Author's Note: Alright, this story might be a little confusing. This is a collection of one-shots following the same characters and back story of Memoria in Aeterna, based on an RP between Drake S. Hellion and myself. It is a three chapter collection of possible endings to the RP: 1) That Ray and Amaris are separated indefinitely; 2) that they are separated and end up working together several years later; and 3) they aren't separated at all. Each begins with a few comments in first person from Amaris' point of view. Following them are alternate endings to each ending; each a few years into the future. Even without knowing what transpired in the RP, these are pretty understandable, and there will be small explanations where they are necessary. I've always been intrigued by the idea of alternate endings. Sometimes it will be a fluffy love story, sometimes it will be a darker one, sometimes it will be a tragedy.
Disclaimer: Halo belongs to Bungie. Raymond-G214 belongs to Drake S. Hellion, Amaris Streenan belongs to me.
Option #1: Indefinite separation
I don't know why I did what I did. I don't know why I went that far, why I even let myself consider the idea. Maybe it was the hopelessness of the situation. When you think your life is over, your perspective on a lot of things changes. I suppose I just wanted to make the best of the time I had left.
Don't misunderstand me, I don't regret any of it. But I knew from the start how it was going to turn out, so I'm not sure why I'm surprised at this. Maybe I truly thought we would never make it off that planet—or at least, not both of us. Maybe I was just living in the here and now and the idea of a future didn't even enter my mind.
Well. That future's here now, and now I find myself wishing I was back on that nightmarish planet. Normally, I would laugh at such irony. Now, I just feel bitter.
I've been honorably discharged. I was getting to the end of my service period anyway, before Reach was attacked. This side trip as we fled the planet has extended it about a week. I'm merely thankful no one had gotten around to confirming the KIA lists. My mother has enough to worry about as it is. I'm going home to see her now, back to Earth—for as long as Earth's around. No one ever thought the Covenant would find Reach—much less destroy it—and as Earth's our last defense now, the Covenant will be focusing all their attention on finding it. It's really only a matter of time.
And that's why I don't regret falling for Ray, I think. Because the state of mind that I dropped into on that planet has stayed with me; it's not just that planet that's a nightmare anymore. Everywhere you go, the tension is palpable. I felt is as soon as we set foot on this UNSC cruiser. We're at the breaking point now, and something has to give.
So I wish Ray was coming with me now, back to Earth. We could continue spending the rest of the time we have the best we can. But a Spartan is made for one purpose, and one purpose only: to fight. There is no honorable discharge for them, not while there is some vestige of a super soldier left in them. He will be back on the battlefield almost before I'm home, defending humanity to the end. I probably won't even know when he's killed. He will never have a proper grave to pay respects to. I never liked the Spartan program much before this, and now, it fairly makes me sick.
The Spartans with us were whisked away for their own, private debriefing as soon as we boarded the ship. I looked over my shoulder in time to see the doors close over his back as I walked away, and to be honest, I thought that would be the last time I ever saw him. Thankfully, I was wrong. I saw him again on my way across the hanger to board a Pelican to take me to a civilian transport vessel. He was with the other Spartans, boarding the Pelican beside mine to travel to wherever his new mission is sending him. I didn't recognize him for a moment, partly because I was too distressed to bother looking, and partly because his back was to me, but I stopped when I realized it was him.
It was sheer chance that the two Pelicans were side-by-side, and sheer chance we were mostly alone between them. For an instant I didn't know what to do, and I just stared at him. I wanted to run to him, drag his helmet off and kiss him one last time—but I knew that if I let myself do that, I would never be able to make myself leave. So I kept my feet planted and my hands at my sides. But I told him.
I told him I had been discharged, and that I was returning to Earth. That he knew where to find me if he wanted to. I made sure he knew these things verbally. But I also told him everything else. How I felt. That I didn't want to leave him. That I needed him. He knows how much I hate his helmet. He had it unpolarized. I didn't break eye contact throughout that entire conversation. I said the simple things—the things that an eavesdropper would pass off as strange but trivial. But I had to be sure he knew that I would never forget him. That I would never stop loving him. That I would always be waiting for him.
We didn't have much time, maybe only a minute, but it felt like an eternity. His squad members called for him to hurry up; my pilot warned me that the Pelican was about to leave. I couldn't bear to watch him walk away again. I turned on my heel and climbed into the dropship and stared straight ahead while the hatch closed and the ship lifted off.
I don't know if we'll ever find each other again. I certainly wish for it to happen. I made myself as easy to find as possible. Maybe nothing will ever happen at all and Raymond-G214 will simply fade into an incomplete memory that haunts me in my old age. Maybe he'll find me, someday soon, as the Covenant find and destroy our last world, and we'll be fighting to survive together again. Maybe, many years in the future, he will finally be retired and allowed to leave his military life, and he'll seek me out. Both of those are fantasies I cling to to give me hope. Most likely, it will be the first option.
Or maybe I'll find him, one day far in the future. I'll travel to a monument on an anniversary of the end of the war to pay homage to the heroes we lost. There will be lists upon lists, millions of names I will never have a face to match them with. There will be a section for Spartans, finally released. Maybe it will be some long-lost hope sparking in me that makes me pause, or maybe simple curiosity will cause me to look, to run my fingers reverently down the line. And maybe my eye will catch on a familiar name.
And that way, at least I'll know.
Alternate Ending #1:
The civilian transport ship dropped out of slipspace just on the far side of Earth's lone satellite. Slowly and steadily, the ship, a less sophisticated version of the UNSC's military Halycon-class vessel, approached the bright side of the lunar body, the planet Earth appearing over the horizon much like the Sun would rise on the planet's surface. Said celestial body became visible in the distance as the ship completely cleared the Moon, her bow pointed directly at Earth.
Nearly half an hour later, the transport ship was in a low orbit over the planet, and a squad of Pelican dropships lifted off and flew out of the ship's hanger, filled with those soldiers released from service and on leave for a few weeks, either because of injury or because their service period was complete.
Amaris disembarked from the Pelican, inhaling suddenly as the hot African air of New Mombassa struck her full in the face, sweat immediately beginning to moisten her skin. She paused as she reached the pavement to readjust the shoulder strap of her duffel bag, then she strode across the tarmac.
She had been fortunate—two days after they had escaped that backwater planet and reunited with the UNSC, a consignment of soldiers returning to Earth were being shipped out, and she had been able to get a seat on one of the Pelicans. She was both relieved and dismayed by this: relieved that she could return home so soon, and dismayed because it gave less time to try and find a way to talk to Ray. The latter hadn't happened—not until she was boarding the Pelican to take her to the civilian transport ship that had brought her here. And there had not any time for the conversation she had wanted to have.
But she was home now, she consoled herself. Back on an inhabited planet and not some deserted nightmare of a world. Soon she would be able to see her family again. Amaris had kept an apartment in New Mombassa during her years of service, so that she had somewhere to go while on leave here. She would have to give a thirty notice before she could move out, however, so she would be living here for the next month. Then she would back to the side of the world her mother lived on.
It was a simple job of walking to the public transport station and buying a ticket—her pass card had long since expired—and then she rode the system for fifteen minutes before getting off at the stop closest to her apartment.
Her apartment was as she had left it. The temperature in the room was a bit low for her tastes, but that was standard. She immediately turned the dial up as she went past, glad to see no dust bunnies had collected—of course, a full cleaning came with the apartment services.
Her duffel bag contained almost nothing, and it took mere minutes to put everything away. Then she called and left a message explaining everything to her mother. That done, Amaris suddenly stood in the middle of the silent apartment and realized she had nothing to do. She had no food in the refrigeration unit , but even if she did, she wasn't hungry—and too tired to cook anything. Even though it was only late afternoon here now, her traveling had exhausted her.
Turning, she opened the door to the balcony, looking out over the sprawling metropolitan area. Normally, it was a welcome view. Now, it served only to contrast extremely sharply with the barrenness of the planet they had been stranded on—which only brought memories of a certain Spartan-III back to the forefront of her mind. Amaris turned and shut the door to the balcony again, leaning her forehead on the cool wood. She closed her eyes, but silent tears leaked out from beneath her eyelids anyway, and she was too numb to care.
Leaving the door, Amaris retreated to her bedroom, shedding her clothing as she went, and fell into bed in only her underclothes. She pulled the cool sheets up over her head and was asleep before she had exhaled.
It was late the next morning before she woke up. Her eyes felt swollen and puffy, and her hair was one tangled knot. Dragging herself out of bed, Amaris staggered stiffly into the bathroom to shower.
She stared in the mirror for a long time after she finished, something she had not had the time to do in a long time.
Had she always had such deep lines at the corners of her eyes? Since when had her skin developed sun spots? Where did that tiny white scar at the outside corner of her right eyebrow come from? She had served in the UNSC Navy for four years, but it seemed as if the experience had aged her double those years.
She didn't bother with her appearance. She towel dried her hair and pulled it back in a ponytail. She dressed casually and left her clothes where they had fallen. That was a horrible habit of hers—to make up for the incredible neatness the cramped quarters of military life, she spoiled herself while on leave.
There was a message from her mother. She listened to it, but didn't reply, and slipped into shoes and out the door.
She returned almost two hours later and unloaded the groceries into the refrigeration unit, and then she sat down and scanned the news stories.
The next six days followed much the same pattern as the first. Amaris went about doing simple chores and sleeping late, but her mood was far from what it should been. It was as if her head were perpetually in a fog and her movements were sluggish. Her heart felt heavy, and it weighed on all of her, but at the same time she was completely numb. She hardly spoke to anyone, save to exchange messages with her mother and once with the cleaning lady, and again when an elderly lady who lived close by stopped to see her and brought her cookies, bubbling happy to see her back again.
But these were tiny portions of the days compared to the time she spent alone, dwelling on the memories of that deserted planet and the Spartan-III she had spent the majority of her time with.
The afternoon of the seventh day provided a much needed, but very unwelcome, distraction.
The Covenant found Earth.
Amaris, again sleeping late, was very abruptly informed of this fact when the building shook roughly, jarring her awake. Concerned, she scrambled out of bed and bolted to the nearest window, amazed at the sight that greeted her.
Phantom dropships and banshees buzzed over the city like a swarm of angry bees, and filling the opening in the buildings where the transport lines cut a wide swath, towered a Scarab. The building shook again as the massive vehicle moved, jerking her out of her stupor, and Amaris raced to her dresser, yanking open drawers and pulling out the closest thing to combat fatigues that she currently possessed: cargo pants and heavy-duty boots. She dragged the first shirt her hands grabbed—a tank top—over her head as the building shook so violently that it threw her onto the bed. Dropping down to the floor, she knelt and yanked a box out from under the bed, producing her pistol. She had barely grasped it when the something large moved in front of the window, darkening the light. Amaris lunged and snatched her comm unit off her bedside table as the wall exploded towards her, and dove across the room and into her bathroom. She kicked the door closed behind her and curled into a ball, and her arms wrapped around her head. As the building caved in around her, she screamed.
It was very dark, and after the painfully loud rending and twisting of metal during the collapse, glaringly quiet. Amaris had lost all sense of time; with her surroundings so black, she had no way to know how long the crashing had lasted or if she had been unconscious.
She was sprawled on her side when she flicked her eyes open. She could feel dust and debris setting on her skin, and smell it with her nose. Her right shoulder ached, as did the left side of her ribs and her left knee and ankle. She wiggled her fingers and toes first, and then she slowed started to sit up. Amaris was immediately aware that she had very little room: she could just crawl, if she kept her head down, and the width of the opening was about twice that length. Dragging herself into as much of a sitting position as she could, she cast her hands around the space, stumbling across her comm unit. Hardly daring to hope that it remained undamaged, she toggled the on switch—and dim blue light spilled across her face. The screen was cracked, but the unit worked.
With the light, she easily found her pistol as well, and retrieved it. She searched the space more thoroughly with the light source, but could find no way out. She was fortunate to even be alive—the extra structural support that the bathroom had because of the plumbing pipes had been just enough to create a pocket of sorts. But she wasn't getting out without outside help.
If that still existed. She could be under a layer of glass for all she knew.
Having no other choice, she sent out a signal with her comm unit.
Reach was the last barrier between the Covenant and Earth. Decades of fighting a superior enemy had successfully taken its toll on humanity's resources, no matter how hard they pushed. They were simply outmatched on every level.
Raymond-G214 was one of the first Spartans to reach Earth. Within three hours of the start of the invasion in New Mombassa, he was on the ground.
That was a day ago, and he had been pressing on with neither food nor sleep since then. At first there had been civilians to rescue. Now it was simply ground combat, attempting to repel the Covenant from Earth.
Ray wasn't complaining about the work, however. It served as an excellent distraction from thoughts that he could neither forget nor cast from his mind. The root of which stemmed from Amaris.
He wanted to see her again. He'd wanted to talk to her the last time he had seen her, but he hadn't been able to find the words. It was only the presence of other Spartans that had kept him from closing the distance between them. He wished he had, now. He wished he knew where she was.
The squad of marines he was working with had changed twice since his boots had hit the ground. Right now he was scouting ahead. They had spotted a Phantom not far away a few minutes ago, and his SPI armor was better suited to stealth than the marines'.
Without warning, shouts and cries of pain and panic erupted over his radio.
"Covenant—squad! Spartan—assist—ed." The line cut out abruptly, and the Spartan-III turned on his heel and bolted back to their location.
He didn't need to get there to know there wasn't anything he could do. The marine squad had been small, and laying flat on the balcony of a building above the battleground, he could see the Covenant had outnumbered them two to one. They had probably all died at about the same time.
Slinking away from the edge, he sat back against the building, teeth gritted beneath his helmet. Another squad dead when he was supposed to be defending them. He had already scouted that area. Had he missed something? Had he let the memory of a woman distract him so much that he had missed an important clue?
Ray activated his SPI camouflage again and moved away from the scene again, a lone figure trekking through the ruined city. Communications were patchy, but he would try to have as much as possible to report when he got through—and they had been heading back to the current command center anyway.
So he was surprised when his radar suddenly detected a signal.
Dust and gravel rattled slightly as it rained down in her small sanctuary. Amaris scooted as far away from the area as possible, hugging her herself protectively. It wasn't like she would be able to escape anyway, and her air supply was limited.
She was truly surprised and dumbfounded when a shaft of light bright enough to drown out the screen of her comm unit penetrated the darkness. Squinting, Amaris covered her face as rubble and gravel collapsed inward, showing her already cut arms with stinging fragments.
"I'm here!" Amaris managed to call, coughing in the dusty air. She squeezed her burning eyes shut and reached out a hand as she crawled towards her rescuer. A huge, strong hand closed over hers, and the man dragged her free.
"You're clear now," he said, helping her sit as she coughed and then opened her eyes.
"Th—thanks," she sputtered, blinking in the harsh light and realizing it was a Spartan who had found her.
"Just fortunate I came along at this moment," he answered, and then ducked down to retrieve her pistol. "Yours?"
"That's military issue."
Amaris paused as she reached to take the gun. She had to be dreaming. She probably had a concussion from the collapse, or she was dying, or it was wishful thinking…but the Spartan sounded like Ray.
Her stomach flipped and her throat was suddenly tight. "…Ray?"
The Spartan stared at her for a moment, and then his free hand reached up and removed his helmet. "Amaris…"
The woman leaped to her feet and threw her arms around his neck—a move only possible because she happened to be uphill of the taller Spartan. He returned the gesture immediately, muscular arms wrapping around her waist and over her back. His armor dug painfully into her stomach, but she ignored the discomfort as she did the tears stinging her eyes and leaving trails through the dirt on her face.
"I missed you," she said in his ear, her voice thick. She pulled her face back so she could look at him, and then she kissed him, a gesture he immediately returned, which only gave her more confidence.
"I missed you too," he murmured against her mouth when they pulled back to breathe. Reluctantly, he pulled back even further, setting her firmly on her own feet again. "But we can't stay here, it's too exposed." He reached down and picked his helmet from where he had dropped it. Amaris took her pistol back and then took the hand he offered her. He guided her down the pile of rubble that was all that remained of her apartment building, and then she followed in his shadow down the ruined street, her dainty hand firmly enclosed in his large, powerful one.
"What happened?" she asked quietly, looking around in awe at the destruction.
"A Covenant cruiser jumped to slipspace inside the city," Ray explained. "But since then, the rest of the fleet has arrived. There's plenty of ground contacts, so be ready."
Amaris adjusted her grip on her pistol to a firmer one, wishing she had a helmet.
Hand in hand, they hiked silently and undisturbed for nearly fifteen minutes through the devastated city. Occasionally they could see one of the great Covenant cruisers circling overhead like vultures, and once Amaris huddled beside Ray under scant cover as a patrolling Phantom leisurely flew past as if it owned the place.
Not long after that encounter, the met their first resistance.
It was just as they reached part of the city that had not yet been leveled and was still mostly intact. The tall buildings threw long shadows, casting the street below into a hazy darkness which the thick smoke layers only deepened.
A gunshot split through the air at almost the same instant Amaris heard Ray grunt and saw him jerk. The Spartan immediately dropped her hand and shoved her to one side, opening fire with his battle rifle at something up in the smoke.
Amaris staggered back to her feet, running back to the Spartan-III as he fell to one knee.
"Ray! Are you alright?" she cried worriedly, crouching in front of him. The Spartan was clutching his right shoulder, but he looked up at her and lurched back to his feet.
"Get…out of the street," he said, and led her to the side before he sat down again, leaning his head back against the wall behind him.
Amaris knelt beside him and reached up with both hands to lift his helmet off, setting it on the ground. The Spartan's blond hair was matted with sweat as he looked at her.
"Jackal sniper," he said, glancing at his injury. "Plasma round. No lodged bullet, and it cauterized shut. Just hurts like hell."
Amaris gently pried his hands away from the wound, inspecting it for herself, and saw that he was correct. It had pierced clean through his shoulder, however, just to the inside of the joint. "How much can you move it?" she asked.
"Not much," he admitted flatly. Amaris reached up, running her nimble fingers tenderly through his short hair.
"We can rest for a while before we have to—" she was cut off by a bright flash and a sizzling sound.
Ray grunted and hauled himself back to his feet, a hand on the wall to steady himself. Amaris grabbed his helmet and rose with him.
"They're starting to glass the city," he said, and she nodded in agreement, holding the helmet out to him. She didn't let go when he went to take it from her, however, making him look at her.
"I'm glad I'm with you, Ray. Even if we're here, fighting to survive again," she said quietly when their eyes met. His gaze searched her face, and he ducked his head when she stepped closer to him, bending down enough for her to kiss him, one of her hands on the side of his face. She ended the kiss after a moment, lingering, and then she released his helmet as she stepped away, bringing her pistol up to bear again. The Spartan set his helmet on his head.
"We have to get clear of the city," he said, and took the lead, holding his weapon with both hands.
A strange orange glow came from the area being burned, even though it was nearly a mile away. The horrible sound echoed in Amaris' ears and she knew she would remember it for the rest of her life.
They reached the outskirts of the city then, and climbed up to a rise where Ray could get a clear radio signal again. Amaris walked back to the edge of the hill as Ray reported their coordinates to his commanding officer, looking down on the demolished city, glowing from the glassing.
Ray came silently up beside her, his left arm circling around her waist. Amaris leaned against his solid, reassuring bulk, feeling safe despite the direness of the situation.
"It's like Reach all over again," she murmured. "When we had to leave so many people behind…"
"I lost another squad," Ray admitted. "I'm dangerous for your health, you shouldn't be around me."
"I'm sure it wasn't your fault," she said. "You haven't had much rest. And when I die, I hope it's next to you."
"We won't die," Ray said fiercely. "We'll beat the Covenant."
"No, we may not die today. But we will die, one day. Hopefully far in the future. And I still want you there." She looked up at him, finding him looking down at her through his unpolarized visor.
"I won't ever let anything happen to you," he promised with such conviction and determined look that she felt a shiver run down her spine. "I'll make sure you get that future."
Amaris pulled the corners of her mouth up in a smile. "I don't doubt that," she said. "I just want you in it."
The whirring of a Hornet's rotating blades made them break eye contact and look up. Amaris wrapped an arm around Ray's back as her other hand tried to calm the hair the wind the vehicle made whipped in circles.
The Spartan took her hand and led her to the Hornet, lifting her in before he climbed in after her, wrapping an arm over her shoulders again. Amaris was more than content to lean her head on his shoulder and close her eyes against the sights below as the Hornet carried them away from New Mombassa.
End Alternate One.
Alternate Ending #2:
It had started out as a simple section of a Pelican wing decorated neatly with words and pictures. Now, twenty years after the end of the war with the Covenant and Lord Hood's dedication of the site to remain barren as a monument to those who had passed, little of the area had changed.
About a half mile from that site, however, and connected by a neatly paved path, was a state-of-art building, square and with partition walls running across it. On these were hung stone plagues, each back-lit by soothing blue light, and inscribed with every name of every man, woman, and Spartan who had been killed in action against the war with the Covenant. It was open every hour of every day, and uniformed soldiers marched rigidly, keeping watch.
On holidays, it was usually very busy, with reverent, quiet people coming and going, but on any day there were plenty of fresh flowers left behind.
Amaris had yet to visit it in those twenty years. After being discharged from the UNSC Navy, she had returned to the other side of Earth, where her family resided. She had lived in New Mombassa for several years before her deployment, however, and had always loved the old city. It was being rebuilt, but the new design didn't match the old, and made her mourn the old even more.
But she had still wanted to come visit the area. She wasn't here on the anniversary of the end of the war, however, though that was only weeks away. She was here for a very different anniversary.
There was almost no one treading the spaces between the plagues as she entered the monument and moved through the building with her armload of flowers. She walked to the back, as the names were listed alphabetically, and walked down one row until she found her father's name.
He had been killed about halfway through the war, when she was fifteen. She still remembered the officer who had come to their door to inform her mother of his passing, and the funeral they had held. He was buried in the cemetery near where they lived, but this was another way to honor his memory.
She knelt beside the stone bearing her father's name and arranged the flowers neatly in a vase. They were white lilies, a flower she and her mother loved, and her father had always given her mother them on their wedding anniversary.
Amaris remained seated beside her father's name for a long while, keeping a silent vigil and shedding more than a few quiet tears. Sometime later, she finally rose.
Having the last name of Streenan, her father's plague was near the back of the monument, and as Amaris walked slowly down a few rows, taking in the sights, her eyes were drawn to the plagues hanging on the back wall, and she walked towards them.
These were the names of all the Spartans who had been killed while protecting humanity from the Covenant. Divided by division, rank, and year, the names of the Spartan super soldiers lined the wall on five plagues, their inscribed names slightly larger than the others.
Amaris pressed a hand against her mouth as she observed the number of names. She reached out, touching the first plaque respectfully, in awe. She had heard a rumor that the casualty list of Spartans had finally been released, but seeing it was something completely different. She knew what she was going to do before she did it. Her steps were leaden as she moved to the other side of the plagues, reading the divisions at the top to tell her which one she wanted. She found the one she was looking for, second from the last, fourth of the five.
Not daring to breathe, she started slowly down the list. Tension and dread were building in her chest, but she could not stop. She had to know.
In the twenty years since Reach had fallen and she had been honorably discharged, she had not once heard from Ray, despite her abundance of prayers. She had no doubt that he cared for her the way she did for him—but her fear was that he was dead. Else, would he not have found her again by now?
She leaned over to touch the stone as she continued reading down the list. She was getting close, the names almost counting down to that one, that one that meant more to her than anything in the world—
And there it was. The letters spelling out 'Chief Petty Officer Raymond-G214' glared back at her as she stared at them, frozen, before her fingers brushed across their surface, feeling the shape and size of the carving, the sharp edges and the smooth stone.
The name stood out before her in sharp relief as her world crumpled around her.
Amaris stared dumbly at the letters for many minutes, and then she turned and went back to her father's plague and selected a single flower from the vase. Returning to Ray's memorial, she laid the flower beside his name. Then she left.
It started raining as she drove, and was pouring when she reached her hotel. She left her things in the car and walked to the door, seemingly not noticing the weather. She was soaked when she reached her room.
Standing, dripping, in the doorway was when the realization finally hit her.
Ray wasn't ever coming to come find her. He was gone. She would never grow old with him. He would be forever frozen in the memories of the best days of her life. That would be the only way she would ever see him. He would live only in her memories. And she would age, grow old, change—and he would remain forever the same, nothing more than a memory. She would never know what it would be like to grow old with him.
Suddenly she felt sick, and she bolted into the bathroom and wretched. Amaris fell to her knees, collapsing to the floor, her hands shaking. Her throat was tight and her chest ached —and then the dam broke loose and she dissolved into tears, sobs wracking her body as she curled despondently on the floor, beating her fists on the ground until they were bruised.
A long time later, she was aware of her surroundings again. Her cheek lay on the cool floor, her hair was matted from the rain water. Tears had dried on her face, her eyes were heavy and thick, and her body ached from the unusual position. She sat up and looked around, climbing stiffly to her feet. She dropped the clothes she wore to the floor and showered, but it did little to help her feel anymore normal.
How would she ever feel normal again? She had devotedly clung to his memory since she had last seen him in the hope that someday she would have the chance to relive that memory. There had been many opportunities over the years for her to move on, to find someone else. But even if she had wanted to try, she knew it would have been no use. She could not fall in love with someone when she was already in love with another man.
End Alternate Two.
Alternate Ending #3:
"You understand, of course, Corporal, that these circumstances are a very rare special case."
Indeed, she did. The Spartans had once been humanity's only hope, and billions of dollars had been spent on their training, augmentations and armor—so much that it warranted using the most advanced, and expensive, medical technology to fix them, to make them fighting fit again. Until now, apparently.
"These wounds are fixable. However, this Spartan has already suffered many injuries over the years which have required extensive repair. His body doesn't respond to the treatments as well as some of the younger models."
'Younger models'. She was the old one, not the crumpled form resting in the bed on the other side of the window. Years in cyro sleep had kept him looking about thirty—and that old only because the battlefield ages men twice as fast—while she looked about forty—which she was.
"The truth is, the newer Spartans put him to shame. We're grateful for his service, but there's no longer a need to spend such money on such extreme repairs. He'll live without them, he just won't be any good on the battlefield."
Really, the ONI officer was getting on her nerves. She was looking down on a face she had only dreamed about for the last twenty years, and he kept on talking. She knew where it was leading, and she didn't care. He was here, she didn't care what sort of condition he was in.
"However, Spartans live their entire lives in the military. He's no idea how to be a civilian. Which is where you come in. We need someone with a military history—you've served, your family has suffered casualties. You know what it's like to both be in the Navy and to deal with grief and trauma. And you have a history with this particular Spartan. Worked with him on a mission while stranded on a planet with the Covenant. Some of us think that bringing up an old face will only make it more stressful, but we were overruled. But the clincher is that you now have medical training. So…it's you."
That was all certainly true. And she was more than qualified to care for and rehabilitate an injured war hero. She had not been idle in her years as a civilian: she had gone back to school and was now a qualified nurse practitioner. She worked at the nearest veteran hospital, helping ex-soldiers and their families heal. It warmed her heart to help people. And it kept her near to the military—but she had never thought this would land in her lap.
"He'll be moved tomorrow. Expect him at 1100 hours. You're dismissed, Corporal."
The Great Lakes Medical and Rehabilitation Center housed long term patients, those who would need daily intensive physical therapy, as well as assistance with the most basic of needs. It helped to ease the families of the discharged, and helped the soldiers re-transition back into civilian lives, and help their families. Amaris had worked here for nearly a decade, and now oversaw the caretakers of the East wing. It was a busy life—but she preferred it that way.
Right on schedule, a military ambulance pulled into the Center's parking lot. Amaris saw it immediately and ordered her secretary to hold her calls as she left her desk and headed outside.
Ray had been unconscious for three days—one for surgery, and two to let him recover. They didn't know how he would react, sometimes Spartans coming out from under anesthesia thought that they were still on the battlefield and lashed out, and they wanted to give the wounds time to heal before risking that.
The Spartan-III was taken to the room on the end of East wing. Amaris hovered around the men as they worked. The ONI officer nodded to her and wished her luck, and then they left, and Amaris was alone with her thoughts.
Would Ray recognize her? Would he even remember her? Had he changed much in the years that separated them? Would he still find her attractive? She sat in the room's lone chair, perched on the edge, watching the sleeping face, a face she had seen many times in her dreams.
He had acquired new scars in the twenty years they had been apart. She reached out slowly and gently traced one that arced down his right temple, and then brushed one marring the underside of his chin. Unable to resist, she traced her fingertips lightly over his lips, remembering how wonderful it had been to kiss him.
The Spartan moved slightly then, his brow furrowing. Amaris jerked her hand back and jumped as one of the Spartans' hands came up to touch his forehead, and his eyes opened, blinking in the light and struggling to focus.
"Ray?" Amaris said, causing him to start and look at her. "How do you feel?" The Spartan stared at her, then slowly pushed himself up right, and looked around, wincing as he did so.
"Just relax, you've suffered some bad injuries," she said warily, but he didn't stop, rolling over until he could fully see her.
"Amaris," he said, and it wasn't a question; he knew who she was. "You're here." His voice was gravelly from not being used.
Amaris nodded. "Yes, I'm here."
"What happened?" he asked.
"You were injured in battle," she said. "You've been discharged, Ray, and placed under my care. I don't know if your leg will ever fully heal, but you'll be fine. You…you remember me?"
The Spartan reached a hand out, then paused with a painful grunt. She placed hers hand in his, and his gratitude showed on his face.
"Of course I remember you," he said. "I couldn't stop thinking about you."
Amaris smiled, her vision blurry, and embraced him gently, careful of his injuries. The Spartan threw caution to the wind and wrapped both arms around her fiercely, pulling her half onto the bed with him.
"Be careful," she made herself say, even though she didn't want him to ever let go. Ray eased his hold slightly, and she leaned back, looking down at him. His eyes searched her face, a smile tugging at one corner of his mouth. Then, surprising her, he pulled her down to him and caught her lips powerfully with his own, kissing her until her head spun.