Title: Fading Stars
Fandom: Space: Above & Beyond
Warnings: violence, angst,
Summary: A fleeting meeting between West and a singer.
Author's NotesMy friend who likes this series keeps asking me to come up with stories based on this story so I'm really just dabbling with these. I must admit that I find it difficult to really get inside the characters heads but it was just as a gift to a friend to keep him happy. .
Disclaimer: I do not own the characters, they belong to the creators of 'Space: Above & Beyond', nor am I making any profits from this.
They were all impatiently waiting as the doors slowly opened on the just docked carrier with a hiss. It seemed like most of the crew of the 'Saratoga' was here for this greeting, the hangar bay crowded with people; marines, technicians, flight personnel. The mass milled around the 58th in eagerness, even whilst the work continued.
They saw the slight woman walking down the ramp, with four others following, looking around at the bustling activity. Commodore Ross stepped forward, extending a hand to greet her with a broad welcoming smile on his face, which she returned.
Just as they shook hands, further down the hanger an explosion ripped the air, followed closely by a second. The woman jumped in shock at the extreme noise, then the back blast of the explosion hit them. A marine flung himself at the woman and drove her towards the meagre protection of the side wall, shielding her with his body.
She kept her head down and arms up to protect her face, as she felt the hot blast of air go by her. When she felt the marine move, she raised her head to look around at the resulting chaos.
Everywhere was movement. A klaxon was blaring loudly, screaming out its too late warning. The lights had switched to an eerie red glow indicating the state of emergency. There was also screaming and shooting somewhere in the midst of the smoke and fumes. In all, it made the entire area look like an artist's impression of Dante's Inferno. It was strange and frightening to a civilian such as she.
Looking across the intervening distance to where the first the explosions had occurred, she saw the last of the AI terrorists shot down in a jerking of electronic limbs, as the flames still burned all around them and the fire fighting equipment could at last be brought to bear.
The marine who had sheltered her now hauled her to her feet, then left without a word to attend to whatever duties he had. Amongst the running figures she saw those lying still, or writhing in agony; screams and cries of pain echoing in the air. Another explosion went off, making her instinctively duck, seeing the concussion of the blast sending two more personnel flying through the air as flames engulfed a third, sending him falling to the deck.
Watching the man roll on the deck frantically trying to put out the flames finally decided her. She began to run towards the wounded when a hand grabbed her arm, pulling her up short.
A tall fair haired man in uniform shouted at her, raising his voice above the noise. "Where do you think you're going!" he asked, holding her arm in a grip of steel.
"I can help!" she shouted back, "I'm a medic!" and with more determination shook his hand free and kept running.
She reached the flight technician on the deck, screaming as the flames ate into his clothes. Slipping out of her jacket, she threw it over him and knocked him flat, throwing herself over him as well. She rolled him around in her jacket, suffocating the flames.
"Hold on! Someone will help you soon." she shouted to him when the last of the flames were gone. Looking around her she could see other personnel dragging the dead and wounded to safety, assisting where they could, whilst white coated medics moved in. One reached the soldier she was will and she left him in the care of the professional, making her way to another wounded marine. Blood was pumping fiercely from a severe leg wound; obviously an artery had been cut. Quickly she removed her belt and tied a tourniquet around his leg tightly, speaking quietly to him.
"You should learn to run faster, soldier."
The marine grinned at her through his pain. "Never was much good on my feet." he managed to gasp out breathlessly.
He gritted his teeth as she kept tightening the belt until the blood flow seeped more slowly, now no more than a trickle. She ignored the sticky wetness coating her arms and the dampness seeping through the knees of her trousers.
She patted his shoulder briefly, and smiled at him. "When you're up and moving again I'll give you some dance lessons,"
He smiled back, "I gotta warn you," he said a little weakly, "I've got two left feet!"
She gave his shoulder another pat and moved on.
She attended to four more wounded as she moved around the hangar, fortunately all reasonably minor injuries like broken bones and lacerations. With the debris and torn clothing littered around she had no trouble in finding items to fashion make-shift splints and pressure bandages. As she worked it didn't take long for ash and grime to coat her face, and blood smeared over arms and legs, but she ignored these things. Finally head way was made, as the medics attended the last of the wounded, fires were fully extinguished and the dirty process of cleaning up the unholy mess began.
She stood up and moved over towards a nearby wall, reaction and tiredness beginning to cloud her mind. Marines were helping the less seriously wounded leave, whilst the medics wheeled away the worst in a white rush.
Just as the lull seemed to settle, another explosion rocked through the area, seemingly directly on top of them. She felt something graze her head and she threw her hands up for protection. Another body flung themselves at her, taking them both down to the ground for cover. She lay there, still, as yet another smaller explosion sounded further away, and shouts began once more. The weight shifted from her back and hands rolled her over, pulling her to her feet. Pain was throbbing in her head and she felt dizzy.
"Are you okay?" the marine shouted to her.
She tried to nod her head, wincing a little at the stab of pain. "I think so."
A wave of dizziness swept over her again and she swayed. Her eyes locked with the marine's and her mouth opened to try and ask for help, but blackness claimed her suddenly.
West put his hands out to steady the girl as she swayed before him, seeing the thin trail of blood trickle down from her hairline. She looked up at him as though about to speak, then her eyes closed and she slumped forward. Only his quick reflexes prevented her from hitting the floor. He gathered her up in his arms and pushed his way through to the infirmary.
"How do you feel?" McQueen asked.
Dayna sat on the edge of her bed. "I'm fine, thank you. It's only a scratch, hardly life-threatening."
"You shouldn't have been there at all, you're a civilian. Non-combatants should be in the battle zone."
Dayna looked at him more closely. "You're the one who tried to stop me; at the beginning."
"You should have gone immediately to a point of safety."
Dayna shook her head. "I couldn't do that, I couldn't just leave. I trained as a medic so I couldn't walk away from that, not when I knew I could do some good." She looked around her. "By the way, how did I get here?"
"You were struck by some shrapnel in the last explosion. When you passed out, a marine carried you to the infirmary. Then you were transferred to your quarters."
"Do you know who the marine was?"
"I would like to thank him. If that is allowed?"
"Certainly. When would you like to be introduced to him?"
"Is now suitable?"
McQueen led her through the corridors of the Saratoga to the 58th's quarters. He knocked briefly, more for courtesy's sake than because he needed to. The 58th were lounging around relaxing but they came to their feet as McQueen entered.
"At ease," he said. He turned to allow Dayna to move forward. "This is Dayna Selby, as I'm sure you know. These are Lieutenants Vansen, Hawkes, Wang and Damphousse. And Lieutenant West there is the one who assisted you."
After he had finished his introductions, Dayna nodded her head to them all in acknowledgement. "I apologise for disturbing your privacy. I know there are not often times you can find to relax." She turned to face West and held out her hand. "But I did wish to thank you. I understand that it was you who helped me."
West took the proffered hand. "It was nothing."
She smiled at him. "Ah, but it was something to me. It was my life. So I thank you for that. And I'll try not to make a habit of it."
Then with another nod to the rest, including McQueen, she left.
"She's pretty good." Wang said, as the last strains of the song drifted away.
"It makes a nice change from the jukebox." Damphousse put in. "Haven't seen it this packed for ages."
"Gives a break in routine for everyone." Vansen said. "We could all do with a diversion."
"Is this seat taken?" a soft voice interrupted them.
Standing behind Hawkes stood Dayna, dressed in a shimmering gown. She gestured again to an empty stool. "Not at all," Wang said gallantly, and with a smile Dayna sat. The bartender placed a drink before her which she acknowledged with a smile and a nod.
Wang spoke up again as she took a sip. "How long have you been doing this?"
"Since the first year of the war." she answered, taking another sip.
"The Colonel said you're a medic?" West put in, raising his glass. "Is that true?"
She nodded. "That's what I'm trained as. I still keep up with it all. Just recently I finished a refresher course last time I was on Earth on the latest techniques."
"Then how come you do this?" Hawkes asked, confused.
She looked at them and for moment it seemed like she wasn't going to answer, but then, "Because I'm selfish."
They all looked at her in confusion this time, so she explained, "When the war started I had two choices; I could join as a medic, or as a singer. I chose a singer."
"But, why?" Damphousse asked earnestly. "Medics are really needed."
"I know, but I just can't do it. If I was based on a ship like this, it wouldn't be long before I would know most of the people here in some capacity. And it wouldn't be long before those friends would end up before me, on the operating table, and I wouldn't always be able to save them." She looked up at them. "I'm not strong enough to do that. I couldn't watch them disappear without a trace because they were destroyed out there," motioning her head to the windows looking out to space. "Or watch friends or lovers die beneath my hands because I couldn't help them." She took another sip. "So the only other way I could try and help in this war was to do this."
"But you really are a medic though." West pursued, trying to understand what she was saying.
She nodded. "Yes. I really am."
"You say you can't be a medic on a ship like this, yet you went straight in and helped down there." West put in referring to recent emergency. "You helped a lot of people then, even saved their lives, and you didn't hesitate to do so. How can you then say you can't be a medic?"
"It's different then." She tried to explain. "It's so much easier to do your job when it's strangers; people you don't know, who you don't care about or have any feelings for. My greatest nightmare is to find myself looking down into a face I know, and knowing that they are dying!" She couldn't suppress a slight shudder and took another drink quickly.
Then she smiled at them all and gave a small laugh. "Now what a depressing topic you've got us talking on! The purpose of my visit to the Saratoga was to try and cheer people up, not drive them to drink." and she held up her glass.
Looking across the crowd, over West's shoulder, she spotted the marine she had assisted whose leg had been wounded. She placed her empty glass on the bar and stood gracefully.
"Excuse me, but I see someone I wish to speak to."
She made her way through the crowd, smiling and nodding to those around her. The wounded were sitting together, trying to stay out of the way. She reached them and leant a hand on the back of a chair, as the marine turned his head to look up at him. She saw his name, Jackson, stitched to the front of his tunic. Half his face was burnt rather badly and his leg was encased in a steel support.
She smiled at him. "Well, well, fancy meeting you here, soldier."
Jackson glanced up and for a moment didn't recognise her. Then he placed the face to the memory and he gaped.
She smiled wider. "You could catch flies with that." she said humourously.
Jackson's friends chuckled, as he closed his mouth quickly. "I didn't recognise you." he said.
"Obviously. I tend to scrub up all right." She grinned at him.
One of his friends nudged him, wanting an explanation. "It's her; the one who helped me in the hanger. Saved my leg, the doc said. Probably my life too."
The others now looked at her in a new light. There was obviously more to her than met the eye. This wasn't just some glamorous singing star after all.
"I passed all my first aid tests," she said with a smile. "But we haven't been introduced properly yet."
Jackson quickly held out his hand. "Lieutenant Brian Jackson, sir!"
She smiled at his automatic response as she placed her hand in his. "I don't think I warrant a 'sir', Lieutenant, and I owe you a dance." She tugged him to his feet.
"But..." he began, indicating his cast.
"Don't let it bother you, we're not going to waltz. And even with only one leg you could still probably carry me. So come along. You should never keep a lady waiting."
Feeling a little embarrassed he limped along behind her, aware that many in the room were watching their progress. They reached the dance space and she turned to place her arms around him, resting her cheek against his.
"Ignore everything else. They're not important. Close your eyes and just think of me." she whispered softly in his ear.
Taking her advice he closed his eyes and concentrated only on the music and the feel of her soft body against his, and they danced.
The 58th weren't the only ones to have watched this interplay. Many were amazed that she had made any attempt to speak to the wounded. Most civilians tried to avoid that cruel evidence of the war they were fighting. They were either repulsed by it or pitied it. Both were intolerable to the marines. None had ever voluntarily gone over to speak to them before, and certainly not dance with one of the wounded.
"I wonder if that's all a publicity stunt?" Vansen said cynically.
"Why don't we ask?" Wang said, motioning to the other wounded. "Let's see what went on."
They made their way over to them.
"Hey, guys," Wang said taking a seat. "You're being privileged. The great Dayna Selby talking to you and picking one of you to dance with."
"I can hardly believe it. Jackson's a lucky dog." one said with visible envy.
"How did he get to be the one? Did you flip a coin?" Hawkes asked.
"Naw. He was lucky enough to get fixed up by her, back in the hanger. She remembered him. Said something about she owed him a dance."
"How did she help him?" West asked.
"He had the artery in his leg severed by some shrapnel. She got to him and tied it off. Otherwise he would have bled to death before the medics got to him. He's damn lucky he's still here. Thanks to her."
West watched the two swaying figures as the dance finished and they stepped apart. Dayna slipped her hand through Jackson's arm as he escorted her back to their table.
"For someone who said that he wasn't very good on his feet, he's not bad at dancing." She smiled as she held out her hand to him. Gallantly he took it and raised it to his lips.
"It must be the partner I had."
She smiled broadly at him. "Flattery with get you everywhere. Keep practising." she said, then turned her head as some music started, before glancing back. "I must go. Look after that leg, Lieutenant. I don't want it to become a habit of putting you back together." Then with a smile that encompassed everyone there, she turned and left to return to the stage and begin singing again.
"She's incredible." Jackson said softly, watching her. His friends began to rib him for his comment but he just smiled. "Who would have thought she would even remember me?" he continued to try and stop their joking. "And no-one forced her to come over here and talk to us. She's a pretty amazing person."
West continued to watch Dayna. Jackson was right, she was pretty amazing. She was one of those special people who loved life and everything and everyone in it. Like Kaylen.
"Coop!" Vansen screamed, as Hawkes took the full force of the shot in the chest and fell to the ground.
West and Wang ran back and grabbed his arms, hauling him after them as Vansen and Damphousse kept firing. They bundled into the transport ship and took off. West pulled Hawkes' helmet off, checking for the pulse in the neck, whilst Damphousse opened his tunic. Blood ran from a number of wounds, blackened and blistered skin surrounded the holes. Damphousse shook her head and fumbled for a syringe from the med kit.
"All I can do is try and stabilise him till we get back." she said as she pushed the plunger down.
West held Hawkes head in his gloved hands, seeing all too clearly his dead brother all over again. Not Coop, he thought to himself. Gods, please not Coop, too!
As soon as the transport was in the hanger bay on the 'Saratoga' medics were waiting. Hawkes was bundled on to the stretcher and raced to the infirmary, the rest of the 58th hot on their heels. They stood waiting impatiently as the doctor examined Hawkes still form.
"Well?" Vansen asked as soon as the doctor approached.
He shook his head. "There's nothing I can do. He'll probably be dead within the hour."
"What are you saying?" West said grabbing the doctor's coat lapels and pushing him up against the wall. "Do something!"
"West!" Vansen shouted, pulling him away.
The doctor brushed himself down. "I can't do anything! I don't know what else to do." and he turned away and left them.
The 58th stood there for a moment looking into the room where the sheet covered form of Hawkes lay. West waited only one moment more and then took off at a run.
"West!" Vansen shouted after him, knowing that she couldn't stop him, and not knowing where he was going. Although West and Hawkes had initially fought when they first met, they had become close friends, for all they didn't speak a great deal to each other.
West ran down the corridors, still in his battle harness, still covered in dirt and grime. People in the corridors quickly moved out of his way. He reached Dayna's quarters and pounded on the door. When no answer came he opened it to find she was not there. He then ran to the rec room where the members of her band were setting up for the evening's entertainment.
"Where is she?" he rasped out.
"What..?" one of the people said, startled to be confronted by this sudden spectre.
West grabbed him, hauling him to his feet and shaking him. "Where's Dayna!" he repeated.
"With that Colonel of yours, McQueen!" the man rasped out and then gasped as West released him suddenly and sprinted from the room. He raced down the corridors towards McQueen's quarters, arriving just as he and Dayna exited.
"Coop's down." he blurted out, before anything could be said.
"How bad?" McQueen asked, immediately concerned, as Dayna said softly, "Oh, no!"
"Bad. The doctor said he can't do anything."
"So he says," then West turned to Dayna. "But you can."
Dayna looked at him in shock. "Nathan, I can't do anything for him! If your doctors say they can't help they would know."
West reached out and grabbed her arm, speaking intensely. "You've got the better training. You've just updated your skills only six months ago. These doctors haven't been reskilled for years! You're his only chance!"
"You don't understand!" she said, jerking her arm away. "I can't do it! I'll freeze! I can't work on someone I know!"
"But if you don't try, he'll die for certain." McQueen put in coldly. Her eyes flicked to him, away from West. "You said to me in the hanger, you couldn't stand by when you knew you could help. Can you stand by now?"
She continued to look at him for a moment longer, then glanced back at West. She pressed her lips together then spoke. "All right. I'll try."
West grabbed her hand and pulled her along at a run after him. They reached the infirmary, breathless. The 58th were still there and turned to face them as they entered.
"Where?" she asked and they pointed to the adjacent room. She entered and walked over to the bed, pulling the sheet back. She swallowed a lurch of nausea at the sight that met her.
"What's going on here?" the doctor said, staring at her as he came in.
She turned to face him. "I'm a trained medic. I've been asked to try and help this soldier."
"Nothing can be done for him. I told them that."
"But I'm going to try anyway."
"Then you do it on your own. I won't be held responsible for what happens."
Dayna felt her temper slipping away. "I can't do this on my own!" she snapped out. "You know that. I need the support!"
"Not from me!" the doctor snapped back and left. "I have other patients. Ones that I can save!"
Dayna looked after him, frowning darkly, then turned at a touch on her shoulder.
"I'll help you." West said.
She looked into his eyes, seeing his intense worry and determination to help his friend. "Do you know anything about medicine?" she asked.
West shook his head, "Just the basics, that's all."
"It'll have to do. Let's scrub up quickly. We've got to work fast."
Efficiently she prepared the room, finding all the equipment and medication she was likely to need. It had been a long time since she had been in this situation but the training enabled her to fall back into it easily. Soon everything was done and ready. Both she and West were in white coats and face masks, with gloves, looking just like proper medics. Hawkes lay on the gurney under an anaesthetic and hooked up to a number of life support machines that would continue to monitor his vitals during the procedure.
She picked up a scalpel, lifting it to make the first incision, when she looked down on Hawkes face, a face she knew, belonging to a person she liked and cared for. Her hand began to shake. She couldn't do this, she just couldn't. Then a hand on her shoulder made her turn.
Over his mask West looked at her steadily. "You can do this. I'll help you."
She took a deep breath and nodded, then leant forward and made the precise incision.
Six hours went by as Dayna systematically moved through Hawkes chest, removing the shrapnel, tying off severed arteries and veins, stitching the flesh back together. West monitored the machines, checking Hawkes vital signs. They were low but remained steady. After another two hours, Dayna tied off the last stitch and made the last swab before straightening up and pulling her mask down.
She sighed. "That's it."
West removed his mask. "Will he be all right?"
Dayna shook her head, watching the monitors. "I don't know. I'll monitor him for the next few hours. If he gets through them he's got a good chance." She glanced up at West. "Get some rest. And thank you."
As West left the room, he looked back to see Dayna settle down on a chair to watch the flashing lights and readouts on the machines by the bedside.
Dayna dozed during the next few hours. Her concert had been cancelled, with much grumbling, until word got around for the reason. That she had operated on one of the wounded 58th and was still in the infirmary monitoring them. These acts of mercy were making her a firm favourite of the crew of the 'Saratoga'.
The other members of the 58th dropped by now and then, always finding Dayna sitting close to Hawkes. They didn't disturb her, they could see that she was weary, frequently rubbing at her eyes from tiredness, yet still she refused to leave.
She put her head down for a moment on the bed, closing her eyes but consciously fighting the weariness that threatened to drag her down into sleep. A slight movement near her head made her lift it. She automatically glanced at the monitors and noted the increased levels of activity. This made her sit up and watch intently. The hand nearest her twitched a little and she held her breath. If it was merely an involuntary twitch it would mean nothing, but if it was a sign of returning consciousness then he would be well on the way to healing.
West came in at that moment and noticed her air of anticipation. She merely cast a quick glance at him before returning her attention to Hawkes. As she watched his eyelids fluttered, then opened. He looked around, unfocused and his mouth opened as though attempting to speak. The monitor activity picked up further. She quickly leant forward, taking his hand in hers and stroking his hair back from his forehead.
"Shh, Lieutenant," she whispered. "You're safe now. I promise. Sleep."
She continued to stroke his hair as his eyes closed slowly. She looked up at the monitors and all the readings held steady, settling into a regular sleeping pattern. She stood up with a sigh of relief and felt West put an arm around her shoulders.
"Is he going to be okay?" he asked softly, not wanting to disturb his sleeping friend.
"I think so." she replied tiredly, though pleased.
"You did it." he said with a small squeeze of his arms.
She looked around at him, then back to Hawkes. "We did it." she said.
She sighed again and leant her head wearily back against West's chest. It seemed a natural thing for her to do, and just as natural for West to place his other arm around her to support her. They stood like that for a few moments more.
"You need to get some sleep." West finally said, steering her away from the bed.
She shook her head. "I need to stay here. Just in case."
"You can barely stay on your feet." he pointed out.
"I can sleep here." she insisted.
He rolled his eyes in exasperation. For all that she looked so weak and frail, she had an iron will when she put her mind to it.
"All right, let's get you bedded down," he finally agreed. He made certain she had a pillow and blanket on a stretcher in the corner and made her lay down and get settled before he left.
"Now, take your own advice and sleep. Coop's not going anyway just yet."
"Yes, sir." she said with a half smile and closed her eyes. In only a few moments West could tell that she was asleep and he left.
He went immediately back to their quarters and Vansen looked up as he entered. "Well?" she asked.
He looked silently around at them all, and noticed them all steeling themselves for bad news. Then he smiled. "Looks like he's going to make it."
It took a moment for it to sink through then they all let out whoops of joy. They demanded that West tell them everything.
"Just as I got there, Hawkes came to. Just for a moment. Dayna wouldn't let him speak but the monitors all indicate that he's sleeping normally. So he's out of danger."
"Where's Dayna now?"
"Sleeping. On a stretcher."
"She wouldn't leave the room. Said she wanted to stay there in case anything went wrong."
"She's been there for nearly twelve hours." Vansen said.
West shrugged. "She wouldn't leave. She's at least getting some sleep."
When the 58th went down to the infirmary next, Hawkes was conscious though he could barely speak above a whisper. Dayna hovered in the background, keeping watch, being careful he didn't over tire himself at this early stage.
When she judged him to be out of danger she returned to her own quarters and began her evening concerts once more. It had by now become an accepted fact that during the course of the evening she would dance with various members of the corps, usually at least once with the wounded. One time she even danced with a marine confined to a wheelchair, which caused quite a stir, but the soldier was more than happy, especially when Dayna sat on his lap to be wheeled back to the table.
Dayna now spent most of her spare time in the company of the 58th when they were on board the 'Saratoga'. Her efforts in saving Hawkes had caused the group to unofficially adopt to as one of them. During that time she and West spent many hours together and a closeness was growing between them. Initially it had begun from the time they had operated on Hawkes as a team, but from that they found they had many things in common and could converse easily together. It was not uncommon to find the two of them together in West's spare time. The others began to notice this growing bond between the two. She treated everyone else like a brother, only West was treated as much more.
West found his feelings for Dayna becoming more and more confused. He looked at her and saw parts of Kaylen, yet there were many aspects of her that were not like Kaylen at all and he was finding that he liked them a great deal also. He had become accustomed to spending time with her, and he liked being able to relax in her company.
One evening, after everyone else had left including her band members, she and West stood dancing slowly together. The lights were off, only the light coming through the window was casting any illumination.
West rested his cheek on her hair, closing his eyes and relishing the feel of her in his arms. He instinctively tightened them around her and she responded in kind. She snuggled deeper into his embrace, feeling warm and safe. His hand came up to stroke her hair, moving it back from her face, to touch her cheek lightly with his finger tips. Under this gentle caress she raised her face higher, eyes still closed.
West looked down, noting the long lashes that lay on her cheeks, the silkiness of her skin under his hand. Slowly he lowered his head and kissed her.
He was unprepared for the reaction in himself or in her. He could not have walked away from her even if he had wanted to at that moment. He couldn't remember how they reached her quarters. What he could recall was slowly unzipping her dress, pushing it from her shoulders and placing a kiss upon their silkiness. He remembered the fiery touch of her hands upon his own bare skin and the feel of her body pressed against his. He could remember the love, the need, and the passion.
When he woke, he immediately realised he wasn't in the 58th's quarters, and then recalled where he was. Dayna's head was cushioned on his arm, one hand resting upon his bare chest. Gently he eased her head up and moved his arm from under her. She stirred slightly and murmured softly in her sleep, then settled as he placed a soft kiss on her lips. He stood and dressed quickly, looking back once more before he closed the door behind him.
"I can't do this." West said, breaking the embrace and turning away. He felt her hand touch his arm but refused to turn around to face her. He was afraid that if he looked into her eyes his resolve would fail him. Again.
Dayna rested her cheek against his shoulder with a sigh. "It's all right," she replied softly, then released him to turn to look out the window herself. "I don't know if it's what I wanted either."
West turned his head and this time did look at her. He still thought she was lovely, a strong, determined young woman. There was an appeal to her that tugged at him. She might not have been a marine, but she was still strong in her own way.
"I'm truly sorry." he said sincerely.
She glanced over her should to him with a half smile. "Don't worry." she said, looking away again.
West stepped to the other side of the window. "I really like you, you know that don't you? I... care about you a great deal. But, somewhere out there, is a person I love. And I've got to find her."
"I hope you do." Dayna said still smiling up at him. She sighed softly, "I can't rescue the person I love."
West looked at her in surprise. In all the time they had been together she had never before mentioned a lover. "Why not?"
She rested her left hand lightly on the glass looking into the darkness of space. "He's dead."
West could hear the pain in her voice as she said those words. "I'm sorry. I had no idea."
She half shrugged as though trying to brush his sympathy aside. "How could you? I never said anything."
"What happened?" He didn't know if she would tell him or not.
"We were married just before the war broke out. He was dead six months later." The stark way in which she summed it up belied the obvious pain she was feeling.
She looked across at West. "That's when I started doing these circuits. I needed to see his world, to meet the sort of people who would have been with him when he died. It's helped, you know. You are all ...like family. You care about one another. I'm glad he wasn't alone."
She smiled sadly at West then reached up to gently caress West's cheek. "Oh, Nathan. We were both reaching out for people who aren't here. We were each looking for someone else when we looked at each other. You remind me in so many little ways of Duncan. You're so intense, so serious," she grinned at him, and then continued softly. "And so gentle and loving. I don't regret one moment I've spent with you, and I care about you deeply also, more than I have about anyone since Duncan died. But I don't love you as I did him."
West reached out and took her in his arms then, resting his cheek on the top of her head and stroking her hair, giving and receiving comfort.
"You're like Kaylen, too." He said softly. "Always smiling and laughing, always finding something wonderful in this world. I guess that's why I wanted to spend so much time with you. It was almost like having her back, having her here with me again. It didn't seem like she was so far away from me. It was selfish of me to use you like that."
He felt her head shake in the negative as she looked up at him.
"No. We both needed someone, even though it was just for a short time. I needed to be reminded of all the good times Duncan and I had." She smiled sweetly at the memory. "It takes some of the sting away from the loss."
Now she looked intensely back at Nathan. "You'll find her, Nathan. Never doubt that, and never think otherwise." She looked out the window once more. "Somewhere out there she's waiting for you. And you will find her."
"I sometimes think it's a vain hope." he murmured.
"No hope is ever in vain." she replied.
They stood in each other's arms looking into space.
The bar was crowded for Dayna's last performance for tomorrow she would be leaving the 'Saratoga'. The 58th had commandeered stools at the bar, pulling them into a small semi-circle to listen. Dayna came forward dressed in a shimmering black and silver dress. With the window behind her she seemed to be part of the star-scape.
The music began to play softly as she spoke. "This last song is for all the lovers and friends that we've lost, and those that are waiting for us. For in us they always live, and through our love they always will. And it is a special song for a special person I know." Her eyes met Nathan's briefly as she began to sing.
"I wonder who she's singing for?" Shane said quietly.
"Herself," Nathan answered, not looking around. "Her dead husband."
"For you?" Vansen asked quietly, aware of how close Nathan and Dayna had been.
"And Kaylen." he said, glancing back at Shane.
Dayna continued, closing her eyes and letting the music flow through her as she put her whole soul into this song. At this moment it seemed like she could feel Duncan standing close to her, almost within reach, and she smiled sweetly, with tears pricking at the back of her eyes.
As the music faded away on the last words, it seemed to the people in the bar that Dayna shone with an ethereal inner light that encompassed her completely.
The 58th were waiting to say goodbye as Dayna and her group made ready to board the transport ship. She hugged them all with a smile, a kiss and a kind word, coming last to Nathan. She took his hand and pressed something into it.
"Give it to Kaylen," she said as he opened his hand to look at the glittering ring. "Duncan gave it to me on our wedding day. I would like to know that one day Kaylen will wear it. Give it to her when you find her."
"But don't you want to keep it? It's something of Duncan's." he said, confused that she was giving it away. She smiled at him, and he suppressed a shiver. At this moment, there seemed to be something unreal about her, as though she were almost a ghost.
She shook her head as she leant forward to place a soft kiss upon his lips. "I don't need it any more. Not where I'm going." and with another gentle smile she left.
The 58th watched from the window as the transport ship lifted off and began its manoeuvre away from the ship. Then before they could register what was happening, seeming from no-where, a lone Chig ship appeared from the depths of space, weaving in a manner that indicated it was badly damaged.
"No!" West cried, striking the window with his fist as a feeling of dread so intense it seemed to choke him struck through his heart. He didn't know how, but he knew that Dayna had known she would die.
The Chig fired once, then twice, and on the third time, before the horrified 58th's eyes, the transport ship exploded. Some of the debris struck the Chig fighter which then also exploded in an accompanying flash of light.
"How could that happen?" Vanessa said, stricken.
"Where did that Chig come from? There's nothing around here according to reports. We've seen no action or anything!" Wang put in, stunned.
"How could it get so close without the scanners picking it up?" Hawkes wanted to know.
"She knew," West said quietly to them. He looked down at the ring clutched in his hand and shook his head. "Somehow she knew."
"How could she?" Shane said, trying to shake it off, not believing in the intangible.
West turned to her. "I don't know, but she gave me this ring. It was the last thing her husband gave her before he left, before he died. It's her wedding ring. She'd never have parted from that, not while she was living." He turned back to look out the window. "She said she didn't need it where she was going."
"Some people are supposed to be able to know when it's their time to die." Vanessa said, quietly.
"I wouldn't want to know." Hawkes said forcibly.
"She wasn't afraid," West said. "I think she was glad in a way. Maybe now she will be at peace, and with the one that she loved so much."