Title: The Shirt
Author: Shenandoah Risu
Rating
: PG
Content Flags: hanky warning
Spoilers/ Season: up to "Sabotage"/ SGU season 1
Summary: It's a long way from one galaxy to the next.
Characters: Vanessa James
Author's Notes: written for prompt #15 "New Discoveries" at the LJ Comm sgu_challenge.
Disclaimer: I don't own SGU. I wouldn't know what to do with it. Now, Young... Young I'd know what to do with... ;-)
Thanks for reading! FEEDBACK OR REVIEWS ARE VERY MUCH APPRECIATED AND WILL RECEIVE A PERSONAL RESPONSE. ;-)

oOo

The Shirt

It's a long way from one galaxy to the next.

There's the yoga class on Monday nights, trivia on Tuesdays, karaoke on Wednesdays, Ancient language class on Thursdays, storytelling on Fridays, Brody's Still's liquor testing on Saturdays and clothes maintenance class aka knitting, darning and patching on Sundays.

During the days they rotate on teams cleaning the common areas, cataloguing rooms, processing food, tending to the plants in the hydroponics lab, making repairs and exploring new parts of the ship. They all work out 2 hours a day, and someone different leads the exercise program each time.

They all moan and groan at the routine, but they know they have to stick with it to keep their sanity, and they all look forward to making landfall in the next galaxy.

Vanessa James volunteers for the exploration team as much as she can. It's a nasty, dirty and dangerous job, but after discovering she was indirectly responsible for sabotaging the FTL drives it helps her to atone for her feelings of guilt.

She leads her team down a dark corridor and peeks through a window at the end.

"OK, we're in position, doc. Open the doors, please."

Dr. Inman touches the panel and the doors groan open with a hiss and a clang.

The room is dark, and a quick survey via flashlight reveals a small console near the door. Dunning squeezes past her and touches the dial, and the room's lights flicker on.

Inman takes a look around. "Another auxiliary control room, methinks," she says and makes a note on her pad. They send a kino around to take stills and live footage and then they turn off the lights again.

They're about to move on when Vanessa spots a white object out of the corner of her eye.

"Wait here," she tells her team, and slips back into the room. Carefully training her rifle on the white something in the far corner she realizes it's a square package of white fabric.

"That's odd," she mutters. "I could have sworn nobody's been down this way before."

She picks it up.

It's an ordinary white men's shirt with faint colored pinstripes,

And suddenly, the shock of recognition tears through her like a bolt of lightning.

It's Franklin's shirt.

There's no doubt – his size, a hole in the right sleeve where Greer's bullet had penetrated, and the washed-out blood stain beneath it.

She feels the sting in her eyes.

"You ok?" comes Dr. Inman's voice.

She shakes her head and holds up the shirt.

Inman pales.

"He was here?"

Vanessa shakes her head. "I don't know. He disappeared from the chair room, not a trace…"

She turns slowly, tucking the shirt into her vest. Taking a deep breath she pulls herself together, and they finish inventorying the hallway.

Later on she reports to Colonel Young and he looks absolutely stricken at the sight of the shirt, touching it as if to make sure it's really there.

"You took care of him," he finally says, softly. "Maybe it's his way of saying thanks. Wherever – whatever – he is, now."

He holds it out to her.

She takes it wordlessly and leaves.

oOo

She talks to him, sometimes. Nothing major – just what she did that day, what they discovered, what they learned in class, funny things revealed in trivia, and how they all know how to mend clothes now.

She was never friends with him, but she took care of him for so long, feeding him, washing him and cleaning him up after an accident, that his departure has left a gaping hole in her heart.

And one night, she puts on the shirt before she goes to bed.

"Thanks for the gift," she whispers.