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Fighter Weapons School: Tellar Prime, Federation Space

Phil leaned back onto the sagging bed. The "student quarters" barely qualified as "quarters" at all. His studio apartment had white painted cinder block walls, scratched tile floors, a rickety wooden desk, a worn out chair, questionable replicator, and a Starfleet issue bedframe and mattress that had seen at least a thousand transient bodies in its long career. It wasn't luxurious by any stretch of the imagination. Still, he had been able to replicate some decent linens, the air conditioning worked, and the fact that he didn't have to share a sonic shower or toilet with anyone else was also something to be thankful for.

He gazed up at the image on the PADD in his hands.

"I can't believe it's already half over," he said with a sigh. "It's just 'go, go, go' here. Up at dawn, PT, classes, pre-flight, mission, post-flight, bed, repeat. Before you know it, a month has gone by."

"I can believe it," Katie said from the Pershing three hundred light years away. "This ship just feels so lonely not having you here."

Phil cracked a smile.

"What is it?" Katie grinned as she rested her cheek on a pillow. Phil thought she looked so beautiful just lying there in just a tank top, her hair down, and Starfleet dog tags dangling from around her neck.

"I just realized that this is the longest we've been apart since we've known each other," he replied. "I mean, Starfleet will carry all couples to opposite sides of the galaxy sooner or later, but I didn't think it would be this tough."

"Wow," she said shaking head. "Who would have thought that we'd become one of those gushy duos who can't live without each other? Makes me wonder how we're ever gonna handle a five year mission apart."

"If we have to, one day at a time," Phil said, "But I'm glad being apart is hard. It means we really belong together," he said gently touching his fingertips to the screen.

"I love you," Katie said repeating the gesture from across the stars.

"I love you, too, Katie bug," he replied.

"Dammit," she said sucking in a deep breath and wiping her eyes. "Ok, ok, subject change. Did you get my package?"

"I did!" Phil said smiling as he reached towards a white "Federation Postal Service" box on his nightstand. Next to it was a greeting card that read, "Fly Fast! Shoot Straight!" signed by all of Lady Blackjack's senior staff. From inside, Phil pulled out a homemade chocolate chip cookie and took a big bite so Katie could see. She smiled when she saw Phil's cheeks puff up.

"They're delicious," Phil said spraying cookie crumbs all over the PADD.

Katie laughed.

"I'm glad you like them."

"I had no idea you baked, by the way," Phil added.

"I actually had a lot of help," she replied.

"Who?" Phil asked curiously. "T'les?"

"Why, T'les?" Katie said raising an eyebrow. "Cause she's a girl? Sexist much?"

"Ok, ok," Phil said. "Was it Adamson? He seems like he could be into baking."

"Nope," Katie chuckled.

"Doc Katan?" Phil said running out of candidates.

"Nope," Katie said shaking her head.

"Then who? I certainly don't believe our brave captain could be the one. I've had her cooking."

Katie laughed even harder.

"Think more blue with antennae," she said.

"Scharr!?" Phil said spitting the remaining cookie out of his mouth.

"What?" Katie replied. "I thought you said they were good."

"He hates me!" Phil said. "He probably slipped some laxative or something into the dough when you weren't looking."

"Babe," Katie said. "First off, say what you will about the old man, but he knows his baked goods. Second, he likes you a lot more than you think."

"Really?" Phil said with a bit of amazement.

"This whole ship is proud of you for going after what you want," his wife said. "We're all rooting for you to come home with that trophy. Daredevil says that if she could win it, you're a sure thing."

Phil rubbed his eyes and rested his head against the wall.

"I don't know, Katie," he finally replied. "The competition here is insane."

"You mean from those two weird chicks from Betazed?"

"Yeah, Quiet Riot," Phil muttered. "They just don't make mistakes. Two days ago, they took out three fighters by themselves in a simulated dogfight by luring them into the asteroid belt around Tellar Prime's moon, Phinda. The rocks caused the enemy formation to break up, and Quiet Riot picked them off one by one. It wasn't textbook, it was BETTER than textbook."

"What about you?" Katie asked curiously.

"On my run, I got two of them, but the third guy managed to sneak up on my low seven o'clock and get torpedo lock."

"I thought that the low seven o'clock was in the pilot's blind spot and it was the Sizzo's job to watch it?" Katie replied raising an eyebrow.

A look of amazement washed over Phil's face.

"You mean you actually listen to me when I talk about fighter tactics?" he said genuinely touched.

"Sometimes…" Kate mumbled with a little smirk. "Phil, it's ok. Just finish strong and get your ass back home."

Phil smiled again.

"Home…" Phil said with a sigh of contentment. "The Pershing really is our home now, isn't it?"

"I guess it is," Katie said smiling back.

"Well," he said resolutely, "I promised Annabeth that I would do Lady Blackjack proud before I left. I'm an Englishman, and England expects that every man will do his duty for home, king, and country."

"Well, I don't know about king and country," Katie replied, "but go win that thing for us, Saber."

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