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It took some doing but we managed to fit this in around the RL grind. As usual, kudos goes to Andy for the superb job he did, both with Joshua and with juggling his schedule so as to make this RP possible. Thanks, Andy. You rock!--Maer

Tuesday, 14 Apr 2522
Five Suns Fruit Company Plantation
Waysmeet, Greenleaf
Red Sun (Zhu Que) system
0800hrs, local time

I slept late on our first full day dirtside and woke to an empty bed with the sheets cold where Joshua had been. I rolled over and hugged his pillow and breathed in the scent of him, trying to recall Joshua holding me in the dark. Memory came, but faintly. Waking to find him gone had become all too familiar since we’d acquired Equinox and repetition didn’t make it any easier to bear. Like a stubborn wound that refused to heal, the disappointment of waking alone only made the scab over the wound grow thicker. I tried not to dwell on what would happen when I woke up and found the wound gone with nothing but the scab in its place.

Quit marinating. Get up.

I rose and made our bed, then dressed for the tropics outside, pondering what I would do with my free time. I had a good lot of it. Arden and Kiera had threatened me with a week in traction if I didn’t take it easy and let myself recover from our narrow escape off Verbena. Knowing full well that the forced inactivity would be crueler than outright torture, I promised I’d behave and do something besides work myself to a frazzle repairing EQ. Clad in a tee shirt and one of my lightweight cargoes, I raked my fingers through my hair and considered getting it trimmed. I’d had Christian whack it short for me last year on Angel and events had conspired to keep me from maintaining it properly. I frowned at my reflection in the mirror. Once pert and chic, it was now a shoulder-length mop, with a ragged fringe of bangs where I’d been at it with the scissors to keep it out of my eyes. Maybe I could find a barber to mow it all down again but Joshua loved to run his fingers through it. I nixed cutting it. I brushed it out and caught it up at the back in a tail for neatness’s sake and knelt at my drawer to retrieve my book. An hour or two with it under a tree in the orchard would suit until lunch. My fingers slid under my folded clothes, searching for it and encountered the tissue-wrapped bundle I’d stashed in the back. It was the dress I’d purchased on Boros with Kiera and I’d kept it in the tissue the shop girl had wrapped it in, safe from all eyes until I wore it.

And just when are you going to wear it, girl? The way things are going, it’ll be your funeral instead of your wedding.

I found my book and pulled it out and booted my drawer shut. The sooner I got out of my quarters the better. My head would leave me alone once I got off the ship. I paused only long enough to grab a bottle of water from the galley fridge before stepping off. There’d be fruit to fill my stomach once I’d hit the orchard. The sunlight was blinding after the relative dimness aboard Equinox and I blinked as I strode off. Half an hour later, I found a tree with enough shade to keep me cool and sat down against the trunk to read. I opened a page at random and set my eye to a poem by Tutchev:

The sadness gripped my heart -- and dimly
Came the remembrance of the old,
When all was going well and simply,
And life -- a dream of the real world.

But here the world is lost and fired:
All's topsy-turvy, run and felled, --
In Heaven, Holy God expired,
And Satan croaked in Hell.

They live, lost any life's intentions,
Elsewhere is grumbling, fight and fraud,
If a bit of love weren't in the question,
Long time ago, I'd leave the world.

I closed my eyes and tipped my head back against the trunk. Figures. I should have bought that book by Pushkin when I had the chance. Tutchev would have hated it here. The day was warm, even this early. Birds chirped and rustled overhead. Bees buzzed in the blossoms. The heat and the sounds were lulling and I remained there listening, watching the red behind my eyelids dimming and brightening as the dappled shade of the tree fluttered with the breeze.


Joshua was planning to leave the Equinox behind. For a day, anyway. The drugs no longer had a grip on him. Everything seemed brighter...more intense, as if some mysterious creator had turned the dial of life up a few notches. The crew didn't get much vacation, but they had a chance for one now on Greenleaf. And Joshua was determined to take advantage by not staying on board. The ship was beautiful and it provided freedom from the shackles of gravity and place. But while the physical ship freed his body, its spirit was locking away his heart in chains of fear and pain. And while Rina said she understood why they had to be the way they were until they could purge the psychic stench of Jing Jing Bei's foul deeds from the Equinox, Joshua knew the logic of it didn't make her hurt any less.

But then it had hit him this morning, a thought bursting forth from the murky waters of his dreams, like a dolphin jumping from a wave. The sheer simplicity struck him so hard he had almost bolted upright, nearly waking Rina. If the ship was the problem, he had realized, then get the hell off of the ship. He couldn't go back to sleep then. So he had gotten up, gone to the galley where he prepped a picnic lunch. He gathered a blanket and a bottle of wine from their stores.

He had intended to go get Rina and let her know what he had planned, but by the time had finished gathering things, she had already left their room. A quick scan of the ship showed that she wasn't on board. He smiled a little. She had beat him to it. All the better.

It was closer to 1000 hours when he found Rina sleeping up against the trunk of a tree in the orchard, a book lying open in her lap. He stood there quietly for a few moments, just taking her in. She was beautiful. The sunlight that made its way through the branches brought out the highlights in her hair. And she was wearing a shirt he hadn't seen before. Instead of her customary black work tees, she wore a beautiful red v-neck that fit her like a glove. One hell of a sexy glove, his libido happily chimed in.

It couldn't have worked out better had he planned it. The rest of the crew was well occupied, leaving Rina and Joshua all alone. And alone time off ship was something they desperately needed. Joshua laid the blanket down near the tree and put the food down on one corner to keep the breeze from blowing it away. Then he leaned over her and gave her a long kiss on the lips. "You must wake up, Rina van Winkle," he declared as he released her lips. "I have lunch for us. And hopefully other things too."


The day was grey, the sun hiding in a sky solid with cloud. The birds were silent. They’d disappeared long ago. All that met my ears was the sigh of the wind through the dead grass and the dead buildings of the city. I’d traveled long and hard to make it here; months, years overland on foot, searching every city I encountered, scrounging supplies left behind by the dead moldering around me. Equinox and her crew—Nika, Arden and Kiera—were gone. I’d left them behind in a rancorous parting. I’d burned my bridges and there would be no going back. I’d come to find Mike. Miranda had swallowed him whole and I would scour every last inch of her until I found him.

With that logic that existed only in dreams all the days blending into months and years leading me here poured into my head in a flash, assumed the weight of old history. I didn’t question it. One never did in dreams. I only felt the overpowering truth of it. I was hungry and thirsty and was on short rations. The need to find Mike burned in me but I had to stop and resupply if I were to keep going. I turned for the city’s center. Experience had taught me I would find green things there, sometimes gardens growing out of bounds, taking the planet back from the steel and concrete, eradicating the evidence that anyone had been here.

So I wasn’t surprised to walk into the green, nor was the sudden sunlight alarming. My pack and grungy trail clothes disappeared, replaced by a fall of red velvet gown. Again, I didn’t question it. It was just the way it was. Knowledge poured into my head from nowhere and reality shifted again. Walking the Faery Realms was fraught with risk. A traveler must never eat or drink what she found there, lest she be trapped forever. I’d already sealed my fate and knew there was no leaving, so I drank my fill from a fountain that miraculously ran sparkling and clear. Looking around I spied a bush laden with a red fruit whose name escaped me, though it plucked at the edge of memory. I sank my nails into its skin and the fruit bled ruby red into my hands. Its juice was sweet. I peeled it to get at the seeds inside, like garnets made edible, and let their flavor explode on my tongue. I closed my eyes and gave myself to it.

Wake up, the wind whispered as it ruffled through my hair. You must wake up

I blinked, spinning in my tracks, my arm holding the fruit aloft to throw it. No one was there. Outside, Miranda was melting before my eyes, dissolving like a waxwork thrown in the fire. Inside, everything was coming unglued, coming undone as time went backward. The wind roared in my ears as my memories unmade themselves, pouring out of me like water …

You must wake up.

I blinked and came to myself in the orchard, the book lying open in my lap. I licked my lips and found them still wet and tingling from a kiss and knew he was there. I blinked again and saw him.



Joshua settled down in front of her, cross legged on the grass. "Yes, it's me. I hope you don't mind me waking you from your nap. Although, by the looks of it, you must have been sleeping deep." Perhaps not surprising, he thought. His nights continued to be restless, punctuated by ugly dreams which sometimes belonged to him, but often belonged to the memories of the girls who still haunted the ship for him. With Joshua not sleeping well, that meant Rina couldn't be sleeping all that well either. And with this almost dreamlike setting, Joshua certainly couldn't fault his love for falling deep asleep. If he didn't have lunch plans, he'd be tempted to take a nap here too.


Deep, maybe, but nowhere I wanted to stay. Aloud I said, “I don’t mind. Reality with you trumps fantasy without you every single time.” I caressed his face, his beard tickling my palm, and drew back before I was tempted to caress something out of bounds. I patted the ground next to me to give my hand something to do. “Join me?”


Joshua scooted over next to her, snuggling close, wrapping an arm around her. "Hi." he said playfully. The smell of her was sweet and comforting and he took a deep breath of contentment as the breeze blew across them.

"You know why I brought lunch?"


“So you can eat it?” I said, wrinkling my nose to let him know I was joking. The breeze ruffled his hair, reminding me of my dream, and the dappled shade gave him a fey look. What if this is the fantasy, only with him in it? that cynical side of me whispered. Shut up, you. We’re just going through a dry spell and it’s making you cranky. “Either way, I hope you’re hungry. The food here’s heavenly. It’d be a sin to let it go to waste.”


"Well, yes, so I can eat it." He rolled his eyes a little at her comment, but all in good fun. "But besides that..."

Joshua leaned a little closer and nibbled at her ear. "It's because, clearly, I'm an idiot." He was feeling playful and wanted to indulge the mood.


His breath on my ear was electrifying and his tongue and his teeth, maddening. A hot spurt of pleasure shot down my neck and made my insides flutter, making it hard to talk. “You know I don’t suffer idiots gladly, Joshua, but I’d suffer you,” I said as he sucked and nipped his way down my neck, sending more thrills down me. I pulled back and held his head with my hands, my voice going throaty as I said, “Make me suffer? Please?”


"As long as we're off the ship, then gladly, Rina, gladly." He leaned in again and kissed her, feeling a fire blaze up between them. They were the dry grass and he had just started a wildfire, but he didn't care. It had been too long and he wanted...no, needed the cleansing flame of their passion.


For those who could stand to know a little more, read what happens next here


It took him a few minutes to recover, but they were a pleasant few minutes, the warmth of her body pressed against him a pleasant contrast to the cool breeze that blew across both of them. Then he smiled and as she snuggled a little closer, he said with a bit of a chuckle, "That's why I brought the lunch. I thought we might be hungry after." And he laughed outright this time. Life was good.


I don’t know how long it took for the utter ridiculousness of it all to hit me—naked as jaybirds from the waist down, fully clothed from the waist up, blanket and food untouched three feet away—but hit me it did. I started to laugh and tried to smother my giggles against his chest, but nothing doing. The weight of the last four months fell away and I let the laughter run its course. I was happy, I realized, and I didn’t question it. I just let it happen.

Of course, laughter is infectious and Joshua wasn’t immune. I think we spent the next twenty minutes setting each other off as one or the other of us died down, only to start the other up again. My gut was aching when I finally managed to stop. Wiping my tears with a gentle thumb, Joshua gently disengaged and got the blanket spread out and food in front of us and we ate it half dressed. Still floating on bliss, eating became a playful game and it wasn’t long before we made full use of that blanket.

And so we spent the day alternately eating and making love until the shadows grew long. We dressed and packed everything up, leaving nothing but a worn square of grass to mark what we’d done. Sated in soul and sense, Joshua and I carried the basket between us as we walked through the slanting afternoon sunlight and let the birds sing us home.

Go to Joshua's Crew Page or to Rina's Crew Page
Go back to: Timeline Season Five, Jan 2522 to Aug 2522