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Matter of Faith

Authors: Amanda "Washuu" Palumbo
Episodes: Set during Missing Link
Show Year: Y1
Rating: PG
Date: 2003
Can Alan prevent Helena from disconnecting John's life support as the Moon descends into chaos?
Average Rating: 4.7/5 (based on 8 reviews)

Chapter 1

The tense atmosphere in Main Mission, the nexus of Moonbase's Ops, fractured explosively as the introverted service girl accidentally dropped the coffee tray at David Kano's feet. Appallingly, the head of base-wide computer systems-the very lifeline of survival on this limping moon-reprimanded June loudly, unprofessionally. She dropped her gaze in the face of the stocky man's tirade, uncertain whether to immediately begin cleaning, or wait until he returned to his console.

The Controller lowered his clipboard, astonished, approached the two. Soothing the young crewmember with a gentle hand on her thin shoulders, June nodded shakily, gaze remaining downcast, as Kano continued to rant. She gratefully retreated in search of a wet-vac as he rounded on Kano accusingly. "You had no right to do that!"

Sneering, David challenged, "You're not in command here...yet!"

Morrow quivered with barely restrained fury; the urge to plant his fist in the shorter man's dark countenance tempted greatly. "Paul, no," Tanya called out, frightened by this latest threat to their precarious existence eked out on this wandering orb.

Not from alien invaders, nor gaseous anomalies...but from fears concerning Commander Koenig's possible demise. He'd led them capably from Day One of their unforeseen journey into the interstellar outback, through myriad and oft unbelievable circumstances. Yet still manage to infuse their entire sprawling community with renewed optimism, whenever his deep, steadying voice issued updates base-wide. Their one constant through a bewildering stream of perception-altering experiences.

Scientists comprised the sprawling base, save for indispensable service personnel. All to a person had been bitten by the space bug, and deliberately signed onto a tour of duty off-world. But who could have possibly predicted Breakaway?! Worse, gnawing at their hopes was the probability that even if by some insane circumstance they returned home, beloved Earth of their roots, dreams, and celebrated every time they made love was irretrievably gone.

Neither man evinced awareness of the huddled knot of second-shift personnel gathered beyond the tall woman's shoulder. They watched the unfolding drama silently, frightened by this complete departure of the two normally amiable working companions' demeanor, and rock steadiness through emergencies.

Alexander's calmly uttered words defused his rage even as Paul snarled, "Right now, I'm off duty and so are you!" His dark gaze bored into the smaller man's, but Kano refused to relinquish his stance. Squaring off nose-to-nose several tense seconds, David thankfully broke off, striding angrily from Main Mission.

Wandering deserted halls aimlessly, keeping ears tuned while passing small enclaves clustered by occasional sitting areas, Morrow filed snippets of conversation away. This is occurring way too fast, he mused. Continued lack of updates from Med-Centre was beginning to grate on peoples' nerves, depress morale.

He needed to speak with the Professor. Locating the scientist-cum-philosopher via computer's trace on the older man's commlock, he entered the room to find Alan present, staring dejectedly out a small port onto the harsh moonscape.

Apprising Victor of Kano's behavior and other incidents resulted in the other's odd reply that any leader would do, as long as there was a name. Alan glanced over his shoulder, informing them he didn't buy that offal for a minute, and after hurling some invective, fled the room.

Bergman and Morrow exchanged glances, further concerns, then he bade the professor a good night. Which he knew would be far-off should the Commander pass on. Meandering through the dimmed corridors, he realized Alan needed to be spoken with immediately. But before that, he needed to cope with his own feelings before he popped off also at an inopportune moment. The others required some measure of equilibrium from senior staff to keep their fears at bay until they all finally learned what was what.

Looking around, he realized he'd ended up by the mess hall. As the hour was late, he didn't anticipate a crowd, and could use a cup of whatever bilge June had attempted to distribute back in Main Mission.

Entering, shoulders sagging, he spied Alan at a corner table, facing a wall. Now, that was odd. His gregarious friend thrived on large groups of company, himself often unintentionally at the center. Everyone attempted to drag all the details of latest his latest adventures, and Alpha's top pilot always spun an engaging tale. Going up to the counter, he selected a few rolls to accompany a pot of horrid synth-darjeeling tea.

Forcing a friendly expression, he approached Carter, setting the tray down, and his long frame into the cool, plastic chair. "No girl tonight?"

Alan ignored the trite comment, seemingly engrossed by the hot cup's penumbral contents.

Paul Morrow flung an arm over the back of his chair, gazing skyward in supplication as a female physics lab tech sauntered by, winking. He nodded, mouth quirking absently, then turned back to his table mate. They sat mutely in the regular mess for a time, the Controller further gauging the community's pulse, mood.

Bushy eyebrows lowered; his lips pursed as he perused Alan's lowered head and trembling hand. Reaching forward, he grabbed the steaming mug before its contents slopped on the pilot's wrist.

"Hey, if you're trying to get out of duty, burning your hand's not the way to go." The half-hearted joke fell flat to his own ears, and completely bypassed Carter's. Settling uniformed forearms atop the cool, flat surface, the Controller reprimanded quietly, "We're all worried about John. So much so that instead of acknowledging the possibility he might not wake up, we're tearing the base apart."

Alan's head jerked up, nearly cracking Paul's forehead as unsteady palms slapped the table noisily. "Did you hear the crap the Professor was selling?! He is not going to die, damnit! It's people like you waiting for it to happen that's gonna sink this ship, taking the Commander with it! You think Gorski would've brought our arses this far?!" Pushing back angrily, he nearly tipped the chair until a long hand snaked out to shackle his wrist, dragging him forward until he could count every red vein in Morrow's bulging eyes.

"Your attitude is exactly why Alpha's going down the tubes, " the lanky man hissed, glaring. "None of this crap has any place among Main Mission heads! Sit down now, Carter!"

Morrow's use of his surname interrupted Alan's spiraling thoughts, and his blue gaze flickered to the other man's. "You don't understand, Paul. I've been to Medical, and..." He trailed off, frowning, as a nurse's white sleeve flashed in his peripheral. Snarling, the distraught pilot tensed to lunge, but the other's grip tightened. Booted feet scrabbled noisily on the hard floor as both wrestled briefly.

While certainly not in Alan's league-the base's resident fitness fanatic-Paul's determination nevertheless lent abnormal strength. He supported his friend as the man sagged, adrenaline ebbing. "I do understand, mate," he informed the now passive man steadily. "I was standing right there at my post as the Commander argued with the Professor over a forty second delay, then thirteen more that time you were laying charges to blow up an incoming asteroid. You never knew-John stood there, eyes watering as he talked to you, aware that there was no chance in hell you'd make it through. Nearly broke down in the process, while trying to maintain your hopes.

"After the bombs detonated, all contact lost with you, he refused to accept your loss. We urged him to face reality-as we saw it..." Paul bowed his head, ashamed he'd also lambasted John for sticking his neck out for their buddy Alan in what everyone present had viewed as a colossal waste of time and essential fuel, possibly endangering his own life to boot. Yet when it came down to it, nobody reciprocated the gutsy faith their leader and base's second best pilot had demonstrated time and again. "...he demanded an Eagle on any pad still operable as he ran out of Main Mission to locate you. I'd accompanied him because...well, because he'd made us-well, me, really-believe there was a slim chance he was right. I thought we were only out there to tow back your body, and primarily wanted to be there to help case he...he cracked."

There was an ugly chapter in their history; he never fathomed how he'd escaped quarantine for radiation-induced insanity; if both Alan and the Commander had succumbed, he'd obviously be next. Yet in the desperate attempt to avoid the monstrously large planet from smashing them to bits, nobody could have decided much with any measure of equanimity. "The margin of safety, as referenced by both David and Professor Bergman, predicted zero survival for you. But he found a way-who else would've recalled something as mundane as orbital satellite signals in an emergency, and utilize it?"

The head of Recon slumped forward, hearing the stalled cable winch whirring ineffectually in Eagle 1's cockpit, and the frantic effort to short-circuit auto-relays to muscle the charge down manually. Fully cognizant of the fact that while already in the red timeline-wise, he'd shake the damn thing loose, and be done with it. If he was going to shove off, it damn well wouldn't be attached to a device. It'd be his choice, in the act of flying.

Pointing a scarred finger, he concurred, "Listen mate, I know what he's done for me, us, over the what, 70 crises we've endured? But there's something else: he, unlike many, has never betrayed his position here, or us, you know? And some are ready to completely abandon John Koenig!" His voice had risen, and the two tired med techs stiffened, taking umbrage at the implied, unwarranted crack to their CMO.

Chapter 2

Helena raised reddened eyes at Dr. Mathias' summary of John's condition. She also became aware of a tremulous voice calling her name. Reluctantly abandoning her vigil at John's bedside, his monitors, she headed over to Sandra, medical instincts already assessing the younger woman.

"You must not let him die," she implored.

Flabbergasted, Helena spread none-too-steady arms. "A machine is keeping John alive; not himself, not me."

Benes' replied, "What difference does that make? He's still alive!"

Outlining his condition's specifics made absolutely no impact. Furthermore, the diminutive operator sensed where Russell's mind was heading. "Give him more time, please!" came the breathless entreaty.

Reeling, Helena Russell returned to John, regarding his beloved, still visage from the foot of the bed. Feeling suddenly claustrophobic, remaining in Diagnostics was much too difficult to be borne a millisecond more. Nodding tersely to the data analyst, she leaned briefly against a partition, gathering strength, and then pushed off to depart Medical Center quickly.

Leaving John already? Pausing in the corridor, she swayed at that traitorous thought. The commlock chimed, and though tempted to ignore it, she answered anyway. Paul's face appeared in the tiny screen, his expression a mirror of her own, Helena was certain. "Doctor Russell, I've called a Command conference. Can you come to...the office?"

Exhaling noisily, she reluctantly nodded. "I'll be there in an hour. I need to shower, or I won't do anyone any good." Severing the connection, she returned the unit to her belt with a jerk, continuing down the hall. People eyed her, fearing the worst, pinning all their hopes on their Chief Medical Officer. Didn't they realize that if a miracle was available, she'd have been the first taker?

Or that her heart was being reduced to icy shards, piercing her numbness without warning during countless rounds with her number one patient?

The CMO stumbled into her quarters, exhausted beyond measure. She dropped onto the chair by her bookcase, not bothering with lights. Just a quick shower, change of outfit to restore clarity, then she could return to her waning patient. The commpost with its winking display reflected upon the green Lucite wall tiles. Blessed stillness; she needed to decompress a few moments. Then arrive at a decision, no matter how her emotions railed otherwise. She'd been in this place before; as a physician, Death shadowed her every move.

Pieces of herself littered operating theatres from Earth to Alpha. Only this time, the stakes were so high she wasn't certain she'd ever recover. What was that John had recently lamented, after Mateo's incomprehensible demise? "Every death on this base is personal to me, Helena. But...I feel his just that little bit more." "Oh John," she despaired aloud, "you have no clue as to how much more this time around." Her own words to Victor a few hours ago, speaking as a doctor: "It may simply be his time to die," had left the part sealed behind emotional bulkheads also dying.

The platitudes offered to his pain waxed so hollow in the overwhelming face of John's medical limbo. Yet he'd seemed to derive comfort from their quiet conversation that evening in hydroponics. Face it girl; the last man you'll ever love is slipping away, and there's not a thing you can do, no technique you can implement to stave off the inevitable. That heart stimulation was your last hope!

Staring into the chiaroscuro, Helena Russell lifted her right hand. She glanced down at the upturned palm, closing it slowly as if to capture the feel of John's warm, living skin forever. Not the presently disturbingly cool, lined forehead capped by oddly silky hair-she'd always marveled that the tall man who possessed such sharp features and matching intellect was soft in the places she loved most. She'd threaded her fingers through that dark helmet while checking life support readings incessantly. Had she truly expected altered results? Sleeping Beauty in reverse?

Bitterly resenting the entire base's erroneous assumption John's life truly laid in her hands by virtue of being head doctor, she ruthlessly reviewed his case once more. But there wasn't much to wade through: Textbook case of trauma-induced coma. Sighing resignedly,

Helena admitted she knew better than to indulge fantasies otherwise; her training was too thorough to permit indulging in fantasy where that type of patient was concerned. His brain functions nil; artificial means alone holding a mere shell to Alpha. To her.

Leaning back, letting her head loll, the doctor banished the numbness that allowed her to function in the face of her greatest challenge...and quite possibly her worst failure. No, Helena! That way lays only insanity! Closing grainy eyes, she fought tears of helplessness as unbidden; Captain Zantor's measured intonation replayed in her mind.

The deterioration of the body can be slowed, but life itself cannot be suspended in that way...the flavour fades...the flavour of life itself is lost.

Shaking her head slightly, she replaced encroaching depression with immersion in recent memories, recalled sensations. Strong, eager arms tucking her into paradise on various occasions. The subtle scent of his warm skin as she buried her face in the juncture of his shoulder and neck. The pleasant rumbling of his chest below her cheek as he quietly spoke of his love for her, emphasized by lips pressed gently to her hair, forehead, mouth.

Oh, those declarations didn't occur outright, but from the way his heart shone through those vivid azure eyes-the brilliancy of Caribbean skies-every time he sensed her approach, and her own melting response, she knew he'd manage to eventually pierce her defenses.

He had by the time Tony Cellini's problems reemerged, and she'd highly resented that derailment of their burgeoning relationship. John's angry stubbornness surpassed her own...though he'd apologized to her shortly after, actually shyly offering a flask of aromatic hyacinths! That was the signal she'd hoped for--Commander Koenig truly viewed his Chief Medical Officer as a desirable woman. One he wished to know far better, despite inevitable clashes of their strong personalities.

Flying off when their very survival was jeopardized by the black sun had forced the realization there was no avoiding her own growing love for him. But it wasn't until after their return from a strange planet regressing their party some forty-thousand years she'd run full-tilt into his embrace. He'd held her so close, as if she was the most precious part of his personal universe.

That very night he'd shown up on her doorstep, a rare flower in one hand, a rare vintage-she suspected Victor's hand in the latter-in the other, beaming hopefully. She'd exchanged drab, unisex garb for one of those infrequently worn, extremely feminine floor-length nightgowns in anticipation of his visit, covered hastily with a pale green wrap to answer the door chime. John's helpless, inquisitive peeks as she'd deliberately bent over to pour the rich merlot into beveled crystal goblets had cemented her determination to not let him leave prior to 0600 hours.

He'd left 0630, whistling merrily.

Helena nervously twisted her pinky ring. It was positively criminal to perpetuate John's living death, trapping the man once simmering with barely leashed emotion and boundless vitality. His hawkish features flashed into view, vividly blue gaze intense as he'd argued the viability of a solution to one of the threats to this base's welfare. Their jobs were not dissimilar, only his far more at the forefront. They alone understood each others' private fears, depression at any Alphan's loss. They'd discussed that once; discovered the depths of each others' total commitment to survival both on the larger scale, and each individual manning their runaway moon. And had invariably clashed-as if gravely insulted by the other-when really, their goals were exactly the same.

She smiled lopsidedly, recalling his efforts to restore himself in her good graces at such times. She too had no compunctions apologizing to John, during brutally honest realizations that she was firmly in the wrong. She'd missed their friendship more than intact professional ego. Yet

did she love him enough; possess sufficient courage to pull the plug, for his own sake?

Oh my love, why must I lose you too?! Yes, she'd grieved tremendously at Lee's alleged death; they'd enjoyed far more time together than she and John's slowly developing relationship. Smiling, she recalled with some amusement John attempting to sympathize with her confusion, protect her from possible harm, even as he exerted tremendous effort to contain his jealousy. Her husband had returned, yet John had remained a constant by her side.

She'd no inkling Lee's mission had gone awry. And John, being an astronaut of note back then, had been briefed extensively, compared to Lee's own wife! But he'd no qualms about later relating what he'd learned. All she'd been told was he'd never return. Fini.

But with this man, the true love of her life--and that fact was inescapable here, in the serenity of her quarters--at least she'd have the opportunity to bid John goodbye, stroke his face...kiss those formerly questing lips once more before...before...

"NO! JOHN!!" The anguished cry issued from her very soul as Russell stood abruptly. Marching like an automaton past the normally soothing ambiance, she quickly stripped, then stepped into the shower. Letting the water cascade over her neck, shoulders released tension to the point her famous reserve shattered. Propping a shoulder against the enclosure, Helena surrendered to choking despair.

How could she continue viewing herself a doctor? What a sham, when she couldn't wrap her mind around a better solution than a charged-up defibrillator! Couldn't devise a better way to recall his soul?!

Her sobs were muffled by the spray. She remained there, shaking despite the misty environment, seeking that place where no pain could impinge upon, until her internal clock warned of an elapsing timeframe. Only one final duty owed; she'd deal with the yawning stretch of emptiness after.

Armoring herself in a fresh uniform, she departed her spacious room quickly, heels echoing off the hard passage way, stopping by John's entrance. Duty, she reminded herself, leaning both hands against his door, willing his voice to invite her in, begging the Fates she need simply to awaken from this terrible nightmare to be enfolded in his warm refuge, feel his solid form as she slid her hands slowly around his waist, stealing lower to pull him even closer!

How long she stayed there, forehead leaning against the door, she didn't know, but eventually she became aware of curious looks, of weighty stares, though nobody dared approach. People relying on her, who would despise her soon enough. No more so than she would herself, if her capacity to feel wasn't burned out in the aftermath.

Paul sat back in the flimsy chair at the Command Office conference roundtable, aghast. He feared Dr. Russell's prognosis, but it was a confirmation for those who'd seen Commander Koenig lying so unnaturally silent. He shivered slightly, then glanced at Carter, who regarded everybody in the room as if they were talking mutiny. God! He'd pay, barter, anything but be in this position!!

Bad enough David had ripped into the poor girl for dropping coffee-he'd personally like to take some maintenance debris and hurl something heavy, detritus that would land with a gratifying sound. But, by God, he'd honor his Commander by steering Alpha through this latest disaster! But the man seemed contrite; Kano had studied the table's etchings far too closely during Dr. Russell's report.

Victor Bergman sighed heavily through steepled fingers. Clearing his throat for attention, he announced, "The decision's been made then, by the Commander's own lack of response. We cannot allow this sham of John Koenig's artificial existence to continue if we profess to value the man, what he stood for."

Carter raked a frustrated hand through thinning, side-swept hair, resembling more a harried, aging surfer than veteran spacer about to lose his favorite co-pilot. "If that's all then," he stated dismissively, "I'm out of here." There was nothing further to be gained by arguing with these blokes. He'd tried all angles to dissuade these two high scientist types from turning off the Commander's machines, had spoken with Dr. Mathias only to discover that that turncoat shared Dr. Russell's diagnosis. They didn't understand loyalty, didn't recall how many times Commander Koenig had saved their worthless necks, but he did! There had to be a way...time was running out; all he could do was intercept her, since as CMO, the final act had to be perpetrated by Dr. Russell alone.

And he thought she loved the man; apparently wrong-oh. He threaded through busy, first-shift congested corridors, cursing inwardly the diminishing opportunity to make it in time. Thankfully, he managed to slip in the closing doors just as she reached toward Koenig's life support box. "NO", he thundered, "you're not going to kill him!"

Helena faced Carter, realizing the cause for his appearance. Dr. Mathias launched himself at the crazed pilot to prevent Alan from reaching her. Shocked, she stared woodenly at the ensuing combat until Carter threw him across the room. Reaching for her commlock, she summoned security. They arrived moments later, but Alan Carter would not be subdued; he landed vicious scissor-kicks, dropped each security guard, but ultimately sheer numbers immobilized him against the wall, away from her and John.

This was her error; had the rest of their senior staff been present, it wouldn't have seemed she was disconnecting John's equipment on her own auspices. Eyes never leaving the wildly grieving head of Recon, she called Paul and Victor.

They filed in somberly, Paul heading straight to Sandra, who'd also been injured, along with the Professor, in the same crash that had affected the Commander far worse. She gazed up at him with those enormous, soulful eyes. He moved slowly to John's left, sparing merely a glance at the tableau of the heavily breathing Carter, disheveled security guards still restraining Alan, and Dr. Mathias nursing a blackening cheek and chin.

It was time; Paul nodded to Bergman, who in turn, slowly turned a meaningful gaze upon Dr. Russell. Morrow realized with a flash of insight, that the Professor comprehended the gravity of John's situation early on, steeped as was in various branches of higher learning. Full attention was riveted upon the doctor, whose moist eyes, and stricken expression belied the steady hand reaching slowly to power down the unit. A mere touch of her slender fingers...and it was done.

Carter continued to stare at Koenig's flat-lined monitor screen, willing a miracle to occur long minutes after Dr. Russell had turned away, unwilling to allow the others to witness her tears.

Sandra's eyes never wavered from her Commander as Paul's shoulders slumped, at his return to her side. Did she sense John's spirit? She gazed unblinkingly in what he'd have sworn was expectation. But that was impossible.

"Helena..." A familiar, reedy voice sounded, startling Russell. She whirled; struck well beyond any capacity to respond, save for drinking in the open, bleary eyes regarding her with full lucidity. He slowly held up a large, open hand. Mentally shaking herself, she leaned down to clasp his it tightly between both of hers, as if she could transfer her warmth, her energy to him. How this could possibly have happened she didn't know, didn't care. All that could ever matter in her life smiled up at her.

"Have...have I been gone long?"

Helena could not hold back her delight. Overcome, she shook her head, eventually replying tremulously, "No, not long," before her voice failed her utterly. His toothy grin repaired the jagged seams already forming in her heart, then he turned away, expression serious.

Sandra met and held his gaze before she sank back wearily. Paul smoothed a gentle hand down her cheek, unable to withhold his own reaction to Commander Koenig's return.

Medical Center remained silent long moments after, until one of the security guards piped up. "Um, Doctor, sirs? What should I do with Captain Carter?"

Victor climbed the landing, walked up to Carter. "Release Carter," he instructed softly. "We've all suffered enough, but everything's fine now, isn't it Alan?"

Breathing deeply, the Australian relaxed imperceptibly. That had been too damned close. He sensed the danger had passed; they'd be all right now. Nodding to the Bergman, he moved slowly, so as not to alarm Security, toward where the Commander lay, eyes still open. A brilliant grin lit the pilot's craggy features as he heard the lovely music of the monitors registering Koenig's strongly beating heart. "Welcome back, sir," he managed, "welcome home."

Chapter 3

Helena accepted the unsolicited food tray gratefully. "Thanks, Paula."

"Can I do anything else for you, Doctor?"

"No, thank you. Take the evening off; I'll keep watch."

Paula knew better than to urge her superior to leave. Dr. Russell needed to keep Commander Koenig within sight, and most likely after she left, touch. After smiling her goodnight, she departed, dimming the ward's lights to the indigo hue of the deep night setting.

John had fallen asleep not much longer after Carter had left. She didn't blame Alan for his actions; she knew the high regard he held for his commander. There would be no record of his lapse in any file, of that she'd make certain, once her own rattled emotions had settled, and John had recovered. Unswerving loyalty of that degree should never be penalized, especially when directed toward John.

Dipping a spoon into the bowl of brown miso soup, she stirred it thoughtfully. John's return defied all medical precedent. Her gut told her this was purely an isolated incident, one not to be repeated in future, similar cases. Draining the cup, she drew the necessary reports toward her, intending to fill them out before evening's end. It wasn't as if sleep would come easily; may as well spend the time productively. That, and look in on John to her heart's content.

Speaking of which...rising, she moved soundlessly on slippered feet to his bedside. Sandra would definitely remain sleeping through the night; she'd bet her degree on that. John, however, had stirred at her intense, loving regard. He acknowledged her presence tiredly, smiling as she carefully drew up a chair.

"You can do better than that, Doctor Russell."

Helena tilted her head. "How so, John?" Just speaking his name aloud brought tremendous relief. Her jade green gaze roved his form as she reached out to ruffle the black hair she'd recalled so warmly earlier. Still as soft and springy under her fingers.

"Mmmmmm, that feels nice," he rasped softly. "Stay here with me?"

Procuring a cup of water from the bed stand, she slid an arm behind him, helping him up just enough to be able to drink effectively. His head rested against hers, and she closed her eyes tightly, attempting to restrain the burgeoning tears. But the warmth of his cheek pressed to hers, and soon a touch of moisture dampened their joined skin. A rush of breath fell on her face as he shifted position. Slinging an arm around her petite shoulders, he pressed a palm to her high cheekbone.

"I missed you."

Helena shook her head slightly, not understanding. Perhaps his mind had functioned after all, lost inside a dream he couldn't get out of? Such thoughts fled immediately at the gentle press of his mouth on hers. She responded carefully, aware of his still-fragile state. When they broke apart, she replied demurely, "I missed you terribly, but thankfully not as long as I'd feared."

Slipping a hand inside his parted blue robe, she trailed a hand from his shoulder, down to his chest, stopping to feel the pounding of his heart. "I couldn't bear losing you, John. Not when I've only really found you, really begun having you in my life."

Moved beyond words, he attempted to gather her in his arms, but the life support unit impeded his intention. A wave of guilt washed over him as he recalled the emotions he'd inexplicably allowed Vanna to incite. How could she have drew him to the point of abandoning everything he'd ever wanted, sitting right here in front of him? He never thought himself a callous person, knew he wasn't. He also knew how desperately he'd wanted Helena to return his feelings, and she ultimately had. So why hadn't that been enough? He was never one to play around with someone else's feelings!

Had he been so confused by Raan's experiments that subconsciously he felt the only way out of the Zennite's path was through his equally powerful daughter? That if he gained her trust, she'd end his torture?

Should he come clean? How to broach the subject of his experiences on Zenno without losing Helena in the process? Not that he'd blame her. But feeling Helena's touch, real and alive made him realize anew how vital a part of his life she'd become. His attraction, stemming from whatever reason, was fading even now, reducing his awareness to the woman pressed warmly against him now.

He intended on marrying her. Not until they found a home, so he could offer her a tangible future. But before that, he'd have to let her know about Vanna, and what he'd almost done. If she could possibly wish to have him after that, then he'd count himself the luckiest man in the universe, far more so that he had any right to expect. Hell, he could barely hold back his anger at Lee Russell's appearance! Would he be able to accept her if their situations were reversed, if the Zennite had had a son?

The beginnings of a headache caused him to wince. "Lay back, my love." Watching his pale goddess' withdrawal, he mourned her absence already. He felt himself sliding into slumber, interrupted by a clanking sound. Forcing his eyes open a crack, he found Helena had set up a cot, adjacent to his bed. The medical uniform had vanished, replaced with the same silk pajamas he wore. Only on her frame, they held far more appeal. He watched her gracefully settle through shuttered eyes, enjoyed the way she tucked the blanket up to her neck.

His hand met hers halfway, and he resolved not to tell her for a long time. Not until he made it up to her. "I love you," he said softly. "Goodnight."

No response; she'd fallen asleep already. Studying her face, John noticed for the first time her drawn features, shadowed eyes. He'd put her through hell. Stroking her fair hair, he was rewarded with a contented sigh, and she inched closer to him. No, he'd wait until he so thoroughly, repeatedly loved her that she'd find a way to forgive him this...he hoped.

The moon hurtled on in space, but the Alphans relaxed collectively; their commander had returned to them. He'd made it, and so would they.

Copyright (c) 2003. Reprinted with permission.
Space:1999 is (c) 1976 by Carlton International Media.
All stories are the property of their respective authors.

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