Sunday, August 12, 2007


That night Harley surprised Amalia by showing up unannounced at her tent.

"You know, as many times as I've visited you, this is the first time you've come to see me," Amalia said, setting aside her Shakespeare.

"You've never been alone before.”

"Well, it looks like I am now." Her eyes took in the bare tent, too big for just one person. "I've been trying to think what I should do with all this space. I could get more books and make a library, or add extra camp stools and start a literary salon." She ran her fingers through her hair and gave a wan smile. "I never expected to lose both my kids at once like this."

"You've hardly lost them. They've become independent, like all kids do."

"I wish I could stop some of the others from being so mean to them. I'm not worried about Will, but Diana has enough to deal with without all that."

"She's expecting, isn't she?"

Amalia nodded.

"Damn it." He sat down on the edge of her bedroll. "That's the only problem I have with female soldiers. They're talented, dedicated and a lot easier to manage than men, but sooner or later, they always turn up pregnant."

"She won't be keeping it, for whatever that's worth.”

"But I can still expect her to be out for anywhere from a few months to a year, depending on when she gets too big to work, and how long it takes her to get back into fighting condition." He paused to tally the numbers in his mind. "She'll be having that baby in late summer or early fall, which means she'll probably be on camp support starting in June, and useless for anything else before next spring." Catching the look on Amalia's face, he added, "I know she do this on purpose, but I still have to figure out how to manage my command."

She crawled into his lap and rested her head on his chest. "I'm sorry my children are so much trouble."

"That's what I came to talk to you about. Will and Diana are a pretty serious distraction."

Amalia pulled away and frowned. "Are you suggesting they leave?"

"No. They haven't done anything wrong and they've been good about not reacting, even though it's getting to the point where I wouldn't blame them if they did." He looked at his hands. "It's really just two people causing all the trouble and I think if I can remove them from the situation, things will settle down."

"Boeing and Sachi. But they're two of your best and we’re short as it is. You can't get rid of them. Do you have a short-term mission in mind?"

"Sort of." Harley shifted uncomfortably. "I was thinking you'll need bodyguards if you're going to Estrella."

"What?" She moved away from him. "Are you suggesting what I think you are?"

"You know you were planning on going eventually. Why not now?"

"Diana needs me."

"Like it or not, she's a married woman. Let her and Will figure out their problems like any other married couple."

"Plenty of married people rely on their family."

"Unitas is their family, and Estrella isn't the ends of the earth."

"But they're so young."

Harley sighed in exasperation. "Quit kidding yourself. They kill people for a living. They still have a lot to learn, but they're grown up. You're doing them no favors by hanging around nagging them and trying to fix their problems."

"You want me to go now, before we’ve killed Strecker?"

"Why not? I'll send Boeing and Sachi as your guards, which will give Will and Diana a chance to reestablish themselves and prepare for the mission. Sachi and Boeing are giving them nothing but trouble and the best thing you can do for the assassination plan is remove their influence."

Amalia mulled this over, toying with a button on her shirt.

"Besides, Diana probably won't want to have her baby in camp. If you're in Estrella, she'll have a home she can go to." When Amalia hesitated, he added, "If it doesn't work out, come back next spring. Or anytime you like." He pulled her close. "I'll miss you."

She put her arms around him. "You were making me wonder."

"You don't have to wonder about that, but this is a good opportunity for you. You deserve a real home."

"When would you want me to go?"

"Day after tomorrow?"

She shook her head in dismay. "Diana only just got back, and I—"

"—will enjoy the letters she writes you." Harley met her eyes. "You're doing this for her. Get Sachi and Boeing out of here before there's real trouble. Set up a home for Diana to go to in the fall." He kissed her. "And don't forget me, okay?"


Alice Audrey said...

It sounds like a great, if painful, plan, but I can't help think it's going to backfire. As if the kids no longer need ballast when they just destabilized themselves.

Ann (bunnygirl) said...

Well, yes and no...

Harley is right in his assessment that Will and Diana (especially Diana) need to start learning to figure things out for themselves.

Amalia is overprotective of Diana because Diana was her neighbor's daughter and had a fairly sheltered life before the Valle Redondo Massacre. Will, OTOH, had fended for himself before finding his way to Amalia's house at the age of 11. He has never needed much from Amalia.

Amalia's absence will give Diana a chance to start growing up a little. Amalia will have a chance to think more clearly about her own role in Diana's life, not to mention what she wants to do with her own life. When they meet up again, they'll both be in a better position to benefit from the relationship.

Alice Audrey said...

That makes a lot of sense. So this isn't really necessarily foreshadowing.