Disclaimer: The characters in this story do not belong to me, much as I would love them to. They belong to James Wong, Glen Morgan and all the others who worked on Space: Above and Beyond [20th Century Fox TV and Hard Eight Production] , and especially to James Morrison and Kristen Cloke. No copyright infringement intended.

After The Dance



Colonel TC McQueen’s ice blue gaze raked the room, never pausing on any one person, but swiftly moving on until he had surveyed the entire reception hall with the same cautious precision he displayed when surveying a hostile environment, possibly infested with enemy Chigs. The Colonel’s inspection was cold and perfunctory, his stance as stiff and impersonal as his dress blues. From one swift glance at him, one could tell he did not want to be here. Receptions, such as this one, were not his idea of fun. If duty hadn’t required he attend, and Commodore Ross hadn’t made an especial request, McQueen would be spending the evening working out in the gym, or engaging in some other, much-preferred recreation activity of his chosing. He had so far spent the night in the corner, slowly sipping his way through several rather dry champagnes in a vague attempt to fit in. McQueen had not spoken to anyone except Ross and the bartender since he’d arrived, although he kept an eye on his ‘kids’ - his squadron, the 58th.

The Wildcards. They, too, were required to be here, but they, at least seemed to be enjoying themselves. Wang had been dancing with a pretty lieutenant most of the night, and West and Hawkes seemed to be having fun as they danced with various female officers, and made small talk with other pilots. Damphousse alternated between dancing with Hawkes and West, and the multitude of other flyboys who besetted her with requests. Vansen, on the other hand, was as miserable here as McQueen was. She hid it much better than he, wandering around the hall, smiling occassionally, and chatting with her fellow Wildcards and other marines attending. McQueen had even watched with glittering eyes as she’d danced, quite gracefully, with West and Hawkes a few times. Anyone else who requested to dance with her, however, was quite politely refused, he saw.

"For gods sake, Ty, at least try to look like you wouldn’t rather be having teeth pulled," came a voice behind him and McQueen didn’t need to turn to recognise the speaker as Commodore Ross.

"I’ll do my best," the Colonel remarked with a hint of sarcasm, turning to face his friend. Ross snorted. "Why don’t you go dance, or something. You’re making me nervous, just watching everyone like that."

He’d expected McQueen to loathe tonight, even though he was required to be there. Generally, at such receptions, McQueen suffered in silence, hiding his reluctance rather well. McQueen had been snappy for the past two weeks; perhaps his bad mood was to blame. Ross had never known his friend to sit in a corner and glare at everyone at these receptions.

"Dance?" McQueen asked with a scowl. He’d so far successfully avoided being forced into dancing by keeping people at bay with his ferocious expression. It wasn’t that he couldn’t dance, or even didn’t enjoy it. He just seemed to simply want to be as miserable tonight as possible, and Ross couldn’t understand why.

"Yes, dance!" At that moment, Captain Vansen was passing by, a slight, polite smile fixed on her lips, and the commodore reached out a hand, lightly grabbing her shoulder. "Ah, Captain, I haven’t had a chance to say hello yet this evening."

Vansen turned, stiffening to a pseudo-attention position when she recognised Ross. "Sir."

Ross grinned at her, including her in his and McQueen’s conversation. "Enjoying yourself, Captain?"

McQueen almost snickered when he saw the expression in her eyes, swiftly hidden. Ross, not knowing the woman as well, would not have picked up on the sardonic amusement hastily banished.

"Yes, sir," Vansen replied, keeping her polite smile in place even as her gaze flickered briefly to McQueen and then back to Ross.

"I saw you dancing with Lt. West before... you’re quite good," and Ross chuckled as she smiled demurely, and hurried on. "Perhaps you could entice the Colonel away from his beloved corner?" he inquired, his tone dripping with sudden sarcasm.

McQueen shot him a dirty look, before looking back at the bemused Vansen. "Uh -" the woman looked up at her CO, a little unnerved by the feeling that she’d been maneuvered into this. She recovered quickly, smiling at both Ross and McQueen. "I’m not sure that’s possible, sir, but I can only try." She looked at the Colonel. "Colonel McQueen, would you care to dance, sir?" Her eyes glittered with real amusement as she looked up at him, almost challenging him to refuse.

McQueen glared at her, but Vansen was used to his scowls and merely smiled back, knowing she was safe with Ross present. After a swift glance in the Commodore’s direction, Ty knew he was trapped and gave in as gracefully as he could. He banished the scowl and forced a faint, small smile. "I’d be honored, Captain."

He led her out into the crowd of dancers, finding a clear space. The Colonel held her loosely, and Vansen’s answering grip was equally impersonal. They danced silently for a moment, before Shane let out an odd little noise. Startled, TC looked down at her, frowning. "Are you okay?"

She had her head bowed, almost as if she were studying their feet, and, when she looked up, he saw Shane was trying to fight back a grin. At first, McQueen was bemused, then the humor of the situation struck him, and he smiled at her.

"I never knew you danced, Colonel," Vansen murmurred, smiling up at him.

McQueen snickered. "I could say the same of you, Captain." For a moment, they danced in silence. "You’re quite good at it."

And he wasn’t just being polite. McQueen had danced with a great deal of toe-smashers in his time, and Shane was quite light on her feet, very graceful.

"Thank you," was the polite reply. She smirked. "So are you," and her assessment, too, was an honest one. McQueen was possessed of an almost feline grace, in all his actions, a power in the gentlest of his movements. When he danced, this was more evident. Shane had always admired the way her CO moved, litheness hiding a great strength and power, and she was enjoying being so close to it, enjoying the sensation of knowing that that powerful strength was gentled for her. Sensing the dangerous vein her thoughts had turned, Vansen laughed softly and added, "although perhaps that’s just relative, after dancing with Cooper."

McQueen gave a low chuckle, his tight, taut frame relaxing slightly as he did so. "Perhaps someone should have taught him how to dance before we threw him in at the deep end," he remarked blandly.

"We tried."

Surprised, McQueen glanced down at her, his raised eyebrows a tacit demand for an explaination. Vansen merely shook her head.

"Phousse and I spent the entire week trying to teach Coop the basics, but I still pity all the women he’s charmed into dancing with him tonight," the captain commented with a light laugh. Surprisingly, McQueen joined her in the laugh, and they both relaxed their tense frames, instinctively moving closer together. Not close enough to invade the others personal space, but just so it was no longer the dance of strangers.

After the song had finished, Vansen and McQueen retired to the bar once more, and the Colonel ordered them both a drink.

"Thanks," Shane commented in surprise, as the Colonel offered his card to the bartender to pay for the drinks. He tilted his head to look at her a moment, then handed her one of the glasses.

"You’re welcome. Consider it repayment."

Vansen raised one eyebrow. "For?"

"The dance," Ty answered, as though that should be obvious.

She only nodded.

They were required to remain in the reception hall until 1100 hours, and McQueen had dreaded waiting that long, final hour, watching the minutes creep along. But Vansen stayed beside him, talking occassionally, but more often sitting together in comfortable companionship, or chuckling together as they watched Hawkes dancing with a young woman from the flight crew, watching the 58th with the quiet pride of parents watching over their children. McQueen found himself not only enduring the final hour, but also enjoying the time. Shane had a way of making the most dull situation he could have conjured up into a very interesting evening. On several occassions, TC actually found himself smiling. And he did not miss the broad, smug grin Glen Ross threw in his direction.

When 1100 hours came around, McQueen was startled to discover himself loathe to go. Shane, too, felt an odd reluctance to leave his company. It was so rare for the Colonel to open up around anyone, and Vansen had been honored he’d chosen to show a piece of himself to her that none of the other Cards had seen. Any glimpse into the true TC McQueen was rare, and Vansen treasured the time spent together.

"Well, Colonel, it’s been fun," and Vansen smiled at him, not quite the polite smile she’d used with Ross, but definitely reserved.

McQueen nodded, returning the restrained smile. "Yes, Vansen, it has. Thank you." He hesitated, as she stood, evidently preparing to leave. "You heading off?"

She nodded, then paused. "You?"

After a suitable moment of apparent consideration, the Colonel nodded. "Yes, I think so."

"Wanna escort me home?"

McQueen glanced down at the petite woman beside him, his hard features inscrutable before he nodded. "I’d be honored, Captain." His ice eyes glimmered with what might have been amusement, and, offering her his arm, he led her out. The Colonel suspected this was bordering on fraternization, but with Ross watching with that cheshire-cat grin, McQueen believed it safe. For the moment, at least.

As they walked through the empty, silent bowels of the Saratoga, McQueen had cause to change this opinion. An air of something approaching intimacy had settled over them, a closeness that unnerved him. Ty was concerned that the sexual attraction that had lingered and simmered so long between himself and his squadron captain was going to erupt into an irreversible encounter. But then he realized, on the heels of that fear, that it was not lust between them now, not the intimacy of desire that worried him. That was easily controlled, denied, ignored, on both their parts. It was something more that made his relationship with Vansen so dangerous. Something beyond friendship, beyond casual acquaintance, beyond the carefully formal relationship he and Vansen had shared. He felt a need to reinstate the careful barriers of their military ranks, but Ty was loathe to do so, for something in Vansen seemed to fill a part of him. He was being selfish, he knew, enjoying her company far too much. But he’d never found making friends easy.

They arrived at the door to the Wildcards barracks and paused. Vansen opened the door and looked up at him, a wry grin on her full lips.

"What is it?" McQueen asked, frowning.

She gave a low, deliciously feminine laugh. "I just feel like I should ask you in for coffee or something," she remarked and grinned up at him.

McQueen chuckled. "We’d have to go to the mess hall for that, but I appreciate the sentiment." He glanced down at her through slitted cat-eyes, his mouth set in its usual reserved smile. "Thank you for keeping me company tonight. I know I wasn’t much fun," he added wryly.

"Yes, I’d noticed. Something up?" the woman inquired casually, leaning against the doorframe and watching him.

The colonel shrugged. "Not really. Just a bad mood, I suppose."

"Mmmm, you seem to be in those a lot lately..." Warily, hoping she wasn’t overstepping her boundaries with that question, Vansen lifted a brow in casual inquiry and crossed her arms across her chest in expectation.

McQueen gave another low chuckle and Shane automatically controlled the shiver down her spine at the soft, sensuous sound, almost without realizing she did so.

"Keeping tabs on me, huh, Vansen?"

The woman shrugged one shoulder, and smiled. "You’re the Colonel. I just figured if you wanted to talk to someone about whatever it is, you could always come to me." Though her tone was light and her smile casual, her dark gaze locked on his told him that this was a quite serious offer. McQueen froze, his eyes digging deeply into her soul.

There was another moment of silence. The two, Colonel and Captain, stared at each other, aware that the tension building between them should really be interrupted by some inane comment, neither wanting to be the one who made it, both wishing they could be free to do as they truly wanted.

"I should be going," McQueen finally summoned his years of Marine discipline and took control of the emotions that so often troubled him. "Thank you, again, Shane. For tonight, and for your offer."

Shane leaned forward suddenly and, with a speed that surprised him, placed a soft kiss on his lips. "You’re welcome, Ty." Her grin was a little impudent, her use of his first name telling him all too clearly that she had taken full advantage of this out-of-uniform time to relate to him as a person, rather than her C.O. Because McQueen was far too aware of how dangerous that could become, he tried not to react to the kiss. But her lips had burned his mouth, her touch had stoked fires best left dying within his soul, and he closed his eyes.

"Shane - I’m sorry," was all he managed to say, before he lowered his head and kissed her again. This time it went on, neither pulling away. Some part of his brain was telling him that they were kissing in a public corridor, that anyone could come along and would report them. But his body seemed to have locked his brain up for the night, and was flying on autopilot. Then, just as suddenly, he pushed her away.

Shane groaned faintly, burning with longing, and stared up at him with dark, arousal-fogged eyes. She was confused. "Ty?"

"This can’t happen. This didn’t happen," he was saying, but though he was looking at her, his eyes were unfoccused, as though he didn’t see her. "I’m sorry -"

"You already said that, I believe," Vansen replied drily, recovering from the unexpected assault. "But I assure you, Colonel, I did not mind."

He blinked and stared at her. "Are you mad? Do you have any idea what this sort of fraternization would do to your career?"

Vansen smirked. "Only if it were discovered."

McQueen couldn’t take his eyes of her. She was suggesting - what? Was she insane? It could never work! "No, Shane... not yet. Maybe, one day, when we’re out of a direct commander-subordinate situation... But not now. It would damage both our careers, and the Corps is too important to both of us."

For a very long moment, the woman before him was silent, more touched by his concern for her than hurt by his refusal. She appeared to be considering his words, her eyes growing a little sadder. "You’re right, Ty." That wonderfully wicked grin flittered across of her soft, sensual mouth. "Call me in a few years, okay?"

Ty grinned back. "Its a deal." Then he touched her lips briefly with his thumb, the sensation reviving the temporarily-controlled desires so swiftly that he dropped his hand, startled and stared at her. "I have to go," and he turned, fleeing down the hallway in sharp, rhythmic steps. Vansen watched him go, a smile lingering on her bruised lips.

"A few years, Ty, and I’m not gonna let you forget it," she swore under her breath and, with a smug smile, turned into the barracks, closing the heavy door behind her with a final thud.

The End

© Jeitiiea

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