Another shift done. Lieutenant Commander Lisa Hayes had barely closed the door of her quarters behind her, when she kicked off her shoes -- though by force of habit she bent down to pick them up; she would have to be a lot more tired and depressed than she was to fall into bed without first properly stowing her uniform. She set her briefcase neatly on her desk, then stripped out of her uniform and pulled on the Robotech Academy t-shirt and sweats that she wore to bed.
Exhausted as she was, she was still too wired to sleep. She put on the electric kettle, and dropped a bag of mint tea -- hydroponically grown on board the SDF-1, like everything else -- into the mug.
While she waited for the water to boil, she snapped on the panel that piped music into the room, to see what the Macross Broadcasting System had decided to play for them today.
Someone was singing a spirited rendition of Jingle Bells; it made her smile despite the depression that the holidays -- these holidays, especially, stuck out beyond the orbit of Jupiter -- inevitably brought on. She supposed she could live with it. It was better than lying awake and thinking about all the civilians they had lost, about all the pilots who had gone out and never come back.
It was certainly better than thinking about one Private Rick Hunter. Her pillow would only take so much abuse.
The pot whistled as the water came to a boil; feeling almost cheerful, Lisa poured it in over the tea, and inhaled the scent of peppermint rising from the mug. She set it on the counter to steep, and headed for her briefcase as Jingle Bells ended with a final 'woah!'
There was a moment's silence as the song changed, and then she heard the beginnings of the next song. For a moment, she didn't recognize it -- and then the lyrics began.
"I'll be home for Christmas," sang a deep male voice she couldn't quite identify but she certainly recognized from her childhood; "You can plan on me -- "
"What idiot put this on the radio?" she demanded, of no one in particular. Heads would roll at MBS -- she'd see to it. She was sure that people were bursting into tears throughout the ship; she could almost feel the morale leaching out into the vacuum outside, because none of them would be home for this Christmas, and some of them wouldn't make it home at all.
She might never see her father again.
Half-blinded by tears, she fumbled for the panel and shut the music off, but it was too late. She slid to the floor, hugged her knees to her chest, and let out the sobs that she'd held back for so long.
Admiral Donald Hayes rubbed his hand over his face, feeling the grit in his eyes. He'd been working himself to exhaustion to avoid thinking. Thinking about his baby girl, his Lisa, trapped so far from home -- if she was even alive. If the faint signals they'd picked up from the far reaches of the galaxy were really from the SDF-1, and not a desperate father's delusions.
He didn't think he'd slept more than four hours a night since the beginning of December. He was paying for it, though. His paperwork was blurring in front of his eyes. It won't matter if I close my eyes, just for a moment he told himself. The meeting wasn't for another half hour. He let his head drop down into his hand, and slipped into a doze.
He turned to see Lisa walk through the door, a big smile on her face. She dropped her bag just inside the door, and then reached out to embrace him. "I made it," she said, and then, nonsensically; "Admiral, you have a meeting."
Hayes jerked himself awake, and swallowed past the lump in his throat. He folded the papers he'd been reading into their folder, slid the folder into his briefcase, and picked up his white flag-officer's cap. Then he headed out for the meeting.
As he walked out, he heard the christmas song that someone had been playing. "Christmas eve will find me," the woman sang, "where the love-light gleams."
He walked faster, tried to focus on the meeting to come. If he let himself hear the song, he would break -- and he couldn't afford to let that happen. So he put one foot in front of the other, but he could still hear the words of the song, echoing through the corridors of Alaska Base.
I'll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams.