Disclaimer: Space: Above And Beyond is the property of Morgan & Wong, Fox Entertainment and whoever else owns them at this time. Jenny Kirkwood belongs to me, but I think she would rather belong to McQueen.

Though this story is in The Moving Finger universe, it should stand alone. I've tried to write it so it can be read and understood without reading The Moving Finger Writes. This is my response to the Holiday Challenge I issued.

TYPE: Romance, Jen and McQ, Coop and Shane,


FEEDBACK: PLEASE! Both positive and negative is very welcome lattelady6@home.com

I'll Be Home For Christmas


Phyllis Christie

December 20, 2064 Saratoga Mess Hall 0800 hours

Lt. Commander Jennifer Kirkwood, MD moved through the crowded breakfast line, humming softly to herself. She had gotten far too little sleep the last few nights, but for the first time in three days she walked with a spring in her step and a light heart. Looking around her, the bright designs of *holly leaves and Christmas trees* that had seemed garish and out of place, now looked festive and happy.

"Jenny," Capt. Shane Vansen waved her friend over to the table surrounded by Wildcards.

"Hi," Jen grinned. "It's good to know you guys got back all in one piece. When your mission went longer than expected, I was a bit worried."

"Ahh, Lady-Doc, there was no need to worry," Coop patted her on the shoulder. "We were just fine, besides we take good care of each other." It was as close as he could go to telling her that they had watched McQueen's six as closely as he had watched theirs. Hawkes knew how hard it had been for her to calmly send the older man off on the first mission he had been on since the explosion that had cost him his leg and almost his life.

Shane took a quick peek at Jenny's left wrist and saw a glint of gold rope chain, partly hidden by the Doctor's lab coat sleeve. The young Marine had to hide a grin. The last time she had seen that bracelet it had been hanging between a set of dog tags that Lt. Col. Tyrus McQueen had quickly hidden under the collar of his flightsuit, after their high altitude jump onto the moon, where they had gone to blow up a Chig pulse cannon base. Now, less than four hours after their return, the bracelet was back where it belonged. That explained the Doctor's sleepy expression, Shane thought.

"Room for one more?" McQueen's deep voice broke into Shane's thoughts. The group quickly made a space for him between Cooper Hawkes and Mitch "Hoyle" Connelly, one of the two new members of the Wildcards. It was uncanny how the older couple seemed to arrive almost at the same time, but never together.

It should happen about now, Shane thought as she watched Jenny carefully, and was rewarded with the sudden change in the Doctor's eyes. They flared to midnight black for an instant, then the older woman blinked, and gained control over her emotions. When her eyes opened, they were a clear cool gray. If the young Marine had had the nerve she would have quickly glanced at her commanding officer, knowing she might see the answering blue flame that he didn't always bother to hide from the Wildcards. Shane knew she was watching a private moment between them, but each time she saw it happen, her belief was reaffirmed that there was more to life than the war they were fighting. With all the death and loss of the last year that little bit of added knowledge soothed her and gave her something extra to hang onto.

Jenny looked around the table, thankful for all that they had been given, despite all they had lost. Kelly Winslow and Paul Wang dead, but Maria "Aces `N Eights" Del Mar and Mitch "Hoyle" Connelly meshed well with the group and helped fill the void left by Kelly and Paul. Ty was back to his old self. The combination prosthesis/transplant replaced the leg he had lost, and gave him back all his strength and agility. Even the stem cell injections for nerve regeneration were no longer needed.

A week and a half ago, pronouncing him fit for combat duty, was one of the hardest things she had ever had to do. It made him a fighting Warrior again, and all too soon he and his Wildcards had gone on a mission, taking him from the relative safety of the Saratoga.

"Did the mail shuttle arrive while we were away?" Nathan was anxious to hear from Kylen. He was grateful that she had been one of the prisoners of war exchanged before the peace talks went to hell, so it was hard to complain about missing mail, when he knew she was safe.

"No, it's still overdue," Jenny looked up at him, knowing why he was impatient. "I hope it gets here before Christmas."

December 23 2064 Saratoga Landing Bay 1845 hours

As if by magic the word had spread: mail. Anyone who wasn't on duty headed for the Landing Bay. Usually busy areas of the ship suddenly became deserted as the fighting men and women were drawn to their strongest link with home.

Wildcards' Quarters 2200 hours, that same night

Nathan touched the paper again. Knowing Kylen had held it in her hands brought her close to him. Her handwriting was a bit different than it used to be, bolder, messier, almost defiant, though the words were still the woman he knew. He had been surprised to see the return address had changed for the third time since she had arrived on Earth.

My Dearest Nathan,
As you can see from the return address, I've moved again. Your Dr. Kirkwood had her friend Patsy Savage visit me. She took one look at me and invited me to her home on Catalina Island. At the time I thought it was out of pity, but I was so desperate to get away to do some thinking, I jumped at the chance. It turned out I was really needed. Patsy is newly married and her husband, General Savage, is gone a lot, I don't think she even knows were. She's glad for my company and it feels good to be needed again.

I put a blue star in the window for you, along with the three Patsy already has. I know your parents have one, but seeing it there everyday gives me hope. We pray that we won't have to replace any of the blue ones with gold. It had been a close call for Colonel McQueen's. I understand he almost died.

There was a time when we were so close we almost finished each others sentences, but you and I have changed. We've been walking a different path. I hope those paths will be one again when the war is over. If they aren't, I want you to know, that thinking about you, knowing that you were still alive was what kept me going during that awful time I was a prisoner.

We made the right decision, when we decided to wait to get married until we found out how much life on Tellus would change us. I never wanted you tied to me out of a sense of duty or responsibility, and I still don't. If we've changed too much, you're free to seek what you need in life.

Things are different. The world is different. I am different. The woman I've become is nothing like the girl you loved. Your innocent Kylen died when the colony ship was attacked. I'm spending my time on this peaceful Island trying to find a bridge between the girl I was and the woman I am now.

The news is full of the happenings on the Saratoga and the political implications of what your squad found. I'm thankful for the return of your two missing squad members and sorry to hear of the death of another. He gave his life, in part, for me, for that he will always be in my prayers.

Merry Christmas and keep yourself safe.
Love, Kylen

Nathan read the letter for the fourth time. Tears caused the words to blur. They weren't tears of sadness, but of relief and joy. Kylen knew, she understood. They were still finishing each others sentences. For months he had tried to keep the door lock on the fear that had been eating at him: what if he had changed so much that Kylen couldn't love him anymore? She had said that her innocence had died when the Chigs attacked, but so had his. For the first time in a long time, he knew they would be all right.

Commodore Ross' Quarters, same night and time

"Come," Ross called out at the knock on his hatch.

"You wanted to see me, Sir," McQueen approached his friend.

"This arrived today," Ross pulled a package out of the lower drawer of his desk. He had been poking at it, on and off, all afternoon. Once when his curiosity had gotten the best of him, he had even given it a good shake, but to no avail. The box was as much a mystery as it had been hours ago. His name may have been on it, but the return address told him that this package was for McQueen. "So you going to tell me about it?"

"It's a Christmas present for Jen," McQueen reached for the package. "I asked Patsy to get it for me, since it wasn't available in the Saratoga's PX."

"That's a relief to know," Glen skewered his friend with a fierce look. "I gather you've learned a little about giving women gifts since that Christmas with Amy?"

"If I'd wanted to give Jen a side arm, I could've gotten that without sending to Earth for it," the Marine's lips twitched as he tried to keep from laughing. At the time it hadn't been funny. Amy had been hurt and insulted at the gift her new husband had thought to be just the thing for the natural-born wife of an in-vitro.

"All the way from Earth?" Ross prodded as he did some calculations in his head, and the numbers didn't add up. "That was quick service. How long ago did you say you thought of this?"

"I didn't say," McQueen shook his head at the gleam in his friends eye. "But if you must know, the letter to Patsy went out on the mail shuttle that left the morning of.....of the attempted peace talks."

"But that was before, before...." Ross leaned back in his chair with a big grin on his face. At the time Ty had made the purchase,he was still insisting that he and Jenny were just old friends.

"Yes it was," the Colonel turned and leaned against the book case that held the model of the Saratoga. He looked at the pictures of Ross' children and sister as he had done many times in the past. It gave him deep satisfaction to think of the picture that now stood on his desk. His old wedding photo tossed down the waste shut months ago.

"Jenny isn't Amy," Ross spoke quietly into the silence between them. "You could give her a weapon, and she'd love it, because it came from you."

"I know that," the Marine turned to his friend. No more words were needed. Between them was the silent communication of men who have fought and almost died together. That's why it has to be something more, though it's still not enough.

Ross nodded his head in understanding, hearing the words as if they had been spoken.

Wildcards' Quarters 2350 hours, same night

Cooper Hawkes couldn't sleep. Shane still wasn't back. After they had picked up their mail, she had dropped the letters from her sisters on her bunk, then she had left, taking one small package with her. That had been hours ago. He was beginning to worry. Crawling quickly out of bed, he dressed and moved quietly through the ship. He thought he knew where he would find her.

Saratoga Hangar Deck midnight

Walking silently among the sleeping cockpits of their Hammers, Coop could hear a soft sniffling sound. Moving with stealth to the hollowed out area that over-looked the Hangar Deck, he peeked in and saw Shane curled in a ball.

"Vansen," he whispered as he pulled himself up beside her. "You okay?" He wanted to say more, but words didn't come easily to him.

"Sure.......Coop......a......what are you doing here?" She sat up and pushed her hair out of her eyes.

"I was worried about ya....I don't know, you seemed kinda upset when you got your mail....."

"It's nothing, really. I guess I a...must have fallen asleep," she turned away from him, afraid he would see that she had been crying.

"Hey, this is me you're talkin' to," he turned her around. "We've a.. well...we've talked like this before. Only difference is we aren't goin' out in that stinkin' Chig ship tomorrow, like a bunch of Kamikazes." He was afraid he knew way she was upset. She must have gotten something from John Oakes' family and it was making her hurt all over again.

"I......." Shane held very still not wanting to seem weak, but needing to talk to someone. The moment stretched on. If Coop had said anything more, she was sure she would have gotten up and walked away, but he just sat there, ready to listen. "I........got this," she held out a small package with a letter. "It's from Kelly Winslow's mom, here, you read it."

"Ohhh," his breath caught in his throat as he pulled out a pocket light and began to read the letter.

Dear Shane,
Kelly talked often about all of the Wildcards and was proud to be a member of the squad. The Saratoga and Major McKendrick are in the news so much, lately, I am getting a better idea of what my daughter's life was really like. I know that she was happy until the end.

I hope this reaches you by Christmas time. It was months before I was able to face going through her things, or I would have sent this package long ago.

I found the knife you gave her last year for Christmas. She had told me about it in a letter. It meant a great deal to her. She wrote that you had wanted to give the `Lady `Cards' a more feminine gift. I'm glad you didn't. Getting the knife on the heels of a battle, when you were cut off from your ship, moved her greatly and tickled her sense of humor. Touching it and seeing the inscription made me feel almost as if I had been there with her.

There was an unfinished letter among her things. She wanted me to send her two identical necklaces. It was to be her Christmas gift to you and Vanessa this year. When I read the letter I thought it only right that you two should have them. I bought a third one, for me to wear in Kelly's memory. She wanted to give them to you this year and say, "Merry Christmas, 2064 from Kelly Anne Winslow." Since she isn't here to do so, I'll say it for her.

You are all in my prayers. Once this hell is over, please come and visit me. My door is always open to any of you.

Merry Christmas, Wildcards,
Michelle Winslow

The silent night descended around the couple on the Hangar Deck. Mrs. Winslow's letter had brought back Christmas 2063 with crystal clarity. Coop could almost feel the deck spinning around him.

"What am I going to do with the these?" Shane looked up at the large man beside her.

"You're gonna do what the letter says, aren't ya?" Hawkes didn't understand her uncertainty.

"`Phousse's hasn't completely recovered from all that happened this fall. To remind her of Kelly's death would be cruel."

"She's stronger than that, and her memory is as good as the rest of ours." He wished he could see her eyes, but the dark hid everything except her silhouette. "Sounds to me like it's you who doesn't want to remember. What's that all about?"

"That's the stupidest thing I've ever hearrrrd.........." Shane gasped as she realized what she was saying. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean that. I'm so confused lately. When I'm in my cockpit I know what I'm doing and where I'm going. Everything's very clear. But beyond the war, nothing makes any sense."

"Talk to me, Shane," Coop pulled her close. It was something he wouldn't have usually done, but she was hurting and needed to lean on someone. Who better than him? He was always there for her and he knew he always would be, even if she never figured it out.

"You've been taking lessons from Jenny," she teased, recognizing the words that Dr. Kirkwood used when something important needed to be discussed.

"Yeah, well who else is gonna take the time to teach a big dumb Tank," he snorted.

"If she were here she'd take you over the coals for talking about yourself that way," Shane chided.

"Well she isn't and stop avoiding the question," Jenny had used those words on him plenty, he hoped they'd work with Shane.

"It's not just the deaths we've seen," she bit her lip trying to work up the nerve to go on. "Since I was nine years old I've hated AI's. I saw them kill my parents and that hate just grew and grew. Now they're all dead and I killed them. Me, I'm responsible, so why don't I feel better?"

"You didn't kill `em, it was that computer virus that wiped `em out. The one that Diane Hayden and Carleton Stryker planted in those AI's on Minerva, and it got outta hand."

"There's more to it than that," Shane whispered. "McQueen talked to me not long after we picked McKendrick up from there. He had Jen with him," she smiled remembering her commanders concern. "I think he brought her along in case I fell apart."

"Is it something you can talk about?" Things had gone weird ever since Major McKendrick had cracked the AI code and brought down the Hayden administration with the information that had been obtained on 2063Y and Minerva. The strangest things were classified now-a-days.

"You already know about it," she shrugged. "It was from the first time we were there and got back Paul's Kazbek confession. The Elroy I used to tap into the AI's main data base had the virus. That was how it was spread off the planet. Until that time the disease was contained. I should be happy, thrilled! But I'm not, all I feel is empty."

"Sounds to me like you need to talk to Jenny or the Colonel, again."

"You're right," she shook her head, enjoying the feel of his chin against her forehead. "But they've been kind of preoccupied lately."

"Lady-Doc'd be mad at you if she knew you needed her help and were staying away because she and McQueen,.....well you know?" He ran his fingers through her long hair, not even realizing he was doing it.

"Yeah, I know," Shane smiled. "And you're right. They're always so careful to not let their relationship interfere with doing their duty. I guess I'm not helping them any. I'll talk to Jen after the holiday, I promise."

"You decided what ya gonna do with the package from Ms Winslow?" Coop picked up the small box between them and handed it to Shane.

"Yes," she took a deep breath. "Vanessa and I'll open it tomorrow night before the party. Now, we'd better get back, it's getting very late."

Coop slid off the ledge and turned to help Shane down. As he gripped her waist, her hands went to his shoulders. For a moment he supported her as he swung her down. He expected her to pull away from him as soon as her feet touch the deck, but she didn't.

"Thanks," she gave his shoulders a quick squeeze before letting go. "You've been a good friend to me the last year. I know I've never said anything, but.....thanks for being there."

"Aaa, yeah a......sure," he could feel himself flush and was glad for the cover of the darkened Hangar Deck.

December 24, 2064 McQueen's Quarters 0113 hours

After looking carefully to be sure no one was coming, Jenny quietly punched in the code to McQueen's quarters and let herself in. The three sleepless nights she had spent tossing and turning, while the Wildcards had been away, had left her exhausted. Tonight she would sleep, she smiled, thinking to herself, Ty was back. She had been called into surgery five hours earlier and was sure he would be asleep when she returned.

"What happened?" She moved quickly across the small room. McQueen was standing by the view port looking ashen, "are you all right? Is your leg giving you trouble?" She crouched beside him, reaching to run her hands over his right knee and lower leg. Intellectually, she knew that his leg was stronger than before, but emotionally, it was too easy to see him as he had been when he was brought into Sick Bay after the explosion.

"Jen," he muttered as he pulled her back up and wrapped his arms around her, burying his face in her hair. "Damn, Jen I hate mail call."

"What's wrong, what happened?" Her words came out hoarse and shallow, all she could think of was that something had happened to Patsy, the in-vitro woman who had raised her.

"Here, read this, it's from Paul Wang's father," he handed her the paper that he had crumpled in his hand.

Dear Colonel McQueen,

This is to wish you a happy holiday and a wonderful New Year. Paul wrote about his time on the Saratoga and the friends he made there. He often spoke of you with great fondness. I was not there to help guide his footsteps, but you were, for this I thank you.

He never said what happened, but his mother is very adept at reading between the lines of the letters our son would write. We know that something went very wrong for him. It dented his soul and made him question all that he believed to be true. When we asked him about it, he would say nothing, only that there was a war on and that you had helped.

My son was a poet who imagined himself a warrior. Somewhere, somehow, you were there for him, when I couldn't be. I believe you gave him the strength to be more than he ever believed he could be and all that he ever wanted to be.

Though I would give anything to have him back again, I know he died the way he would have wanted to die, a Warrior-Poet, among the stars he loved so much, standing strong against a terrible enemy to save innocent lives.

Our door is always open to you and any of the Wildcards. Know that you are all in our prayers and our hearts.

Tom and Mary Wang

"It's a beautiful letter," Jen held on tightly to him. "He's right you know, Paul did think of you as a surrogate father."

"I have no right to take that man's place," Jen had touched on a sore subject with him. "And I had no right to take that man's son away from him!"

"You didn't," she leaned back and gray eyes met blue ones. "You were here, his dad couldn't be. You did what was needed to be done. Those actions gave Paul back his soul after what happened on Kazbek and Minerva. If you had transferred him as he asked, he never would have healed. I was in Sickbay when he was brought in, both times. I know what it cost him and I know what it must have cost you to help him the way you did."

"It would have cost me more if I hadn't," he sighed and rubbed his nose against her neck, enjoying the soft rose fragrance that she always wore.

"It's all part of caring," she kissed his cheek, where she knew there had been a bad burn scar 18 months ago.

"In-vitros aren't taught to care, so when it happens we don't know what to do about it," he began to back her toward his bunk. "Often we end up hurting those around us and ourselves, as well. So we build walls to keep it all out, the good and the bad," he nibbled on her neck, knowing with her there was only the good.

"You ask me once, months ago, why I understood your demons so well, when I wasn't an in-vitro," she sighed as her lab coat hit the deck. "I think that's why. We both built the same walls for the same reasons," she fought to hold onto her thought, as his hands distracted her. "Thank you for loving me enough to take a chance and forcing me to tear down my waaalllls," she gasped. The thought completely forgotten as his hands explored further.

"My pleasure," he chuckled, knowing it was both of theirs.

Mess Hall December 25, 2064 - 2200 hours

The Chigs had given them an early wake up call when two heavy cruisers did a fly by of the Saratoga. It had been enough to put all pilots on alert, and have Ross, send out scouts. But no shots were fired and by noon everyone had been ordered to stand down from battle stations.

The Mess Hall was festive and bright and the party was in full swing when Jenny arrived. This year, instead of scrubs and lab coat she had had time to change into a green sweater and pleated slacks. Everywhere she looked people had added touches of seasonal color to their uniforms or civilian clothes.

"Jenny," Nathan called her over to join their group. "Merry Christmas," he looked around quickly, then held a piece of mistletoe above her head and kissed her on the cheek.

"Nathan...." she laughed. "Put that thing away, or I'll tell Kylen," it was an empty threat and they both knew it.

"I took it away from Coop, he was making the rounds with it," he handed her a drink and laughed as she curled her nose at it.

"I think I had a run-in with this blue stuff last year," taking a sip answered her question for her. "Yup, same stuff."

"Colonel," Nathan motioned to McQueen. "Would you join us for a toast?"

McQueen looked around the group of people he was so much a part of and his hand moved out and touched Jen's standing beside him. Vansen and Hawkes were smiling, each carrying an envelope from the Saratoga's bowling lanes in one hand and a drink in the other. Chico Voss, MD, was holding tightly to Maria Del Mar's hand and the Colonel wished he and Jen had the freedom to be so open about their affection. Mitch Connelly had his arm around Damphousse's shoulders in a show of camaraderie, but the older man could see something more intent in the younger's eyes. He knew that being in the same squad would force Mitch to keep his distance, giving Vanessa time to heal from the last year.

Nathan was standing on Jen's other side, looking content and relaxed for the first time in a long while.

For one moment the Colonel looked further. He looked for two faces that were missing. They had been here last year and because of their parents' letters, were here in spirit this year. "Jen, it's your toast," he looked down into deep gray eyes that had grown misty.

"To missing friends," her voice hitched as she thought of all the people she had lost in the last year and a half. "And to those who have been returned to us," in defiance, she gripped McQueen's hands. She had thought him dead or almost dead twice. It wasn't going to happen again!

"To Paul," Vanessa added.

"To Kelly," Coop smiled and raised his glass as Vansen and `Phousse lightly touch identical slim gold chains each was wearing around her neck.

"To John," Shane whispered, but her eyes remained clear and calm.

"To Neil," Nathan raised his glass. And his heart gave a silent `thank you' that this year he wasn't toasting Kylen.

"To the 29th," Maria and Connelly spoke at the same time. They had been the only ones of their squad to return from Demios.

"To Butts," McQueen whispered, knowing that Jen would be the only other person to understand his toast.

"To The Angels," Jen's voice faltered as she raised her glass. In her mind Gloria Collins' voice was strong and clear, Merry Christmas to you too, Angel-Doc

"Merry Christmas and Semper Fi," they all spoke in unison.

McQueen's Quarters after the party

Sitting on his desk were a pair of red suede surgical clogs with a note, `for the inner woman.' Beside them, was a 1 ounce black crystal bottle that gave off the slight scent of roses. The note that went with that read, `for the one you show to the world.' McQueen didn't know which Jen had enjoyed more. The red clogs that were so much a part of the hidden side of her or the perfume, that she loved. At the time he had ordered both, he hadn't know about the sexy lingerie that she always wore under her sedate clothes and scrubs. But he had known that she had a streak of passion that she kept hidden from everyone, even herself. Her perfume the only clue.

With the gifts he had given her, was the scrapbook she had made up for him. He didn't know where she had gotten all the pictures of him, but he figured, Ross must have helped. He had been deeply touched as he looked through the pages. It was a chronicle of his life, or as near as it could be. There were images from times when he and Ross had been on leave together, many from when he was with the Angels, but the ones he enjoyed the most were with Jen.

They had exchanged gifts in private, after the party, now they lay in each other's arms, in that time between being asleep and awake. Exhausted and sated from loving. Things were back to normal for a while. McQueen was back, though Jen knew there would be other missions. Neither of them talked of the future, just the here and now. They had made an unspoken pact to live one day at a time, but someday, when all the shooting stopped he knew he would insist on more. For the moment it was enough.

This was the third Christmas in a row that they had spent together and they both knew without a shadow of a doubt that they were home for Christmas, because the other one was there.


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