"Light From a Distant Shore"

Space: Above & Beyond; written for the 2005 Yuletide Challenge






"Okay, everyone, let's get the hell out of here," Vansen says, taking off her helmet. She thinks she's the only one ready to get underway, but she's not.

The ISSCV is airborne, and Wang can't wait to get back to the Saratoga. It seems like years since they were dropped off on... He can't even remember the name of the goddamn planet. Too many in too short a time.

Vanessa breaks him out of his reverie. "Agreed," she puts in enthusiastically. "I don't know about you guys, but I'm glad to be leaving. Everything in that place had about an inch of dust covering it." She wipes her hands on her jumpsuit as if wiping off the memory of dirt and grime.

Wang knows how she feels. He grins thinking of the long, hot shower he'll take when they reach the carrier. If he's lucky, he'll have it all to himself.

*

Chastity gasped as Luke kneaded her thighs with his powerful hands. Her love mound was wet and dripping, and she squirmed on the bed, anxious for him to possess her. He slid his meatmuscle up the inside of her thigh and then entered her in one smooth stroke. A perfect fit, just as she knew it would be. It was heaven....

"What're you reading?"

He jumps and flips the magazine over, covering both the story and his growing erection. He wishes, not for the first time, that Vanessa would get a hobby. "Nothing," he answers, "just football stats. You wouldn't be interested."

She smiles that knowing smile, the one that makes him feel like he's thirteen again and his mom just found the stash of Penthouse under his bed.

Vanessa walks away. He watches her for a moment then picks up the magazine.

*

"Ay, oh, let's go! Ay, oh, let's go." He's sick and tired of that song, but Hawkes doesn't care, is deaf to his complaints. He took the disk once, broke it and tossed the pieces. Hawkes tore apart his bunk for two days, looking for it, then just ordered another. Fucking stupid song. He doesn't need a reminder that Pags is gone, never coming back. None of them do.

*

He masturbates in his bunk. Sock over his penis to catch the mess, bottom lip between his teeth to stifle his moans. Poor substitute for flesh and blood, but a Marine never complains. One of McQueen's sayings.

Once, when he wakes in the middle of the night, he catches West jerking off in the head. For days afterward he can't meet his eyes, not sure if he's embarrassed that he saw him, or relieved he isn't the only one that does it.

*

"...so the Governor says, 'If that's what you're going to charge me, I'll just buy my wives somewhere else!'" West laughs at his own joke.

Hawkes looks around the table. "I don't get it."

Wang laughs, too, even though he's heard it before. "Did you hear the one about the goat?"

"Uh, no. I don't think so." West's attention is on his cards; he's easily distracted and is not known for his cutthroat playing.

"There was a goat, a young goat, on a frontier planet. Rough place. The goat got hold of a bottle of brandy and drank it all down. He went on a rampage, knocking down doors, eating the colonists' food, scaring everyone. The marshal grabbed him and took him before the local judge."

"A goat?" Vanessa says doubtfully.

"It's just a joke, Van, don't over think it. Anyway, he takes the goat to the judge, and the judge sentences the goat to death. The goat's father, an old, grizzled billygoat, comes into court, puts his hooves up on the judge's bench, and says, 'Baaaaaah! Please, your honor, don't execute my son. He's only a kid!'"

Vansen groans. "That's got to be about the worst pun I've ever heard."

Beside her, West lays down his cards. "I fold."

Wang groans. It's down to the two of them, and the one time he has a good hand... Fuck Murphy and his stupid laws.

*

They're on Bacchus and he makes a fool of himself. He has a little too much to drink and hits on Vanessa. She's flesh and blood, not words through the SpaceNet, and Stroud is nowhere to be found. She rebuffs him gently and he cries on her shoulder, confides his fear of dying alone in a room infested with cockroaches.

In the morning he wakes to find himself alone in his bunk, wearing a t-shirt and jockeys. No amount of trying brings back the memory of how he got back to the ship. He only hopes he didn't make an ass of himself.

At chow, Vanessa acts as if nothing happened, so he does too, but he makes a silent vow to touch nothing stronger than good old-fashioned beer in the future.

*

"Rise and shine, Marines, time to lock and load!"

Wiping sleep from his eyes, struggling to free himself from Morpheus' grasp, he wonders why the Chigs attack at all hours of the day. Don't they sleep? Don't they need time to regroup, plan, strategize? Probably fucking not. In the end would any of it matter - the battles, the friends lost, the sacrifice millions made just to hold onto a chunk of earth and water?

West hits him on the ass as he passes by. He yawns and looks around. Vansen is snapping her jumpsuit, and Hawkes is scratching his balls. Vanessa smiles at him. He sees himself reflected in her eyes and suddenly it's CLB - his friends are lights from a distant shore beckoning him, guiding him through unknown waters. He's not sure how, but he knows their fight won't be in vain. It might not end next week, or next year, or even in the next ten years, but it would end. And when they're old and grey, he wonders, will they look back on their time in the 58th with pride or regret? He hopes it's the former, he really does.

"Earth to Paul, let's go!"

Stone pushes him from behind, and he hurries to catch up with his friends.



Copyright December 2005 by Cait N.


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