Author's Note: Thanks to Sheryl, Rachael, and Kyril for reading behind me. Special thanks to C for the inspiration.

Respite
part one of Oreo series
by
Gabrielle Bessey

There was an excitement in the air as the ISSCV landed. Even though they weren't home, there was a general sense of homecoming at being back on Earth. Several squadrons had returned to learn about improved SA-43s, in hopes that the new modifications would give them an edge in the war.

"Never thought I'd see this place again." Cooper swung his duffel higher on his shoulder. "Never thought I'd want to." Vanessa followed him as the 58th fell into place behind McQueen.

McQueen wasn't sure how he felt about being back at Loxley. The last time he'd been there was after losing the Angels--memories that didn't do him or them any good. "Grab your gear and let's find our bunks." He surveyed the young lieutenant rushing to meet them.

Rigidly standing at attention, hand twitching as he saluted, he nervously faced the veterans he'd heard so much about. "Colonel McQueen, sir."

"Yes, Lieutenant."

"You and the 58th Squadron are being quartered in BOQ Building 4, and there's a briefing at 1400 hours in Ops."

"Thank you."

The briefing was quick, the modifications in firepower did not change the way they flew or their strategies. After it was over, they scattered, agreeing to meet at The Asteroid bar for drinks.

At 2000 hours, they filed into the bar, remembering the last time they'd been there, how young they'd been. A new group of boots saw them enter and began whispering.

"You guys remember how young we were?" Shane nodded toward the kids who watched them walk across the bar.

"Yeah, we were pretty cocky." Nathan headed for an empty table. "First round's on me." Waiting for their orders, he made his way to the bar and returned with six beers.

They sat there, enjoying the peace, when a boot hesitantly approached their table. "You guys seen any action?"

"A little." Paul sat his beer on the table.

"Who you guys with?"

"We're the 58th."

"You guys are legends around here. Bougus actually talks about you without yelling."

Cooper sputtered. "You guys got Bougus? My sympathy, man."

He shifted hesitantly. "Got any advice?"

The all piped in. "Watch your six." "Stick with your wingman." "Remember Chigs attack in groups." "Always back your buddies up in a bar fight." The rest of the WildCards looked at Paul as he inserted the last tip. He just shrugged and grinned.

With a look of confusion and suspicion, the young man wandered back to his table, anxious to tell the rest of his squadron that he'd met the WildCards.

McQueen stood in the doorway, watching his squadron, as memories assailed him--it was almost as if the Angry Angels were still there, ghosts that had remained in happier times. Shane motioned to him from their table. "Colonel, over here. We went ahead and ordered you a beer."

"It seems as if years have gone by since we've been here. I can't believe it's only been a year." Vanessa kept picking at her bottle of beer, then putting it down, interlocking water rings on the table top. "Did they have the dance floor back then?"

The silence was companionable as each person reflected on how far they'd come. Vanessa was the first to notice the woman at the bar watching them. "Does anyone know that woman at the bar? She's been watching us for a long time, ever since the Colonel came in." They all turned to look, except McQueen who continued to nurse his beer.

The lady at the bar leaned over and asked the bartender a question, smiling as he took the glass over to the 58th's table and placed it in front of McQueen. When McQueen looked up at the bartender, the guy just pointed to the lady at the bar.

McQueen looked at the glass, picked it up, and took swallow. "She certainly knows how to pick Scotch." Getting up, he headed towards her. The 'Cards watched, mesmerized, as she stood up to greet him. They almost fell out of their chairs when she placed her hand on McQueen's chest and softly pressed her mouth to his. Stepping back, she smiled.

"I heard about your promotion. Silver leaves look good on you, Ty."

"Thanks, Delia. How have you been?"

"Wonderful...even better now." Seeing five sets of eyes focused on her, she laughed. "Who are the kids staring so intently at us?"

McQueen looked over his shoulder at the 'Cards, who were busy trying not to look as if they had been watching and weren't dying from curiosity.

"That's my squadron, the kids I got after I lost the Angels."

"They look to be pretty good Marines. Aren't you going to introduce me? I'm sure they're dying to know who I am and how I know you."

McQueen placed his hand on her back, handed her the glass of wine he'd picked up off the bar, and guided her back to the table where he'd been sitting.

"Delia, I'd like you to meet the 58th Squadron, the WildCards. This is Vansen, Wang, Damphousse, West, and Hawkes. WildCards, this is Delia Shepard." Hellos and handshakes were exchanged, each of the 'Cards wondering exactly how she fit into McQueen's life.

Nathan pulled over another chair, and she sat down, leaning close to McQueen.

"So you're the WildCards. Jackson talks a lot about you, from everything he's heard from Sgt. Bougus."

Everyone grimaced at the name of their drill sergeant, especially Hawkes.

"How is Jackson...and how does he know Bougus?" McQueen sipped his Scotch.

"He signed up, went into accelerated flight training, and graduates in three days."

"I thought he was going to med school?"

"He was...says he still plans to, but if we lose this war, he says he won't need to heal anyone just so the Chigs can kill them. He's just like his father."

"Who's Jackson?" Cooper leaned over the table to ask before they could start talking again.

Delia laughed, and it reminded McQueen of water bubbling in a brook. "I'm sorry, we've been catching up and ignoring you. Jackson is my son. In fact, I think I saw him come in a few minutes ago." She scanned the tables. "There he is."

Jackson Shepard caught a glimpse of his mother and headed over to say hello. When he saw McQueen, his face lit up. "Ty..." Jackson stopped, remembering the protocol he had to follow, "I mean, Colonel, sir, it's good to see you again."

McQueen stood to shake his hand. "You look good, Jackson."

"Thank you, sir. I'll look forward to seeing you aboard the Saratoga. I just found out we're going to be stationed aboard her. Gotta go, it was good to see you."

"Same here."

Jackson leaned down to kiss his mother and headed back to join his buddies.

"Ty, can I interest you in some late dinner? It's been a long time and we have a lot of catching up to do before you ship out again."

"Dinner sounds great." Looking at the 'Cards seated at the table, he told them he'd return to his quarters late, ignoring the speculation in their eyes.

They got up to leave, making a strikingly diverse couple. Both were dressed in jeans and t-shirts, but that's where any similarities ended. As they walked towards the door, McQueen noticed that she was more beautiful than a year ago. Her skin was still as smooth as the finest silk, the color of creamy coffee. Her hair was pulled back from her face, black ringlets falling to her shoulders, and her eyes were the color of sherry, an inheritance from an Irish grandmother, she said. In the early morning dawn of a summer morning, he had told her that, in all the stories of Solomon and Sheba he had heard, about how exquisite Sheba had been to tempt Solomon, McQueen had understood because he felt that way when he looked at Delia--he still did.

"You still with me, Ty?"

"Yeah, just remembering."

"Good ones, I hope."

The look in his eyes told her just what he was remembering. "The best."

"Do you need to stop and get your duffel?"

"Why?"

"What makes you think I'm going to let you leave after dinner?"

He studied her, the grin on her lips accentuating the intentions in her eyes. "I'm in BOQ4."

The house was still as welcoming as he remembered. The wall of memories, as she called it, had expanded, filled with newer pictures of Jackson and even a couple with him. She led him towards the back of the house, flipping switches as she went.

"Do you mind if we eat in the kitchen?"

"No, that's fine."

Delia opened the refrigerator door, bending over to rustle through the bowls crowding the shelf and McQueen admired the view as he leaned against the counter.

"Anything in particular you'd like?"

"Hmmm, what?"

Turning around to see what had distracted McQueen from dinner, she saw the passion he kept hidden from the world flare up in his eyes. Tossing the bowls on the counter, she walked over to him, slipped her fingers in the top of his jeans, and pulled him to her, nestling him in the cradle of her thighs.

Stroking his bottom lip with her finger, she leaned into him. "What do you say we skip dinner and go straight for the good stuff?"

Wrapping his arms around her, McQueen pulled Delia close, kissing her cheek, her nose, her jaw, before he settled on her mouth, stroking her bottom lip with his tongue before delving inside. She moaned, arching closer, realizing how much she had missed him, and wrapped her arms around his neck.

Pulling away and taking a deep breath, she took him by the hand and led him upstairs to her bedroom. As she opened the door, he noticed that it had not changed much, maybe it was brighter, but it was still one of the few places he'd felt safe. Before he knew what was happening, Delia pushed him on top of the bed and straddled him. She didn't move, just sat there looking at him. Then she reached down, lifting the hem of his t-shirt and pulled it over his head. When she saw the scars, her eyes began to glimmer with tears, and she leaned down to kiss them, telling him she wanted to kiss away all the pain. He hugged her to him, and for a moment, they just lay in each other's arms. He forgot about the scars when he realized how long it had been since he felt her touch, how much he'd missed her company. Reaching down, he pulled at the hem of her shirt, easing her arms out and pulling it over her head. With a practiced hand, he unclasped her bra, rolling her over as he did it.

"That was smooth, Ty. How many nights have you stayed up practicing that one?"

He smiled, kissing the side of her neck before he answered. "All those nights alone on a carrier, a man's gotta have something to occupy his time."

The rest of their clothing was added to the pile on the floor as they stretched out on the bed. Everything felt right--they knew where to touch...how to move...it was as if they hadn't been apart. All the little things came flooding back and McQueen could have sworn he was in heaven when Delia took him into her, wrapping her legs around his hips and arching up to meet him. She teased him with her lips, her tongue, her fingers, delighting in his groans. He pushed her farther and farther until she shuddered with release, then shook as he spilled into her. Sinking down to rest on her body, he stroked the hair from her face and kissed her lightly on the lips. McQueen leaned against her forehead and closed his eyes, memorizing the details for when he was alone again. Delia stroked his back with her fingers, then moved her hands up to cup his face. She kissed his brow, licking the sweat from his temple. "This feels like home. I'm glad you're back, even for a moment."

Rolling to the side, he pulled her with him, stroking her back as she sprawled across his chest. "I wasn't sure I wanted to come back. After losing the Angels, I didn't want to see this place again."

"I understand...but I'm still glad you're here."

Looking at her hand on his chest, she liked the contrast of colors. It had always appealed to her sense of aesthetics to see his lightness and her darkness complementing each other. Lazily, she ran her fingers up and down his chest, memorizing his touch...his taste...his smell...for the nights when she was alone with her memories.

Sated, they slept until they were awakened by the sound of McQueen's growling stomach. Laughing, Delia got up, put on his t-shirt, and headed for the kitchen. At 2:00 a.m., they sat at the kitchen table, eating, drinking, talking, saying nothing as they realized that he would have to leave soon. When the grandfather clock struck 5:00 a.m., McQueen got up and headed for the shower, telling Delia that he had to be back at the base by 0630 to make sure the 'Cards were ready to go.

Stepping in, he let the hot water massage his neck, enjoying a shower without thought of water rationing. Lost in this small pleasure, he almost jumped as he felt her slide the soap across his belly. Smiling, she said, "I would say one last time, but that would be a lie. I can't imagine a last time with you."

He pulled her into his arms, kissing her hotly, running his hands up and down her body. Making love in the shower reminded him of the time they had been caught in the thunderstorm at the lake, the water making it a much more sensual experience.

Toweling off, he smiled a bittersweet smile at their short reunion. Seeing it, she took his hand and kissed his palm. "Don't ever regret what we have, Ty. No matter how short, every moment is special, and I wouldn't trade it for anything."

They drove to the base in silence, Delia's hand resting on his thigh as he took his time, enjoying the feel of the car hugging the road. When they arrived at the airfield, McQueen saw that the WildCards had already stowed their gear and were waiting for him. He didn't need to look at their faces to see that they knew where he'd been.

Delia leaned against the hood as he removed his duffel from the trunk. "They're good kids. They like you."

"Yeah, well, they're pretty good."

McQueen stood in front of her, not wanting to say good-bye. He hated doing that, it felt like a part of him was being left behind. Delia stroked the squadron patches on his flight suit, not wanting to say the word.

"Do me a favor, Ty. Watch out for Jackson, will you?"

"Delia, I can't protect him while he's out there."

"I know...just don't let him do anything stupid."

He heard footsteps behind him and turned to find Shane shifting uncomfortably. "Colonel, we're ready to go."

"I'll be right there." Turning back around, he dropped his duffel and put his arms around her. Delia slipped her arms around his back, holding him tightly.

Tilting her chin, McQueen kissed her softly and pressed his cheek against hers. Delia cupped his cheek, whispering "Take care and be safe."

Then McQueen picked up his duffel and walked away, hearing the roar of her car as she drove off.

He tossed his duffel into a hold and took a seat a little away from the others. He could hear their whispers, but he knew they wouldn't ask, which was just as well. He didn't know if he could explain.


Epilogue

Back on the Saratoga, he emptied his duffel and wondered at the packages that were at the bottom of the bag. He opened the smaller one, stroking the silver frame of the picture Delia had put in there. He could still remember the day they spent at the lake, where someone had taken the picture of McQueen leaning against her with her arms wrapped around him...they were both smiling.

"Funny," he thought, "it almost seems as if this is another person." Opening the second package, the smell of chocolate wafted up to tease him. Delia had packed a dozen homemade mint chocolate chip cookies, along with a note...
Ty, I remembered I had these when you were in the shower, and I couldn't resist sending you back with a part of me.
Love, D
Putting the picture on his desk, he sat on his bunk, remembered her smile, and savored a piece of home.

The End



Next : Summer Dreams also avaliable at this site.



G. Bessey
5/29/96, 6/4/96