PROXIMITY

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Fragments of memory beset Helena as she awoke. An electrical charge. Lee looking into her eyes. His hands raising, feeling a pull from within her body, then nothing. She sat up in her bed, accepting the liquid medication Dr. Mathias offered but not really caring for the taste. He explained that she had been found unconscious on the floor of Medical Center.

Helena was confused but coherent. She remembered talking with Lee but what could have made her faint?

When the Commander walked into her quarters, Helena smiled, happy to see him. But she was also embarrassed. She did not like to look weak in his eyes. She was not entirely certain why she felt it necessary to be strong in John Koenig's presence but she felt better - safer - when she was sure he saw her as a professional woman and not a fragile female.

Still, as Mathias explained to him how she was found Koenig seemed concerned and Helena, despite her trepidation, appreciated the look on his face; the fact that her well being appeared to mean so much to him.

"Helena, it's not like you to faint." he said.

What was it about John Koenig that caused her pulse to race? It was crazy, really. He was her Commander and they had also managed to become friends, despite a rather rocky beginning, when she had called him out about his ill conceived heroics. Yet, there was something else there, something more than a simple camaraderie between associates. A bond. A nameless connection. Dare she even consider it affection?

Helena tried not to think about it too deeply. After all, her husband had just returned to her, was now resting in Medical Center, just down the hall. It seemed somehow sorted that she was thinking about an affinity, as innocuous as it was, with another man.

Yet, as he sat by her bedside, leaning in, possibly a bit closer than what was proper under the circumstances, Helena could not help feeling John Koenig's warmth and the sense of security he always brought with him; a confidence and certainty. He was speaking quietly to her and it had a nearly lulling affect. Helena blamed the medication although, in her heart, she knew it was his nearness. She liked the smell of his after-shave and one day pledged to ask him what it was.

His proximity: Why did it not disturb her more than it did? Probably because a thought, something rather scandalous, intruded. If the Commander were to lean forward right now and kiss her - she would not pull away. She would welcome his lips puling on her own with eager joy. Distracted and a little horrified by where her musing had taken her, Helena replied to his questions as best she could.

His frustration was obvious. Her lack of clarity and the fact that so much of what was Lee Russell was plainly unknown, made no sense. She felt badly for John. He needed answers and she had none to give.

When Koenig stood Helena felt loss and near abandonment. And she also felt foolish. What was wrong with her? She was a mature woman. No flighty girl. Why were these thoughts assailing her?

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Koenig was aggravated but, when he saw her introspective expression, which he mistook for gloom, thinking about Lee and their situation, he quickly realized how insensitive he had been. The woman really thought her husband had returned to her. She was absolutely positive despite how bizarre and preposterous the situation was. Who was he to tell her any different?

A wife should know her husband. Koenig had seen the photograph, Lee Russell and a large dog, a family pet he assumed, as it sat on her bedside table. She loved him then and loved him still, anticipating a new future together or to start again where they had left off. What were Helena's memories of Lee Russell? Was it their honeymoon, vacations together, camping beneath the stars, talk of children and their future, making love in a chalet in Paris?

And why did he, John Koenig, feel a deep pull of jealousy when he thought of their life together and what they still might share? Had he never experienced the joy Helena and Lee shared? Sadly, no.

Initially, he and Jean had a happy marriage. She was a beautiful blond with big brown eyes. A former model, she had eventually gone to work for the agency that had supplied her assignments. They were both young and ambitious back then, ready to take on the world. But eventually wedded bliss turned sour. Jean had become disenchanted with his work for NASA and Space Commission and, while it had never been truly confirmed, Koenig suspected she was having an affair with a photographer. He nearly confronted Jean about the rumors when she told him she was pregnant. She seemed so happy, gushing about how he was going to be a father, so Koenig kept quiet and helped her prepare for the blessed event. But then, one month later, she left him. Jean had been in Europe when bombing occurred. He was told, quite casually by an acquaintance, that Jean and her lover were amongst the casualties.

Koenig spent the next week in a drunken stupor, swearing off women for all time, then he moved on.

When he first saw Helena Russell, as he walked into Medical Center, Koenig was stunned by her similarity to Jean. The hair, he thought, and she was tall and had high cheekbones, like Jean. But there were differences. Helena's eyes were a lovely green and deep-set and her voice was low and warm. Her substantial beauty was natural and her warmth genuine … and she was exactly what he wished Jean could have been. More substance. Less flash. An honest woman.

And John Koenig did feel guilty. For many reasons, not the least was that he was thinking ill of the dead. But also, in the short time he had known Helena Russell, he felt more chemistry with her than he ever did with his departed wife. And perhaps Jean had known this early on, had understood that he and she were doomed to failure because, for John Koenig, the right woman had not yet come along.

Then, as the weeks passed on Alpha, as he spoke further to Helena Russell and they had gone from "Commander" and "Doctor" to addressing one another by their given names, Koenig had began to get ideas. She made him rethink his vow. It was too early to really tell, and they had a lot of work to do first but maybe - just maybe - he and this remarkable woman had a future together?

Then, it happened. Lee Russell. If it really was him could there be a funnier celestial joke?

"Helena, are you absolutely certain he's your husband?"

"I am sure of that, John."

()

Again, just the slightest hint of disappointment on his face. Helena saw it. Did he resent Lee for some reason? Or was John truly certain that the man laying in Medical Center was an imposter? Or was it something else?

Koenig took her hand, his eyes softening. A near apology or acceptance was present.

"John, we are going to Terra Nova, aren't we?"

"When we are sure it's safe."

She empathized with the figurative weight placed on his broad shoulders. His decision would involve over three hundred men and women.

If he made a mistake they would all pay dearly.

()

Lee Russell was dead.

He had died during an interrogation conducted by the Commander himself.

Walking to Helena's quarters he did not know what to think. There was so much pressure on him now but that was little compared to the suffering, mind and spirit, that Helena must be going through. Still, he needed to know, should they go to the planet despite Lee Russell's warnings? Was it his influence alone that had caused the mysterious readings they were receiving?

So much to think about but above that, for the moment, was his thoughts of Helena. He had to wonder … Does she hate me?

When he rang her and she let him in Koenig half expected to be a victim, justifiably so, of her ire. Instead, Helena was calm and unassuming. He even tried to take the blame, telling her if he hadn't questioned Russell so quickly and vehemently after his recovery he might still be alive. Helena replied that they simply did not know - and she was fine.

Then she did something that surprised him. Helena told him how it was the first time she had lost her husband, how she didn't think she could endure the experience but, this time, she was merely numb. She wondered if she really had him back at all. Helena had revealed a part of herself to him and John felt gratified. He wished he could say something to make it better for her but, in retrospect, she did not really need his words. It was enough for her to know that he cared. Helena was strong and would remain that way.

Koenig wished he could reach out and touch her - but that would be wrong. She might even think it an insult. But there was something else he could do for her. Koenig decided to make her a part of the landing party.

The Commander had decided to commence with Operation Exodus and, he felt, Helena deserved to walk where Lee had walked and maybe, even for a brief time, she could think about a life - a new life - beyond him, away from Alpha, and - if all went well - she might think of a future with another man who respected and cherished her, a man who wanted nothing more than to see her happy again.

()

It had not been a coincidence that he sent Paul and Sandra off together, left Carter in the Eagle, which allowed he and Helena time alone to explore the beautiful but mysterious Terra Nova alone. They had a lot of work to do in a very short period of time but he was pleased to see it having the desired affect, not just on Helena but himself.

This was a good world, ripe with life, and they would do well here.

The Commander was so sure that when things began to go wrong, when Victor had called to him about seals melting and Alan told him he was having problems with the insulation inside their Eagle, he did not want to immediately believe these were troubles they could not handle. However, the more he thought about it, Koenig realized they could be in danger. He recalled the landing party then … all hell broke loose.

()

Clearly, no one knew what to think or say. Terra Nova should have been perfect, it still seemed perfect, yet they all instinctively knew the Commander was right when he ordered Operation Exodus cancelled. It would not be their new home. There was too much unknown going on, a mystery never to be solved, and there were other worlds out there to be explored. They would find a new home someday but not here.

Moonbase Alpha and its people would just have to be patient.

He saw her up on the observation deck, staring at Terra Nova as the moon moved away from the planet, and he recognized a friend in need. Koenig climbed the stairs. However, once there he was not certain what he could or should do. She seemed so distracted and he thought, for just a moment, he had made a mistake. Perhaps she needed to be alone rather than have him intrude.

"It's all right, John." she whispered.

He started at the sound of her voice.

Helena turned to him and smiled ever so gently, "Just gazing and remembering a little."

Koenig approached and noticed that her eyes were slightly glossy, like she might be on the verge of tears but was attempting valiantly to keep a cap on her emotions. He admired her resolve but also felt a small pang of regret. He often wished she didn't feel the need to bottle it up but understood the inclination. How often had he wanted to cry out at an injustice but instinctively knew, as a figure of command, his people expected nothing less than a stalwart, confident authority figure?

But surely, up here where they were alone and there were no prying eyes, she could open up - just a little.

"I want to help you, Helena." he said, "Let me."

"How can you …?" she started then noticed a very subtle motion on his part. Both of his hands lifted slightly, asking a question or making an invitation. Helena, who had tried so hard to keep her emotions in check, who wanted always to appear so resilient in his presence, felt the tears fall even before he came to her, wrapping comforting arms around the woman. Her head rested on his shoulder and, holding him as he held her, Helena absorbed the warmth of his body, the kindness of his touch, and an unspoken affection.

Koenig felt her sobs, how her soft but firm body trembled in his embrace, and he wanted so much to offer her more. But, for now, could not begin to know what it was she needed from him or anyone else on Moonbase Alpha. Perhaps, for now, this was enough.

"Thank you, John."

He heard her whisper and felt a slight pull as she shifted in his arms. Koenig loosened his hold but a hand remained on her left shoulder as she looked up at him. Fingers brushed tears away from her eyes and, once again, she tried to shake off despondency and appear in control. Koenig very tenderly lifted a finger and touched Helena underneath her chin, "Okay?" he asked.

"Of course." she said but was having a hard time meeting his eyes, "I just need a little time."

"Yes." he nodded, "Take all you need."

Again, Helena gently smiled at the Commander then pulled away from him and made her way down the stairs to Main Mission, then out the door on her way to Medical Center.

Koenig looked over the railing and watched her leave. He sighed. So many questions unanswered and so many dreams unfulfilled. Some day, he thought, maybe some day.

He spotted Tanya and Paul Morrow looking up at him, curious.

They all needed to get back to work.

It was time to find a new home.

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THE END

Aug 2012