Disclaimer: Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future belongs to Landmark Entertainment Corporation. No infringement intended.
"Oh, I couldn't possibly…." Jennifer gasped, gazing at the foreign garment being held in front of her.
"But you'd be doing me a favor. I haven't been able to fit into this gown for ages, and it was my grandmother's. I just want to remember what it looked like. You're just her size. And besides, it would be perfect for…"
"But I've never even worn a…a…dress…before," Jennifer cut in, letting the word 'dress' roll off her tongue for the first time in her life. "I wouldn't even know how to act or walk in it, let alone be comfortable in it."
"I just want you to try it on. Please? For me?" Dr. Jasmine Rice begged.
Jennifer quickly realized that she wouldn't be able to turn down the doctor's request; the look on the woman's face gave away how much this would mean to her. After all, she did save Jennifer's life a few months ago after the attack at the base.
It was a miracle for Jennifer to even be alive. Her power suit had powered down early in the battle for control of the base, leaving her vulnerable to Blastarr's lasers that crushed bones, ripped apart muscles, and tore through vital organs. Those injuries alone would have been enough to kill her, but somehow she even survived the manual self-destruct of the base.
At the time of the explosion, her team thought her dead for sure and did not bother to sift through the pulverized rubble. But it was Scout who had returned two days later to see if he could salvage any leftover electrical equipment to re-use at the new base. His visit went against Captain Jonathon Power's order, who did not want anyone going back because he was too consumed with grief to return to the site of his personal nightmare. Scout was completely shocked and amazed when he found Jennifer buried but protected under a section of collapsed wall. She was unconscious and barely breathing, hanging on to her last precious minutes of life. Scout brought her immediately to Dr. Rice at the Passages and the good doctor did what she could. Several touch-and-go surgeries later and after weeks of being in a coma, Jennifer woke up from the brink of death.
Jennifer eyed the dress again with caution and then glanced back up at Jasmine. Jasmine had that hard-to-resist pleading glint in her eyes.
"Well…..okay….I guess I can do it for you, after all you've done for me," Jennifer said. "But I'm just trying it on….I'm NOT wearing it to the party," Jennifer warned as the dress was placed into her hands.
"Uh huh," Jasmine replied with a smile. "Here, let me help you put it on."
After months of staying at the Passages for rehabilitation from her injuries, Jennifer was still moving rather slowly. Full recovery would take some time, but she was finally declared well enough to return back to her team, who were busy rebuilding a new base at Northstar. The people of the Passages had grown to know and love Jennifer well during her extended stay, and they wanted to give her a sending off party. Her team was coming for the party and then taking her home for good.
The dress went on over her head and then slinked down around her body, hugging her curves in all the right places and accentuating her tiny waist. It was a floor length satin gown, ivory in color, with thin spaghetti straps and a low sweetheart neckline. As she turned to look in the full-length mirror, Jennifer took in a breath. "Oh!" she cried in surprise, looking at herself for the first time in a dress, not believing what she was seeing.
Jasmine came up behind Jennifer and gently pulled out the elastic band that held Jennifer's hair in her signature pony tail. Her natural blonde waves cascaded down around her face and rested on shoulders.
"Beautiful," Jasmine murmured.
"It is, isn't it?" Jennifer reacted, smoothing out the fabric around her waist, mesmerized at the image of herself in the mirror.
"The Captain will stop breathing, guaranteed, when he sees you in this," Jasmine offered.
Upon hearing that statement, Jennifer immediately tensed up and went into panic mode. "No. No way. I can't let the guys see me in this. They'll never let me hear the end of it. I'm a Corporal. A pilot. I'm not supposed to look like…" Jennifer held out her hand, gesturing toward the mirror, searching for the right word to say.
"A woman?" Jasmine finished her sentence for her.
Jennifer sighed in defeat and dropped her hand to her side. "This is all so new to me. I told him I loved him, but I thought I was going to die. I didn't expect to still be alive. I think it just made everything more complicated. I can see it in his eyes that he cares for me, but he still hasn't even acknowledged my confession to him."
The kind doctor took hold of Jennifer's arm in a comforting gesture and motioned her to sit down. The two had become close since Jennifer's extended stay at the Passages. Jennifer never knew what it meant to have a mother, but Jasmine took Jennifer under her wing as if she were her own daughter.
"My dear Jennifer. I saw how affected Jonathon was when he thought he was going to lose you, when you almost didn't survive. He wouldn't leave your side for days. You mean more to him then he has ever been able to express in words. It's time for the two of you to have an honest talk."
"He wanted to talk, after the mission when I would have returned from the base. I got the feeling that he was going to remind me that he's my commanding officer, that regardless of how we feel about each other, the war is more important. I think maybe he's right."
"Maybe," Jasmine conceded. "And if that's his answer, then you two will have to find a way to live with that. But you're never going to know unless you talk it out with him. Jonathon has been doing a lot of soul searching since the explosion at the base. You can't ignore these feelings anymore, and neither can he."
Jennifer sat quiet, thinking about how so much had changed in her life. She didn't even know about feelings and love and relationships a few years ago when she was part of the Dread Youth. And now that Jon knew she loved him, it would change everything. How they live, how they work together and fight the war. Jon had been so protective around her lately. Maybe things would go back to normal if they just forgot the whole thing. Or did they really have a chance for happiness together as a couple?
"Wear the dress tonight," Jasmine urged with a smile, breaking Jennifer out of her deep thoughts.
"But the guys…"
"They know how tough you are. You've proven that over and over again in battle. You took out a whole squadron of troopers and a Bio-Dread all by yourself and were willing to sacrifice your life to save the Resistance. Your team sees you as their equal, and more than that, they respect you. That will never change. I think you should wear the dress because it would be an unexpected surprise. Take a chance. Don't be afraid to live life. Embrace it. Celebrate it!"
Scout found Hawk lying on his back with tools in hand, tinkering underneath the Jumpship.
"You got 'er tuned up yet?" Scout asked, slapping the outer haul of the ship with his hand. "Not that it will help any. You know, when Pilot gets back, she's going to realize just how crazy you've been flying this thing lately."
"I blame Soaron for the way I've had to fly this thing lately," Hawk replied bitterly. "Pilot will understand." He pulled himself out from under all the electrical wiring and sat up. "Anyway, I don't care if she gives me grief about it. I've actually missed being scolded by her," he said longingly with a sad smile.
Scout reached out a hand to Hawk and helped him to his feet. "You and me both. It will be so good to have her back."
"We need to leave soon," Tank said, approaching. "Captain is getting antsy."
"I bet he is," Hawk replied. "And you're sure he still doesn't know about the…"
"I haven't told him anything" Tank interrupted. "Why don't you trust me?"
Scout shook his head. "You may be the biggest and strongest, but you're a softy at heart. I'm surprised you haven't spilled the beans."
"Spilled the beans on what?" Captain Jonathan Power asked, walking towards his team.
"Oh, nothing." Hawk quickly replied. "We were just discussing that we probably shouldn't tell Pilot about all the adventures the Jumpship has been on recently."
Captain's eyes sparkled with amusement. "You're not going to have to tell her. She'll just know."
"That's what I said," Scout laughed.
"Gentlemen! It's time to get our Pilot back!" Captain announced enthusiastically. "Is this bucket of bolts ready to fly?"
"I just received word that the Jumpship has arrived," Jasmine announced to Jennifer with a smile. "Are you ready?"
Jennifer took one last look in the mirror and was suddenly overcome with those same feelings that she could never remember what they were called. But she usually felt this way whenever she thought about telling Jon how she felt about him. She reached for her stomach with a shaky hand and blew out a nervous breath. "What do you call it again when you feel like you're about to burst inside?"
"You mean you have butterflies in your stomach?" Jasmine laughed.
"Yeah, that. How do I get rid of them?"
Dr. Rice grabbed Jennifer's hands in hers. "You're going to be just fine. You look amazing in this dress. Now, come with me."
Jennifer followed Jasmine through the halls of the living quarters and out into the community area. After going through a series of more hallways and doorways, Jennifer became lost. She had never been in this part of the building before.
"Where are we going?"
"You'll see!" Jasmine swung open two grand double doors to reveal a ballroom decorated with mirrored walls framed in gold, fragrant colorful flowers placed in huge vases all around, and glistening crystal chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. In the middle of the room was a table for two, beautifully covered in crisp linens and set with fine china, all lit by the soft glow of candlelight.
"What is all of this?" Jennifer gasped in awe.
Jasmine started to walk out of the room. "Just wait here!" she said as she made a quick exit and closed the doors behind her.
"No one told me this was a formal party," Captain complained to Hawk while exiting the Jumpship.
"Will you just put it on already? Dr. Rice insisted, and she said if you didn't wear this you wouldn't get to see Jennifer."
"Why aren't you guys all dressed up then?" Captain stopped to look around at his team as he took the tuxedo from Hawk.
The guys just stood in a line, not saying a word, looking innocently at anything else other than their Captain.
"Okay, will someone please tell me what is going on here?" Captain said impatiently.
"Hello, Jonathon!" Dr. Jasmine Rice entered to greet her guests.
"Dr. Rice," Captain greeted back.
"Oh, now this silly thing you call a uniform that you're wearing just simply won't do. Come with me and I have a place where you can change."
"What?" Captain was completely taken aback as Jasmine grabbed his arm and led him away. Jon looked back at his team and they smiled mischievously and waved goodbye to him.
"But I don't understand...I thought..." Jon stopped speaking when Jasmine opened the doors to the ballroom and pushed him inside. He was confused when she disappeared behind him and closed the doors shut, apparently leaving him alone in the ballroom.
But he wasn't alone.
Jennifer turned around to see who had entered the room. She did a double-take as she had never seen her Captain dressed in a tuxedo before.
"Jon?" Her heart fluttered and she was immediately attracted to his handsome features. She started to walk towards him, forgetting that she herself was dressed very different than normal.
He was frozen in place at the sight of her. The way the candlelight played on her skin and the softness of her hair and the shimmer of the satin dress that wisped around her curves as she moved; he was captivated.
When she finally stood directly in front of him, she smiled and said, "I think we've been tricked."
He couldn't stop staring at her and he found that he couldn't speak either. It was starting to make Jennifer uncomfortable as the silence between them grew. And then she remembered what she was wearing and she suddenly became very self-conscious. She covered her cleavage with one hand and dropped her gaze to the floor as she blushed, wishing she was in her uniform thinking that he hated the dress.
"I...I...knew I shouldn't have worn this dress...Jasmine made me wear it, I didn't want to..."
"Jennifer," Jon finally spoke tenderly, his voice cracking with emotion. He placed two fingers under her chin and lifted her face up so he could look into her eyes. "You are so beautiful," he whispered as he caressed her cheek. "So beautiful that I just forgot how to breathe."
She saw honesty in his eyes and felt the tingle on her cheek from his touch and relaxed a little, though she still felt timid. No man had ever paid her such a compliment on her looks. She certainly was not used to this kind of attention and she didn't know what to say. Now it was her turn to be speechless as she just smiled shyly and held his beguiling gaze.
The kitchen doors on the opposite end of the ballroom swung open and broke the spell. Hawk came out dressed as a waiter and proceeded to the middle of the room. "Dinner is served," he called out in a fake French accent, trying to sound like a chef. Then a bustle of activity came out of the kitchen when both Scout and Tank appeared with platters of food on carts that they wheeled toward the table for two.
Jon and Jennifer looked incredulously at Hawk, Scout, and Tank, and then looked back at each other and started laughing. "Yes, I do believe we have been tricked," Jon said to Jennifer.
With the team back together for the first time in months, Jennifer immediately felt like herself again. She was with her family. How she missed them.
Hawk walked up to the couple and gave a cat-call whistle to Jennifer. "Well look at you. Don't you look lovely tonight!"
Scout came over and grabbed Jennifer's hand and turned her around in a graceful and gentle spin, being mindful of her still-healing injuries. "You're saving a dance for me, right?"
Tank stood by with a smile and offered, "You won't have time, Scout. You're the dish washer."
Scout growled at Tank. Jon took hold of Jennifer's other hand and pulled her out of Scout's grasp. "I believe she's my date for the evening," Jon asserted his authority to end the argument.
Hawk whispered in Jon's ear, "Yes she is, so don't blow it," eliciting a smile from Jon who was the only one who heard that statement.
"Trust him to pull rank," Jennifer shrugged her shoulders at Scout, as Jon led her to the table and helped her get seated.
When both Jennifer and Jon were seated, Scout and Tank headed back to the kitchen while Hawk unveiled the evening's dishes by removing the covers to the platters with a "Voila!"
"Where on earth did you get steak?" Jon asked, impressed by the spread before him.
"Did you guys find Eden II and forget to tell me?" Jennifer added with a giggle as Hawk uncorked the wine.
Ignoring their questions, Hawk cleared his throat and began his prepared speech. "On behalf of myself, Scout, Tank, and the great people of The Passages, we wish to give the two of you a special evening alone, not only to celebrate Jennifer's recovery, but because we've seen the two of you dance around your feelings for one another for a long time now. There's no hiding it anymore. And now you have a second chance. So, enjoy this time together. Enjoy each other."
Jon and Jennifer eyed each other, finally acknowledging within themselves that it was time to be honest with each other about how they felt. Hawk quietly excused himself from the room to leave them alone.
"Is it really that obvious to everyone?" Jennifer asked innocently as she started cutting a piece of her steak.
"It is now, after I went crazy almost losing you," Jon admitted sincerely.
Jennifer's ears perked at hearing his confession. Jon poured the wine and handed her a glass.
"To second chances," he toasted, raising his glass.
"To second chances," Jennifer agreed and clinked her glass against his. After taking a sip, she was brave enough to ask, "What do you mean when you said you went…crazy?"
Jon thought back to that awful time two months ago. "I was out of my mind, Jennifer. After hearing what you said before you blew the base...and how I never got to say it back...and then thinking you were dead, and then later finding you barely alive wondering if you were going to survive..."
"You would have said it back?"
Jon was dumbfounded. Did she really not know how he felt about her? He finished chewing his steak, wiped his mouth with a napkin and stood up. He made his way over to Jennifer and held out his hand for her to take. "We really need to finish that talk...dance with me?"
The butterflies in her stomach were back for Jennifer. Here it comes, now or never, she thought. Wordlessly she touched her fingers to his palm and he wrapped his hand around hers as she got up from the chair. They strolled together over to the dance floor and then stood face to face. In what seemed like slow motion, Jon took Jennifer in his arms and held her close. He pressed a kiss to her forehead as they started to gently sway in place. Jennifer then rested her head into his chest as he held her even tighter. She felt his breath against her hair as he spoke.
"The truth is, Jennifer, I fell in love with you a long time ago, shortly after we found you when you escaped from the Dread Youth. I just couldn't voice it because you were still learning what it meant to be human, to have feelings. I didn't want to scare you or confuse you. And then when you finally broke through Dread's brainwashing and the ways of the Machine, I still held back because I'm your superior officer. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that the war needed to come first. I had to set my feelings aside to lead the Resistance."
Jennifer stopped dancing and broke away from his hold. A look of disappointment was written on her face though her voice held strong. "I understand. I really do. I suppose that's why I held back too, because somehow I knew that would be your answer, that the war is more important..."
Jon quickly caught on to her misunderstanding and wanted to set the record straight. "But it's not," he blurted out.
He closed the space between them and captured both of her hands and gave them a squeeze.
"No," he replied softly. "I thought it was, but I was wrong."
"What changed your mind?" Jennifer asked, bewildered.
"When I thought you were dead...for two days until Scout found you barely alive, I couldn't function. Matt took over as leader of the team. I lost my desire to fight. I gave up. And I was consumed with guilt and regret. You were all I could think about. I missed you so much. I kept hearing your voice over and over, your last words to me. I just couldn't deal with the idea of you being gone forever. All I wanted to do was hold you in my arms and tell you how much I love you."
Jennifer saw the raw emotion in his watery eyes as he recalled the pain he had gone through.
"Jon," she whispered.
He held her face in his hands. Staring at her lips, he made his move. The kiss was soft and pliable, gentle and loving, yet needy and filled with longing. When they parted, Jennifer couldn't hold back her happy tears. She swiped away the wetness on her face as Jon once again held her to him and planted another kiss on the top of her head. Their bodies instinctively started to sway in place again, picking up their dance where they left off.
"We still have a war to fight," Jennifer brought up after a moment.
"Yes, we do," he sighed.
"And you're still my superior officer."
"Yes, I am."
"But we are in love."
Jon laughed as he ran his hand over her hair. "Yes, we are."
After some thinking, Jon got serious and said, "We'll have to be careful. We'll have to stay professional in our missions and only be together like this during down time at the base, away from the public so no one can use our feelings for each other against us..."
"And of course you can't play favorites..."
"And you'll still have to follow my orders...which you need to improve on, by the way..."
"But you won't be able to protect me all the time...you need to let me do my job."
Jon didn't like the first part of that one. "We'll look out for each other, just like we always do," he answered, then reached in for a quick kiss to her lips.
Jennifer nodded in agreement. "…And the guys?" she asked, hesitantly.
"You're worried about their reaction?" Jon pulled away slightly to look in her eyes.
"Well, I just want to make sure they're okay with us being…in love," she replied, still getting used to saying that phrase.
"Look what they did for us tonight. I think they will be plenty supportive. And if not, then I'll pull rank and make them," Jon smiled.
"Aye, Captain!" Jennifer laughed.
They continued holding each other on the dance floor until Jennifer got a little dizzy and swooned in his arms.
"You okay?" he asked with concern.
"Sorry, I guess I'm not quite used to being on my feet for this long."
"No, I'm sorry. I know you still need to take it easy and here I am tiring you out with dancing. I guess I just can't get enough of holding you close," he confessed.
"Keep that thought, we can continue later," she replied, taking the initiative this time to capture his lips to hers.
When she pulled out of the kiss, he pulled her in again for another.
"I guess I just can't get enough of kissing you, either," he smiled after they finally broke apart.
"Looks like I'll just have to get used to it, then," she flirted back.
His eyes shining, he guided her back to the table. "Come on, let's sit down and finish our dinner."
"How I can ever thank you for all you've done," Jennifer said while hugging Jasmine goodbye.
"I'm going to miss you, Jennifer. Be sure to come for a visit soon," Jasmine responded.
Jon shook Jasmine's hand. "Thank you so much, Doctor. Call on us anytime you need anything. We'll be here."
"Thank you, Jonathon. Best of luck to you and your team."
"Ready to go?" Jon looked at Jennifer.
Jennifer looked over the faces of her teammates and couldn't stop smiling. "Only if I get to fly Her!"
"There's no other way we would want it, kid," Hawk answered for all of them.
They climbed into the Jumpship and went to their stations. Jennifer reclaimed her spot in the pilot's seat.
"It's so good to see you in that chair," Scout said.
"It's so good to be in this chair," Jennifer replied.
"Welcome back!" Tank exclaimed.
"Take us out, Pilot," Captain commanded.
Jennifer started up the engines and noticed a bit of a sputter before it kicked into full gear.
"Hawk, what did you do to my ship?" Jennifer yelled.