Then it was the stripping
to the skivvies part, and suiting up. Joy.
God... putting that damn suit on turned into a more difficult part than
I had anticipated. Id been thinking so hard about actually having
to leave the ship, that I hadnt let myself think too hard about
the suiting up. There was a stage a couple of days into my little vacation
in the belt when I would have sold my soul to just be able to take that
damn vacuum suit off. I can still remember the itchy, crawly feel of my
skin... of nerves in hyper drive. I can still smell that sour, stale stink
of my own body locked in a place it should not have stayed for a tenth
of the time it had.
My hands were shaking before I had the seals half done up. Well, this
sure as hell wasnt how Id intended to start out. It didnt
exactly bode well.
Heeros hands closed over mine, making me jump in surprise; I had
not known he was that close. He took over sealing the suit, double checking
what Id already done. Wyle Coyote or the Road Runner?
he asked and I swear I heard something in my head grind as I tried to
change mental gears.
What? I blurted.
He quirked a grin, though his eyes never left what he was doing. Which
do you prefer? The Coyote or the Road Runner?
The Coyote, I told him, grasping after what he was offering.
Why? he prompted, finishing with my suit and handing me my
helmet, understanding that I had to put that final piece on myself. Couldnt
have stood that until I was ready.
Come on, I stammered. You have to feel for the poor
Heero snorted, lifting his own helmet in his gloved hands. The bird
I stood and watched him dog his helmet in place, and had to take a second
to work on my breathing. No... the damn Road Runner had divine intervention,
thats all. He was dumber than a rock but he always got away; had
to be some deity on his side, I told him when I could.
So you like the underdog, he teased and just stood waiting
for me to finish working up my nerve. The gentle smile on his face somehow
made me feel like an idiot and I got irritated enough with myself that
I just slapped it in place.
Lets just say I have an affinity for characters that God seems
to hate that much, I grinned ruthlessly. He grinned back, checked
my helmet seals and stepped toward the lock.
Ready, Maxwell? he asked me and it rather took me by surprise;
that he seemed to understand that the coddling couldnt happen here.
That it wasnt what I needed.
Just a minute, Yuy, I told him, and made him stand there while
I checked all his seals too. He looked, for two seconds, like he was going
to take offense, but then only smiled at me. When I had gone over his
suit as thoroughly as he had gone over mine, I nodded sharply and he keyed
the inner lock door open.
Are you there, Captain Gray? Heero called and I felt the heat
creeping into my face as I realized we were on open mike.
Here, came the Captains voice, sounding tinny and not
Were in the lock and ready to exit the ship, Heero reported.
Roger, Gray said tersely and I hoped that we wouldnt
be relying on the man for anything major. Im pretty sure he was
not our biggest fan.
We stepped side-by-side to the outer door and keyed our magnetics. Heero
leaned over and touched his helmet to mine to gain that private contact.
Ready, love? he asked gently.
Yeah, I told him, getting a good solid grip on my quivering
nerves. Lets just do it.
He keyed the decompression cycle and we stood there while the air was
pumped out, then the outside door was sliding back. We each did the duck
walk thing, moving forward with the magnetic boots until we could reach
the tether hooks just outside the lock. It took me two tries to get my
line attached, but Heero didnt mention it. I wasnt sure if
hed somehow purposely managed to make sure that I wasnt on
the side where Avery Hills corpse was tied off like an errant helium
balloon, or not. But I was grateful all the same. It still took all my
will power not to look up at it. Him. Look up at him.
I shivered and killed the boots, kicking free of the lock, kind of intent
on getting free of the shadow of that corpse too. Heero was not a heartbeat
While zero-gravity will always hold a special place in my heart, out-ship
does not. I can do it. I have done it. Ive been told Im pretty
good at it, but even before the accident, I was not wildly thrilled with
working outside the ship.
After the accident... I would have to place it somewhere after frontal
lobotomy on my list of fun things to do.
Space is just a very damn big place. Vaster than the human imagination.
Deeper than eternity and just as dark. Falling is a feeling you just have
to learn to live with, because your gut is convinced you are doing just
that, the entire time youre out there.
I kept my eyes on the ship and not the stars, as we made our way out to
the vane array.
Really though, Heero said, his voice reaching out to me when
his hands couldnt. How smart could the Coyote have been to
keep driving into painted tunnels?
But thats my whole point! I blurted, more than happy
with the distraction. How could the Road Runner keep running through
those same non-tunnels?
Divine intervention? Heero asked and I had to imagine the
Exactly! I confirmed, keying my magnetics again as we arrived
at the work site. I dropped solidly down to the hull and felt the faint
vibration a moment later, when Heero did the same. That bird did
all manner of things that should have been impossible. Somebody, somewhere
was pulling strings in his favor.
The writer, maybe? Heero teased and waited patiently while
I pulled the power meter out of my utility pouch.
For the sake of the argument, I told him with an exasperated
sigh. There is no writer... there is merely a pissy God with a bad
attitude and supreme power; always a bad combination.
Im not sure what his answer to that would have been, because I muttered,
Shit somewhat out of turn.
What is it? he asked me and I turned the meter so he could
Damn, he agreed.
Whats going on out there? Captain Gray called then,
his voice making me jump. I wondered why I could not keep it in my head
that the man was listening in.
The array is still live, I informed him. The overrides...
He didnt laugh at the little joke, only muttering his own expletives.
Avery Hill never stood a chance, since hed opted to toss the rule
book. You live by your instruments and you die by your instruments, but
you never trust the damn things because they will always fail you at the
worst possible times.
Ok, I asked Heero. You ever change out a vane with a
First time for everything, he told me drolly. How about
Nothing with this much kick, I sighed, wishing I could rub
a hand over my eyes. But the principals the same... right?
He chuckled for me and we moved carefully forward to take stock of the
tool cask. Looks like weve got everything we need, Heero
said. You want two, or four?
I had a moment where I almost asked if he would mind overly much if we
did them one at time and just worked together, but I knew that was stupid
and told him, Two, in a very tight voice. Im already
on this side.
I think he nodded, but Im not sure. There was a long moments
hesitation and I knew that he was thinking all kinds of thoughts that
involved reaching out and touching me, but that just wasnt possible.
He finally did touch his helmet to mine so that he could ask me one more
time if I was alright.
We came out here to do a job, love, I replied with a sigh.
Lets do it and get out of here.
We were close enough that I could see his smile. I gathered my set of
tools and moved off.
Think of it as switching the rails on a train track. We needed the little
train called power to take the high track and stay the hell
off our low one. Its not a particularly complicated thing, but a
very delicate one, you want to be real damn careful what you touch with
what or you could end up like... like Avery Hill.
Crouched over the section junction, I had a moment of quiet panic, looking
at the small space I was getting ready to work in, and watching my hands
tremble. I took my sweet time working my lock wrench out of my pouch,
and concentrated on breathing. By the time I had the cover off, Id
managed to steady my hands to the point that death by electrocution was
more like a fifty-fifty chance and not so much a fore-gone conclusion.
Duo, Heeros voice suddenly called. Maybe... maybe
you should wait for me to do that.
Guess hed gotten his own cover worked free and just figured out
what kind of tight space we had to work with.
I... probably should have said ok. I probably should have agreed. But,
and I know this is getting back to a lot of macho issues that I thought
Id worked out, but I knew Captain Gray was sitting in the cockpit
listening to us, and I just could not make myself back down in front of
Im fine, Yuy, I told him blandly, and bent to work.
Dont mock me, I know it was stupid.
I could almost feel Heeros frustration crackling through the ether.
Watch your own fingers over there, mother-hen, I told him
before he could speak again, and he gave out with a little snort, but
Is there a problem? Gray spoke up and I had to fight not to
flinch. I really needed to keep the mans presence more solidly in
No, Heero told him shortly, and I could practically hear him
grinding his teeth. My partner was not all that enamored with the good
Oddly, the mans question kind of twisted my perceptions around just
a touch. Made me stop and realize that the job I was doing at that moment
was really not all that big a deal. I wasnt even working on the
real job yet; changing the vane. If I couldnt manage a simple power
shunt, what in the hell made me think I could do the rest of it?
I found some of my old concentration squirreled away somewhere, and set
to work. Squatted on my haunches in a vacuum suit was not an all that
unfamiliar position, and maybe because it was familiar in ways that had
nothing to do with the asteroid belt, I felt my mind slipping back into
route and procedure, remembering the training, remembering the rules.
Multiple feed lines... drydex conduit... shielding barriers... Simple
operation. Crack the coupling, access the line, jumper the...
Duo? Heeros voice was careful; calling quietly so as
not to startle me, but it was the hesitant tone to it that got my attention
instantly, making me completely leave off what I was doing.
Whats wrong? I demanded.
I think we have a problem over here, he told me, and I didnt
even think about it. I killed my magnetics and kicked off; making the
leap to his side almost before hed finished speaking.
What is it? I asked, looking him over for any signs of suit
breach or other damage. Are you all right?
I could see him blinking at me almost owlishly for a second before he
managed, Im fine, but I think I found why the section isolation
We hunkered down together over the number four section junction and he
showed me what looked like an impact site. Whatever hit the vane
broke up? I speculated and he would have nodded if he could have.
Looks like it, he agreed. Its fused the whole
Damn, I muttered, reaching to rub a hand over my face before
I remembered that I couldnt.
What is going on out there? Gray demanded, and I flinched
again. The man was either going to have to shut the fuck up all together
or be a more active participant in the conversation. I couldnt keep
taking his little surprise comments.
Shunt isnt going to work, I told him.
Then were screwed, he said, voice sounding utterly defeated
even over the tinny connection.
Not necessarily, I told him. Just because the book says
you dont change out a vane while its hot, it doesnt
mean it cant be done.
Youre crazy, he told me and I had to laugh.
So Ive been told, I muttered. You find me a better
alternative and Ill be more than happy to give it a try.
That got me a long moment of silence and I resisted the urge to say I
thought not, and forgot about him.
Lets put the covers back on and get to it, I told Heero.
We dont have much choice about what comes next. He didnt
speak immediately and I leaned in to touch helmets. Heero? Is everything
I just... he began, but then stopped. You sure about
this? he finally asked, and I wondered briefly what he had been
going to say.
We really dont have any choice, love, I said, wishing
I could touch him. We get this array back on-line or were
going to discover for ourselves what lies outside this solar system.
He sighed, and nodded the tiny little nod you can manage in a helmet and
we broke apart. I cut my cleats again and made the hop back to where Id
been working, undoing what Id done. When I had the cover back in
place, I turned and found Heero waiting for me by the work cask, tools
already put away. I went to join him.
You ever actually done this? he asked when I got there, and
I gave him a cheeky little grin that he probably didnt see.
Not on this scale, I drawled carelessly. So when I made
my mistake, my arm was only numb for about an hour. Kurt wont let
me hear the end of it, either.
He didnt know whether to laugh or be appalled, so he didnt
You make a mistake out there, and youll be a whole lot more
than numb, the voice of Captain Gray suddenly said, and this time
I was in a position to see Heero flinch as well.
Oddly enough, Yancy, I chuckled. I am very much aware
I think the man might have growled at me.
Heero ignored him. Its your show then, Duo. Ive never
worked with an array like this before.
So I dug out the tools wed need and parceled them out according
to who I planned doing what. Simple as hell, really, I grinned
at him. Old vane out; new vane in. The trick is not getting fried.
He gave me a dry chuckle, following my ungainly duck walk over to the
equipment in question. What do I do?
I squatted down and bade him with a gesture to join me. You
see where the vane connects? I pointed, and when he grunted his
affirmative, I launched into a detailed description of how the connection
was made, how the covers came of and how the disconnect worked. He stopped
me before I could get to the new vane in part.
Why are you telling me this? he asked flatly.
Thats going to be your job, I said calmly.
And just what are you going to be doing? he pressed, voice
just as calm, though I could see he was starting to understand how things
I have to pull the vane, I explained, though Im sure
I didnt have to.
No, he told me, and he was using his command voice, which
kind of pissed me off.
My show, remember? I grinned.
Dont be an ass, Maxwell, he growled and I could tell
he was getting irritated with me.
Heero, I sighed, putting on a placating tone. It only
makes sense; Im the one with the... eye-hand coordination handicap.
And Im the one whose never even seen one of these networks
up close, he countered. He was making me nervous, hed lapsed
into his somewhat flat, stubborn tone of voice, and I seldom got anywhere
in arguments with him when he dropped back to his immovable object
Look Yuy, I began, but then he really got angry with me.
Im not an idiot, he snapped. I know the man pulling
the vane is going to be the dead one if the other guy screws up. Im
not taking that chance. You are doing the disconnect.
But Im supposed to take that God damn chance? I snapped
back and somewhere in the distance I thought I heard a heavy sigh.
You have the experience, Heero reasoned. Its less
of a chance.
My damn hands have been shaking since we picked up the stinking
vacuum suits! I yelled, feeling my face flaming at the admission.
I only hoped that I had no more witnesses to this than Captain Gray; though
that was bad enough. Its going to take a steady hand to do
that job without crossing something up!
There was a long quiet moment while we stared at each other through all
the layers of suit and vacuum and fear, and then he said softly, hold
your hands out.
What? I barked, still riding the crest of my fear-born anger.
Hold your hands out, he insisted, and when I just stared at
him, he continued gently, You found your center somehow, Duo, when
you started working. You stopped panting, you stopped babbling about nothing,
and Id be willing to bet your hands are as steady as theyve
I completely refused to hold my damn hands out, but I found myself focusing
on them and had to admit that he was right. While I still felt far from
steady, I wasnt shaking like a leaf anymore. I thought to wonder
about it, but honestly didnt want to dwell on it too much, afraid
of jinxing it.
I trust you, Heero said then and took the wind right the hell
out of my sails.
Damn you, I muttered and he couldnt stop from chuckling,
seeing as how hed won.
Lets do it, he said, and the love was implied.
It took us another couple of minutes to trade tools, as Id doled
them out according to my original plans. Then there was nothing for it
but to settle into place and get started.
My job was to open the housing and unwire the old vane; being damn careful
not to cross the wires or let them come into contact with anything else.
Not a hideously difficult task until you had to do the second one.
Heeros job amounted to something akin to playing Operation;
once I had the vane loose, he had to lift it free of its mounting without
touching anything. Only, if we screwed up, it wasnt going to be
a buzzer that went off.
Captain Gray? Heero called, just before we began. Are
There was a quiet little, Roger, in reply and I wondered what
the man was thinking.
Im going to have to ask you to refrain from speaking to us
for the duration, he requested, and it rather surprised me. We
cant afford to be startled in the middle of this.
I understand, the guy said, and he sounded odd, almost subdued.
It made me feel really uncomfortable.
Then it was just hunker down and do it. You dont touch shit
until I clear it, I grumbled and Heero actually chuckled at me.
Aye, sir, he murmured, and had we been anywhere else, I might
well have reached out and smacked him in the back of the head.
The next part was tedious as all hell; getting inside the housing and
baring the connections without coming in contact with the actual vane.
Id give a weeks pay for a cold soda right now, I muttered
at some point and got little more than a snort from Heero; I think he
was afraid of distracting me. I found, as I crouched there, that I was
able to achieve some level of forgetfulness. That some part of my head
still had access to the memories from before the accident. Not all my
abilities and knowledge had been eaten by the black hole that was that
trip to the belt.
I cant tell you how long it took me, working the connections free,
Im sure it was more than a half an hour, but the only reason I can
tell you it was less than six was because thats all the air we had.
Not that I came close to that, but I honestly would have believed you
if youd told me it had been five hours and fifty minutes. It felt
like a damn year.
Slow and careful as hell is the only damn way to manage something like
that. I couldnt help remembering getting knocked on my ass the first
time Id tried this kind of repair. Kurt had laughed his ass off
and told me it was a lesson that would stick with me forever. It had.
It loomed rather large in my thoughts at that moment.
Then the vane was finally free, sitting in its mounting with nothing keeping
it there but inertia. I took a minute to just breathe and then went in
for the difficult part. I had nothing to use but my hands to keep all
those wires apart, and away from the vane. Nothing could touch. Both sides,
simultaneously. I hooked my fingers over wires and pulled them back, careful
not to touch the bare part, careful not to cross them, careful not to
let them contact metal, careful as bleeding damn hell. And then I had
to hold it all steady while Heero did his part.
Meter it, Yuy, I commanded, and got no argument. He pulled
the power meter out of his pouch and did a full scan, which pleased me;
Id been afraid he would cut corners in his hurry.
Clear, he told me tersely.
Ok, I said. Pull it. Slow and steady and straight out.
I make the slightest damn noise and you let go, you hear me?
Got it, he replied and I wondered at the strange, almost bemused
sound to his voice.
Despite all the reassurances and the caution, I still found that I was
holding my breath when he finally reached out and took hold of the damn
thing. I couldnt look up at him, having to keep all my attention
on my little rats nest of wires and making sure I kept his route
clear. All I could do was watch the two pieces of metal as they slid apart,
and try not to whimper.
I almost gasped for that breath when he finally told me, Its
Not that it gave me much respite, I still had to crouch there and keep
the way clear for the new vane. Had to hold myself as steady as a stone.
I couldnt even look away to watch Heero make his way to the tool
case where the replacement vane was anchored. I had to assume he detached
the new and replaced it with the old, but hell... he might have chucked
the bad one off into the night for the added two seconds it would have
I was starting to feel the strain. I knew my heart rate was up... way
up, and I would have sold my first born child to be able to wipe away
the trickle of sweat that was teasing its way down the side of my
face. I did my best to stop what was getting darn close to a pant, and
just spent all my concentration on my hands. My hands and what they held.
The slightest deviation would mean Heeros life.
If it came down to it, Id put my hand between him and the power,
but I knew I might not have that chance. If we slipped up...it would be
too sudden for me to do a damn thing about it.
A bubble of memory wormed its way through my concentration and I heard
the voice of a grizzled old spacer telling me, I panicked and
I froze and I got the other guy killed. I would have shivered
if I could have afforded it.
I ruthlessly shoved those thoughts back in the box, the last damn thing
on Earth I needed to be thinking about at that moment, was Neo. Bad timing
all the way around.
Francis appeared in front of me, between my spread arms, wearing a tiny
little vacuum suit and looking scared. He half-heartedly waved his little
repress banner in front of my nose, but couldnt seem to stand out-ship
at all and faded quickly away.
I blinked as it crossed my mind that a brigade of little tool wielding
hamsters would have been real damn helpful about then. Hell, a tool chest
with more supplies than we had, would have been nice, with or without
the hamsters. But then I had to put the little buggers out of my mind
as Heeros legs reappeared in my line of sight.
Doing ok? he asked me, sounding truly concerned.
So far so good, I grunted. You ready?
As Ill ever be, he replied. Im going to
have to crouch down in front of you so I can see what Im doing.
I know, I told him, feeling bad because my voice sounded terse
even to me, so I added, you just damn well be careful.
He snorted and then hunkered down with me, lining the vane up and starting
to lower it into place. Guide me on that side, he told me,
and his voice had that calm quality that spoke to me of years long past.
Youre just a centimeter too far my way, I told him,
and even though I knew he was settling it into place almost slower than
the eye could follow, I felt like he was moving way too fast. Easy,
I couldnt help telling him. Sweat was making my eyes sting, but
I couldnt afford to blink it away. Youre committed,
I told him unnecessarily; Im sure he knew as well as I did when
hed gotten that far, but the fear was waking in my gut and making
me want to fill the silence.
Maybe Heero understood, because he said, Im still good on
this side... hows the back doing? a very pointless thing to
say, because we didnt have the leeway for anything other than good
at the moment.
Still clear, I told him. Keep going.
But then, quite suddenly, he stopped moving altogether and I wanted to
look up at him, but couldnt take my eyes off the weave of my wires.
Couldnt spare the attention to look up and see what was wrong. Heero?
I ventured cautiously, suddenly very afraid and not sure why.
Duo, he said, and his voice was very calm. Very damn calm.
Listen to me. Listen to me closely... you have to hold still, you
No shit? I blurted, and hoped the bluster hid the note of
Listen, love, he said softly, and I could hear his unease,
which told me just how strong it was. Hills... suit, has drifted,
ok? Its right behind you... just off to your left.
It. It, not him. The suit. Not the corpse. Right behind me. How close?
Oh God... how close? Like the Londonderry. The corpses. Drifting. Toward
me. Coming... for me. Captain Camden and the dead crew of the Londonderry.
All my nightmares come to life. Oh God.
I think I made a small sound of distress.
Im right here, Heero told me, voice very damn firm.
Duo... I need you. You said it yourself; were committed. We
cant stop now.
I know, I opened my mouth to say, but Im not entirely
sure what came out.
I froze... that voice in my head said again, but it
was kind of hard to hear over the sound of my own panting.
I need you, Heero said again, brooking no argument.
I hung on those words, and held steady, even as my nerves were screaming
for me to move, to get the hell away from what I couldnt even look
to see. Almost made it worse; like the shark in deep water, what you cant
see is immensely more frightening, sometimes, than what you can.
Just... I stammered out through a suddenly dry throat. dont
let it touch me without warning me... ok?
Ok, he agreed, and there was relief in the sound of his voice.
Lets get this over with, I muttered and just blocked
it out. Blocked it all out except for the part where Heero was putting
his life in my hands. My poor, scarred, not altogether steady hands.
I would not be another Neo. Damn it to hell and back if I would be another
Guide me, he almost whispered, and the vane was moving again.
Less than a centimeter to my right, I managed and watched
critically as he made his adjustment. There, I called, when
it was aligned again. Steady on.
It seemed to take an eternity and I thought my heart would hammer its
way out of my chest. I swear to God, the damn thing wasnt moving
at all, and through all my determination to keep my attention on the job,
I couldnt help but feel the imminent brush with that thing behind
me that I just didnt want to think about.
Then it settled home and Heero was telling me, Clear... Im
clear, and I was choking on a sob. Heero was gone from my line of
sight almost before hed finished speaking and Im sure he was
moving to remove that thing behind me. The... corpse, behind me. The vacuum
suit clad corpse behind...
Breathing, Duo, Heero scolded and I almost laughed, but knew
damn well where that would lead, and it wasnt to a place I could
afford out here. After a moment, he soothed me with a gentle, Its
I wanted to close my eyes and curl up somewhere, but we werent done
yet and my fingers were still almost an integral part of the network.
Still interwoven with those live wires and I had a sudden image of my
hands holding little lightening bolts, like some Greek God looking to
strike somebody down. Sparks dancing along my finger tips and shooting
off into the dark. Sparks like little stars...
Duo? Heeros voice broke through to me and I blinked
against the stinging sweat in my eyes, surprised at the almost palpable
fear in his voice. Duo... get your hands out of there, now. Do you
Ok, I told him, calm as could be, and began slipping my fingers
free, untangling myself from my weird fantasy vision. When I was no longer
in danger of turning myself into a light bulb, I found that all I wanted
to do was wrap my arms around my knees and sit very quietly.
Heero was there, not able to do much in the way of physical touch, but
he brought himself close and touched our suits together so that he could
tell me, unheard by listening ears, Its all right, baby. Ive
got you. Ill take it from here and then...
But that sent a shiver of fear lancing through my gut and I found myself
trying to clutch at him. No! I exclaimed, hearing stark terror
and kind of surprised by it. So, No, I said again, trying
for a little more calm and not really getting it. You stay the hell
away from it. Ill get it; I just need a minute, thats all.
Youre too spooked, he soothed, and had we not been in
vacuum suits, sitting on the skin of a ship, floating in the middle of
no damn where, he would have been holding me close and stroking his hand
over my hair. I watched how you did it... I can...
No, I said again, flat and as forceful as I could make it.
I cant do that again. Itd be too much like pissing at
the Gods. I wont have you near it again. God hates me too much.
He didnt know how to answer that and we just crouched there together,
locked to the ship with our magnetics engaged, while I got my breath back.
Duo-love, he began again, still trying for that reasonable
tone, but I wasnt going to listen to it. Was not. Would not. That
had been too damn close and I wouldnt risk him again. It was too
much like tempting the fates, and I knew the usual results of that little
My show, I growled, my anger gaining me a little bit of my
equilibrium back. You won the last one. Youre not winning
this one. No fucking way in hell, so just back off now. You said
it yourself; I have the experience. I just need a damn minute is all.
All right, he soothed, managing somehow to make his voice
into the caress he couldnt give me. All right... calm down.
When Id managed to get my heart rate down to a rhythm that didnt
sound like something a Gaelic rock band would produce, I straightened
and he let me draw away. Mindful of the fact that we had an audience again,
I told him, I dont know about you, but Im getting kind
of tired of being out here. Lets get this done.
I didnt get the chuckle I was hoping for, but he settled on his
haunches next to me and said, Tell me what to do?
We were close enough that I could see his face and I knew he could see
mine, so I smiled for him. Just talk to me... ok?
Which didnt make him happy, but was really all I needed from him.
Just a voice to drive back the memories and help me remember where I was.
I bent to work wondering just what in the hell Captain Gray was making
of all of this.
If youre such a big cartoon fan Heero said, why
dont you watch them anymore?
They dont make decent cartoons now a days, I told him
absently, taking my tools and my nerves in hand. Ive seen
all the old stuff already.
Everything? he asked, trying to sound flippant and failing.
I could feel his eyes on me, watching my every move. It oddly didnt
make me feel nervous, like I would have thought it would. It was... comforting,
somehow, to know there was a second pair of eyes guarding my safety.
You know, I replied. This really isnt fair. Why
do we keep talking about my obsessions? What the hell did you used to
He took the cue, understanding that I wasnt asking to be drawn out.
That when Id told him to talk to me, Id truly meant it. I
needed him to do most of the talking this time. I read more
than I watched videos, he told me and I wasnt surprised. But
then his voice got a little wry. Though I have to confess to a small
addiction to the Discovery channel when I first found it.
I had to snort a little laugh, imagining Heero parked in front of the
television every night, watching some dry as dust documentary on... what,
I wondered? Fess up; what was it? Flight documentaries? The history
of colony construction? What?
He managed, somehow, to sound sheepish even over a suit radio. They
ran Junkyard Wars reruns on late night Classic Discovery
I would have rolled on the deck and howled if it wouldnt have been
an extremely bad idea under the present circumstances. You have
to be kidding me, I said instead, and wished I could grin at him,
but I was back around to that place where I couldnt turn my eyes
away from what my hands were doing.
Hey, he said in mock indignation. I didnt make
fun of your cartoons.
I watched more than that, you know, I groused. And I
I saw, he agreed, but then he seemed to lose the conversation
for a moment as I made the second connection. The one that guaranteed
that even if there hadnt been enough wires touching before to power
the vane, there were now. Though... you have an odd reading method,
he managed after Id drawn my hands back and was switching to the
next connection. Most people read a little more randomly than you
Just working my way through the classics, I murmured, not
able to spare a whole lot of attention his way.
I cant believe you took the works of Edgar Allan Poe on a
solo trip that long, he told me, warming to the topic a little.
Talk about depressing.
Yeah, I said, managing to get the last wire in place on the
first strut without frying myself. Guess it was one of those seemed
like a good idea at the time, things. I very distinctly remember regretting
There was a pause and I think he just suddenly realized the ground wed
wandered onto. He floundered for a bit, while I shifted to the second
strut, wished for the hundredth time that I could wipe my eyes, and set
back to work. Despite my trying not to think about it, the notion of the
belt and books had popped into my mind, and since I didnt have enough
brain cells left for anything else, brain wandered off and did some free
form thinking. Did you... read to me while I was out there?
I blurted and I think I kind of scared him.
Yes, he answered after a quiet moment, no doubt contemplating
the wisdom of the topic. Once we got far enough out that our communication
window with you was larger than Earths.
Heero, I had to ask, it being the logical next question. One
that had nagged at me mildly, more than once. Why in the hell didnt
you guys talk to me?
He hesitated so long I wasnt sure he was going to answer. You
reacted so badly when Quatre told you who was piloting the rescue ship,
and we didnt understand why. We were... afraid.
I thought I dreamed someone reading to me, I told him, skirting
the other issue because it was upsetting him. I thought it was Sister
I thought it might help, he said softly. Even if you
were sleeping through it... I thought the sound of a voice might help.
It did, I told him just as softly, and then had to pull my
hands away from my work while I fought off a shiver. Change of topic,
Sorry, he murmured contritely. You dont really
want a cat, do you?
I chuckled at his leap of subjects, took a steadying breath and went back
to work. Maybe someday, I had to confess. But Im
pretty sure I dont want anything to do with that animal that Sally
keeps trying to foist off on us.
No, he said ruefully. The only time I was anywhere near
it, the thing bit the crap out of me. I completely refuse to have that
beast in my house.
I got quiet while I finally made the last connection, then drew away with
a shaky gasp after air. Done, I told the general area somewhat
Thank God, Heero breathed and Im not at all sure he
meant to say it out loud. The dangerous part done, he moved in and we
made quick work of putting the housing back in place.
Lets get the hell out of here, I told him and was surprised
at how shaky it came out.
If you can get the tool cask, Heero said. Ill
Ok, I told him before he could decide just what to call it.
I moved back to the cask and went about mounting the tools where they
belonged, just trying not to watch what Heero was doing. Though the weird-ass
mental image I got of him skipping along, towing Hill like a kid with
a balloon, might have actually been worse than reality. I know it took
me awhile to shake it off.
Zero gravity is a wonderful thing. From the look of the tool chest, Id
be willing to bet in full Earth gravity it weighed twice what I did, but
once I cut its magnetic locks, all I had to do was nudge it in the direction
of the air-lock, kill my own magnetics and off we went. I wound up my
tether line as I went.
Heero had quit talking to me when wed separated and I suddenly found
my gut twisting round itself, unhappy with the quiet. Heero?
I called, and wondered how long I could hold off the aftershocks from
this little foray.
Right behind you, he soothed, and I cant tell you how
convinced Id become the he wouldnt answer me. That if I turned
around to look for him, he wouldnt have been there. Why dont
you take the tools and cycle through the lock first and Ill...
Well both fit, I told him tightly, feeling panic overtaking
me thinking about leaving him out-ship. I couldnt have done it if
the whole damn universe had depended on it. Could more easily have waited
outside alone while he went through first. I cant explain the sudden
need I had not to be separated from him. He just suddenly seemed so...
vulnerable. Precious. Important. Integral. I dont know... I just
couldnt stand for him being out there without me.
Are you... sure? he asked and I knew beyond a shadow of a
doubt that at some point, Trowa had told him about my panic attack over
an empty vacuum suit. Knew that he was worried about how Id react
to being shut in such a tight space with, not just a suit, but a genuine
body filled one.
[next] [back to Sunhawk's