Niko threw on an embroidered Japanese robe when the `com buzzed, tossing her wet
hair over her shoulder as she dashed for the terminal.
"Hi. Briefing is over. Want to catch some dinner before I'm confined to
quarters for the rest of my life?" Karen's smiling face filled the tiny screen.
"I think I'll have to pass." She fought to keep her face calm and betray
nothing. "Lunch tomorrow though?"
"Is Goose still in with the Commander?" She tried to sound uninterested
and nonchalant, and if Karen noticed any spark in her eye, she certainly didn't
comment on it.
"He was when I left, but he might be out by now." Just then the door
chimed, and she had to bid Karen goodnight, perhaps a bit too hastily, but then,
it had been a long day....
She fastened the robe a bit more securely around her, and then keyed the
door. Shane was in his black civies, hat and all, looking the proper cowboy.
She was feeling terribly self-conscious in the robe, and knew she was blushing
again. He presented her a single half open rose, and she worried at her bottom
lip, eyes shining as she took it carefully from his hands.
"If you wait a minute, I'll just change. I'm afraid I just got out of the
bath-" He ignored her protests, advancing until she was backed against the wall.
"Shane please-" She was blushing furiously, but he kissed her anyway. She
stiffened as his arms went around her, catching a sigh before it could pass her
lips. "It will just take me a minute, really...Shane..." she murmured against
his mouth, knowing if she didn't get dressed right away, pretty soon she wasn't
going to care... If it is always this way... The robe began to slip a bit, and
she managed to untangle herself from his embrace, ducking under his arm, color
high, clutching at the garment and laughing. "You stay here," she warned.
"Aye-aye ma'am." He saluted, still eyeing her hungrily, and she laughed
as she disappeared into the next room. Shane flopped down on her coach, smiling
to himself. Her hair had smelled of roses.
As she went through her closet, alternately considering and rejecting
objects from her scant off-duty wardrobe, Niko thought back to the last twenty
minutes of the journey back to BETA, the two of them sitting cross-legged in the
tiny cabin of the freighter, her head on his shoulder and they talked softly
about it all, from waking up together to how each had responded to the computer's
tests, and all the memories the past two years had given them.
"I though Supertroopers only got angry, and got mad." She emerged in
leggings and an oversized green sweater. "Since when do they give flowers?"
"When they are visiting the most beautiful woman alive," he pronounced,
leaning back on her couch to survey the final effect as she towelled dry her long
"Aren't you the silver-tongued devil all of a sudden. I bet you say that
to all the girls."
"You've been listening to Flynn's harem jokes?"
"The entire mountain has heard Flynn's harem jokes."
"I was framed, see-" She cut him off with her mouth, a very effective way
of shutting Shane Gooseman up, she mused as he ran his fingers through her damp
hair. I could get used to this... His hand slipped beneath her sweater, to
caress her back, trace her ribs with one finger. All too quickly, I'm afraid.
"Shane." She pulled back of her own accord, reluctantly. "As much as I
want to, hell, two years I've wanted to... But we can't do this."
"Why?" He continued to kiss her neck, nibble her ear.
"Can't we just take this slowly?" She gasped as he found the tender spot
where her neck joined her shoulder.
"It took us almost two years to get this far." He rested his forehead
against hers, smiling crookedly, lips mere inches from hers.
"Gooseman, please. Humor me in this one small thing. It's been less than
twenty-four hours." Her arms were still around his neck, and she toyed absently
with the fine hair at the base of his skull while he thought it through.
"Your wish is my desire, fair lady." He laughed, catching her hand and
pressing a kiss into her palm. "You hungry?"
* * *
The entire mountain was aware, before long, that something had happened on
Rishawn that was not in the official report. And of course there was the
cheshire cat smile that seemed to constantly be playing about Siobhan Flynn's
face as she went about her duties (it apparently had something to do with a rumor
of someone finding a certain two someones in a supply closet near the launch bay.
Flynn was guarding her sources well. No one knew exactly how much had gone on,
and "they weren't gonna find out, neither").
Walsh knew, though no one knew he knew, even Karen. Karen, who was still
on probation after following the S5's to Rishawn, had been questioned by every
curious tech, staff member, trainee and officer on the whole base. She
maintained she hadn't seen a thing, and was secretly thrilled beyond words that
she had been there when the other bloody shoe had finally, after almost two
years, dropped. She wished she had seen something, and asked after it, but Niko
was incredibly closemouthed about the whole thing. Even the official mission
report was vague and sketchy as to what the Rishawn "Computer" had been about.
If Doc and Zach suspected their friends had become more than friends, they
weren't telling. However, it had become the usual topic of conversation at the
Foxx household dinner table. Li'l Zach, who, at the worldly age of sixteen, was
protesting the diminutive quite loudly recently, had been hanging around the
Commissary, and overheard Flynn, and was dying to know everything. Jessy was
afire with questions, all of which usually included the word "romantic"
sandwiched in there someplace.
* * *
"I just don't know." Zachary Foxx shook his head, and Doc eyed him
curiously. Goose and Niko were sitting at a table by the holoscreen, completely
absorbed in whatever they were talking about, oblivious to the close scrutiny of
their commanding officer.
"What's not to know, Zach?" Doc was downright amused by the entire
situation. "Our Gooseman appears to have been bitten by the bug." Doc shrugged.
"It's not that I'm not happy for them, but at the same time I have to
worry. We all work so closely together, and BETA usually doesn't encourage
two..." He fumbled, looking for a word other than lovers, then gave up "whatever
they are at the moment, being in the same unit."
"They're professionals, Zach," Doc pointed out. "They may be acting like
horny teenagers at the moment," Zach chuckled at his friend's bluntness, "but
when it comes down to it, they're professionals through and through. And you
can't tell me you didn't see this one coming from a mile off."
"Doc, you're incorrigible."
"I do my best."
"You win anything in Flynn's pool?"
"Nah. Commander Walsh beat me out by two weeks. You?"
"I didn't bet." He shook his head. "I just didn't think it would be
"Well, yes. Of course, now I wish I had, because I was only two days off."
They laughed, and the objects of their remarks remained completely oblivious.
"Do you think they know that we know?" Doc took a sip of coffee, turning
the holo up a little, to drown their conversation.
"Probably." Zach shrugged, trying to remember if he and Eliza were as
blissfully unaware of life around them as Goose and Niko seemed to be.
"Do you think that they know that we know that they know?"
"I don't know."
"Make a guess."
"I'm not sure I understood the question." Zach laughed.