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Hybrid Kisses
Deslea R. Judd
Copyright 2003

DISCLAIMER: Characters not mine. Interpretation mine.
ARCHIVE: Sure, just keep my name and headers.
CATEGORY/KEYWORDS: Pre-XF, vignette, Knowle/Shannon UST.
SUMMARY: It's December 1983. Good friends. Good wine. The night
before the change.
THANKS: To Spica and Kristen for comments.
FEEDBACK: Love the stuff.
AWARDS/ELIGIBILITY: Spooky Awards 2003 eligible. Recommended at
Sam Houston Motor Lodge.

"Consider the boysenberry."

It isn't the first out-of-context thing Shannon has said
tonight, and he doubts it will be the last. The music is smooth,
the lights are low, the wine is aged, and Knowle is agreeably

"I'll bite," he says, turning onto his side to face her. "What
about it?"

She leans past him to pour more wine, passing within a hair's
breadth of him. Flickering light glances off glossy black hair,
touching it with amber. He thinks if things were different he
might try to kiss her. It's that sort of an evening. They're
young, no ties, and she's beautiful.

"It was made sixty years ago by Rudolph Boysen," she says. "Part
raspberry, part blackberry, part loganberry."

"A hybrid."

She nods. "Like us."

"We're not hybrids yet," he reminds her. "It might not work."

"And on that charming thought," she says, "I think I'll get some
more wine." She gets to her feet (bare, he notes, he loves bare
feet) and makes her way, a little unsteadily to the kitchen.

"So why are you doing it?" he calls out to her after a moment.

Her face appears in the hutch opening. "I'm dying," she says

"Let me guess. They found it in the physical after we got back
from Lebanon."

Sounds of drawers opening and closing. "Heart condition. You
too, then?"

He nods. "Cancer." At her questioning look, he adds, "Breast."

"I didn't even know men could get breast cancer," she says,
openly curious, then goes back to whatever she's doing in there.

"Neither did I. Found out the hard way."

More clattering sounds. Familiar curse words as she grapples
with the corkscrew. He bites back a grin. "So did they bother to

He shakes his head. "I was drafted the same day."

"Recruited," she corrects, but she stops grappling with the
bottle to smile at him through the hutch.

"Right. And wouldn't have made it out of the building if I'd
declined," he says complacently. "Once you're that classified,
you only get out in a body bag."

"Tell me about it." She wrestles the cork out with a satisfying
pop. "Shit," she says, "I can fix a goddamn tank, and I still
can't work a fucking corkscrew."

"Don't have the balls for it, McMahon," he teases.

"I've got bigger balls than you have, asshole," she says, coming
around into the lounge. "How 'bout I open this with your head?"

"You would, too."

"Damn straight." She drops down on the cushions beside him
again. "Where were we?"

"Boysenberries. Got any?"

"I have, actually," she says. "I was keeping them for - you
know, afterwards."

"Hybrids for a hybrid, huh?" he says, and she raises a wry grin.
He sobers a little. "There might not be an afterwards, you know."

"I know." She shrugs. "I only had a few weeks left anyway.
Nothing to lose, right?"

"Right. Still, might be worth eating them now, you know?"

There's a shift in her expression, so fleeting he could have
imagined it. But he didn't, he's sure of that. A crack in the
veneer, he thinks. You can think you're at peace with your fate,
but all it is is a thin membrane over a great big ball of fear.

They're too fucking young to die, he thinks. He hasn't seen
enough. Hasn't done enough. Hasn't made love enough. And even
after years in the corps together, he doesn't really know her,
but she was there the very worst days of his life, and she's so
goddamn beautiful.

"Yeah," she says. Pale. Short breaths. "We should. I'll get

He catches her arm. "Hey," he says. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean

"I know," she says. "It's okay." Starts to get up, but he tugs
her back, tugs her towards him. She leans in, just enough to let
him know she wants him to kiss her, and he does. Just once, slow
and diffident, like it was their first date and not most likely
the final night of their lives.

She touches his lips, smiles a little, and gets up and leaves
him there.

She comes back with berries in a cut glass bowl, and two martini
glasses on a tray. Dark liquid, a berry in each, lemon twist on
the rim. She sets the tray down on the hearth beside them.

"It's called a boysenberry kiss," she says, handing him a glass.
"Try it."

He does. The taste fills his senses. Strong and sweet.
Intoxicating. He closes his eyes. It occurs to him that maybe she
tastes like that. That he wants to know before they die.

"S'good," he says at last. Opens his eyes.

"It's the end of the line, Knowle," she says. "Even if we
survive tomorrow, it'll never be the same. We won't be the same."

"I know."


He swallows a little, and nods.

She nods too, as though in agreement. Raises her glass. "Well,"
she says. "To hybrids. And kisses."

He touches his glass to hers. "Hybrids and kisses."

They drink, and they kiss.

That's how they spend the final night of their lives.


AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story assumes Shannon was telling the truth
in NIHT II about when and how she and Knowle became
supersoldiers. In fact, I doubt she was. But it's an interesting
idea to play with, just the same - what might have prompted these
two young, vibrant people to agree to such a physically and
ontologically risky process. I'd tried to write this scenario
several times in past tense, and it tended to become too angsty,
and it stalled. Present tense, where neither has any real
understanding of what their lives will become, seemed to save it.

Well, you know. That, and the boysenberries.

Boysenberry Kiss

Makes 2 cocktails

6 tbsp. Vodka
2 tbsp. Chambord, (Blackberry Liquer)
2 tsp. Fresh squeezed lemon juice
Crushed ice
Whole boysenberry for garnish
Lemon peel twist for garnish

Place the vodka, Chambord, lemon juice and ice in a cocktail
shaker and shake to combine. Strain the mixture into a chilled
martini glass, drop in a boysenberry and rest a lemon twist on
the rim of the glass.