowed thousands of couples that had been considered, until that time, infertile to conceive a child. By the year 1999, more than 20,000 IVF babies were born worldwide.

This step in the fight over infertility was looked upon as a gift, greeted with great joy by thousands of couples that couldn’t conceive through ‘natural’ means.

After the first few babies were born via IVF, as it was called then, no one looked askew at the practice. How a child was conceived, wasn’t important. There was no prejudice or glory. There was just a child.’

McQueen looked up, his eyes blue ice. “Are you writing what I think you’re writing?”

“I have no idea. What is it you think I’m writing?” Jenny stood, leaning across her desk at the angry man.

“It’s a history of in-vitros!” He moved around the desk, as he tossed the pages on the chair he’d been sitting in.

“You’ve got it in one, Major.” Her anger met his head-on. “It’s about time people learned the truth.”

“What truth is that?” McQueen stood nose to nose with the woman who made his insides jump with fear. If her book ever saw the light of day, it would bring a firestorm of hate down on her head.

“That a precious gift was bastardized along the way for in-utero borns’ convenience.” She was hurt that he didn’t understand. ‘Way to go, Jenny. And Patsy wonders why I don’t trust people, when they all let me down.’

“What are you trying to do?” he ground out, “Paint a big red bull’s-eye on your back for every bigoted son-of-a-bitch to take aim at, Lieutenant?”

“Don’t be ridiculous, and don’t try to pull rank on me, Major. You’re still my patient and doctor trumps patient any day of the week!” She was flushed with anger and disappointment. “Did you know that the first in-vitro gestation, in 2025, was only nine months long? There is no need to extent it to...”

“That’s not the point...”

“Yes it is....”

“What is going on here? I could hear the shouting from the garden.” Patsy walked into the study. Jenny and McQueen were inches apart, glaring at one another. He was leaning over the smaller woman crowding her, but she refused to back down. “I can see that she’s decided to show you her book.”

“I already know your opinion.” Jen didn’t shout, but her voice was strained.

“You know about this and you’re letting her write it anyway?” McQueen was shocked that the in-vitro woman didn’t understand the trouble Jen could be in if that manuscript was ever published.

“Oh pa-lease!” her voice oozed sarcasm as she glared at the angry couple. “Enough…both of you!” Patsy took a deep breath and reeled in her temper. “Sit down and talk this out like the adults I know you are.”

It was useless. McQueen couldn’t convince Jenny of the dangers of finishing her book. He was relieved to discover that Patsy agreed with him, but there was nothing that either in-vitro could do to stop the stubborn natural-born woman. It was a point that they had to agree to disagree on and let it drop.

“I’m going for a run and I’d rather not have company.” Jen had planned on inviting Ty, but the argument had left her feeling hurt and defeated. She needed time alone to restore her equilibrium. The two in-vitros were left with the echo of the back door as the angry woman banged out of the house, heading toward the cliff and the path to the beach.

“I’m afraid we disappointed her badly.” Patsy met McQueen’s eyes, still stormy from the recent argument. “You don’t usually come out on the losing end, do you?”

“Not if I’m still standing,” he sighed. “I worry for her safety. She doesn’t realize the trouble that book will cause her, if it ever gets published.”

“No, she doesn’t.” Pats touched his arm to get his attention. “You see, she really doesn't see the difference between in-vitro and in-utero born. To her it’s just a form of child neglect that in-vitros are gestated they way they are. And she considers the in-vitro training schools to be nothing short of child abuse.”

“She’s right, you know,” he whispered.

“Yes, but then you are too, Major. If that book is published there will be hell to pay and I’m terrified she’ll be the one who has to pay it.”

“Can’t you stop her someway?”

“I won’t use emotional blackmail. She’s had too much of that in her life already.” She thought of Harrison Kirkwood and damned him again to an eternity of hellfire and brimstone. “But there’s another reason as well. I can’t ask her to be less than she is, even if it would give me peace of mind.” Patsy wasn’t sure he knew enough about emotions to understand what she was saying so she used a reference she knew he could identify with. “She has a very strong code of honor.”

“Well, it’s liable to get her killed.”

“I keep hoping the publisher will change his minds.” Patsy shrugged. “Come on, I’ll get you some breakfast. From the direction she was headed it looks as if Jenny is taking the loop around the harbor. It usually takes her an hour but the way she was running today, I bet she’ll be back sooner than that. After you’ve eaten, wait for her on the beach. I’ll make cappuccino and you can meet her with it as a peace offering.”

Four weeks later Patsy gave a sigh of relief when Jenny arrived home alone. It was her first trip back, since she’d brought McQueen with her. He had been released from the detox program earlier in the week and had been recertified to fly. Though he had proven himself the morning when he had found out about Jenny’s book, Pats was glad there were a number of states between Jenny and the Marine Major.




Latest Month

September 2012


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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