Krayonder was very specifically not thinking about the fact that he was holding Specs in his arms.
Nope, not even a little bit. Just carrying out an order from the Commander. Yup. That’s what he was doing. An unorthodox order, mind you, but that’s what you get with a teddy bear for a commanding officer.
She was asleep, and her glasses had fallen away from her face. He had never really seen what she looked like without them before, and that meant something, as Specs’ specs were not exactly what you might call dainty. Her face was freckled, and her nose was awfully cute, the way it turned up just so. She was breathing peacefully, the whisper of her breath tickling his arm.
Not thinking about the fact that Specs was in his arms. Right.
He kicked open the door of her bunk and winced, certain she’d wake and tear him a new one for this not-so-normal situation he’d unexpectedly found himself in.
“Not my fault that you’ll fall asleep anywhere, anytime,” he muttered, but he muttered it fondly, and crossed the room to lay her on the pristinely made-up bed.
Actually tucking her in would be this too far this side of weird, he decided. It would be just his luck to have her wake up the very second he was bending over her to grab the blanket or something.
“No way, man,” he decided, and turned to go.
He stopped, for just a moment, to look at her before he made it to the doorway. Her glasses were still askew on her face, and her chest was still rising gently.
He wrinkled his face, and then quickly crossed the room again. He lifted the glasses carefully from her ears and set them on the desk beside them.
In her sleep, her eyebrows knitted, and then just as his heart stopped, her eyes flew open.
Is it too early for a Christmas theme? I couldn’t help myself.
It was Christmastime.
Ree knew this because the house had started to smell like gingerbread. Mommy was making cookies, and she and Ty would get to decorate them (even though what Ree really wanted to do was eat them). There were rolls of wrapping paper in Mommy’s shopping bags, all red and green and shiny and gold. And boxes of decorations were spread out in the living room. Ree was already wearing the long strings of golden beads around her neck and arms. She pulled ornaments out of the box, being very careful not to break any. She was looking for her special ornament, the one that said “Baby’s First Christmas” and had a picture of her on it. Hers was green, and Ty’s was blue.
“Ree!” called Mommy. “Come and get the door, Uncle Up and Tía Taz are here!”
“Yay!” yelled Ree as she raced for the kitchen. Mommy was at the counter, pouring egg nog (yuck) into little glass cups. Mommy looked tired.
Ree whipped open the door. “Merry Christmas!” she said excitedly.
Uncle Up picked her up and swung her around. She laughed, because he was so tall, and she was up so high. “Merry Christmas to you too, little lady!”
“I’m not a lady,” Ree protested.
“That’s right, chica,” said Tía Taz. “You tell him.”
“So you want the tree-” Up called through the kitchen to Mommy.
“If you can, that’d be perfect!”
It took Uncle Up a long time to figure out how to put the tree up, even with Ty helping.
“Don’t they have Christmas trees in space?” Ree asked. She really wanted to go into space with Up and Taz, but Mommy wouldn’t let her.
Up laughed. “No Christmas trees, I’m afraid.” He turned to Rosie. “It’s nice to be able to get back to Earth for it this year.”
“We’re happy to have you,” said Mommy. “Ty and Ree have been talking about nothing else for weeks!”
“Mom,” Ty said, looking embarrassed. Ree thought that was pretty dumb of him.
Tía Taz was helping her fish out ornaments, reindeer and angels and little clay snowflakes Ree had made herself. Mommy was watching, a glass of eggnog (yuck) in her hand.
“You look sad, Mommy,” Ree said.
“Mom always looks sad at Christmas,” Ty said from inside the Christmas tree.
Mommy looked surprised at this, and shared a grown-up look with Tía Taz.
“Come on, Ree,” she said, putting down her eggnog. “Let’s find your daddy’s ornament. I think that should be the first one we put up this year.”
Daddy’s ornament was Mommy’s favourite. It was made of glass, and very carefully wrapped in its own special box. In the middle of the ornament shimmered a lot of beautiful, glowing lights. Ree always thought they looked like stars. Daddy had brought it home for Mommy one year from an alien planet.
“Tree’s ready,” said Uncle Up.
Ty came out to join them, and together he, Mommy and Ree hung the ornament carefully where all of them could reach. They stood back, and Mommy put her arms around them both. The lights lit up the whole room.
“Merry Christmas, Mommy,” whispered Ree.
Mommy hugged them tighter. “Merry Christmas.”
Okay, I’ll admit I took some artistic license with this one. It was fun, though. Hope you enjoy. :)
Up entered the mess hall with a bit of a stupid grin on his face. Krayonder nudged Specs, who paused, fork poised in midair.
“Hey man, take a look at the Commander.”
Specs pushed her glasses up on her nose. “He looks happy. He usually looks happy. Is there some unusual factor in his appearance today that is escaping my notice?”
“No, man,” Krayonder said. “And look - Taz too. You can’t tell me that’s her usual look.”
“Agreed, usually the Lietenant seems a little more - morose.”
“So what do you think, Specs? You’re the smart one. What could make our two favourite commanding officers look so blasted happy all of a sudden?”
Specs turned back to her food. “Well, obviously they have just engaged in coitus.”
Krayonder nearly spat out his mouthful of mac and cheese. “That’s sick, man. Sick.”
“You have another idea? Logically-“
“You and your logic. Naw, it’s not that, Febs and I were just in the gym and so was Taz. The Commander came to see her, and it seemed like a pretty intense conversation, if you know what I mean.”
“OMDG, I know, right?”
February joined them, smacking her tray down on the table with gusto. “There’s totally something going on there! I mean, there’s always been something going on there, but today there’s something new…”
“What’s new, Rangers?”
The three of them looked up to see Up standing above them. “Budge up a seat, there, Private.”
Krayonder and Specs exchanged glances as they made room. “Hey- hey there, Commander.”
“So you were saying? Something’s new? Not a problem with the ship, I hope.”
“Nope, not the ship…” Krayonder said.
“It’s Outfits with Alejandro!” February burst suddenly. “I don’t know where I’d be without that webcast, my fall wardrobe is going to be all wrong! Alejandro always knows when there’s a new trend in Europa…”
Up looked at her skeptically.
“Hola, idiotas,” Taz said casually, slipping into the seat beside Up.
“Hey, Taz,” Krayonder said weakly.
“Easy, Krayon-dair, my knife’s safe and sound in its sheath, see?”
Krayonder chuckled uneasily.
Taz looked around the table at the unusual silence, and then turned, frowning, to Up. “What did you-“
“My sensors indicate that an awkward situation is occuring at this table. What is the nature of the awkwardness?”
MegaGirl and Tootsie had joined them.
“I have no idea,” said Up.
“Lieutenant, your core bodily temperature is 3.4 degrees warmer than the human standard. Has something happened recently that has caused you excitement?”
“I’ll warm your core temperature if you don’t shut up,” Taz muttered, but her cheeks were flushing red.
The Commander put a hand on his Lieutenant’s shoulder and February made significant eyes at Krayonder and Specs. “Calm down, Taz, MegaGirl’s just being MegaGirl, you know her.”
“Hoo boy!” shouted Tootsie, taking a seat. “Noodles with cheese, my favourite!”
“You idiotas are all loco,” Taz said, pushing her tray away. “I’m heading back to the gym.”
“I’ll join you,” said Up quickly.
Krayonder, February and Specs all turned to watch them go. Just as the door to the mess hall slid shut, they heard Taz start in on Up.
“Did you tell them? Did you tell them that nos vamos a casar?”
“Ah,” said MegaGirl. “That is a logical explanation.” They all turned to her expectantly, and she looked at them in surprise. “I forget that humans do not come equipped with universal translation software. The Commander and the Lieutenant are getting married.”
They stared at her with gaping mouths.
“Boy howdy! Does anybody mind if I eat these noodles?”
Sorry this is kind of crap - I tried! I could probably go somewhere with this if I had more time but…
Junior had a serious case of the munchies.
Unfortunately all this dead goddamned starship had in the galley was a bunch of packets of freeze-dried just-add-water meals that were so not what he was in the mood for right now. “SpagBol,” he muttered, reading the label of one and tossing it haphazardly back into the cupboard in disgust. “Ugh.”
Doritos would be nice. Cheesy, zesty, crunchy doritos. Yum.
He wiped a thin trail of drool from his chin and straightened as the video screen behind him buzzed. “Incoming video call for Junior Space-Claw,” the friendly computer voice intoned.
“I told you, I’m not Junior Space-Claw,” he muttered. His dad had liked the superhero-villian moniker the press had given him so much that he’d had their names legally changed. Junior had not been impressed. Claw was bad enough.
The video flashed onscreen, and there was his dad, or his hands at least, all that Junior ever saw of him anymore.
“Hi, dad,” he said glumly.
“Junior,” his father rumbled. “How are those evil plans coming along, son?”
“Great,” said Junior. “Real great, yeah. I think I can get the MegaGirl unit under my control, and she’ll take out the rest of them. We’ll be back on Earth with those insect eggs before you can say Evil Mastermind.”
“Good, good,” Dr. Space-Claw said, rubbing his metallic hands together. “Don’t let me down, son.”
“No, I’d never do that,” said Junior.
“Now, about this bag of-“
“What? Sorry? I think it’s breaking up again, Dad. We’ll have to try again later!” Junior pressed a couple of buttons on the panel, causing the screen to static.
“Hey, can you tell New Mom to send me some Doritos along with those headphones? Thanks, see ya later, bye!”
He closed the transmission and leaned heavily against the console, wondering how many times that would work.
He’d never asked for this job. He’d just thought maybe if he did it, his dad might finally-
He stopped this train of thought where it began. He knew he’d never be the kind of evil genius son his dad really wanted.
Might as well go smoke some more weed.
Note: I’m setting this at Zama, rather than Taz’s village, because I feel that Taz said her goodbyes to that place in Ch 15 of Learning to Dance. It’s still a part of her childhood, and a place for them to build new memories together. Hope this works for you. :)
Taz spread her fingers out in the hot white sand, digging down to find the coolness underneath. Sweat rolled down her back, but sometimes that was exactly what you needed, the fiery heat of the Mexican sun, after months upon months in icy space.
The white-gold of the ring on her finger flashed in the sun, and she lifted her hands to look at it, this new addition, the first piece of jewellery she’d worn since playing dress-up with her cousins as a little niña. She’d been worried that it would feel restrictive, heavy on her finger, but instead it had become a comfort, a reassurance - a promise. She turned her head to look at her husband - lo extraño it was to think of him like that! - emerging from the waves, pushing his hair back from his face, shaking off great droplets of water. He caught her looking and beamed at her, and her heart swelled to see him so happy.
Taz put her head back down. “Dios muerto, I am going soft, aren’t I?” she asked the sand.
She loved this place. It had always seemed magical to her as a child, a little bubble of a world where there were no chickens to feed or chores to do, and Mama didn’t have to work so hard, and she and her cousins could eat ice creams and play in the waves as long as they wanted, watched over by the ruined fortress, and the blue sky. It was a haven, even when the war with the robots got really bad - they’d been planning a trip here just after her quinceañera.
She looked at Up. She could just imagine what her Mama would say if she were to meet him - “Grey hair and false moustache! What are you doing with this anciano, Tazia?” - her uncle would eye him suspiciously and her cousins would tease him relentlessly, but he’d win them all over, she knew he would, with his easy personality and soldier’s discipline. He’d play with the children - for her cousins would have produced loads of babies by now, she was sure of it - and charm Mama into giving her begrudging approval, and then they could have had the kind of wedding Taz had never realized she wanted, under the big tree in the yard, with family all around them.
She looked up at him.
“You’re thinking about your family, aren’t you, mi querida?”
He sat down beside her and pulled her into his arms. She closed her eyes and let herself by surrounded by him. She smiled.
“They would have loved you.”
It was only when she heard the door close behind her that Li allowed her shoulders to drop, the tension to fall away from her face. She stood for a moment, eyes closed, taking slow breaths through her nose, until she was calm enough to reach for the half-empty bottle of scotch beneath her desk.
The first sip was warming, comfort in a glass. She went to the sink and splashed some cool water on her face, drying it with a G.L.E.E.-issued towel, looking at herself in the slightly warped mirror. A tall woman, solidly built, looked back at her. A soldier with short black hair, a permanent look of determination on her face.
It was no wonder the angry once-again-Lieutenant who’d just stormed out reminded her of someone.
“Twenty-five years,” she said to herself, taking another sip of scotch. She’d been serving the G.L.E.E. nearly as long as the Lieutenant had been alive, twenty-five years of battle and blood and struggling to prove herself as one of the very first women to graduate from the Academy into this world of men. The first female Commander the League had seen. Twenty-five years of discipline, of hardening herself, of sacrificing everything to do what no one else had done. Cherishing some small hope that she might make things easier for those to come.
Maybe that’s why she pushed the Lieutenant so hard.
She was the most promising Ranger Li had ever seen - skilled, resourceful, unwilling to back down for anyone. And also the most stubborn - willing to throw her career away because she’d broken her heart over the man who’d rescued her all those years ago, brought her aboard Li’s ship against every rule the G.L.E.E. had. It infuriated Li to no end.
This was why soldiers shouldn’t permit themselves to have feelings.
One more sip, and Li turned to her console. If she couldn’t get through to Lieutenant Taz, she would send her back to the only man that could.
And good luck to both of them.
Ree stood in the bunk she’d shared with her fellow cadets for what she knew would be the last time. Her bag was packed with the few material possessions she had after four years at the Academy - a few books, one in Spanish, a hairbrush, her meagre selection of street clothes. Her favourite pair of jeans. A few notes passed in class, her journal, filled with useless doodles and absentminded scribbles of her name, over and over: Rheanna Carlyn Tripp. Rheanna Carlyn Tripp. A photograph of her and her mom and older brother, laughing and eating ice creams on Mars on the trip they’d taken before she’d turned eighteen, just before Ree had left for the Academy, before she’d taken that final step toward becoming a grown-up. Becoming a Starship Ranger.
Her mom had been reluctantly supportive of her decision to enlist in the G.L.E.E. It hadn’t been a decision so much as something she’d always known she had to do, something that had always been a part of her, this desire to see the stars, to reach out and touch them.
To be her father’s daughter.
She held the burnished metal cross in her hand, the grasping G.L.E.E. symbol cletched tight around the world in the centre. Her fingertips traced the letters of his name engraved on the back. Connor Tripp, Rear Admiral. A medal of valour with honours, awarded post-humously, to a dry-cheeked widow with a small son by her side and a baby on the way. A poor substitute for a husband, or a father. But still, it was something.
Ree tucked the medal into the pocket of her dress uniform and straightened, smoothing down the front of her jacket. She looked at herself in the mirror. Everyone said that she took after her mother, all that red hair and a bit of a temper, but her eyes - she could see the conflict of pride and pain in her mother’s face when she looked into Ree’s eyes, and then was enough to tell her that they were her father’s.
She turned toward the door. It was time to go. Time to walk across that stage and let Uncle Up pin those pips on her, smile at her mom and Ty in the audience, send a salute toward tía Taz, and finally become what she was always meant to be.
She knew her dad would be watching somewhere in the stars.
“My name is Ree Tripp, and I’m a Starship Ranger.”
She tested the words aloud. They sounded good.
Hint: it involves baby Ree.
(I got quite a few prompts about baby Ree.)
Kind of cheating, because I already had this one written, I’ve just tweaked it a bit. As you can see, I’m not a flowers and down-on-one-knee kind of girl. Lots of ficlets to come, and I’m still waiting on some prompts, so if you earned one in the “Guess LtD Up’s Age” contest, send them my way!
Hope you enjoy!
One thing Up knew for sure, becoming a Rear Admiral hadn’t made Li any less of a bitch. Unfortunately, it did make her his commanding officer.
He stood outside his own ready room, which Li had commandeered for the duration of her visit on Starship 15A2, wondering what to do. He had no doubt she would make good on her threats. But she had no proof her claims were true.
The rumours about he and Taz had been circulating the League since Up had first pulled her down from that tree in Mexico. The other Rangers were always giving them sly looks any time he called the Lieutenant to his ready room for a meeting.
And there was that time he almost hadn’t returned from a dangerous mission and she’d forgotten herself - and kissed him in front of everyone. Not that he’d minded.
Yes, the Rear Admiral could probably find plenty of damning evidence against them.
He had to talk to Taz.
She was in the gym, of course, but she wasn’t the only one. Krayonder and February were there too, her filing her nails and nattering on about the latest trends in eyelashes while Krayonder huffed along on the treadmill. Taz was bench-pressing weights, breathing heavily, sweat on her forehead, her neck. He waved at the other Rangers and cross the room to bend over her, taking the weights gently from her grip and placing them carefully back on the bar.
“Que pasa?” she said, a little irritably, looking up at him. Taz didn’t like to be interrupted while she was working out. He’d learned that a long time ago.
He spoke as quietly as he could. “Taz, we’re gonna have to - lay low, for awhile.”
She frowned, but he could see that she knew what he meant. “Why?”
“It’s Li – she knows, Taz. She’s just threatened to have you reassigned.”
“Que?” Taz said, a little too loudly, and then covered her mouth and whispered, “That puta – of course she would. Why the hell should it matter to her if we’re-”
“Because it’s against G.L.E.E. regulations, you know it is,” he said, leaning on the bar.
“Then how come no one has a problem with Tootsie and MegaGirl?”
“That’s different - neither is the other’s commanding officer,” said Up. “And besides, they’re married.”
“So Li wouldn’t be able to do anything about it if we were married?”
He blinked, and she grew still, perhaps realizing the implications of what she’d just said. He stared at her. She was beautiful even upside-down, shining from her workout, still catching her breath, strength and determination pouring out of every inch of her.
He loved her. And he was sick of hiding it.
“Do you…” he hesitated. “Do you want to marry me?”
She looked up at him. “Do you want to marry me?”
“Yes,” they both said, at the same time.
Sudden, unexpected happiness bubbled up inside him, and they both laughed. He wanted nothing more than to kiss her, but he could feel the eyes of the other Rangers on them, and restrained himself. “I don’t think we’re doing this right,” he said.
She shrugged, but she was beaming up at him. “When have we ever done anything right?”
He couldn’t help but grin back. He knew there’d be no hiding these smiles.