Dr. Russell promptly contacted Alpha's top medical technicians, presenting them with the Kiakrop, and explained what it did. All in Medical Center were not just eager to see if the device could be adapted to their computer but were also very please to see their CMO returned to them. They affirmed that the medical unit was not the same without her leadership.
However, Helena had yet to change out of her Simtag gown, so eager she was to get to Medical Center, and her outfit was positively distracting. She was inundated with questions, outside of her medical expertise; women wanting to know what the fabric was and if it could be copied and the men, like Alan Carter before them, were just happy taking in the view and talking quietly and rather lasciviously with one another.
Dr. Russell, the proficient, was dismayed by their unprofessional manner but Helena, the woman, was somewhat amused. Nevertheless, after awhile, she had become quite exhausted. The fatigue that settled in her shoulders and legs displayed itself with half closed eyes and a slightly raw voice.
"Take the rest of the night off, doctor." Dr. Vincent ordered, "You need to unwind. We and the Kiakrop will still be here in the morning."
"You're right." she said, "Thanks, Ben." She looked about at the rest of her staff, "Goodnight, everyone."
Commander Koenig checked in with all sections, advising them of his return and listening to various reports from each section that all was well within Moonbase Alpha. He was especially interested in the items Rauley gave them, wondering if there were any latent problems, but he was advised that all were working, with adjustments, perfectly.
That was, at least, something to be pleased about. Despite their ordeal, a fraction of good managed to come out of the encounter. It would not make up for his heartache and a fear that probably took several years off his lifespan, but it would do for now.
After a perfunctory visit to Command Center, where he gave Tony Verdeschi a grunt of acknowledgement and final instructions - but little else - Koenig walked to Helena's. The searching expression on Tony's face, a near hope of their man-bond, did not escape Koenig's attention but, right now, he just did not want to deal with him. He couldn't. Verdeschi's failure was still too raw and the Commander needed to be away from him.
There was only one person tonight he wanted to connect with.
When he entered she was just emerging from the bathroom, wearing her favorite pair of blue silky pajamas. Helena had removed the gown, taken the jewels from her hair, and had scrubbed off her heavy make-up. Now, she wore only a tentative but warm smile and, in her simplicity, was purely beautiful.
Koenig crossed to her quickly and took Helena in his arms, holding her affectionately. Alone at last, he thought, relishing the feel of her body against his own. It was hard to believe that only a few short days ago he thought he might never see her again.
Helena savored his touch, his strong yet gentle embrace, as he encircled her. Then, she reluctantly told him a hot shower was waiting. She nodded over to where his own pajamas lay at the foot of her bed. He kissed her temple softly and did as he was told; showering hastily and donning said night-wear and a robe.
When he came out she had soft music playing. Jazz. Their favorite.
Helena was sitting on the sofa, in front of the coffee table, and there was a small spread of cheese, crackers and a bottle of wine. Two glasses, already poured, were waiting.
Koenig smiled appreciatively and sat beside her, "Dresnik?" he asked.
"Yes." He was their local bottler, a rival of Tony's when it came to perfecting the best alcoholic beverage. Fortunately, Dresnik seemed to know what he was doing.
"When did you have time to get this?" he asked.
"It was waiting for me, sitting on the table when I got here."
"It's probably from Maya." Koenig guessed.
Koenig said nothing, undaunted, and merely picked up the glass and drank. It felt good on the tongue and going down.
They lay back on the cushions for awhile, lounging, drinking, snacking and listening to music. She rested in his arms and they spoke quietly to one another about nothing specific. But what they did not say spoke volumes.
There was always a possibility, during their long journey, one or the other might be lost. It could happen any number of ways. This time at the whim of an alien lout. If Frida hadn't intervened what would have been the result? This couple who had been through so much together would be parted forever or, if they did see one another again, it would have been on Rauley's craft, very briefly, and a death - most likely his own - would ultimately have been the result.
Something seemed so cosmically wrong about that.
Helena's 'kill me now', while earnest, shook Koenig to his core. Her decree was an even greater shock to his system than Rauley pulling the weapon on him. Not for the first time, John wondered if he and Helena's passion was too strong.
Still, what was the alternative? Going without each other, forcibly staying apart, was not an option. They tried keeping their relationship as "just friends" during those first few months on Alpha, even though their attraction was obviously growing deeper and more profound. There simply was no denying their chemistry and devotion. It did not work during the beginning of their journey (many a cold shower they had taken) and certainly, after having been together, experiencing physical and emotional intimacy, would not work now.
Koenig nearly smiled at the foolishness that was man. Even if they decided to part, attempting to separate for the good of their positions and Moonbase Alpha, they would never fall out of love. Even short-sighted Rauley saw that much. He and Helena would survive and they would do it together. Koenig knew in his heart they had a future together. Whatever mysterious unknown force was out there, guiding them, it had a plan. The Commander was convinced, now more than ever before, that he and Helena were in it for the long haul.
"What are you thinking about?" she asked, looking up at his serene expression.
"How happy I am right now." he answered, honestly.
Their lips touched gently.
Ten minutes later, relaxed and secure with her lover, Helena started to nod off.
"Hey," Koenig put both his and her glasses on the table and gently helped Helena to stand and cross to the bed. It had been a long day.
"Stay?" she asked blearily, just to be sure.
"Yes." He pulled back the covers, "Where else am I going in my pajamas?" John helped her into bed then used the remote control on her bedside table to turn off the music and dim the lights even further.
"Not all the way." she said, "Not tonight."
"Okay." He understood. There was still fear even if she could only show it to him and no one else, and he cupped her cheek gently as her head lay on the pillow. This night she did not need his body, at least not in a romantic or sexual sense, but she did need him. Helena just wanted John with her, laying next to her in bed, holding her, and being there when she needed to reach for him. And he was pleased to oblige.
Koenig needed her too. It went beyond the lure of her softness, the perfume of her body, of her supple flesh against his, or even the mere joy of her presence, her warmth. It was a deep relief, almost primordial, which told a man that his other half had been restored. She was his and would remain his. He was going to marry Helena, place a new ring on her finger, and know no one would ever take her from him again. It was a fanciful thought, Koenig realized, because there would always be dangers no matter how hard he attempted to keep her safe.
However, it was a part of his job, as her Commander and companion, and he took it on with determination and honor. Alpha was his responsibility and Helena was his reason.
Koenig fell asleep, his body spooning her own, a hand on her hip. His breathing was slow and soft; content.
She awoke twice during the night, sheltered in his hold, and Helena felt safe.
The following morning, when he awoke, she was already up and dressed, ready for the day. Helena had just polished off a cup of coffee and poured one for him, bringing it over to the bed. He was disappointed, having visions of them making love before they reported in to their work areas, but he was happy she did not leave early, before he awoke.
Now that they both had clearer heads he wanted to talk with her about their future. Marriage had always been their intention but he wanted it now, sooner better than later.
However, the first words she said ruined the moment. "Speak with Tony today, John." She sat beside him on the bed. "I think you two really need to have a conversation."
"Don't think we have much to talk about." He sipped from the mug.
Helena's tone was reasonable, "It was more my fault than his. I was warned to say away from Command Center, John, but thought what Dr. Milo could offer us was so important to Alpha. I should have known better but I thought with my heart and not my brain. Now Tony …"
"… was definitely not thinking with his heart or brain. He knew the situation and was careless - with your life, Helena."
"A human flaw, John. We all have them. He thought he was right at the time. And, as they say, hind sight is always twenty-twenty. How many times during your command have you had to second guess yourself, Commander?" She thought she saw a slight splinter in his stern expression so Helena took John's hand, "He feels terrible and I wager you do too. Talk to him. Don't yell. Talk."
"All right." Koenig finally relented, looking at her fingers curled around his own. "No promises but we will talk."
Helena smiled and leaned forward, gently kissing him on the lips. "Be a good boy and there will be more where that came from."
"I'm counting on it."
Helena had learned that the wine came from Sandra. They spoke in her office in Medical Center.
When she learned that the Commander's Eagle was returning to Alpha, and Helena was with them, Sandra immediately contacted Dresnik, who owed her a favor, and requested a bottle. Oddly, he asked if it should be delivered to Alan Carter's quarters. Puzzled, Sandra told him no, deliver it to Dr. Russell. Had Dresnik seen something Sandra had yet to acknowledge? Tine would tell.
"It made for a lovely homecoming, Sahn." she told the data analyst, "John and I enjoyed it a great deal."
"Ah, so he stayed with you last night?" Sandra asked, boldly but with a teasing smile. "I thought he might."
Helena didn't blush but she did chuckle gently and nodded.
"It's so good to have you back, Helena." Sandra smiled at her friend.
Carter chuckled to himself at the simplicity of it.
When men had a falling out, when friends found themselves angry and seemingly on the outs, nothing changed the mood like a good beer. Or, in this case, a beer that - while bad - was better than usual. And cold.
"Refrigeration," Verdeschi announced "makes all the difference."
He, Carter and John Koenig sat in his quarters after a long morning in Command Center. They decided to take a lunch break when their Commander suddenly announced, "Alan, Tony. Come with me. I need your help."
"John?" Carter had noticed Koenig was thoughtful all morning, sitting in his chair but not really working. He spoke very little, regarded them fleetingly, and seemed to be concentrating too hard on something private. Initially, Alan thought John was contemplating his near loss of Helena. His attitude understandable under the circumstances.
Then, out in the hall, when he look directly at Verdeschi and said, "I need a drink. Now." Carter decided he was thinking up the best way to make amends with their Chief of Security. Men were a funny animal. They might hate each other one minute, declaring they could never forgive another for a disservices, then the next - with a pat on the back - they were friends again.
But, as they sat in Verdeschi quarters, as he served them their drinks, Carter came to understand that it wasn't really Helena's kidnapping or his friendship with Tony that was on John Koenig's mind. He needed advice and felt Carter and Verdeschi the two best men to give it to him. They were well rounded and knew the people of Alpha inside and out.
"I need a ring." John said, "A very special ring. And I need to know who the best person on Alpha is that can make it."
"A ring?" Verdeschi questioned.
Carter got it right away, "For Helena."
"You're going to do it!" Verdeschi's mouth broke into a large smile, "John, that's great."
For the first time in awhile Koenig also smiled. "Been doing a lot of thinking, even before Rauley, and it's time."
"Long over-do I'd say." Carter exclaimed, shaking his hand.
"You need to see Anton Spevic." Verdeschi said, "John, the man can do wonders with metal. He's an artist. Give him Helena's ring size and he'll create something really exceptional, especially if I ask him." Tony lifted his comlock, "Should I call him now/"
Carter wasn't sure if Verdeschi was genuinely excited for his friend or if he was just over-reacting, so relieved he was that he and John were talking again, but the result was comical. He'd never seen the Italian so eager and animated.
"Relax, Tony." Koenig said, "I'll go see him myself. I have my own idea on how I want it to look. But, thanks for the lead." He lifted his beer cup and watched the two men do the same, "To the future." he said.
"And," Carter added, "to the lovely women that will make it possible." Oddly, his mind flashed to Sandra. He wasn't really sure why but did want to talk with her about that impressive kiss she gave him when he and the others returned.
"Here, here." Verdeschi said.
It took two days.
He stole her away from Medical Center and the now functional Kiakrop. Helena was wound up and told John she wanted to do full body scans of everyone on Alpha - especially Maya! However, it was the end of her shift and, as excited as she was, he needed to get her mind focused in another direction.
Koenig brought Helena to the deserted Main Mission, a cherished relic of Alpha's past, and he told her to scale the steps up to the observation deck. He had arranged to have a sofa placed there, strategically positioned, so they could sit and look up and out at the stars.
She smiled, please by the romantic endeavor.
It was very cozy, being alone together, nothing but the two of them and the galaxy beyond. After awhile, just when his kisses had her ready for them to go back to his quarters to indulge in a more intense intimacy, he took the ring from his jacket pocket and presented it to her.
"Will you marry me?" Koenig asked.
"John …" Helena's mouth opened ever so slightly as she stared at the ring.
It was stainless steel, buffed to a glossy shine, and it slipped onto her ring finger perfectly.
Inlaid at the center was a green stone and on either side were what could be letters.
"It's Hebrew." John said, "Our initials. You don't mind do you?"
"Not at all. It's beautiful and personal …" She breathed outward, trying not to cry. "And the stone?"
Helena looked up at him, "Wh …Where did you get an emerald?"
"Hesta gave it to me. She slipped it into my pocket just before we left and told me it matched your eyes." he smiled, "She knew."
"We will be together forever, Helena."
She lifted a hand to touch his cheek, "I love you and …" She got lost a moment in him.
"And?" he asked.
They had talked about matrimony before, but now that he had actually taken the step, confirming that it was indeed what he wanted for them, the moment was overwhelming. She knew what he was waiting for so Helena, with pleasure, said: "I would very much like to be your wife, John Koenig."
He could have said the same, that he wanted very much to be her husband, and it would happen in only a couple weeks, but now - looking down into those emerald green eyes - seeing the glimmer of not quite shed tears, Commander Koenig felt whole. And, like Helena, his emotions were getting the better of him. His hands shook as he stroked her hair and he drew her to him.
How very odd that he managed to find the woman of his dreams in outer space! Or no. It was accurate, what it should be, and John Koenig would be forever grateful to whatever cosmic intelligence was responsible.
He leaned down and kissed Helena, passionately and sincerely, yet again.
The moon continued its journey.
Thanks once again to all of you great people who have left comments and I certainly hope this fiction kept your attention and continued to be entertaining up until the end. And, for those who have asked, I do have more stories in me. As a matter of fact, I may have a surprise in store for you - but not something I can talk about here and now (cue- mysterious spacey music). Anyway, God bless and have a happy 4rth of July!