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Authors: Amanda "Washuu" Palumbo
Categories: John/Helena
Episodes: Set after Another Time, Another Place
Show Year: Y1
Rating: 1
Date: 2004
Set immediately following the episode "Another Time, Another Place".
Average Rating: 5.0/5 (based on 4 reviews)

Chapter 1

"Helena, my dear-wait." The stricken woman paused mid-turn. She stared mutely at the old professor, jade green eyes enormous. Koenig edged ahead of her protectively, bracing to confront additional hostility.

However, Victor shook his balding head, palms raised in a placating gesture. "I merely wish to give her a more pleasant souvenir."

Helena noted the sheen of unshed tears in Bergman's doppelganger's eyes, and nodded.

He ambled off painfully, returning along the path leading to his rough-hewn domicile. The small portion of her mind still actively processing information immediately diagnosed rheumatoid arthritis. She gazed skyward at the lightening dawn, which did little to alter unending shades of gray that so typified their formerly verdant home.

This was not the homecoming the orphaned Terrans had ever envisioned; the reality of their now barren world was daunting. How had these versions of themselves coped? The supplies of Alpha continued to be their sole mode of survival, despite attempts to restore life to the arid soil. A cold wind soughed mournfully around and through up thrusting talons that were once life-sustaining trees.

Shady trees she'd sat under many a time during an active childhood, limbs she'd vaulted off from to land on her patient, beleaguered mare. Or hid upon the few occasions her mother would chase after herself and her sisters when they'd stepped over one boundary too many.

Now utter emptiness engulfed her, her crewmates. Helena shivered in the raw morning, doubting that pervasive numbness would dissipate any time soon.

A large hand clasped hers, fingers tentatively sliding to lace warmly, stilling the slight tremors as Alpha's medical officer again relived her future self's death an hour past. The other had leaned forward during their brief chat, animated only upon realizing John not only lived, but breathed scant meters from her solitary dwelling.

Helena could only watch, shaken, as her future self tread reverently toward a younger version of her husband, the one they both loved. John, stunned by her aged appearance and measured stride, for the most part had focused upon the older woman, only once seeking her eyes for ...approval? Confirmation? And then answered the other's obvious appeal to touch her lips to his once more. John had bent without hesitation, his lips slowly meeting the twice-widowed Earther's.

That action had irrevocably revealed the depth of his love for her, at any age, in any setting. Stripped away forever was the pretence that they could continue on as they previously had, dancing round the same flirtatious flame, no strings attached.

When had John Koenig become so important? What event tumbled them over their undeclared platonic parameters? Which of them claimed responsibility?

Glancing up at her commander and friend's alert profile, she met his hawkish, equally silent gaze. Piercing azure eyes locked with her own, as if to impart strength. Her older manifestation had affirmed what she'd feared in that simple question of whom she'd ultimately married--her heart was again no longer hers; it resided now with John Koenig.

Yet she was not quite prepared to grapple with the ramifications of being so intensely drawn to the man who'd slowly inveigled himself into the very fabric of her being.

John Koenig had died in this era. As CMO, it had fallen to her to perform his autopsy, as well as Alan's. For the first time in her long career, her hand had trembled, nearly dropped the scalpel in protest at marring his perfect body. That initial cut-stop it, Helena!

Her Koenig had walked in after she'd finished, thank God, rousing her from morbid reverie. However, she had yet to make peace with the fact that in their universe, she again risked loving a man who could be suddenly forever lost to her. Must she truly subject herself to that searing pain afresh?

"Here we are, my dear; though these flowers' fragile blooms cannot possibly compare with your beauty." Victor beamed, proffering the rust colored roses.

"Thank you, Victor," she accepted graciously, free hand closing tightly round the carefully cultivated bouquet. Bergman remained the same gallant gentleman in any incarnation; great comfort was derived from that.

"And now, you must all depart before the hour grows too late. You have a destiny to confront and we a beloved companion to put to rest." The grieving professor's lips pursed as he glanced significantly at the geodesic dome beyond his shoulder where Sandra was preparing the elder Russell's body for burial.

Helena shivered at that last, while John nodded grimly to this duplicate of his former mentor.

They left at a jog, arriving at the Eagle to find it already warming, plumes of exhaust rising in the grey light. Koenig punched the switch to close the door panel, and then released Helena's hand. He headed for the cockpit, finding Alan in the head pilot's chair. Nodding to the captain, he paused, arms bent outward to mold against the entry's frame, then glanced backward. He wished he hadn't.

Russell sat stiffly in a chair, seemingly in a trance. Turning back to Carter, he laid a hand on his section chief's shoulder. "I'm not needed up here; best speed to our Alpha."

"Right, Commander. Take care of her." Without looking up at his C.O., the somber pilot leaned forward to toggle controls that would propel their Eagle into flight.

John padded to her row, frowning at the moisture in Helena's eyes. No tears fell; her medical training prevented release of the churning emotions until they returned home. He himself felt simply...numb. Easing his long frame into the barely comfortable seat, he regarded his contemporary.

Neither spoke; Koenig's mind raced to formulate some solution to their impending doom. Russell remained locked in that ethereal moment-- the other Helena had symbolized her own hopes and fears concerning John.

Slender fingers picked at green leaves as she gripped the fragile bouquet. Suddenly, a warm arm draped round her shoulders, drew her as close as the row's partition would permit. She couldn't seem to rouse from her stupor, couldn't meet Koenig's questing gaze. A strong, comforting palm gently cupped her chin, turning her face to his. He rested his forehead against hers, eyes closing. She shuddered, shoulders drooping as a portion of tension abated at John's touch.

Carter's thoughts ran the gamut; bewildered by pretty Regina, who he'd only talked with in passing when she'd dated Fraser. How could he and she have marr-well, that they were together in this nutty place? He shifted uncomfortably in the restraining harness, willing his craft to carry them home faster. Gunning the engines, he relished the thump to his lower back in response as Earth's final atmospheric tendrils surrendered its fleeing bird, until he looked out the right viewport to find the other moon homing in on theirs. He squinted, puzzled by the diffused light blurring familiar landmarks on the strange orb.

Eagle One landed as the first series of tremors vibrated below the surface. The landing party crowded the exit, bouncing on the balls of their feet in nervous anticipation as the boarding tube finally created the vacuum seal necessary to permit them to disembark safely. When the panel slid open, the three set out for Main Mission at a dead run.

Koenig, Russell and Carter arrived, breathless, as a quake rocked the base's structure, hurling all three into Morrow's console. Then a queer darkness descended, and they froze.

Time compressed, bulged outward, expelling a tiny satellite in the process along a narrow corridor, where it journeyed quickly toward an opening in the sub-dimension. Gliding through the aperture, stars streaming in its wake, the moon emerged into a distant quadrant of the Milky Way, and the conduit collapsed in a cloud of nebulous gases.

Lights flickered, then stabilized as Time reasserted its forward flow. Alpha's inhabitants emerged from the twilight that had cocooned them in stasis, gazing round in bewilderment. Commander Koenig rubbed his stubbly jaw, staggering from station to station, reassuring Sandra, Kano, Tanya then Paul in turn.

Morrow opened base wide communications as Koenig drew breath to speak. "Attention all sections; report operational status immediately to Main Mission. Attention all sections..."

Koenig sensed, then pivoted to meet Russell's gaze. A hand clapped him on the back. Starting, he looked sideways at a grinning Bergman. Ennui hadn't yet relinquished its grip; he forced an answering show of teeth.

"John, the telemetry we'd received from our scanners is astounding! It will take months to decipher what precisely heralded our trip back to Earth, and far longer to learn how we reunited, but I've a hunch we'll unravel this enigma." The excited professor angled his hands opposite each other, slashing over the back of one set of gnarled knuckles. "Think plate tectonics, but on a cosmic scale."

"Is that what happened?" Koenig mused aloud. "Our future selves overlapping with the present?"

"Unless they were an aberration. Not necessarily an indicator of our fate."

John shook his head in negation as he sought Helena's steadying gaze. But she'd already departed for Medical Center. Exhaling heavily, he straightened painfully, hand clutching a protesting lumbar. "Let's pull the base back together, and ponder the 'whys' later." We have a real mess on our hands."

"Right, John." The Professor sauntered over to Kano's station. John scrutinized his team of administrators, glancing sharply Alan's way as hangar techs reported in damage details.

He'd approach Helena later; her beautiful, extremely capable hands were similarly full.

Night had descended upon the tiny, wandering base. Not the eternal night of space mimicking the nether hours where one could, and occasionally did go mad here on Alpha, but the artificial shift simulation of late evening. Koenig pushed off from the viewport he'd been gazing out of the past hour, palms chilled.

The nearly colorless, ashy landscape depressed some of the service personnel, yet he found its unrelenting harshness paradoxically soothing. A spacer at heart, the latent astronaut had surmounted several battles to be allowed back on base. How he loved this moon! Yet he'd only achieved return largely by default.

Thanks to an alleged "virus" that had claimed the lives of friends he'd trained with in America and Germany, an ambitious, newly-elected commissioner had sifted through files to come up with a likely scapegoat after Simmonds' failure to control Commander Gorski.

Koenig grunted aloud as he'd recalled his predecessor's hasty departure from the Moonbase Gorski had helmed several years. Unbelievable; how could the man permit Alpha to deteriorate so?! One cover-up had led to a series of nastier discoveries. How had Alpha remained functional with its disproportionate tech shifts, in favor of Earth-based manufacturing industries demanding results on its research investments immediately? Monies and resources had been denied Technical far too long, sabotaging their struggle to survive Mankind's worst disaster to date.

He recalled the day Simmonds had left the message on his voice mail: "This is the new Lunar Commissioner-come to my office tomorrow at high tea to discuss your return to Moonbase Alpha. My time is limited, as is the job opening, so if you cannot oblige this date, I'll be forced to consign your reapplication to the dead files."

Fortunately, he'd thought to retrieve his messages while lecturing about Ultra Probe's data at MIT Stateside, so was able to catch the red-eye across the Atlantic to meet with the jerk. Idiot-sounding or no, the commissioner possibly held the cards to his interplanetary future. Blowing Simmonds off was a risk he'd dared not chance!

A large palm slammed down upon the dusty sill as John abruptly returned to the present. His duty tour, while shorter than Gorski's so far, had been the oddest ever on record--not that the World Space Organization would learn about it. *Remember that old saying, John? Have a care what you wish for?*

A smile quirked full, chapped lips. Victor had a proverb for the most incomprehensible situation. He was the one person on this base capable of distilling their fantastic, oft tragic experiences out in the interstellar wilderness down to a level the most mundane admin assistant could assimilate.

Damned if they didn't just encounter the weirdest planet of all-their own. But distorted, as if through a fractured mirror...and one in which he had died. He and Alan, forever stranded up here, strapped inside a wrecked Eagle. Not that that was a bad way to go-what astronaut didn't wish for that demise when their number came up?

But he remained filled with the sense that that alternate future-better be; Arra had predicted otherwise!-was exactly that. He had too many tasks to complete if Alpha needed to remain sealed and operational for the long haul! He had also been forced to acknowledge early on in the weeks following Breakaway that every resident's thoughts, hopes and fears laid squarely at his door.

How did one make the transition from flyboy to deskbound button pusher? In his case, as Commander, he'd needed to. How could he turn away from those expectant stares, as if he could somehow reverse their trajectory and lead everyone home? Come on, Alpha was primarily comprised of scientists of every stripe! They knew better. Though stepping down had never been an option...but lately, he'd realized a true second must be groomed. The list of candidates rested under a stack of allocation requests in the middle drawer.

Most Alphans looked to Victor, but while a more rounded scientist you'd never find, he wasn't getting any younger either. Paul Morrow, on the other Earth, had led his tiny community competently, a reminder nobody and everybody were expendable, should Fate decide so.

But why the beard? Had Morrow dispensed with shaving to appear older, more mature? Koenig leaned a shoulder against the pane, its coolness penetrating the black sleeve, chilling its zipper as he pondered infinite possibilities. He shivered involuntarily, arms folding tightly round his chest.

Suddenly, a slight whiff of...of...Helena--her subtle scent reached his nostrils. Inhaling deeply, he closed grainy eyes, mind's eye replaying that chilling moment he'd struggled to keep at bay since her doppelganger's lips quivered scant inches apart from his, pleading silently for what he could no more deny than rip a hole in his space gear on the Moon's surface.

Helena...they'd grown closer since fighting about Tony and his 'dragon'. He'd brought a beaker of flowers he'd hoped would be construed as a flag of truce. Instead, she'd forgiven him so thoroughly she'd planted a kiss on his cheek. He knew those glossy lips were soft; all that he needed to do was to induce her to kiss him where it counted, where he could participate.

Hmmmm; if one lousy flask netted him a peck, how much more a flowerpot full? He could bypass the cafeteria, make a right and happen to check on hydroponics. All in the interest of returning normalcy, naturally. A commander needed to ensure Alpha's plants hadn't sustained serious damage, their growth velocity remaining unimpeded. Yeah, that was it. John paced, rubbing his palms together to generate friction.

Her hand had been so warm tucked in his, so right...this woman resonated inside his heart; when had that happened? Shaking his head, the commander recalled again the sensation of her twin's arms twining round his neck, juxtaposed with this Alpha's Helena pressed warmly against him that day she'd emerged from that scanner-defying dense mist where they'd reverted to cave dwellers. Her head had rested so warmly upon his shoulder as they'd spontaneously embraced, he'd forgotten for a nanosecond where they were.

Unfortunately, little had transpired beyond an occasional, fleeting touch--until today's Eagle ride up to hopefully resolve the miasma that had flung them into a sub-dimension, divided their fate. She'd clutched the other Victor's roses so tightly, silently, he'd worried she would cut her fingers upon the thorns at their bunched base.

Yet if their relationship transformed into an approximation of what their alternate selves must've shared, didn't he run the risk of scarring Helena permanently? She'd already loved and lost once; so had he. But to court such trauma again? God knows if their positions were reversed, he'd be devastated! As it was, she increasingly inhabited sleeping and waking dreams.

Should he leave things be, remain friends? Hell of a dilemma, John Koenig, he grunted. The only woman he really wanted, needed, on this base, and he honestly had no notion which path was in her best interest. But was he sufficiently altruistic to leave her be, if the former became the kinder option?

Stopping at the wide, metallic desk, he flopped into the creaking, comfortable chair. Yanking open a draw, he dragged out the C.O.'s log begun the day he'd inherited the hot seat. Thumbing through the thick pages, he located his last entry-two days ago. Ok, today's date is...

...February 7th, nearly Valentine's Day on their old solar calendar. He studied the underscored reminder to speak with Alpha News Department; one of the journalists could drum up some harmless mayhem to boost morale. He needed to jumpstart a think tank--an idea pool--to devise a schedule of diversions. Had to work on remaining human instead of drones simply existing, Koenig mused sourly. Yet whenever he went to delegate appropriate staffers, an emergency would crop up, sidelining potential opportunities to actually court his CMO.

But now...John, old boy, get it together and decide what you're going to do about her.

Where had that damned pen rolled off to? Strong fingers probed under and over various flimsiplast reports, but to no avail. Repelling from the Corianne table, he spied a quicksilver glint. Crouching down, Koenig reached out, but miscalculated thanks to severe exhaustion, and banged his forehead on the metal edging.

Cursing, he sat back on his haunches, azure eyes rolling upward in supplication. Determined, he swiped at the offending writing instrument with a long arm, succeeding this time. Batting at the trickling blood from a cut above his brow, he hauled himself up. Reseated, he settled forearms on the smooth desk, organizing thoughts into chronological coherency.


Sighing, Koenig reached out to depress button one. Russell's gaunt visage flickered into view. His lifeline, he realized with a start. When had she burrowed that far under his skin?

"John, your readings spiked momentarily. Shouldn't you be in bed?"

A loaded question if ever there was one. His favorite physician obviously realized this belatedly, for he could've sworn a faint halftone shaded her beautiful high cheekbones. One of these days they'd install color comms. "Doctor Russell," he replied murmured playfully, "you're overdue yourself. I can't afford to keep paying you OT; price tag's undermining this month's bottom line."

Helena smiled slightly at their private joke. "Command sick days are the budget's biggest waste, from what Paul's indicated."

"Oh-ho, you're checking up on me through Morrow now?" A broad grin lit tired features as Koenig hunched eagerly over the square black and white screen.

Those mossy lips he'd been admiring quirked in mild amusement. "I don't need to; I can pull rank on you anytime."

"You have, "he reminded without rancor. Where had that come from? "Sorry; didn't mean that as it sounded." His good mood evaporated at Helena's arched brow. "Hey, it's past midnight; don't tell me you're pulling night shift this week?"

Expressive eyes widened. "Oh-you're right! I was updating the medical journal when your Ident flagged my terminal. Didn't realize the hour; I need sleep," she groaned. "Carcinoma pathology tomorrow.

"What, no good night kiss?" He couldn't resist. Sure enough, sunshine returned to that gorgeous face as she countered, "What, no chocolates? No flowers?"

"The all-night deli was closed. Out of stock; kaput." A long row of teeth gleamed in mock contrition.

Russell tilted her fair head, considering. "Well, I suppose allowances can be made in certain instances." She yawned suddenly, a dainty hand reaching to cover her mouth.

John drank in the sight avidly, imagining his mouth supplanting her palm. God, it must be late; his control was ebbing...

"Are you journaling?"

"Guilty as charged, Doc. You know me too well."

"Not quite, John. Someday, though."


"Yes," she replied seriously, eyes probing his thoroughly, despite being viewed through a one-dimensional viewplate. John...

Retreating from what he paradoxically hoped emanated from her earnest gaze, he teased, "Still using that battered warhorse?"

"You mean my Selectric? At least I'm typing; your pen's older than my cardio-stethoscope."

Helena...can I come over? Koenig pleaded silently. Instead, he peered affectionately into translucent grey eyes. "Sleep well."

"You too." Helena glanced downward to sever the connection, then delayed several seconds as her gaze flicked up to capture his. He shared her reluctance. Her face disappeared from view moments later. John continued staring, two long fingers touching the darkened screen.

Standing, he carefully closed the heavy logbook, setting the pen that had been his graduation present from MIT atop. No sense in continuing when he'd fall asleep at his desk for the umpteenth time. May as well fantasize about the good doctor in more comfortable surroundings.

A headstone rose midway from the lifeless soil. Stiff breezes caused brown, shriveled leaves to create an eerie cacophony as he sank to his knees. Strong fingers splayed over the dirt covering his beloved's body, palm twisting slightly. You should not have died, my love, he mourned silently, hot tears coursing down weathered cheeks. I killed you when I should have stayed away. Should be me there. I was so damned selfish; I am so sorry, Helena! All I ever wanted was to hold you, love you, keep you safe. Instead, I robbed you of your life. Forgive me!

Broad shoulders shook under the weight of his grief. By crossing that intangible boundary to pull this woman close, marry her, he had utterly destroyed her. Lord, he recalled her careful approach after she'd exited her dwelling; he recalled the yearning in those softening green eyes.

One word she'd uttered, one only: his name. How wonderful it had sounded as she'd breathed it upon his lips. He'd tasted her love...and she'd paid the ultimate price. Her body slumping, his reflexive catch, bringing her head close to his heart. But her soul had already flown ahead, unheeding of what he'd not been able to convey in words. Helena...

Their moon had been abandoned for another dead globe; locked into orbit, no chance existed of stumbling upon another civilization capable of reversing his reckless actions. He stretched out, cheek pressed against the dirt, as if to shield her from the elements, to reconnect with his beloved. Helena...

John bolted upright, bathed in sweat, gasping. Helena! No; he could not repeat his error! No matter a piece of him would shatter each encounter; he could not permit their relationship to progress. Friends only, damnit!

Burying his head in trembling hands, Koenig drew lengthy legs up, locked in misery. He'd remain solo, keeping Helena safe, alive. Inhaling deeply, he drew the soaked sheet more closely round his shuddering frame as his resolve to distance himself from Helena crystallized.

Chapter 2

Pink, synthetic latex decorations clashed with garish red metallic sprays of miniature, free-formed hearts. Russell threaded through the crush of Alphans toward Alan. As usual, he resembled the nucleus of an expansive, involved cell. Halfway across the rec room, her flowing mauve gown snagged on Tanya's shiny black boots.

"Dr. Russell! I am so sorry! These filigree hooks are lovely, but such a pain in the-"

"Forget it; I've owned shoes like that that twice shredded hems of my favorite trousers." Continuing, she pushed through the assembled until she stood at Carter's side. "Alan!" she shouted over the strains of "Thunder Island".

"Hey! If it isn't the prettiest woman in the place! Shweetheart, you've come to the right man." With a flourish, he bent his arm, patting the crook.

Eyes rolling, Helena obliged, leaning in closely. "Have you seen John?"

"The Commander?!" Carter replied indignantly. "Here you are, next to Alpha's best pilot, and all you can do is ask for him? I may as well pack it in for the night." Damon Stuart nodded, clapping.

Russell swatted his forearm. "Save it for the susceptible, flyboy," she admonished teasingly. "I'm certain you'll get lucky." Glancing about, she realized John was not present. His head topped most of the crew's, but no flash of close-cropped dark hair could be seen.

He'd been avoiding her the past seven days; no mistake. There had been no threat, no extraordinary malfunctions; their moon presently traversed an empty quadrant. So why no further, adorably transparent, "do you have anything for a headache" mid-shift visits? What was his problem? She'd finally buzzed him yesterday to join her in the lounge for a tea break, only to be politely, but firmly rejected.

Oblivious to Carter's scrutiny and hand spanning hers and the bare arm beneath, she mentally reviewed their sparse exchanges since returning from-ohhhh, no; had her alter-ego tapped a latent, primal fear of closeness issue?

Unwilling to take a hint, the astronaut called out, "Hey Paul! We've got a perfect addition to your bloody band!"

Alan's announcement effectively sheared her reverie. Glancing about at the loose circle of his friends and colleagues, Russell retreated. He grinned mischievously at his favorite physician, stalking the tall woman. "Paul and me have formed a new band-"Paul and the Coconuts"; you'd fit in perfectly!"

Jerking her head in negation, blonde hair fanning, Helena protested, "Music is one area my talents do *not* lie!"

"Hey, you think mine do? I'm just in it for fun; my part's easy-I bang on a bunch of unsalvageable Eagle booster scraps, gyrate my hips like this..." Carter jumped to the left, proceeding to demonstrate.

Helena laughed, mood lightening fractionally, as Verdeschi called, "You look like that guy in drag from the "Rocky Horror" movie some joker sent up from Houston with the Commander's shuttle before Breakaway."

Shermeen stifled a giggle, having seen the parody several times at dorm parties. Gliding forward to fill Dr. Russell's vacated spot, she sidled close to the amiable Italian. "You and he are the same height, minus the platform shoes," she observed, as punch slopped over her plastic cup's rim.

Helena departed the rec area, strains of canned ballads echoing from terminal speakers as she strode swiftly toward John's quarters. She grimaced at the broadcasting commpost near his door, awaiting John's reply; there was no escaping that horrid disco beat! Minutes later, she approached the offending squared column, depressing a series of buttons in rapid succession. "Computer, "she instructed sternly, "you will lock onto Commander John Koenig's Ident trace, and pinpoint his location; Commanding Medical Officer Directive two-point-four."

She bounced impatiently on the soles of her supple black flats; seconds later, Computer droned, "Commander Koenig is currently located at Embarkation Area 6."

So, he didn't wish to be found, eh? Knowing anyone seeking him would immediately head to Pad One, he'd deliberately selected middle ground. Well, she wasn't anyone; she had a bone to pick with the man, and hunt him down she would by night's end.

Anger rising, Helena quickly reached the area's lounge. Ignoring the chilly air, she glanced about through narrowed eyes at the empty area. Spotting the door to the astronauts' locker room, she entered briskly, mentally cloaking herself in medical detachment. Similarly devoid of personnel, she moved through the rows briskly until spying a rangy, orange-clad figure reaching into the top shelf of his storage unit.

His helmet lay discarded on the bench on its side, bulky gloves askew, a good indicator of their owner's mood. Oblivious to her presence, he continued rooting around for some object. Apparently not locating the item, he withdrew, snorting disgustedly. One hand curled round the zipper to his flight suit, jerking it down until it snagged on his black spandex undershirt at hip level.

A smile stole across the doctor's features. "Need a scalpel, John?"

Koenig whirled, nostrils flaring. "Helena!"

"The same; I'm surprised you remember." She sauntered forward, mentally clamping down her ire. His gaping suit displaying the chest muscles beneath was terribly distracting. Mathias generally shouldered the routine astronaut physicals, so she'd yet to lay more than a stethoscope on that beckoning expanse.

Blue eyes edged in gold tracked her every move. A tic in his jaw pulsed as she halted centimeters away. Irises the color of green glass bore into Koenig's, the contest of wills enjoined. Silence ensued, lengthened.

Koenig's dropped his intense stare first, mouth tautening. He blurted, "I can't do this, Helena."

Surprised, Helena's head tilted, awaiting elaboration. Her eyes roved his bulky form as he sagged noisily against closed lockers. Gaze sharpened at the shadowed eye sockets, his disheveled appearance. Worry lines etched into his forehead were more distinct, his skin sallow.

She would not chase this man further; whatever occurred tonight either ended or continued their relationship, such as it was. But as a doctor, and the woman deeply in love with him, she'd first determine the cause of his present condition. Pale hands reached inside the flight suit to rest upon warm, tense shoulders.

Koenig's own sweaty, callused hands automatically cupped her elbows. "You're cold," he murmured. "I--I-"

"It's me; what's disturbing you?"

"You are," he replied honestly. Head lolling left, he exhaled heavily. "I know you're wondering where I've been-especially after what we'd just gone through, plus tonight's Valentine's Day-but I can't get the fact that you'd died because of me out of my head." There, he'd spit it out.

Helena's jaw dropped. Eyes filling with compassionate tears, she began, "That is completely..." then broke off. Yes, it was true; hadn't the other claimed her time finished now that both her younger self and that John were present? But, knowing the man she loved, he'd been consumed by guilt. How to work around this?

"Helena, I've had horrible nightmares; every single episode depicting me responsible-I can't risk losing you, no matter what the cost!!"

Smiling tremulously, she replied, "But you are-and you'll continue to do so as long as we remain apart. John, I'm no longer afraid to admit I love you."

A single tear slid down the reddened cheek. "Helena, love is a pale word when it comes to my feelings for you. I don't know how to prevent the future we saw, and am going crazy after only a few days away. Help me live without you, yet nearby," he begged, anguish contorting his handsome features.

"No, my love. None of us can know what's ahead, but I'm not going to permit you or myself to waste a single moment! You know how deeply I cared for my-for Lee. Yet, despite being so certain I'd never love another, you jolted me from my stasis. Returning to that state is the last thing I need!" A trembling, slender finger caught his tear, laid it upon her own cheek.

"I have my work, and yes, I can survive without you if being separate is what you truly want, but you'd be condemning me to mere existence. Either of us could easily be killed at any time on this base, or out on recon," she pressed ruthlessly. "I'd..." Pausing, she retreated a pace, hands spreading eloquently as she resumed, "I'd hoped we were destined to be together. And I still believe that's possible, that that other place was a...well, a repository for all our desires, our fears." She trailed off, carelessly shoving back a heavy swathe of honey-colored hair.

Koenig studied the woman before him who fought so fiercely for their future. Surrendering, he gathered her close, embracing her tightly. His lips touched her hair as he breathed, "It would positively kill me if anything happened to you, let alone due to my actions."

It already has-twice, she recalled absently, silently, while reveling in John's touch, the softness of his skin where she nuzzled under his tensed jaw. But everything this man did, risked, was for Alpha's survival. Integrity was a Damocles sword, she reflected fleetingly, then lost track of her name, surroundings when his full lips finally descended upon hers. Moving slowly at first, as if sipping the sweetest nectar, then deepening the kiss. His teeth gently nipped her lower lip.

A soft moan of contentment and rising desire sounded in her throat as his mouth grew more demanding, and hers opened to his questing tongue. They continued until the absolute need for oxygen forced them temporarily apart. "I love you, Helena Russell, more than life itself. I need you here, in my arms, for as long as you'll have me. But, I don't want to be the cause of you losing your precious, precious life. If it came down to it, if we're ever on a planet--ship off base-- you get back to Alpha no matter what."

"Get real, John Koenig," she warned softly, nibbling at his earlobe. "We're in this together wherever we are. Happy Valentine's Day, Love." Her hands slipped inside his suit to encircle his waist, then slowly slid upwards to twine round his neck. Her fingers ruffled soft black hair at the nape.

"It is now; Happy Valentine's Day, love of my life." His hands roamed the silk-draped slender frame, stopping to rest upon her flaring hips. "My sweet Helena, wherever we are, I call it home."

Copyright (c) 2004. 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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