Epilogue - Sweet Reconciliations
"Ranger Niko, you are on suspension pending an inquiry into the events on
Tortuna." Commander Walsh tried to look stern, but couldn't manage it. "However,
due to testimony from Gooseman and Cody, as well as your commanding officer and
Dr. Leahy, I'm sure you'll be back in uniform in less than a month. Officially,
all you did was disobey a direct order to stay off Tortuna."
"And unofficially? Do they know?" Niko sat in the chair, her back ramrod
straight, and Goose took her hand.
"I have released a copy of the sealed records from Green's World to Zach,
yes." The Commander's brown eyes softened. "He's the only one, and it'll stay
that way, the Board of Leaders be dammed. It was self-defence, and everyone
"It wouldn't have had to have been if I hadn't gone off half-cocked." She
looked away. "It was stupid."
"Now you listen to me," Goose stroked the inside of her palm. "I should
have told you everything, instead of trying to protect you from something you
needed to know."
"Damn right you should have," she reminded him. "If you ever lie to me
again..." she waggled a finger at him, cracking a smile.
"I won't." He caught her hand, and held both of hers trapped between his.
"The hearing isn't for another week, and you two still have those rooms
booked on Rees, so get back there. That's an order." Walsh leaned back in his
chair, fingers steepled. "I even covered Cody's tab, so the hotel should have
no problems with you returning whatsoever."
"You paid Wildfire's cheque?" Niko's eyes grew large.
"I take it out of both your salaries. Now get."
* * *
"Uncle Joe?" Karen stuck her head into Commander Walsh's quarters, dark
hair damp from showering after working out.
"Hey, kid." He motioned her inside. "What's on your mind?"
"I saw Niko and Goose leaving, heading back to Rees to finish their
vacation." She settled down next to him on the dark leather couch, shielding her
eyes from the late afternoon sun pouring in through the wall of windows.
"Yes, it took some finagling with the Board of Leaders, but I authorized
the leave. I can tell you're dying to ask."
"What happened? The records are sealed, and no one is talking. I know
Killbane has been put in cold storage in the cryocrypt with bananas for brain
"Karen, you know I can't tell you." He sighed, ruffling her hair.
"Oh come on, that's what I heard from everyone!"
"It's over, that's all you need to know."
"She's my friend." Karen scowled. "Okay, so maybe I haven't known these
people as long as everyone else, but--"
"I know, munchkin. But that's all I can tell you. If Niko wants to tell
you someday, that's her business."
"I know." She hugged her knees to her chest. "I just hate being left
* * *
Kort eyed them suspiciously, but didn't say a word as he unlocked the
suite, the baggage cart trailing behind him. When he stood there, looking
expectant, Goose growled at him, and he took off so fast Niko swore he may never
accept a tip again.
"You didn't need to scare him," she shook her head, smiling. He put his
arms around her, and she sighed. It took her a moment before she could fully
relax against him.
"Are you going to be okay?" he murmured against her hair.
"It may take some time," she looked up into his clear green eyes, being as
honest as she could, "but yeah. As long as I've got you, I'll be fine."
He smiled, and she kissed him. It was long a sweet, and full of all kinds
of promises. He was still smiling when they parted, and he stroked her hair,
"I think I can get used to this."
"Us," he kissed the tip of her nose, eyes bright, "and the short hair."
She laughed, then squealed as he swept her up in his arms and carried her
into the bedroom.
They sure as hell lived happily ever after.