Okay, so I may have been in a sappy mood and listening to Adele's 'Someone Like You' last night. This came to mind. I hope nobody's getting sick of Nomad and Lowlight. If you are...sorry, but this is another one!
It was a beautiful night. The stars were out. It was warm, but a cool breeze waved through the few wisps of fluffy white hair that he had left.
They sat on the porch, on the old swinging chair that she'd always loved. It wasn't as comfortable now as it used to be, when they were younger, but that didn't matter.
She leaned her head against his chest, the way she used to, years ago. He slipped an arm around her shoulder and glanced down. Her eyes were closed.
He remembered the first day he'd met her. It was around fifty years ago, now, but it was as clear in his mind as if it had been yesterday.
"You've got the new kid on the range today, Lowlight."
The sniper looked up at Duke. "The new girl?"
The top sergeant nodded. "Uh huh. Nomad. Put her through her paces. See what she's got. She's supposed to be good."
Lowlight nodded, grabbing his sniper rifle and slinging it across his back. "Sure," he replied shortly.
He'd heard there was a new Joe around the Pit - of course he had. People never stopped talking around here. Apparently, she'd trounced Shipwreck at breakfast after he'd snuck up on her.
Well, anybody who trounced Shipwreck couldn't be all that bad, could they?
Lowlight allowed himself a small smirk, then straightened his face as the trenches came into view. Leatherneck and Wetsuit were already there. Both were looking at somebody Lowlight couldn't see yet.
"You need help with that rifle?" Wetsuit, the Navy SEAL, was asking.
"Nope," came the reply, "I'm good."
Lowlight stepped closer, treading silently, positioning himself so his shadow wouldn't give him away.
The newbie was young - twenty-three, Duke had said - with fair skin and chin length dark hair pulled back in an almost pointless ponytail. She wore BDUs, and she'd just finished readying her paintball-loaded assault rifle.
"How good?" Wetsuit pressed.
He could hear the grin in her voice. "Well, give me some good ground cover and I'm pretty sneaky."
Lowlight knelt by the edge of the trench and studied her as she looked at the ground. "Let's see."
She didn't answer - Lowlight wondered if she was ignoring him, but when he spoke again and her head snapped around to look up at him, he thought it more likely she just hadn't heard him. "I said let's see."
Her eyes were dark, and she had big, dark circles under them. Didn't look like she got much sleep.
He knew the feeling. "I'm Lowlight. I'll be your range instructor."
He smiled to himself, remembering those old days. So long ago. She'd impressed him that day, though he'd never told her. It wasn't often anyone got a hit on Leatherneck, but one of her paintballs had nicked his arm - and while she'd been on the run from the Marine and the SEAL, she'd also managed to hit most of the targets he'd popped up for her.
He'd slowly got to know her. He liked her; she was a good soldier, not bad with a rifle, a little shabby in combat, but competent enough.
He'd wondered, though, like most of them had - why didn't she sleep? What was her deal?
He'd been curious. It wasn't like him, but…well, he'd wanted to know.
Lowlight strode down the corridor, heading for the training room, ready for another keep-me-awake workout.
A flicker in the corner of his eye caught his attention. He turned to see the TV in the rec room glowing. Some moron must've left it on.
He headed into the room, but stopped as he heard a low mutter from the sofa. He froze, listening, ready to back out silently if it was Jaye and Flint. He didn't need to see that.
He crept forward and peered over the back of the sofa to see Nomad tossing and turning, her eyes moving beneath her eyelids. Dreaming.
No. Not dreaming. You didn't plead with people when you were dreaming. She was having a nightmare.
Lowlight knew about nightmares.
He moved around the couch and leaned over her, shaking her shoulder gently. "Hey. Wake up."
Nomad's eyes shot open, and Lowlight was taken by surprise as she launched herself at him. He landed hard on his back, with her on top of him. Her eyes were wild, haunted, and he felt a sudden pang of sorrow for her. Whatever she'd been dreaming about, it had been bad. "Let me guess. Bad dream?"
He felt the moment that she recognised his voice - her entire body relaxed. She let go of his shirt, and he rolled her off him and stood up.
He tried to get it out of her - tried to get her to open up. He knew he was on the right track when he asked if Goldilocks had been the one who gave her the scar on her arm; she got defensive.
He liked her; whatever her deal was, he didn't want to see her get kicked out because of it.
Of course, he didn't tell her that.
Her breathing was slow and deep. Peaceful. She was sleeping now.
He looked out over the backyard, over the small property that they called their own. It wasn't much, but it was…well, for him, it was home.
She called it home, too, but he knew her heart would always be at the Pit. She'd been given her codename for a reason.
She only called this place home because he was here.
He could still pinpoint the exact moment he'd realised he was falling in love with her.
Lowlight was a little too conscious of his leg pressing against Nomad's as they sat side by side in the back of the APC, heading up a bumpy mountain road in the Middle of Nowhere, Guatemala. There was a Cobra base to assault, and they were almost at their destination. Lowlight was fine with that. He knew what he was doing. The others knew what they were doing.
It was the odds that were against them.
Once the APC slowed to a halt, Lowlight turned to Nomad. "Watch yourself."
"You, too," she answered.
He left her and the rest of the team, creeping silently through the forest until he came to the rocky side of the mountain itself. Heclimbed, freehand, to a point on an outcrop of rock not far from the Cobra base. He set up his sniper rifle. Then he waited, keeping to the shadows, making sure no glint of light bounced off the scope mounted on the gun.
A couple of hours later, the assault began. Lowlight, lying flat on his belly on his outcrop, picked off Cobra troops one by one, aiming for the ones who got through the barrage of fire laid down by Rock 'n' Roll in the APC's gun turret and the rest of the Joes. Once he had a target in his sights, he never missed.
And then he'd spotted Nomad and Lifeline, cornered by a snake who'd slipped around behind them, unseen. Nomad had put herself in front of the medic - the Cobra troop's gun was pointed right at her.
Lowlight's heart quickened. No way in hell was he going to let her die.
He squeezed the trigger. The man's head exploded, showering Nomad with a spray of blood and brains. She briefly turned to look up at the mountainside - her eyes passed over his position - and then she got back to business.
Lowlight let out a breath he hadn't known he was holding.
And that was when he realised it. In the middle of a bloody battle, Lowlight realised that he was slowly, but surely, falling in love.
They'd both been through a lot in their lifetimes - more than most other people could even imagine. Both of them had been broken - he by an abusive father, she by a corrupt commanding officer who'd killed her entire unit and then tortured her.
Eventually - after a whole lot of dancing around and even more…encouragement…from their comrades-in-arms, they found comfort in each other.
Of course, there'd been hard times. One of the hardest had been after he'd been shot while providing cover fire for her in the dense jungle of Sierra Gordo. He'd been hit seven times in the chest. He still had the faded, white scars. She'd resigned, unable to deal with the thought of losing more friends.
And then, after two months, she'd been abducted by Cobra.
"Intel says she's being held on Cobra Island," Hawk said, glancing around at the Joes sitting in the briefing room. "We look after our own. I once made a promise to her that I wouldn't leave her on Cobra Island if she was taken there. I keep my promises. I want her back. Who else does?"
Everyone in the room raised their hands quickly, but Lowlight's was up first.
"That's what I like to see," Hawk said approvingly.
After the briefing, Lowlight headed straight to the armoury to get ready.
He sensed the presence with him in the room before he heard anything. He turned to see Snake Eyes leaning against the doorframe. Even with the mask and visor covering the ninja's face, Lowlight knew he was earning a serious look.
The mute ninja's hands began to fly, but he slowed down when Lowlight shook his head, unable to read the signs - not in the state he was in. *She's going to be okay. She's strong. You know what she's been through better than the rest of us.*
He didn't know why he said it. Maybe it was because Snakes was always so silent. Maybe it was because he couldn't keep it in anymore. "I can't lose her, Snakes."
*You're not going to.*
Lowlight shook his head, put his rifle down and leaned on the prep counter in front of him. "What if -"
Snake Eyes crossed the room - audibly, for a change - and put a hand on his shoulder, turning Lowlight so he could see the ninja signing. *We're going to get her back.* He gestured to the gun. *Get ready. We leave soon.*
There was no questioning a ninja. Lowlight nodded. "Thanks, Snakes." He paused. "Hey -"
Snake Eyes turned as he reached the door. *Don't worry. I won't tell anyone that you showed some emotion for once.*
Despite himself, Lowlight had to grin - it was the first time he'd grinned for a little while.
It was hard to doubt the man in black. Lowlight felt a surge of hope.
He was going to get Nomad back.
She'd been bleeding, the scars - both mental and physical - that her old CO had given her torn open again. But the Joes had got her back.
Doped up on Lifeline's painkillers, she'd stumbled over to him in the back of the C-130 cargo plane flying them back to the Flagg, where she and the other wounded would receive medical treatment.
He hadn't let her go, not even when she'd fallen asleep. He'd barely left her side.
They'd been through a lot since then - both hard times, and good. They were two of the few - the sadly rare few - who got a happy ending.
So many of them never got their happy ending. Too many of their friends died young, taken in battle. That was how it went. They'd all known what they'd signed up for. Freedom was bought with the lives of soldiers.
But, somehow, the two of them had made it.
"Do you, Cooper MacBride, take this woman to be your wife?"
"And will you, Sherry Leona, take this man to be your husband?"
Lowlight looked at Nomad. Nomad looked at Lowlight.
"Well, what're ya waitin' for?" a familiar voice called. "Kiss 'er, already!"
They both glanced at the small gathering, smiling at the man in the front row and the woman sitting beside him, glaring. Then, the woman turned, grinning mischievously. "Actually, it's not a bad idea. Get on with it!"
Lowlight smiled at Nomad. She blushed prettily - he liked it when she blushed. And then, shoving her bouquet of roses at the celebrant, she grabbed the front of his dress uniform and pressed her lips to his, to the accompanying cheers of friends and family.
He knew without looking. It felt like something had just switched off inside his chest.
She was gone. Peacefully, in her sleep - something he knew she'd never thought would happen.
He held her in his arms, arms that were no longer strong and muscular, but were just as loving as they had been all those years ago. He kissed the top of her head, smoothing the flyaway grey hair that had once been sleek and black.
Then, he gently laid her down on the swinging chair, kissed her forehead once more, and shuffled inside, his heart aching and a tear or two sliding down his wrinkled, weathered cheek. He had to call the hospital. Tomorrow, he'd start making arrangements.
Two weeks later, in the pages of several certain newspapers across the country - none of them chosen at random - a small notice appeared on the classifieds pages. It was unobtrusive, forgettable, barely even noticeable.
Unless, of course, you knew what to look for. But not many did, anymore.
There weren't many left who did.
The notices were submitted anonymously, typed up and folded into envelopes together with the money required to print them. Each read simply:
He Joins His Beloved Wife, Sherry,
In Eternal Peace.