Disclaimer:All characters etc apart from the ones I've added belong to Glen Morgan, James Wong and Hard Eight Picture Incorporated and 20th Century Fox Television. I'm just borrowing them with love and affection, but without permission. No copyright infringement intended.

Like most people this is my first attempt at fan fiction. I love this series very much and I will fight as hard as I can like the rest of the Space fans to get it onto our screens again. I have spent ages toying with this story and have over 230 hand written pages of it with still more to go. This is what I have typed so far. It is basically a story about dealing with racial prejudice, new feelings and learning to deal with love, it also has fighting and other human issues involved. So far it is rated PG-13 for swearing and some violence but the rating will change as the story develops. All criticisms will be welcomed as I am not very good when it comes to the fighting scenes etc so all help will be appreciated. Captain Amberley Robertson and any others you may not recognize as this story unfolds are mine and may not be used without my permission. Several references will be made about different groups and their music, this was because it seemed right for the story. A big thanks and loads of virtual hugs to Jackie Dunlop and Jackie Flynn for reading through all my stories and listening to all my plots on the phone. Hey girls, I hope to see your fanfics on the internet real soon.

e-mail richart2@boat.bt.com

PG16-rated for some explicit love scenes


Always Faithful

by

Toya Richardson


PART ONE

Amberley gazed out at the stars from the small porthole on the ISSCV, wondering what the hell she was doing there. She cursed Colnel McQueen silently. Why had she let him persuade her to take up such a high profile post? But then she smiled knowing full well that she wouldn't have been happy in any other job. She'd been in the Marines since becoming eighteen, now she was twenty-six and although on many occasions she'd tried to deny it, she knew she was a lifer.

Thinking back to all that had happened to her in those eight years Amberley could feel much pain at all the friends, squadmates and her fiance that she had lost to the AIs and Chigs. This was what kept her going, knowing that she must fight on to destroy the enemy so that the next generation would not experience the pain that she had felt. Someone laughed, bringing her out of her reverie and she looked at the new recruits seated around her talking about the glorious battles against the Chigs that they would have. Amberley felt that she wanted to shout at them, tell them exactly what would happen to them, but why spoil their happiness, their illusions, that would happen all too soon without her help. Someone mentioned the Wildcards with an almost awed whisper. They were a legend in their own lifetime, everyone on Earth thought of them as the ultimate heroes. Amberley fought back the wave of panic that swept over her and the queasiness in the pit of her stomach. She chastised herself for being so stupid, but she did have reason for feeling this way especially as they were to be her new squadmates. Sure she'd fitted into new squads before but everyone knew what a tight team the Wildcards were and Amberley was concerned that it could be difficult. Oh well no use worrying about it now, it was too late for that, she just wished McQueen had told her how they felt about it. Just then she heard an audible clang, no more time for speculation, they had just docked with the Saratoga.


"Cooper will you quit pacin' up and down, you're drivin' me nuts!" Shane glared at him angrily from her bunk. "Yeah Cooper Shane's right just relax, how do you think she feels having to join a new squad? We've known each other for such a long time and she only knows what McQueen and the others have told her. Just imagine what she's going through now" Shane looked over at Vanessa Damphousse and smiled, what would she do without her. Her calm voice of reason always seemed to diffuse situations which could turn potentially volatile, especially where Cooper Hawkes was concerned. It wasn't his fault Shane mused, after all he was only six years old, the young Invitro still had a lot to learn.

To everyone's relief Cooper slumped onto his bunk. "Okay you guys win for the moment, but I'm tellin' you now if she don't fit in I'm gonna make sure she gets transferred McQueen or no McQueen". He looked at the others for support in what he said and finding none he fished a comic book out from under his pillow, put his CD player on loud and turned his back to all of them. Shane rolled her eyes skyward and hoped to God that it would all work out okay.


As the door on the ISSCV opened Amberley gathered up her gear, took a deep breath and got ready to disembark. Stepping out through the door she quickly surveyed the scene, people shouting orders to the new recruits who'd suddenly gotten real quiet and flight crews going about their business. Then her eyes fell on an imposing figure with silver grey hair, piercing blue eyes and the ever present black flightsuit, worn as a mark of respect for the Angry Angels, Colnel McQueen. She made her way slowly to where he was standing and noticed as usual that his gaze was impassive, although she was sure she could see the trace of a smile on his face. Amberley stood in front of him and gave him a crisp salute. "At ease Captain Robertson, welcome aboard the Saratoga."

She smiled. "Thank you sir, it's good to be here"

"If you follow me I'll take you to the briefing room and then on to meet the Wildcards. Nervous?" This question threw her slightly she hadn't expected him to say that but she recovered herself before he noticed. "Yes sir in some ways I am, who wouldn't be?" He nodded his approval, obviously she had said the right thing. As they walked the rest of the way in silence she again thought about things gone by.

Amberley had had trouble when she first joined the Marines. She had been one of the lucky natural borns who had grown up with no prejudice against Invitros, her father had several working on his farm. He had been a Marine up until the end of the AI wars, he was disgusted at the way that Invitros had been treated and had grown sick of it so he left. He'd served with McQueen and respected him greatly.

Amberley had Invitro friends back on Earth and was always loyal to them. This had all been discovered when she joined her first squad and she had gone through pure hell because she refused to denounce them. If it hadn't been for Colnel McQueen she would have been drummed out of the Corps or even lost her life. At that point her thoughts came to an end as McQueen came to a halt outside the briefing room.

McQueen gave her an insight into the running of the Saratoga and a brief lowdon on the Wildcards. "The only one who might get cranky about you joining is Lieutenant Cooper Hawkes. He wasn't too sure about having an additional member join his "family", he gets very protective of them and isn't too good with outsiders. That's another reason I thought you'd be good for the squad, considering your track record" Amberley smiled. "I'll try my best Colnel I'm sure I can handle the situation" McQueen smiled he knew if anyone could it would be her. He looked at her face intently and saw a touch of doubt. He had to be sure that she had no concerns about this posting. "Robertson is there anything else you want to ask?" She looked at him determindley. "Just one thing Colnel. Does Captain Vansen know that she's still honcho, that I haven't come to take over? That could cause unecessary resentment" McQueen nodded his approval. "No everything is fine where that issue is concerned. Okay that's the briefing over if there are no more questions I'll take you to meet your new squadmates" She shook her head and with another deep breath exited from the room.


The door to the Wildcards quarters opened and everyone stood to attention as Colonel McQueen entered followed by the new Wildcard. "At ease everyone I'd like to introduce you to your new squadmate Captain Amberley Robertson" Amberley stepped forward as she was introduced and shook everyones hand in turn. "And finally this is Lieutenant Cooper Hawkes" She hardly heard McQueen's voice as she shook hands with Hawkes. Amberley looked up to be met by the most beautiful blues eyes she had ever seen, but she could see much anger and insecurity in those eyes. She thought how handsome he was towering over six foot and powerfully built. She saw his eyes soften slightly as she stared at him. She tried to keep her face impassive but she didn't know how well she'd done and she was sure she'd seen a look of surprise on his face too. It was all over in a few seconds but it seemed to last forever.

Amberley didn't realise that two people had noticed the exchange between them and she didn't see the look of amusement on Vanessa Damphousse's face or the look of concern on Colnel McQueen's. "Okay I'll leave you all to get acquainted, your next mission brief will be at 10.30 hours tomorrow" With that McQueen turned and exited the room. The noise of the door closing sounded so loud Amberley nearly jumped out of her skin.

Looking around her new home she had to smile.

"I'd forgotten how small these quarters can be."

Shane laughed. "Yeah you're right about small, my room back home is bigger than this. I'll show you where you can stow your gear and there's a spare bunk over there". Amberley smiled warmly at Shane and followed her to the lockers. Cooper came storming up behind her as she was putting things away.

"Why did McQueen assign you to us we don't need anyone else you don't know jack about us and you'll never fit in" She smiled up at him and his anger seemed to melt away, he didn't want that to happen he wanted to feel anger, to drive her away from his family.

"Hawkes cut that out now or I'll see you're up on a charge. McQueen had his reasons and if you bothered to pay attention to what you're being told you'd know she's more than capable of fitting in" Shane groaned inwardly, this she could do without. Shane was surprised to see that Amberley was still smiling, Cooper shouting like that normally scared the hell of people.

"It's okay Shane. Hey, Cooper I'm not here to upset anybody. I wanna fit in and if you could give me a chance I'll try and do my best I can't say fairer than that can I?" One look at her smiling face again and Cooper felt all his defences fall.

What the hell was it about her, she made him feel real confused.

"Yeah well okay, but I'll be watchin'" With that he threw himself down on his bunk again.

"Well Amberley if you're about settled in I think we should take you to see the delights of the Tun Tavern" Nathan West grinned at her but she could see sadness beneath the smile.

"Man is she in for a treat, hey Amberley I hope you'll get over the excitement before the briefing tomorrow" She laughed at Paul Wang and looked at Shane.

"Hmm I'm not sure you guys are always this cheerful, is this just to make me feel better?"

Shane grimaced. "Stick around and you'll find out."

Cooper saw Amberley throw some things on her bunk and watched as she shook her hair free from it's pony tail. She shook her hair upside down and as she stood up he watched it fall around her shoulders. He'd never seen hair like it, it was deep rich auburn and hung in wild curls down to her shoulders. The only thing he could think it reminded him of was the setting of the sun. Amberley must have felt him looking at her because she looked straight at him smiling all the while. For some reason he felt embarassed that she'd caught him and felt he had to get out.

"C'mon guys are we gonna wait around here all night or what?" With that he strode from the room.

"Guess that's our cue to leave..." Everyone grinned and left the room.

As they reached the Tun Amberley laughed softly.

"Wow, so this is the highlight of the Saratoga huh?"

Vanessa Damphousse leant near to Paul. "Better get this woman to the infirmary at the double before the excitement gets too much for her."

They made their way to the 'cards usual table and sat down.

"Well as I'm the new girl I'd better go get the drinks."

Nathan grinned at her. "I knew I was gonna like this girl, I'll give you a hand."

She stood up and saluted him. "Okay Lieutenant, lead me to the bar."

Cooper watched them go, he was getting really mad he didn't want to like her but he couldn't help it maybe it would wear off, maybe if he kept getting at her she'd go away.

"Well what do you think of her so far?" Shane listened to Vanessa as she watched Amberley and Nathan chatting at the bar.

"Well it's still early but on first impressions she seems okay to me, I guess we'll find out just how good she is when we've completed a mission together as a team, she's gotta a good track record though."

Cooper grunted. "Well I still ain't convinced, I don't care how many black ops she's takin' part in or how many medals she's got I don't trust her".

Shane was about to explode, Hawkes was really bugging her about this.

"Well you'd better listen CFB Hawkes, there may come a time where you've gotta trust her to save your ass or you may have to save hers. I don't know what your problem is with her but you'd better deal with it pretty quick!" He just glared at Shane and settled into a sulky silence.

As Amberley and Nathan made their way back to the table she could sense that something had taken place she didn't know what but she decided to let it pass. Watching Cooper sulk made her want to laugh he reminded her of her nephew when he was about four he used to look just like Cooper did now, but he also used to roll about the floor too. She quickly stifled a giggle as she imagined Cooper rolling about on the floor having a tantrum. He must have caught her grinning and he glared at her. Okay she thought if you want a fight then you've got it I can be stubborn too. The rest of the evening passed uneventfully and mostly consisted of smalltalk just to break the ice and get to know each other. Amberley knew it would take a little while to be really close but she was happy to take it slow as she could feel that the potential for her to fit in was there all she had to do was to convince them.


The next morning at 10.25 hours the Wildcards entered the briefing room to see McQueen and Commodore Ross already there. Everyone stood to attention.

"At ease 5-8 please sit down" Ross looked at each one of them he was proud of this squad they were the best in the whole Corps as far as he was concerned and the new recruit Captain Robertson, he'd heard good things of her from McQueen, praise from him was praise indeed. "Welcome to the Saratoga Captain Robertson".

Amberley smiled. "Thank you Commodre Ross it's an honour to be here."

McQueen took over. "Okay listen up people, your mission today is as follows. You will be taken by APC to the planet Omega where you will take pictures and gather intelligence about the Chigs mining operations"

"Oh man not another recon mission when do we get to fly our Hammerheads again?" Shane wanted to get Hawkes, lift him up by the collar and shake him.

"Lieutenant Hawkes recon is just as important as flying around in your Hammerheads, anymore wisecracks like that and I'll see that you're grounded from flying period" McQueen's voice cut through them all like a whip and Cooper visibly paled under the dark glare he was receiving from McQueen.

After showing them a holographic image of Omega he gave them their coordinates.

"You leave in 40 mikes, this mission is to take no more than 12 hours so set your chronometers, ready, ready, hack. Keep safe 5-8" They all stood to attention once again as Ross and McQueen exited the room, and then relaxed slightly.

"You heard the Colnel this mission is as important as all other missions we have undertaken. I don't wanna hear any bitching about it, did you get that Hawkes" Cooper just glared at Shane but he did nod, it was better than nothing.

As they made their way to the APC Amberley was deep in thought and nearly tripped over Shane.

"Everything okay Robertson?" Amberley looked up to see concern on Shane's face.

"Yeah I'm fine I'm always quiet before a mission, it's just the way I deal with it". Shane just smiled and they carried on. As they settled themselves on the APC Amberley felt someone's eyes burning into her, she looked up to see Hawkes staring beligerently at her. In return she just smiled at him and he stared down at his feet. Nathan leaned over to her and whispered so Cooper couldn't hear.

"How did you learn to do that?"

Amberley grinned. "I'll tell you after the mission, believe me if he wants to play games I know every trick in the book. It comes with having Invitro friends"

Nathan choked back a laugh. "I'll look forward to it."

At that point they were told that they were 10 mikes away from their destination.

"Okay everyone as soon as we land we need to find a suitable place for a foxhole. Wang, you're with West, Damphousse is with me and Hawkes you're with Robertson, we'll be half a click apart" Cooper looked up with anger showing on his face and was about to shout the odds when Shane got there first. "Hawkes we need to work together as a team on this, if you've gotta problem with this you'd better deal with it fast is that clear?" He didn't answer and Shane could see the rage building in him, she stood nose to nose with him. "Deal with it Hawkes IS THAT CLEAR!!"

His reply came out as a growl. "Yes Captain".

Amberley was surprised at Shane's decision and as they disembarked Amberley spoke quietly to Shane.

"Wow Captain, you sure believe in a baptism of fire, good job I've drawn up my last will and testament".

Shane just grunted. "Okay people let's move, move, move".

As they spread out Cooper came face to face with Amberley.

"You'd better keep up with me as I ain't hangin' back to wait for ya!"

She stared right back at him, she could feel anger rising in her but she wasn't going to give in to it. "Let's just get one thing straight Hawkes, I've already told you I'm gonna fit in and I'm here to stay whether you like it or not, so let's get movin' we've gotta job to do. If you wanna fight about this let's wait until we're back on the Saratoga" With that they set off.

It took them about thirty mikes to find decent shelter and another twenty to dig the foxhole. Cooper grudgingly admitted to himself that Amberley was fit enough and had matched him pace for pace but he wasn't going to trust her that easily it would take more than that. They took pictures of all Chig movements in the air and after three hours they had started to see a pattern in their movements.

"Damphousse, West and Wang you stay here and keep watching the movement in the sky, Robertson and Hawkes come with me we need to see what's happening at the mining facility. It's located two clicks away to the north, maintain radio silence and we'll return in three hours. If there is any change to the plan we'll radio you" They all nodded their agreement to Shane.

Cooper was about to say something but thought better of it when Nathan shot him a warning look that meant Shane was on the warpath and wouldn't take any prisoners.

It didn't take them long to find the mine. They had crawled up a small hill and could see right down into a valley where the mine was situated.

"Man this place is crawlin' with AIs. Hey I could pop most of 'em off before they knew what had hit them" Cooper grinned evily at Shane.

"Hawkes don't even think about it. We're here to observe and not to engage the enemy. Understand?" He shook his head and mumbled something under his breath.

"Captain Vansen, there seems to be a lot of activity over the other side should we skirt round and take a closer look?"

"Good idea Robertson lets move round to the left, Hawkes you stay here and keep look out" He started to protest but thought better of it as Shane gave him her warning look which meant she was getting pissed with his attitude.

"Yes sir, Captain"

With that the two women moved off slowly. They were amazed at the amount of activity they could see and then Amberley's heart froze in her mouth. Below her she could see her worst nightmare.... many more AI's. Shane felt her tense as she had seen them at the same time.

"Yeah Robertson I see them too, you okay?"

Amberley took a deep breath. "Yes I'll be fine" But Shane was sure she'd seen pain and fear etched on Amberley's face but as quick as it had been there it disappeared again. Then they both saw a further horror.

"Jesus, they've got POWs down there. This just gets worse" Shane grunted in reply. "I think we've seen enough let's get back to Hawkes".

Amberley smiled bleakly. "Roger that"

"What kept you two I thought you were havin' a party down there."

"Can it Hawkes unless you want Chigs and AIs down on your ass"

"What's goin' on down there?"

Amberley replied. "They've got POWs down there, masses of them" Cooper heard the fear in her voice, he wanted to taunt her and tell her she was too weak for this mission if she got upset so easy, but the fear and pain in her face made him stop.

"Okay let's move it back to the others and wait for our extraction point" They moved off silently when Amberley noticed something under the dirt.

"Hawkes don't put your foot down!!" He turned to swear at Amberley when he noticed a small hump under the surface of the dirt. Chig landmine. He carefully hopped to the side of it.

"Man that was close" He looked up guiltily at Amberley. "Um thanks"

Amberley grinned tightly at him. "No problem Hawkes. Just remember you owe me now"

"Okay that's enough skipchatter just watch your step" They both nodded at Shane and kept moving.


When they were all seated on the APC. Paul noticed that Amberley was grinning from ear to ear and Cooper looked embarassed.

"Hey guys what happened down there? Man, Amberley you look like the cat that got the cream"

Amberley smiled and winked at him. "Hey Paul don't ask me, ask Lieutenant Hawkes"

All eyes turned to Cooper, and his face flushed red.

"Um I'll tell ya later okay?" Paul stared at him curiously.

"Well I'm gonna tell them now. Someone saved his ass down there when he nearly stood on a landmine and it sure as hell wasn't me" They all grinned at Shane and then turned to Cooper.

"Okay so maybe I was wrong. I said thanks to Amberley"

Just then the APC docked with the Saratoga and Amberley couldn't resist what she did next. She walked up to Cooper and whispered in his ear, but loud enough for the others to hear.

"Hawkes, don't forget you owe me one and your ass is mine" He looked dumbfounded as she walked away. Nathan couldn't believe it.

"Man, Cooper's speechless, this has to be a first" They all laughed.

"Yeah this has to be a first" Vanessa laughed softly. Amberley walked towards the briefing room and shook her hair free of the pony tail, God how she hated it tied back. Shane walked up beside her.

"I hate mine tied back too. You give up a lot for the war but not the hair" Amberley laughed and clapped her hand on Shane's shoulder.

"You're right there Shane. I love my hair far too much to have it cut off for the Marines" Both women laughed. McQueen had watched the exchange and felt relief, he was sure there would be no problems with them being a team now. He watched Cooper also as he stared at Amberley when she let her hair loose. He wasn't sure but the look he'd seen on Cooper's face was akin to infatuation. He made a mental note to keep an eye on that situation.

As they made their report in the briefing room they could see the look of surprise on McQueen's face. Obviously he had not expected any POWs to be there.

"Okay 5-8 you've done well today go shower and have a meal you've earned it"

As they made their way to the showers Amberley couldn't help feeling that they hadn't seen the last of Omega. She fought the panic that rose within her. She knew she'd have to tell the rest of the 'cards why she felt this way soon. It would have to be done before they went back down to Omega, they all had a right to know regardless of the pain it would cause her in remembering.


As they sat back in their quarters the talk turned to the events of the last mission.

"Hey do ya reckon we'll be going back down to Omega again?" Shane looked across at Cooper thoughtfully.

"I would say that's a certainty Coop. Someone's gonna have to rescue those POWs"

Cooper grinned tightly. "Yeah, I can't wait to waste them AIs. Man I hope we go soon" Everyone looked at him and nodded in agreement. Cooper looked at Amberley who sat cross legged on her bunk. He was amazed to see fear in her face this also annoyed him, the last thing the 'cards needed was a coward. He got up from his bunk and stood right in front of Amberley.

She looked up at him and could see the sneer he had on his face. Shit this was all she needed, she knew this was going to turn into a fight but if that's what he wanted then that's what he'd get.

"You gotta problem Hawkes?" He looked at the defiant exprerssion on her face and the tide of anger rising in her eyes making them turn from grey-blue do deep grey.

"Nah I don't think I gotta problem, I think the problem is you"

Amberley stood up slowly like a cat getting ready to pounce on its prey. The room went silent and everyone stared as Amberley stood nose to nose with Cooper, most people would've shied away but not Amberley. No one knew what she was like when a rage took hold of her but they were about to find out.

"Robertson I think you're a coward, I seen the look of fear you had down on planet" He moved closer to her so that they were almost touching.

"Hawkes that's enough back off" Shane could feel the tension in the air, damn she could do without this. Amberley spoke without looking at Shane.

"It's okay Shane let him say what he's gotta say and then I'll say my piece" Shane agreed but it was against her better judgement, she could see that the others were ready to assist if she needed it. Christ why didn't Amberley back down.

Cooper looked a little uncertain but he'd gone too far to stop now.

"Yeah I saw ya when you got sight of those AIs you were scared. You don't know jack about how bad AIs can get, you ask Paul or Shane. I knew you'd be trouble an' I'm gonna make sure that you get transferred"

That was it, something snapped inside of her she wasn't going to take this crap from him, she started speaking to him pushing him backwards as she went.

"Oh mister high and mighty and what the fuck would you know about my situation huh? How the hell do you think you know anything about me. I was gonna tell you all quietly about this but you wanna be a hard man then this is how it was"

Cooper was amazed at the hostility in her voice but he was so shocked he just stood there open mouthed.

"About a year ago I was assigned to a mission to rescue POWs from a mining installation on the planet Invicta" Everyone stared at each other, most Marines had heard of that rescue it had been a real bloody battle against the AIs and lots of people had lost their lives but against all odds they managed to bring back most of the POWs alive. Amberley took a deep breath and continued.

"I entered the mining facility with the rest of my squad and my fiance's squad. We managed to secure the facility and got all the POWs out in one piece. I noticed that Simon was missing so I fell back to see if he needed assistance. The next thing I know I've been smacked on the head and out cold. When I woke I was tied to chair and had a gun shoved in my mouth. Sitting in a chair opposite me was another Marine who was so badly beaten it took me a while to realise it was Simon. He too had a gun in his mouth"

Cooper was horrified to see tears running freely down her face, he felt ashamed, he'd caused this. He tried to turn away but she grabbed his arm roughly.

"Oh no you don't you started this you can damn well stand there and listen. A Felicity model stood in front of me and said. I roll the dice pick odds or evens, you win you live and he dies or if he wins you die and he lives. I said I couldn't choose so they made Simon. He lost and before I could say goodbye they blasted his brains out right in front of me" Everyone in the room looked horrified. Amberley looked up at Cooper with so much anger and hurt in her face that it made him flinch.

"So Cooper yeah, I am scared. I know how cruel the AIs can be and yeah, I am scared of them. But don't you dare ever call me a coward again. I go where I'm told and I'll do whatever job I have to do, if it means going down to Omega and blasting the AIs to kingdom come I'll do it. But if you think I'm leaving the Wildcards because you hate me then you've got it all wrong. I'm here to stay so deal with it, buddy"

She pushed him roughly out of her way and ran out the door.

"Cooper you idiot what the hell did you do that for, what has she ever done to you to make you dislike her so much?" Nathan stared in utter disbelief at Cooper, he knew he was still learning about people but that outburst was out of order.

Cooper looked completely lost, he just stood there in complete shock and waited for the outburst that would come from Shane.

"What the hell were you thinkin' of Hawkes huh? Did you have to be so cruel, you've been gettin' at her since she started. You'd better go apologise now" Cooper looked totally ashamed.

"But I dunno where to find her" Shane looked straight at him.

"Then you'd better start lookin'" with that he flew from the room.

"Shane do you think that was the right thing to do sendin' Hawkes after her? He's done enough already"

Shane grinned tightly. "Yeah I know but he's gotta learn that he needs to take responsibility for his actions an' if Amberley decides to hit him then he'll have to deal with it"


Amberley ran blindly along trying to find somewhere she could be on her own. She came across the gym and stumbled inside and slid limply to the floor her face and t-shirt wet with tears. God she felt so alone, talking about Simon had brought back all the pain and she could feel it as clearly as she did then. But she couldn't see Simon's face all she could see was Cooper, she shook her head trying to forget the hurt look on his face as he realised that he'd said too much. She tried to convince herself that he'd deserved it but she of all people knew that he didn't really understand what he'd said. Amberley shut her eyes against the headache which now throbbed behind her eyes, and thought perhaps she would think about transferring.

Cooper searched most of the Saratoga looking for Amberley, he was now beginning to panic. What if she did something stupid. He was feeling real bad about the way he'd treated her she'd been with them two days and he'd upset her real bad. If only he'd known, Christ why did he have to be stupid. He found himself outside the gym. He quietly opened the door and the sight that met his eyes made his heart break. Amberley was sitting on the floor with her head resting against the wall and her eyes shut, tears streaming down her face. If only he hadn't run away from the Invitro training facility he may know what the hell he could say. At that moment Amberley looked up at him, that made him feel worse than ever actually seeing the hurt he had caused her.

"Come to have another pop at me Hawkes or have you come to laugh? Well go on then you can't make it any worse than it is"

He looked at all her red hair framing her face and he realised how beautiful she was, he realised that perhaps the anger he felt was not because he disliked her but because he liked her.

"Um I dunno what to say. I'm real sorry about what I said I shouldn't have done that" She just kept staring at him. "Oh shit Amberley I'm sorry okay? I ain't no good with this word stuff, I'm sorry about Simon an' I promise I'll never do it again" He stood looking awkwardly at his feet. Amberley slowly got to her feet and walked over to him. Cooper flinched waiting for her to hit him, it wouldn't have been the first time a natural born woman had. But he knew that this time he deserved it. He was surprised that she just stared at him. She gently touched his arm.

"Look Cooper shall we just start all over again huh? We'll pretend that none of this ever happened and start as if we've just met okay?" She smiled warmly at him and he realised just how lovely she looked, he felt shy all of a sudden.

"Er yeah okay, but um are you sure about this I feel I've been real bad". She patted his back.

"Let's just put it down to experience okay? We'll start as if we've just met okay?" She held her hand out to Cooper who shook it gently relief flooding through him. He went to say something else and she stopped him.

"Look Cooper, I needed to get it out of my system anyway and I think you've probably helped me more than hurt me so don't say anymore. We'd better get back to our quarters at the double else Shane and the others will think we're probably killing each other". Cooper smiled shyly and together they walked back to their quarters.


Over the next two weeks the others were amazed at the change in Cooper and Amberley's relationship, they were becoming great friends and on each mission they worked well together. One evening in the Tun Paul had joked to Vanessa that it could be more than just friendship. She told him not to be so dumb but she did wonder herself.


At 05.00 hours, just over two weeks after their recon mission to Omega they made their way to the briefing room for yet another mission.

"Hey you think it's gonna be another recon mission or will we get to go in our Hammerheads again, man I sure miss bein' in mine" Nathan smiled at Cooper.

"Who knows Coop, maybe it might be a trip to Bacchus we must be due for some more R&R, especially since we had to cut our visit short last time". Shane rolled her eyes skyward.

"I don't think that's what the Colonel has in mind, at least not this early. Anyway focus your thoughts on the mission ahead, you can kiss goodbye to R&R that will be a long time comin'."

As they entered the briefing room Amberley suddenly had a feeling that this mission was going to be a bad one. Afterwards she could never understand how she knew, as it had never happened to her before but it was just a feeling. She was gazing into space as she stopped outside the door. Cooper looked at her full of concern.

"Hey Amberley are you okay?" She looked up to see the worry in his big blue eyes, and she found she had to tear herself away before she became lost in them.

"Yeah Cooper I'm fine, honestly" She gave him a big warm smile and he grinned at her, he always felt good when she smiled that way.

They took their seats along with the other squads, everyone spoke in hushed whispers until Ross and McQueen came through the doors. Everyone stood to attention in unison.

"At ease people, sit down" At Ross's words everyone became seated. McQueen stood in front of a holographic image of a planet, a planet Amberley and the rest of the 5-8 remembered well. Omega. Amberley felt a chill creep through her body and knew this was going to be history repeating itself. What she didn't see was the worried looks on the faces of the rest of the 5-8, they knew what she had gone through on Invicta when she'd lost her fiance. But Shane knew she was a Marine, a professional, who had received a purple heart for her bravery on that mission and although she had only been with them a couple of weeks she knew that Amberley was the only person who could fit in with them, especially as she knew just how to deal with Hawkes. It was wierd really it just felt as if they had always been together.

McQueen's voice brought her back to the present time.

"Okay listen up people, this mission is gonna be a tough one. After various recon missions to this planet, the planet Omega, we have finally worked out a plan on how to rescue the POWs kept down there" Amberley could feel that uneasy feeling coming back to haunt her and she kept seeing visions in her head of someone being shot. But it wasn't Simon like before.....it was Cooper. She heard Colonel McQueen explain what they had to do on planet but all Amberley could see was Cooper being shot, over and over again.

McQueen knew of Amberley's past and he knew this was going to be an extremely difficult time for her but he knew that she had to keep focussed. What McQueen did next shocked Amberley but she was also grateful, at least it would take her mind off things for the moment.

"Captain Robertson as you've been on a similar mission to Invicta it may be of some help if you could give us an idea of any hidden traps and where exactly on planet the POWs are being kept" He looked encouragingly at her as she rose to go to the front of the room. She saw the 5-8 all look at her with encouragement and that gave her heart.

As she started talking it felt like someone else was talking and she was watching, it was a real wierd feeling.

"As the recon reports have shown you're not likely to encounter Chigs, they normally leave the AIs to guard the POWs as they seem to be more ruthless and have no scruples about torturing POWs. The prisoners are most likely to be kept on the lower levels inside the mining faciltiy, as this makes escape more difficult and more difficult for any rescue attempt. There won't be any booby traps in the mining facility again for the same reasons, they won't expect anyone to make a direct attack on it".

Her throat felt dry but she carried on, she was determined that she would get through this okay.

"You will however encounter booby traps outside the facility. We discovered landmines about a click away from the facility and no doubt there will be buzzbeams in the same vicinity. You can expect to find these booby traps between one and four clicks out, so be on your guard" As Amberley finished she looked to the Colonel who nodded in thanks, and she made her way back to her seat.

"Well done Robertson you did good out there" Amberley smiled at Shane.

"Thanks"

"Okay you ship out in forty mikes. Good luck out there and be careful" With that McQueen and Ross walked from the room. As the 5-8 walked through the door Colonel McQueen was waiting for them. He knew they had one of the most difficult tasks which was to enter the facility and get the POWs out and set charges to blow the mine.

"Good luck 5-8, watch your sixes out there and come back safely" He turned to Amberley.

"Good work in there Robertson" She smiled at him.

"Thanks Sir"

Cooper had been watching Amberley and felt something like pride at the way she handled the situation, he wanted to say something to her, to give her encouragement but he wasn't sure how. He plucked up courage and tapped her on the shoulder. She gave him her big warm smile, it always did things to him, made him feel good. He didn't know what this feeling was but it didn't feel like it did with Shane and Vanessa or for that matter with Nathan and Paul. He'd have to ask Nathan about this another time, he'd know what it was.

"What do you want Coop?" He faltered a bit as he said.

"Um Amberley, I just wanna let you know that nothin's gonna happen to you or the other guys down there right? I'm gonna be there for you okay?" She smiled again and touched his arm, that made him feel good.

"Hey thanks Coop and I'll promise that nothing will happen to you either" With that they made their way to the APC.


As the Marines exited the APC they all made their way to complete their given missions. As the 5-8 made their way to the mining facility Amberley kept getting flashes of times gone by. She ignored them and concentrated on the task in hand, she didn't need any distractions now. As they came to the front of the facility Shane gathered them all around her.

"Okay the other two squads have already engaged the AIs inside, while they are distracted we'll make our way through the side of the mine. Amberley you're point with me, West you go to the left, Damphousse and Wang to the right and Hawkes you watch our sixes" They all nodded and started to move out. At least there were troops deployed outside too thought Amberley, at least they had more support than she had had on Invicta.

Amberley felt an eerie feeling as she entered the mine, it was almost the same design as the one on Invicta it felt really wierd to her. They engaged hardly any AIs as they made their way to where the POWs were held. As they reached the lower levels they saw rows of what can only be described as animal pens, in these were kept the POWs.

"God these guys look so ill, man it's gonna be tough gettin' them outta here" Shane had to agree with Paul.

"Yeah Wang but were gonna do it, we can't leave them here" As the other squads got into position they began to steadily move the prisoners to safety.

"Robertson let's get these explosives planted so we can get the hell outta here"

Amberley nodded "Roger that" Shane turned to face the others.

"Hawkes and West you stay and give us cover, Wang and Damphousse make your way to the surface and give the POWs some cover" With that they moved to their tasks. As Amberley and Shane finished they started to make their way to the entrance of the mine.

"Well, well there are still Marines left here and what have you carbonite bastards been up to?" Amberley jumped at the sound of the Silicates and the Wildcards opened fire. There were only three AIs so they quickly disposed of them. Cooper was in front with Amberley and Shane bringing up the rear. Just as the girls got to the entrance an AI jumped out in front of them, he saw the name on Amberley's flightsuit.

"Ah Robertson so good to see you again, Simon sends his love" Then the AI played back the sound of the last few minutes of her fiance's life. This tipped her over the edge and she flew at the Elroy model. All the months of pain, fear and hurt surged to the surface as she knocked him to the ground.

She managed to shoot him at close range as Shane watched in amazement, surprised at the ferocity of Amberley's attack.

"C'mon Robertson we've gotta go" She dragged Amberley to her feet as Cooper came running back to see what the problem was he too was amazed at the anger in her that he thought only he was capable of. They ran towards the extraction point with Amberley and Cooper bringing up the rear. Out of the corner of his eye Cooper saw another AI raise his gun at Amberley.

"No!!" He shouted and pushed her hard to the ground. Amberley's head smashed to the surface so hard that she saw stars and almost blacked out. She heard a gun shot ring out and then another and then silence.

Cooper was laying heavily on top of her.

"Coop, Coop get up quick we have to move!" There was no response. She shouted for Shane who came running back with Nathan.

"Quick get him off me I think he may be hurt!" Amberley almost screamed it out, then she saw the look on Nathan's face.

"West what's the matter? Is he okay?" He looked worriedly at Amberley.

"He's taken a bullet at the top of his leg, we have to get him on the APC now, he's bleeding badly!" Shane and Nathan managed to half drag Cooper from her, she was aware of a searing pain on the side of her head and something warm and sticky running down her face. She assured them she was okay and together they ran full tilt to the waiting APC, dragging Cooper between them.

Paul had also taken a bullet in the arm but was okay, Amberley felt really sleepy but they kept her awake. Cooper on the other hand was out cold. Amberley watched as Vanessa tried to apply pressure to Cooper's leg. All she could think about was that it was all her fault. She started to shake, if he died because of this wound she'd never forgive herself. Shane looked at her full of concern.

"Amberley are you okay?"

"It's all my fault, I caused this. Oh God I promised I wouldn't let anything happen to him. I've let him down. It's all my fault" Amberley was wringing her hands in grief and her face had turned white.

Vanessa whispered to Shane. "She's going into shock we've gotta keep her mind occupied" Shane shook Amberley.

"C'mon Robertson snap out of it. Apply pressure to Hawkes wound and don't stop until we get back to the Saratoga and the medics take over is that understood?" This brought Amberley back to the present and she nodded obediently and walked as if in a trance over to where Cooper lay, ashen faced.

"Well done Shane" Paul said. "That's taken her mind off other things for the moment" Shane smiled grimly back, hoping that Cooper came out of this okay, otherwise it might send Amberley over the edge.

As they docked with the Saratoga Shane shouted for the medics.

"Amberley you can let go now the medics are here, they'll look after Cooper and you need help too" She didn't respond to Nathan's request she just stood there holding Cooper's leg and staring into Space. McQueen boarded the APC with concern etched on his face.

"Vansen what's happening here?"

"Sir Hawkes saved Robertson from a sniper's bullet but has taken a bad hit at the top of his leg. She's suffering from shock after a blow to the head and keeps blaming herself for Hawkes injury."

McQueen walked up to Amberley.

"Robertson let the medics take over now, you need attention too" He added softly. "That's an order Robertson, let them take Hawkes away they'll see he's alright" Amberley moved aside and let the medics take over, with nothing to focus on now she was suddenly exhausted and collapsed on the floor before anyone could catch her.


Amberley awoke to feel her head thumping like crazy. She couldn't remember where she was for a moment and she shot up in bed causing her head to hurt even more in protest at her quick movement. She saw she was in a bed in the infirmary and looked in the bed next to her to see Paul Wang in a deep sleep. How she envied him, he seemed to be capable of sleeping anywhere. Suddenly she remembered what had taken place the day before. Cooper. She looked about the ward, only Paul and herself were in there, she panicked. God what if he was dead? She needed to know.

Quietly she slipped out of bed, her head was pounding now but to her that was the least of her worries, she needed to know what had happened to Cooper. She opened the door as quietly as she could and made her way to the sign that said intensive care. Good, there seemed to be no nurses or doctors about, obviously the weren't expecting patients to wander around in the middle of the night. As she got to the door of intensive care she started to shake, she needed to know if Cooper was in there but at the same time she was scared in case he wasn't. Amberley slowly opened the door and stepped inside. It took a while for her eyes to focus she was feeling lightheaded and scared all at the same time.

Slowly she worked her way down the room peeping behind the curtains that surrounded each bed. She'd got to the final curtain without seeing Cooper, as she looked at the last bed she prayed to whoever was listening that he was behind these. If not she really didn't think she'd be able to cope. Taking a deep breath she slowly parted the curtains. There was Cooper sleeping soundly hooked up to various machines. He didn't look quite as grey as he had when she'd last seen him and his chest rose and fell as if in a deep peaceful sleep. Amberley was so relieved she almost shouted out loud. She stared intently at him, she hadn't realised just how handsome he was, just looking at him made her feel warm inside. His arms were outside the blankets and she looked at how well toned they were and she had to fight the urge to run her fingers down them.

Her head started to throb with more intensity so she sat down on a chair next to his bed. She gently stroked a stray wisp of hair from his face and he moved slighty as if in response to her touch. She took hold of his hand in hers and laid her head down on the side of his bed. Within minutes she had fallen asleep holding his hand gently in hers.


When Cooper awoke he felt something on his hand, he looked up to see a mass of auburn curls spread out on his bed and a small hand on top of his. He thought for a minute he was in a dream until he realised he was in a bed in the infirmary and the hand and hair belonged to Amberley. He was stunned and didn't know what to do, whether he should wake her or leave her to sleep. As he wouldn't know what to say he decided to leave her. He could feel a lot of pain in his leg and the tubes in him were uncomfortable but seeing Amberley there made him feel safe and warm somehow, like he was warm inside, he couldn't understand what it was he was feeling. He just knew he was happy somehow. He wanted to touch her hair, he loved her hair it fascinated him like it had a life of it's own, he put his free hand out to touch it just as Amberley stirred.

She slowly lifted her head and was aware of being watched. She looked up to see those big beautiful eyes staring at her.

"Hi Cooper how are you feeling?" The words came out slow as if she was in pain, that worried Cooper. Then he saw the bandage on her head.

"Um I'm sore but I'm okay I guess. I just feel like I had a fight with about ten Chigs an' came off worse. Is your head okay, I did that didn't I? I I didn't mean to hurt ya, I was just um scared that AI was gonna kill ya" Amberley smiled at the worried look on his face.

"Hey Cooper you saved my life, I'm the one who should be saying sorry, I promised you that I wouldn't let anyone hurt you and because of me you nearly lost your life" He saw her bottom lip tremble and was worried that she was going to cry. He wasn't good with stuff like that, he didn't know enough of the right words to make her feel better.

"Look Amberley, there was nothin' you coulda done okay? You didn't see him comin' I did, um you woulda done the same for me same as the rest of the guys would too. You ain't gonna cry again are ya, please don't cry" He remembered the time when he'd called her a coward and the rage and tears in her eyes, he didn't like what he'd done and he sure as hell didn't want to see it again. Amberley's eyes were bright but she managed not to cry, but gave him a warm smile, the sort that made him feel good.

"Thanks Coop I really needed to hear that. You may only have been alive for six years but you know more than you think" They smiled at each other.

"Captain Robertson I think you'd better return to your bed before the doctor sounds the general alarm looking for you" They both jumped, the sound of McQueen's voice bringing them back to the present. Amberley tried to salute but didn't really have the strength.

"Okay Robertson leave the salutes until you're back on duty. Now you'd better get going" She left the chair slowly, nodded to McQueen, smiled softly at Cooper and made her way back to her bed. McQueen saw the look in Cooper's eyes and wondered just what was going on between them. "Hawkes how are you feeling now?"

"Weak sir but I'll be fine" McQueen smiled at him.

"Okay get some rest now." Cooper had fallen asleep before McQueen had even finished speaking. He watched the young Marine's chest rise and fall in a peaceful sleep, satisfied his "kid" was okay he left.


Amberley was let out of the infirmary after a couple of days, Paul a few days after her. Cooper spent about a week and a half in the infirmary, if he'd been a natural born he probably would have spent double that time in there. Even so the time had passed real slow for him and by the end of his stay the doctors and nurses were glad to see the back of him. The only thing that made it bearable was when the 'cards came to see him. Something that had surprised him and the rest of the 'cards was the amount of time Amberley spent with him. When she wasn't on a mission or eating she came to see him, he found her real easy to talk to and he didn't worry that he may look stupid, if he did say anything stupid she never laughed. This was wierd for him especially as he had given her such a hard time when she first joined the 5-8.

One evening in the Tun while Amberley was visiting Cooper, the rest of the 'cards had a great discussion about what may be going on.

"Hey guys do you think Amberley's fallen for our Cooper?" Nathan grinned at Paul's remark, but Shane and Vanessa shared one of those looks which said it all.

"Why do you guys have to suspect every little bit of friendship as love and lust? I don't think so they're just friendly that's all" Vanessa nodded in agreement.

"Yeah I agree with Shane, you'll see it's just friendship"

McQueen had been listening to them in the shadows, they hadn't seen him, if they had they may have seen the look of concern on his face. He knew Amberley wasn't the type to hurt people, but Cooper was still an innocent where relationships were concerned. He just hoped the relationship didn't get out of hand or for Hawkes to get the wrong idea, he'd hate to intervene but knew he would if it jeopordised the squad.


The day of Cooper's release from the infirmary the rest of the 5-8 had just come back from a bloody ground assault and a lot of Marines had died so no one was feeling in very high spirits.

"Hey guys ain't you pleased to see me, it's good to be back, man I was really pissed sittin' around all day while you've been out killin' Chigs" No one answered him so he shrugged his shoulders and slumped down on his bunk. After all the quiet in the infirmary he really needed to talk. Everyone was either asleep or too dog tired to talk. Cooper looked at Amberley, she was lying on her stomach with her cd player on shaking her head in time to the beat. He went and stood by her bunk just watching her.

Amberley was aware of someone looking at her so she looked up to see Cooper standing staring at her.

"Hi Coop welcome back, is something wrong?" He just kept staring at her, God she always looked so good and her smile always made him feel shaky somehow.

"Um what you listening to?" Amberley took the headphones off and sat cross legged on her bunk.

"I'm listening to Metallica a really great twentieth century rock band, I love my music hard and loud" Cooper's eyes lit up.

"Yeah? Man I love that sorta music" He suddenly felt shy. "Er do ya mind if I listen to it?" Amberley broke into a great big smile which nearly made Cooper lose his balance.

"Sure you can, hey come and sit on the end of my bunk"

Cooper sat down and Amberley crawled over to where he sat and gently put the headphones on his ears. Her hair brushed against him and it made him feel like he was burning hot and cold at the same time. But he liked that feeling, he liked her being this close to him. She turned the music on and then she started to read a book. Cooper loved the music it was just the sort of music he liked to listen to, he shut his eyes and let the music flood through him. Amberley began sorting through her other cds that she thought Cooper might like. The next thing Cooper knew Amberley was tapping him on the shoulder, he turned round quickly and Amberley's hand brushed against his navel. He froze waiting for her to take her hand away in disgust, but she didn't.

He stopped the music and took the headphones off looking at her in a furtive manner.

"What's the matter Cooper?" He stammered for something to say.

"You... you touched the back of my neck an' you didn't run away" Amberley smiled sadly and squeezed his arm.

"Hey Cooper I know you're an Invitro and it doesn't worry me. I have Invitro friends back home, look around my bunk do you see me in pictures with lots of people our age?" He nodded not trusting himself to speak. "Well, most of them are Invitro. My dad has Invitros working for him and they too are all great friends. I like people for who they are not what they are" She took on a far away look, Cooper had a thousand questions burning in his mind but he said nothing as Amberley still had a hold on his arm and for some reason he didn't want her to let go.

"My Dad served with Colonel McQueen in the AI wars, he left the Marines shortly afterwards. He was sick of the way Invitros were treated, he always said what a great man McQueen was and he just hated the way he and the rest of the Invitros were downtrodden. So Cooper my Dad and my Mom brought my sister and me up to respect everyone. That's why I didn't run away, I like you like I like Shane or any of the other guys so quit worrying okay?" She smiled again at him, all he could manage was a shy grin. "Here you can borrow these cds but remember I want them back" Cooper's eyes lit up.

"Wow these are great, thanks Amberley I'll take good care of them"

Amberley looked up to see four people looking down at her with grateful smiles on their faces. Shane walked over to her.

"Hey you're full of surprises" She laughed.

"Yeah Shane I sure am, I like to keep people on their toes" All of a sudden Amberley felt embarassed, she hadn't realised they had been listening and watching her and Cooper. "Okay you guys the show's over last one to the Tun buys the drinks" With that she scooted from her bunk and shot out the door. Cooper was still standing in a daze trying to understand all that Amberley had said when Nathan brought him back to reality.

"Coop c'mon man didn't you hear Amberley?"

"Yeah Nathan I did, hey she likes me even after the way I treated her man I ain't never gonna let anyone hurt her not after what she's done for me" Nathan grinned to himself, perhaps Paul was right maybe there was more to this than met the eye.

"Sure she likes you Coop we all do, but c'mon one of us will have to buy the drinks and it sure as hell ain't gonna be me" With that he raced from the room leaving a bemused Cooper to follow him.


Cooper was grouchy and he was letting everyone else know how he felt. They all felt the same, things seemed to have gone quiet on the war front and all they had to do right now were drills and it was driving everyone insane.

"Cooper will you quit your bitchin', everyone is the same you'll just have to deal with it" He looked beligerently at Shane.

"Yeah well I'm bored with all this quiet, man what I'd give for a hairy furball right now" Paul looked up at him.

"Why don't you go play on the VR and give us all some peace"

"Nah, man I'm too good for that thing" Amberley's ears pricked up, she loved a challenge.

"Hey Cooper I'll give you a game. Bet I beat ya hands down. To make it more interesting the loser buys a round of drinks" Everyone looked at her in surprise, and Shane shot her a warning look. But it was too late for that.

"You're only a girl you'll never beat me" Cooper grinned at her.

"Okay then Lieutenant, if I'm that easy to beat you'll take me on ... or are you scared I'll beat you?" That was it, anger flared in Cooper's eyes.

"Right you're on" It came out as a growl and Amberley grinned wickedly at him.

"C'mon then flyboy let's see just how good you are" With that they exited from the room closely followed by the others who were now intruiged.

"Amberley are you sure about this? No one has ever beat Cooper before?" Amberley grinned at Shane.

"Don't worry I can handle it"


Cooper won the first game hands down, it was to be best of three, he cheered and then teased Amberley.

"Yeah I'm gonna beat ya no problem, best that if you can" Amberley just smiled. Much to everyones' amazement she thrashed Cooper soundly in the second game. The look on Cooper's face alone was a picture and she couldn't resist teasing him.

"Okay Cooper beat that if you dare" He was real mad now but Amberley couldn't help smiling impishly at him. The third game seemed to take forever and the others started to get bored, then the shock came. Amberley beat Cooper by thirty-one points. He couldn't believe it.

"How did you do that? No one's ever beat me before, I don't believe it" Amberley saunted over to him and put her arm on his shoulder.

"Well it's like this flyboy, my brother-in-law runs a games company and my ten year old nephew shows me how to play all the new games. This one is years old and I've played it loads of times" Everyone burst out laughing while Cooper stared in shock at her.

"Hey that's cheatin'"

She laughed again. "Cooper Hawkes you lost fair and square now come on and get those drinks in" With that they made their way to the Tun.

While Cooper went to the bar the others sat at their usual table.

"Oh Amberley you are full of surprises, I've never seen Coop look so shocked" Amberley grinned.

"Yeah well Nathan I Like to keep people on their toes" As they all sat drinking Paul came up with another idea.

"Hey Amberley you wanna team up with me for some fooseball?. If you're good on the VR you must be great at this" Amberley smiled and gave Cooper a sly grin.

"I'll tell you what Paul, Cooper and me will play you and a partner of your choice" Paul's eyes glinted.

"You're on, I choose Nathan, first to twenty wins. Hey you sure you don't wanna team up with me? Coop's useless at this" Cooper looked hesitant.

"Amberley I'm not good at this honest" Amberley grinned.

"You'll be fine Cooper c'mon let's beat these wimps"

Shane and Vanessa watched as the others played their hearts out. It was a real tough game and eventually it was nineteen all. Somehow Cooper managed to score the next goal. He was so surprised that he lifted Amberley into his arms, gently swung her round and kissed her on the cheek. They just stared at each other as if suspended in time and Cooper slid her slowly down his body. They stood just staring at each other. Amberley felt her knees go weak as she looked deep into his blue eyes. Cooper stared back into her grey-blue eyes, he so desperately wanted to kiss her. Amberley too felt the same. They started to move their lips towards each other. Nathan coughed and they both awoke as if from a dream and slowly let go of each other. Amberley could see that everyone was as surprised as her at what had taken place. Nathan spoke to ease the situation.

"Why don't you go back to the table, and Cooper and I'll get the beers okay?" With that they all went back to the table while Cooper stared wistfully after Amberley.

As Cooper stood at the bar Nathan could see lots of confusion and questions in his eyes.

"Hey you okay man?" Cooper didn't know where to start.

"I dunno, I feel all kinda funny. It's like this everytime I'm near Amberley...she just makes me feel sorta strange" Nathan smiled to himself, poor Cooper there was so much he didn't understand.

"It just means that you like her that's all, there's nothing wrong in the way you're feeling"

Cooper frowned. "Yeah but it's different somehow, I mean I like 'Phousse and Shane but it doesn't feel the same as that. What does this stuff mean Nathan?" Nathan groaned inward, how the hell could he explain this? It was obvious that Cooper thought more of Amberley than just a friend, and after the game of fooseball he wasn't sure that Amberley didn't feel the same either.

"It just means you like her a bit more that's all, don't worry about it Coop" With that they made their way back to the table.

Amberley hadn't said much as they sat at the table waiting for Cooper and Nathan to return with their drinks. She had too many thoughts and emotions flying around inside her head, she felt confused. She knew she liked Cooper but not to what extent until he'd held her in his arms. Damn, she thought after promising herself never to get involved with another Marine here she was going down the same old road again. Amberley was aware of the others looking at her and then at each other with the same question on their lips, what was going on?

"Look guys I don't know what happened either, it was probably just surprise because we won the fooseball okay. So stop staring at me like that" They all looked and grinned at her. Shane couldn't resist teasing her.

"Yeah right Amberley, but don't forget to send us invitations to the wedding okay?" They all laughed and Amberley felt herself redden. Just at that moment Cooper and Nathan returned. Cooper looked suspicious and glared at them all.

"What's goin' on here?" Amberley smiled at him.

"Oh nothing Coop, they're just laughing because they're still in shock that we won the fooseball that's all" That was an end to it, although all the way through their poker game Amberley was aware of Cooper taking sideways glances at her.


The next month seemed to pass in a blur for the 5-8. They seemed to be on duty more than off. The only time they had to themselves was to eat or sleep.

"God these ground assaults are wearin' me down I'm even missin' the Tun, it must be gettin' bad" Vanessa laughed and clapped Paul on the shoulder.

"Hey we all feel the same Paul what we need is R&R but I can't see that in the forseeable future" Shane had to agree.

"Yeah, but for now we have another briefing to go to so let's move it" They all walked wearily to the briefing room. Amberley hoped it wasn't another ground assault, she was fed up of being a groundpounder, but at the same time she knew they were Marines and must go where they were told.

As they sat down she stared over to where Cooper sat, they'd had hardly any time to communicate on their own and she found she missed that. Thay had much in common. They liked the same type of music, enjoyed their food(even the stuff they called food in the mess hall) and much to Cooper's surprise he'd actually found a girl who liked VR and even laughed at his comics. She put this down to the fact that she had loads of young cousins a niece and nephew who always wanted her to play. Of course she had her Invitro friends too and seemed to know exactly how to communicate with Cooper without making him feel stupid.

Their next mission was to be out on a patrol which was to take around fourteen hours, then they were promised a day free of duties.

"Well it's not the Bacchus but at least it's somethin'" Cooper smiled at Paul.

"Yeah man an' we get to be in our Hammerheads again" Cooper had a far away look in his eyes, he loved flying in his Hammerhead it made him feel like a bird, free and with no one to answer to. He thought of his time at the Invitro Training Facility when he'd watched the bird through the bars. He shook his head, he didn't want to think about that time anymore, it always made him feel sad and lonely. As they got up to go to their Hammerheads Amberley saw the look of sorrow on Cooper's face. She went up to him and put her hand on his shoulder.

"Hey you okay Coop? I thought you'd be happy flying in your Hammerhead again". Cooper looked at her smiling up at him and that made him feel better.

"Yeah I'm okay, I was just thinkin' about the past that's all" She looked at him with concern.

"Do you wanna talk about it?" He smiled back at her.

"Nah not now maybe some other time" She nodded and carried on walking to the flight deck.

As they were released into Space Amberley realised how beautiful and peaceful it all looked. No one looking at this scene now would think there was a terrible and bloody battle going on between two races who really knew very little about each other. She heard Shane's voice come over the radio and came back to the present.

"This should be a fairly routine patrol but watch your sixes and be alert" Amberley nodded to herself and spoke softly it came out more of a whisper.

"Roger that".

The patrol didn't turn out to be so routine after all. They encountered a Chig squadron about two hundred clicks into the mission, it seemed they were on a direct course for the Saratoga. The 5-8 engaged the enemy and it turned into a real hairy furball. Amberely could feel the sweat running down her face and her back felt hot and sticky.

"I've got a bogey locked on my six I can't seem to shake him, West can you engage"

"Roger that Robertson I'm on my way" Nathan shot up behind him and blew him from the sky.

"Hooraah!" She heard him shout and smiled to herself.

"I second that, thanks West I owe you one" With that she entered the fray once more.

Luckily there were no casualties, just Vanessa had a problem with her thrusters but had enough power to make it back to the Saratoga.

"Saratoga this is Wildcards, permission to land"

"Permission granted Wildcards, welcome home" McQueen was waiting for them when they got back, doing his usual headcount.

"Good work 5-8, you now have twenty-four hours off duty. Report to the briefing room to enter your reports and then rest up, you've earned it" They all smiled with relief they desperately needed this time off.


After they had rested Nathan, Paul and Cooper decided to go and watch some football, while the girls decided to go to the Tun. They didn't sit at their usual table in the Tun but sat in a quiet corner giggling like a bunch of schoolgirls. They were talking about their first ever kisses. Cooper was bored, Paul and Nathan were having a heated arguement about a foul in the match and as Cooper didn't really understand it he was left out. As they walked into the Tun and sat at their usual table Cooper glanced over at the table where the girls sat giggling.

"Hey what do you think they're talkin' about?" Paul looked up, annoyed that his discussion had been interrupted.

"I dunno man, it's girl talk men are definately not allowed" This didn't satisfy Cooper he hated being left out, especially when Amberley was there.

"Yeah? Well I still wanna know what's goin' on" Nathan looked up and rolled his eyes.

"Why don't you just go ask them?" Cooper looked back beligerently at Nathan.

"Okay right I will" With that he stomped off to where the girls were sitting. Nathan held his hands up in the air.

"Oh man why did I say that?" Paul laughed. "Hey let's watch, this should be fun"

"Oh I remember his tongue, God it was awful all over my face like a dishcloth" Vanessa wrinkled her nose up at the memory and they all giggled again.

"Yeah it sounds...."

"What are you talkin' about?" Amberley never finished her sentence and they all visibly jumped as Cooper crept up behind them. They started to giggle again at the confused look on Cooper's face.

"What's so funny? I ain't got nothin' down mehave I? What are you talkin' about dishcloths for?" By this time all three girls were helpless with laughter and Cooper was getting really angry. Amberley tried to speak but she was laughing too much.

"Well I think girl talk sucks, you're all dumb, stupid!" He started to walk away and Amberley went after him.

"Hey Cooper come back" She put her hand on his arm and he shook her roughly away.

"You just think I'm a dumb tank the same as everyone. I dunno why I thought you were any different" With that he stormed from the Tun. His words had stung Amberley as much as if he'd hit her.

She made her way back to the table.

"God girls do you think we were too hard on him? He was real upset" Shane smiled.

"Nah, he'll be okay he's just in a mood. He'll be back when he's calmed down" Vanessa could see the upset in Amberley's face and put her hand on Amberley's.

"Hey, he didn't mean what he said" This didn't make Amberley feel any better.

"The thing is I've really hurt him now. I'd never do that to him I just love him too much" Shane and Vanessa looked up in surprise, they knew Amberley liked Cooper but not to this extent. Amberley too was shocked, had she really just said that? But she knew if she looked deep into her soul that it was true, she spoke out loud.

"I don't believe what I just said. But it's wierd it's as if I've always known but never said it before now"

Vanessa smiled. "Well although it surprised us looking back I think it's been a long time coming. You two have been real close just recently" Shane grinned too.

"Yeah, I still haven't got over the fooseball incident yet" Amberley raised her hands in dispair.

"Jesus I hardly know him . My life has been complicated enough. Oh man why did I have to fall for a six year old?"

"Put it down to experience girlfriend. Now come take your mind off it with a game of poker" Amberley nodded absently at Shane and followed them over to Paul and Nathan. She sat nursing her cards staring into Space.

"Hey Amberley are you gonna do anything with those cards or are you just starin' at them?" She looked up with a start at the sound of Paul's voice.

"Um I've gotta headache I think I'll go back to our quarters" With that she left the table without looking at anyone.

"What's her problem? She's been cranky and wierd since Coop left" Shane grinned at Paul.

"Nothing to concern yourself with Paul, just girl talk"


Amberley didn't go back to their quarters she went to an out of the way part of the Saratoga she had found on one of her walks. She needed to look out at the stars and try to get her head together. She still couldn't believe she'd fallen for Cooper, but everytime she tried to deny it she knew it was true.

As she turned the corner to her private place she stopped dead in her tracks. There staring out at the stars was Cooper. She wanted to turn tail and run, but she knew that wasn't the answer so she walked slowly over to him and spoke softly.

"Hi Cooper I didn't know you came here. I love it here, it's so peaceful and the stars look so bright. I like to come here and think" He didn't turn round but she could see him tense.

He turned after a few minutes to face her, the full force of his beautiful blues eyes making her knees buckle. She could see so much hurt and pain in his eyes, she'd caused that and it made her feel awful.

"Why did you all laugh at me? Why did you laugh at me Amberley? I thought you liked me" She felt a lump in her throat, all she wanted to do was kiss him, hold him and to tell him she loved him.

"We weren't laughing at you Cooper, we were talking about our first ever kisses with our boyfriends. It seemed so funny looking back at it that we laughed. We sometimes forget you haven't been around very long. I... I'm sorry if I hurt you but the joke wasn't on you, you just appeared at the wrong time. And as to your other question Cooper, I like you very much"

He just stood staring at her, not moving or saying anything. Amberley went to walk away thinking he didn't want her there when she felt a hand touch her hand. She looked back at him and he pulled her gently towards him. Her legs felt like jelly and she couldn't breath properly. Cooper did something he'd wanted to do since he first set eyes on her. His hands slowly went to her hair, he gently ran his fingers through it marvelling at how soft it was. He had his hands full of her hair now and he gently put it to his lips where he kissed it gently, she smelled so good to. Amberley thought she would lose her breath, no one had ever touched her hair like that before, it made her feel things she'd never experienced before.

Cooper let her hair fall and stared deeply into her eyes not knowing what to do next, afraid he might mess up and frighten her away. To his surprise she gently stroked the tousled locks of his hair away from his face. Then she lightly stroked his face, caressing every curve and feature as if she were an artist drawing a picture. He shut his eyes and sighed gently. Amberley kissed him lightly on the lips and then stepped back to look up at him. He opened his eyes as she stopped the exploration of his face, again he looked deep into her eyes, she was sure she could drown in those eyes. She took his hands and gently put them around her waist, moving closer to him. Her hands slowly traced their way up his chest and rested gently on his shoulders. He couldn't believe that this beautiful natural born woman would want to be this close to him. But she did and he was so grateful for it.

Amberley moved her face closer to his and whispered in his ear.

"I should have done this a long time ago" Gently she traced his lips with her tongue and his lips opened automatically. She gently pushed her tongue into his warm inviting mouth where she teased his tongue with hers. Cooper in return moved her tongue softly out of the way as he explored the depths of her warm soft mouth. He felt like he was drowning, he'd never experienced anything so good, so wonderful before. As they broke from the kiss Amberley felt light-headed this was one of the most beautiful things she had ever expereinced too. Cooper crushed her to him and she gratefully accepted his strong arms around her making her feel safe...and loved.

She nuzzled further into his shoulder and sighed contentedly, he rested his head on hers and shut his eyes smiling with real happiness. After what seemed an eternity they came apart staring into each others eyes. "Amberley did you mean to do that, did you um really wanna do that or do you just feel sorry for me?" Amberley was saddened by his words, poor guy what the hell had he been through in his short life? She looked up at him and smiled. "Cooper, babe, I've wanted to kiss you for ages but never plucked up the courage. I did it because I wanted to. I like you very much and I wanna spend time with you, is that okay with you?" He hugged her so tightly she nearly stopped breathing. "Yeah that's great, I really like you too. Um Amberley" She smiled contentedly "Hmmmm?" "Does this mean that we're um, well that we're sorta goin' out together?" She looked up at him and gave him one of her lovely warm smiles. "Yeah if you want to I'd be real happy to be your girlfriend" Cooper's heart leapt for joy, he'd never really had a girlfriend most of them left him after one date. The natural borns ditched him as soon as they found out he was a tank, and the Invitros wanted someone with more experience. Amberley had even called him babe he couldn't believe that. It sounded so good.

"Amberley, can I kiss you again?" She looked dreamily up at him.

"Hey you don't have to ask, just kiss me. In fact you can kiss me anytime you want. Unless we're on a mission that is" He smiled and pulled her close to him they kissed harder this time and Cooper tangled his fingers in her hair pulling her closer to make the kiss more intense. Amberley felt she'd be happy to die in that kiss no one had ever made her feel so good before. Cooper felt stirrings deep in his body he was sure he'd be happy to kiss her all night long and other things too. Just then they both jumped as they heard someone's voice.

Nathan had come looking for Cooper because he'd been gone so long, the sight that met his eyes had sent him into shock. Amberley and Cooper locked into a tight embrace kissing so passionately that he could feel the heat from where he was standing.

"Er sorry guys I came lookin' for Coop, but I see he's in good hands" He looked embarassed and Amberley grinned at him and hugged Cooper closer.

"I think he's okay Nathan. How are you feeling Cooper?" He smiled back at her

"Yeah I'm feelin' real good Nathan" Nathan shifted uncomfortably.

"Well I'll be going back to the Tun, guess I'll see you guys later"

"We wont be long Nathan, get the beers in and we'll see you in a few mikes okay?" With that Nathan turned back towards the Tun.

"Amberley, there's just somethin' worrying me. If everyone finds out about us you're gonna have some bad stuff said about ya. Y'know what I mean about bein' with a tank" She kissed him on the cheek.

"Cooper I've had to deal with this sort of thing since I was little. I don't care what people think. I like you, like being with you and I sure as hell ain't gonna hide away just because some narrowminded people don't understand. I say to hell with them. As long as we remember the 'cards and the missions come first when we're on duty I don't give a damn about anyone else" She moved herself close to him again. "So quit worrying okay, I like you and I'm real happy being with you. So shut up and kiss me, then we'd better get back to the Tun in case Nathan has set off the general alarm and McQueen comes looking for us" Cooper couldn't agree more, he was going to try his hardest to make this work, he'd make sure he didn't mess up this time. Amberley was just too special for him to lose her. With that decided he pulled her to him and kissed her long and soft on the lips. The sort of kiss that made them burn inside and out and desire each other with a passion that would never go away.



  • Next: Always Faithful Part Two
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  • Toya Richardson 1997