|Author's Note: My thanks to Karen Evans for reading behind me and to Kyril for the use of Rusty and Lt. Walker. This is dedicated to C because he provides me with best kind of inspiration.|
part TWO of Oreo series
Cooper knocked on McQueen's hatch.
"Who's at my hatch?"
Cooper entered his CO's quarters. "Can I speak to you for a moment, Colonel?"
McQueen sat at his desk, holding paperwork in one hand and scratching Rusty behind the ears with the other. The kitten was growing by leaps and bounds, and she purred loudly as McQueen continued to stroke her head. When he heard the uncertainty in Cooper's voice, he looked at him with a questioning glance. "What's the problem, Hawkes?"
"Well...uh...it's about women."
"Don't know what to do with one?"
"No, sir, I was wondering, do you understand why they do the things they do?"
McQueen squeezed the bridge of his nose, closing his eyes, waiting before he responded. "If I knew what they wanted, I'd probably still be married."
"Oh." Cooper stood there for a moment, then stared at the picture he saw sitting on McQueen's desk. McQueen saw him looking at it, waiting for another question. "She seemed real nice when we were at Loxley."
"She is very nice, always has been. She's what's known as a real Southern beauty."
"Delia was born in Atlanta, raised to be a debutante, then turned her back on everything when she met Adam Shepard. He was from Texas, a brash young Marine aviator who took one look at Delia and decided that she was the only woman for him. They got married, much to the dismay of her family, and he took her all over the world with him as they moved from base to base. I met them when I was still married to Anne, we did some things together as couples because we were in the same squadron, fighting in the AI rebellion. Anne and I got divorced, but I still got cards from them, heard the stories about Jackson. Then, one day, I got a phone call from Delia saying that Adam had been in a plane crash, even as she cried, she laughed, because he'd been a passenger on that flight instead of the pilot. They were stationed at Loxley then. When I joined the 127th, I went to see Delia and Jackson, see if they needed anything." McQueen stopped for a moment, gazing at Delia's smiling face.
"When I got there, the first thing Delia did was hug me and tell me how sorry she was to hear about the divorce. I was there to see if she needed help, and she was helping me...she invited me to dinner that night. Jackson was in high school, so he didn't need another father figure. Adam and Delia had done a terrific job raising him. I ended up spending a lot of time with them because the Angels weren't making it very easy in the beginning."
Cooper interrupted. "They respected you."
"Respect, yes--like, no, which was okay since I was the XO. It kept the boundaries in place. Being with Delia made it easier somehow. She was...is one of the truest friends I have."
McQueen looked at Cooper again. "What kind of problems are you having?"
Cooper looked down, shifting around in his boots, watching Rusty rub against them as she weaved in and out of his legs. Reaching down, he picked her and rubbed her head. "It's Lieutenant Walker, I can't figure her out. She keeps making these little remarks about me coming to visit Amy, brushing up against me, looking at me. How am I supposed to know what she wants?"
"Cooper, sometimes you just have to come out and ask. No one can read anybody's mind. Next time she does something, ask her. It will solve a lot of problems in the end."
McQueen could see Cooper mulling it in his mind, stroking Rusty's fur as he thought things over. He tried not to smile.
"Thanks, Colonel." Cooper left after giving Rusty a final scratch behind her ears, leaving McQueen to ponder the advice he had given him, recalling a time when he needed that advice himself.
21 June 2061
It had been hot, unusually so, and the lake had done a lot to refresh them--McQueen was only slightly pink from the sun due to a healthy dose of sunscreen that Delia had insisted on applying. They had seen a number of people they'd known from various spots around the base, nodding hello and murmuring the perfunctory "how are yous". After changing, Delia and McQueen headed for the lodge for dinner. Walking in, they noticed quite a few stares from the people they'd seen.
"I wonder what they're staring at?" Delia preceded him to their table, enjoying his hand on her back.
"Probably wondering why you're with a tank." McQueen ignored them, as usual.
When they were seated, Delia met his gaze. "Perhaps they're just jealous."
McQueen snorted, "Of what?"
"Beautiful woman, handsome man, having a good time being with each other." Delia placed the napkin on her lap and raised her eyes to find McQueen staring at her with a disbelieving stare.
"Most natural-borns don't like to see one of their own with an in-vitro."
"If that's the case, they're just going to have to get over it. Now, it's in-vitros; a hundred years ago, it was African-Americans. If we'd done this then, there'd be burning crosses in both our yards. We'll deal with it."
They ate, enjoying the dinner and the conversation, their laughter drawing attention from the other diners, whom they continued to ignore. Arriving back at Delia's home, she invited McQueen up to sit on the porch for a while. Disappearing into the house, she reappeared with two tall glasses of lemonade. "I know it's not your usual poison, but it will have to do. I wouldn't want the MPs to haul you off."
The night drew in around them, cooling the heat, and revealing a tapestry of stars. She watched him studying the night sky, wondering if he was flying among them. Reaching out, she stroked his cheek with her finger, startling him out of his reverie. "Where were you?"
"About dinner, about the Angels, about life?"
He quirked his lips. "A little bit of everything, I suppose."
"Ty, sometimes you think too much, you know that? I don't know how much of it comes from being an in-vitro and how much is just your nature. There are times when it's okay to just go with your gut without pyschoanalyzing every possible outcome. If it turns out okay, you made the right choice; if it doesn't, try something else. And don't be afraid to ask questions, okay?"
Delia got up and headed into the house, with McQueen following close behind. As always, he stopped in the hall to look at the pictures she had placed there. Photos of her parents and family; her wedding to Adam; hugely pregnant with Jackson and then the trip home from the hospital; photos of just her, just Adam, just Jackson--it was a lifetime of love spelled out in pictures. A small part of him, hidden deep in his heart, ached to have it in his life. He followed Delia into the kitchen, standing behind her as he reached around and placed his glass in the sink. As he withdrew his arm, he touched her and felt her quiver. When she looked up into his eyes, he forgot everything he had told, no, warned himself about staying away from this side of their relationship.
Her lips parted and he simply did what his gut told him to do...he kissed her. Delia's arms slid up his chest and she wrapped her hands in his hair, pulling his head closer. McQueen pulled her close to his chest, molding her to him, then dropped his hands to her hips. When he parted her lips with his tongue, she welcomed him inside, sighing with pleasure as he stroked her. He drew back a couple of inches and looked at her, the question appearing in his eyes, never making it to his lips. When she nodded, McQueen took her hand and walked with her toward the stairs, letting her guide him towards her bedroom.
As he stood in the middle of the room, watching her turn on a small lamp, he began to notice how warm this place felt. Every time he stepped into this house, he felt surrounded, enveloped, in an embrace of family. It had been missing from his life, even in his marriage, and he understood why people gave their lives for "home".
Delia walked over and put her arms around him. "Not having second thoughts are you?"
Resting his cheek on her hair, he closed his eyes. "No...no second thoughts." Tilting her face up, he pressed his lips to her cheek, marveling in the softness. Traveling up her jaw, he nibbled on her ear, smiling as she gasped. Looking back into her eyes, he saw mischief and passion and a hint of something he wasn't quite sure of. Kissing her again, he began unbuttoning her blouse, smoothing it away from her shoulders, easing the straps of her bra down her arms so that he could kiss her shoulders. Rubbing the smooth satin of the material between his fingers, he stared at the color, noticing how it blended with the color of her skin. "What color is this?"
Delia stared down at her lingerie, then looked at McQueen with a half-questioning look in her eyes. "It's called champagne."
"It's beautiful on you." He murmured, then continued with the task of removing it. He found his arms tangled in his t-shirt as Delia pulled it over his head, shaking it loose and finding her staring at him.
"I enjoy looking at you, Ty." She stroked his chest, sliding her fingers across his belly, smiling as she found the ticklish spot right above his hip. He noticed that her fingers trembled just a little as she unbuttoned his jeans and pushed them down his legs. Stepping out of them, he moved her towards the bed, easing her jeans off as well. Standing there, nothing separating them but space, McQueen took her hand and kissed her palm, licking it gently...she tasted like sunshine. Delia pulled him onto the bed, pushing him back against the pillows and lying beside him. Even before this moment, she had always enjoyed watching him. He moved like a jaguar, controlled passion in every step, stalking his way in this world. Having him here, she planned to enjoy every moment of unleashing the passion that hid inside of him.
Leaning up, she placed a kiss on his jaw, working her way down his neck to his chest. She lingered a moment, licking his nipples, watching him shake with pleasure before she continued lower. Stopping on the smooth expanse of his belly, she felt his hand still from stroking hers. Raising her eyes, she saw the uncertainty in his. Delia winked, then touched the tip of her tongue to the spot where his belly button would have been before coming back up to kiss him. Kissing him, she lost herself in the sensation of his hands stroking her back before coming around to caress her breasts. She reached down and began to stroke him, feeling him become hard and pressing against her thigh. Sitting up, McQueen pulled her to him, cupping her face as he kissed her. Placing her hands on his shoulders, Delia straddled his thighs, closing her eyes as she sank onto him. For a moment she sat there, so still that McQueen whispered, "Are you okay?"
When she opened her eyes, he was awed by the emotions shining there; then she smiled as she slowly began to move her hips. Kissing each other, their tongues matched the rhythm their bodies created, each trying to hold on to every new sensation. When he touched her, Delia felt as if every part of her cried out his name. When she caressed him, McQueen felt himself shake, his heart pounding, aching to drown in the beautiful essence that was Delia.
She felt him thrusting faster and faster and she held onto him, absorbing his shudders as he spilled into her, listening to him groan with pleasure as he said her name, falling herself into a white-hot light that surrounded them. She lay on his chest, hearing his racing heartbeat echo her own, feeling it slowly calming. She didn't know how long she laid there, his arms wrapped around her, silence washing over them.
Moving to lie at his side, Delia turned his face to look into his eyes, afraid she might see regret. Seeing only a sleepy passion, she grinned and slid her leg across his, draping her arm across his chest. Listening to him breathe, she drifted off to sleep.
It was still dark when Delia stretched, noticing immediately that McQueen was no longer in bed. Adjusting her eyes to the predawn light, she noticed the balcony door was open, knowing intuitively that he was out there staring at the sky. Slipping on his shirt, she silently padded to the door, looking out to see him waiting for the dawn. Sitting down beside him on the lounge, she waited for him to voice the arguments that she knew were running rampant in his head.
"Delia, I don't think I can handle getting married again." His voice was quiet.
"I can understand that."
"Life is so crazy these days. I don't know what I want."
He looked at her, not understanding her agreement. He had expected...an argument, maybe...something, but not this.
"Ty, I do understand. I don't think I want to get married either. What Adam and I had, I'm not sure it can be duplicated, and I don't want anything less. As for knowing what *I* want...well, I've always known it when I've seen it." She picked up his hand and intertwined their fingers. "You are my friend...one of my best friends...you've been there when I needed you. Making love with you was beautiful and I would not give it up for anything, but it is not all that defines *us*. We don't have to decide anything today. You are always welcome here, in my home, in my bed; but, if something happens, and we find ourselves with other people...your happiness is very important to me. I may cry a little, but I will also let you go." Delia stopped and looked at the sky as the newness of dawn swept over them. "We will be together as long as we are, however we are."
Pulling her close, McQueen wrapped his arms around her, accepting her peace about their places in each other's lives.
7 May 2064
Saratoga Landing Bay 3
Mail call was event that never failed to raise everyone's hopes. It happened so infrequently, due to battle and supply snafus, that it was almost intoxicating. McQueen found himself down in the landing bay when the shuttle came in, trying to escape the horde of soldiers and sailors who clamored around, eager for some news from home. A stunned expression came over his face when heard his name called out. Taking the box, he headed for his quarters.
Rusty stretched when she saw him enter the cabin and headed for the desk as he sat down. Waiting patiently, she stuck her nose against the paper as he opened the box. Leaning back and putting his feet up on the desk, he read the letter, laughing at Delia's observations of life on base and enjoying the memories her words evoked. When he had leaned back, Rusty had made her way down his legs, lying on her back in his lap so that he could scratch her belly, her loud purrs interspersed with his chuckles. Sitting up, he reached into the box and pulled out more cookies, a book, and some cat treats and a toy mouse. Delia had taped a note to the treats saying that she'd heard he had a new lady in his life. Giving Rusty a treat and the mouse to play with on the floor, he ate a cookie and reread the letter, almost feeling her arms around him. It was a good feeling.
7 July 2064
Ronald Reagan Veteran's Hospital
He'd been there for days, refusing visitors, refusing help. No one could seem to get through the angry fog that had enveloped him ever since he'd been medivac'd off the Saratoga. The first two days he had been in the hospital, he'd been strung out on pain medication as he was examined and re-examined, doctors constantly throwing out possible prosthetic solutions. When he actually saw what was left of his leg, a black fury had filled him and he yelled at the nurses who were trying to change his bandage.
"Get out of my fucking room. Get out." McQueen threw everything he could get his hands on, driving the nurses from the room under a hail of flowers and plants, his uneaten lunch hitting the door.
Doctor Karen Evans had taken his case when nobody else seemed to know what do with him--they thought he was a lost cause. After reading his file, she knew that he would move heaven and earth to get back into the war, if she could just tap that strength lurking deep inside. The nurses had beeped her when the tantrum started, and she was glad to finally see some sort of emotion from him. Dr. Evans walked into his room after she was sure he had nothing left to throw.
"Well, I was beginning to wonder if you're were conscious. I'm glad to see that you are, but if you pull another stunt like this, I'm going to have you physically restrained. Understand?" McQueen gave her the coldest "go to Hell" look she had ever seen and refused to speak.
Walking out of his room, Dr. Evans was reading his chart when she felt a touch on her arm. Delia stood there, a worried expression on her face--she'd seen the nurses come running out of his room, heard things hitting the wall, even seen them flying out of the door. "Is it stupid of me to even ask how he's doing?" A wan smile crossed her face.
"Let's sit a minute, Mrs. Shepard." Dr. Evans led Delia to the waiting room. "How well do you know Colonel McQueen?"
"About as well as anyone can, I suppose. When we were still in our respective marriages, we did things as couples. Then, when he got divorced and I lost my husband, we became good friends. He's one of my best friends."
"Any reason why he doesn't want to see anyone, especially you?" Dr. Evans scribbled notes on his chart as she waited for an answer.
"His wife wanted a divorce because he couldn't have children...I think it was due to something that happened during the AI rebellion. I think he might be afraid of how we...I will react to the loss of his leg. Maybe he's afraid that we won't see him as being complete. Sometimes he can be so stubborn you just want to hit him over the head with a 2-by-4."
Looking towards McQueen's room, a determined look crossed Delia's face. She'd had tried to get him to reconsider her visiting, but McQueen didn't want her there, didn't want her to see him like that. Finally, she'd had enough. "I'm not waiting anymore. I'm going in there." Delia stood and looked back at Dr. Evans. "Got a flak jacket and a combat helmet?"
Dr. Evans laughed as she stood and patted Delia on the arm. "I think you'll be fine. Just remember to duck."
Marching down the hall, she made her way to his room, standing in the doorway and watching him sitting in the wheelchair that faced a window overlooking the grounds. When he felt someone watching him, he turned to find Delia leaning against the door. Angry that she had to see him like this, he lashed out. "I told you I didn't want to see anyone, especially you. Why the hell can't you people leave me alone?"
In the moments before he spoke, Delia had been afraid that he was lost for good. When the rage appeared in his eyes, she knew he was still around. "Well, Ty, if you weren't such a bull-headed son-of-a-bitch, I wouldn't have had to lay an ambush to see you. What did you expect...that I would see you and run screaming down the hall? What kind of woman do you think I am?" Crossing the room, she put her hands on the arms of his wheelchair and pushed her face into his. "I am your friend, and I love you no matter how many pieces you're in. Got it?"
He didn't know what to expect when she saw him. To be honest with himself, he was afraid she'd be disgusted by the fact that he was no longer a whole man, that she'd walk out the door and out of his life. He closed his eyes for a moment before leaning forward to rest his forehead against hers, relief flooding through him when he realized that she wasn't walking away. A small smile crossed his lips.
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