Characters: Terry Hale
“Terry. Ter, wake up.”
“Do I really want to?” It was answered with a soft chuckle, but the question had been asked in all seriousness. Life had changed in a single night. Sleep and its dreams lasted as long.
Terry opened her eyes warily, lifting her head. The muscles’ protests began in her neck and lanced down her back, a sharp dose or reality. She’d fallen asleep against the arm of the couch, a tatty old quilt thrown over her. Likely when Deira had brought the tea that was now cold in it’s cup on the coffee table. For a moment her mind was lost in the trivial detail, unable to confront what –or rather who– was perched on the table in front of her.
“Hi.” Warren smiled. It was a nervous one, but it was true, and without the pain Terry saw in her memories. Somehow, incredibly, he was whole. For that instant, it was enough to see that.
Then she had to remember what to do about it, and couldn’t help remembering what had happened. All emotions struggled to surface, and left her in a speechless tangle.
“It’s your turn, mom,” Deira prompted from the doorway to the kitchen. She looked as if she’d been crying, and about to start up again. Trevor loomed at her shoulder, still in his coat and dusted with new snow.
“An imposter then? The Terry I knew always had a thing or two to say,” Warren teased, but his confidence wasn’t entirely there in the face of silence. He moved to crouch in front of Terry and dared to pull her from her immobility into an embrace.
“Like you aren’t,” she rasped, speaking finally. She could hear the same roughness in his voice. Deira, pushing Trevor in front of her, quickly and quietly made themselves scarce.
“Do you know I thought you were dead?” Warren said when he could speak again.
“I was told you were,” Terry replied, bitterness creeping into her voice.
“I’d heard,” he said after a pause. “From the source, actually, just now.”
Terry looked at him sharply when it sunk in. “Why?”
He wrapped his arm around her shoulders before she could retreat. His other hand came up, warding. “It was before I knew Terry. Sylvia called me a few hours after the kids went on their hunt. Seems… she saw you on the news too.”
“So, she wanted to give you her version before I could get here.”
“Actually, to tell me the truth before anyone else did.”
“You didn’t see her, Ter. It also fits what Deira heard from you, too.”
“So she’s feeling remorse. As if that’s going to fix anything. We’re talking 12 years, Warren! Lost, and who knows what else with it.”
“She tried to kill herself.”
“So?” It was on the tip of her tongue to wish he hadn’t stopped her, but Warren wasn’t like that. He gave people second and third chances, something she had and could admire in her calmer moments. “I can’t forgive her this, Warren. I’m not that big a person.”
“I’m not asking you. I’m not sure I can, entirely, but as far as punishment goes, she’s been doing it to herself better than anyone else could.”
Silence fell then, and Terry tried to grasp something to fill it. How with so many years wishing she could forget everything she wanted to say? Finally she chuckled at herself, and asked, “What now?”
“You’ve got me,” Warren said. He reached over and tipped up the pin on her uniform, her Isil’zah, catching the light in watery ripple within the aqua stone. A smile crossed his face, and she could see he appreciated the irony of Terry Montgomery the park ranger becoming Terry Hale of the Rangers. “Once a ranger…”
“…always a ranger.”
“Why don’t you start here, then?” he prompted.
Terry took a deep breath and began the attempt.
Morning had come and gone, and the afternoon almost with it before anything could be said to be explained for either of their lives apart. Hesitantly, Terry spoke of the roving years, where life was little above some of the lurkers that slipped into the cracks in every station and settlement. It became easier when she steered away from those days, when she cared so little for life and the people that passed through it. Finally purpose had returned to her existence, through the secret jobs of a group she later learned to be the Rangers, it wasn’t so long a road from there before she became one of them in the gathering before the last war between the Shadows and Vorlons.
And then there were the wars themselves to explain, which were almost as difficult to find words for as anything that day. How do you explain what happened at Coriana 6? Trying to explain how it felt to be in a war against your own kind later wasn’t any easier. She knew it’d be a while for any of them to reconcile what they knew of her, to this present version of herself. And they would, she hoped, never understand firsthand what it was all about.
For his own part, Warren explained what had happened since she left. Terry had heard some of it from Deira and Trevor, but she had to admit to at least herself she’d missed every other word it seemed, from those early explanations.
Apparently it had been a near thing for Warren, but the treatments had worked, and it had been a little more than a year before he was back working at the park. It wasn’t much longer after that that he started working toward the clearing of his wife’s name in the smuggling and murder case. Terry ended up quipping that he must have been missing the near death experiences, and that grim banter carried them past Sylvia’s betrayal and the empty victory of exoneration that came afterward.
The rest of the years were filled with raising the kids and their leaving to college and careers. Terry would always be sorry to have missed that, but there was a small comfort in knowing she had fought the wars for at least a few good reasons.
“So… Captain,” Warren drawled. He spoke the title as if savoring it’s strangeness. “Do you think you can spare a few hours more?”
Terry muffled a yawn that threatened to crack something in her jaw. “I think I can, but I don’t think I’d be awake for them.” Aside from the nap, she’d been up for over 36 hours straight now.
Warren laughed. “Actually, that was what I was going to suggest. You look terrible.”
“Thanks,” she replied dryly. Sitting forward, more than a few joints cracked.
“Come on,” Warren urged, getting up from the couch. “There’s a bed calling you.”
Terry let him coax her up and steer her toward a room. It wasn’t their –his– bedroom. Perhaps he sensed, or felt himself the need to take it easy just now. They had been longer apart than they’d ever been together.
It was the spare guest bed, and to Terry it’s pile of blankets and pillows looked like heaven. Warren stopped at the door, and started to close it reluctantly. “Sleep as long as you like. We’ve got plenty of time to talk later. You’re home now.” And he closed the door quietly.
It was more than exhaustion that dropped her down to bed a few moments later. The one thing she hadn’t really thought about, or wanted to think about, surfaced. She had what she’d always dreamed about, but…
What was she going to do now with the Phoenix?
(c) Copyright 1999 Alida Saxon. All rights reserved.