see chap. 1 for warnings, notes, disclaimer
+ Chapter 14
I mingled with the crowd, making
small talk and even dancing a few times. The new ice arena worked quite
well as a dance floor; the thick pads over the ice surface kept it from
being too cold yet the arena didn't become unbearably hot and stifling
the way that some ballrooms did as the evening wore on. I occasionally
caught a glimpse of Heero standing off the edge of the dance floor, holding
a glass of punch that he pretended to sip from time to time.
Just watching him hurt. I'd known that he would probably go back to his
old self once his memories returned but I'd still hoped... 'You hoped
a lot of damn fool things, Maxwell. He's only got part of his memories
back and he's pushing you away again already. Get used to it.'
With a gracious smile firmly pasted on my face, I turned my latest dance
partner over to her date and continued on my way. I'd spotted a few familiar
faces in the crowd, people that I knew were among the most trusted employees
of Mattis. I couldn't imagine them discussing anything too terribly important
here but it wouldn't hurt to do my mingling in their general area. The
fact that hanging around them would put me about as far away from Heero
as possible without leaving the arena had nothing to do with my decision.
Nothing at all. Not a single solitary damn thing. Really.
'And pigs fly. Get your head together, Maxwell. Which means get your damn
mind *off* the fact that Heero's reverting to his cold, distant self and
*on* the mission. With him well on the road to recovery, there's no excuse
for not getting back to work. He sure as hell won't appreciate you hovering
and fussing so you might as well get your mind back on your damn job.
It's not like you've never worked with him while he was acting like this
before. Just deal with it.'
I pushed away the hurt at the way that Heero was shutting me out and forced
my focus back where it belonged. On the still-incomplete mission and finding
a way to come back here later tonight or tomorrow in order to sneak from
this section of the resource satellite into the section suspected to contain
the weapons factory. With surveillance in our room, it would be just as
well to try it in the midst of the resort's "day" when we'd be expected
to be out of the room wandering around.
I strolled along past the displays advertising all the new sports facilities
that were now available. The low-g and zero-g sports rooms sounded extremely
interesting but considering how easily an "accident" could happen in one
of those, I really didn't think that we'd be trying them out. Despite
how conveniently close they were to the access to the next section of
the satellite. I had no desire to end up plummeting from near the very,
very high ceiling to the floor like a rock when the room's gravity controls
"accidentally malfunctioned". Call me paranoid but I just wasn't going
to take that chance.
Really, the best option looked like a trip to the rollerblading park.
It was on the side of the section that I needed to be on and there should
be enough people around to keep my absence from being too noticeable if
anyone was watching through the surveillance cameras or actually tailing
me. I wasn't entirely certain whether Heero would be too thrilled about
the idea of staying behind to cover for me now that he had some memories
back; he might insist on going exploring with me. If that was the case
it was even more critical that we "disappear" from someplace with lots
of people to temporarily hide our absence.
The earliest that our backup could possibly arrive would be the afternoon
shuttle tomorrow, assuming that they left on the very next flight after
Heero and I missed our check-in time. The resort only ran two shuttles
per day, both leaving from the same L3 colony, one arriving here in the
early morning and one in the late afternoon. And those only ran if at
least a few seats were booked six hours in advance.
Private transportation to the resort was - strongly discouraged. There
simply wasn't really anywhere to park private craft during a guest's stay.
The resort charged an incredibly huge premium for the use of the very,
very few spots that did exist. Even booking a docking slip for private
craft to drop someone off or pick someone up was expensive. Sending backup
in on anything other than the standard resort shuttle would be far too
Late tomorrow afternoon was too damn far away.
I didn't want to wait for backup to continue the mission. Not now. I wanted
this over and done with so I could go home and have a nice little breakdown
in solitary peace while Heero finished getting his head back together,
put his fucking emotional shields back up, and decided how the hell he
was going to treat me after this whole damn mess.
The past few days had taken a heavy toll on my own emotional shielding
and I was going to have to do some serious reconstruction work myself.
I still intended to try and dig for that nice guy deep inside of Heero
- but not right now. A little time to put this whole mess behind me and
put the hurt of having what I wanted so damn bad held in front of me then
snatched away was required first. Then maybe I'd be able to handle it.
I glanced across towards Heero and caught his eye for a moment only to
have him look right through me as if I wasn't even there. 'Or not...'
I acknowledged painfully. Now I remembered quite clearly just why I'd
quit trying before. Why I'd raised my own damn defences so fucking high
around him. Why I hadn't been willing to try for anything more than a
cautious friendship and good working relationship with him.
Because every fucking time that he rejected my attempts to dig the man
out of the soldier, it cut to the bone.
Maybe I'd talk to Quatre when this was all over. See if he felt up to
the challenge of dragging that little bit of Heero that was "Odin" out
into the light of day. Because I wasn't too sure that I could handle it
myself. Quatre didn't have the same degree of emotional involvement so
he could probably take the deepfreeze treatment without it hurting quite
so damn bad. Right now, I wasn't entirely sure that I was going to be
able to handle even partnering with Heero when this was all over with.
Not unless I could get my own emotional guard back up again and make the
whole thing a little less personal. Not unless I could manage to forget
just how wonderful being kissed and cuddled and treated affectionately
by "Odin" had been.
Reluctantly, I realized that Heero and I were drifting pretty far away
from our cover right now. Honeymooners would *not* spend substantial chunks
of time wandering around a party individually. They'd either be out there
on the dance floor together or off in a dark corner somewhere pretending
that the two of them were all alone. Stifling a sigh, I began to thread
my way back across the room towards Heero. It wasn't like I'd heard anything
interesting hanging around Mattis's flunkies anyway and sticking around
there any longer was just going to start looking damn suspicious.
"Having fun?" I inquired brightly as I finally reached Heero's side again.
The glare and inarticulate sound I received in response were all too familiar.
"Now Odin, surely the party isn't all *that* bad," I scolded with forced
cheerfulness. "Someone on his honeymoon shouldn't be such a party pooper.
Come dance with your hubby like a newlywed *should*." I gave Heero a pointed
look. We *did* have a cover to maintain here after all. "Just one dance
then we can go back to our room," I promised. "I'm sure your head is aching
again by now..."
He nodded once, sharply, then took my outstretched hand and let me lead
him towards the dance floor. At least this was just a slow dance rather
than something formal like the waltz we'd mangled so badly earlier. My
feet and the other couples around us might actually make it through this
My heart however was another story altogether.
One that I wasn't going to think about right now. I was on a mission with
my partner. That's all this was. Nothing more.
I stepped into his arms and we began to move slowly to the music. 'Just
a mission. Just my partner. Nothing more.'
No matter how much I might want it to be.
[chap. 13] [chap. 15] [back
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