Warnings: OC POV, gen fic, depressing situation
It's become a ritual.
I don't care for it, but what's a simple Supply Sergeant going to say
to a bunch of ex-Gundam pilots? I've thought about saying something to
the higher-ups, because it really is a crappy thing for the guy to do
to his old team-mates, but... I don't know; they're all golden. Even if
the one in question isn't a field agent anymore for the... uh... obvious
reasons, I can't help but feel like nobody will listen to me anyway.
But I watch it every time. See the team come in pumped-up and wired, see
them grinning and laughing, handing me their requisition slips and then
checking the equipment as I hand it out, joking with each other. You can
almost feel the electricity in the air; they're on that much of a rush.
And then he comes in. Rolling into the midst of them in that chair of
his, grinning like a loon. Grinning like he's going out too. Grinning
like he still could.
'That's no way to wrap a grip, Chang!' he says. Or, 'Let me check that
strap, Yuy... you never did buckle up tight enough.'
The laughing and joking doesn't stop. They include him, they laugh at
his barbs and toss them back, but you can feel something dampen. You can
feel the electricity ebb.
'Who taught you how to carry frags, Barton? Turn that damn belt around
before you blow us all up!'
'Damn it, Winner, did you skip lunch again? I can look at you and tell;
take this energy bar before you pass out.'
Same song, different refrain. Every damn time. It makes me crazy to watch
it; can't the guy see what he does to them? Hell, I can see it and I'm
not even their friend. They come in pumped and ready to go, and they go
out subdued and much quieter. It's got to kill them seeing him like that;
has to give them some God-awful visions right before going out.
But like I said, it's become a ritual. He does it every damn time they
go out any more, so I've got to the place where I know it's coming, which
just makes it all the harder to deal with when it does.
This time is no different; it's Yuy and Chang equiping for something bad
enough to require AKs and half a dozen fragmentation grenades. The sheet
says I won't see check-in for at least three days. I've just handed over
the last of it when Maxwell comes wheeling down from the elevator. They
greet him and he needles at them, checking equipment while they joke.
I can feel the level of adrenaline seem to go down as they talk and I
can't help but grind my teeth. It's getting harder and harder to keep
my mouth shut each time I have to stand by and watch the guy. This time
even more so when Maxwell finds a worn strap and makes Yuy switch out
rifles. It rankles. I'm not some damn green-horn that I can't look at
the strap and see he's right, but I guess it's just that last little bit
of irritation and I can't help muttering to myself as I strip the webbing
after they've walked off.
Somebody really ought to do something about that guy.
'You got a problem, Sergeant?' a voice asks in a deceptively level tone
and I whirl around to find Maxwell back at my counter.
I glance down the corridor and see no sign of the other two, and wonder
what made him come back. I look back and meet that cold stare, working
at it and wishing I dared.
'You got something to say to me,' he says quietly. 'Then spit it out;
there's nobody else here.'
'I think what you do to them sucks,' I blurt, expecting to catch some
kind of surprise in his expression. Maybe some bit of remorse. 'You rubbin'
your condition in their faces like that.'
I'm the one who is surprised though, when all I get is a cold kind of
smirk. 'Is that what I'm doing?' he asks and somewhere behind that broken
frame I can hear the man he used to be. It rather shocks me when I have
the urge to step back.
Some part of me feels just a bit bad for talking to a cripple that way,
but some things just need to be said no matter what. 'It's a fine thing
to want to see them off,' I tell him, trying to ease the words a bit,
and I'm not ashamed to admit I was thinking about reprimands as much as
his feelings. 'But you coming down here don't do them no good. Seeing
you right before having to head out on a mission. You're bad for morale,
He snorts at the line, giving me a grin that just makes a shiver want
to run down my spine. 'Moron,' he says almost amiably. 'I'm supposed to
be. You think I come here for my sake? You think it makes me feel better
to sit here watching them gear up knowing where they're going, and that
my days of being anything but a paper-pusher are over? You think seeing
them off does anything for me but give me nightmares?'
I flat out blink at him, wondering what the hell, and the next thing out
of my mouth is, 'Then what the fuck? Are you some kind of masochist or
That cold, calculating half grin is back, but I gotta say there wasn't
an ounce of humor in it. It made me wish somebody else would come down
that corridor and give me an excuse to drop the damn conversation.
'I come down here,' he says in that quiet tone again. 'to remind them
that reckless isn't always as easy as dead. I come down here to make sure
they remember that there are consequences to doing stupid shit that are
worse than not making it back, and that even Gundam pilots aren't indestructible.'
There's something in his eyes that I just can't look at, and while I'm
looking at the frayed strap in my hand instead, I hear the squeak of his
chair moving away. I'm glad; I've got no answer to what he's said.
No answer for a guy whose self-appointed duty is to keep his friends safe
in the only way he has left... by being a living reminder.
I go ahead and give in to that shiver while I listen to the ding of the
elevator coming to take the guy away. I toss the worn strap into the trash
and decide that I'm gonna need a beer after work.
Down the hall, the elevator doors sigh shut.
Hell... maybe I'll just stop and get a damn six pack.
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