He sees her at the bar. His outer countenance shows no part of the surprise that overwhelms him. It had been 10 years since those fateful days after his divorce. As he approaches the bar of Tun's Tavern, his mind wanders back to another bar another time.
It all started in a dive on the East Side of New York. There was nothing special to recommend it to tourists. It was the last stop on the way to eternity for the soulless masses. For TC it was simply a place to drown the memory of the hearing that morning. The beautiful face of the only woman he had ever loved or trusted faded into the amber mist of bourbon. His angel, his one and only treasure was gone. He had opposed the action. He even offered to quit the Corp, the only thing that gave his life meaning aside from her. Even that had not been enough.
Though his misery, he became aware that the band was coming back from break. The lead singer was a young girl with long red hair. She couldn't have been a day over 20. She wore tight fitting leather pants and halter. Her pale translucent complexion was ethereal. She announced that this was the last set of the evening. Then she launched into a rendition of a very old song for the 1980s. TC ordered another Bourbon and slouched over the bar to listen. The girl sang well. She had real passion for the music. He turned his attention back to his bourbon.
A bottle smashed the mirror near where McQueen was sitting. A scream erupted in the mist of the music. A group of hoodlums had charged the stage. One of them was carrying the young singer toward the door. T C rushed unsteadily toward the hooligan. The girl was screaming and kicking the boy as hard as she could. She had managed to kick free by the time T C reached them. She bounced off a table to the floor. The boy cursed and reached to grab her again. T C spun him around and punched him in the face. That was the only punch he got in. The other ruffians that had been providing cover converged on him. They hammered on him for what seemed like an eternity. A shotgun blast quieted the room as T C lost consciousness.
McQueen came back to the present in a jolt. People were staring at him. They were surprised to see him there at all. He swung his newly cloned leg forward in a lurching movement. He really despised that part of his injury. Approaching the bar, he was still uncomfortably aware of all eyes boring into his back. All but one set of eyes stared. Those eyes were frozen straight ahead. She carefully avoided even one glance in his direction. She was wearing a plain black jumpsuit. She looked as trim as the last time he saw her. "Bourbon" was all he said to the barkeep as he took a stool beside Lily. From the corner of Tun's Tavern, a group of musicians began playing. The rest of the bar had returned to normal but nothing was ever normal between Lily and him
Lily inwardly shivered at the very nearness of him. She thought it would have lessened over time but it hadn't. She had thought that she would never see him again. She struggled to show no sign of her feelings. He ordered his drink. God, he's so close. She remembered the touch his lips, the scent of him. It was so intoxicating. "Do you still sing?" So there it was the first words in over a decade. "There's not a lot to sing about these day, is there, Ty?" They started playing Ol' Fifty-five. A shadow of a smile crossed his features as he said, "Well, that's a shame, since I can't dance as well I use to." Concern bathed her features as Lily said, "I heard when I came on board, I'm so sorry. I hope rehab helps."
TC was entranced by her lips again. He didn't even get angry when she mentioned the leg. Her naturally red lips looked so tasty. TC turned back to his bourbon as Colonel Kincaid accosted them. Kincaid boomed, "You owe me a dance Major Sullivan. I'm here to collect. Oh sorry McQueen, am I interrupting?" TC noticed that his breath smelled like a brewery. "Not at all, Kincaid, I was just relaxing a minute."
Lily chuckled to herself as her group changed to "No Scrubs" from the late 90s. She did dance in the flagrant way that Kincaid liked. She tried to dump him after the dance but he stuck to her like glue. There was nothing more pathetic then a drunk. Lieutenant Nathan West of the wildcards finally rescued her. West and Lily danced for a few minutes while Colonel Kincaid was convinced to get some sleep by Damphouse and Wang. The second time that the 58th had run interference. Lily was extremely grateful.
Lily entered the passageway as the band packed up their instruments. TC was waiting for her. A smile lit her face through her weariness. "I hear that you're called 'Lucky Lady'. How did you get that call sign?" Lily laughed lightly and said, "Some think I'm really lucky at cards and other things. I guess you also heard I'm team leader for the Delta Squad." As they walked down the narrow passageway, the quiet comradery engulfed them just as the lights dimmed. It was so different from the daylight that crept in the window all those years ago.
His face ached as he awoke in a strange bed. The peeling wallpaper showed a grotesque pink paint underneath. A couch rested against a wall across from the kitchen. Lying on it was the girl from last night. The bed creaked as he struggled to get up. The noise awoke the girl in a flash. 'Oh you're awake? I hope you slept well. We were quite worried when you didn't wake up.' The girl leaned over and looked deeply in his crystal blue eyes. "Well you seem to be okay. Feeling like a train hit you?" TC stared at her blankly for a moment. "Now I know you can talk because you do it in your sleep. Let's start with what's your name?" TC looked up into her laughing green eyes and said, 'My name is Captain Tyrus Cassius McQueen. Who are you and how the hell did I get here?'
'Well, who I am is easy to answer. I'm Lily. How you got here is also very easy to answer. The bartender and I carried you here because you couldn't walk. Do you remember why?" TC shook his head groggily and admitted that it was very groggy. Lily sat on the bed and said, "You're here because you did a nice thing. You stopped an ex-boyfriend of mine from carrying me off and not bringing me back. Thank you. He was really nice at first but he's really a controlling jerk. He and his buddies didn't much care for it so they were stomping you but good until Cecil got the shotgun out. We fixed you as best we could and brought you here. Now I want you to get some sleep and we'll talk again later." TC thought about how that halo over her head must be a hallucination Lily looked almost angelic as he drifted off to sleep again.
TC and Lily were thrown against a bulkhead suddenly. Claxons screamed as if in agony. Chig Attack! Lily took a second to see that TC was okay before dashing toward the bridge. A call to battle stations was blaring on the intercom. Lily ordered Delta Squad into position. Since Kincaid was plastered, he would not be fit to assume battle stations. She had to hurry because she knew he'd show up anyway. She saw that TC was keeping up. Lily was amazed that he made such good time at this point in his PT. Lily took her position at tactical just before another blast rocked the ship. She took in the situation in a glance and started taking evasive action. Kincaid lurched into the Command Center and immediately started to countermand Lily's orders. The General quickly assessed the situation and ordered Kincaid off the Bridge. When Kincaid did not comply, the MP by the hatch subdued him with a punch to the jaw. Lily and McQueen watched and listened as the 58th and Delta along with all the other fighter groups converged on the attacking chigs.
TC absorbed the feeling of being next to her again. As the battle fleet disintegrated, TC became more aware of her intensity for life. Lily felt the heat from his body next to hers. Lily issued the recall order and the tension drained off the bridge. Lily and TC saw exhaustion in each other's eyes. General watched them from his command post. He smiled as he noted the heat between them. Several pieces of the puzzle were falling into place. He was happy for his old friend. A rugged smile creased his face as he ordered the stand down. The General retired to his ready room as TC and Lily tiredly shuffled out of the bridge.
Back in the corridor outside of Lily's cabin, McQueen and Lily looked at each other both struggling with the intense feelings raging through and between them. It would be so easy to take her in his arms and taste her again but it would be wrong in the situation. Before he could turn to leave, Lily threw her arms around his neck and kissed him passionately before saying, "Goodnight." With that she entered her cabin and closed the door tight. I should not have done that thought Lily as she leaned against her cabin door panting.
Her mind flew back to New York so many years ago. She was making breakfast for them when she saw Tyrus Cassius McQueen lurch up and out of bed. After pulling the fry pan off the hot burner, she rushed over and gently forced him back into the bed. "No, No, No, I'm sure you have some broken ribs so for now you're staying in bed," she said authoritatively. "It is good that you have your strength back though," she said as she sat down next to him smiling. "This is very kind of you but I have to go," he said as the world spun as he tried to rise again. Lily smirked, "Where do you have to be that's so important? I know you don't have to be at work because you're on leave for another 20 days. So where do you have to be?" as she dropped his leave orders on the bed beside him. "Is that all you found in my pockets," he said dourly. "No. That's none of my business though. My business is to making sure you are okay enough to go without hurting yourself. Are you going to cooperate or do I have to get more difficult?" she said with her cute little smirk.
Lily came back to the present with a snap as someone banged on her hatch. "Yes, who's knocking on my door?" she said in a loud annoyed voice. "Ma'am, the Commodore requests your presence on the bridge immediately," was the nervous reply. The young ensign jumped back as the hatch flew open and Major Sullivan walked purposely past him. He had to hustle to keep up with her.
On the bridge, the Commodore and McQueen looked out the view port in silence waiting for Lily to arrive. McQueen was of course right about the situation; something had to be done immediately. They turned in unison as they heard Lily's boots echo in the corridor that lead to the bridge. She entered seconds later with an extremely nervous ensign in close pursuit. She stopped in front of the Commodore and snapped a sharp salute saying, "Major Sullivan reporting as ordered sir." "Ensign, you are dismissed. Sullivan, McQueen, my ready room now." Some speculative glances abounded after the trio entered the Commodore's ready room.
The Commodore's ready room was not what most would expect. In a corner, a rhythm guitar stood. Three plush leather chairs were squeezed in the tight confines. Between two of the chairs, a bottle of single malt scotch and some glasses were tucked away out of sight. Very few entered this inner sanctum. Tonight, Ty and Lily followed the Commodore into his private area. Lily was astute enough to know this was not standard. What was going on? The commodore's first words put her at ease. "Major, we need to discuss Colonel Kincaid's performance this evening," Ross said as he finished pouring two fingers of scotch in each glass. Lily visibly relaxed as she thought that maybe she was in trouble for kissing Ty in the corridor. "Sir, it's not my place to judge my superiors," she said nervously because of who was asking the question. "You misunderstand Lily. I've seen enough to know that the Colonel is a hazard in a war zone. You are here because what I plan to do about it affects you." Ross said gently as he leaned over and covered her hand. Lily stifled a sigh of relief and glanced at Ty before saying, "Thank you, sir" to the commodore. Ross leaned back in his chair and nodded to McQueen who said, "Kincaid will be leaving the fleet tonight. You don't need to know how but he is leaving. The commodore needs someone to take over his position. Since you have been doing his job anyway, you are the perfect choice." Lily looked from Ty to Ross in a quandary. It would be disloyal to simply accept this but the expressions on their faces brooked no argument. As Lily lowered her eyes to her empty glass, Ross picked up where Ty left off. "Major, you will report to the ceremonial deck at 0600 in your dress alphas for a promotion ceremony and you will be given command of the dark ops unit for this fleet of the corps. You are both excused," Ty and Lily rose as if in a daze and left the room. Ross leaned back and sipped his scotch as he waited to be informed of the accident that would send Kincaid to the rear echelon.
Ty and Lily walked down the corridor for the second time tonight but this time in silence. "Did you bring up Kincaid with the commodore?" her eyes careful not to look at him as they moved down the way. McQueen kept his eyes forward as he replied, "Yes, he was a menace to my people and yours." "Are you sure that's why you did it? It wasn't cause of how he bothered me tonight and every night. It wasn't cause of the innuendo or the gossip he caused by his treatment of me?" she said almost choking on the bile in her throat as she thought of Kinkaid's not so subtle attempts to get her in his bed. Ty had heard the stories within hours of his return to the Saratoga. It was common knowledge that Kinkaid wanted Lily to keep him warm at night. McQueen stepped in front of her; looking deep into her green eyes and lied, "No, I didn't do it for that reason. He was a danger to every person on this ship not just you." Lily looked up at him wanting desperately to believe him but knowing deep in her heart that he was lying to her. "Okay, if you say so," was all she could whisper to him. McQueen put a hand on her arm stopping her as she tried to sidle by him. She looked at his hand and then into those tortured eyes again. "My turn for a question. Why did you kiss me and walk away?" Lily licked her full lips and said, "I did it because I missed you," and slipped past him down into the darkened corridors. McQueen leaned against the bulkhead and slipped back to New York.
Breakfast had been a delicious meal of eggs and toast eaten in bed with a glass of orange juice on the nightstand. Lily looked at the man who had saved her from Billy and his crew. His face was littered with bruises. His chest was taped to one side where she suspected that his ribs were broken. His muscular chest had scars from other violent encounters. She knew he was a tank from the distinct mark on his neck. She didn't care. Normal born or invitro made no difference to her. There were plenty of so called normals that were bastards; just like there were good invitros also. What people did mattered more to Lily then how they were born.
Meanwhile, Colonel Kincaid was being unceremoniously dumped into a very uncomfortable transport bound for earth, a copy of his orders were pinned to his unconscious booze laden body.