"I think I'm gonna be
sick," I muttered and he snickered at me.
"You had no sympathy for me, I have none for you." He smiled.
"We should get out the swords," I told him.
He nodded. "We should have practiced with them yesterday."
I hung my head. "I know... but I was afraid Heero'd have a cow."
He looked at me sharply. "You mean he doesn't know?" I had to
shake my head.
"He's... not very happy with me right now," I sighed. "Keeps
referring to the whole expo as 'that damn thing'." Hayden snickered.
"I figured if he realized just what in the hell we were planning
on doing out there, he'd have my ass drugged, tied up and on my way back
"Maybe he's... right?" he asked then, looking at me intently.
"We're getting ready to go out there and have at each other with
a couple of feet of tempered steel... "
"I'll be fine," I muttered, embarrassed.
"Duo, I think I can keep myself from getting skewered if you slip...
but I'm not sure I can... " he began, worry clouding his face.
"That's what these are for," I touched the torc around my neck
with the earphone currently dangling down my chest. "If I get into
trouble I will tell you." I grinned up at him. "That's why we
have a plan B... remember?"
He still looked troubled but there was a sharp rap on the door then and
the voice of some nameless, faceless gofer saying, "Last call!"
It was time to go meet our public.
I made a quick trip to the bathroom and stopped by the vending machine
that all locker rooms had in the corner, punched in for a soda and drank
half the can standing there. I offered the other half to Hayden who was
watching me with an odd look on his face. He shook his head and I tossed
the rest of it in the trashcan. "Little caffeine kick can't hurt,"
I grinned but he only frowned some more.
God, I wish this was over with.
We pulled out our swords, inserted the ear jacks, slapped each other's
shoulders for luck and headed out.
"I feel like an ass," Hayden muttered as we went down the access
passage toward the main arena. "We thought these were a good idea,
"We were young and naive and thought they made us look really cool,"
I grinned at his broad back.
"It was only a year or so ago," he complained. "How could
we have been that much... stupider, just a year ago?"
"Guess we grew up fast," I snickered.
He looked back at me sharply. "Oh God... you're starting to enjoy
I was. I almost laughed out loud as I realized it. The old familiar rush
was coming back and some of the self-consciousness and apprehension was
washing away on its rising tide.
"Come on, man." I grinned up at him. "Brannigan and Maxwell...
back in the ring. We'll probably never do this again; this is our farewell
He looked doubtful and I struck a heroic pose. "It's all attitude,
partner... you remember that. We go out there thinking we look like idiots...
then we'll look like idiots. Let's go out there and look damn cool."
Finally, he grinned at me and there was just a touch of that old spark
in his eyes. He turned and resumed walking but I noted that his back was
a little straighter and his head a little higher.
Then we were there, moving into the athlete's staging area and we were
suddenly surrounded by a score of people in costumes just as outlandish
as ours. I recognized a large number of them and exchanged polite waves
and a couple of handshakes but there is a kind of unwritten rule in the
staging area about too much talking. Everybody is trying to get to that
place in their heads that they need to be in to perform. Each of us respects
that and we keep our distance.
Hayden and I make a point of not watching the other competitors, we concentrate
on our own routine and just doing the best we can. I don't want to be
affected by seeing someone else do something that is similar to a move
I use and then feeling like I should alter my routine.
"You know... " Hayden leaned down and whispered next to my ear,
"I kinda missed this."
I flashed him a smile so wide I thought my face would crack and he laughed
at me, seeing that I had too.
Our number was called and we moved up to the field gate. The butterflies
in my stomach morphed into something a whole lot larger... eagles, maybe.
And the little voice in the back of my head just screamed and ran away.
My mouth was dry and I had to wipe sweaty palms on my bare thighs because
there was nothing else but leather.
"We shoulda brought towels," Hayden groused and I glanced to
see him struggling with the same problem.
Then the announcer was giving our intro and I was standing on that knife-edge
between complete panic and the total calm that comes over you when you
start something you've practiced until you can do it in your sleep.
The announcer guy knew his dramatic shit, withholding our names until
he had listed our other wins and pointed out that we were 'back' after
a yearlong absence. Then he called out "Brannigan and Maxwell"
and there was a roar from the crowd. I looked up into Hayden's shocked
face and muttered, "What the hell?"
He caught at my arm and leaned down to whisper fiercely, "They think
we're competing despite our... problems."
God. I hadn't thought of that. Nobody in their right mind would decide
in the final hour that they were going to enter the gravity expo. Everybody
thought we had been planning to enter this year all along and were now
valiantly going ahead, despite all our trails and tribulations; my accident,
the loss of the 'Ragged Gypsy'. Gamely going forward against all odds.
"I feel so mercenary," I said and it was his turn to laugh at
"You're up," called the gate man and I moved into position.
"Don't break anything," Hayden called.
"Don't miss your cue," I called back.
The first drum beat of our music hit and I launched right on my mark,
despite feeling like I could toss my cookies right there.
We dance this to 'Fanfare for the Common Man'. Yeah, I had taken a real
liking to Emerson, Lake and Palmer. The piece starts slow, almost a death
knell of simple drumbeats. I have thirty seconds to make my trip clear
across the arena from that one powerful kick-off, taking my position near
the ceiling, striking my pose and waiting for Hayden.
He comes out at the thirty-second mark to the flare of the brass section.
He gets almost the same thirty seconds to move in and take his position
low and opposite me before the drums kick in again.
The song picks up speed after that rather quickly, it's all drums and
cymbals and electronics. Gets the damn blood stirring, let me tell you.
The routine runs just under ten minutes. It was to be the longest ten
minutes of my life.
As soon as Hayden was in position and on the cue of the drumbeat, we moved
toward each other with swords brandished, arcing across the arena and
taking our first pass.
That is our first truly dramatic moment, because we swing and let the
swords clash off each other. It rang in the stadium shockingly loud, just
as planned. The crowd gasped as they realized the swords were real metal
and I had to repress a smirk.
We flashed to opposite sides of the arena and I got ready for the first
gravity kick. It came right on the mark and we changed our glides into
acrobatic landings and turned to run at each other, making our second
pass. The swords rang again and I leaped hard off the floor, knowing that
behind me Hayden was doing the same. The gravity vanished just when it
was supposed to and I was kiting toward the wall for a hard rebound.
This is what we do well. The gravity cuts. We didn't invent the style
but by God we did it better than anybody else currently performing. It's
all split second timing to make the transition look smooth as watered
silk. The crowd cheered the effect.
The next move was a close pass; you couldn't have gotten a hand between
us as we sailed by each other. It always reminded me of the old circus
performers, the trapeze acts. Two flyers passing in mid-air is a damn
hard thing to master. Two gravity dancers passing that close is just as
difficult. There had been not a few accidents before we had gotten good
enough to stop kicking each other in the face. It was the other thing
we did very impressively; we left no margin for error.
I was already drenched with sweat. There was another change in the gravity
then, not total, lending a strange effect to an almost fall. Makes it
more of a float. Then full gravity and we make another run. I wished I
could wipe the sweat off my palms. This one was a big dramatic swing,
two hands on the sword and the pain lanced up my bad arm like an electric
shock. I must have gasped, though the clash of the swords and the roar
of the crowd kept it from traveling far. Except to Hayden who had a direct
"You ok?" he questioned worriedly.
"Felt that," I muttered. The gravity went out again and I was
gliding back toward the ceiling. When I turned and faced him again, I
was able to flash him a grin.
We circled each other, posing and showing off for a couple of seconds
and then it was time for my swan dive. I worked my way to the highest
point in the arena and Hayden moved in under me. The gravity kicked in
and I plummeted like a stooping hawk right towards him. He planted himself
firmly on the ground and raised his sword. The crowd was going nuts. At
the last possible second, the gravity went back out, Hayden kicked clear
and I turned the dive into a tumbling jack-knife kick, launching back
into the air, giving pursuit.
Another pass then, another clang of the swords. My heart was starting
to pound painfully in my chest. Shit. We were barely half way through
Coming off the pass, we sailed to opposite ends again and took up positions
for our really big move. This one had won Hayden a broken nose and me
a broken finger before we had perfected it.
"Ready?" he asked even as we were moving in the hardest kick-offs
we had used yet.
I snorted and realized that he must be able to tell I was struggling;
we normally didn't talk unless we had to.
We bore down on each other but this one wasn't a pass. At the last second,
we locked hands and repelled off each other. It required Hayden to switch
his sword to his left hand. I normally do that but under the circumstances,
we'd changed the routine. Even so, I still almost lost my sword. The repel
is tricky as hell and I'd never seen anyone else try it. My wrist gave
me another pang but I managed to keep it off my face this time. We don't
give ourselves enough momentum to reach the wall; we're both left hanging
in mid-air for just a second before a gravity change drops us to the floor.
I didn't need to fake the artful panting thing. We are supposed to land
on our feet but the impact drove me to one knee. I turned it into a pose
though and no one was the wiser. Except Hayden, of course.
I had to launch myself immediately into a run to make up the time I had
squandered on my near fall and we made another ringing strike in the center
of the arena. The impact drove a grunt of air from my lungs but the gravity
was due to go again and I needed to make my leap. Soaring toward the wall,
I had a second to realize that my ears were starting to ring and I knew
my breath was coming in ragged gulps.
I almost moaned thinking about the next move and Hayden called to me again,
I didn't answer, just concentrated on my set-up and was thankfully in
place when the gravity came back on. It had taken us longer to perfect
this move than any of the others. It doesn't look like much unless you
understand the workings of gravity. It's all about momentum and friction
and timing. Full gravity comes on while we are at the top of the dome
and we 'run' across the wall for almost five full strides before the gravity
goes to zero again and we are kicking off into mid-air. The crowd went
mad with cheering and I think sometimes, looking back, that that sound
was all that was keeping me going.
"Duo?" Hayden questioned again when we were off the wall,
since I'd never answered him the first time.
"I... " I faltered on the I'm fine response that had
been coming out of my mouth. I wasn't. I could feel the shakiness that
had hold of me like something cold in my guts and my ears were still ringing.
I was having trouble catching my breath. "Don't rule out the contingency
plan." I finally admitted.
"Shit," he muttered and then it was time for another pass.
Then the unthinkable happened. I cut him. I knew it when I heard his grunt
of surprise but I couldn't look until I hit the wall and made my return.
It wasn't bad, just a thin slice on his upper arm but it was obvious as
hell and the whole damn stadium gasped.
"We planned for this," I snapped at him even as I was coming
back to meet him over the center of the arena.
He didn't speak but I saw the almost-anguish in his eyes. He had to cut
me in return to make it look like part of the routine. I could tell from
the look on his face that he wouldn't do it. At the last second, I shifted
my arm and made it happen. I even managed to make it a mirror image of
his own cut.
"Damn!" he hissed and when we turned to square off again, I
could see his face flashing anger. But when the crowd saw the red stripe
on my arm as well, the buzz of agitated voices turned to cheers.
I smirked at him even as I was kicking off again. I almost missed my mark
and the pass we made wasn't near as close as it should have been.
I couldn't do this. I knew it in that moment.
"Plan B," I panted, instinct turning my suddenly leaden body
as gravity kicked in and I had to land on the floor.
"Duo?" he gasped as we squared off again and he got a good look
at me. I think I must have been as white as a sheet, because he looked
truly scared. I danced the sword blade in tiny circles to hide the way
it was shaking in my hands. I had enough mind left to see him mimic me
and tried to grin.
"Hayden... I'm gonna pass out," I warned him and he moved in
for the kill.
Yep. That was plan B. If I got to a point where I didn't think I could
finish the routine, then Hayden was supposed to move in and dispatch me
as quickly as possible. At that point I finished out the act as a limp
corpse and he did his best to fill the rest of the time slot with dramatic
posing and gloating over my vanquished body. Stop laughing; we didn't
have a lot of time to come up with something.
I managed to stay with him long enough to swing my sword in one last,
vain attempt to 'save' myself and then slump convincingly around his forward
thrust. That is the last thing I remember, the feel of Hayden's hand on
my stomach, the sword passing neatly between my body and my arm and his
voice keening, 'Ohshitohshitohshit... '
I might have told him to get Heero. That was the last coherent thought
I had anyway; 'I want Heero'. I would have laughed at myself if
I'd been awake to do it.
Much later they would tell me that we carried off my 'death' very convincingly.
That Hayden kept a level head and had turned me over so that the next
gravity change had found me with my back aimed at the floor and I had
drifted artfully down to sprawl at his feet. He had ad-libbed a short
little victory dance and then crouched to 'mourn' at the side of a worthy
opponent. Finishing by carrying me off the field. We even got credit for
our sense of the dramatic by staying 'in character' all the way back to
the locker room. I wouldn't know. Maybe I'll watch the tapes someday.
I wasn't aware of anything again for almost an hour.
It was a hard struggle up from the depths of that faint. I heard things
before I was able to come back enough to move. Or at least before I came
back enough to care.
"... cock-sure son of a bitch! You're not a God damn Doctor!"
That was Toria and she was flaming, spitting pissed. Her voice echoed
strangely and it filtered down to my befuddled brain that we must be in
the locker room.
"Torie... honey... calm down." That was Hayden and I wondered
vaguely why he was taking his life in his hands.
"Calm down? Calm down? You are as fucking nuts as he is! We need
to get one of the medics in here! We need to... "
"You need to shut up," Heero spoke for the first time, his voice
cold as ice. I realized muzzily that he was the warm thing I was laying
against, because his voice rumbled against my ear. "He risked his
neck out there to make sure that nobody realized how weak he is. I won't
have you destroying all his hard work."
"But Heero... " That was Relena. Good God; were they all crammed
"Just who in the hell do you think you are anyway?!" Toria was
"Sweetie... back off... " Hayden's voice was starting to sound
scared and it crossed my mind that maybe I should be doing something.
"Enough!" Heero raised his voice, something he doesn't do a
hell of a lot but when he does... people pay attention. The room went
quiet as a church and I chose that moment to shift. It brought my body
awareness back and I realized that my butt hurt from half reclining on
the hard bench. I was cold but not as cold as I would have expected; I
found I was wrapped in a blanket. Heero's arms were around me and they
tightened when he felt me move.
"Duo love?" he said softly and I blinked open heavy eyelids.
"Hey." I smiled up into his worried, down-turned face, my head
supported in the crook of his elbow.
"How are you feeling?" he asked gently and brought warm fingers
to brush the hair from my eyes.
"Come to pick up the pieces again?" I said and my mouth felt
cottony dry, making my voice come out raspy.
He reached behind us and magically produced a bottle of something cold.
"Here, love," he said soothingly and held it for me while I
greedily sucked down what proved to be a sports drink. "Slow down,"
he chided and took it away from me before I could make myself sick. "Better?"
he asked after a moment and I nodded.
"How long?" I asked, still feeling fuzzy minded.
"About an hour," he supplied and then answered my second question
before I asked it. "You pulled it off; nobody suspected a thing."
"But they're going to if we stay in here very much longer."
I frowned and thought about getting up. Thinking was about as far as it
"We're fine," he soothed me. "Everyone thinks we're in
here watching the last of the competition. I think there's still several
routines to go... no one will think a thing until it's over."
"Ok," I sighed and relaxed back against him. Aches and pains
were starting to make themselves known. My arm stung and for a second
I couldn't figure out why, I tried to reach for it but found myself tangled
in the blanket. I quirked him a small grin, "You thought of everything,
He smiled tenderly back at me. "I know how you get." And his
fingers were back, tracing gently over my face. I could feel his concern
like a current that ran under his skin.
"Excuse me;" Toria was suddenly almost in our faces.
"Remember us? Hello?"
I felt like laughing but really didn't have the energy for it; I truly
had forgotten they were in the damn room.
"Hey there, spacer-girl," I murmured. I was having trouble keeping
my eyes open and couldn't seem to keep my damn head lifted off Heero's
Her face lost all its twisted together anger and fear when she saw she
had my attention, "Duo... God, Duo... why didn't you tell me it was
that bad? I never would have asked... "
"And that's why I didn't tell you," I told her gently. "Besides...
I'm fine. A little sleep and I'll be good as new."
Her temper flared and she growled, "You asshole! You scared the shit
out of me!" and raised her hand to slap at my arm. The blow, however
light it would have been, never landed. There was a tight growl from Heero
and Toria backed down instantly.
I sighed and made more of an effort to stop drifting, I managed to convince
my neck to support my head and I turned to look passed Toria to Hayden.
"Hey, big guy... how's the arm?"
He scowled down at me, moving to sit on the bench beside us so I didn't
have to crane my neck to see him. "It's fine... not near as bad as
yours. You really pissed me off, Duo. I didn't want to cut you... I never
agreed to that part of the plan."
A dozen things ran through my head, arguments and justifications but I
was just too tired to care and, "I'm sorry," was all I could
He was quiet for a moment while he just sat and looked at me and then
he stood and briskly said, "Why don't we step out in the hall for
a few minutes, ladies? Let Duo get changed out of that costume. They're
damned uncomfortable, you know. They bind in all the wrong places... "
He chattered away at them as he herded them out, not letting a one of
them object and when the door closed I couldn't stop a sigh of relief.
I let my head fall back into the support of Heero's arm and smiled up
"Can I have that kiss now?" I asked softly.
He smiled warmly. "And what kiss would that be?"
"The one you've been dying to give me ever since I opened my eyes."
He chuckled for a moment but then something in his eyes changed. Things
went terribly still. He leaned down and brushed his lips over mine, so
softly I wasn't sure if he'd actually touched me or if what I'd felt had
only been his breath. He did it again but this time I rose to meet him,
insistent. He gave me what I wanted, his sudden fierceness contrasting
dizzyingly with his gentleness. I melted in his arms.
"You were... magnificent out there," he breathed when he drew
away and I felt warmth spread through my chest.
"I felt like I was floundering all over the place," I grimaced
and began trying to sit up.
"Easy," he scolded and held me while the room spun around us.
I got my good arm braced on the bench and finally steadied. When he was
sure I wouldn't fall over, he peeled the blanket back and began unbuckling
I was shivering before he even had me stripped to the waist. He hurriedly
pulled out a sweatshirt and worked it on over my head. I smiled as he
tugged it down. "Where'd this come from?" I asked with a raised
eyebrow; I don't own any sweatshirts.
He was down on his knee beside me, working at the leg guards and glanced
up at me through that unruly hair of his. "I told you... I came prepared;
I know how you get."
"You make it sound like I do this every other day," I groused.
"Once was enough to teach me my lesson," he smiled. "I'm
a fast learner."
I snorted and dared to sit up straight, taking my weight off my hand.
I didn't immediately fall over, so I reached to begin undoing the buckles
on the wide leather belt; it really was binding just the way Hayden had
said. I sighed with relief when it finally fell away.
He helped me finish dressing and shoved the gear away in the duffle bag
before coming to sit down in front of me with my wrist brace and I couldn't
help a sheepish grin. He only shook his head and I was a little surprised
I didn't get the riot act read to me.
Hayden peeked in at the door while Heero was still undoing the gauze and
tape that had been under the leather bracer. "Decent yet?" he
"Sure,' I told him. "You guys can come back in now."
They slipped back into the room, seeming a little more subdued, a little
calmer. Heero stopped what he was doing for a second and fished around
in the bag that had been magically producing the answers to all my needs.
He pulled out a ration bar, peeled the wrapper back and handed it to me.
"Here," he said gruffly, "eat that. And drink the rest
of that carb-drink."
"Yes sir!" I grinned at him.
"Hayden, come here," he commanded next and I was a little surprised
to see the big man jump like one of the gofers. "Hold his damn arm;
he's shaking so hard I can't get this tape off."
I frowned, struggling to steady the arm on my own. I felt ridiculous.
He cast a scowl at the cluster the other three had made of themselves.
"Victoria, come over here and sit behind him... give him something
to lean against."
I saw her bridle at his tone of voice but Hayden raised his head from
what he was doing and there was that electric tingle of unspoken communication.
She came without another word and straddled the bench behind me, taking
me by the shoulders and forcing me back so she could take some of my weight.
"Heero... " I warned, afraid of what he might have Relena and
Chezarina do. He only glared up at me.
"I think I've been more than tolerant today," he told me flatly.
"Shut up and let us take care of you."
Well, what in the hell do you say to something like that? Yes sir,
is the appropriate answer but I'd already used that line. So I just shut
up as I had been bade and ate my damn ration bar.
"Excuse me?" Chezarina interjected quietly and we all looked
up at her. Her eyes weren't on us though but on the monitor displaying
the arena outside. "I think it's over."
I followed her gaze and realized that the last routine was just finishing.
All the contestants traditionally gathered in the staging area for the
announcement of the judging results. It felt like my heart turned over
in my chest. I wasn't ready; I couldn't go out there. I would fall on
my damn face.
I turned away from the sight and met Heero's intense stare. It welled
up in me to beg like a child to go home. I can't go on any more,
I wanted to scream, Take me away from here!
"Guess we should be getting out there, huh?" was what came out
of my mouth.
Something hardened in Heero's face. His fingers finished with the last
of the Velcro straps on my brace but his eyes never left mine. "No
more,' he said suddenly in that soft tone he has. The one that can make
small children, old ladies and the faint of heart pee their pants.
"No. No more at all," Hayden agreed in an equally soft voice
and I could have wept with relief when nobody argued.
"Well, you two should get out there at least!" Relena suddenly
blurted and there were several nervous chuckles. Heero slipped an arm
around me to steady me while Toria got up.
"Duo?" she said softly as she moved around in front of me, "are
you sure you're all right?"
"I'm fine," I grinned up at her in reassurance. "Now get
There was a spark of the old humor in her face and she flashed me a grin.
"Ok buddy-boy... but if you two screwed this up and you didn't at
least place, we'll be sleeping at your place again tonight!"
I laughed. "You should have given me that kind of incentive before
the damn expo!"
Hayden took her hand and gave it a tug. "Will you be here when we
get back?" he asked gently, a smile dancing around behind his beard.
"No," Heero told him before I had a chance to open my
On a sudden thought, I stole a look at Relena. "Would you ladies
like to stay for the rest of the expo?"
She frowned at me slightly but I think it was only in indecision. Probably
thinking about being stuck in a boring old space ship for the rest of
the day with nothing to do. I was rather surprised though, when she looked
to Heero and Chezarina for direction. I could see Heero didn't like the
idea at all; he was wearing that frown he gets that's almost more of a
"That would be wonderful!" Toria suddenly exclaimed. "We
need a cheering section!"
Relena looked to Chezarina who smiled at the notion and Heero was suddenly
overruled. The group of them headed for the door and Hayden stopped to
look back at us, the last one out of the room. "I'll see them back
to the ship," he told Heero very gravely and then winked at me, "and
I won't let Torie get them drunk!"
Then they were gone.
I quailed in the sudden silence. "I'm sorry... " I murmured,
"I keep forgetting who she is. You're right; she shouldn't be out
there alone. I'll call a cab... you go after them and... "
The look he gave me then, hit like a physical blow and I flinched. God;
he was pissed. His hand was suddenly locked on the back of my neck; I
jerked but he held me firm. I cringed, the look on his face making me
half expect a blow. I was completely caught off guard by the sudden, harsh
kiss he delivered. He fairly attacked my lips with his and I couldn't
help trying to feebly push away. He eased off almost immediately and the
kiss gentled; became loving, speaking of tenderness and concern all wrapped
around a core of heated passion. When he drew away, I must have looked
like a damn deer half way across an eight-lane highway at rush hour.
"The war is over," he growled at me. "It's not my damn
job to sacrifice everything I hold dear any more. I am not her bodyguard.
I am your partner." His hand on the back of my head pulled me forward
so that we were nose to nose. "When will you get it through your
God damn thick head that there is nothing above you. You need me
right now, whether you can fucking admit it to yourself or not. And I
would sooner hack off my right arm than ever fail to be here when you
I gaped like a fish, ok? A really big, kind of stupid looking fish.
The pressure on my neck increased and he pulled me into his arms. I felt
his breath go out in a gusting sigh. "Duo, I know what you need.
Tell me what you want?"
I wrapped my arms around his neck and sighed my own heavy sigh, feeling
absolutely at the end of my endurance. "I want not to be so damn
tired. I want to stop hurting. I want all these people to go away and
leave us alone. I want to go home. I want... my damned dignity back."
He snorted softly, burying his face in my hair. "You've managed this
whole thing with more damn... poise than should be reasonably expected
from anyone. No one has taken your dignity from you."
I sat up, sliding from his embrace and held my hands out between us where
they shook like I had palsy. "I feel pathetic. Weak and helpless
and... and... " I floundered in a search for words that didn't really
exist to explain how utterly foolish I felt not being able to do the simplest
damn things. Having to lean on everyone around me. Having to rely.
"Hush," he admonished gently. "A month ago you wouldn't
have lasted through the first minute of what you just did out there. I
know it seems like forever to you... but you are getting better."
He kissed me softly on the forehead and drew away, making sure I was steady
before letting go of me.
"Let's get the hell out of here," he said and I nodded my weary
He stowed the last of the gear and slung the heavy duffle bag effortlessly
across his back before moving in to help me to my feet. He supported,
I clung, the room spun around dizzyingly and we headed out. The corridor
was blessedly empty, everyone being down at the arena for the big announcements.
There are a lot of events in the gravity expo but the free-style dance
is hands down the big one, the crowd favorite.
I remembered with a strange pang the excitement of standing in that throng
of dancers, of fellow spacers. That group of miners and salvage men, of
pilots and engineers and dockworkers. The gravity expo isn't a competition
like the Olympics; it's for people who have developed skill in zero-g
by working in it. It wasn't for trained athletes; it was for people
in the trade. Like me.
On a better day I wouldn't have missed the end of this for the world.
Hell, I might even have kept the damn Roman tunic on for the awards ceremony.
We had the first year, when we'd done the Atlantis theme. God, we'd been
But I found that today I just didn't care. I had done my part. I had tried
as hard as I could have freaking tried. I gave until I bled. If we didn't
at least place; if the Brannigan's didn't get enough prize money to get
them back on their feet... then I'd think of something else. But not right
now. I was done.
I realized with a start that we were out of the center and on the street,
and I didn't remember getting there. I was shocked somehow, to find that
the lighting was still in the day-cycle. It seemed as though it had been...
to Sunhawk's fic]