It’s been a long morning. Sam never likes taking her PT test, especially not when the wind is whipping outside. She knows what it takes to max it—she’s been memorizing the standards and practicing past them since she was a cadet—and she did today. But she doesn’t feel like a PT stud at the moment, and at the high altitude her breath is coming in sharp needles to her chest. And the day hasn’t even begun, really. It’s 0630, and she’s got a whole day of work. She leans heavily against the wall of the gym, steadies herself. She isn’t supposed to slouch, isn’t supposed to lean on any structure for support. Not in public. Not visibly. She’s known that since the first day she got into this crazy life, and here she is, a major, leaning against the outside of a gym, breathing heavily and looking at the mountains as she wonders what alien crisis she’ll handle today.
The sun is rising higher, the sky pink and yellow by turns. Sam turns inside and shuffles to the locker room where she’s left her uniform for the day. It’s in moments like these, when she’s shivering in her underwear as she hops around a cold cement floor searching for her nametape’s errant dammit, that her life seems completely ridiculous. And she laughs, because she’s not on any alien planet, and that little pin is no obscure device or complex piece of technology. She’s just a grown woman skittering around a cold room, and this is her life.
Sam takes the nametape and presses it to her chest, searching for the seam it should be flush with. She pulls her shirt down, tight across her chest, and looks to see if the nametape is still on straight. She has been stabbing herself in a place she doesn’t like to be stabbed for many years in the name of the overblouse and its lack of pockets, and some days this really pisses her off.
Shirt on, nametape intact, she leans against a locker and closes her eyes, if only for a moment.
ii. Put Hands in Pocket
Later in the morning, at SGC, she catches herself tucking her hands into the pockets of her pants as she bends from side to side, working out the kinks the run put in her midsection. Her old chemistry teacher would have her head, after he finished laughing at the Air Force. She spent a semester at Army, not because she really wanted to, but because it was good for her military grade, because they wanted her there, highly recommended that she go on the exchange. She was a hard science major, academically excellent, physically solid. She was exactly what the brass wanted to show off—a female cadet who was more successful than most of her male peers, and pretty to boot. At Army, her advanced chemistry teacher was a neurotic major who yelled when he exploded things and had the highest high and tight she’d ever seen. “Get your hands out of your pockets!” He’d yell at unsuspecting cadets as they gathered around the lab bench. “This isn’t the Air Force Academy!” He’d glance in Sam’s direction after saying that, and she’d always make sure she to be smiling slightly.
Major Dick (that was actually his name, the poor man) wasn’t the only one who cracked on her. Sam’s roommate would come back to the barracks at the end of the day in full battle rattle, and often sob with pain as she took off her ruck and load bearing equipment. She was on a tactical team that would compete with other colleges in all things hardcore military at the end of the year.
“Why are you doing this if it hurts so much?" Sam asked Maria once as she staggered through the door and threw down her ruck.
“I like it, really. I’m doing well. And they require a girl on every team. Usually force a plebe girl do it. I can do better than that. And I wasn’t gonna be a blue falcon,” Maria said, edging toward the sink and searching for something to take off her camo with.
“Hey now, you can just say buddy fucker. You don’t have to bring me or any of my mascots into this,” Sam laughed, returning to her homework.
It’s been a long time, and Sam wonders how Maria is doing. She hopes for Major Dick’s sake that he retired at lieutenant colonel or above, and now that he’s done with cadets, he has more time to give to the passel of kids whose artwork covered his cubicle in the chem office.
She sighs and digs her hands further into her pockets, massaging the sore muscles beneath the thin fabric.
iii. Violate Make-up Standards
At the end of the day, Sam drives up to the commissary and decides she should try and restock. The speakers play bad jazzy pop songs from the early 90s, and she fills up on rice and vegetables, semi-exotic fruit, and beer. She knows she’s out of it when she pulls out her ID as proof of commissary shopping rights, and the cashier stops her, saying quizzically “Ma’am, I don’t need it. You’re in uniform.”
The BX is more bad elevator music, and strangely warm. She needs cleaning supplies, and should really check out the selection of those newfangled uniform pumps, as there’s a hail and farewell just around the corner and the last time she bought these shoes was nearly ten years ago--she's not sure she can get away with polishing the same cracked and scuffed pair much longer. After she’s filled her cart with more than she ever intended to buy, she passes the makeup counter. There's no salesperson there to hassle her into buying something, so she sneaks over to the eyeshadow display and starts scanning it. As usual, commerce is ahead of nature. It isn’t even spring in Colorado yet, but clothes in the windows are light and frilly and the displays around her show painfully thin models with perfectly curved dark eyelashes who float in seas of purple and white flowers. Still, it’s fun to try things for free. Sam chooses a deep lilac and matching silver, and sweeps the colors across her eyelids generously. It looks nice. If she wasn’t such a cheapskate, and she didn’t have a thousand other combinations of colors at home, she might buy it. Looking at her watch, she remembers she has a dinner date with Janet in fifteen minutes, and groans when she realizes she won’t make it back to the house to change without being very late to the restaurant. Her stomach tightens and rumbles. She’s hungry, but not just physically, it’s more a mood that she can’t shake, that she can’t pin down.
Sam really should take the eyeshadow off. Purple is not authorized. Purple is garish. But she walks to her car and thinks about seeing Janet, and suddenly she doesn’t care, and she isn’t exactly sure why.
iv. Drink Excessively in Public
“I don’t know what’s happening to me, but I just didn’t give a fuck about anything today,” Sam says after three beers. “All those little things I’ve been doing for years, that are usually instinctual, muscle memory—standing up straight, keeping my elbows off tables, hands out of pockets—today I just couldn’t make myself.”
“And lemme guess, you think this is your psyche telling you to get out?” Janet laughs. It seems that Janet likewise nearly forgot their rendezvous, because she’s in uniform too, and her windswept expression has changed little since she walked in.
“I don’t think so. Maybe just one of those moments when you remember all the little shit you’re really sick of putting up with.” Sam’s burger is thick and hot and her beer is cold and Janet looks warm and soft and sweet across the table.
Sam needs this more than she used to admit. Needs to meet with Janet, to sit with her and feel no pressure to perform, no show to put on, no standard to live up to. Needs to look at her and feel calm, look at her and love her and feel loved in return.
Sam looks past Janet, and she can’t place the young man’s face, but she’s seen it before, probably in some corridor in the SGC. And she remembers that she’s a female officer getting drunk with another female officer, and that young enlisted guys who have boring sex lives like to gossip about those of their superiors, with scandalous relationships between women being a popular theme.
“Janet, I think we need to get going. A little conspicuous, here.”
“Why don’t I drive you home?” Janet whispers, and suddenly she’s pulling Sam’s jacket over her shoulders and edging her out the door.
“Are you sure? I—Janet? Where’d you go?” Janet is no longer at Sam’s right, but she reappears suddenly at her other side, grinning.
“What the heck are you running around for?”
“I’m moving around so I can walk on your left side, ma’am,” Janet drawls, tracing the captain bars on the shoulders of her jacket lazily.
“Call me ma’am again and I’ll kick your ass!” Sam yells into the night, setting off to chase Janet to her car, which she just can’t seem to pick out right now.
v. Have Sex
“I like the eyeshadow,” Janet giggles, pulling onto the main road. “Just a little a rebellious. You know the Air Force is the only branch that permits the wear of earrings in utility uniforms? It’s a good thing, because I wouldn’t have joined otherwise,” she adds sarcastically.
“Mmmm. I can delude myself into thinking spring’s already here. Which would be nice.”
The road is filled with lights whose paths intersect and blur, and Janet is overwhelmingly pretty like this, Sam decides--Janet's hands are steady, her face calm and open in the light.
“I missed you today,” Sam says, because it’s true, because she bummed around the complex with no one to talk to, and she sat in the dining facility nursing a V8 and a salad with too much iceberg lettuce, and she really could have used somebody to complain about the lack of quality greens with.
Sam’s street is quiet, and her house hums faintly with appliances, and when she looks at Janet, she gets that strange mixture of hungry and lonely in her gut again.
“There are so many days I couldn’t get through without you,” she says, moving closer to Janet, pushing her head against her shoulder, breathing sharply.
“Well, you keep me sane too,” Janet murmurs. “Aside from worrying about how many more times I’m gonna have to put you together again. That’s not a sane kind of worrying.”
There’s a pause, and then Sam kisses her and Janet is kissing her back, and it’s sweet and slow. Sam pulls back and lets out a little breath of relief, and then Janet is kissing her again, and she’s searching for ways to take off Janet’s shirt.
“This is why I don’t wear the long-sleeved shirt,” Sam whispers, reaching for the little black neck tab around Janet’s collar. “Who designed this damned thing?”
“Some colonel with too much time on his hands,” Janet says, gasping as Sam’s other hand finds her thigh and the offending article comes off in one tear of velcro.
“Some colonel who thinks skirts and neck tabs and earrings make me a woman. When it’s really—“Janet moans—“that curve right where your hand is, the strength of my voice that takes over during an emergency, and a thousand other things I can’t explain.”
“I know. But how about you let me kiss you again?”
At the end of the night, their uniforms are a shared blue heap on Sam’s bedroom floor, and Janet is asleep at Sam’s side. Sam’s bed is warm and soft, because of Janet, and because Sam spent four years sleeping on top of the covers of a tightly-made bed, and vowed that when she graduated she’d never have a shitty mattress and no real blanket again. And though Sam’s world won’t stop spinning sideways, at least her mind has realized that the time for rest is now.