Sometime after John Quixote.
If she had to decide what she missed most, it would be easy enough to do. His smile, the one he used to give for her. It used to be he was always smiling, in the middle of a disaster, in the middle of mid meal, in the middle of the hall. Now he still smiled but not as often and never at her.
Like a switch, he shut down the moment she entered the room. If he had been laughing, he stopped. She did not know what she did to make him stop.
She didn't know what she was doing wrong. She had never done something like this before, never opened herself up this completely, never had to work for something like this.
Something this important--something that meant everything.
She had never had a lack of partners in the Peacekeepers, and it was easy enough to find someone to recreate with if she wanted. This was so different that half the time she got lost in the sheer magnitude of it.
He used to pull her back up, grab her hand when she began to drown in the emotions she did not understand, but now she was on her own. She was handling it better than ever before, but it was still not enough. There were still times she had to remind herself that the possibilities were worth the pain. And so she kept going, and resisted falling back into old habits, kept from wearing old masks.
But you could be hurt so much easier this way.
She had known people of course, back then, that had held secret desires for others. And she had thought them so weak. She had her masks and they kept her from falling into such traps. She did as she was told, she flew her Prowler and she didn't ask for more. Had never wanted more.
Had not wanted to become more.
But John had made her more without her permission. He had made her more and then he had died, and she had not known how to stay as more without him. So she had become less again, replaced the old mask, that semblance of disconnection that had always served her so well.
And when she had seen that man that looked just like John Crichton she had walked past him without turning, had said nothing without absolute need, and she had pretended that just being near him did not really break her heart.
She had never thought, at the time, that she was breaking his.
So she had left, and as she went she had realized what she was doing to him, but she could not turn back. Turning back was becoming more again and if she was more she would have to feel, and there was only so much loss someone that had been trained not to care could take.
When she reached the Peacekeeper rebels, it was like being home again. Nothing was expected of her that she did not know how to give, and everyone else there, they all wore the same masks as her. They gave her orders, she carried them out, and while she did she tried not to think what John would think if he could see what she did
She killed people, but the mask kept out remorse. She made no friends, but as less, she needed no friends. She only needed a pulse pistol, and a target.
And then it went wrong. Not unexpected really. The mask made her a soldier again but it couldn't keep out everything that had changed in her, and she had been distracted again at the time. Distracted by thoughts of him.
She got away. They all got away. But too late, and as she flew aimlessly in her prowler the heat ate away her masks. And all that was left were thoughts of John. She realized, as she was dying, that she needed him. True to their always bad timing it was too late, and she had believed she would never be able to let him know she loved him just as much as she loved the one that died.
She felt herself slip inch by inch, and when her eyes fell closed she had not expected to wake again--certainly not with Scorpius hovering above her, a smile playing across his lips. And then he had asked her to promise something in return for her life, and she had asked John to promise something too.
He had held her when she fell, and she had thought she was not too late after all. They were finally in the same place, finally both searching for the same things. Then he asked about the baby, and she made her first mistake, because she let him walk away without an explanation--and later it was too late again.
Now he was polite to her, and he was coldly considerate, and he stepped aside to let her pass when they met in the halls but he never stopped. And she understood how he could do it, because she had done it, and she recognized that he had a mask of his own now. One he wore just for her.
It was breaking her heart all over again, but she kept smiling, because she knew she deserved this, and he couldn't wear the mask forever. She could not keep hers, and she had been trained to wear it. John was emotional on the best of days, and he could not possibly keep her out for long. It would break them both if he did.
She knew him, and he would find his way back to her. Even if there were times now, that she could not see him past the mask.