It was the perfect dress, with deep red fabric and crinolines for dancing. And that was important, because the Captain could really dance, the only man she had ever known who could just move and not look like he was only doing it to please the woman in his arms.

The first time they danced he had made it all for her. Just holding her, turning a slow circle, looking into her eyes. It was more seductive than a kiss, the feel of his hands firm on her waist. He used to whisper guidance into her ear, naming the steps and counting the beat, until finally she could dance almost as well as he could. Everyone used to turn to watch them when they danced in public. But no one would be watching them tonight.

She kept fussing with everything: her bright red lipstick, her accessories. The Captain thought she was beautiful and always complimented her shining dark hair and the curves of her body. She wasn't sure what anyone else thought, and usually didn't care.

Tonight it was so hard to look into the mirror and admit she was ready. Yet finally she was, and she picked up the telephone. She didn't even have to say anything. He knew who was on the line and he knew what she wanted. Another man might have refused her, but she knew the Captain would not.

"Commander," he said to her as he entered the room. How many times had she reminded him to use her first name, both when they were both captains and now? But maybe tonight it was better this way.

She had chosen the song, and there would only be one, carefully. It held no memories and had no words, just a slow gentle cadence perfect for dancing. When she started the recording he nodded and held out his arms. It shouldn't have felt so perfect, dancing with someone who wasn't even taller than she was, but that didn't matter at all in the end.

She had laughed when he told her that his height was one of the reasons he'd been afraid to approach her. As if she would care about something so trivial. She told him she would have approached him eventually anyway, though that wasn't strictly true. It took work to get her to break the rule against fraternization, even though everyone ignored it. It was the only rule she had ever broken. Back then she thought it was the only one he had broken too.

His blond hair had grown out from its military cut, making him look boyish. The brown eyes that had first captivated her had lost their playfulness, but that was only natural. She looked into them and tried not to tremble. She was a commander, wasn't she?

He held out his arms without a word, and she moved toward him. The music was a waltz so that was how they started, and she had to count the beats in her head to make sure she would not disappoint him.

Gradually he pulled her closer and closer, until they were simply hugging and moving to the music like young people who don't know how to dance but do know how to love. They had never danced like this before, but she couldn't let go of him now. For a few moments she let herself remember what it was like to lie with him, his hands on her skin and his mouth on her neck. What it was like to tell him she loved him, which she had. Which she still did.

"Commander," he said again. "I-"

"I understand," she replied gently. "I probably would have done it too, if I were you."

She wouldn't have, of course, because she could never have let herself question. In the end he had his eyes on something higher than obedience. Perhaps she should have, too. Could you really make a world that way, though? Didn't some people have to follow and others have to lead? Perhaps in a better world the Captain would have been the leader, and tonight would not have had to happen. If men like the Captain led the world, they would be no need for dirty secrets, maybe no need for armies at all.

Listen to her, she sounded like one of them now, and if she didn't stop she wouldn't be able to carry this through.

"It's time," she said.

He pulled away. She wished he would turn his back, but it was more honest like this, she supposed, with him looking into her eyes with that small smile. The Captain hadn't run, and it was probably because of her. He may have wanted to hurt their forces, the campaign, but he didn't want to hurt her personally. As if this weren't going to hurt far more than his betrayal.

The Commander drew the gun, and she still didn't tremble, and he still didn't turn away. His mouth moved, but he wasn't pleading, only telling her he loved her, as she put the gun against his forehead and pulled the trigger.

He fell, and she tried not to look. She followed orders but she was only human. Then she turned the music off. From now on, she wanted to be surrounded by silence and forgetting.