Disclaimer: DISCLAIMER: The characters and situations of the TV program "SPACE:Above and Beyond" are the creations of Glen Morgan and James Wong, Fox Broadcasting and Hard Eight Productions, and have been used without permission. No copyright infringement is intended. This story is not to be published on any ftp site, newsgroup, mailing list, fanzine, or elsewhere without the express permission of the author. The characters of Emma and Casey James, Nurse Wilks, Otto, Ms Kellen belong to the fevered mind of Mary Bowen. Rated Hard R (M/F) for loving, consensual sex and some language.

Solid Ground


M.R. Bowen

Even though it was the middle of the day, it was dark in the bedroom of Dr Emma James. She had just gotten home, not remembering the last time she had seen the in side of her own home. There wasn't any reason to be any more. But there was a break in the storm and Admiral Kline, all but ordered her home for a rest.

Everyone at the hospital was in high spirits since Secretary General Diane Haydon announced that peace talks with the enemy had started on the U.S.S. Saratoga. Glen Ross was finally going to be a part of history. She knew he had always wished to be a part of such an occasion. She had a bad feeling though, after learning that Aerotech chairman E. Allen Wayne was to be involved.

She stood in the middle of the room - a shower? or just bed? She thought a moment, looking at her tall form in a nearby mirror. "Lord," she thought. "I look like shit, even for me! Shower!" When would she be able to pamper herself again? she wondered. She stripped down as she headed off to the bathroom.

Letting the warm water flow through her golden hair and down over her body; loosening her tight muscles. It felt good. Leaning against the wall she let out a sigh. No sooner did she get under the water, she heard the phone.

"DAMN," she thought. "Screw it, Let the machine pick it up." When it rang again she realized it was her office phone and the machine wasn't on. "SHIT," she mumbled and got out. Grabbing a towel she rushed down the hall to her office.

"James, Emma. Captain. authorization Beta Omega 174 Delta 006," she called as she rounded the desk and slid into the chair.

The screen flickered on. "Voice identification approved - You have a secured communication from the U.S.S. Saratoga," it read. A moment later a snowy image came up on her vid screen. She was shocked to see Glen Ross' dark handsome face looking back at her.

"Em, is that you?" he asked, his voice strained with raw emotion. He was visibly upset.

"Yes Glen, it's me," she replied, trying to straighten her wet hair. Her towel slipped momentarily exposing a breast.

Ross had to grin. It was a sad, defeated grin. "Thanks, Em, I needed that."

Emma blushed and covered up. "What's wrong, Glen?"

She didn't need to ask. She could read it in his soulful brown eyes. He seemed to have aged a life time.

There would be no peace.


He struggled to stay in control, to be the trained commanding officer he was. But this was too personal.

"Em, there has been an executive action here on the 'Toga."

Emma stayed calm, but she knew the body count would be on the rise again. There was more than dashed hopes in his eyes. She got a sick feeling. She knew...she just didn't want to hear it.

"Em, the Chig Ambassador set off a bomb at the peace talks," he said slowly. "It's Ty McQueen..."

Her heart pounded, but she remained quiet.


Ross couldn't find the words. He didn't want to think of McQueen dying. But the doctors on the Saratoga weren't holding out much hope.

"Get him to me, Glen," she said. She forced a smile.

"Emma, he's such a good man," Ross said.

"So are you, my friend. Send McQueen to me." There was a silence. "Be safe, Darlin'," she finally said.

Ross nodded and cut off the transmission before she could see him break.

Emma sat at her desk. So many memories flooded her tired mind. Memories of Ross; of McQueen. They first met in the Serbian A.I. POW camp. McQueen was half dead, helping the wounded Ross try and save her before it was too late. She pushed the memories away. There wasn't any time for that now.

There would be no peace. There would be no rest. Right now she needed to take first things first. Shower and head back to the hospital. The war was back on, and she knew it would be with a vengeance.

McQueen lay in the intensive care unit of Bethesda Naval Hospital. He was no stranger to this. In his lifetime he had lost count of how many times he ended up in a sick bay, M.A.S.H. unit, or hospital.

But this time it was different. This time he couldn't see a way out, and he wasn't too sure he wanted a way out. His world was in shambles, his right leg below the knee was gone. The bomb that Chig Ambassador set off, tore it from him and with it, his life.

He was a Marine, he told himself. He was not what others called him. Tank. Lazy. Disloyal. Stupid. He was better than that. He was more than that. He had to be. But lying there, he was just a Tank. Even more so now. He was a damaged Tank, no longer even useful as a beast of burden in the mines of Omicron. The hell he had once crawled out of seemed like a lifetime ago.

He felt a soft touch on his cheek, wiping way a tear. "It's going to be all right, Colonel," a warm, familiar voice said. "You have to trust me. I will get you through this."

Trust? Yeah, right, he thought. He had seen first hand over the years what natural-born doctors did to wounded Tanks. They let them die. Let's face it, why waste the money fixing him, when they could just look up his batch number up at the Alaska facility, get themselves a petri dish, add water and stir. Viola! One new Tank.

She gently stroked his temple. He kept his eyes closed. Her touch did feel good. Simple tenderness; a gentle caress. He opened his eyes, gazing warily up at this woman making these shallow promises. Not you, he thought. Not again.

She smiled back, a tired smile but a true and honest one. She leaned on the bed rail. "Welcome back, Colonel McQueen. You know we've got to stop meeting like this."

Back? he wondered.

"Ok Colonel, let's get rid of that tube. I think you can breathe on your own now."

She carefully removed the tape from his face. "Now, on the count of three, I want you to cough. Ok? One...two...three." On "three" he coughed and she eased the tube out. He gagged a little and she steadied him, wiping his mouth and chin. She eased him back.

"You gave us all quite a scare here. Didn't you ever read the paragraph in the in-vitro sales catalog? You're not suppose to get life threatening infections." She glanced at the vital signs on the monitor panel. She wished it would tell her better things, but there was marked improvement. She looked back at him.

Great, he thought. Tank jokes.

"Bad joke," she said. "Sorry." She rubbed her back. "It's just that I've spent so much time here with you that I figured, what is one tasteless joke among friends?"

Friends? he silently scoffed. She's not my friend. She's the one that stuck this thing in my head. The one who grounded me, took away my wings, my stars, my escape, my freedom. Then it hit him what she had said.

"How long?" His whisper was barely audible.

"Two weeks," she replied "Can you tell me who the Secretary General is?"

"Vansen, Damphousse, Wang?" he demanded

"Who?...Oh yeah, your squadron." She removed a small note pad from her pocket, unfolded a yellow telegram. McQueen's heart sank. "Captain Vansen and Lieutenant Damphousse are back on the Saratoga. Their injuries aren't so bad they can't be tended to on the ship. There is no mention of Wang."

"Check!" he growled, glaring at her. She was quite taken aback by his sudden burst of anger. The intense blue of his eyes caught her off guard.


"All right Colonel, I'll check on Wang," she said evenly, patting his arm.

"Lieutenant Paul Wang!" he rasped

She nodded and wrote the name down. Satisfied she would check, he closed his eyes, quickly falling back to sleep, just too weak to keep his eyes open.

She looked down at the telegram. 'Lt. Paul Wang, killed in action,' it said. She folded it and put it back in her pocket.

A small, older woman wearing surgical scrubs came up to the bedside. "How is your patient tonight, Dr. James?" she asked.

"He woke up for a few moments," she said, making a few notes on his chart, then handing it to the nurse. "Let the staff know, he is not to be told about Lt. Wang, only that I am still checking."

"Is that wise ma'am?" the nurse asked.

Dr. James raised an eyebrow. "That's an order, Lieutenant Commander Wilks." Her tone left no doubt that Captain Emma James expected to have her orders followed without question. "I'll be in my office. If he wakes up again get me right away. Understood?"

"Yes, Ma'am"

McQueen could tell when she was coming into the ICU. He could sense a change in the nurses around him. There was an edge in the air. He remembered it from the hospital at Loxley. She was a force to be reckoned with.

He watched as she came in. Without a word, the nurses seemed to know what she was going to ask for. A chart. A report. They made sure not to waste a minute of her time. She stopped at a bed across from him; a young man. She checked his vitals and his chart, making notes. Spent a few moments talking to him before moving on. McQueen watched her repeat this with all her patients in the ward. He wasn't swayed. So she spent a couple of minutes with the wounded.

"She saved your life, Ty, and not for the first time may I add," he could hear Glen Ross say. What life. His wings were clipped. Another fact Ross pointed out repeatedly

("You're grounded, Colonel.")

To McQueen, she was still the butcher who shoved the MEF chip in his head. She stopped at his bed.

"Good, Colonel. You're awake," she said. She took his wrist between her fingers and checked his pulse. "Can you sit up, Colonel?" She helped him up. She undid the ties in his johnny-coat and took a stethoscope out of her pocket. She warmed it in her hands before placing it on the bare skin of his back. "Breath deep...again." She lowered the johnny-coat in front and placed the mic on his chest. "Again, please." Her palm rested on his bare skin. She lowered her head as to listen better. He took another labored breath. Vanil

la, he thought. She smelled like Vanilla. He closed his eyes allowing the scent to fill his senses.

She closed his johnny-coat. "You sound a lot better today."

He opened his eyes slowly, then blushed with embarrassment. Dr. James made no comment, just took out a small light. Before getting too close she blew a small puff into her hand to check her breath. Then she got closer and looked deeply into each of his eyes. She smiled, liking what she wasn't seeing.

Backing away, aiming the light at his eyes. "Without turning your head, follow the light," she instructed. Left to right, up and down, he tracked it well. "Now close your eyes and hold out your arms in front of you," she instructed. He did so and the arms stayed level to one another. This was a good sign.

"Good," she smiled, turning the light off and placing it in her coat pocket.

"Any word on Lt. Wang?" he asked.

"No, not yet," she lied. "So, Colonel, you have come along well enough to move you to a room. Start you on physical therapy. Get you moving."

She motioned nurse Wilks over, who brought a rolling cart with her.

"Have you asked about Lt. Wang?" he sniped.

"Colonel, I have made inquires and have had no reply." She looked at Wilks over her glasses. "I'm going to change your bandages. Why don't you lay down."

McQueen wouldn't hear of it.

Emma slowly undid the bandages on his stump. His eyes watched her every move. "Colonel, this is still a very angry wound, it's still infected, and is not pretty." She knew it was too soon, but there was only so much she could protect him from.

"JUST DO IT!" he snapped, angry that she was questioning his fortitude.

She finished removing the last of the pus and blood soaked bandages.

McQueen's mouth fell open, his eyes widened. He knew it was gone. He had seen more than his fair share of soldiers with limbs torn off. But this was different. This was his limb that was torn off.

He fell back, visibly shaken. He tried to even out his breathing. His mind raced. It was over. He could see it now with his own eyes. His life was gone with his leg.

Emma grabbed his hand tight and leaned close to his ear. "It will be all right. You have to trust me," she said in a low, stern tone. "Believe me, it really looks better than it did."

"Better?" He yanked his hand away. "Better than what?"

"Better than dead!" Emma snapped. She turned his head to her. "You're alive."

"But it's over. What does the Corps need with a broken Tank?!" he hissed. "I can't fly. You took that from me. Now I'm not even a simple ground pounder. Looked at that! How are you going fix that?"

Emma looked down at McQueen's infected stump. She turned back to him. "It's a cinch."

McQueen turned his face away, denying that she was even in the room. Emma knew to let it go. She finished bandaging his leg, made a few notes on his chart, then gave his arm a squeeze.

"Don't give up on me just yet," she said before leaving the ward.

McQueen woke up to the fuzzy forms of two people in his room. He knew he had been moved into a private room. He was alone. A brief wave of panic washed over him. He forced the feelings of helplessness down, and focused on the person closest to him. He knew this face. A tall, lean, balding man in his mid-thirties. He tried to figure out where he had seen this man before. From the Saratoga. The intelligence guy. The guy who wanted to keep the knowledge of Chiggie von Richtoven away from his people. Cover it up despite the fact people were dying.

McQueen knew there would be questions over what happened on the Saratoga. He focused on the woman standing in the corner wearing a severe black suit. McQueen noticed she was too thin, pale and plastic. Her short black hair slicked back in the standard business issued cut. Hard ,cold, soulless eyes. Aerotech. He could smell it. He wondered what had taken so long for the inquisition to begin. He knew it was Emma James protecting him. He remembered her verbally tearing Commodore Encher a new ass hole when he wanted to have McQueen transferred to the Saratoga while he was still recovering from his injuries at the beginning of the war. The Commodore got his way, but somehow Emma made the man pay dearly. McQueen suspected she was behind Encher's transfer off the Saratoga. What McQueen didn't see in the room was a uniform.

"Hello Colonel," the man said. "Mr. Saber. We met before on the Saratoga. This is Ms. Kellen. Sorry to wake you, Colonel, but we have some questions to ask you."

McQueen glared at him. There was no way in hell he was going to submit to an interrogation without a military presence. Especially with Aerotech in the room. These people were not going to cover up the mess they had created, the people killed, because Aerotech knew they were out there. All the blood on their hands would not be so easily washed away this time.

"I have nothing to say to you," McQueen said angrily. "Get out."

McQueen reached around for the call button, but it was out of reach. He saw a small smirk on the woman's face. The bitch had moved it.

"Colonel, please," Saber said. "There are a lot of things that have to be sorted out, and you are the only one who survived in that conference room."

McQueen closed his eyes. He knew they were all dead. But it wasn't any easier to hear it. "Get out."

"Colonel," Saber said, "this is simply..."

"This is simply NOT HAPPENING! I will not discuss a single event of what happened in that room with you or that person. GET OUT!" McQueen could feel his lungs burn.

The woman walked over to McQueen's bedside.

"Listen Tank!" she hissed. "You are in no position to order anyone around. We want answers and you will cooperate with us."

She tossed a newspaper on his lap. "Now how would it look if the world knew certain truths about their new martyred hero? Like the fact he sold out the Corps not once, but twice."

McQueen looked at the picture, Paul Wang's picture. "Martyred." Paul was dead. She was willing to ruin one of his kids to cover up her dirt. The words came out almost as a gut reflex.

"Fuck off! You corporate whoring bitch!" he shouted.

The door to the room open. The charge nurse Lt. Commander Wilks stepped in.

"What's going on here?" she asked sternly. "There is a restriction on visitors...Sergeant!"

Saber went to show Wilks his credentials.

"Save it and leave," the older nurse snapped. She looked up at Saber, who towered over her five foot frame, but she stood her ground. The Marine sergeant on duty came in the room with two other soldiers in tow.

"Remove them, sergeant," Wilks said coldly.

"You're making a big mistake," the woman warned.

"Sergeant." Wilks hooked her thumb towards the door.

The marines motioned the two out and followed them from the room.

"I'm sorry, Colonel," Wilks said, adjusting McQueen's oxygen and checking his vitals. She saw the newspaper. She knew he would find out. It shouldn't have been this way.

"Where is she?" McQueen growled.

"I will tell Captain James you wish to see her when she gets out of surgery." Wilks left the newspaper behind and left the room.

McQueen was livid. How dare she keep the news of Paul Wang's death from him? Who the hell did she think she was? He wanted answers, and he wanted them now.

Emma stepped into the room. "Good Morning, Colonel," she smiled. "You wanted to see me?"

"'Trust you', you said," he hissed, throwing the newspaper at her. "You lied to me about Wang."

She looked down at the newspaper by her feet. "Hero Marine To Be Awarded Medal of Honor -   Posthumously."

She looked pointedly at him. "I had a choice to make, Colonel. I didn't think you could take the news yet."

"Oh really?" he spat. "Why? Because Tanks can't control their emotions?" He threw his water pitcher at the wall, shoving the bed side table across the room. "Afraid I might do something a stupid Tank might do?" The intravenous lines attached to his arm came apart with a twist of his wrist. "Damn you!" he shouted. He swung out of bed wanting nothing more than to get his hands around her throat. Remembering his injuries too late, trying to compensate, he crashed helplessly to the floor.

He slammed his fist against the tile. "You should have told me," he protested, his voice strained with grief. "You should have told me, that one of my kids...that one of my squad had died!"

Emma took a deep breath. Moving to McQueen's side she bent over to help him up.

"Leave me alone!" he hissed, pushing her hands away.

Emma reached out again. This time McQueen was too weary to protest and accepted her hand. She got him back into the bed.

She stepped out to get the supplies cart from the nurse's station, returning quickly. McQueen's arm was bleeding where he had torn out the IV lines. She quickly bandaged it.

"You have to be careful, Colonel," she said evenly. "You don't want to be tearing out the sutures in that leg."

McQueen stared out the window, blinking hard, forcing back his emotions. He wouldn't allow her to see his embarrassment.

Emma hung a new IV. Taking a syringe from her pocket, she injected its contents into his IV.

Sensing that she had slipped him something, McQueen turned to look at her, the icy blue of his eyes even more brilliant, glittering with the tears he denied. The desolation she saw in those eyes cut right through her. He fought it, but the sedative quickly took hold. His eyes drooped shut and drifted off.

"I know, McQueen," she said softly. She gently stroked his temple with the pad of her thumb. "No one should out live their kids."

Once she knew he was asleep, she left the room, saying nothing to Wilks as she walked by the nurse's station.

Wilks grinned to herself.

The next morning, Emma entered McQueen's room. He was sitting in a chair staring out the window at the sky. She walked over to a small table near him, put down a box full of newspapers, files, and letters.

"I'm sorry I kept the news about Wang from you. It will not happen again. Full disclosure from this point forward," she said. "Oh, and any worries you have that the corps will be kicking you loose, forget them. With the amount of e-mails, phone calls and inquiries from the 5-8, press, Glen Ross, General Merrick, to the 'leader of the world' Diane Haydon. You, my dear Colonel McQueen, are going no where. Oh, by the way, you have been promoted to a FULL BIRD Colonel."

She handed him the letter from the Pentagon.

Emma looked through his medical chart remembering every time she had had him on her table. "Tortured by the A.I.s, promoted. Inner ear obliterated, burns over twenty percent of your body, promoted. Leg obliterated, promoted. At this rate, by the time you make General, you'll be a head in a box."

She almost missed it, but there it was at the very corner of his mouth. A twitch.

She couldn't let it go. "Was that almost a smile?" She feigned shock. "Careful, McQueen, you might crack that pretty face." Her pager went off, calling her to the emergency room. She patted him on the shoulder. "We'll go over options tomorrow. You catch up." She exited the room.

McQueen sat there a moment looking over at the box. He smiled, seeing a letter from Cooper Hawkes, lying on the top of the pile. On the bottom of the envelope, a short sentence. "Sometimes mail call is for in-vitros."

How she dreaded cases like this! The young in-vitro soldier had been trapped in a burning car after an accident. He was burned over ninety percent of his body. There was nothing she could do, she knew this, but she never gave up on a patient. His lungs were failing. Putting him on a respirator would buy him some time, but for what? It would only prolong his pain, and postpone the inevitable. Silo-gel skin graphs worked miracles, but they were never intended for this much damage. It had to be his decision.

"Michael?" she said.

"Hi Doc," he whispered.

She hated to see him laboring for breath.

"Michael, your lungs are failing. I'm going to have to put a tube down your throat to help you breathe," she explained.

He shook his head no.

"Michael, if I don't your lungs and heart will fail." She pressed to make him understand he would die with out these measures.

"I know, Doc," he said, laboring for each word. "Do you think there is a heaven for in-vitros?"

His green eyes were locked on hers. "They say when you natural...borns die your...your family is there waiting."

Emma knew where he was going with this. She often wondered what in-vitros thought of God.

"Who's waiting for Tanks?" he asked.

Her heart broke. "God is, Michael." She smiled, "God, and a little girl named Casey."


"Yes, she's my daughter." Emma softly said.

"You have a daughter? A small natural-born?"

"I did. She's with God now," Emma replied.

"In Heaven?"

"Yes," Emma answered with a hollowness in her voice.

"Did you sing to her?" he asked. "Natural-borns sing to their small ones..."

"Yes, I sang to my daughter." Emma didn't want to recall this, but she wanted to comfort this boy. This boy in a man's body was essentially the same as her little Casey was.

"Will you sing me, what you sang to her?"

Emma smiled.

McQueen couldn't believe what he had read in the paper. What she had told the reporters, at the press conference. He sped down the hall as fast as he could make his wheelchair move. He was no lab rat. She wasn't going to turn him into some fucking do-it-yourself A.I. cyborg kit. Who the fuck was this bitch, he steamed. Mengela's daughter?! He rolled to the desk. "Where is she?" he snapped at Nurse Wilks.

"Who, Sir?" Wilks asked evenly, getting accustomed to his less than charming disposition. She also knew who he was looking for.

"Dr. James."

"She's on the ward right now, sir." the nurse replied, "But sir..." Before she could stop him, he sped off towards the ward at the end of the hall. Wilks rounded the desk and chased after him. This was not the time for another of their little spats.

Emma sat at the bedside of a young soldier. Nurse Wilks grabbed the back of McQueen's chair. "Not now, Colonel," she scolded him in a hushed tone.

McQueen could feel it. All in-vitros could feel death when it was near. They needed that instinct to survive. He looked at the nurse.

"One of your people," she said.

He knew she meant in-vitro, not a member of the 5-8, but the young soldier did look a lot like Cooper Hawkes. At least, what McQueen could see of him under the burns and bandages.

"She always stays with them at this time," the nurse added.

McQueen watched intently. The young in-vitro was no more than two or three. Emma was singing him a lullaby, softly. McQueen knew it was probably the first and only lullaby this boy would ever hear in his short life.

"Sleep, my child, and peace attend thee, all through the night. Guardian Angels God will send thee, all through the night. Soft the drowsy hours are creeping, Hill and dale in slumber sleeping. I, my loved one watch and keeping, all through the night."

The child-soldier flat-lined, and the alarm sounded. Emma leaned over and shut it off. She closed his lifeless eyes and gently kissed his burned forehead. She repeated the song softly again and again, fighting hard not to break down.

Carefully she removed the hoses and wires. She crossed his hands across his chest, biding them with a length of gauze. As she reached for the sheet to cover him, a single tear escaped from her eye. She pulled the sheet over his head.

Wilks put her hands on the back of McQueen's wheel chair. "Come on, sir," she said in hushed tones. McQueen nodded and they left before Emma realized they were there. She got McQueen back to his room and helped him into bed.

"She used to sing that song to her daughter," Wilks recalled. "She was a good mother."

McQueen recalled the song differently. She used to sing it to him during his more desperate hours in detox.

"You don't want me to get the Doctor, do you?" she asked.

"No, it can wait." McQueen replied

"All right then. If you need anything, please buzz me, Colonel." She made sure anything McQueen could need, was in reach before she left.

Not long after, Emma entered the room.

"Came to check on you, Colonel." It was obvious she had been crying.

He wanted to say something, but didn't know what to say. She sat on the edge of he bed, ran her fingertip down the left side of his face. It betrayed no sign of the burns he had received when the Angry Angels fell from the sky at the beginning of the war.

Yes, she thought, Silo-gel skin did work miracles. "Good night, Colonel." Getting up she headed out.

"Emma," he called.

She stopped at the door. "Yes?"

He looked at her. She was beautiful. "Good night."

She flashed that warm smile that just seemed to wash over him. She winked and left.

Emma came into McQueen's room. She set the laptop computer she was carrying, on his bed table.

"Scoot over," she said, tapping McQueen on the hip. Sitting on the edge of the bed, she flicked on the screen. McQueen was convinced she had lost her mind, but said nothing. On the screen he saw the image of an A.I. leg assembly. He looked at her. He did not want to hear this. "Hear me out." She patted him on the arm. "It's not as weird as you may think."

"I don't want this," he said flatly.

"Do you want to go back to the Saratoga?" she asked.

"You know I do."

"Then you have to hear me out." She looked at him. "This is the best chance to get back out there. It's a desk jockey assignment if you decided to go a more conventional route." She paused and waited.

He turned back to the screen and tired to listen.

"Ok, it's simple really." She hit a few keys. "Being in-vitro you have a leg up on the other recipients."

McQueen looked at her.

Emma realized what she had just said and smiled. "Sorry." She shook her head and flushed with embarrassment. She started over, speaking again more slowly, choosing her words with greater care.

"As an in-vitro you are already hard-wired to a certain extent. Your immune system, though aggressive, is skewed to receive electronic implants." She tapped him on the side of his head. "Like with the M.E.F., we've had a greater success rate with in-vitro patients than with in-utero patients."

McQueen caught her choice of the term in-utero, instead of the more commonly used 'Natural born'. A distinction he appreciated. He had always hated the use of 'Natural born.' It was like rubbing an in-vitro's nose in the fact they weren't natural. They were artificial...fake.

It was hard not to get caught up in her enthusiasm. She wasn't doing this as an experiment. She knew it was a viable option for him. He watched her as she pointed out things. McQueen found himself watching her, and not the screen, a couple of times. If she noticed, she made no note of it. She explained things in a way he could relate to. As a former tunnel rat, having to keep machinery going with no spare parts, and all his years in the marines, he understood the mechanics. Unfortunately he was no stranger to the medical either. She answered most of his questions before he asked them.

"If you were going to have this happen, this was the best place to have the leg torn off." She wasn't making a joke; she meant it. "The femur is intact and strong. The upper knee joint in good shape. If you reject the silicate limb you won't lose the leg. Since we don't have to be too intrusive on the femur, the risk of marrow infection goes way down, and with it, rejection risk." She looked at her watch. "I have surgery. You think it over and we'll talk again. I'll leave the laptop."

She gave him a lot to think about. "I have something to do tomorrow. Dr. Morgan will be in to check on you and of course if you need me, Commander Wilks will get word to me.

McQueen looked at the image on the screen. "I'll do it." he said.

She looked at him. "No need to rush."

He glanced at the headline on the newspaper. The war was escalating. "If I do this how long till I'm back out there?"

She frowned, not wanting to think of him going back into battle. "Six to eight months," she replied.

"No sooner?" He was disappointed.

"I really have to go." She chuckled. "If you are sure about this, I'll put the wheels in motion."

She left the room.

McQueen looked at the silicate limb on the monitor. It seemed odd somehow. The Silicates had tortured him. The damage they caused so severe that he was unable to father a child. That destroyed his dreams of a family; a normal life. Now it was the silicates who will be giving him back his only hope of a normal life. He studied the information.

Emma was convinced, as she picked up the receiver, that her phone line was tied directly to her shower's hot water faucet.

"James," she huffed.

Wilks' voice was deeply angry. "You're not going to like this one bit..."

Emma's jaw tighten as she listened. McQueen's leg had been scrapped.

"Any clue on who is behind this?" Emma asked coldly.

"Nothing official," Wilks said. "You know they never leave fingerprints. But I have an idea - the woman I threw out of his room. Security said her name was Kellen from Aerotech."

Emma looked at her watch. She didn't have time for this. "All right, I'll handle it from here. Thank you for calling, Amanda..."

"You can't go in there, Ma'am!" the young secretary called frantically.

In full dress, Emma cut an impressive figure as she barged uninvited into the Aerotech board meeting.

The assembled group looked up at Emma. She strolled right up to Kellen, who made no move.

"Ms. Kellen?" she asked.

"I'm sorry," the young secretary apologized. "I'll call security"

"You do that, Hon. Have them talk to my Naval guards," Emma shot back.

The young woman turned to see four very large, armed men in blue swabby uniforms standing behind her.

"It's all right," the older man at the head of the table said, calmly. He rounded the table and extended his hand. "Aerotech Chairman Martin Leon. How can I help you, Captain?"

Emma didn't take his hand. "I know who you are," she said coolly. "I'm a busy woman so I'll cut to the chase. I'm Colonel McQueen's doctor, and I want to know why your underling junked McQueen's prosthetic?"

Emma leveled her gaze at Kellen.

Leon looked back at Kellen with a raised brow.

"I have no idea what she is talking about," Kellen smirked, rolling her eyes at the others assembled in the room with feigned innocence.

"Save it sister," Emma quipped. "I want you to call whoever you called and have them move those road blocks. You don't want any more trouble, I'm sure."

"You cause us trouble?" Kellen chuckled with a smugness that grated on Emma's nerves. "What possible trouble could a simple Navy saw bones cause?"

The secretary popped in. "Excuse me, Mr. Leon You really need to take the call on line two." The young girl sounded scared.

"Not now," he said.

"Oh, I believe you should take it," Emma warned.

Leon frowned and pick up the phone. "This is Mr. Leon." His expression changed immediately, He looked at Emma, who restrained herself from smiling. "Yes Madam Secretary."

The young secretary looked at the others and mouthed, "Diane Haydon."

Kellen looked at Leon.

"No Madam Secretary, I don't foresee any more interference. All will be put straight...Yes ma'am. Yes? Yes, I'll ask." Leon looked up at Emma. He put his hand over the mouth piece. "She would like to know if you will be attending your grandmother's 100th birthday party next month?"

"Please tell my cousin I will call after the funeral I have to attend today." Emma leaned over and whispered to Kellen, "You really should do your homework, Dear." Repaying the smugness.

Leon hung up the phone.

Emma checked her watch. "As I said, I have yet another funeral to attend. Good day. I don't believe I will need to come back." Emma left, the Naval guard in tow.

Leon glared at Kellen.

Emma could hear him yelling all the way down the hall.

McQueen was surprised at how fast Emma moved once he gave her the "Ok". The next day the tests began. He knew that Emma was determined not to leave a cell or nerve ending unmolested.

Nurse Wilks was ever present. McQueen knew she had her issues with in-vitros, but she was too much of a professional to let it interfere with the care of her patients, whoever or whatever they maybe. McQueen was a wounded soldier and she was responsible for him. The tests wore him out. He wondered if he would ever get his stamina back. He was happy to get back to the bed.

Emma told herself, just pop in, check on him, then head home and get some much needed sleep.

Who was she kidding, she scoffed as she opened the door to McQueen's room. She would be lucky if she made it to the couch in her office.

She stepped up to McQueen's bed. He looked to be sleeping soundly. Satisfied, she turned to leave.   

McQueen grabbed her hand. "Don't you ever rest?" he asked.

"There will be plenty of time to rest when I'm dead," she chuckled.

He had to smile at that. He had said the same thing once to Commodore Ross, when he was arguing for the 5-8th's need for R&R, while he was falling down from exhaustion himself. She drove herself hard for the sake of her patient's health even if it was at risk of her own.   

He fell silent and looked out the window. She knew there was something bothering him, so she sat on the edge of bed and waited.   

"Did they do right by that young soldier?" he finally asked.

She wasn't surprised that he knew about the young in-vitro who had died. She figured there wasn't much that got past him, like her sitting there in full dress uniform. But there was more behind his question. She had learned to read the subtle changes in his eyes. She was reading doubt in them now.   

"It was a nice ceremony," she said. "No cut corners. They did right by him."   

"But you were the only one there," he said.

"I was there. He wasn't alone," she replied.

She then realized that he saw 'alone' in a different light. For him, the young man should have been put to rest with family and friends present to see him off, like any other child. Like her little Casey had.   

But in-vitro 'children' had no family.   

"That won't be you," she said, softly.   

He scowled at her, irritated by her ability to so easily read his thoughts.   

She looked at him thoughtfully. "You really don't know how special you are, do you?" she asked.   

Not waiting for a reply, she leaned over and pressed a soft kiss to his lean cheek.   

"Good night, McQueen. Pleasant dreams." She gave his hand a quick squeeze and left.   

McQueen stared after her in mild shock. He touched his cheek where her warm lips had been with a slightly shaky hand.   

Over the next weeks, McQueen's physical and respiratory therapy continued. Emma introduced him to the surgical teams. He knew they were the best. She only worked with the best. If they weren't, she'd simply make them go away.

"There's a war on," he heard her say once during the A.I. rebellion. "I have no time to hand-hold."   

The reality was she was a good teacher. Her young residents were the best, brightest, and most open-minded people he had ever met. They respected his need for space. Understood his frustrations over being out of the war. Tolerated his mood swings, and like Wilks, if they had in-vitro issues they never let them show. Even the Electro-comp geeks who were mapping out his neuro-muscular impulses were professional. His physical therapist was an in-vitro named Otto. Short and brawny, he was from the El Paso facility. His bright red hair, freckled skin and green eyes just didn't seem to fit the name he was given at the facility. McQueen often wondered if the person assigned to naming newborn in-vitros ever actually laid eyes on them. He pushed McQueen hard.   

"Doc Em wants you breathin` better," Otto shouted. "Just 5 more reps, Colonel. Come on you lazy Tank! You ainīt giving up so easy are you?"   

McQueen found himself hating this brawny little elf. He also knew that he was in the best hands. Otto got the job done, either by cajoling, or humor, or more often than not, with McQueen, getting him pissed off usually did the trick. McQueen knew he was being played like a flute, but his pride wouldn't allow him to fail.   

Every night Emma came in, usually late, to go through the lab results.

"Fucking Chig air," she muttered, frowning at the respiratory results.

Many nights she would just let the conversation wander to the 5-8. Ross had sent a photo of 'McQueen's kids', taken at the Saratogas Christmas party, to him. He studied the photo, speaking of them like a proud papa.   

"Shane Vansen." He pointed to the smaller woman in the front with light brown, shoulder length hair. She had a determined look on her pretty face. "A born leader," he explained. "Both her parents were killed by A.I.s. She'll be a General someday, but for all the wrong reasons. She'll make strides in her career to avoid her fear of commitment."   

Emma smiled. She knew someone like that.

"Vanessa Damphousse." He pointed to the African-American woman next to Vansen.   

Emma noticed the woman had the biggest brown eyes.

"She's a mystery to me. I can't figure out how anyone so compassionate could be a good marine, but she is. She's the heart of the 5-8." McQueen looked at the photo. Damphousse bore no physical resemblance to Emma James, but they both had the same gentle soul with a lion's heart.  

"Nathan West," McQueen pointed out the tall lean All-American-looking boy to the side. "West's girl Kylen was his reason to fight. She was on the Tellus Flight. Taken with the other surviving colonists and held for over a year by the Chigs," McQueen explained. "They were going to Tellus together. But because it was said that 10 in-vitros wanted to go, West was bumped from his slot. They forced her to go, or face a sentence of indentured servitude for breaking her contract with Aerotech. When backed against a wall, they decided she would go and West would join the Corps then try to get stationed out there. West has a good head on his shoulders." He frowned, "Too willing to blame the in-vitros for what happened though. I had to pull him and Hawkes apart too many times in the beginning. Then when he lost his kid brother in the war, things between him and Hawkes changed. West became more protective. I often wanted to give West more responsibilities, but I couldn't trust him to stay focused. The girl was never too far away from his thoughts. She was his reason to fight; finding her his mission. He'll have to find a new reason now. He'll also have to realize she will not be the same girl she was, nor is he the same. They'll have to find a new path together or fall apart."   

Emma knew McQueen spoke from painful experience.

He did admit, West was 'almost' as good a pilot as he was, then told her it fell under the doctor/patient privilege.   

McQueen pointed to the tallest young man in the back.

"Cooper Hawkes," He didn't realize he would get a fond grin on his face when he spoke of the young in-vitro. Emma noticed the eyes. Like McQueen's they has a clear, intense set to them. She had seen that in so many in-vitros; a mix of a child's wonderment, and an old man's lament, as if they had seen to much. Yet an innocence remained.   

"He was sentenced to the corps. He ran away from the in-vitro facility, was deemed a reject and was destined for erasure. He survived alone in the streets, till one day a gang tried to kill him for being a Tank. He fought back to protect himself and was arrested." Emma knew it sickened McQueen that the kid was considered a reject because he had a heart. He got some comfort in that Ross would look after the boy. "Hawkes will mind Ross if he is firm and fair with him."   

This night McQueen felt the need to talk about his lost kids. Lt. Kelly Winslow was only with the 5-8 for a short time, but she had made a lasting impression on him.   

He pointed to her. She had a street-wise grin on her face. Emma could tell this one could have been a hand full.   

"She made a pass at me in the officer's club," he blushed. "Wondered if I was up to a romp in the Zero G chamber..." His eyes turned cold gray. "Not soon after she was murdered by that Chig ace... I hope they have a hell and that bastard rots in it."   

Emma knew she would never really understand all this girl meant to him, simply because McQueen would never completely understand what she meant to him, himself.

As McQueen talked about his 'Kids', she could see a lot of him in each of them.   Vansen's commitment to the Corps for the sake of a need to belong to something bigger than herself, a pride of making the grade hundreds of years old. Damphousse's compassion; West's willingness to be a woman's Knight, to be there what ever it took. She had met all of them at Loxley, having done their preflight physicals. Hawkes stood out in her mind; she had treated the wounds around his neck with a gentle application of salve and a smile, wondering if that was what McQueen was like at that age. Wild, rough, defiant. She wondered if Hawkes realized how lucky he was to have McQueen as a mentor, to show him he way through the mine field of the natural-born world. She hoped McQueen didn't jade the boy too much in the process. She knew that Hawkes was good for McQueen as well. The 5-8's acceptance of the boy and of McQueen, had helped to put a chink in the armor McQueen layered on over the years of survival.

But out of all his 'Kids', she wondered if McQueen realized he had the most in common with Lt. Paul Wang. Both were thinkers and lovers of Shakespeare. Both had wicked senses of humor, and grew up in hell holes. Both were lost to a certain extent, trying to prove themselves more than what others believed.. more than what they themselves believed. Both facing defining moments with courage and valor, to see it through no matter what the outcome.

"He was tortured at the Kasbeck Mining Camp...They broke him." He fell silent.

Emma knew what was behind the silence. McQueen had been tortured in Serbia, by the A.I. for standing up against them to protect her. Like a knight of old protecting the fair maiden, despite the fact the fair "maiden'" once had been a Navy Seal. She also knew he felt a deep shame over being broken. If he had only been stronger. Truth was she was amazed he lasted as long as he did. She still heard his screams, coming from that cell at the end of that hall. She remembered praying to God to take him. To stop his pain. Finally they dumped his broken body back into the cell they shared; frightened, cowering in the cold dark corner, recoiling from her touch, like a beaten animal.

Soon they would come for her anyway, taking her to face the fate, his body too broken to stop them, but still he tried.

Emma forced herself back to the now.

She knew the McQueen most likely kept Wang at arms reach so not to dredge up his own old pain.

She watched McQueen remove his wedding photo from it's frame, replacing it with the 5-8's. She knew he felt a great deal of guilt over this, even more now because Wang was dead. The moment was lost.

She thumbed the photo tag of her daughter. She knew regret all too well.

"All right then," Emma said. Shaking off the melancholy, she stood up. "So McQueen what are you doing Thursday?"

McQueen was confused by her question. He was doing the same thing he did everyday. "Why?" he asked.

"Well I have a leg, and 16 free hours. You, me, an O.R. Table for two?" she purred seductively.


"Yup. Wheels up on Operation Solid Ground at Zero-five-hundred, Thursday." She raised her arm and looked at her watch, "Ready, Ready, Hack," she let out a chuckle and left the room.

Wilks came in first thing Thursday morning. "Good Morning, Colonel," she said. "Ready for the big day?"

McQueen looked at her. "So this is it?"

"Yes it is. I need you to take these." Wilks handed him two small cups. One containing a clear liquid, the other, two small yellow pills. McQueen looked at them warily.

"They're safe, Colonel," Wilks assured him. Doctor James would never give you a medication that was unsafe for an in-vitro."

McQueen took the pills, then the liquid. Then he took a sip of water.

The door swung open. Emma swept into the room.

"Ok Marine, ready to hit the beach?" She leaned on the bed rail. Her smile brightened the room. "The surgical teams are assembled and ..." Orderlies brought a gurney into the room. "Your chariot awaits."

McQueen looked at the gurney, then back at Emma. He took a deep breath in and let it out with a sigh of resignation.

"Ok then, I'll see you in 45 mikes, downstairs." She gave his arm a reassuring squeeze before leaving.

The orderlies moved him to the gurney. Wilks stayed by his side the whole way. McQueen was grateful to have her there. The operating room was cold. McQueen's teeth started to chatter; he hated the cold. Wilks covered him with a heated blanket.

"Better, Colonel?" she asked.

McQueen nodded. He looked around at all the green-shrouded strangers buzzing about. He hated this. The anesthesiologist went to restrain his arm, to only have McQueen resist.

"Hey, hey!" Emma said loudly, as she came up to the side of the table. "No scaring the help. Be a good boy and give the nice doctor your arm, Colonel." She knew what being strapped to a table meant to him.

McQueen looked up at Emma. He could tell she was smiling under her mask. Her eyes seemed to sparkle. McQueen relaxed, laying back, reluctantly surrendering his arm to the anesthesiologist, who quickly administered drugs to knock him out.

McQueen kept his eyes on Emma.

"You will taste a cross between metal and garlic," the anesthesiologist started to explain.

"Save it Bob," Emma said. "The Colonel knows the drill. He's no stranger to my table." She could see McQueen's eyes begin to glaze over. "Good night, sweet prince."

McQueen tried to stay focused on her as she spoke to the assembled teams.

"Ok people, this is going to be a long haul...."

McQueen woke up in the recovery room to find Emma by his side, asleep, her head resting on the bed rail. He looked at her sleeping there. It hit him that it was always her by his side. Even during his marriage, his loving wife would avoid his times in the hospital. It was dawning on him just how much she avoided in their marriage. He reached up and gently caressed a long strand of Emma's golden hair. He liked waking up seeing her next to him. Emma stirred and he pulled his hand away.

She looked up with a sleepy smile.

"Hey there," she said in a hushed tone. She took his hand in hers, glancing at his vitals on the nearby panel. "The surgery went great. Prefect match up... How's the pain?"

"So far I can manage," McQueen replied.

"Ok, but don't be afraid to ask. I have a few tricks left up my sleeve. You don't need to suffer, understand?"

McQueen nodded.

"Now you rest up," she said with a yawn. "You're going to need it. The surgery was the easy part."

McQueen looked at her.

"I'll stay right here," Emma said, leaning her chin on the bed rail. Soon both drifted off to sleep.

A nurse passing by saw Emma asleep holding McQueen's hand. The young girl frowned, pointing it out to another one of the nurses in the recovery room, causing whispers and scowls.

Emma made it a point to stop by therapy everyday. Having your own cheering section was always helpful.

"All right, Fred Astaire," she chuckled as she leaned against the parallel bars, watching him lumber away towards the other end. "So can I pencil you in for the first dance at the Admiral's Cotillion?" she quipped.

"Sure," he replied through gritted teeth., taking another painful step. "I'm just grace in motion."

"Oh I don't know. From where I stand you're looking pretty good," Emma chuckled.

McQueen looked over his shoulder to see Emma checking out his butt. He shook his head and blushed. No one had ever been so openly playful with him. It was nice.

Otto frowned. Emma caught this and decided it was time to let them get on with it. "I'm sorry Otto," she said as she passed him. "I'll let you continue."

McQueen didn't want to see her go.

True to her word in the recovery room, the surgery was the easiest part of everything that he had been through. It took a lot of concentration to get through each day's pain filled gauntlet. Having her there made it seem easier. If it hadn't taken everything he had to learn how to walk again, McQueen would have heard the whispers sooner.

Otto got McQueen turned around in the parallel bars.

"Ok, Colonel, lets see if we can make it to the other end," Otto said. "Then we'll call it quits for the day."

"Ok," McQueen huffed. He looked down to the end of the bars. It seemed like a light year away.

One slow painful step after another, he made. The reward, his wheel chair.

Easing himself into the seat, there was no way McQueen was going to argue.

Otto seemed preoccupied. "Let's get you back to your room."

Once back in the privacy of McQueen's room the other in-vitro felt that he could speak his mind.

He looked out the window, not knowing where to start. "She's a good person. Best thing that ever happened to us Tanks," he finally said. "She doesn't need the kind of grief hooking up with a Tank will bring her. You two are the talk of the hospital. Maybe she doesn't understand there is a big difference between treating a Tank and fucking one," Otto said. "I know you were married to a natural-born before. You know what happens. Now you upwardly mobile Tanks might think it buys you acceptance, but it don't. Personally, I prefer my navel on the neck. But that is besides the point..."

He turned and looked McQueen dead in the eye. "Don't hurt her. She's up for Admiral Kline's job. She can't afford this kind of scandal. Besides, she's had way too much pain in her life. She doesn't need the kind of pain you'll bring her."

"I have no intention to hurting Dr. James. She's my friend," McQueen said evenly, feeling an anger deep within.

"Pretty one-sided friendship. I bet you couldn't even tell me when or how her daughter died." Otto walked out of the room, having said his peace.

McQueen knew he was right. He just didn't want to hear it. But who was he kidding? How could he allow himself to believe any different?

Emma all but kicked down the door to Admiral Kline's office.

"How dare you ship one of my patients to a rehab center behind my back?!" she yelled, stepping right to the older man's face. "How dare you end run me on McQueen's treatment!"

"Captain James , enough," Kline snapped. Truth was, he'd expected her.

She bit her lip. Years of being snapped back in line by Glen Ross never really left her.

"He needs to be here," she said through gritted teeth.

"He needs rehab now. Doctor, he should have been transferred 2 weeks ago. The Gaily Center is a good place." Kline took a seat behind his imposing desk, in his nonverbal way of pointing out just who had rank.

"I'm not questioning the place. I'm pissed that you would override my judgment on one of my patients. The Gaily Center has never dealt with a silicate prosodic transplant."

"But Dr. Morgan has, and he is on the staff there. Besides," he handed her a piece of paper. "Colonel McQueen was the one who requested the change of facility and doctors. Emma, he fired you."

Emma stared at the paper. Unable to speak, she was overwhelmed by too many emotions to sort them out. What had gone wrong?

She read the note again. "Believes that his recovery is being hindered?"

She looked up at Kline, her eyes burning with denied tears. "Excuse me, Sir."

"Of course, Captain."

Emma tried hard over the next 6 weeks to respect McQueen's wishes. Her perspective on the whole matter shifted day to day, moment to moment. From understanding to anger, from "I came on too strong" to "If I had only made it clearer how I felt." But mostly it was concern. Dr. Morgan had kept her out of the loop. No news was good news. She knew Commodore Kline would call her in if McQueen started to show signs of rejection.

"I want Private Sim's medication adjusted," Emma said flatly, handing the chart to Nurse Wilks. "And Otto, I want a therapy regimen started in the morning. Nothing too strenuous. Lets get those muscles limbered up and get her up and moving. Now, the both of you should head home, the weather is turning bad."

"Yes ma'am," they replied.

Emma walked away slowly, heading back o her office.

"I'm worried about her," Wilks said watching Emma leave. "She was finally coming out of it. Then that ungrateful bastard had to hurt her like this. I couldn't have been so wrong about someone." she added in disbelief.

"His staying would hurt her more," Otto observed. "She'll get over him."

"She hasn't in ten plus years. What makes you think she would now? In-vitros really don't understand the emotions behind a woman in love. Especially a woman like her."

"The rumors around the hospital; the grief he would have caused her.." Otto countered.

Wilks cut him off. "She doesn't hear the whispers. Never has, and grief is the best way to describe what she is feeling now." Wilks took out the new medications ordered and headed to the ward. "I wish I knew who or what had gotten to him. I know he's avoiding commitment. He's protecting her. No one can tell me he doesn't have strong feelings for her. Nope, someone got to him."

Otto went to Emma's office. He stood outside the door a moment. He saw her standing at the window watching the snow falling outside. He wanted to tell her what he had said to McQueen, how he was only trying to protect her. He watched as she wiped away a tear. It was clear, the pain he told himself he was protecting her from, she was feeling. He couldn't bring himself to go in or to turn away. To tell her what he had said would risk losing his job and the respectful way of life he had grown accustomed to. What was it he had called McQueen? An upwardly mobile Tank? He turned and walked away.

Emma looked at the snow falling outside. She used to love the winter. "A real Snow Bunny," is what her grandfather used to call her. Now it seemed that snow was just a reminder of all she had lost in her life.

"Screw what he wants!" she muttered to herself. She grabbed her keys and headed out. Emma didn't feel the cold as she ran from the building in only her surgical scrubs and lab coat. She climbed into her jeep and drove out into the storm. The Gaily Center was 70 miles north of Bethesda.

McQueen stood in his dimly lit room, looking out at the falling snow. He hated the cold. Too many years on that frozen rock, Omicron, to find the romance in the winter snowstorm. It didn't take McQueen long to alienate the staff of the rehab center. Within days of his arrival, he made it more than clear they weren't to come in at all hours of the night to check his blood pressure. Tonight he regretted this. Why couldn't he allow people to care? he wondered.

"You should have come to me if there was a problem," Emma said from the doorway. Her voice was a strange mix of pride, embarrassment, concern, and anger.

McQueen looked at her. The light from the hall silhouetted her tall frame. He couldn't see her face, but he knew she wasn't smiling. He turned back to the window.

"You wouldn't have understood," he said solemnly.

"When haven't I tried to understand?" she demanded softly.

He didn't reply.

Emma closed the door and went over to him. "I don't know what to do here. I can't walk away from this. As your doctor..."

"You're not my doctor," he replied harshly.

"But I am your friend!" she countered. She took his chin in her hand and turned it towards her. "And you can't go to my Commodore and have me fired from caring."

"I don't want you to care," he snapped, pulling back.


"Because I've been through this. I can't go through it again and I won't put you through it!" He went to move away and slipped from his crutches.

Emma reached out to steady him only to have him push her away.

"I don't need you. I don't need your caring or friendship.!" he hissed. "I need to get back out there," he said, pointing to the window. "Back to the war. I don't belong here. That's where I belong. That's what I do. I'm a soldier. I'm not a boyfriend or a husband. And I will NEVER be a father!" He threw his crutch down. "You make me want those things. I found myself believing I could have those things. I can't have you making believe that my being a Tank doesn't matter, that you won't be affected by what people say, or the hateful things people do."

The blind frustration in his voice frightened Emma. The plea in his brilliant blue eyes wanted her to make it all untrue.   

"Losing Annalee almost killed me." He leaned against the wall. "And I never felt for her, the way I feel for you." He sighed, finally admitting what he long denied himself. He looked at Emma.

The warmest smile crossed her sweet face. She moved closer to him, caressing his lean cheek. "Hush."

"See, you haven't listened a word I've side," he sighed.

"Yes I have, Ty. I've listen very carefully, to your heart," she said. Moving her hand to his bare chest she frowned at the scars of his hard life that marred his otherwise prefect skin. She leaned in slowly, pressing loving little kisses down along the angriest of them, running from his left shoulder down across his tight abdomen.

McQueen let out a little gasp, as Emma's full soft lips placed one healing kiss after another. Little kisses placed lightly on the healed over skin, but the gentle kisses went deep enough to start healing the open wounds still on his raw soul.

With each kiss, she felt the muscles tense and relax.

He leaned back against the wall. Sliding his fingers into her damp hair, he brought her face to his. He looked into her eyes, seeing only love and acceptance. He pulled her to him, pressing his mouth to hers.

Emma parted her lips, inviting McQueen's tongue into her moist mouth. She made no attempt to pull away. Her tongue urged his deeper. Her blatant want for him dissolved his doubts, and he molded his mouth to hers in a breathless kiss.

Emma let out a soft moan as McQueen nipped at her chin and throat, then found the soft outer shell of her ear. He ran his hands slowly down her back and over her bottom, drawing her hips against his arousal, making his intentions clear.

Emma knew enough about in-vitros, better yet, men in general, to know she had to make a decision. In a flash of a second, she realized there was no reason to stop. Neither were married any longer, and well, he had fired her, so she was no longer his doctor. She pulled back, sliding her hands down his strong arms till only his fingers rested in hers.

McQueen looked at her, confused and disappointed. How sweet, she thought. He's pouting.

Don't laugh. She told herself. Oh lord he's still so young in many ways.

Emma took a step towards the bed urging him to follow.

He smiled when he realized she wasn't rejecting him.

Emma grinned and slowly peeled off her damp lab coat, tossing it to one side.

McQueen pulled her by the waist to him and kissed her passionately on the mouth. He slid his hands up under the cotton material of her scrub top. Catching the hem, he lifted it up till they had to part their kiss to get it up over her head. Sending the top to join the coat somewhere on the floor, McQueen wasted no time making her bra do the same. Cupping her full, round breasts in his strong palms, he thumbed the hardened nipples. He kissed the nape of her neck, running a trail of kisses along her breast bone.

Emma ran her hand over his silver white hair urging him to continue. Her whole body become aware of his every movement.

He drew each nipple in turn into his hot mouth. He licked, nibbled, and suckled the hardened nibs. Emma took ragged breaths. McQueen could feel her heart pounding against his lips.

Emma tugged at his open pajama top. McQueen chucked when he heard the material of the top tear. Eagerly she showered him with loving kisses, over his face, hair, ears, neck. Her hands moved to the draw string of his pajama pants. She lowered herself down, her mouth making a moist trail over his smooth navel-less stomach. She nuzzled his hardened pride, tracing the length of the cloth covered shaft with the tip of her nose.

McQueen's body burned with desire for this woman, as Emma grazed her teeth over his manhood. She moved to the draw string on his pajama pants. Catching it in her teeth, she pulled back, untying the knot. She glided her hands over his muscular thighs and removed his pants, discarding them to the gathering pile.

As a doctor, Emma was a professional, trained not to take much notice of a patient's body other for medicinal purpose. But McQueen was different. He was to her, damn near as prefect as a body could be. His was one of symmetry and form. Almost lyrical in movement. Even battered and damaged he had grace. Not just his handsome features, silver white hair, smooth fair skin and those damned eyes, but the very structure of the frame.

His broad shoulders and chest descended into a lean waist, flat, toned abdomen, narrow hips, tight buttocks and powerful thighs. His penis was no different from the rest of him. Emma had seen McQueen's naked body before, but never allowed herself the luxury of really looking at him. His shaft was thick and of healthy length; his sacks hung defined and heavy, nestled in their silver and gold nest. She ran her mouth up the shaft, sliding her tongue around the heart shaped tip, drawing him into her mouth slowly, inch by inch.

McQueen caught his breath, forcing himself to stay in control. He drew Emma back up, moving her back against the bed. He kissed her deeply, loosening her pants and lowering them by running his hands over her firm bottom. He kissed her again, slowly easing her down across the bed. He kissed her stomach sliding his tongue into her navel. Not having a "belly button" himself, he found a natural-born's navel very erotic. Emma squirmed, arching her back, and let out a low deep moan. McQueen took pleasure in the fact that he could have drawn this reaction from her. He went lower tugging her pants down. He ran his hands down her long legs, sliding off her sneakers and socks, pulling the pants off.

Emma smiled. Resting on her elbows, she ran the toes of her right foot over McQueen's hip. He drew it up to his mouth and kissed the arch. Emma let out a squeak but he held on, running his hand up her shapely calf.

It was strange to her, in the waves of pleasure she was feeling, all she could think was she was glad she shaved her legs. He made easy work of removing her panties and sent them flying.   She let out a joyful laugh as they hooked on the nearby IV pole.

His hot mouth felt so right on the soft silk of her inner thigh. Emma eased her legs apart as he moved closer to her mound. He slipped the tip of his tongue into the moist folds, moving it in small circles over her clit, sending lightning bolts up through her body.

Emma threw back her head, moving her aching hips in motion with her welcomed intruder. She clutched the sheets on the bed. McQueen shifted his weight. Pulling her closer to the edge of the bed, he eased himself into her. Emma let out a gasp as he pushed his full length into her. He pulled back, not wanting to hurt her. Emma hooked her legs around his waist and with her heels pulled him into her. He looked at her and she kissed him quick. Emma ran her finger tips over his brow.

"Come here," she whispered.

Emma's body was long and shapely; a wonderful mix of muscle and softness. McQueen rocked back and forth into her. He caressed and kissed her warm smooth skin.

Emma pushed up to meet his inward thrusts. He had never known such acceptance. His body could only feel hers. There was no pain; only her. Emma arched her body as shuddering waves of passion washed over her. The heat of their bodies gliding together, she cried out as orgasm over took her.

McQueen felt his control slipping.

"Emma," he deeply rasped, His whole body tensed as he flooded into her. Weakened, he collapsed onto her. She eased him up carefully onto the bed. She held him close, resting his head to her breast. She lovingly stroked the navel on the back of his neck.

"I love you, Emma," he said softly.

"I love you too," she replied.

Emma was unwavering in her love and acceptance of him. It amazed him and scared the hell out of him.   She looked into his blue eyes, now darken with clouds of lust. She smiled at him, and with that smile, he could feel all his fear and anger fade.

During medical exams, Emma had listened to McQueen's heart beat. How strong, she thought, yet tonight she realized just how fragile it really was as well.

Soon sleep claimed them.

McQueen woke to find Emma was no longer in the bed with him. He looked around to see her standing naked in front of the window. The mix of the setting full moon and rising sun reflecting off the freshly fallen snow, cast almost an etheral glow on Emma's alabaster skin. He wondered if she was regretting what had happened the night before, until she turned and smiled. She held out her hand to him. McQueen eased out of the bed and went to her. He slipped her into his arms and looked out the window with her. The frozen trees shimmered and twinkled though as if dipped in diamonds.

McQueen, in all his short life, had tried to understand his natural-born counterparts. He was born at the equivalent of 18 years old with all systems turned on. Only years of watching and studying, reading and learning, helped him catch up somewhat, but the fine subtle points were lost. Until this morning, as he looked out at the ice shimmering trees with Emma's warm body pressed against him. He could, for the first time, truly see the beauty she saw.

"Isn't it beautiful, Ty?" she sighed

"Yes, Em, it is." He kissed the nape of her neck.

There was a long silence.

"Emma?" McQueen finally said softly, a hesitation in his voice. "Would you consider having a child by artificial means?

Emma leaned back against him. "Ty, I would have your child by any means necessary."

The two stood naked in front of the window watched the rising sun.

"DOCTOR JAMES?" Dr. Morgan gasped from the door.

McQueen flushed with embarrassment. They had completely lost track of where they were. He tried to shield her nakedness with his.

Emma looked at Morgan and smiled.   

"What are you doing?" Morgan demanded.

She looked at McQueen and back at Morgan. "I'm playing doctor," she said matter of factly with a little chuckle, pulling from McQueen's arms. She boldly walked across the room to gather her clothes.

Morgan stood dumbfounded as she plucked her panties from the IV stand.

Emma slipped on her underwear and scrubs. She winked as she handed McQueen his rode.

"Well Tom, I'll let you complete your rounds. I have to call into my office. Did you happen to notice how deeply buried my car was?" she asked as she dialed the phone.

McQueen watched her. This woman was not apologetic to anyone. He grinned and limped over to the bed.

Emma waved at Morgan, motioning him to give her McQueen's chart. He hesitated, then reluctantly handed over the chart. She made no comment as she read. She handed it back to Morgan.

"So, he can come home soon, I see." Then she turned her attention to the phone."Hi, Commander..."

McQueen looked at Emma. "Home?"

"Yes Colonel. You aren't too far way from being released. Arrangements should be made," he said.

Emma hug up the phone. "I have to go to work," she said, kissing him on the mouth. "If I don't make it back tonight, I'll call you later." She gathered her few remaining belongings and left.

Both men looked at the door.

"She's a whirlwind," Morgan said, with admiration.

"Yeah," was all McQueen could say.

Emma did come back that night, and every night. Spending their evenings together, talking, watching old movies and making love. Being with her was easy; loving her was easier. He made an extra effort to fill in the gaps on his knowledge of her life. She was a child prodigy, a child genius, raised in a large loving family. By sixteen she was a college graduate headed for medical school, then the AI war broke out, and she joined up. She worked hard and was assigned to Glen Ross' Seal unit as a corpsman. McQueen knew of the rumors that went around later of her and Ross having an affair. He studied the phototag. Casey was of mixed race. He had seen this little girl's picture in Ross' office on the Saratoga.

What a waste, he thought. The twenty first century humans could fight a war light years away in space, but they still couldn't stop a drunk from getting behind a wheel.

"Glen Ross was her "Godfather" not her father. Casey's father was a civilian. He chose to have nothing to do with Casey while she was alive or after her death," she said flatly. Emma looked at McQueen. "Glen Ross has always been and will always be nothing more than a dear friend."

McQueen wouldn't admit it, but he was relieved to hear it.

As the release date came near they went over his options. He was no fool. Staying with Emma was his best option, and what he wanted most to do. She offered to fix him up a room if he thought they were moving too fast.

But he looked at her and knew that it would not be necessary.

The day came when McQueen was being released after over six months in some sort of medical facility or another. It was far from getting back to his normal life, but it was a start.

General Merrick had made many inquiries as to when McQueen could join his staff at the Pentagon. Emma knew it would be good for him, but she had Commodore Kline lay down some very strict rules. Rehab was still first and foremost the top priority.

"I don't need that," McQueen protested as an orderly brought in a wheel chair.

"Regulations, Sir," the orderly replied.

McQueen reluctantly got in.  

Emma took one last look around McQueen's room to make sure they didn't forget anything. She checked the night stand drawer. As she closed it she spotted McQueen's wedding photo tossed in the waste basket. She said nothing.

Emma pulled the jeep into the driveway. The front of her home was field stone, and white wood with large shuttered windows. The whole design turned away from the more accepted ultra modern chic designs of the new millennium.

"Ready?" Emma asked holding out her arm so he could steady himself.

McQueen got out of the car and looked at the house. He took a deep breath and nodded. Once inside the entry, Emma's beeper went off. She put down his suitcase and hurried to the back of the house. McQueen looked around. The house was furnished in a romantic, light Victorian style. Blonde wood, white walls, lace and crystal. He hobbled into the living room just in front of him. The room was bathed in light. It seemed to welcome him in. He went to the baby grand piano, where ornately framed photos of her extended family and friends rested on a lace shawl. He studied the photos - Casey, Ross, her parents, brothers, sisters. These were her people, her world. Much like the many photos in Glen Ross' quarters on board. Moments of memories to make a place more of a home.

Emma watched him silently from the doorway. She retrieved the framed photo of the 5-8 from his suitcase. She went over to the piano, handing him the photo. He looked at her, and the photo, then placed it next to the photo of Casey.

"Welcome home, Ty," she said slipping her arm around his waist.

"Thank you." he said, kissing her, "for everything."

McQueen knew even if he didn't make it all the way back into space, he was far from finished, far more than a damaged broken washed up Tank. He was still vital, still a Marine and most of all, he was loved and worthy of being loved. No matter what happened he would be all right.

He had made it back to solid ground.

The End

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