Rating: R, maybe an NC-17
Warnings: There be language and explicit sex here.
Disclaimers: Not intended to infringe on Hard Eight Productions, Fox Television or anyone else. All characters belong to their creators. I am making no money on this, so please don't sue. If you're under the age of consent, you shouldn't be reading this.
Notes: Thanks to Becky for reading behind me. This is part of my Homeward Bound series, of which this is the first part. Comments are welcome.

Edging Homeward


by
Gabrielle Bessey

Devon laid back against the soft dirt of her foxhole and closed her eyes. They'd been on planet for three days--three days and nights of dirt, blood, and weapons fire raining down on them. They'd been instructed to take the airbases back--bases that were strategic in the continued assault on the Chig homeworld. She began to wonder if the lives lost were really worth this piece of rock. She'd just come off her watch, turning it over to Captain Sheila Dunham, and gratefully curled up with her head on her pack. Devon never slept fully, only sank far enough into sleep to rest her mind--always ready to head into battle. If she'd been sitting up or turned in the other direction, the missile that struck the edge of her foxhole would have killed her instantly. The sound of it skimming through the air penetrated her subconscious mind, causing her eyes to open just as it exploded, showering her face with fragments and dirt and sending her flying against the rocky embankment on the other side of her foxhole.

The last image she saw was her squadron illuminated in a shining light, almost like angels. For a moment, she wondered if she was dead.


She could hear the screams of the young people around her--some scared, some dying. She kept thinking in her mind that it was so dark, when did it get so dark; and why were sounds so muffled.

She felt the hands running up and down her body, checking for injuries; felt the soft cotton of the gauze as it was placed on her skin; embraced the giddy feeling as morphine hissed along her veins.

There were pats on her shoulder, her hand, her head as she was lifted into the ISSAPC and strapped in for the trip back to the Saratoga. She struggled to hold on to her thoughts as she pushed the words out of her mouth.

"My Tigers?...."

A corpsman leaned close. "We're taking care of everyone, ma'am. Just relax."

Devon felt herself slipping into the black void that whispered at the edges of her mind and surrendered.


There was a prickly sensation on her cheek, and she moved her hand to whisk it away, finding the bandage that covered the itch. She rubbed it, then jumped as she felt a hand stop her.

"Don't. You'll rupture the sutures."

Devon's mind reeled. Ty...she knew that voice, and her body sagged with relief. As she attempted to climb out of the haze that filled her mind, thoughts began tumbling over each other as she tried to ask questions.

"Where are the Tigers? What happened? Where am I?" Her fingers clutched at the bandage that encircled her head, protecting her eyes. "Why are my eyes bandaged?" She felt McQueen take her hands, squeezing them between his own.

"You're onboard the Saratoga. A missile hit your foxhole. Most of the Tigers made it out with minor injuries. Lt. Smithson has some internal injuries and is expected to recover, as is Lt. Torrance." McQueen traced his finger along the contour of one cheek, just one of the few patches of skin that was not covered.

"Your eyes are covered because you had dirt and remnants of the missile casing blown into your face."

Devon squeezed his hands, and McQueen heard the fear in her voice make it quiver. "Am I blind?"

"I don't know. Docs won't know anything for a few days. They removed all the particles, but they can't be sure until your eyes are completely healed."

As he moved to the other side of the bed, continuing to talk, Devon shook her head. "Why do you sound so muffled? What's wrong?"

McQueen moved back to the other side of the bed, leaning down to speak to her. "You've also lost some hearing in your right ear." He put a finger on her lips to stop her from speaking. "Again, they don't really know anything yet. Their first thought was to make sure you were going to live because you lost a lot of blood. Now, they can see if there's any permanent damage."

He could feel her sinking into the pillows, trying to escape thoughts that she would never fly again, would never be able to lead her squadron, would never be able to fight. Sitting on the side of her bed, he held her hands, stroking the skin that was bruised and scarred. McQueen was a little startled when he saw Devon trying to sit up.

"Devon, you need to lie..."

"Please." The tears she could not shed filled her voice. "Please, I need you to hold me--just for a moment."

Gingerly, he wrapped his arms around her and pulled her to his chest, watching so that the IV tube did not get stuck between them. As he held her close, he felt her arms wrap around his neck, hanging on tightly.

Dr. Withers stood outside Devon's room and watched the embrace. He sighed and walked away, knowing that she would need that strength in the coming weeks.


McQueen watched Devon's hands as she curled and uncurled her fists, fidgeting as Dr. Withers removed the bandages from her eyes.

"Colonel, everything's still going to be dark and fuzzy until your eyes get adjusted to the light. You have to be patient."

"When will you know about permanent damage?"

"There's no real way to..."

Devon swung her head toward Dr. Withers. Even with limited vision, she pinned him with a glare, her words clipped. "When will you know?"

The doctor sighed. "In a couple of hours, we'll know for sure."

Devon nodded her head and turned back to face the viewport. McQueen stood in the corner of the room and watched as Withers gathered his instruments and left the room. He watched as she wrapped her arms around herself, cocooning her body from the pain she felt was coming. They stood on opposite sides of the room until she spoke.

"It's not going to be good."

"You don't know that, Devon. You don't know what he's going to say."

"Oh, but I do--I knew it when I woke up after the explosion. Didn't you feel...different...after you lost the Angels? I mean, before they even told you about your chip--didn't your heart tell you?"

McQueen walked over to stand beside her, putting his arm around her shoulders. "Yeah, I did...and, yes, I knew something was different."

"I'm never going to fly again." The words were succinct, but calm, and McQueen watched the tears slip down her cheeks. Leaning over, Devon rested her head on his shoulder.


Devon sat in the chair as the opthamologist examined her eyes.

"Well?"

He smiled as he pulled away, removing the glaring light from her line of vision. "It's better than I thought. We removed all of the foreign particles, and your eyes are healing up nicely."

"But..."

Dr. Johnson placed his hand over her clasped hands, feeling the tension as she gripped her fingers.

"I'm sorry, Colonel Matthews. Your eyes will never be 20/20 again. You're going to have some myopia, and you'll need to wear glasses at least part of the time." Turning, he scribbled on a piece of paper. "We'll have a pair ready for you this afternoon."

Devon let out the breath she was holding. "Well, I guess that settles that."

Dr. Johnson slid his chair back as he felt Devon withdraw--both physically and mentally.

"This only means you can't fly in combat situations. There are other options."

"I'll keep that in mind, Doctor. Am I free to leave? I have another appointment."

"You're free to go."

As Devon turned to leave, Dr. Johnson called her back and handed her a slip of paper. "I want you to go see Dr. Stiles. She's a good psychologist, and she might be able to help when all of this hits you."

Devon's hand closed around the paper, crumbling it before she stuffed it into her pocket. "Thanks, doc."

Stepping through the hatch, out into the corridor, Devon leaned against the bulkhead before she made her way to her next appointment.


Sitting on the table, Devon turned her head as Dr. Withers looked in her ear. Writing into her chart, he kept mumbling 10-syllable words as Devon became more and more exasperated. Staring at the x-ray film that was illuminated on the wall, he wrote some more.

"Well, what's going on?" Devon's voice was steady, despite the fear that was twisting her gut.

Dr. Withers closed the chart before turning around to face her. When she saw his face, Devon began to shake her head. Closing her eyes, she waited for him to tell her.

"I'm very sorry, Colonel. We had hoped that the nerve damage behind your ear drum was not as extensive as it is and would heal after your ear drum repaired itself--it hasn't. I'm afraid that we cannot fix the 30-percent hearing loss in your right ear on the Saratoga, but it can be repaired on Earth."

Devon sucked in her breath. "I don't fucking believe this."

As Dr. Withers moved towards her, he was surprised when she stood abruptly, wheeling towards the hatch. "Where are you going, Colonel?"

"Anywhere but here."

"Colonel, we need to talk about what's going to happen. I need to fill out your chart."

"What's there to say? I'm history, I'm gone--the Corps has no use for a blind, half-deaf, has-been pilot."

Dr. Withers held out his hand to stop her from leaving. "Colonel--Devon--I'm sure the Corps wouldn't want to lose an officer such as yourself. There's got to be..."

He stopped when he saw the look in her eyes. Not many things frightened him, but at that moment, Lt. Colonel Devon Matthews scared the hell out of him.

"Back off, Doctor."

Obligingly, he stepped out of the way. Devon stalked into the corridor, rage emanating from her in waves that even he could feel. Dr. Withers stood for a moment, contemplating what she might do, then moved to com and called McQueen, warning him that Devon was wandering the corridors and that he was afraid she might do something if not watched.

McQueen flipped the com off. Standing there in his quarters, he began to mentally list possible places she might go. Stepping out his hatch, he systematically searched each place until, finally, he found her--sitting in the cockpit of her Hammerhead. The launch bay was quiet, almost like a tomb, and the description seemed fitting considering the circumstances.

Devon sat there, stroking the control panel. As McQueen stepped farther into the launch bay, he saw the tears slipping down her cheeks. He knelt beside the cockpit--waiting--as long moments passed.

The first thought that popped into McQueen's head was how lost she looked.

"I can't fly anymore."

"I know." McQueen took Devon's hand and stroked the back of it with his thumb.

"How do you get through this? I've been a pilot for so long, I'm not sure I can be anything else."

"Devon, you do it one day at a time, one mission at a time. You'll make it through this." McQueen stood, holding out his hand to help her out of the cockpit.

As she stood and stepped out, she swayed a bit. McQueen wrapped his hand around her arm to steady her. Devon cupped her hand around his and smiled sadly at him.

"Guess I'd better go tell the troops."

"Do you want me there?"

"Gotta do this one on my own, but you can buy me a drink at Tun later."

"I'll have a double waiting."

Devon pressed her mouth to McQueen's for a brief kiss. "Better make it a triple."


The silence was deafening in the briefing room. The Tigers knew Devon's appointments had been today, knew she would find out if she'd ever fly again. No one moved as they waited for their CO to show up. When they heard movement in the corridor, they sat up straight in their chairs.

There were gasps and sharp intakes of breath when Devon stepped into the room. She had stopped by the PX to pick up her glasses, then stopped in her quarters to stare at herself in the mirror. No matter how the gold-rimmed oval glasses looked, they would always signify the fact that she was no longer a pilot.

Devon moved to stand behind the podium and rubbed the bridge of her nose, encountering the unfamiliar weight of the glasses. Sighing, she pushed them further up her nose.

"Well, I guess I really don't need to say anything about my pilot status."

Sheila's mouth trembled, and her eyes filled with tears as she watched Devon.

Devon moved around the podium and leaned against a chair to get closer to her squadron. "There is a bright spot in all of this. Dr. Withers said that they cannot repair my ear up here on the Sara, but that it can be fixed on Earth, which means I'll be out of here for about six weeks."

She looked at her kids. "Even though I will not be able to fly, I will still be able to participate in ground missions, so you're not getting rid of me that easy."

There were quick bursts of laughter as some of the tension was released.

"I'll be leaving for Earth in 10 days. After that, you will be under Colonel McQueen's temporary command, with Sheila taking you out on your missions. I'll have the specifics after I speak with Colonel McQueen and Commodore Ross."

As she stood, stretching slightly, Devon smiled a little at her squadron. "Let's get out of here and get a drink, people."

They stood, preparing to follow her out of the room, and stopped as Devon turned around to face them. "Don't fuck anything up while I'm gone 'cause I won't be able to bail you out while I'm on Earth. If you do, I'm going to kick your asses from here to the Jupiter Belt when I get back. Got it?"

Heads nodded in relief as she began to sound more like the old Devon. Turning on her heel, she headed into the corridor and down to Tun Tavern.

Much like the silence that greeted her when she entered the briefing room, voices faltered and stopped when she walked in--pilots understanding the ramifications of her glasses and the others falling silent as their comrades quieted.

Devon made her way to the bar and sat down, looking up as the bartender sat the glass down in front of her.

He smiled a sad smile. "McQueen said to set you up when you got here."

Devon smiled. "Thanks."

"He also said he'd be back in a minute."

Devon moved to an empty table, sipping her scotch as she stared out the viewport. Her peripheral vision caught a glimpse of someone in front of her, and she turned to see Shane dropping into a chair.

"I'm sorry."

Devon rubbed her temple, trying to will away the headache from her eyes adjusting to the glasses.

"Thanks. This is not the way I wanted to end my flying career."

"What happens now?"

Devon leaned forward. "Well, I'm heading back to Earth in 10 days to repair the damage to my ear. I'll be gone about six weeks. Then I'll be back--no more flying, but I'll be able to go on ground missions. It'll be similar to McQueen's command. The Tigers will be flying for him while I'm gone."

Shane nodded. "We'll keep an eye on them for you."

Devon smiled. "Just don't turn your back on them."

Shane got up and headed back to the 'Cards.

McQueen walked in carrying Catydid in his arms, her diaper bag over his shoulder. Sitting down at the table, he handed the baby over to Devon before he dug into the bag for her stuffed bunny. Devon hugged her close, and McQueen saw tears fill her eyes behind the glasses.

Breathing in the smell of baby lotion and power, Devon smiled as Catydid played with her hair. "I needed that, baby girl."

Catydid looked into Devon's face, noticed the glasses, and immediately reached for them, cooing as she did it.

Devon leaned her head back and laughed, the first laugh McQueen had heard since before she left for the mission that ended her flying career. "Oh no you don't, Catydid. You cannot play with these."

Devon played with the baby and sat and laughed with the 'Cards and Tigers as they surrounded the table. Wherever Catydid was, a party wasn't far behind. The little girl had transformed the ship, giving a well-needed boost of morale as she made people realize that life was worth fighting for.

McQueen sat back and watched as Devon came out of the shell that surrounded her, but he knew that she still had a lot of anger hiding inside. He believed that she would make it through, but it was hard to accept never flying again, harder still to drive on.


Shane picked up Catydid's diaper bag as Devon handed her to Cooper. Devon stood and kissed the baby's forehead. "Sweet dreams, little one."

When the squadron walked out the door, Devon suddenly felt bereft and wrapped her arms around her body as she sat back down. McQueen leaned over the table and touched her hand.

"Are you okay?" McQueen could have drowned in the sorrow he saw in Devon's eyes.

She nodded and bit her lip to keep them from trembling. "I think I'm going to bed."

McQueen stood up and moved around to stand next to Devon's chair. "May I escort you to your quarters?"

Devon looked at him with a measuring gaze. "I don't need a babysitter, Ty. I won't try anything."

He stepped back a little, crossing his arms over his chest, and Devon could see a hint of pain in his eyes. As she stood, she wrapped her hand around his arm and rubbed it.

Sighing, she shook her head. "I'm sorry, thank you for the offer, but I think I need to just try to..." Devon closed her eyes, then opened them to stare into his eyes. "...I don't know, try to start dealing with it."

McQueen nodded, then watched her walk out. He decided to give her some space and check on her in the morning to see how the night went.


Devon opened her hatch, noting the light flooding out of the head, and decided not to turn anymore lights on. With tired fingers, she took off her glasses and placed them on her bookshelf.

She sank down onto her rack, lying back and staring out the viewport at the foot of her bed. She let her mind drift, hoping that the peace she found among the stars would ease the angry current running underneath the surface. After a while, it hurt to look at the stars, knowing she would never be able to send her Hammerhead hurtling through the heavens, dancing in the light that surrounded her and made her feel infinite. She closed her eyes, but the stars would not disappear, almost mocking her with their freedom when she could no longer join them.

With a jerk she sat up, turning her back on the viewport. Devon got up and paced the confines of her quarters, alternately curling her hands into fists, then letting them fall limply by her side. Her eyes moved about the room, and it seemed that everything screamed at her that she no longer deserved anything that said she was a pilot. When she saw the picture of her father pinning her wings on her as she graduated from flight school, she picked it up, stroking it as tears washed the glass. Devon tightened her fingers around the frame, then threw it as hard as she could against the bulkhead. The glass shattered with a faint tinkle as the frame dropped to the floor. With a sweep of her arm, items flew off her desk and thudded as they hit the floor.

Devon pressed her fingers to her lips as she watched them fall, felt herself falling out of control. She backed away from the desk until she found herself in the corner, sinking against the bulkhead and sliding down to the floor. Devon pulled her knees up to her chest and wrapped her arms around them, rocking slightly as she squeezed her eyes shut to stop the tears, but she couldn't. Sobs shook her body as she mourned

"Why me, why me, why me, why me..." She chanted through the sobs, as her head fell to her knees. Her shoulders shook until they ached. Devon lifted her head, and it fell back as she cried out to the darkness of space and the glimmer of starlight.

"Oh, God, why me?!?!" Her voice rose and broke, anger pouring out of her in the angry tears that washed her face. She could not stop them, wanted to hold on to her anger and pain. As she cried through the night, she felt the anger slipping away a little, but the pain almost overwhelmed her.

Devon fell asleep on the floor, curled up in a ball, her hand out to ward off the pain that surrounded her.


McQueen stood in Tun and watched Devon walk out, then walked over to the bar.

"Scotch." He handed the bartender his card and stared at the glass when it appeared in front of him. He knew what she would be going through, knew it was going to hurt worse than any injury she'd ever received in battle. Part of him wanted to hold her, which surprised him a little. Another part was proud of her for confronting it head on. He moved to a table and stared out at the stars.

Lost in reverie, he was surprised to look up and find Commodore Ross sitting across from him.

"Where's Devon?"

"Fighting demons."

"Alone?!?!?!" Ross leaned over the table towards McQueen.

"She's got to face them alone at some point in time, she can't always depend on someone else being there to scare them away." McQueen continued to stare into the darkness, then smiled briefly. "Besides, she's not the type to sit on her ass and let someone else fight her battles."

"Yeah, she wouldn't appreciate anyone else taking it on for her." Ross leaned back, and both men stared out the viewport.


The insistent knocking on the metal of her hatch pulled Devon out of the sleep that cocooned her. Rolling over, she moaned slightly, a frown of pain contorting her face as her body tried to move on the floor.

"I'm coming, I'm coming." Devon grumbled as she slowly stood and made her way to the hatch.

McQueen impatiently stood outside and waited for Devon to open it. When she did, he managed not to grin as he took in her appearance, merely quirking an eyebrow.

"Don't fucking start with me, Ty. I am not in the mood." Devon stood back to let him into her quarters.

"Watch out for the glass." Devon shut the hatch and made her way over to her rack, dropping onto it and covering her eyes with her arm.

McQueen stood in the middle of the room and looked around. He was relieved to see that she'd only broken one picture, even though the items that usually sat on her desk were scattered on the floor. Carefully making his way across the floor, he sat in her desk chair and watched her. When she couldn't stand him staring at her any longer, Devon twisted her head and looked at him.

"What?"

"I'm just glad to see that there isn't more destruction."

"More?"

"Yeah. I trashed my quarters and broke three statues and two pictures, not to mention a chair."

"What makes you think I'm finished?"

McQueen grinned, and Devon found it impossible to stay mad during that moment. She sat up on her rack and pushed the hair out of her eyes.

"I bet I look like shit right now." Devon tried to comb through her hair with her fingers, finding knots where she'd rolled on the floor during the night.

"Well, I've seen you looking better, but I think you're excused this time."

She stood and stretched, reaching down to pull her t-shirt off as she picked her way through the mess towards the small shower in the head. Devon heard McQueen suck in his breath as the t-shirt came over her head, and she smiled as she realized that it made her feel good to know she could still turn him on. As she walked past him, she tossed her t-shirt into his lap.

"Hold on to that for me, will you?"

McQueen sat there, listening to the shower as Devon washed off some of the anger from the previous night. When she finally walked back past him, her skin still damp from the shower and wrapped in silk, he reached out and grabbed her, pulling her into his lap. Pressing a kiss to her lips, he felt them tremble. Leaning back, he looked into her eyes to find them tearful.

"What's wrong?"

"You're not doing this because you feel sorry for me...are you?"

McQueen closed his eyes for a moment. When he opened them, he saw that Devon had pulled back as much as she could in his arms.

McQueen sighed, knowing that she was trying to deal with who she was now and if losing part of herself mattered to him. "Making love with you is something I could never do in pity. I know you're feeling confused and angry, but I have never seen you as just a pilot. You're Devon--all the facets that make up you--and you're always going to be Devon."

He sat there for a moment. "I could have asked you the same thing the first time we made love. You knew of me when I was an Angry Angel, but when we met, I couldn't fly any more--I couldn't even lead my squadron on every mission. Did you feel sorry for me?"

Devon shook her head, waiting until she could speak again. "I guess I'm just still caught up in the idea that since I'm no longer a pilot, I'm nothing. I don't know me, and for a minute, I was afraid that you wouldn't want just me."

McQueen cupped her face with his hands, stroking her skin with his thumbs. "I want *you*. If I just wanted a Marine pilot, I'd sleep with Hawkes."

Devon laughed and leaned closer to McQueen, resting her forehead against his. For a moment, she just rested against him, breathing in his scent.

Slowly, she reached up her hands and ran them through the silver hair, tilting his head up and pressing her mouth to his. With a tentative stroke, Devon licked McQueen's lips before sliding her tongue in to stroke his. She wrapped her arms around his neck and pressed closer to him as he slid his hands down her back to cup her bottom. As the kiss deepened, McQueen slid his hand over her hip to slide under her robe. With a sigh, Devon's legs parted, and McQueen slipped his hand between her thighs to stroke her clit with his thumb.

Devon thought she would explode right then as he rubbed her. It had been so long since they'd made love, she didn't know if she could stop herself from coming. She arched her back as he continued to stroke her, hearing herself moan as he increased the pace.

"Oh, God, Ty...that...feels...so...good." Devon grabbed McQueen's shoulders, shaking as she felt an orgasm roll over her. It seemed to go on forever, the pleasure seeping into every inch of her body. Devon almost collapsed against him as she slowly began to stop shaking. When she looked up, she stroked his lip as she smiled, then gasped as McQueen sucked on her finger.

As Devon stood up and held out her hand to him, her robe fell open. He stared at the soft skin criss-crossed with faint scars, the round breasts and the hardened nipples, the soft red down at the juncture of her thighs. Then he looked into her eyes and saw the emotions running through them--knowing how she felt, understanding what she couldn't put into words.

Standing, McQueen pulled Devon to his chest, using her hips to anchor her to him. He guided her towards her rack as he nibbled on her jaw, licking her skin. When the back of her knees hit the edge of her rack, she almost fell backwards, but McQueen held onto her as he suckled her earlobe.

"Tell me what you want." McQueen whispered into her ear as he traced it with his tongue.

While McQueen worked his way from her jaw to her ear, Devon's hands stroked and kneaded McQueen's back before sliding down to cup his ass. When he whispered in her ear, she leaned back and grinned at him. Then she reached around and cupped him through his jeans. Unbuttoning and unzipping them, she slid her hand under his skivvies to stroke his erection.

"I want..." Devon leaned closer as she caressed him. "I want so many things."

"Licking is good." Slowly, she licked the underside of his jaw.

"So is kissing." Devon pressed light kisses to the softness of his eyelashes.

"Nibbling is a great thing." She shifted her head to nip his ear, then leaned back.

"But then, so is sucking." Devon moved toward McQueen and took his bottom lip into her mouth to suck on it gently.

"I want to take off your clothes so that I can feel the heat of your skin against mine. I want to feel you slide between my thighs, feel your hands pull my hips up as you slip inside me. I want to watch your eyes when I tighten around you, watch your face when you come."

McQueen wrapped his hand around the back of Devon's neck and pulled her back to him, consuming her mouth as his tongue slid inside to play with hers.

Hands quickly removed clothing, and they were lying on her rack before either of them realized what they had done. Devon shifted onto her back, stroking McQueen's chest with her hand as he slid his hand across her breasts to play with her nipples. Devon bit her lip as he pleasured her with his fingers before lowering his head to take a hardened nub into his mouth and suckle it. He licked it, then moved to the other one as his hand slid across her belly to slide between her thighs. He stroked her clit with his middle finger before he slid it into her.

Devon moaned, feeling her toes clench as pleasure rolled her in her belly. She slipped her hand between them to cup his balls, rolling them gently between her fingers before she stroked his cock, rubbing the head of it with her thumb. She smiled when she heard him groan.

McQueen slid his knee between her legs, settling between them as Devon opened her thighs. Wrapping his hands around her hips, he lifted her toward him as he sank into her. Devon's mouth opened as she felt him drive into her, grabbing his back as he slid in and out, the tempo hard and fast. He went deep, each thrust shattering her control. Devon wanted it to last, but she couldn't hold out as she felt him fill every part of her. Devon's back arched as she shuddered, orgasm thundering in her ears. Her nails dug into his back as it washed over her and she felt herself tighten around him. She felt him shake, felt him thrust again before he came, softly calling her name as he spilled his seed in her.

When he sank onto her body, Devon wrapped her arms around him and whispered in his ear. "I really do love you, Tyrus Cassius McQueen."

McQueen lifted his head to look at her.

Devon shook her head. "You don't need to say anything."

He brought his hands up to cup her face. "I don't know if this is love. I'm not sure I really know what it feels like."

Devon just smiled and wrapped herself around him.


She felt warm...safe...content, and she definitely did not want to move.

When she felt his arms leave her, Devon grumbled and opened her eyes. She saw McQueen slide off her rack and pull on his jeans. He nimbly stepped around all of the stuff still lying on the floor as he moved towards the head, and Devon sat up, pushing her hair out of her eyes. She was still sitting there when McQueen returned. He stopped, watching her while she wasn't aware. The long, red curls were somewhat tangled, falling over her shoulders and *almost* hiding her breasts. As she moved her arms, the hair brushed across her nipples, and McQueen's groin tightened. The sheet had pooled around her waist, and one leg hung over the edge of her rack, swinging gently as she continued to comb her fingers through her hair.

Feeling him watching her, Devon looked up, a ready smile on her face. Seeing the hunger in his eyes made her catch her breath, and she knew, even if he didn't, that McQueen loved her.

With a sweep of her arm, Devon brushed her hair over her shoulder and behind her, then slid out from beneath the sheet. Walking toward the head, she stopped when she reached McQueen. Devon trailed her fingers down his chest, wrapping them in the waist of his jeans and pulling him close.

"Hi." It was a husky sound--cut off by the longing kiss Devon pressed against McQueen's mouth. He wrapped his arms around her, sliding his hands down to cup her bottom and pulling her closer to him. Devon's arms slid up and around his neck as she opened her mouth and welcomed his tongue. She didn't know how long they stood there, she only knew that she felt bereft when the kiss ended, though the embrace did not.

"Hi." There was a smile in McQueen's voice. "I want you to think about something."

Devon leaned back to look at McQueen's face. "Okay."

"I want you to take Catydid back with you to Earth."

Devon's jaw dropped. "What?"

"She'll be safer there, and you said that she could stay with your brother until..."

"Until you can come get her?" Devon grinned when a faint blush of pink crossed McQueen's cheeks.

He grinned a little, then nodded. She ran her hand across his cheek, then brushed her thumb across his lips. "She'll be okay with Adam and Sarah."

"Yeah."

McQueen hugged her again, then stepped back. "I'd better get back to my quarters."

He turned, reaching for his shirt, and started in surprise when Devon slapped him on the ass. McQueen tilted his head as he looked at Devon.

"You do that, stud."

Grinning, he shook his head and put on this shirt. McQueen pressed a kiss to Devon's forehead, then slipped out the hatch.

She smiled as she leaned against the hatch, feeling chill bumps as naked flesh meet cold steel. Her smile faded as she stared at the mess on the floor. Being with McQueen had swept her into a dream world where there was no heartache or pain. When she was in his arms, it didn't matter that she couldn't fly anymore--the truth being that she really didn't think about it. Now, with him gone and only his scent on her skin, she remembered her anger. More importantly, she felt the pain. Getting the small broom out of the head, she swept up the glass, carefully placing the frame and picture in a desk drawer. The rest of the items were picked up and returned to their appointed places. Devon grabbed her brush and sat down in her chair, working tangles out of her hair as she tried to calm her mind.

Her chronometer beeped, reminding her that the Tigers were going out on patrol. She dressed quickly, remembering to grab her glasses, and proceeded to the briefing room, passing McQueen in the corridor. She gave him a quick wink before heading for her squadron.


She almost faltered as she stepped into the briefing room. With a sigh, she squared her shoulders and walked to the podium. Looking out into the faces of her kids, Devon felt a sadness wrap around her heart. She'd been injured before, unable to accompany them out on their recons, but she'd always gotten back to them. Now, she couldn't fly with them anymore and it did hurt. She'd be lying to herself and her team if she said it didn't-and Devon always tried to be honest with herself.

Opening her folder, she looked down at their orders. "Okay, people, while this one isn't a cakewalk, it may be easier that some of the other missions we've flown. You'll be heading out toward the Zanth quadrant, heading two-two-niner-point-four. There has been no word of enemy forces, but that doesn't mean they're not playing hide-n-seek. It seems that there are some fairly habitable planets in this system, and we might be able to use them as bases. You fly out, take some pictures, get back. Do not stop for burgers on the way. If you see the enemy, don't be heroes and don't try to fill up your dance card. Get the information and get back. Do what it takes to get through, but don't stick around while they wait for reinforcements. Any questions?"

There were grumbles as she realized they wanted to fight, but sometimes they had to learn that bringing back the required information was victory enough. Devon watched them file out, watching as Sheila hung back for a moment.

"I'm going to miss you out there, Colonel."

Devon draped an arm over her XO's shoulders. "You'll be fine, Sheila, I have every confidence in you."

With a squeeze to the younger woman's arm, Devon stopped outside the bay. "Go kick some Chig ass for me."

Sheila blinked, then grinned. "Yes, ma'am."

Devon headed for the operations room and grabbed a headset. Listening to the chatter of her pilots and watching them on radar, she made notes of things to discuss with Sheila when they returned. Two hours later, she stretched in her chair, easing the kinks in her back, then felt the warmth of two hands on her shoulders. Tilting her head back, she looked into McQueen's eyes.

"How are they?"

"On their way home, no contact."

"Feel better?"

"Some, but not a lot. I'm still angry that I can't be out there with them." Devon chewed on her lip as she watched her team rejoin the fleet and head for the Saratoga.

"Does it ever get any easier, Ty?"

"Once you've been on a ground mission with them, once you see that you can still lead them, it will get easier."

Ignoring the other personnel in the room, she reached up and covered his hands with her own. "Thanks, Ty."

Gently squeezing her shoulders, McQueen stepped back. "I've got to get back to the bridge. Dinner later?"

"I'll see you at 2000 in the officer's mess."

With a quick smile, he was gone. Devon turned to find the rest of the people in the room gawking at her with mouths open.

"Don't you people have something to do?" She glared at them, hiding her smile until she was facing the landing bay once again.


Devon was stunned, to say the least. "Let me see if I've got this straight."

McQueen stood in front of her, at parade rest, as she paced around her quarters. Every so often, she would stop and stare at him.

"You want to get married."

"Yes."

"Before I go back to Earth for my surgery."

"Yes."

"So we can keep Catydid."

Blue eyes stared at her. "Well, yes."

Shaking her head, wondering if she'd gotten a concussion when she wasn't looking, Devon sat on her rack and folded her hands together. "So what happens after the war?"

Moving to sit at her desk, McQueen tilted his head and studied her face. "What do you mean?"

She shrugged elegantly. "Say we both make it through this war, get back to Earth, what happens then?"

"Get assigned to a base, get a house, raise Catydid."

Speaking slowly, noting the quiet certainty in the measuring gaze, Devon nodded. "So, this isn't just a stop-gap measure to make sure they don't yank her away from you."

"From us." McQueen stood and walked over to the rack, taking Devon's hand in his own. He studied the long, capable fingers and tried to put his feelings into words.

"I don't do this very well. You are beautiful, intelligent, and generous. You make me laugh. I think we could make a good life together."

Standing abruptly, she took both his hands in her own and looked down at them. /strong safe hands/

"Yes."

A gentle kiss was brushed against her lips. "I'll tell Commodore Ross."

"You do that, Ty."

A quick squeeze to her fingers, and he quickly left her quarters.


"Enter." The warm tones of Commodore Ross beckoned the younger man.

"Ty, what can I do for you?"

Standing at his usual parade rest, McQueen thought for a moment before voicing his comment.

"Sir, I have a request."

Intrigued by the idea of McQueen asking for something, Ross put Rosalie in her case and leaned back in his chair. "Go on."

If Ross hadn't seen if for himself, he would never have believed it--McQueen was blushing.

"Sir, since we are in the middle of war and unsure of any future, I am requesting permission to marry Colonel Matthews."

Asking for something for his kids, asking to fly again...these were the kinds of questions Ross had been expecting. "Get married?"

"Yes, sir, before she goes back to Earth. That way, she can start the paperwork for adoption while she's there."

Ideas clicked in the older man's head as he stared at his subordinate. "So you're doing this for Catydid."

Confusion crossed McQueen's face. "Devon asked the same thing. Yes, I'm hoping this will smooth the way so that we can adopt Catydid, but that isn't the only reason--it just helped make things more clear."

Moving around his desk, Ross leaned on it as he stared at McQueen. "What are the reasons? Have you told Devon?"

A slight grin crossed the younger man's face. "Yes, sir, I told her that she was beautiful and intelligent, that she made me laugh, and that we could have a good life."

Pondering the request, Commodore Ross stepped to his viewport and stared at the stars. "Permission granted."

McQueen breathed an inaudible sigh of relief. "Thank you, sir. Would you perform the ceremony?"

"I'd be delighted, Ty. When would you like to have it?"

"As soon as possible, sir. Devon leaves in a week, and we'll need to take care of some paperwork before she heads out. Barring any attacks, would 1800 hours tomorrow be okay?"

"That'll be fine. I'll make sure everything's taken care of on my end. Would you like to hold the ceremony here?"

McQueen looked around him, feeling the strength and comfort that always seemed to linger in Ross' office. "Yes, sir, we'd like that."


At 1800 hours, a somber group gathered in Commodore Ross' quarters. If he hadn't known better, he would have sworn they were there for a court martial.

Both colonels looked exceptionally heroic in their uniforms, the fruit salad on their chests gave testament to their bravery. Those witnessing the event wondered if it really prepared them for what was going to come.

The WildCards were to McQueen's left, Cooper cradling Catydid in his arms, the original Tigers to Devon's right. They stood and watched as the vows were carefully spoken and the rings exchanged. Devon was the only one who noticed the slight tremble in McQueen's hand as he slipped his ring on her finger. She squeezed slightly and looked up to find him gazing at her with a gentle, loving look.

"I now pronounce you husband and wife." Ross smiled at the people gathered in front of him.

"You may kiss the bride."

A rare McQueen smile graced the in-vitro's face. Turning to his wife, he cupped her face in his hands, brushing her cheeks with his thumbs. Pressing his mouth to hers, he swept his tongue across her lips. Surprised at the bold gesture from the normally taciturn man, it only took Devon a moment to respond. Her lips parted, and she grabbed hold of his uniform as he thoroughly kissed her.

"wow." Her voice was soft as they parted to the cheers of their squadrons.

He grinned again, then turned to shake Ross' hand and accept the congratulations of his kids. Sheila wrapped Devon in a hug before the rest of the Tigers joined in. Ross shook both of their hands before bringing out the sparkling cider. He poured a glass for everyone, then motioned for quiet. Raising his glass, he stared at his best friend and his bride.

"Ty, I wish you and Devon all of the joy and peace you so richly deserve. Congratulations."

"Hear, hear." "All right." "Congratulations, Colonel."

Several toasts later, the group broke up, sending the newlyweds back to McQueen's quarters while the rest of the squadrons headed for their respective squad rooms.

When they reached the door, McQueen and Devon stood there looking at each other.

"Shall we?" He opened the hatch and ushered her inside.

She moved cautiously into the room, peering around the hatch and staring at the bed.

"What's wrong?"

"I'm expecting some sort of...something. I had this fear we'd walk in and find things taped together or the bed shortsheeted or something."

"The Cards would know better than that."

"My Tigers wouldn't." The grin was almost sheepish as she stared nervously at the man who was now her husband.

Walking softly to her, McQueen reached out and stroked the back of his hand down her cheek. Devon closed her eyes and sighed, then opened them again to find him gazing at her with longing and love in his eyes. He opened his mouth to speak, but found himself caught on the words. With a smile, she placed her fingers on his lips.

"I know."

And he was relieved that she did.

Finis

Gabrielle Bessey
1999