Timeline: The timeline is very early in the series- say after the first 6 or 7 episodes, or alternatively the first novel. None of the individual Invid have appeared yet (Marlene/Ariel, Corg, Sera). There have already been several betrayals of our happy little resistance fighters by either humans working for the Invid (most notably Jonathan Wolff) or groups or villages who have traded their complete freedom for the illusion of normalcy.
Hugs and thanks to Zoe and JoAnn for prereading this.
Disclaimers: Robotech/Macross in all its various incarnations is the property of HARMONY GOLD U.S.A INC, and TATSUNOKO PRODUCTION CO. LTD. Alternatively, the novels were written by Jack McKinney and published by Del Rey/Ballantine. The lyrics to "Possession" by Sarah McLachlan are from "Fumbling Towards Ecstasy", (c)1993 Artista Records, Inc.
Night falls around me like a heavy suffocating blanket, the thick canopy of the protective forest blocking sound and moonlight alike. You'd think I'd be used to it by now. I can remember the fall of darkness being a comfort, a shield to hide myself from prying eyes, and the forest has always been the only home that's ever mattered.
Lately though, everything's changed. It seems I can't turn around without having an illusion I didn't even know I held being stripped away and shredded into irretrievable pieces. Is this what it means to ride with friends, have a family? If so, maybe my own did me a favor by leaving me on my own years ago. Life was simpler when my only thoughts were for my own safety and the always present thrill of Foraging. I was good at it, damn it!
Somehow- I'm not sure I even quite remember how- I got yanked in with all of you, and suddenly even the smallest considerations have a myriad of hidden implications that stagger the imagination. Who the hell do we think we're kidding? The six of us are going to ride right into this "Reflex Point" Scott's always obsessing about and do what? Destroy the Invid and right all the wrongs in the Universe? Humans can't even get along with themselves. Sometimes I wonder if the Invid are really the most dangerous enemy we have to face.
I try to scoot closer to the fading glow of the fire's embers without waking anyone else. This is beyond stupid. I've lived in the woods all my life, but suddenly I'm seeing the enemy everywhere- Invid patrols swooping down out of the sky or rising like the waking dead from the cover of the Earth itself, human traitors sneaking into the camp with guns blazing like in one of those old twentieth-century gunfighter movies.
Maybe I should just go wake Rook up and let her tell me what an idiot I am.
I sit up quietly and glance around at the lumps dispersed around the fire, faces shrouded in darkness. Her blankets are empty. I almost manage to convince myself that it must still be her turn at watch when I notice Scott's gone as well. It's too late for Rook's turn. I can feel the familiar surge of jealousy at their conspicuous absences, but this one time it just isn't enough to goad me into action. If they need to find comfort in each other, I guess I understand, but I just don't want to know. All the same, I can't just stay here and wait for them to return, either.
I slip out of my blankets as quietly as I can manage, stepping around Lunk and Annie as I walk away from the fire, out into the shrouding darkness. I glance back one last time at the glowing embers as I reach the treeline. My eyes glance over Lancer's still form, but I force myself to keep walking. There's yet another crashed illusion. I can't even count the number of nights I slid down into sleep with fantasies of the famous Yellow Dancer playing and replaying through my head. Little did I know that we really would meet, if not in quite the manner that I so painstakingly envisioned.
I sit down against a thick tree trunk a short distance from the camp and try to convince myself that I'm really doing everyone a favor. Keeping extra watch. Yeah, right. That's me, Rand the dependable. Maybe it's just as well that Scott and Rook aren't here. I don't think I can stand another recitation of the endless list of my faults right about now.
I try to peer up into the canopy of the trees, ears straining for the telltale hum of Invid scout ships flying hidden above the leaves. The cycles and the Veritech are all shut down for the night, but I can't help wondering if it's enough. How sensitive to 'culture are those things? I saw the one at the farm. They don't even look remotely human, so how can we ever really hope to judge the extent of their ability?
I can hear Scott's voice whisper in the back of my mind, but the familiarity of that old argument does nothing to dispel the sick sense of worry. They could be anywhere out there. What if they can sneak up without us detecting them? What if they don't need to? What if there's something worse? What if…?
The soft voice nearly makes me jump out of my skin. I launch myself to my feet, hands already clenched in rage or fear as I whirl on my attacker, but the sight that greets my eyes stops me dead in my tracks. It's her.
It's not, I know that. Yellow Dancer doesn't exist, or that's what my mind keeps telling me. It's Lancer.
It's so hard, though, with everything distorted and softened in the faint flickers of firelight from the camp, to keep that in mind. No matter who he might claim to be, Lancer is Yellow Dancer. It's there all the time, in that dangerous grace, his sway when he walks, the set of his mouth and eyes. It's her, my most cherished fantasy come to life, and it's him, the most confusing of my many current nightmares.
"Rand? Are you all right?"
I realize I haven't said a word and manage to squeak something noncommittal out through the lump lodged in my throat. Lancer takes a step closer and turns to face me, his features falling completely into shadow. Somehow that's worse. Without the hard face of reality to restrain me my mind paints a dozen wonderful images, most of them revolving around the seductive tilt to her mouth and the challenging strut she uses as she ends her shows on stage. I can feel the weight of that gaze searching my face and I can't stop the wave of heat that radiates through me.
I reach out a hand to touch her, the phantom lover of my dreams, but this time she doesn't cooperate.
That could be because this isn't a dream, of course. Hello Mr. Reality. Nice of you to rejoin the party.
Lancer drops down to the ground and leans back against my tree, his face staring out into the darkness of the forest. "I'm sorry if I'm intruding, but you looked like you could use some company."
I drop down beside him and shrug uncomfortably. "No, it's all right. I couldn't sleep. I just had to…" I gesture vaguely, hoping I don't sound as stupid as I'm sure I do.
"You just had to get away from the cozy circle around the fire. I understand."
I blink and turn to stare at him. That's it, of course. There's just something almost obscene about sleeping around the campfire like a bunch of safe children after all we've seen, all we've been through. I never could have put it into words, but I don't think I have to. Somehow I think he really does understand.
"I thought you were all asleep." It sounds cold, even to me, but I can't return the favor. No matter how much I think I'd like to get a grip on Lancer, he's still a complete mystery to me. If only I could understand him a little bit, maybe I could put this lingering obsession out of my head and go on.
He's giving me that oddly penetrating look again, almost as if he can hear my thoughts. Then again, maybe he just expected me to understand him as readily as he seems to understand me.
He finally shrugs and leans back, his eyes drifting away from me towards the leafy canopy.
"Why are you doing this?"
He keeps his gaze skyward as the burn of embarrassment lights up my face. Sometimes my brain has a hard time keeping a rein on my mouth, but I really do want to know.
"Why am I doing what?"
I sit up and watch him, trying to decide if he's evading the question or just wondering which question to answer. "The fighting, the resistance. You have to have a reason."
He sits up and turns back to look at me. The passion in his face, the traces of my phantom Yellow Dancer, don't distract me at all. Hah.
"What about you, Rand? What's your reason? Why is a Forager following Scott across the world to a place you'd never even heard of until you met him?"
The heat in his gaze catches me and won't let me go, but it doesn't matter. I know there's no real answer to that question. To my surprise, my voice is even steady as I admit it. "I don't know."
He stares at me, stares into me. "I think you do. There has to be some hope, some reason for humans to exist. Since the SDF-1 crash-landed on this planet our race has been beaten around like a ball in a child's game. You want to believe as much as the rest of us that humanity has a purpose. We have to be allowed to survive. Otherwise you wouldn't still be here with us."
I stare back at him wordlessly. What can I possibly say to that? All those arguments I'd give Scott about hollow faith and foolish idealism sound empty right now. Besides, it's not Scott out here in front of me in the darkness. Scott wouldn't ever think to question the reasons we've all stayed with him. With him, everything's twisted between fanatical loyalty to Admiral Hunter and the Robotech Defense Force and shame that his Marlene died while he survived. There's not really room for anyone else, no matter how much he might actually need us. Somehow I can't shake the feeling that spouting those automatic responses to Lancer would be pretty close to a slap in the face, and I really don't want to do that.
Not to him. And especially not to her.
So I don't answer. Instead I do the only thing I can think of to do. I reach out uncertainly again, already prepared to laugh off the automatic rebuff. To my surprise there isn't one. The arm my shaking hand encounters is warm and firm and undeniably real under the heavy weight of the cloth covering it. My fingers tighten as I stare breathlessly into his face. I can see her gazing at me out of his eyes and it's almost more than I can stand. I tighten up to run, to try and lose myself out in the dark of the rest of the night, but he catches my free wrist in an iron-hard grip.
It's a request and a tentative one at that, but it traps me as effectively as ropes and irons could have. How can I possibly say no to her, to him? Not tonight, not after today. I can't. I'm not that strong.
I raise my other hand to his shoulder and let him pull me back against the tree, his body a line of warmth burning up my side. Suddenly we're kissing. The body pressed so tightly against mine is his, but when I close my eyes it doesn't matter. I thought it would bother me. In my dreams it's always undeniably her, but this isn't a dream. This is real, this is now, this is happening. A dream come true, in an odd kind of way.
The kiss deepens and I can taste him, so different from my dreams, but not as different as my mind keeps insisting it should be. I never knew another man's lips could be that soft beneath my own. I can hear the soft moans escaping from my throat and I try to clamp down on them. All I need is for Lunk and Annie to wake up, or Scott and Rook to reappear from whatever refuge they've taken themselves.
Lancer's hands slip under my clothes, tugging at zippers until the cool silken skin of his fingers meets the overheated skin of my stomach, making me jump. There's a rustling in the leaves in response and we both freeze, caught probably in the most incriminating tableau imaginable, but the sound moves away. We both smile at each other guiltily before falling back into that gentle kiss, our hands pushing aside clothing and moving over each other in patterns practiced during years of developmental solitude. It's amazing how the presence of another can give even the simplest of movements a layer of pleasure that never exists for me alone.
I have to break the kiss and bury my face in Lancer's neck, licking trails across the salty dampness of his skin as I try not to cry out. I can feel him bite down on the skin of my shoulder as the rhythm of my hand speeds up, so I guess I'm not alone. Finally I can feel the familiar building of pressure, the unchecked explosion waiting just at the pit of my stomach, and I throw my head back, biting my lip to keep quiet.
I can feel the familiar spasms under my hand as Lancer climaxes, the spurt of wetness across my fingers and my bare stomach, and I drop my head against his heaving chest. Kissing a spot above his heart, I lay against him, letting the cool wind blow over my hot skin as our breathing slows back to normal.
Finally I force myself to look up into his face. A loose strand of violet hair is stuck to his cheek, and I reach up to smooth it back without thinking. It's his eyes that have all my attention. I can still see her looking at me from them, but it's more than that. I think I finally understand. She is always there, but she is him. They really are one person. It's only in my mind, in my fantasies, that I try to divide them. What makes it more confusing is that he obviously already knows that, and is waiting patiently for me to figure it out.
As I stare up at him, I realize I have no idea what to say. "Hey thanks, I really needed that?" Somehow that just doesn't seem to cover it. He seems to understand again. He leans down and kisses me one last time before sitting up. Grateful for the cover of darkness, I quickly reach down and straighten my clothes. How I could possibly be embarrassed after that is beyond me, but logic never has been my strong point.
I stare down at my hands, trying to think of something to say.
"It's okay, Rand. Go back to sleep."
I glance back up, biting my lip. Somehow my dreams never usually end this way. "What about you?"
He smiles, but there's something incredibly sad in his eyes. "I'm not tired. I think I'll stay up a while longer."
I hesitate, but somehow I know that he really does want to be alone. Climbing awkwardly to my feet, I glance down at him nervously. "Lancer?"
I can't make myself stay to see his reaction. I just head back to the fire and my blankets. It's funny, but somehow the dark forms surrounding it don't seem quite as confining as they did before. Rook is curled up in her blanket, her eyes locked on the glowing embers. She looks up as I walk by and I smile at her before dropping down to the ground. Maybe I should check and see if she's all right. Hell, I should definitely have never left Lancer alone. All I do, though, is close my eyes and reach out for the darkness. For the rest of the night I'm going to lay all my worries and my nightmares aside and sleep.
Lancer's right. Maybe we really are worth saving after all.
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