Disclaimer: All the characters in this fic except Summer belong to Glen Morgan and James Wong, Hard Eight Pictures, Inc, and 20th Century Fox. No copyright infringement intended.
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PG-13 rated, for explicit language and war time violence
The Right Time
The base was quiet and only a few lights remained on in the buildings that he passed. He shoved his hands in his pockets, his fists clenched. He was running away from yet another fight with his wife.
They're getting too frequent, he thought sadly.
For nearly a decade of marriage, Nathan only remembered a few happy times with Kylen. He was thankful they never had children; the child would have only been scarred. He wondered why they were still together--why they had gotten married to begin with. They both knew that what they had once was long gone. A lifetime of changes had made sure of that. Nathan had found a life in the corps while Kylen had been a POW. He had learned to live without her as she did without him. But stubbornly, they pretended nothing was wrong and continued where they had left off.
And look where you are--taking up permanent residence on the goddamn couch, he ruminated resentfully.
Nearing a tavern, Nathan decided to go in and drown his sorrows with his frequent companion these days, Jim Beam. He pushed the door open and was immediately assailed with a cloud of smoke. The depressing strains of a country song played from the jukebox in one corner. The place wasn't full, only a few people peppering the room. He sat down near the door, near a woman who had her head bowed over her drink. A curtain of chestnut brown hair hid her face from his view. He gave her only a cursory glance--he didn't want to sink down to Kylen's level.
At the thought of his wife and her extracurricular activities, Nathan suddenly felt the urge to smash his hand into a wall. He opted for getting drunk instead.
"A shot of Jim Beam," he said to the bartender.
The woman next to him raised her head and she turned to face him. A smile flitted across her beautiful features.
"I thought I would run into you," she said.
Nathan felt the hairs on his neck stand on end. Slowly, he faced her. The husky tones of her voice were as familiar to him as his own. Letting out a surprised laugh, he pulled her into his arms and hugged her tightly.
"Shane!" he exclaimed. "It's good to see you. I didn't even expect anything like this to happen tonight."
"I didn't either," she said. "It's been a while, hasn't it, Nathan?"
He held her at arm's length and studied her face. Colonel Shane Vansen had aged well, her beauty all the more striking with the years that had passed. In the dimness of the bar, the scar he knew trailed from her chin to hairline couldn't be seen, but he knew it was there. The crash on 2063 Yankee had left that mark ... and others that weren't as obvious.
"It's been six years since 'Phousse's and Paul's daughter's birthday party," he said. "That was the last time I saw you."
"We didn't keep in touch."
Shane smiled sadly. "No. We didn't."
"Why didn't you look me up when you got here?" he asked, sounding a little hurt.
"I just got here. I was going to visit you tomorrow."
"You went straight to the tavern?" he said, eyebrow raised.
She shrugged. "I needed a drink."
"Where are you staying?"
"Northside," she replied.
He took a gulp of his drink. "So how've you been, Colonel? Still wreaking havoc in space?"
"I've been grounded," she muttered.
"What? Why the hell would they do that? You're the best out there."
"I fucked up. Can we talk about something else, Nathan? I came here to forget." She paused. "How's Kylen?"
Nathan threw back the rest of his drink. "Next topic."
Shane looked surprised. "Trouble in paradise?"
"Sure, if there was a paradise," he said bitterly.
She put a hand on his back. "I'm sorry, Nathan. I would never have guessed. You two were so perfect for each other. High school sweethearts and all. Who could compete with that?"
"Yeah," he said. "So, you hear from the others often?"
"Not as much as I'd like to. The Wangs are expecting baby number three. Hawkes is a major now and he's got a girlfriend he's crazy about. They ask about you a lot. I don't know why they think you'd talk to me if you didn't talk to them."
"We were close, Shane. They saw us as their leaders, their parents almost."
"I suppose." She snorted. "Parents--ha!"
Nathan had to smile at that. "I know."
"You know, they're all very happy now," she said. "Even Colonel, or rather, General McQueen."
"I heard he got remarried."
"That's great. I'm glad they found each other again."
"They're living happily ever after in some farm in the midwest."
Nathan waved the bartender over to pour him another shot. "You know, I think I'm the only loser in the bunch."
Shane tapped her own glass, signaling for another drink. "Actually, we are the only two losers in the bunch."
"Never found that special someone, Shane?"
"No. Couldn't find a good man."
"So you looked?"
"For a while. But I realized no one could make me happy after..." She stopped abruptly, looking shocked at what she was about to say.
"What?" Nathan prompted.
"Nothing, Nathan. Forget it."
He eyed her speculatively. "There was someone, wasn't there? You fell in love. Who was it?"
She sighed. "He was someone I cared for a lot. Let's leave it at that."
"Someone I know?" he asked after a brief pause.
She stared at him, as if coming to a decision. "Do you want to go for a walk?"
He nodded. "Alright."
They left a few credits on the bar and left the tavern. The cool summer night was pleasant and they walked in companionable silence towards Shane's quarters by an unspoken agreement.
"I loved him for a long time," Shane began. "Sometimes I think from the beginning, cliched as that sounds."
"Life. We went our separate ways. There were lots of other factors. I see him from time to time." She stared down at the sidewalk. "And I regret every second we spend apart. It's been millions of seconds..."
"Did he know you felt this way?" Nathan asked, his heart heavy.
"No," she replied hesitantly. "This was purely on my part."
He wondered about the man who was unlucky enough to miss out on the love this woman could give.
"I'm sorry, Shane."
"It's alright. It was my fault. I didn't say anything."
"You should have," he remarked as they reached her door.
Shane looked at him, her deep brown eyes filled with regret. "Yes. I see now that I should have. Goodnight, Nathan."
Gently, he ran a finger down her cheek. She closed her eyes as he kissed her forehead. "Goodnight, Shane. Sleep well."
Nathan was making his way back to his house when a stray thought made him stop dead in his tracks. He turned back and pounded his fist on the door. Shane threw it open, her eyes darting from side to side in search of an unseen enemy.
"What? What is it?" she demanded, going into soldier-mode.
"Was it McQueen?"
Her mouth dropped open and then she let out a loud guffaw. She pulled him into her room, still laughing. Nathan waited for her to stop laughing and glanced around the room, spotting two small, emptied bottles of vodka. He picked them up.
"Travel size," he commented wryly.
"You never know when you need a little help."
"Was it him?"
"No, you idiot." She sat down, feeling a little light-headed.
"Are you kidding me?"
Nathan sat on the edge of the bed. "Paul?"
"No," she answered, leaning back and watching him through hooded eyes. "Why does it matter anyway? It's in the past."
He studied her closely and saw his scrutiny bring a faint blush to her cheeks.
"It was me," he said with growing realization, his eyes wide. "Wasn't it?"
Shane stood and pulled out another bottle from her duffel bag. She unscrewed it and raised it in toast.
"Bravo, Major West. It only took you a decade to figure out that piece of the puzzle."
Nathan could only stare at her and she downed the entire bottle in one gulp.
"Do you know how many nights I've done this? Just this past week, every night. I lied to you, by the way. I've been here for a week. A week of knowing you were nearby, of wanting to see you, but being too weak and too scared to try. I think my liver has finally turned into stone."
"Shut up, Nathan. So now you know and you can back to your pretty blonde wife, your pretty little house, and your pretty little life knowing that Shane Vansen is crazy in love with you. That she couldn't go on with her life because no one else could match up to you."
In two strides, she was in the bathroom and she locked the door behind her. Nathan went and stood outside it. He was in shock but somehow all the pieces of his life finally fell into place. He knew now why he always had the feeling something was missing, why he was unhappy with Kylen. Why he wanted to die when he thought Shane was dead. Why he suddenly felt as free as a bird now that he knew she loved him.
"Open the door, Shane."
"Yeah, right. I'm not getting out of here until you leave."
Resolutely, he sat down with his back against the door. "I'm not leaving until you open the door."
"Why are you doing this?" she cried piteously. "I'm drunk and I don't know what they hell I'm saying dammit!"
"I know you, Shane. You're not that drunk."
"Go to hell," she finally said.
"Only if you're coming along," he retorted.
He heard her take a deep shuddering breath. "Just go, Nathan. Don't do this to me."
"I want to talk to you. Face-to-face."
She opened the door and looked down at him. He got to his feet and after a few moments of trepidation, he finally took her into his arms. She was stiff and he could feel the surprise vibrating throughout her body.
"I'm sorry I didn't know," he said. "Our lives would have been so much easier if I had known, Shane."
"I doubt it."
"I don't. When your ISSCV went down, I wanted to chase after you and save you. When you and Vanessa went missing, I wanted to steal a Hammerhead and search for you myself. And when I couldn't, I wanted to be wherever you were just so I could be with you."
"What are you telling me here?"
"At the time, I thought it was only friendship. But I know better now. I love you, Shane. I fell in love with you."
She stared at him. He stared back. She pulled away and sat on the bed, her knees weak.
"Jesus, Nathan--if I had known you would say that, I would have done something years ago."
"Now's the right time, Shane." He knelt before her and took her face in his hands. "You were that missing piece in my life. With you, I started a new life that I tried to deny by going back my old one. I should have known better."
Nathan shook his head. "I can only hope that she can forgive me one day."
"For what?" Shane asked hoarsely, not quite believing that this was happening.
His lips met hers at last and the night continued on without them.
Nathan woke up to the sound of water running. He raised his head groggily, glancing at the clock next to the bed. His eyes widened when he saw that it was nearly noon, but he didn't get up. Shane padded into the room just then, wrapped in a fluffly white robe, her hair pulled back >from her face. When she saw he was awake, she grinned, and jumped onto the bed. He chuckled and pulled her down on top of him.
"Well, I feel better," she said, wryly, resting her chin on his chest.
"Yeah, me too."
She kissed the tip of his nose. "I'm stuck here you know. They've assigned me on base until they decide I'm ready to go back out there."
"You want to go back out there, Shane?" he asked, though he was afraid of her answer.
She looked deep into his eyes. "Do you want me to?"
"Since when did what someone else want matter to you?" he teased.
"I want to know what you think," she replied.
"Of course I don't. I don't want you risking your life out there."
She smiled. "Well lucky for you I decided I've had it with being a space jockey. At least for now. I think I'll stick around."
Her expression became worried and she rolled off him, lying on her back as she stared at the ceiling. "What about Kylen? What about your marriage?" She sighed, but didn't look any more guilty than he felt. "I can't believe I'm the other woman."
"It's over," he said simply. "We should have divorced a long time ago. It's just now I have a good reason to go."
"A reason?" she snorted. "I've been called lots of things in my life, but never a reason."
He turned and kissed her cheek. "Don't be difficult, Shane. You know you're more than that."
She winked. "Difficulties are the spice of life."
He stood and began pulling on his clothes. Shane watched him silently, wondering if this was only a dream. She reached out and brushed her fingertips against the skin of his back to make sure he was really there. He turned and smiled at her.
"I'll be back tonight," he promised. "I have to talk to Kylen."
Shane nodded. "Take your time. I've waited this long, I can wait a little longer."
He kissed her. "We've wasted enough time. I'll move out today."
"Isn't this sudden, Nathan? All this rushing around..."
"...is what I want. I love you, Shane. I want to spend the rest of my life with you."
She threw her arms around him. "Sounds like a plan," she murmured in his ear.
FOUR YEARS LATER
Nathan walked along the street, whistling idly as he swung the package he held back and forth. A light snow covered the ground and his breath came out in fluffy white puffs. He smiled at the others walking along, nodding occassionally at an acquaintance. It was Christmastime and the feeling around base was more chipper than usual. He could hardly wait to get home where a warm fire and delicious dinner awaited him. He paused to look at something through a shop window, wondering if he should go in to buy it.
"Hello, Nathan," someone said behind him.
He turned slowly, carefully pasting a smile on his face. "Kylen. Merry Christmas."
Kylen Celina smiled back. "You, too. How are you doing?"
"Good. What are you doing here?"
"I had to pick something up," she replied. "How's..."
"They're both fine." He glanced down at her hand. "I see you're engaged."
A light flush rose to Kylen's cheeks. "Yes."
They stood, looking at each other, not knowing what else to say.
"I'm glad that you're happy, Kylen," Nathan finally said. "We did the right thing."
"Yes," she agreed. "We did." She stepped forward and kissed his cheek. "Give your family my regards. Take care."
He smiled, a genuine smile, and turned. She turned in the opposite direction and they went their separate ways. He was still smiling when he walked through the front door of his home to find his daughter in the middle of the living room floor in her playpen.
"Hi, Summer," he said, picking her up.
Summer Vansen-West grinned and with all the wisdom of her two years replied, "Hi, Daddy."
Shane peeked out from the kitchen and waved a mitted hand. "Hey. I was wondering when you'd be back. We just got here. I just put the grub on the stove. Dinner won't be for a while."
Nathan went to her and kissed her. She positively glowed, her rounding belly jutting out from underneath her uniform.
"No problem," he assured her. "It was my turn to cook anyway. Thanks for picking up the slack."
Shane grinned. "Well, it's almost Christmas. Just remember this when I come home dead tired and it's my turn to cook."
"You got it." He turned his attention to the small daughter in his arms. "So were you a good girl with the sitter today?"
"Jane told me that Summer's learned how to count to ten," Shane said, smiling at Summer.
"Is that right?" Nathan said, looking at the little girl. "Well, let's here it, Kid."
Summer shook her head impishly, her fine dark brown hair reminiscent of her mother's and her playful eyes an echo of her father's. "Nope."
Shane and Nathan exchanged amused smiles. He reached out and cupped her cheek. Her eyes twinkled back at him.
"It's been good, Shane. More than I dreamed it could be."
She kissed him and winked. "Better late than never."
He took her in his arms and savored the feeling of having a family at last. "Hoo-Yah!"