Vermillion And Roses
by Karen

Rick Hunter stood in front of the mirror hanging on the door to his quarters and ignored the annoying buzz that began at the base of his neck and steadily moved around to the front of his hair. He hadn't slept at all well tonight, which wasn't that surprising given that most of his day just past had gone by in a blur of salutes, field maneuvers and endless staff functions. In the back of his mind, he worried one of his father's favorite sayings over and over, like a tongue probing for a sore tooth.

Although he adapted it a bit to fit his present circumstances: "What is what Pop Hunter used to say,'" he said aloud to his reflection...."Oh yeah, you can take the boy out of the country, you can't take the country out of the boy. Or words to that effect, I figure I'll always be a better pilot than I'll ever be a bureaucrat."

"Why is it, that almost everyone I've ever known, has told me that I'm too damn arrogant for my own good. That I'll never amount to anything if I don't adopt a better to attitude to those in positions in authority."

Rick turned away from the mirror for an instant and wondered what the hell is wrong with me? He thought back the maiden test flight of the SDF1, which should have been a festive occasion. Hell, the citizens and soldiers of Macross Island and the Robotech Defense Forces had been ten years of labor, sweat, and tears on that thing ever since it had mysteriously crashed on their tiny island from out of nowhere. Now the alien, gargantuan ship was theirs. Everyone had thought it would bring peace, as everyone imagined. Instead, it had only brought more war, more war-like aliens coming to reclaim their property, with implacable determination to take it back from the tiny humans who would dare to lay claim to it. He didn't want to think about that.

It wasn't like he was a total novice when it came to piloting, Lord knew he'd practically been raised in the cockpit; day in and day out of his beloved cherry red Mockingbird as one of `the' star attractions of Pop Hunter's flying stunt circus, and as Roy had tossed off in the last few tense seconds, as he sat dozing in the cockpit of new Robotech Vf1-s ,flying one of those was a whole new arena than his beloved Mockingbird. Rick tossed his head back letting the mostly unmanageable mane of black hair stream out behind him, as he laughed. He figured that was the worse kind of self-flattery, but today and all of the ones that had proceeded had left him feeling rather blah and sorry for himself.

Lately his subconscious was working over time. He was having nightmares...

A part of him wanted to go back his career as a civilian pilot, and get away from the fighting. He knew that it wasn't an option, but it was damn tempting at times. He would have discussed it with his friends, but Roy was a career soldier; he had been ever since he'd known him. Max said he could understand his sentiments, but Max couldn't really, nor could his other friends, part of his waking problems involved his rather confused love life with Minmei. He was still working out where he stood with her or with Lisa Hayes. Why were things always so complicated?

"Some hero" he mentally chided himself. "Not bad," he muttered aloud, ignoring the insistent crackling of the alarm clock as it went off. He mechanically turned around and slammed a fist down on the mute button, which made the clock obediently go silent. He shrugged nonchalantly, and turned around, but there was a certain spring that was missing from his step and a bright gleam in his eyes that was no longer there.


"Come in," Claudia called over her shoulder, from the kitchenette in her quarters, as the automated door chime signaled a guest at her door. She finished swiping a wet rag over the counter and fished out another packet of creamer from the drawer, before she went to see went to answer the door. As she crossed the corridor, she absently tugged at the sleeves of her cream sweater and brushed a tendril of her black curls back behind her ears, and pushed the call button that would signal the automated doors to slid open to admit her guest.

Claudia escorted Lisa into her living room.

"As much as I enjoy these rare moments to chat with a friend, that isn't why I asked you to come this afternoon for tea," Claudia began. "You see, I did some checking into the medical records."

"When did you have time for that, it feels like that our entire waking hours these days are spent on the bridge," Lisa said.

"That's because you're a work-aholic, " Claudia shrugged. "Besides, you give me too much credit, and I wasn't talking about increasing efficiency on the bridge," Claudia said. "I'm worried about Rick," Claudia said, pouring Lisa a steaming cup of green tea she had just taken from the stove. She poured another one for herself, then idly stirred the leaves around with a toothpick.

"What makes you say that?" Lisa asked, accept the cup when it was offered to her, and then spooned in a dollop of creamer and a few drops of sugar before taking a sip of her tea, nodding her thanks. Lisa, having just spent a tense day in staff meetings with Captain Gloval and the other bureaucrats, allowed herself to soak in the relaxing aroma of the tea, and relax for us. "Oh come on, I know you better than just about anyone, and maybe, just maybe, you missed your calling, Claudia. They should have assigned you to the psychology ward instead of the bridge."

"Not that I'm any kind of expert, but' " Claudia began, and flushed red, turning her dusky black skin a shade lighter, and laughed. "And if I had been down there, what would you and the rest of the bridge crew have done without me? Answer that one," Claudia demanded, folding her arms over his chest, and to those her knew her, as Lisa did, she could almost the challenging gleam in the other woman's dark eyes.

"Okay, okay," Lisa replied. "It was a joke, and a bad one. Sorry."

"Apology accepted," Claudia said, nodding her head and then set her teacup down on the coffee table. She shuffled around the documents and knickknacks that ware neatly lay out before she selected a file folder that contained a sheaf of papers.

"Which is fine, I wouldn't get too concerned about what he does in his own time, but it when it directly impacts his crew and fellow pilots, well then it might well be to take notice."

"I should know better by now, than to let my personal feelings get in the way of doing my job," Lisa replied.

"We've already been over this ground before, and I won't tell you again what a rocky start Roy I had when we first began dating, well, seriously anyway," Claudia said.

"Are men just made to be stubborn?" Lisa asked, twirling her straw in the now cold tea.

"Well, I really don't have a good answer to that one, they're just... men. I swear, it sometimes seem like no matter how old they get, they are just a few times when they act just little boys, which brings us back to the point I wanted to make." Claudia replied.

"Are you absolutely sure, you've never considered a career in psychology," Lisa laughed. In the back of her mind she knew that what the other woman was saying was true, but she refused to believe it. It was more than the just her increased failure in romance to department with him, more than the fact that the seemingly innumerable battles with the Zeneteradi, that was getting to him, to them all, if truth be told. It was the fact that this `shell shock' or battle fatigue or whatever you wanted to call, it was affecting not just Rick's personality, but his behavior and his interaction with other people as well. Claudia was right. Lisa just wished she knew some way that she could personally help with whatever was eating at him.

She could have easily have picked up on the symptoms had she been paying attention.

"Yes. And this isn't about your relationship with Rick, or the lack of one," Claudia replied, not missing a beat and refusing to sidetracked onto another topic.

"You see, from what I've read about this, and what I've observed. I believe that Mr. Hunter is suffering from what's called shell shock or PSTD, or post traumatic stress disorder."

"Well, it's treatable isn't it? I mean, it's not like we didn't know what we were getting ourselves into when we enlisted in the Robotech Defense Forces. We all had to pass the psych tests, and..." Lisa trailed off.

"Lisa, I don't think its matter that Rick was a civilian before he enlisted, that just battle fatigue or that shock of his first combat. That's not the problem, the first sight of the Zenetreradi would be enough to spook anyone. " It's the fact that he's suffering from a combination of shell shock, and overloaded stimuli. He ust can't process it all."

"What do you suggest we do about it?" Lisa asked.

"He needs someone to talk to. Someone who can relate to him on his level."

"In other words, you think he should talk with Roy Fokker," Lisa nodded.

"Exactly," Claudia nodded.

"Well, we both know how stubborn both men are, do you think it will work?"

"I have every confidence that it will," Claudia replied.

"Do you know something that you're not telling me," Lisa demanded, dropping the empty teacup on the table, and placing her hands on her hips.

"Maybe I do, maybe I don't," Claudia replied enigmatically.

"You're being awfully mysterious about this, and you're about as stubborn as the men in our lives when you want to be. Thanks for the tea."

"You're welcome," Claudia replied. "Thanks for hearing me out. Lisa, I didn't want to hit you over the head with this, I just believed that you should know what's going on."

"I appreciate that. I'm not going to draw anymore out of you tonight, on this, am I?

No? In that case, I'm going to wish you a good night, and head off to bed." Lisa said.

"Good night"

"Pleasant dreams," Lisa replied, waving as she left and headed off to her own quarters, to try to get some sleep before he early morning shift on the bridge.


Rick walked into the room with his shoulders slumped, his hands shoved into the pockets of his uniform. He knew he'd been acting like a jerk lately, but he really didn't care enough to do anything about it.

"Roy, you wanted to see me?" Rick stood at the threshold of the open doorway, his flight helmet, which the pilots he flew with, referred to as `the thinking cap' tucked underneath one arm. With his free hand, he brushed through the thick mass of black hair that constantly fell over his face and covered his eyes. He was oddly enough comforted by the fact of having something to occupy his hands and rest his eyes on, because Roy was otherwise occupied. At the moment Roy's blond head was bent over the strings of his guitar, and softly strumming the chords to a song to the woman he loved, Lt. Claudia Grant.

Rick, feeling a bit uncertain of what to say, wondered if she should just turn around and leave, but as the song came to an end, Roy slid his guitar back into its velvet-lined case. With one hand, "Wait a minute, hotshot."

As Claudia got up to leave, she gave Roy one final kiss on the lips, that met with a touch as soft as a butterfly landing, and winked at Rick, who went red with embarrassment and stilted to one side to allow her room to pass through the door.

"All right, Roy rubbed his hands together and then jolted to his feet in one motion and came over clapping him on the back with enough force to almost knock him off his feet. Ignoring his half-audible protest Roy forced t Rick over to the recessed sofa and plunked him down, then went over to a cabinet and took a bottle of water and poured to glasses full, and brought them over and set them down on the coffee table in front of sofa. "For starters, I'm going to tell what I think is wrong with you."

"Want a list." Rick began, trying to make a joke, but it felt flat and left a sour taste in his mouth.

"You're too damn thick-headed to listen to this from anyone else, so you're going to hear this from me. Sit down."

"What if I don't want to hear it?" Rick demanded.

"Well, then, I'll just have to make it an order, won't I?" Roy grinned the familiar lopsided smile that revealed all of his even white teeth, that Rick couldn't help but return the grin in kind, even though he didn't feel in the slightest like smiling, but he couldn't' stop himself. They stood like that for a long stretch of time, grinning like fools. Rick blinked a couple of times, "I'd prefer to stand, if that's all right with you?"

"Suit yourself. Well, you're going to listen, and then you're going to do something about it," Roy said. "I had this speech all planned, where in the hell did it go? he muttered under his breath. "Don't' interrupt. Well, If I could find what I wrote down, then we'll just have to wing it. Let's just say that it's come to my attention that you've been, shall we say, out of sorts lately."

"I've been acting like a jerk."

"Good, we're making progress," Roy smiled. "Admitting you have a problem is the first, so I've heard, and denial's not just a river in Egypt."

"Where are you getting this stuff," Rick asked, shaking his head.

"Dunno. A little bird told me," Roy replied as he shoved a chair underneath the other man before he fell down on the floor. There was a bit of an awkward silence as Rick let that last statement sink in, and then it hit him. "That little bird wouldn't happen to be the woman, who just walked out of here, would it?"

"I was wondering how long it would take you to pick up on that." Roy laughed, and nearly succeeded in falling out of his own chair. "It's not that I would hazard a wager on it, mind you."

"I'm not a betting man," Rick said.

"Neither am I," Roy said.

"So, I guess what I'm trying to say, is that even under ordinary circumstances it's never good to keep things bottle up. I want you to know when to ask for help before it gets to the point where it's eating you up inside."

"Do you to talk to all the pilots under your command like this?

"Not in so many words, and stop avoiding the subject," Roy demanded.

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean. Oh what the hell," Rick muttered as he ran his fingers through his thick black hair.

"I want you to seek professional help. And before you open your big mouth and say anything else stupid; I mean medical help, not that a visit to the shrink wouldn't be bad idea." Roy cocked his head to one side, thinking the matter through, shook his head, and brushed back a lock of blond hair out of his eyes. "No. For now I want to go visit Dr. Lang. By now, Claudia's had plenty of time to fill him on what's going on with you. Get him to proscribe the right medications. I wouldn't know what they are, so don't ask."

"Okay, okay," Rick replied.

"Just in case," Roy added. "I won't always be around to set you straight and tell you what's what. Just remember what I said, okay?"

"Just in case of what?" Rick demanded.

"Rick, stop playing dumb. You have a good head on your shoulders when you bother to use it to connect it with the rest of your body. Try to keep it that way.

Promise me," Roy said.

"I promise, and I'll remember.


"May I come in?" Lisa stood at Rick's open hospital room, the door only halfway ajar.

"Sure, "Rick replied. "I mean, I guess so."

Rick gingerly fended off what he thought was something blunt and heavy thrown in his general direction. His mind was in a somewhat foggy state with sleep and the soporific effect the medication the doctor had made him take as part of his recovery process. He had take the bitter tasting pills every four hours and following the schedule at least helped not only relieve some of his more lurid nightmares.

It gradually dawned on him that he was holding a dozen long-stemmed roses. He stared at them for a moment, then lifted his gaze back to Lisa, whose back was turned to him. She was staring at the end table where his fellow pilots had set up the flowers given to him from other well wishers. Placed in the middle of all the flowers was his Medal of Valor. At the same time he reached for the tablets of medication and downed them with a cup of water, he remembered the rather spectacular failure to give the medal as a birthday present to Lynn Minmei: the singing sensation and darling of the SDF-1. She had told him that she simply couldn't accept it, because it was his medal and it belonged to him.

Lisa didn't say anything for a few seconds. In the back of her mind she thought:

If he wants to make a fool of himself over her, let him." Out loud "Rick, I don't know if you can understand this right now, because you're still recovering from your own injuries." I have some bad news, and I felt you should hear this from me instead of via an official announcement, or through the scuttlebutt going around the ship."

"Even if Lt. Grant makes the announcements?" Rick laughed.

"Hey, we no longer shoot the messenger who delivers bad news, right?"

"Be serious for once, " Lisa snapped.

"Okay, Geez, Lisa. Lighten up."

"Lighten up! How can you? Oh, never mind."

"Huh? Just what are you trying to tell me? You should know me by now,

I've got a really thick skull, it takes quite a bit to penetrate it, and get through to me."

"In the last attack on the SDF1 some of the fighting made its way inside the ship and into the residential of Macross City. One particular Zenetreadi pilot seemed rather relentless. It was direct hit. He never had a chance. I'm told he made it back to the ship, managed to land, and died of severe blood loss. Rick, I am so sorry." Lisa finished, and shrugged helplessly, not knowing what to do. She never had been good at his. How many other good men and women had died under her command, this one hit a little more closely to home. This never gets easier, and why should it? I swore to keep my personal life and my career separate, but all I seem to be doing lately is getting rather meshed into one another."

"No!" Rick protested. Roy's the leader of the Skull Squadron. Nothing could happen to him! ...Nothing!" he trailed off. He had never been one for relationships, romantic or otherwise. He had never felt the need to define the parameters of his friendship with Roy Fokker,

"Calm down!" Lisa snapped. "Breathe. Believe me when I say, I know how you feel."

"How can you know how I feel!" Rick demanded. Farewell, Big Brother. he said in the silence of his mind I can't believe he's really gone.

"Anger won't help the situation or change what's happened. We can only remember as he was in his life and try not to forget him," Lisa tried, biting her lower lip to keep from bursting into tears. "You'll need time, and space. I just thought you should know." Lisa turned around and with her back to him, she left the room.

As Lisa left Rick twisted the sheets in his hands. Lisa was right about several things, as much he didn't want to admit it "I am such and idiot."

He didn't quite know how to feel or react to what he'd just been told. Not sad, not angry, he felt more like there was a hole in his middle where Roy's presence had been and not it was gone. "Farewell, Big Brother. I won't forget you and I promise not to let you down again. Not ever." He fell asleep still clutching the long-stemmed roses in his hands.


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