She awoke in the morning, her head sore from the amount of drink she’d had the night before. She had been surprized when he’d left last night. He hadn’t wanted to but had thought that it would be better for the purpose of her reputation among the Colonials.

She’d been amazed at how open he was about his past, how’d he come to be where he was now, and why. He’d been born on Earth, but by the age of fourteen he’d managed to save up enough credits to leave home and come out to the Colonies. He’d gone to Rygel 3 and become a sheriff’s deputy. He’d left at the age of seventeen and joined the Marines in order to get away from a situation he hadn’t gone into in great detail.

 She had listened as he’d spoken of the things he’d seen and done. He wasn’t too proud of some of it, but other things he’d laughed as he’d remembered, the laughter sounding as if it came from a man who didn’t laugh often. She’d slowly worked her hand around to his and gently held his hand as he spoke.

 He’d seemed astonished at her doing so, but then as the night had worn on he seemed to grow more comftorable and hadn’t shrunk back or flinched from her leaning her head on his shoulder. He’d gently begun to stroke her hair as they’d talked, his gentle voice soothing as she listened. Then he’d begun asking about her life and he’d seemed honestly interested in what she had to say.

She’d never thought her life was that interesting, but he’d seemed as if it was very interesting. The stories of hardship and strife as the years wore on and the town grew were similar enough. The outlaws and bandits had come and turned the town upside down. Some came for profit, others for women, some for loot (that didn’t exist), and some just because they liked killing. His eyes had changed as she spoke of those times, he’d seen them too.

He’d been one of those who’d stood against those men, and yet he was nothing more than a mere boy. As he’d risen to leave that night, something wholy unexpected had happened. He’d stood stock still for just a moment as she held him, having shot up from her sofa without realizing when or how. She’d clutched to him as if she were drowning and he a life preserver. He’d stood, shocked for a moment, then had clutched to her in a way that was so tight, yet not painful, that it was as if at that moment he poured all of his heart, soul, and very being into her.

They stood like that for at least an hour, just holding each other, a silent communication that neither need give voice to, for words would only sound vague and nondeserving of the feeling. Finally, after thinking long and hard of what to say, so as not to sound foolish, she’d leaned her head back and looked up into his deep sad blue eyes. They were her ocean, and she was glad to be lost in them. “Would you believe in a love at first sight?” She whispered, ever so gently so as not to startle him. He swayed for a moment, then smiled as she realized how much she sounded like a lovelorn teenager and was embarrassed and ashamed of it.

He gently put his hand up to her face and smiled, so kindly that her heart longed for him as it had for no other man in her life. “I’m certain it happens all the time.” He whispered back, the sadness of the uncertain future mixing with the joy of the here and now in his eyes. She’d smiled then, leaning her head against his chest as he’d started to slowly dance with her in a small circle.

She’d been surprized at his grace as they began to dance with each other. They danced and danced to music that they found on the Net. Laughing and carrying on as if they had nerry a care in the world. When finally they’d stopped they’d collapsed on the sofa, too drunk, and exhausted to stand any longer. Then they’d held each other and fallen asleep in an embrace no force on Earth, nor in Heaven or Hell, could seperate. For whether they or others knew it, they were now as one.

Their hearts, souls, indeed, their very spirits were now intertwined and connected that even if they never saw each other again they’d never love another like this again. He’d tried not to wake her when he started to get up to go. When she did awake and look at him she saw the guilt and sadness on his face. She’d begun to open her mouth to ask him to stay, not to go this time, but that wouldn’t be right. “I have my duty, if I don’t go then it’ll be someone else.” He said, the words giving him strength to leave. She felt a flash of pain as she realized he thought she was actually going to ask him to stay. He realized his mistake and could not look her in the eye for a moment. “I’m sorry, I thought…” He trailed off. “I know, but I could never aske you to shirk your duty, my love.” She said, gasping as she heard what she’d said.

 He appeared shocked for a moment, then clutched her to him for what seemed an eternity. She felt his love pour through her in that embrace. Finally he let go, his eyes moist from the tears he was barely holding in. He picked up his horizon blue battle fatigue shirt and slowly put it on.

As he buttoned it he looked her in the eye, his expression that of the Marine corporal who now had to leave to do his duty, no matter the consequences. “I want you to do your best to return to me, my love.” She said, trying to smile as if she weren’t truly worried. He grinned for a moment and finished buttoning his shirt, the horizon blue complimenting his eyes very well, at least that was her opinion, but then she’d always been a sucker for a man in uniform.

“I shall.” He said simply, then a look of determination swept over his face. “I just feel sorry for the bastard who tries to stop me from doing so. I haven’t had anyone who cares for me in nerry on as long as I’ve been wearing this uniform.” He said, that admission seeming to take alot out of him. It puzzled her, how a man as gentle and kind as he could seem to find it hard to admit he was lonely, and had been for a long time.

There had been other women before, she knew that, he hadn’t lied to her about his past. She knew he meant what he said. He grabbed his kepi off the table next to the sofa and placed it atop his head at a jaunty angle.

 “How do I look?” He asked, his smile showing he was trying to enjoy a lighthearted moment between them. “I don’t think you should ever try and wear your cap that way. You look a little too new.” She said, smiling and reaching up with both hands to straighten it and then lean in to kiss him. He smiled back, glad he had made her smile. “It’s called a kepi, my dear, and I shall see you later. If that’s alright.” He said, remembering his Colonial Courtship Rules from his early years.

 He strapped on his belt and made sure his sidearm was properly secured. “I will count the hours until you return, my love.” She said, for all the world feeling as if she were in a fairy tale. He’d kissed her again, the sensation of lightning shooting up and down her spine. Then he stepped back, bowed low, sweeping his kepi until it touched the floor, stood to attention, replacing his kepi atop his head and saluting her. Then did a smart about face and walked out the door, she ran to the door and watched him go, not caring what the neighbors thought. He turned slightly and looked over his shoulder at her.

She waved to him, and he waved back. In the early morning light she saw the piece of yellow ribbon she’d tied to his left shoulder strap. The tradition being that it was a sign of strength through love. She’d watched until she couldn’t see him anymore, then went inside and curled up on her sofa, holding the flowers he’d bought to herself and locking all the memories away.

She’d fallen asleep like that with his face in her thoughts and dreams. When she awoke she was alone, and she knew he would return to her. So she got up and got dressed for work. When she left she looked back at the sofa and saw him sitting there, his kepi on his knee, her head upon his shoulder. That was how she wanted life to be, to Hell with the fact he was a Marine, to Hell with what anyone else thought, she loved him and he loved her, that was what mattered to her. For the first time in a long time, she was happy.