She leaned in the doorway, arms crossed across her chest, watching him as he rolled up articles of clothing, stuffing them into his duffle bag. Even after so many years after he quit being a pilot, he still carried the long, cylindrical duffle bag meant to fit neatly into the small cargo compartment of an X-wing.
“When’s your transport leave?”
“Couple days,” he answered, stuffing another shirt into the bag before looking up at her. “You’re in uniform.”
Indy nodded slowly, not bothering to straighten from her lean. “General Skyy got in yesterday afternoon. I need to debrief her today. I owe her that much.”
Mike stared at her for a long moment, evidently picking up on what she left unsaid. She owed it more to someone who would never sit still to be debriefed ever again, because he never could. Mike shook his head slightly. “Do the details really matter that much?”
She considered that a moment before shaking her head. “No. I suppose they don’t, not really. He’s dead—by all accounts we can gather, for good this time. But we’ll see. Tag made noises about looking into it, or having someone look into it. I wonder if she really meant it, though.”
“And the kid?”
Indy shrugged. “I never rode anyone’s ass about the Dark Side until more than a couple people died. Not about to start looking hypocritical now.” I never threw you in the brig for very long for any of that. It’s…like being temporarily insane. You’re not wholly responsible for what you’ve done, in that state.
He managed to smile at her. “That…that thing that Tag and Nylan did, with the ashes…that was nice, wasn’t it?”
She finally straightened, moving over toward the corner of the bed and sitting down next to his bag, which he was still packing. His pace had slowed, his brow had furrowed. There was something eating at him, and she knew it. “Yeah, it was. Not what I would have chosen for him—or for me—but it was fitting enough, given what we had.” Indy smiled faintly. “Was good of Teke to do what he did.”
“Teke always was a good man,” Mike murmured, turning away from the bed to get something from the closet. A glimmer caught Indy’s eye. She reached into her husband’s duffle and carefully pulled out a painstakingly crafted model of a starfighter, built of scraps of this and that. She turned it over in her fingers slowly, shaking her head slightly. Mike startled as he turned, staring at her with the model in her hands. It wasn’t a ship that actually existed. It had been born of a thirteen-year-old brain some six years before.
She held it up. “Davil made this for you before you shipped out to take your command in the Sixth.”
He nodded, tossing his jacket over the foot of the bed and sinking down next to her, taking the model gently. “I know,” he said quietly, staring at it. The beginnings of a tear shone in his organic eye. “Been thinking about it a lot lately. Going to do some sketches on the flight back. Give me something to do.”
“You left it here, when you left. Davil was upset. I was going to ship it, but you kept telling me not to. You’d remember it the next time you came home on leave.” She put her arm around him, resting her head against his shoulder. “You kept on forgetting it. What’s different now?”
Mike hesitated, staring at the model in his hands. He took a long, slow, deep breath, finding himself unable to meet her gaze. “Indy…when I came home this time…I…this was going to be the last time.”
She felt a pang, somewhere deep. “Who is she, Mike? Or was she?”
He startled, gaze snapping up toward her. “You knew?”
“I always knew,” she said quietly, stroking his cheek and managing a wry smile. “I always knew I wasn’t the only woman in your bed. I haven’t been since the kids were born. Service is lonely…and you can’t stand to be alone. You never could.”
His mouth worked, but no sound came out. He squeezed his eyes shut, and now the tears did escape. He bowed his head, shaking it slowly. “And yet…you…you wouldn’t let me go.”
“There were moments when I hated you, Mike,” she murmured in his ear, resting her chin on his shoulder. “But I always, always loved you more than I hated you. And I knew for all the mistakes you ever made, every…every character flaw I had to live with, you loved me, too. There’s a reason we survived those first few months, the first few years. I always knew that. Somewhere…you knew it, too.”
He lifted his head and stared at her for a long moment before resting his forehead against hers. “You’re still more than I’ve ever deserved.”
She smiled at him, running her fingers through his hair. “And you’re the only one I’ve ever wanted.” Indy leaned in and kissed him gently. He shivered, hugging her tightly, almost crushing the breath from her.
“Arilyn…is afraid I’m going to go out there and die.”
She leaned back, staring at him. “You’re not planning on it, are you?”
He managed a smile. “With you waiting for me to come home to you? Of course not.” He kissed her again and closed his eyes, hold loosening slightly. “I can’t hurt you—or them—like that anymore. I’m not going to be that stupid, or that blind.”
Indy nodded, resting her chin on his shoulder. “So that’s why you’re taking the model with you?”
He smiled a little, picking it back up again from where he’d dropped it, next to them on the bed. “He’s a brilliant kid, Indy. He’s always been a brilliant kid. I’ve…I’ve always just been too wrapped up in other shit to see it. And this…?” He turned the model over in his hands. “This could work. It…it could be real.” He carefully slipped it back into the bag. “And I’m going to make it real.”
She ran her fingers through his hair again and he shivered, sighing.
“Are you sure you can’t delay that debrief an hour or two?”
Indy smiled, tousling his hair. “After lunch, maybe, I can scrape together a few hours. Definitely tonight…but I’m sitting in on a briefing at 0600 local tomorrow.”
“Who’s giving a briefing at 0600?”
“Carlos, at Golgan III. We have a holocom uplink that’s going to let me sit in real-time.”
Mike frowned. “What’s going on out there that he’s going to have you on a real-time uplink?”
She smiled that same, coldly knowing smile that had earned her the calsign Frosty during her flight operations days. “Classified, for now. Strategies and tactics. Nothing for you to worry too much about.” She pecked him on the cheek. “He may not be my XO anymore, but sometimes…”
He nodded a little. “He keeps you updated. I know.” He grasped her gently by the back of her neck. “If something does happen to me…I’m glad you have friends like him. To help. Look out for you.”
Her throat tightened and she nodded. “Nothing’s going to happen to you, Mike.”
He kissed her forehead. “You’re right. Nothing’s going to happen to me.” He let go of her reluctantly. “Take care of that debrief. Sooner that’s done, sooner you get home tonight, right?”
“Right.” She kissed him again, standing and straightening. “Take Ari to breakfast or something. Time’ll pass faster if you keep busy doing something other than packing.”
“Good call.” He caught her hand and squeezed it as she was turning to go. “I love you, Indy.”
She smiled. “I love you, too, Mike. Call me for lunch, okay?”
He nodded, grinning slightly. “Aye ma’am.”
She grinned back and headed out to face the day.