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 This story is not to be published on any ftp site, newsgroup, mailing list, fanzine, or elsewhere without the express permission of the author.
This short vignette was inspired after rereading Sheryl Clay's "Queen of Hearts"--a must-read for any SAAB fan. The planet Caldera came from Sheryl's brilliant mind and has not been used on the show. Please send comments to gdbessey@ingr.com.

Swimming

by
Gabrielle Bessey




"Come on, Cooper. It'll be okay."

"I don't wanna."

"Cooper, you have to. You don't want a repeat of Caldera, do you?" Cooper stood there, a stubborn expression on his face, looking just like the recalcitrant 6-year old Shane remembered all too well.

"Please?" She held out her hand. "I won't let anything happen to you."

Cooper slowly stepped into the pool, hanging onto the pool railing and Shane's hand for dear life.

"See? You can stand in the shallow end and your head isn't even wet. Now, I want you to walk around down here--that's it, just walk. Get used to the water."

After about 15 minutes, she came back to him. "It's going to get a little harder. I want you to put your face in the water." Shane ignored his "what the hell" look and pointed towards the pool. Cooper put his face into the water, only to come back up sputtering. Pounding him on the back, Shane tried not to smile. "You're not supposed to inhale, you're supposed to hold your breath."

Cooper tried it again and managed to keep his face in the water and not breathe in any water. After several tries, Shane threw him for a loop. "I want you to sink down to your knees."

He protested, looking like she'd just asked him to take off without his Hammerhead. "I can't. I can't do this."

"Cooper..." Shane grabbed his chin with her hand and forced him to look at her. "Do you trust me?"

"Yeah, but..."

"No buts. I used to be a lifeguard and I never lost a swimmer. Now, on your knees, and don't forget to take a deep breath and hold it." Shane sank beneath the water, air bubbles rising to the surface. Slowly, Cooper sank to his knees, surprised to find that the top of his head was still above water, and watched his air bubbles rise. He felt a tap on his arm, turned, and saw Shane signal for him to come up. He broke the surface, an excited grin on his face.

"I did it!"

"You sure did. Now, I want you to practice putting your face in the water, and maybe kneeling again." Shane moved to the side of the pool and watched as Cooper became acquainted with the water. She wondered how it felt to have birth memories so close to the surface of your mind, how it could keep you from doing things. <


For the next three months, between missions, flight reports, and target practice, Shane took Cooper to the pool late at night while the rest of the 58th slept. He complained about hanging onto the side of the pool or the life preserver when he learned to kick, but Shane knew he was just grousing. He argued when he had to swim to her in the shallow end, but she saw the joy in his face when he did it. At the end of those three months, Shane watched with pride as Cooper swam the length of the pool with a strong, steady stroke. Seeing her standing poolside, he angled towards her, increasing his speed.

"I'm proud of you, Cooper. I think you're a natural, and you'll probably be giving lessons before too long."

"Thanks." Cooper looked a bit shy, "and thanks for teaching me."

"My pleasure." Shane hunched down and watched Cooper take off for more laps. She had enjoyed teaching him how to swim, enjoyed seeing him adapt to it despite the memories. It had reminded her of her high school days, teaching the little kids to love the water and watching them discover the wonder of what they could do when they tried.


As they sat in the officers' mess, Nathan contemplated his breakfast. Pushing his tray away and staring at his bunkmates, he deliberated their day off. "Hey, guys, I hear the 35th is throwing a pool party. Anybody wanna go?"

Paul got up and took his tray to the window that lead to the galley. "It might be fun. Better than sitting around and rewatching old movies. Besides there aren't any good games on today, anyway."


Poolside, there were several squadrons who had gathered their collective provisions to throw a little party to try and relax. The rest of the 58th noticed that Cooper stayed away from the pool edge and tried to keep his mind off the water. Everyone was having a good time--laughing, dancing--and they almost forgot that they were in the middle of war, until Mike Witherspoon, an arrogant SOB from the 48th Squadron, decided that it was time to tease the "tank". He had made his feelings about In-Vitros clear on more than one occasion, but Cooper, and the rest of the 58th, had ignored him. Unfortunately, the homemade "hooch" had done a lot to loosen his tongue and strengthen his bravado.

"Hey, Cooper? How come you haven't jumped in yet?" Mike laughed. "Oh, I forgot, tanks don't like the water, do they?" He didn't see McQueen, who had come looking for the Wildcards, standing far off in the hatch or he might not have said it so loudly. "Tell you what," tossing a pair of goggles out into the deep end of the pool and watching them sink to the bottom, "I'll give you 50 bucks if you go get 'em." He leaned over to one of his bunkmates. "He'll never do it."

McQueen moved toward the pool, knowing that Cooper was fool enough to take the bet, even if he couldn't swim, just to prove himself.

Cooper stared at Mike from beside the diving board, then glanced over to Shane. She gave him an almost imperceptible nod and he moved toward the pool's edge. Before anyone could say a word, Cooper dove into the pool and swam toward the bottom. McQueen made a move to go in after him when he looked at Shane, watching her shake her head. A moment passed and Cooper broke the surface, holding up the goggles. He tossed them at Mike's feet and stared at the not-so-cocky pilot. "You owe me 50 bucks. You can give it to Vansen."

Shane sauntered over to Mike and held out her hand, smiling like a Cheshire cat as he counted out the bills. She folded them up and tucked them into her t-shirt pocket. "It's been a pleasure." The rest of the 58th just stood there, mouths agape, wondering when Cooper had learned to swim.

With a smile at Shane, Cooper began swimming across the pool, not noticing McQueen until he reached the side. Pulling himself up, he sat on the edge and McQueen hunkered down beside him. "Saves me from having to throw you in..." With a quirk of his lips, McQueen got up and walked away from the pool, leaving Cooper grinning like a kid.

The End

Gabrielle Bessey
May 14, 1996

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