Over the last two days’ she’d observed the interpersonal relationships within the G-force team. The only female member formed an emotional hub. While the boys relied upon her, they didn’t necessarily recognise they young woman’s true potential. Keyop especially treated Princess as a psydo-mother figure. More than once, Captain James observed the Swan’s attention captured by one particular individual. A mixture of hope, admiration and hurt accompanied her expression. On the odd occasion he didn’t think anyone noticed, the young man let his guard down and his expression soften toward the young woman.
‘I’m sorry,’ Princess stammered, embarrassed to be caught out.
‘Mark,’ Kallan tried again to get the girl to open up, ‘you care very deeply for him. I’ve seen you look at him and the way he reacts. Let me assure you, the feeling is mutual.’
Standing opened mouthed before Kallan, Princess didn’t know how to react.
‘You’re a young woman,’ Kallan offered, easily reading her companion’s expression, ‘and I don’t see any evidence of a positive female role model in your life. Who do you de brief with after each mission? Does the ISO provide someone for you to talk with about your emotions? Who do you share you hopes and dreams with? Who’s helping you make the transition from girl to woman?’
‘I…’ shaking her head to clear it, Princess looked directly into Kallan’s gaze, ‘there’s no one I can share any of that with.’
Smiling inwardly, Kallan remembered a time she’d felt the way this young woman did now. ‘I’m sorry you’ve been so alone, Princess,’ Captain James took the young girl’s arm and led her to a couch. ‘I’d moved half way across the world to attend the Academy. I’d turned eighteen, the same age as you are now, when I met Dylan. We both had these incredible dreams. One day we were going to join the most elite squad on Earth. We aimed to be Thunderbird pilots. Ten years of hard work lay between us and our goals. In the meantime, so we could focus, we decided to enter into a physical relationship.’
‘You were sleeping with your classmate?’ Princess asked, wondering how this tale equated to her situation.
‘We kept the intimate details of our friendship from everyone,’ a chuckle escaped Kallan, ‘except Dylan’s family. He’s so honest and morally bound he introduced me as his partner the first time I met them. I think Dylan knew how he felt but had the foresight not to show it. My husband could foresee the essence of the real relationship between us. Until that night, I didn’t have a positive female role model. As much as I loved my mother, she didn’t understand what drove my desire to join the Thunderbird team. Dylan’s mother and grandmother did. They’d both married service men and their children followed their father’s lead into the IRO.’
‘They didn’t mind,’ Princess realised she’d become enthralled by the tail, ‘Captain Beyda arriving with you?’
‘No. In fact Louise understood more than she let on. I think she’d earmarked me for her potential daughter in law even though we were in our first year at the academy. If it hadn’t been for Dylan’s mother, I never would have learnt express my femininity. I’m glad I did because Louise knew when I made it to the Thunderbird team I’d be a woman many young girls would emulate. The IRO used me to encourage other young women into the service, to be an ambassador and role model.’
Finally understanding, Princess looked to the older woman in wonderment. ‘You’re offering to be my mentor.’
‘If you want,’ Kallan nodded, a frown crossing her mobile features, ‘but that’s not my primary purpose talking with you. I understand your Commander better than you think. In many way’s Mark and I are a lot alike. I denied the feelings I had for Dylan even though we stayed together four years at the academy and on our first posting. I guess, like your Mark, I had these far reaching ideals, believing myself to be morally and ethically bound. I believed I’d find love when it suited me, when I’d become the first female Thunderbird Captain. All the time I denied myself the chance of being a complete person. Worse, I denied Dylan the kind of open, natural relationship he deserved. I’m lucky my husband loved me enough to wait ten years until I realised exactly how much he meant to me.’
Green eyes attempted to get her message across. ‘I’m offering you this advice because I don’t want to see you go through the same hell I put Dylan through. Don’t wait until this war is over to let Mark know how you feel. By then it might be too late. You might be eighteen but you’ve lived a life few others could appreciate or understand. You’re not being fair to yourself and you deserve at least a little happiness working so hard for the befit of Earth. If he’s unwilling to make a commitment, find someone who is, at least for now. Don’t miss out on all the things you should be doing at your age. It’s only because Dylan had the fortitude to play to my rules that we had any chance. I look back now with the knowledge Dylan forced me to be an eighteen year old girl in love, even if I didn’t know it at the time.’
Princess couldn’t help the smile that broke out on her face. ‘You’re playing the devil’s advocate.’ Finally she understood Kallan’s message. ‘You’re telling me this because you can see Mark’s point of view.’
‘Yes,’ she responded. ‘There are still time’s I hate myself for the pain I caused the man I love. In the end I almost lost Dylan for a preconceived idea that stopped me from expressing the way I felt. Talk to Dylan, he’ll tell you how much is cost him to stand in the shadows, waiting for the day I’d come to realise how much I cared.’
‘Maybe I’m happy to wait,’ Princess spoke softly, wondering if she believed her words.
‘If that were true,’ Kallan remonstrated, ‘I wouldn’t be talking to you now. Do you even know why you stand on the edge and allow what you could have to pass you by?’
‘Kallan,’ Dylan’s out of breath voice echoed down the corridor. Accompanied by rapid footsteps, he sounded distressed.
‘We’ll take more later,’ Kallan promised the young woman at her side. Rising from her seat she looked over her shoulder, ‘right now, my husband needs me.’
The moment he came into view, his wife rushed to his side, not liking the haggard expression on his face. ‘What,’ she asked in a worried voice. Kallan had seen the desolate look in his eyes before. Reaching out she surrounded him with a warm, comforting embrace. ‘Dylan, what is it? You have to tell me.’
‘I expected Nanna and Pop to be gone,’ he stated, a sad smile playing about his lips, ‘but realising Mum, Dad and Danny are dead brings just how far we are from home. The only family I have now is you, Sweetheart. I need to go to Hawaii and see them. I need you by my side to believe this is real. I don’t know if I could do this without you, Kallan.’
Pausing, he moved his hands to her face. Placing his palms on Kallan cheeks, Dylan tilted her head. Captain James mouth prepared to be kissed, to complete the incredible connections they’d forged over ten years. Mirroring her husband’s emotions, she allowed him to express the desolation they both felt.
Aware Princess watched, Kallan wondered what the young girl would take away from this display of affection. Being a mentor meant more than in depth conversations. She’d need to learn actions could speak louder than words. Did she understand Kallan put her own sadness aside because Dylan’s emotions needed soothing. Kallan did it because she loved her husband unconditionally.
‘What about Grant,’ Kallan swallowed the revelations that her brothers and father suffered the same fate as Dylan’s family when they finally broke apart.
‘Michaela and Samuel,’ Dylan pulled Kallan back into his embrace. ‘At least we didn’t get time to have children. I can’t imagine what Grant is going through.’
‘We have to get the team together and go with him,’ she stated. ‘Dylan, he’s going to be devastated. Up until now we’ve existed in this limbo not allowed to leave Centre Neptune and see the real world. I guess reality is starting to set in.’
Watching, Princess tried not to intrude on the intensely private moment. Yet it brought a tear to her eye and she felt compelled to observe how they coped, together, in unity. This young couple travelled through time, losing everything and everyone. Even in her grief, Kallan considered the emotions of others. She’d taken time out to make the Swan realise how much life she’d ignored, standing in the background, waiting for Mark.
Suddenly lost in her own thoughts, Princess turned to the nearest window. Watching the fish swim idly by, they didn’t have a care in the word. Images crowed her mind. Images of the moments her Commander let his emotions show, allowing the merest glimpse of affection toward her. Would she ever have this kind of bond with Mark? Would he care for her enough to put aside his perceived duties and love her? In that instant Princess had to wonder.
Allowing the young Captain’s some privacy, she returned to her quarters. Princess had a lot to think about and even more to research. In the meantime, she’d observe the Eagle carefully and see if she could detect why Kallan felt he truly cared.
‘Princess,’ Dylan touched her shoulder, gaining the young woman’s attention.
Several hours passed since he’d interrupted his wife talking to the Swan. The level of stress among the Thunderbirds had grown exponentially in the two days they’d been trapped in Centre Neptune. The team gathered, each wanting to visit their homelands and find out what happened to their families. Grant, as Kallan expected took the idea stoically. She’d stayed behind to talk to him privately, feeling a woman’s empathy would aid him to come to terms with the loss of his children.
While Grant and Kallan waited to speak with Security Chief Anderson and present their idea, she’d given him a mission. Calmer now, Dylan hadn’t wanted to follow his wife’s instructions. He’d been charged with seeking out the young woman and talking to her about their early relationship. He’d had the briefest explanation why but could guess if the longing look he’d noticed from her Commander meant what he suspected.
Pivoting on a foot, the Swan attempted to clear the tears running down her cheek. He’d caught her at a weak moment, wondering if she could have the loving relationship she’d witnessed between husband and wife. After using the internet to discover more about Captain Kallan James, Princess returned to the picture window in the hope the fish would calm her mind. The maelstrom of emotion their talk exposed caused an overwhelming sadness. For the first time in her life, Princess missed an older, wiser mentor and wished Chief Anderson thought to provide one for a developing teenager.
Dylan gently brushed the tears aside, a frown appearing on his face. Kallan’s worry for this young woman hadn’t been misplaced. He felt for her, experiencing something similar at his wife’s hands. Placing a friendly arm around her shoulder, he directed her to the same seat she sat on with Kallan.
‘My wife said she’d spoken to you,’ Dylan stated.
Nodding, Princess couldn’t look the man in the eye.
Taking her chin in one hand, he forced her gaze to his. ‘My wife is the emotional hub of our team,’ Dylan explained. ‘She cares about everyone. She cares about you.’
‘I can see that,’ Princess forced a smile past the sadness clouding her mind. ‘Your wife suggested I should talk to you, that you’d understand my situation.’
‘That sounds like Kallan,’ the comment drew a grin from Dylan. ‘She sees a lot of similarities between your relationship with Mark and our romance at the academy. I’m the analytical one and Kallan more emotionally intelligent, except were her own feelings are concerned.’
‘I knew the potential of our bond but if I’d pressed Kallan, she would have walked away. Nothing, not even the fact we had a physical relationship, could get past TB4 in her mind. She’d become so determined to be the first female Thunderbird Captain and everyone saw her potential. I knew if I wanted anything permanent I had to wait until we’d both achieved our goals.’ Seeing Princess about to about to interrupt, Dylan shook his head.
‘It’s very hard for me to talk to anyone except Kallan about this so just let me tell you. I never had a doubt Kallan would make it to the team. Only distance stopped the physical side of our friendship when we were both accepted for further training. Kallan had to spend at least a year at the Hawaiian station while I needed to move around the different departments. We saw each other occasionally as we trained for the Thunderbirds. Then we made it. Five weeks into our new careers, Kallan lost control of TB13 during a storm. I came close to losing her and I knew then how much I loved Kallan. After the doctor patched her up, I considered taking up the physical relationship.’
‘Why didn’t you?’ Princess asked, intrigued.
‘It would have been the Academy all over again,’ Dylan frowned, ‘with Kallan willing to walk away at the slightest provocation. Kallan had to realise she loved me, that she needed me in her life with at least an equal passion to her career. She had to come to me with that realisation of her own volition if we had any chance at a permanent, committed relationship. My wife comes from a very traditional, catholic family. It took her a long time to overcome that background and the stereotypes they expected of their only daughter.’
‘What changed?’ Princess requested more details. It backed up everything she’d learnt this afternoon on her electronic search.
‘Kallan would say,’ this brought a smile to Dylan’s face, ‘I take to many chances with my life for the sake of my morality and ethics. She once again rescued me at the very last minute because I tried something foolish. Kallan’s mother died two months ago and it shook her world. I guess it forced my wife to re-evaluate her life and what she wanted from it. I looked into her eyes after she rescued me and knew everything had changed. Kallan didn’t have to say the words. She told me she loved me with a gaze. We married a week later.’
‘Oh,’ Princess found her hands covering her mouth. ‘You’ve only been back together less than a month.’
‘Physically,’ Dylan couldn’t help the chuckle escape, ‘yes, emotionally, we’ve never been apart. You’re situations very different from mine. Trust me your young man needs to know you won’t wait around for him.’
‘You mean,’ Princess grinned, ‘Mark needs a boot up the backside.’
‘If he doesn’t make a move soon,’ Dylan gave the girl a wink, ‘someone else might just realise what an attractive, special person you are.’
Blushing furiously, Princess began to fidget.
Withdrawing his arm, Dylan heard footsteps echoing down the corridor. Knowing his wife’s mind he could guess who the individual would be.
‘Hey, Dylan,’ Jesse noticed the pair and a frown covered his face, ‘Kallan said you wanted to talk to me.’
‘Kallan’s at it again,’ Princess understood, ‘isn’t she.’
‘Dylan?’ Jesse questioned. He’d been manipulated by the only female thunderbird before. One look at the pair and he understood Kallan subtle encouragement and warning.
‘Why don’t you take Princess and show her one of your old movies?’ Dylan recognised Kallan’s reasons for pairing the older pilot with the young woman. Jesse needed to talk to someone and it gave Princess a chance to make her young man realise what he could be missing.
‘Celluloid?’ the Swan looked intrigued. ‘I’ve been doing some research on that.’
Offering his arm in an old fashioned, romantic fashion, Jesse offered, ‘then let me show you. I’ve managed to convince the librarian to set up a genuine movie theatre in a corner of the library.’
‘You’d be doing us all a favour,’ Kallan rounded the corner with a massive grin on her face. ‘Jesse’s been driving us mad, needing company to watch is old films.’
‘Thank you,’ Princess threw over her shoulder as the older man escorted her away.
‘It’ll never work, Kallan,’ Dylan stated. ‘Jesse’s thirty three and Princess is only eighteen.’
‘She needs someone to show her a good time,’ Kallan retorted, ‘maybe even turn her into a woman. Both of them know this is temporary at best. Princess’s heart belongs to Mark and Jesse’s missing female company trapped here at Centre Neptune.’
‘Two birds,’ Dylan shook his head, ‘one stone. You still amaze me.’
‘Good,’ Kallan pulled him down for a quick kiss, ‘I hope that never changes, Hotshot. Now, let’s see about getting the team out of this place. I want to go home to Ireland and see where my Father and Brothers are buried. I’d like to say something to my Mother too.’
I hope, Dylan smiled internally, allowing the thought to take away a little of his melancholy, you’re agreeing you should have listened a long time ago and come to your senses then. I just hope you can guide this young woman you’ve taken under your wing. Unlike me, she won’t wait ten years to be with the one she loves. In some ways Commander, you’re an overly analytical individual who needs to notice what’s in front of your eyes before it disappears.