Can I keep you – 3

James Raynor was the most decent man I ever encountered during the fall of the Confederacy. Everyone else, I can safely say, was either a victim or a villain, or quite often both. At first wash, Raynor seems like a backwoods cowboy, one of those good old boys that you see in the bars swapping lies about the days gone by. There's a cocksureness, an overconfidence about him that just makes you bridle initially. Yet overtime you come to see him as a valuable ally and—dare I say it?—a friend.

It all comes from belief. Jim Raynor believed in himself, and he believed in those around him. And from that belief came the strength that allowed him and those who followed him to survive everything else the universe threw at him.

Jim Raynor was a most decent and honorable man. I suppose that's why his life is the greatest tragedy of this god forsaken war.

Michael Liberty, circa 2500CE…


He stood, listening intently to the echoes of silences. Nothing disturbed him. In fact, nobody else was there. He was perfectly alone. Though in his mind, he was not so sure if he still exist, or more correctly, alive.

For quite a long time, or perhaps no time at all, it came to him that he must have been alive, that he still exists. Not just as a disembodied thought but as whole bodied person. He was standing on something, a surface. He could clearly feel it. And the fact that he was barefooted reinforced that feeling.

Jim Raynor opened up his eyes and found himself, in his solitude, that he was standing within a bright mist. But it was not a mist like he anything he had experienced before. His surroundings were not hidden by those cloudy vapours but rather the cloudy vapour had not yet formed into surroundings. The surface on which he stood on, like everything else around him, was white, neither warm nor cold but simply there.

He touched his face. There wasn't any scar to speak of. His body appeared unscathed. His legs seem fine despite the ordeal he faced before.

Raynor began to look around. He wasn't so sure where he was at that point but the longer he looked, the more there was to see. The mist in front of him began to take form. High above him, a huge glass dome roof began to take shape, showering him in bright sunlight. He turned around slowly on the spot as his environment began to invent itself before his eyes. A wide open space, bright and clean, a hall larger by far than any other hall he had been into. In front of him, rows upon rows of seats took shape. Despite the vastness of the hall, it was quite empty. All was hushed and still. It was strange, and yet he couldn't shake the feeling of familiarity within him. It wasn't until what seems to be minutes later that he realized where he was. And it was odd.

"Shiloh central train station," he whispered. He remembered.

Raynor took a seat nearest to him and continued to look around. It was indeed the train station like what he used to remember. Except that it were a lot cleaner and much quieter than he remembered, without the usual trains running up and down the tracks and the usual bustling of passengers. Raynor took a deep breath. The air was also a lot cleaner and lighter without the usual exhaust fume. Shiloh's train, unlike any other railway system existed in more modern colonies on other planets, still relies on vespene powered traction. The more he looked, the more he saw although the mysterious cloudy vapour was still there, albeit a lot thinner by now.

Silence continued to reign in. It was so deafening that at this point, Raynor began to wish that there would be someone there he could talk to. And his wish was soon answered.

Raynor heard footsteps coming in from behind. He spun around and saw a certain silhouette formed within the thinning mist that still surrounded the location. That silhouette was walking towards him. Raynor's eyes reduced to a slit. He couldn't make it out to whom that silhouette belongs to at first. Until a tall slender figure emerged from the mist.

Raynor quickly stood up. He froze. He could not believe what he saw.

A wide smile broke out from the figure's lips as her bright blue eyes continued to stare at Raynor intently.

"Hello James," the figure finally spoke. "It's been a long time."

That voice. It had been so long. Raynor said nothing as the floodgate of memories opened up and threatened to drown him.


Jim Raynor's house, Mar Sara, two years before the meeting with the Ghost….a flashback…

It was cold on that fateful day. Snow was falling throughout Mar Sara. Mar Saran annual winter season was relatively cold and short, lasting only up to two months the longest. Nevertheless, the cold season was certainly welcomed by the Mar Sara citizens as it provided temporary respite from the usual hot and humid weather they experienced for the rest of Mar Saran solar cycle.

Near the outskirt of Backwater Station, out in an open playground covered by pure white snow, children and adults alike can be seen playing within the knee deep snow, building snowman and having snowball fight. Everyone was having fun and frolics during the short lived annual winter season. Well, nearly everyone.

From the kitchen window he stood and watched as a group of children was having an intense snowball fight. The children's laughter could clearly be heard from where he stood. It was certainly infectious to anyone who watched. But somehow this year, he was totally immune to all of that. Winter this year somehow was different from before.

It was as if just yesterday the last time he played with Johnny outside in the snow, building snowman, making snow angel and having snowball fight with his only son. And during the cold winter night, the three of them - Jim, Liddy and Johnny - would gather around the fireplace, each holding a cup of hot cocoa, Johnny with his favorite hot cocoa dipped marshmallows. And every night as Johnny cozy up in his bed, both Jim and Liddy would take turn, either they sang him a bed time lullaby or read him a bedtime story. Johnny would go to bed early during the winter as watching the early morning snowfall had become his favorite ritual. And during mid winter, the three of them would attend the Festival of Light held every year during the winter season at Backwater Station central square. Johnny would always sit on his father's shoulder as they watched the progression.

But the winter that year was different. No more festival. No more snowball fight. No more snowmen. And no more Johnny.

In about a month after the last winter ended, the Raynor's family received a letter from Tarsonis Institute of Health and Research. Johnny scored highly in a psionic ability test conducted a week before. The institute wanted the Raynors to send Johnny to the establishment, promising that Johnny will receive the best education possible. Liddy was elated. She wanted Johnny to go. But Jim opposed.

Both husband and wife had quite a row after that. Jim didn't want Johnny to go as he suspected something went amiss about the so-called research institute. Liddy meanwhile accused Jim for being paranoid, that his past was what influenced his decision, that he simply didn't want to be separated from Johnny. She even accused him for attempting to deny Johnny his proper place in the future, something that Jim vehemently refuted.

Jim however, relented afterwards. He didn't like fighting with Liddy so he gave in to Liddy's demand. A week later, Johnny boarded a planet hopping shuttle, together with several other chosen children, on his way to Tarsonis.

The couple experienced the empty nest syndrome for quite a few weeks after that, with Liddy always went to sleep hugging Johnny's old shirt. She would also burst into tears whenever she laid her eyes on Johnny's empty bed. She missed her son so much. Jim had to spend a lot of time comforting her.

For nearly two months no news about their son came from Tarsonis. By that time, Jim already had half a heart to go to Tarsonis and fetched Johnny back himself, with or without Liddy's consent. He even had an arrangement with Myles Hammond, the current Mar Sara magistrate and his parent's old friend, to help him. But before he could make his move, the dreaded letter arrived. Johnny was involved in a fatal shuttle accident. Nobody onboard survived.

The couple's life spiralled downwards after that. Liddy, who kept blaming herself for what happened, couldn't stop crying. She wouldn't sleep. She wouldn't eat. She stopped taking care of herself. Remorse was the only thing she kept with her at that point. As months went by and despite Jim's heroic effort to bring her back, Liddy continued to waste away until she finally reduced to nothing but skin and bone.

Jim was pulled out from his reminisces by the sound of coughing coming from the bedroom. He quickly gathered a bowl of water and a soft towel and walked towards the bedroom. Carefully placing the bowl of water on the bedside table, he turned his gaze towards her.

Laid on the bed, all feeble and shrunken was a woman whom to Jim's eyes was the most beautiful woman in the world. But now, only traces of it were left. Her sunken face belied the suffering she endured all this month's ever since she lost her son and not being able to rid the feeling of guilt. She could no longer move. She could not even cry. Only her eyes, now transfixed to the ceiling all the time and the heaving of her chest provided the indication that she was still alive. But barely.

Jim sat right beside her. Wetting the soft towel he brought with him, he began to wipe Liddy's face, her hands and her feet, hoping that it will help to contain the excessive body heat generated by the flu Liddy contracted a few days ago. And as he did that, he began to recall the conversation he had with Dorothy Miller three days ago...


Backwater Station health centre, three days ago…

From the entrance to the ward, Jim watched solemnly as Doctor Miller ran a series of diagnostic on Liddy. His wife contracted flu a few days ago. Due to Liddy's condition at that time, he was unable to bring her to a clinic. He had to call in Doctor Miller, who happened to be their neighbor and a good friend of Liddy, for help. A flu shot and some medicines were given but Liddy's condition hadn't changed. Two days later, as Liddy's condition worsen, Jim had no choice but to take her to the hospital.

Doc Miller finished her diagnosis and wrapped up her findings into her data pad. After making sure that the drip was in good order, she walked towards Jim.

"Talk to me, Doc," said Jim.

Miller sighed. She took off her glasses and looked at Jim intently. "The virus that infected her came from a common strain flu virus. Fatalities only occur in extremely rare cases. Usually, a person with decent strength of body immunity would be completely cured within four to five days, a week top. But Liddy no longer has any of those defences within her. She is already severely weakened even before she got the fever, Jim. The flu makes it even worse."

Jim took a glance at Liddy, who was lying unconscious on the bed not far from them. Without taking his eyes of Liddy, he asked, "Is there anything else you can do, Doc?"

"At this point, there isn't anything else I can do Jim, except prescribe her more medicine. Everything else will be entirely depends on her."

"She's too weak, Doc. She needs help."

"I know that, Jim. What do you think I'm trying to do? We have done everything we can based on what we know about the flu but right now and like I said before, everything else will entirely depends on her. I hate to say this Jim, but her will to live could be the only thing that would ensure her survival. That's the only thing that could save her, Jim."

Jim sighed. Strangely enough, for some unfathomable reason, he already saw what was coming. Feeling dejected, he said, "You know I have done everything that I could, Dorothy."

"I know, Jim," replied Miller. "I saw what you did for Liddy. I know how much you care for her. I care for her too. Ever since her parents died and before you came along, I'm practically the only person she's got. Like you, I also don't want to lose her. But being a doctor and after seeing so many deaths had taught me to become more pragmatic."

Jim's eyes went wide. "You're asking me to let her go?"

"No. I'm asking you to be prepared. Despite the level of advancement we achieved this few hundred years, there's still things that we can't control. The feeling of guilt is one of them. Losing Johnny hit her really hard. Even until now she couldn't forgive herself for what she did. It eats her from the inside. You saw all of that."

"I've lost Johnny, Dorothy. I don't think I could take the blow if I lose her."

"I understand, Jim," replied Miller. "You have taken good care of her, Jim. Even better than what I did. You have loved her and you've protected her all these while. You held resolutely to your vow. You have been a good husband and a good father. Jim, at this point, Liddy will need another service from you. Something in which only you could give to her. Be strong for her, Jim. Let her be at peace."

After a few moments of silence, Jim finally nodded.

Miller smiled. "Thank you, Jim," she muttered. She then gave him a quick hug before she left for her office.

Jim's gaze followed Miller until she disappeared around the corner. Sighing, Jim slowly entered the ward where an unconscious Liddy was kept and took a seat beside her bed. He reached for her hand and began to caress it. It was still soft, but Jim could feel that it was no longer as strong as the first time he touched it.


Present...

That conversation kept on playing inside his mind as he continued to attend Liddy.

That night, Liddy started to have breathing difficulties. Jim quickly administered the inhaler to her but her condition did not improve. Her breathing kept getting worse until at one point, she literally had to breathe through her mouth. Her chest continued to heave with every breathe she took.

And Jim knew that the time had come.

He sat beside Liddy on the bed. Slowly but lovingly, he cradled her head. And to her ears, he whispered, "Darlin', do you remember what day today is? It's our anniversary. It's been three years since the day I proposed to you. How fast time went by but I still feel like it was only yesterday when I knelt in front of you. I still remember your expression at that time. I really caught you off guard, didn't I?"

Jim chuckled a bit, reminiscing the event which was supposed to be romantic but ended up being the weirdest event ever in his life, as he continued to cradle his wife. He whispered, "Liddy, you know how much I love you. These past years had been the best years in my entire life. You gave me happiness. You've rescued me from myself and completed my life. And Johnny probably is the greatest gift you've ever given to me. I'm not sure if a thank you would suffice enough for all the things you did for me."

His brown eyes continued to gaze at Liddy as the later continued to draw in air with every effort she could afford. Jim's eyes began to shed tears; some of it fell onto Liddy's cheek. It won't be long now.

"Darlin', I wish that we could be together forever. I wish that we could see Johnny grow up, get married and have kids. I wish that we both would grow old, and that both of us would die on a warm bed, surrounded by our love ones. But I know now that none of that will happen. Sweetheart, its pains me to let you go but it's even more painful to see you like this. I'm sorry that I couldn't do more. I'm sorry that I couldn't help ease the pain. I'm sorry that I've failed you. But don't you worry about me, darlin'. I promise that I will be brave. I promise that I will be strong."

At this point, Jim nearly broke down but he reeled it all in just so that he could say all the things that matters to both of them while there was still time. Without taking his eyes of her, he continued, "Liddy, my love for you will stay forever until the day my time ended. You may no longer be my queen in this world, but I know you will be a beautiful queen in heaven and sit among the angels. Death is certain and someday, I will join you. You're the best wife, friend and mother one could ask for and God is great to lend you as a gift to me even for a short period of time. The winter might be cold, but I know a place for me to find warmth, that is by thinking of you. Go, sweetheart. Go with my blessing. I promise you Liddy, that I would not throw you away, ever."

Jim slowly lowered his lips to hers and both of them had their last kiss.

As if on cue, Liddy's breathing began to slow down and moments later, she drew her last breathe. Her eyes were completely shut and a small smile concocted on her lips. She was finally at peace.

And Jim continued to hold her throughout the night, weeping for the beacon of his life that had extinguished forever.


Backwater Station cemetery, eight days later...

Lidya Elizabeth Raynor

2470 – 2498

"For in memory, we will find solace."

It was five days after the funeral and for five days straight, Jim never failed to show up at his wife grave. He would gaze at the tombstone that decorated Liddy's grave for hours and silently wept. His tears continued to fall but he never made any effort to wipe it off. It was strange. He was standing close to Liddy and yet he could not see her. But he knew that Liddy was sleeping peacefully beneath the snow, not knowing nor caring that her husband stood so near. At this moment, the sense of hopelessness completely engulfed him that Jim truly wished that he was sleeping under the snow with her.

A footstep was heard coming in from behind but Jim ignored it. It then stopped beside him.

"Every morning I saw you came here. I'm truly sorry about your lost, Jim."

Jim recognised that voice. It was Myles Hammond, current magistrate of Mar Sara. He continued to keep silent.

"Lidya is a good woman," Hammond continued. "You're lucky to have her, Jim. She really changed you a lot. It's just unfair that she left so early."

After a few moments of silence, Jim finally replied, "At least she's in much better place now."

Hammond nodded. "Yeah. She's finally at peace."

"What am I going to do now, Myles?" asked Jim. "Where do I go from here?"

Hammond smiled. He put a hand on Jim's shoulder and replied, "I know what you can do, Jim. You can continue to protect Mar Sara. I still need your help, Jim. Mar Sara still needs your help. You have done a good job all these while but our job isn't finish yet. Sooner or later big things going to come this way. I'm not sure from where I got that feeling but I'm confident that will happen. When the time comes, I hope that you won't turn your back on us."

Jim didn't reply at first. He was thinking. Perhaps Hammond was right. Protecting Mar Sara would be a noble thing to do and he knew that Liddy would give him her blessing. Liddy when she was still alive was proud of his job keeping the peace within the colony.

"I need some time to think."

"Of course," replied Hammond. He let go of Jim's shoulder and said,"My office will always be open for you. You can come in whenever you're ready. I really hope that I don't have to find your replacement, Jim. I truly don't want to. You're the best man I've got."

Hammond then walked away towards his vehicle, leaving Jim alone.

Five days later, Jim returned to become the marshal of Mar Sara. He continued to do the thing he knew best and he promised to himself that he will kept on doing it as long as he still breathing. He pushed all of his pain behind and continued to give hope to others while keeping none of it for himself. He gave up all his dreams for he thought that all of it was buried along with Liddy until finally he became a man he never cared for, and never will.

Little did he realize that come two years later, he would be proven wrong.

"Captain Raynor, I've finished scouting the area and-,... YOU PIG!"

End of flashback...


Jim froze. He was speechless. His eyes feasted on her, and he thought that he would like to stand and look at her forever. And yet at the same time, he couldn't believe his eyes of what he saw.

Liddy, standing right in front of him. Not the bed stricken Liddy whom he took care for months until her untimely death, but a happy, warm and wholesome Liddy. She had the same long silvery blonde hair, tied in braid that draped over her shoulder. Her skin was perfectly tanned. Her eyes were the brilliant shade of blue, matched exactly with light blue dress she wore. Jim remembered that dress. It was exactly the same one she wore the first time he met her at Janine's. She was looking at him and she smiled. He remembered that smile.

Moments later, Liddy approached him.

Jim was still speechless.

"It's okay, James," she said as she stopped right in front of him. "It's alright. It's just me."

"But-, but you're dead," stammered Jim.

"Yes, I am," replied Liddy matter-of-factly.

"But how?"

Liddy simply smiled. She reached up for Jim's face and began to caress his cheek. The sensation of her touch threatened to drown him. Jim pulled her hand closer and kissed it.

"How?" Once again he asked.

"There are things that can never be explain, James," answered Liddy as she continued to caress Jim's cheek. "Suffice to say that I come back so that I can fulfil my promise-."

"That you will always be there for me," completed Jim.

"You remembered," said Liddy as she took Jim's hand into hers. "Let us walk."

By that time, everything around them had already fully formed into something. "Where are we?" asked Jim, though he already knew the answer.

"I was about to ask you that myself," said Liddy as she looked around. "Where do you think we are?"

"Well," replied Jim. "It looks to me like Shiloh Central Train Station. Only a lot cleaner and without all the trains and people."

"Shiloh? Really?" beamed Liddy. "You know you did say that you're going to take me to visit your home planet some day."

"Yeah well, I was busy at that time."

Liddy chuckled. "You always say that."

Both of them took a seat on the nearest bench. Liddy sat on the opposite bench in front of him. Jim took both of her hands into his as he continued to search her face hungrily as if he would never be able to look at her enough.

"You're beautiful," said Jim as he caressed Liddy's hand. "I always thought you look like Christmas morning. I don't know how else I'm going to say it. Things were never been the same since the day you're gone, Liddy."

"I know, James," replied Liddy. "But you did promise to me that you'll be brave and that you'll be strong."

"It's much easier being said than done, Liddy," replied Jim. "For a long moment I was lost. I truly don't know what to do. Every day and every moment I just keep on breathing. I ignored the past and never really cared about the future. Until-." At this point, Jim went quiet.

"I know it, James," nodded Liddy. "Can you forgive me?"

"For what?"

"You know what happened, James. You saw what came out of all of that. We lost the very thing that tied both of us together. And I was such a fool to take such bait. I let my grief took over me. I was so consumed by my own remorse and I blamed everything bad that happened, that every one of it was my own doing. I gave up all my hope and I gave up on everyone. But I forgot, James. I forgot that I still have you. The only person in my life who had never given up on me. I'm sorry that I forced you to accept my defeat. I'm sorry that I forced you to let me go."

"I never blamed you for everything that happened since you went away, honey," said Jim. "Our son died. It doesn't get any worse than that."

"My only regret that we never get to see him grow up, James."

"And mine as well. But things happened and can never be taken back. You never forced me to do anything, Liddy. At least I know that you're in much better place now."

Liddy smiled. "You're sweet as you have always been, James. You always managed to see the brighter side of things no matter how dark everything else was. And that is why I came back. I want you to continue to be the man I used to remember."

"Things had changed a lot, Liddy. I'm no longer the man I once was."

"Not all things, James. And you're still the man I married. And you know why?" asked Liddy.

"Why?"

"Because I'm still right here." At this point, Liddy reached out to Jim and placed her hand on his chest. "All this time, not for a moment you throw me away from your heart. I know it all, James."

James sighed. "I'm not sure I really want to go back. I'm not sure if I'm truly ready to face all the pain and losses once again. But then, I don't really have a choice, do I?"

"Oh you do have a choice, James," replied Liddy.

"I do?" asked Jim, his eye brows quirked.

"Yes," Liddy nodded. "We're at a train station you say? I think that if you decided not to go back, you could be able to board a train."

"And where would it take me?"

"Away from here. Anywhere else you heart desires," replied Liddy simply.

"Why do I sense that you wanted me to go back?"

Liddy chuckled. She then gripped Jim's hands firmly. "I think I know why you like it here," she said. "It's peaceful and quiet. You could just lay back, close your eyes and tune out everybody else. It's safe. There's no one here who could hurt you."

Silence.

"But what truly matters is what you do now, James," continued Liddy. "If you decided to go back, then you should just get on with it. Just sit back and enjoy the ride. You got to plant both your feet on the ground and start living life. Do you still remember what I always told you when I was still alive?"

"That I should always stand up for what I believe."

"That's right and I still want you to do that. There's always a reason on why things happened, James. If you choose to go back, there's a chance that more innocents could be spared and fewer families being torn apart. If you choose to go back, something good might come out in the end. I can't promise it, but if bad things do happen, you will have less to fear from returning here than anyone else."

"It's hard to say good bye to you, Liddy. Even once."

"I know, James."

"I'm sorry."

Liddy smiled. "Don't pity the dead, James, for we are all at peace. Be brave, sweetheart. Be strong especially for those who had never known about love. It would be unfair for me to keep you James, when everyone else is pinning their hope on you. But I can promise one thing. If for some reason you do return here, you won't be alone forever."

At that point, the bright mist slowly thickened and began to descend on both of them. Liddy stood up.

"I have to go now, James."

She then slowly lean forward and kissed Jim on his lips. As their lips went apart, she slowly whispered, "Goodbye, James. Take care of yourself and don't ever give up hope for perhaps someday, someone is going to hold you so tight that all of your broken pieces would eventually fit back together. Thanks for all the adventures, sweetheart. Now, go find a new one."

Liddy then straightened up.

"Liddy?"

Liddy beamed at him as the mist began to obscure her figure.

"Wait!" Jim called again. Suddenly, he heard her whispers.

Make a better world than ours, James.


Hyperion med bay…

Raynor opened up his eyes. It was dark. And grey. The only illumination came from a small night light. He wasn't so sure for how long he had passed out but he was pretty sure that it was early in the morning, shipboard time. He took a glance at the digital clock right in front of him.

"3 am," he muttered.

He looked down and found that several tubes and wires were still connected between various medical instruments littered throughout the ward and various part of his body. His left leg seemed to be okay though. That steel beam must had cause several broken bones on his left leg but he can only be sure of it once the medic gave him the rundown of his situation. And there was something else.

Something was pressing against his left arm. His eyes automatically travelled towards it. Raynor nearly leapt out of his skin when he saw a young blonde woman, using his left arm as a pillow with her face facing him, slept.

"Liddy?" he softly whispered.

But it wasn't Liddy. By this time, Raynor's eyes had fully adjusted to the darkness and he recognized who that girl was.

Peaceful and contented. That perfectly described Nova at that time. A small smile concocted on her lips as she continued to sleep, resting her head on Raynor's arm and hugging it. Several strands of her silvery blonde hair fell over her face which seemed to glow within the darkness.

Raynor tried to pull his arm away from her but Nova reacted. Mumbling a bit, she pulled Raynor's arm closer to her and continued to sleep. Feeling defeated, Raynor decided to simply let Nova slept and used that time of peace to reminisce the dream he had earlier.

He never thought he could see Liddy once again. He had forgotten how much he missed her. He never thought that he could talk to her, hear her voice. And he felt so happy. And maybe something else as well. Something that he thought had long gone from him. Was it hope?

The door into the ward suddenly hissed open. Lily, who was on her night duty shift, came in. Her eyes widen when she saw Nova.

"What the-? Oh Nova."

Lily was about to wake Nova up when she saw something else. Raynor was staring at her.

"Commander!"

Lily quickly went to the other side of Raynor's bed. "You're awake. How do you feel?" she asked.

"As usual," Raynor replied simply and gave her a grin.

Lily smiled. As usual. That would always be the commander's reply whenever he wanted to say that he is fine. "Well it's good to have you back, commander. It's still early morning. I'll have the medical team run a thorough check on you later. Meanwhile, you should get some rest."

Raynor nodded.

"Okay. I guess I better take out some of these since you no longer need them."

Lily began to detach the tubes and the wires from his skin, leaving only the drip still attached to his right arm. She was about to wake Nova up when Raynor stopped her.

"It's okay Lily," he said. "She can stay. Just let her sleep."

Lily nodded. "Get some rest commander. We have a big day tomorrow."

Raynor once again nodded.

Lily then took leave and went towards her office.

Raynor turned his gaze towards the ceiling. As he lay on the bed, the memory of the dream kept on replaying inside his mind until he dozed off.


Nova had left when he woke up.

By 8.15 am, a team of medic when in to check on him. His vital passed. His broken leg was mended. He was given a clean bill of health. For the time being, all he needed was a little bit of rest. Horner and Valerian came in the moment the medical team went out.

"It's good to have you back, sir," greeted Horner.

"It's good to be back, Matt," replied Raynor. He then turned towards Valerian. "I'm surprised that you're still alive."

Valerian chuckled. "No thanks to your men, commander. How do you feel?"

"Okay, I think. Nothing a drink couldn't fix I guess."

"I was planning to give you a rundown of what happened during your absences, sir," said Horner. "But Lily told me to wait until you're ready."

"I'll be ready soon enough, Matt. Don't you worry about it."

"Don't you want to talk to her?"asked Horner.

"Who?"

"Sarah."

Raynor's expression changed almost immediately once he heard that name. His anger boiled up. "No. There's nothing talk about with her," he sternly replied.

Horner was taken aback by Raynor's reaction. "But she rescued you. Is there something wrong going on, sir?"

"Nothing. Just leave it, Matt."

Horner was about to interrogate Raynor when Valerian shook his head, signalling him to stop. "I think it would be better to leave Commander Raynor to rest. He had gone through a lot," he said while giving the 'do not bring up the subject, ever' expression to Horner.

Both the prince and the captain were about to take leave when Nova walked in while carrying a tray of food with her. She ignored both men and proceeded to place the tray on the bed side table.

Beaming to Raynor, she said, "I brought you breakfast."

But Raynor, whose mood soured since Horner brought up the subject of Kerrigan, had lost his appetite for food. He quickly got up. "I need a drink," he simply said.

But Nova was quicker. She pushed him back to bed, her eyes flashing. Looking directly into Raynor's eyes, she said, "Alcohol early in the morning, Jim? That's unhealthy."

"Nova-."

But Nova cut him. "You're not having any of those, Jim. Not on my watch. Besides, you had just come back to us. God knows what the Dominion fed you all these while. Now lie back."

Nova then sat on Raynor's bed. She took a toast and liberally applied a layer of peanut butter on it. "Now, open wide," she said as she lovingly fed Raynor.

Both Valerian and Horner's jaw nearly dropped onto the floor as they watched the scene unfolded right in front of them. Both of them stood watch the couple for a few moment before Valerian beckoned Horner to leave.


"You know," said Valerian as they headed towards the Bridge. "Both Nova and the commander are really perfect for each other."

"Maybe but are you willing to risk the wrath of the most powerful woman in the whole galaxy?" asked Horner back. "Something's going on. I'm sure of it."

"It's not that hard to figure out, captain," replied Valerian. "Kerrigan returned to become the Queen of Blades once again. Do the math."

Horner sighed. "Do you think Kerrigan knew?" he asked.

"I think she knew," answered Valerian. "The question is, will she ever give up on him?"

Horner looked on thoughtfully. "Well, if Kerrigan really is the same girl I used to know before her infestation, she won't give up on Jim. Ever."

To be continued...

A/n: I'm back! Sorry for the long delay. A lot of things caught up with me. Not to mention that this chapter is probably the most difficult chapter I've written. More on that later.

You guys probably heard about the MH370, right? I would like to take this opportunity to convey my appreciation for the help and the moral support given on MH370 incident, especially to the 26 nations that have proven their friendship with Malaysia. Nobody that I know was onboard that ill-fated plane but still I feel for those who did. This is certainly a trying time for us.

Now on to this chapter. The main reason on why I brought Liddy into this story is because I feel that all these while, Liddy's character was completely neglected. Compare to Kerrigan and Nova, Liddy had a much larger impact to Raynor than anyone else did and yet her story was pitifully written. The time Raynor spent with her would someday dictate every action he would take eventually. Hence why she would be the perfect candidate to heal Raynor post "Believe in Me".

I would like to give my thanks to Ragnarok666, Leaf Ranger, timberwolf1337, ShadowFenix98, Redwings019, Restored Pptc, Gaffgarion and many others who had taken the trouble to review this story. As always, please read and review and I'll see you soon.

Next chapter would signal the beginning of the final episode of this story. It would be called The Reckoning.