Helena sat at her desk,
spinning her chair to stare out the view port on the back wall. The whole incident was partly due to the fact that she hadn’t
slept well in several nights, and that knowledge caused her further irritation. How could she have become so accustomed so
quickly to sharing a bed again?...How could she allow herself to be so aware of his absence that it kept her from anything
that resembled peaceful sleep?
She had to get hold of herself and get back in control. She could not, and usually did not take personal issues
out on her staff but, moments ago, she had nearly bitten the head off a newly transferred tech assistant for pointing out
that a report she’d been searching for was sitting right under her nose. The instant she finished shouting at him, she
immediately began to apologize and he’d accepted her words of repentance, but he’d looked shell-shocked and so
did the two nurses who had witnessed the scene.
“He was just trying to be helpful, you know.”
Bob’s voice startled her and she nearly dropped the computer disc – the one that contained the lost
and found report - which she’d been holding since entering her office. “Did he complain or did you overhear?”
she asked, turning her chair to face him.
“I overheard,” Bob told her cheerfully as he leaned against the side of her desk.
She nodded, looking contrite. “Does he want to be transferred out?” The tech in question had come
from engineering. He wasn’t going to be trained as a doctor, but he was so skilled with machinery that he’d been
a good choice to be one of Helena’s guinea pigs in her project to cross-train all Alphans in more than one department.
She was certain it would boost morale and raise efficiency as well as enhance attention levels. John had agreed and they’d
begun the experiment with a few carefully chosen personnel only a month ago. The young man had been enthused from the beginning,
but also nervous and intimidated by her. Now she’d probably frightened him to death.
“He didn’t say…but I imagine he’ll get over it.” Bob took a deep sip from his
coffee cup and appraised her with an experienced gaze. “What’s wrong with you anyway? You and the Commander have
Helena glared at him. “You know, not every little mood I have has something to do with John Koenig. There
is no reason for you or anyone else to assume that it does.”
She and John had yet to go public with their relationship, but she knew there were plenty of suppositions flying
around and it was only a matter of time. While she pretended to ignore it, she was aware of the ongoing Base-wide pool that
ran constantly shifting odds regarding when and where the first public kiss would be seen. She wasn’t surprised that
Bob had noticed something. She imagined Victor, and possibly Alan Carter, were aware of the situation, too, though probably
not in detail. She didn’t know how much longer they could pretend. Not long at all if John’s interactions with
others were being affected as much as she’d just allowed hers to be.
Ignoring her outburst, Bob looked at her deadpan and gave a slight sniff. “So you two had a fight?”
She sighed and propped her elbows on the desk, chin resting in her hands. “You make us sound like we’re
in high school,” she grumbled. Then, surrendering to the obvious and realizing that maybe she needed to talk she admitted,
“We’d have to have spent some time together to have a fight. No, we’re not fighting.”
Frowning, he asked, “You’re not speaking, or you just haven’t spent any time together lately?”
“The latter,” she shrugged. “We were supposed to have dinner last night but he canceled. He
said he was tired…I accepted that, it’s been a tiring several days. But this morning after the staff meeting,
I tried to talk to him and he conveniently had something he needed to deal with over in the hangars with the Eagles, engine
parts.” She shook her head betraying her skepticism.
Bob took another sip of coffee. “Couples go through ups and downs,” he suggested. “Sometimes
you just get out of sync with each other.”
“I didn’t say we were a couple,” she said, too quickly. Just as quickly, she wanted to smack
herself with her commlock. Even she wouldn’t have believed her and as she looked at Bob, she saw his face wearing what
was normally one of her favorite expressions of his: the one that said, ‘Do I
really look like The biggest idiot you’ve ever met?’ It was a
lot more amusing when he used it on Ben. “All right,” she retreated from her position. “Don’t look
at me like that.”
Bob moved from the corner of her desk to a chair. This conversation was clearly going to require more time;
he might as well be comfortable. “So you doubt the Eagles required his attention?”
“Not necessarily…” her voice trailed off and she looked at her friend and co-worker with troubled
eyes. “You’re sure he checked out in his evaluation? There was nothing wrong with any of the findings?”
“You double-checked the results yourself,” Bob reminded her. “There is nothing physically
or organically wrong with him, or any of the others for that matter. He and Sandra, Paul and Alan…they’re all
doing exceptionally well for people who were so recently deceased.”
She almost smiled. Technically, everyone on Alpha except herself had been recently deceased. Fortunately, the
condition had proven temporary. “So there is no physical reason…”
“For him to avoid you?” He finished her statement. “No. Sorry, but no.”
“Sorry?” Helena looked perplexed.
Bob shrugged. “Physical problems can be easier to fix…sometimes.”
“So it sounds psychological to you, too?” she confirmed.
“Well, emotional, anyway. I don’t think the Commander’s about to have a breakdown,”
he clarified. “But he’d be something other than human if he wasn’t stressed from everything that just happened.
I think it’s pretty clear to everyone we aren’t going to be running across a habitable planet every week. To find
one that seemed so perfect and have it turn out to be anything but was a letdown for all of us. It has to be worse for him
because he feels like it’s his job to find us a home.”
She nodded. He wasn’t saying anything she didn’t know; it was one of the things she wanted to discuss
with John. She knew the burden of everyone’s disappointment had to be heavy. The recognition of what his debatable choices
had nearly caused had to be weighing on his psyche, too. Even someone as naturally confident as John could question himself
when he carried so much responsibility all the time. Doubt of his decisions was an aspect of his personality he didn’t
often put on display, but she knew him well enough to know it was there. She heard Bob clear his throat and felt the subtle
shift in tone even before he spoke again.
Bob tried to choose his next words with care, watchful of her expression. He’d known Helena for years,
prior to either of them being posted to Alpha. She trusted him and would let him in, willingly talking to him about most things.
The subject of herself and Commander Koenig, however, was not a topic they’d previously addressed. From her reactions,
she was apparently reluctant to admit there was anything to address. He needed
to phrase his thoughts delicately. The fact that everyone knew there was something going on between the pair of them was probably
not what she wanted to hear just now.
“He’d also have to be more than human if he wasn’t upset by the situation with Lee,”
he said meaningfully. “I daresay that might even be the real problem. I imagine he could be feeling awfully insecure
about you right now.”
“Insecure?” Helena laughed. “We are talking about John Koenig in case you’ve forgotten.
I know Lee’s reappearance upset him, confused him. It did that to everyone…I know he felt… jealous, and
didn’t want to admit it. I know he felt very badly that it seemed at the time as though his questioning might have caused
Lee to ‘die’…or…whatever all over again. But,” she shook her head, “insecurity is not
a malady Commander Koenig suffers from.”
“Not typically,” Bob acknowledged. “I agree that faith in himself is a conviction with which
the Commander is richly blessed. Fortunately, for the rest of us, his instincts are usually pretty damned good…though
he was, uh…somewhat off this time and I’m sure that’s bothering him, too.”
Her eyebrow cocked upward in assent as his words echoed her own thoughts.
He smiled at her and spoke the next words gently. “But if I may be so bold, I think you may be thinking
of him a little too much in his role as Commander and the fašade he holds in place for that…and failing to consider
his role as your lover…and everything that entails.”
Helena looked away uncomfortably, but she didn’t seem angry and she didn’t try to correct his terminology.
“The man is in love with you, you know.” Bob’s voice dropped to a near whisper.
She started slightly, but pushed away the immediate reaction to snap at him. Had it been almost anyone else,
they would have been treated to the same response the new tech had received…but this was Bob. She’d known him
for years, and knew he wasn’t trying to be intrusive or offensive, only helpful. She nearly asked if John had spoken
with him about their relationship, but decided it didn’t matter. Bob wouldn’t volunteer details if that were the
case, and it was more likely that Bob just knew, and based on his comments, knew everything. She’d known and worked
with him long enough to know that though Bob wasn’t psychic, he was extraordinarily intuitive and keenly observant.
She might be more skilled at problem solving, but he often bested her at problem identification. When Bob suggested an issue
was present, she was always willing to listen.
“You think he’s questioning my feelings for him?” Her eyes were looking into her lap.
“Not precisely,” he paused. “I think it could be more along the lines of wondering whether
he’s your second choice…or your choice by default because no other choice was possible. Helena, it was obvious
to everyone that you still felt great affection for Lee. That’s not wrong on your part, but from the Commander’s
perspective, its one thing to know the woman he loves still feels affection for her dead husband….Bring that husband
back to life, dangle him in front of her and that puts a whole different spin on her feelings…even if previously dead
husband turns out to be unavailable and unobtainable due to forces unknown.” Cautiously, he asked, “Are you questioning
your feelings for the Commander?”
She finally smiled, shaking her head slowly. “No. That’s the one thing I’ve been sure of through
the whole ordeal.” She sighed. “I feel awful about what happened to Lee, having to leave him back there, but it
doesn’t seem there was any alternative. I would have preferred he come with us…though I know that would have been
extremely awkward…And,” she admitted, “I did get a little upset with John…for the way he dealt with
the situation…for the way he treated me, like I didn’t know what I was doing, like I just had to be wrong.” That had rankled quite a bit as a matter of fact. She’d told him she blamed no one
for Lee’s second “death” and that had been true, but John’s condescending approach with her was a
different matter. It had been like a sharp 180-degree return to his attitude toward her when he’d first arrived on Alpha.
It was short-lived and she was over it, but he’d annoyed her with his behavior. Fleeting annoyance, however, didn’t
change the condition of her heart.
She looked Bob in the eye at last, returning to his question, “No, I haven’t had any doubts about
my feelings for him.” Sometimes, she was so powerfully aware of her feelings for John it almost frightened her, but
she didn’t doubt them, not for a second. She swallowed hard. “I never expected it to happen, but…I’m
in love with him…I would think he knows that.”
“I imagine he does when he’s thinking clearly,” Bob replied reasonably. “That doesn’t
mean he doesn’t live in fear of losing you…and if he should lose you to some god-awful accident or some vindictive
alien…I don’t know…There’s probably some part of his mind that’s steeled itself for those possibilities.
Having Lee turn up and present the possibility of losing you to your past, to another man,” he clicked his tongue. “I
rather doubt he’d anticipated that.”
Her colleague’s words sent a shock of recognition through her…a moment she’d placed no importance
on, but suddenly it seemed starkly significant…That last, real goodbye, as Alpha and the moon had pulled away leaving
Terra Nova, and Lee, behind. She’d stood at the viewport on the Observation Deck watching the planet grow progressively
smaller and felt many things: melancholic loss for a part of her life that had been very happy but was now truly gone, sorrow
that circumstances required Lee be left behind. Though cosmic fate had saved his life, perhaps for the very purpose he’d
just served, Terra Nova was not where he belonged, it was what he’d been handed and had to accept. Finally, survivor’s
guilt, plain and simple. She’d been given second chances, at life and love, while Lee had been given…existence…and
John…had seen the turmoil on her face.
She’d been so lost in that moment she hadn’t realized he was behind her. By the time she’d
become aware of his presence, he was already going back down the steps into Main Mission. She’d assumed he’d wanted
to give her privacy with her emotions. With Bob’s assessment came the rather
obvious insight that John, after all, wasn’t a mind reader. He could have decided…well…What? That she was
wishing things had turned out differently? That she would trade his company for Lee’s if she could? She shook her head,
amazed at her own denseness. John had hardly spoken a dozen sentences to her since that moment. He’d been polite whenever
their paths had crossed but distant, even defensive and, she now realized, sad.
Bob studied her worried expression. He could see he’d struck a chord. He could question her, but he knew
Helena well enough to know that once she’d set her mind upon the right path, she was bright enough to take herself to
the appropriate conclusion. He settled for basic wisdom; she could do the rest. “Honestly,
Helena,” his voice was kind, “at the risk of sounding like a romantic schoolgirl, you love him and he loves you…you’ve
got a lot of the battle won already.”
Despite her irritation with herself, Helena couldn’t help but bestow him with an indulgent smile. “Is
that your clinical opinion, Dr. Mathias?”
He shrugged. “Clinically, I would add that love isn’t everything…it doesn’t solve every
problem…it doesn’t make your problems go away. You still have to work things out…All of which, as an intelligent
adult, you know.” He smiled and added, “But for as long as I’ve known you, I haven’t seen you give
any other man the time of day. It’s not as though you didn’t have offers either, but there was no spark of interest
with you until Commander Koenig arrived on Alpha…I don’t know him as well as I know you, but I’d say you
two just need to make some time for each other and talk.”
She looked down at her lap again, unconsciously twisting the ring round her little finger. Oh yes, she and John
needed to talk…amongst other things. She needed to remind him that whatever errors in judgment he’d made, they
had all survived. She needed to reassure him if he was entertaining doubts about
her feelings for him, there was no reason. She wanted to hear what he’d been through on the planet, too, for she didn’t
believe his filed report on the subject told nearly all. Her report certainly didn’t divulge every detail.
But she also needed to feel him holding her, she needed to feel his mouth on hers and she needed to feel their
bodies pressed together, dissolved into a quivering, panting, sweaty heap of flesh and bone…and she really needed that
soon. Mostly, she wanted to feel his steady heartbeat settled against her back in the night so she could sleep again.
Interrupting her thoughts, Bob suddenly asked, “How long has
“What?” Her voice was shocked.
“Since you two really talked.” He snickered and his tone turned mildly teasing as the expression
on her face told him everything about where her mind had just been. “What did you think I meant?”
“I was just…I was thinking…nothing!” Oh God, she was actually blushing.
Chuckling harder, but good-naturedly, he pointed out, “Helena, I think I can assume that if you haven’t
been talking, other than exchanging public pleasantries, you probably haven’t been doing that either. I imagine once you get the talking out of the way, you can attend to that as well.”
“Never mind,” she was still blushing. “It’s been since we got back from Terra Nova…that
we talked…I mean...” Now she was making it worse every time she opened her mouth.
“Okay,” smiling, he raised a hand in a friendly gesture, unwilling to cause her further embarrassment.
“Moving along…I will mention I’m not normally a believer in forcing someone to talk before they’re
good and ready, but in the Commander’s case, I might advise you to make an exception.”
She nodded in understanding. “Before he broods himself into believing there’s more wrong than there
Bob nodded back at her. “He is a brooder. And he’s moody
and he’s temperamental and he’s stubborn.”
She sighed and a fond smile crossed her features. “That’s my guy.” Then she blushed again
with the candor of that admission.
He smiled in amusement at her unease; an inconsequential disclosure as far as he was concerned given the rest
of the conversation, but let her come to terms with it in her own way. He wouldn’t discomfort her further by making
another teasing comment. He rose from his seat to head back to duty. She seemed better now. “So corner him somewhere.
Get him to talk, then you talk, then let him talk some more, and then…remind him that he is your guy. Everything will
be fine,” he assured her with another smile.
She was still embarrassed with the end of the discussion, but appreciation toward her friend for his concern
and help outweighed it. “Thank you, Bob.”
“Anytime,” he replied on his way out her door. “You always know where to find me.”