|Disclaimer: The concept of and all characters
from Space: Above and Beyond belong to Glen Morgan and James Wong, Fox Broadcasting
and Hard Eight Productions. I'm just borrowing them. No money was made from
this, and this was done totally for fun.
Nathan can't stop thinking about death.
One of the benefits of a college education, he supposes, is that he can at least rage against his fate in a measured, literate fashion. More than once, he's scribbled quotes from Tennyson on the beach where the sand is brown and smooth, and has watched the next sweeping wave neatly erase every word.
After a while, when he accepts that there will be no rescue, he realizes that they have no other way to write. No paper. No computers. No rudimentary ink or parchment. For all his education, for all their knowledge of artificial intelligences and advanced technology, they have no way to preserve their thoughts bar a finger in the sand.
He wonders how many others have wandered these rocky beaches by the river, etching names and lovehearts and dates, only to have their thoughts and desires swept away by waves, and motion, and time. Where are their bones? Their shelters? There is no evidence that anyone has ever lived here, beyond several tribes of scrabbling small animals. He wonders how long it would take for him to fade like the people he imagines must once have been here. How long before Nathan West, Shane Vansen, and Cooper Hawkes are much less than the names that will inevitably be carved on a far-distant war memorial someday? How long before even their clothes are dust, the sturdy metal transport buried by ash or sucked beneath the ground by earthquakes?
It has only been a few months, and he cannot truly be sure that any of them are still human.
Shane is in charge - a vestige of a military ranking system that should have no more hold on them. Nathan had never wanted to be in the military simply to be in the military, or even to defend humanity. Cooper had been dragged into it as an alternative to prison. Maybe they had both started to learn what Shane sees in it, what McQueen has always seen it, but all those reasons are meaningless now. They will save no one. Learn no skills. Go home to no proud families. And the war will go on without them.
"We could be the last people alive," Cooper had said one night, staring at the stars in wonder.
Nathan remembers his brother saying something similar on youthful camping trips, when they had all been far enough from civilization that they could clearly see the stars. But it had just been an idle dream, then, something that never even had a note of fear in it. Now it could so very easily be true: humans and Chigs wiped out in a final battle, or the remnants of both sides stranded just as they are without spaceflight technology.
Survival can be scraped by. They've been trained for this. They have had rations, long enough to make fishing rods and spears and to find land mammals they can eat. The transport is decent shelter, and fresh water is plentiful. Fire is tricky, but Coop has a bit of a knack for it, and Shane perseveres, and Nathan learns from them both.
Before, though, they'd always had a reason for keeping themselves alive, a hope for something better. They'd honestly believed that they would be picked up by friendlies, that they'd have hot showers and decent food and - eventually - peacetime. Even when Cooper had lived on the streets, he explains, there had been good things - hot girls and hot meals.
Now there are only Nathan and Shane and Cooper and a scorching-hot fish that burns their fingers and mouths as they eat it. It should be glorious. In reality, it's hell.
Four months in, Cooper kills something that looks like a deer and tastes like chicken. They laugh around the fire for the first time in weeks, and then Shane and Coop go swimming.
Nathan sees them on the beach, moving with a slowness he'd find admirable. One hundred and twenty days, or thereabouts, stranded with no hope of release - or even simple entertainment beyond wandering off somewhere quiet and masturbating to the thought of whatever fantasy might appeal. The question of fucking each other had seemed... Not even wrong, but simply out of the question. They were soldiers. Shane is their commanding officer, a comrade in arms, someone Nathan's always had trouble seeing as a potentially desirable woman. Even Coop, whose mind is in his pants more often than not, had seen that.
Nathan sees them come in the moonlight. It's not as easy as he would have expected, after months of denial. They've had to learn how all over again, and his cock is a little dull in his hand as he watches, seeing the ripple of Coop's abs, the flow of Shane's breasts, the insistent, beautiful rhythm of them, and their backs arched in climax.
He's far enough away that they shouldn't hear him when his own come spills out into his fingers, but Shane looks in his direction, straight into the darkness where he's standing. He knows that she knows even before she slips into his sleeping bag later that night. Shane isn't soft, but she's warm, and easily wet when he pushes into her.
"You know this is the way," she murmurs, his hands exploring her breasts as if he's never even seen them before. He agrees with kisses that surprise himself by their intensity, their frantic need. They could be the last three people alive.
He hates what she's doing to herself, and wants her more.
Cooper has always wanted to live.
He's spent his entire live scrabbling to hold on, fingernails broken, muscles and sinews screaming, an empty stomach begging to be filled. He's been a body more often than a person, flesh grown in a vat, and then an escapee with the vaguest sense of an education. His life before the marines had been filled with sex and fights and sex. The marine corps had taught him that he could be valued for his brain, for his skills, for his loyalty. But lately, all he's felt is hunger.
Shane comes to him in the last light of the day, a ghost by the water, and fills him up. He's ecstatic to be so mindless - his belly full, his body sated - until Shane slips away back to the camp, and he's left to search for a good hard rock in the darkness of the riverbed. The marines have taught him how to fly, how to shoot - but mostly they've taught him about people. He hears McQueen's voice as he finds a stone, hard and smooth, that fits tight into his hand, his fingers brushing the point. Nathan may be his best friend in the world, but Coop's fucked Shane, and now Nathan will try to kill him.
He's sitting crouched in the darkness, chilled into alertness by the midnight breeze, when Nathan comes. Coop can see him outlined by starlight on the ridge of the bank by the river, his flightsuit rolled down around his waist.
"Cooper?" And Nathan holds up his hands. Empty against the black of night. "We need to talk."
He's still cold by the time Nathan convinces him to come back to the camp, by the time Shane works out how to split sleeping bags and blankets, her face creased with thought as if this is a complex geometrical problem rather than something even Cooper could have worked out. And they go to sleep together, for once, Shane between them until she complains that Coop's too cold and Nathan's too hot. So Cooper is wedged between them, Shane's breasts nudging his back, Nathan's butt against his dick.
He doesn't complain. This is the military. This is family. And he's just so, so very glad to be warm.
Weeks go by, and everything just works. A day spent hunting, fishing, and cooking gains something beyond monotony when he can seek comfort after dark. All three of them are nothing but muscle now, but he loves the heat of bodies pressed to his, Shane beautifully wet under his fingers, Nathan strong and insistent when he takes Coop's cock in his hand and jerks him off. Coop's never worried about being gay before - the only person he'd maybe thought that way about was McQueen, who was also the one person who he could never, ever fuck - and he doesn't worry about it now. There are only two other people in the world, and they both love him.
He knows when Shane's pregnant as soon as she does. There are no secrets between three people who spend almost every waking moment together, and he's astonished when Nathan, of all of them, is the one to panic. They have no medical supplies. No doctors. What if something goes wrong? What if nothing goes wrong? How on earth can they take care of a child? How can they get rid of a child without hurting Shane?
What could they possibly offer a child, Nathan asks. Food and water and a destiny of being entirely alone in the universe? But Coop has grown up with miracles rather than science, and kisses Shane's swollen breasts, growing belly as all three of them make love - slower and more intense than ever before.
He's going to be a father. Nothing else could ever possibly matter.
Shane is starting to believe in rebirth.
Life in the marines had taught her to see the future no further than an inch in front of her nose: the next maneuver, the next squeeze of her trigger. Fixating on returning to the hangar bay would have been fatal, and on returning to a peaceful life on Earth deadlier still. There had been no way to plan ambitions beyond protecting her squad and fulfilling at least the next mission. The idea of becoming a mother, having a relationship with anyone beyond those necessitated by the war... That had only been wishful thinking.
And now she feels life growing, churning, kicking inside her, her two friends/soldiers/lovers pressed to her in the darkness, fingers searching out her belly and breasts, all hard cocks and mussed hair. It's a freedom that makes her claustrophobic, the idea of a planet, a universe all to themselves, to their children. She had fucked Cooper the first time, cool-headed and rational, giving herself to them to keep them all alive. She had juggled probabilities, knowing that McQueen would find them one day, sooner or later, if he had to crawl to them across galaxies on his hands and knees. She had risked pregnancy, and childbirth, and the same again and again over the years, to save herself and save her squad.
Nathan knows. She sees it in his eyes when they're alone - that red-rim of despair around the edges, even though they're not hungry often, now, even though they get more sleep and sex and free time than they could ever have imagined as marines. Nathan sees her dead after a long and painful labor, sees the baby dead too. He sees the baby surviving into a short, primitive life. He sees Shane living long enough for one of them to get her pregnant again, sees them all as the uncivilized things they've become, existing only by instinct.
Her overalls tied off below her belly, spear slung over her shoulder as they work and hunt and cook and live, she can see everything in precisely the same cold light. But in the darkness by the fire, Cooper rubbing her clit, sucking on her breasts, the baby squirming deep within her, she's a goddess giving new life to the universe.
"I used to feel so heavy," Coop says as they lie against the ground one night and gaze at distant stars, penetratingly clear above them. They used to debate whether the very vaguest flicker could possibly be ships, could be Chigs and humans battling it out in-system. Only now can any of them see just how beautiful it is.
Nathan, unasked, is rubbing Shane's back, his movements a fraction more affectionate than clinical. "We're planetbound, now. Fixed to the earth."
Coop hums. "Do you miss it?" he asks as silent moments pass. "Flying?"
Shane reaches for Cooper's hand, tugs him close.
The baby is born in blood a few weeks earlier than they'd have liked, the experience more insanely intense than painful. Shane is exhausted and sore to the point of tears afterward, Nathan panics as he recites his medic training to himself in case he's forgotten something vital, and Cooper counts the kid's fingers and toes to himself three times over before letting either of them even see her.
Her. A daughter. On Earth there would be DNA testing, endless forms, debates about first names and surnames. Here...
Here they collapse together, tired, relieved, the baby clutching Coop's finger like a lifeline, and staring at Nathan with blue eyes full of wonder until he just has to smile. One day he'll make her laugh.
One day McQueen will come for them, by himself or with a fleet. Perhaps they will still be young, Shane's belly just barely rounded with her second baby. Perhaps it will be years from now, when Nathan has a little gray at his temples, when Coop has finally been too adventurous and walks with a limp, when Shane's firstborn can look after a swarm of little ones. They might be optimistic and in love, might be tired and hurt and despairing once again. But when McQueen stands and sees them, wiping sweat from his brow, and asks them what this is - their camp, their children, their life, Shane knows that she will get to her feet, smile, and explain everything in one word:
- end -
© lonelywalker July 2009