Heeros expression was
a study in ephemeral; running the gambit from shocked clear through to
something that looked suspiciously like delight, in fifteen seconds flat.
It made me feel warm inside and kind of embarrassed all at the same time.
So we did just that. Leaving our bag in the overhead for the moment, we
made the walk down to the lounge area, along with about half the rest
of the shuttles meager passenger list. The lounge looked very much
like your average up-scale trendy bar/lounge anywhere youd want
to go. Small little tables and chairs dotted around the room and a bar
along one side. The major differences being that all the furniture was
bolted down and nothing behind the bar wasnt in some sort of lock-down.
Oh, and the drinks are served in bulbs and not open glasses. Heero made
motions when we first walked into the room of settling me at a table,
but I wasnt comfortable with the idea of sitting there alone, so
I went with him to the bar while he ordered our drinks and then we found
our way to a table as far from the big view port as we could get. I didnt
argue the point when Heero sat us so that my back was to that port. It
helped me not feel the press of vacuum quite so much if I didnt
have it staring me in the face.
I took a long swallow of my drink and sighed in appreciation, then launched
immediately into the last topic I could remember talking about. So,
are you serious? Do you honestly think that the guys will have Christmas
presents for us when we get home?
Heero took a more moderate sip of his tea before replying, I dont
know. None of them has said a word to me about anything... it just wouldnt
I gave him a look that I thought expressed my feelings on that, but followed
it up with, That would make me feel like a complete ass, if we dont
have something to give them in return, just to make sure he got
He smiled, seeming amused by my attitude. You know it wouldnt
matter to any of them.
It would matter to me, I grumbled and started really thinking
about it. What in the hell would one buy for someone like Quatre Raberba
Winner, for instance? The man had everything he could possibly need, and
could afford to buy anything he wanted. How do you top that?
Well, theres no saying that theres anything to worry
about, he soothed. You were the one who thought about it...
they havent said a word.
I thought about it, because Sally threatened me, I informed
him haughtily, but then grimaced. Damn Heero... what in the world
could I give to someone like Quatre?
Heero did that thing he does where he makes me feel like hes been
waiting all day for me to deliver a particular line, just so he could
pounce on it. Art, he said simply and left me blinking at
him. When I didnt comment, he elaborated. Duo... the sketch
you did of Trowa is one of Quatres most prized possessions. He spent
hours having it matted and framed just so, and the thing is hanging in
a place of honor in their bedroom.
I damn near choked on a mouthful of soda.
I think he would have said more, but there was a sudden boisterous laugh
over near the bar, and we both turned that way to see what was going on.
It was the pilot and what I took to be our co-pilot, though he looked
awfully young, getting drinks and obviously being teased by the bartender
over the launch. The Captain, an older man with an easy laugh and shoulders
damn near as wide as I was tall, was clapping his second on the shoulder
in a damn familiar way. The kid looked uncomfortable as hell, as half
the people in the room were openly staring at the three of them, the bartender
making jokes about scratching the paint and the Captain laughing.
I saw the kid get an embarrassed little frown and mutter low, making sure
his voice didnt carry. I can read lips, have I ever mentioned that?
Cut it out, Dad.
I turned and exchanged a look with Heero, knowing that he would have picked
up on it too, if hed been looking. The funny little smirk told me
he had been.
Poor damn kid, I murmured, and Heero chuckled his agreement.
Would have to suck to be in a position where you answered to your own
father on the job. But then... I had to wonder about the kind of policy
that let that sort of thing happen in the first place.
The Three Caballeros act broke up when the Captain wandered off to mingle
with the passengers a little, and I watched his boy drop himself onto
a stool at the bar with a roll of his eyes. The bartender seemed to be
commiserating with him and I turned back to Heero, giving the poor kid
some privacy. Youd think that would be against company policy,
I said, lowering my voice.
It is, Heero said, trying to sound affronted, but only managing
amused. Id have to guess that our good Captain is bending
the hell out of the rules.
Have to wonder what his angle is? I pondered, thinking about
it. Just trying to help the kid log some yoke time,
Heero opened his mouth to reply, but then hesitated, getting on odd look
in his eye. Well... I suppose you can ask him. It looks like hes
headed this way, and Id dare say you have another fan among the
I couldnt help the heavy sigh. Tell me youre kidding?
I pleaded, but he wasnt, and it was suddenly too late.
Captain Maxwell? a new voice said and I had to cringe. Hadnt
been called that in a long damn time. Despite the fact that I just
wanted to run off to the cabin and hide, I couldnt ignore the weird-ass
little thread of... hopefulness running through the kids voice.
Its just Mr. Maxwell, now, I said, grinning up at him.
But yes, Im Duo Maxwell... how can I help you?
He grinned back, his cheeks tinted pink and I wasnt sure if it was
from his little blunder or if hed looked like that when
he first got here. Hi, Im Spencer Gray, Im the... co-pilot.
Leslie, the flight attendant, told me you were onboard. Im a big
fan of your work in the expo. Yours and Mr. Brannigans. I think
you guys are just great!
Thanks, I muttered, totally wishing I could crawl under the
table. And wishing the table were a bit bigger while I was at it. Ill
pass that along to Hayden.
His smile widened and I took another long swallow of soda, willing him
to go away. Its probably pretty silly, but I was totally blown
away the first year you entered the expo with that Cherokee routine you
did and have been following you ever since. I was really glad to see you
enter again this last year.
I raised an eyebrow, surprised as hell. You recognized the tribe?
He flushed and ducked his head, his grin threatening to take over his
face. My family has some Cherokee blood back about ten generations.
Hardly enough to count for anything, but its made it something of
a hobby for me. I could tell you did some extensive research.
I couldnt help grinning back at him, as much for the look on his
face as his praise. I told Hayden attention to detail pays off in
The kid laughed a little more than the joke warranted, and he was looking
at me with this starry-eyed regard that was making me squirm like crazy.
I glanced across at Heero, but knew Id get no help from that quarter;
hes always had this vague idea that this sort of encounter was good
for me, or something equally lame.
I want to be able to enter the expo one of these days, Spencer
was saying and I turned my attention back to him, feeling my fingers beginning
to worry with my soda bulb. Thats the only reason Ive
let my Dad push me into piloting, he ducked his head and looked
kind of sheepish. I suppose you noticed the launch? That was me.
Well, I soothed, feeling like I had to say something. Everybody
has trouble on their first couple of launches.
He sighed a little heavily and I caught him glancing around to see where
his father was. That was my fourth launch, he confessed and
I flat just didnt know what to say to that. The first thing that
popped into my mind wasnt very polite, so I left it unsaid. Thankfully,
he didnt seem to need me to interject anything at that point, continuing
to impart to me more personal information than Id ever wanted to
know. I dont think piloting is going to be my... forte, but
Dad has his heart set on me following in his footsteps. But I cant
complain if it gets me in the trade so I can compete, which is what I
really want to do.
Across from me, Heero got a strange look on his face, and leaned forward
to briefly interrupt Spencers monologue. Ill be right
back; Im going to get another tea. You need anything?
I frowned at him, but he didnt take the hint, so I just shook my
head and he slipped from his seat.
The kid hardly registered Heeros words, continuing to focus on me
to the point that I was starting to sweat and consider feigning another
bout of food-poisoning. I was wondering... Leslie said you signed
her autograph book for her, would it be too much to ask if you might autograph
a copy of my expo program?
I could feel my face heating up and took another gulp of soda, trying
to tame it, mumbling, Sure, I dont see why not.
You would have thought Id announced Christmas was coming twice a
year now. It made me feel decidedly weird. Oh! That would be great!
I cant thank you enough, I know you probably get hounded all the
time for this kind of thing, but Im such a big fan, it would mean
the world to me!
Its not really been an issue before this last expo,
I had to tell him, wishing hed stop the gushing. We didnt
get a lot of attention before we ended up on the cover of The Rising
You should have taken first place this year, he suddenly declared,
looking decidedly unhappy about the fact that we hadnt.
Well, I mumbled, trying to look past him to see what was keeping
Heero, without actually appearing to. We were lucky we placed at
all. Deciding to enter was kind of a last minute decision.
His eyes got this kind of weird-ass awed look all of a sudden, and I realized
the crap Id just stepped in. What in the hell had possessed me to
bring that damn subject up? It occurred to me in that moment, that I should,
perhaps, be paying more attention to the conversation. I meant to interject
something else, in an attempt to steer him somewhere other than where
it looked like we might be heading, but the sudden feel of wetness on
my knuckles broke my concentration for that crucial second.
Everyone was so surprised to see you two sign-up in the final hour
after that horrible accident, he said while I forced my hand to
unclench from my soda bulb. I thought I would weep when he suddenly sat
down in the other chair, the better to have this more intimate conversation.
Over his shoulder I could see that Heero had been waylaid in conversation
by the Captain, and I tried sending him a little mental SOS for all the
good it did me.
The Brannigans losing their ship? I tried. Yeah...
that was pretty rough. The Ragged Gypsy was a fine ship, and
it was a real shame what happened to her. They used the prize money from
the expo to finance a...
I dont think he was hearing me. While he might have purported himself
to be a fan of our act, it was pretty damn obvious he was my
fan, which was just freaking me out no end. He cut me off in mid sentence,
not all that interested in Haydens trials and tribulations. Oh
no! I meant your accident! I was just sick when I heard on the
news that youd been stranded out there in the belt. He gave
an exaggerated little shiver. I thought it was wonderful how your
friends mounted that rescue! I could hardly sleep at night that whole
time thinking about how awful it must have been for you out there.
An odd little noise came out of my throat and I covered it with a lame
little cough, taking another swallow of what was left of my soda. Yeah,
well, I managed. I guess you could say it wasnt the
best time Ive ever had.
He laughed out loud, face flushed red, and I thought for two damn seconds
he was going to reach out and thump me on the shoulder or something. I
think I must have looked horror struck, or else Heero finally got my little
mental plea for help, because I saw him heading our way, and there was
a somewhat steely look in his eyes.
...just dont know how you survived, Spencer was saying.
It was so impressive how you bounced right back and made it to the
expo... I was looking right past him, desperately making eye contact
with Heero, begging for rescue and I swear, the kid wasnt even aware
of it. A hamster appeared on Heeros shoulder, I think it was George,
wearing a fencers mask and carrying a foil with a little sign dangling
from it that read Hi-Ho Silver! I really didnt
think Heero needed to be spurred on; hed gotten close enough to
hear Spencer and looked decidedly not happy with the young man.
Duo, he interrupted the steady flow of Spencers words
without a seconds hesitation. We need to be going.
I blinked at him stupidly for half a heartbeat, expecting him to give
some sort of explanation, but he didnt even bother, so I turned
a smile in the stunned looking co-pilots direction. Ill
get that autograph later, man. Maybe Ill catch you at dinner.
Oh... ok, he stammered, and I couldnt help feeling kind
of bad for the kid at the same time that I was practically throwing myself
to my feet.
Nice talking to you, I managed, as I followed Heero out of
the lounge. Id already decided I wouldnt be spending a lot
of time in there, our room might have been cramped, but it was looking
damn attractive right about then.
Jesus, I hissed to Heero as soon as we were in the corridor.
I think I have a damn stalker! The kid knows more about my life
than my therapist and dentist put together!
The almost tigerish look I got at that statement made me realize Id
probably just guaranteed that one Mr. Spencer Gray would be getting his
background so thoroughly checked it wasnt even funny. I tried to
feel bad about it, but I was still feeling kind of freaked out. Id
never had a biggest fan before. I mean... Im a mechanic.
What do I need with a fan club?
We were alone in the corridor and Heero reached out to gently rest a hand
in the small of my back, guiding me toward the main cabin where wed
left our over-night bag. Im sorry, he said, voice low.
I wouldnt have left you alone with him if Id realized
how... forward he was going to be.
Forward? I muttered under my breath. Theres an
understatement for you.
Are you all right? he had to ask and I snorted softly.
Yeah, I just could have lived without his... topic of conversation.
The hand on my back rubbed soothingly up and down for a moment. I
think we can manage to avoid him the rest of the trip.
I sighed, wishing it were so. I did promise him a stupid autograph,
and I dont feel right backing out on that.
Heero smiled at me and shook his head ruefully. Well, I promise
not to leave you alone with him next time, hows that?
We had reached the main cabin and I waited to answer until hed fetched
our bag down from the overhead compartment. That would be... very
welcome, I said carefully and Heero chuckled. How did you
know to come and rescue me, anyway?
All the mirth left Heeros face and he seemed to be studying me intently.
You suddenly looked kind of... pale. I thought at first you were
maybe feeling sick. Until I got close enough to hear the conversation.
I snorted, leading the way down the next corridor, heading for our room.
I dont know that that qualified as a conversation.
It was... a little one-sided, he opined and I grinned.
Well, he wasnt much interested in anything I had to say about
Hayden, thats for sure, I chuckled, shaking my head. That
was... decidedly creepy.
Then we were there and Heero swiped our pass card to let us into the room.
It was probably a sad little commentary on my mental state how much of
a relief it was when the door slid shut behind us.
Cabins on commercial shuttles are nothing to write home about. Id
been incarcerated in bigger cells during the war. They arent meant
for anything except to give passengers someplace to sleep. A bed, a bench/table
sort of thing and a lavatory that doesnt even include a shower.
I was aiming my body at the bed before the door was even shut, but before
I could take a step, Heero had me by the hand and started to pull me into
an embrace, but then stopped. Youre all... sticky, he
said, blinking down at my hand.
I had to laugh, slipping free to look at my fingers. I managed to
spill my soda, I told him, and it got me an oddly intense look.
He knows as well as I do the only way you can spill something
out of a zero-g drink bulb. He didnt say anything though, just waited
while I went in the little bathroom to wash my hands. When I came out,
hed settled himself on the bed, sitting on the far side, propped
up against the wall. I couldnt help smiling and went to join him,
sitting on the side of the bed and lying back to pillow my head in his
lap. His hand was instantly there, brushing through those wisps of hair
at my temples, stroking over my cheek.
Doing all right? he asked.
Not so bad, I told him and tried to make myself relax.
His hand settled in the center of my chest and I quirked him a grin, knowing
what he was doing and trying to make it better, because I knew what he
Youre... he began, brow furrowing.
Coping, I finished with a smile.
His expression did something odd then and his arm was suddenly under my
back, raising me up to meet his kiss. It was a gentle thing, demanding
nothing, speaking of love, not need. When he drew back, he held me where
I was, all my weight supported by his strong, sure arm, and dusted little
kisses over my face. Youre being amazing again, he murmured,
making me snort.
Youre being ridiculous again.
His free hand came to settle on my chest... again. I can feel that...
your heart, beating inside you like some terrified bird trying to escape
its cage, his words didnt slow his rain of butterfly kisses,
only accented them. And I can feel the iron control you have over
it, can see you holding it all together. Tell me thats not something
to be impressed with.
I rolled my eyes and tried to glare at him, but he was too close to see,
nibbling gently along my jaw line. More poetic bullshit, Heero?
Not bullshit, he said around my earlobe. Truth.
I shoved at him with an exasperated explosion of breath. God, youre
so... weird sometimes!
He laughed, catching at me before I was even entirely free, rolling us
over and trapping me underneath him. But then his laugh faded to a wicked
grin and he leaned down to bite ever so gently at my nipple, right through
the fabric of my t-shirt. I gasped and jerked and moaned all at the same
time, finding my hands rushing to cover the offended flesh. I was panting
just that damn fast, and my body would have curled into a defensive ball
if Id been able. I was entirely too damn high-strung for that kind
of horse-play and ended up staring at him, wide-eyed and not all that
sure how one went about saying something like not tonight.
But then he was off on another tangent, settling his chin on my hands
where they were folding across my chest, and looking at me intently. Duo-love...
what is it about being out here that gets to you so much? Im
pretty sure I just gaped at him for a minute while I considered doing
my spontaneous combustion trick. God, talk about a subject change. His
expression gentled and he asked, very softly, can you talk about
It kind of rankled and is probably what made it possible for me to blurt,
Just the whole pushing your luck thing?
He didnt get it, frowning slightly and I sighed, wishing my hands
were free to rub over my face, but they were busy guarding sensitive body
parts. I can just feel it... pressing on the ship, trying to get
in, the whole time were out here. Like... it knows I cheated it
once, and wants a second chance.
It? he questioned, frowning at me in apparent confusion.
I heaved a sigh, wanting my hands again real bad. Space? Vacuum?
The ghosts of the Londonderry? The God of suffocation? Fate? Nothing that
makes coherent sense? I was starting to feel trapped there under
him and he suddenly seemed to feel something of it; rolling off to lie
beside me, head propped up on an elbow so he could look down at me.
Sometimes, I told him, trying to make it clearer and not really
able. Im just not... entirely sure Im not still there...
and hallucinating all this. I dreamed so many things there...
I shut up when the pain came into his eyes. He pulled me close to him
and kissed me again, but there was no more teasing in it, and I dared
let my hands drop away from their defensive posture.
So, he ventured, sounding hesitant as hell. It isnt
zero gravity that... bothers you?
I blinked, caught by surprise again. Not... really, though I suppose
it can compound... the other things. I kind of miss it sometimes, to be
He smiled warmly then, seeming pleased with my answer. Would you...
like to go spend a little time in free fall?
What? I squeaked out, not at all sure what he was saying.
I talked to the Captain, he told me, a happy little smile
dancing around his lips. Hes a very indulgent father. He runs
with the cargo hold pressurized, but with the gravity turned off so that
Spencer can... practice. I have the Captains permission to borrow
I grinned at him. Youre shitting me!
That smile broke full force and Heero fished a pass card out of his pocket
and waved it in front of my face. I shit you not, he dead-panned
and I laughed out loud at him.
Then I hesitated, frowning at a sudden thought. Were not going
to run into Spencer down there, are we?
Heeros smile became more of a grin then. I checked his schedule
with his father, and we should have several hours before that becomes
Come on, then, Yuy! I grinned and scrambled up, pulling him
with me. He seemed... very pleased.
I couldnt help grinning as we made our way down into the bowels
of the shuttle, anticipating one of the things I had missed the most despite
all it had done to me during the long haul. I used to fly my ship in null
gravity more often than not; under normal conditions it isnt dangerous
as long as you adhere to the recommended time limits and a standard exercise
program. Its not really suggested that you couple it with severe
dehydration, hypothermia, and malnutrition though. Your body will take
what it needs under severe stress, no matter where it has to get it.
Heero couldnt seem to keep himself from reaching out and taking
my hand, once wed gotten into sections where it was highly unlikely
we were going to run into anyone else.
When we got to the cargo bay doors, he pulled the borrowed swipe card
out with a flourish, and I half expected him to bow.
What made you think to do this? I was moved to ask at the
last minute and he gave me a crooked little smile, a little bit of melancholy
I guess I just wanted for some part of this trip to be pleasant
for you, he told me and it made me feel horribly guilty.
He didnt wait for the apology that was trying to form, but suddenly
gave me a shove through the open doors.
Theres an almost electric tingle when you cross through a null-gravity
field, a heat on your skin that isnt hot. A shiver that raises the
hair on your arms, but isnt cold.
And then I was weightless. Like a million pounds had been lifted off my
shoulders. All the normal little aches and pains the human body has just
from existing, sort of go away. Stresses you dont even know are
there, because theyve been there your entire life, just lift away.
It was an intense feeling because it had been so long. I made a sound
that even I couldnt have cataloged and didnt bother trying.
Heeros push had committed me to a slow, drifting path through the
center of the empty cargo bay, and there was nothing I could do to direct
myself until I came up against something solid.
I heard a chuckle and saw Heero kick his way into the bay, moving much
faster than I was and at a cross path. He came up against the wall to
my right before Id halfway finished my languorous flight, kicking
off again and heading right for me. He caught me with an arm and we repelled
off each other, me toward the left hand wall, and him toward the ceiling.
I finally found purchase and gained control of my own trajectory, laughing
at Heeros look of faint disappointment.
You wont catch me again, Yuy! I taunted and watched
him come after me.
Well see, was all he said.
After that, when he did catch me, it was because I let him.
It was... glorious. It was freedom on a stick. I dont understand
why it doesnt fill me with terror like so many other things that
used to bring me joy, do now. The scales of justice trying to balance
just a tiny bit? Perhaps, simply, that I had loved it too much to start
Or maybe my phobia quotient had been filled, so I got to keep this one
We started out in a strange game of tag, but it turned into something
more, something almost... intimate. Something damned nice.
You do not swim in zero gravity. If you try, you will look like a loon
flailing about in mid-air and getting nowhere. Its all about momentum
and velocity. People compare the feeling to being under water, but it
isnt the same, you dont have that resistance. But all the
same... I felt like we were two strange, exotic sea creatures in some
sort of mating dance. Because thats what we were doing... dancing.
And it sure as hell had never felt like it felt then, when I was dancing
For awhile, I thought it was just me and the strange mood Id been
in the last few days, until Heero snagged me out of the air, anchored
to a ceiling handhold and pulled our bodies so tight together there was
no denying his arousal.
God, he growled next to my ear. If zero-g sex wasnt
so damned difficult Id strip you right here... right now...
I threw back my head and laughed out loud, grabbing hold of his shoulders
for the leverage and grinding us together. They say its not
impossible, if you can get a third party to help with the anchoring.
He laughed in turn, trying to keep us together, but the bane of the gravity
club came into play; every action has an equal and opposite reaction,
and we lost the contact. Its what makes the while sordid thing next
to impossible. Its what makes it so tantalizing.
There have been songs written about the possibilities.
He kissed me then, like he was trying to turn me wrong-side out, and when
he pulled back there was some emotion in his eyes that was so strong it
was almost frightening. I saw him want to say something, and then I saw
him unsure if he should. I kissed the end of his nose and pushed off,
not sure it was something I wanted to hear.
Bet we could have done great at the expo, I told him, just
to get the subject changed before it ever got started. He snorted and
came after me.
Im not the type, he told me. I wouldnt like
all that attention.
I laughed as I evaded him, hitting the wall and snagging a handhold. Come
on, I prodded. Lets see if we can manage a pass.
He came up short on the opposite wall and turned to look at me. A
Yeah, I called across to him. Like Hayden and I did.
The trapeze pass I call it.
Didnt you tell me that one of you ended up with a broken nose
trying to perfect that move? he asked, but I could see him adjusting
Were ex-Gundam pilots, I teased. Surely we can
manage a little zero-gravity trick like that.
He just grinned at me and it was a little feral. I called the count and
we launched. It was the cleanest damn maneuver Ive ever managed;
we passed so close I felt his fingertips graze along my body, from hip
all the way to ankle. I shivered and laughed and almost forgot to turn
at the wall.
Damn! I crowed as I turned to face him, clinging to the handhold
so I didnt go kiting off in another direction. We could have
been so good together!
It seemed to please him a very great deal, and I was surprised as hell
that he indulged me for the next damn hour, trying some of the moves Id
done with Hayden, even making a couple of them up on the spot. Id
have probably taken advantage of him for longer than that, but the inevitable
finally happened and I got kicked. It was an absolutely nothing hit, but
it upset Heero enough that he called a halt and came to check on me. Hed
only caught me on the shoulder, and though I knew it would bruise later,
there was nothing there to see at that point. I think it was my panting
and sweating that made him quit as much as anything.
I think thats enough love, he scolded.
Spoil sport, I grumbled good-naturedly, but let him lead me
back toward the doors.
Hey, he grinned at me. You dont want to still
be here when your fan club arrives, do you?
I grimaced and shook my head. You win... lets get out of here.
Thought youd see it that way, he said.
He was every bit as sweaty as I was, and I chuckled ruefully as we touched
down by the doors preparing to exit into the world of weight again. You
know... seeing as we dont have a cabin with a shower, this might
not have been the best idea weve ever had.
He turned a look my way that was totally unrepentant, his grin fading
to something gentler. But it was more than worth it, he told
Then the doors slid open and it was back to the real world. I stifled
a groan as gravity settled on our bones again, and had to resist the urge
to turn around and go back in. Think we could con the Captain into
letting us sleep in there? I quipped and got a sharp look from Heero.
You used to sleep in zero-g? he asked, obviously surprised.
It takes some getting used to, I sighed in remembrance. But
once you get the hang of it, its the best sleep you can have. No
pressure points, nothing binds. You dont wake up with body parts
asleep. I miss it sometimes.
He looked at me kind of oddly, something obviously on his mind, but then
seemed to think better of saying anything. It made me think about the
somewhat evident comparison to my stay aboard the Londonderry and I had
to blink. Oh, I mumbled. I... suppose youre right.
That would probably bring on some kick-ass nightmares, wouldnt it?
There was the ghost of a sigh and I saw the faint disappointment shadowing
his eyes, so I flashed him a grin and tried to recover the mood. So...
ever tried to take a bath in a sink the size of an ice-bucket?
Not in a lot of years, he returned, working with me on that
whole mood thing. At least we should have hot water in that ice
bucket... instead of melted snow.
Youre more hygienically minded, I told him, shivering
theatrically. Im afraid Id have forgone the bath.
I managed, in that way, to not let my dark thoughts spoil the afternoon
for him. It had been a wonderful gift on his part and I was eternally
grateful. Not only had he given me something that I had been missing a
great deal, but he had helped me, if only for a few hours, forget where
I was. Had let me stop existing on the edge of panic.
I didnt want to taint the gift with more of my anxiety.
We cleaned up as best we could and changed into fresh clothes before deciding
that there was no way around braving the lounge for dinner, unless we
just werent going to eat. Which he wasnt likely to let me
do, despite the fact that I might have considered it on my own. Though
I suppose there was still that promise to Spencer hanging over my head,
and had I tried to blow that off, guilt beast would likely have nailed
me anyway, so what was the point?
Like I said... no real way around braving the lounge for dinner.
As hard as I tried to maintain my state of almost-forgetfulness, it just
couldnt be done once we were out of the bay and I didnt have
the distraction of the physical activity anymore. Though I did my God
damnedest to keep enough of a lid on my unease that Heero wouldnt
notice. Stop laughing; I tried, ok? Isnt that what counts? And dealing
with Mr. Super-sensitive was hardly what I call fair. He was on such fine
tuning, Im pretty sure he could have given you my temperature, pulse
and blood-pressure at any given moment.
We had not even made it through the doorway into the lounge before Spencer
was descending on us. Or should I say, descending on me. I managed,
with Francis help, not to sigh heavily. George, however, seemed
to have taken a severe dislike to Spencer and was sitting on Heeros
shoulder with a banner unfurled that read Sick em!
in bold purple letters.
I had a damn surreal moment, watching Heero get this incredible attack-dog
expression on his face, wondering if he could somehow see the hamsters,
but decided that he just didnt like Spencer any more than George
Captain Maxwell! Spencer called out as he walked toward us,
beaming his ass off and holding a book in his arms like it was something
precious. I was afraid I was going to miss you!
Uh... Hi, Spencer, I mumbled, wishing the kid would lower
his voice; people were staring. And really... you can call me Duo.
Everybody does. He could call me Helio, if it would make him stop
with that Captain crap.
The comment made his smile spread even wider, though I wouldnt have
thought it possible. Duo, then, he said, having to try it
on for size. I brought my copy of the expo souvenir book; you promised
youd autograph it?
Sure thing, I told him, finding my voice lowering in an effort
to temp him into following suit. Then he handed me the book, opened to
a certain page, and I realized that he wasnt talking this last expo.
Quite despite himself, Heero leaned in to look at the page I was preparing
to scrawl my name on. I suppose it wasnt as bad as the Gladiator
thing, but still; I felt kind of stupid looking at the pictures of Hayden
and myself all decked out in leather and feathers, beads and war-paint.
I blushed furiously the entire time I signed the thing. On a weird impulse,
remembering what Id done for the flight attendant, I blocked in
a quick sketch of a feather under my name and handed the book back to
Spencer. I could tell from the look on his face that hed been hoping
for something along those lines. I would not have thought a human being
could grin that wide and not tear something.
Oh thank you, Captain... Duo! he gushed, practically
clutching the book to his chest. I cant tell you what this
means to me! Ill bet Im one of your oldest fans! And
as if I werent uncomfortable enough, things took a decidedly weird
turn as the kid reached out and took hold of my arm. You have to
come and sit at the Captains table! Im afraid the Captain
isnt eating right now, but its a place of honor and...
He babbled more, as he tried to draw me across the room, but I didnt
really hear it as I realized we were heading for the big table right next
to the floor to ceiling view port. I made a strangled little noise but
managed to keep the oh shit! behind my teeth. But then a very
cold, very firm voice said, Thank you, Spencer, but well be
fine over there.
Even Spencer the magpie had sense enough to listen to that voice, his
running monologue taking a hitch as he stuttered and turned to look at
us, wide-eyed. It made me feel kind of bad. It also made me worry a little
bit, that hed figure it out and wed end up talking about the
damn accident again. So I tried on a little grin. Favorite table,
I told him with a self-deprecating shrug, following where Heero was leading
me. Its a spacer luck thing.
He gave out with a surprised little, Oh! and then damned if
he didnt follow us. I got confirmation that Heero really didnt
see hamsters though, because he was completely not able to repress the
heavy sigh. I seriously thought Heero was going to jump the kids
shit when he sat down with us, and he probably would have if the first
thing out of Spencers mouth hadnt been, I cant
I gave Heero a little smile that begged his indulgence and said to Spencer,
Whys that? in a tone that I hoped sounded at least slightly
He leaned across the table and finally lowered his voice. I had begun
to think he didnt know how. Dont say anything... but
its my watch.
I couldnt help frowning at him. I dont understand,
I said. Why do you need to keep that a secret?
He actually turned completely around and scanned the room, and I could
only imagine he was looking for his father. Then he leaned even closer
to me and almost whispered. Im not really part of the crew,
but Dads co-pilot lets me take his night shift for him, for the
experience. He couldnt help another glance over his shoulder
and it was no damn wonder; that confession could cost his father more
than just his job.
Youre not... I began in consternation, and got thoroughly
Please dont say anything, he told me, seeming totally
confident that he could trust me. Weve been doing it for a
couple of months. Dad says all the flight time will help me pass the tests
and get into school.
I thought my open-mouthed expression would upset him, but I was able to
get my face schooled a little bit while he looked sharply at Heero, who
had a sudden coughing fit.
Well, Spencer said then. I have to get going. Thanks
again for the autograph Capta.... Duo.
Youre welcome, I managed to tell him and then he was
I met Heeros eyes and couldnt decide which of the two of us
was the more pole-axed looking. You know I have to report this,
dont you? he told me and I sighed quite despite myself.
I know, I agreed. I really hate to do it... but if you
dont; I will. Theres bending the rules, and then theres
fucking them sideways.
Heero snorted softly, shaking his head in what I took to be total disbelief.
The Captain didnt sound like an idiot, when I spoke with him
this morning. I cant believe hed jeopardize his job like this.
I rubbed a hand over my face, thinking about it. I feel like such
a heel... but God, Heero; the kid isnt even a licensed pilot?
I think he would have said more, but the lounge attendant came then to
ask us if we wanted the chicken or the beef, and by the time shed
left again, the subject had somehow become uncomfortable. I guess I just
didnt much like the idea of ratting out my biggest fan,
at the same time that I was somewhat scandalized by the whole arrangement.
I was mildly reminded of my own slightly unorthodox pilot training and
the fact that I hadnt had a license until Id bought my own
ship, but then... I wasnt still kissing the launch spars
on my fourth launch either. It crossed my mind that I kind of wished the
kid hadnt been so damn stupid that hed confessed this to what
amounted to a total stranger. Stupid? Or trusting? But didnt trusting
a stranger amount to stupid? Damn the kid.
I blinked the lounge back into focus when a bottle of water was set on
the table in front of me and was chagrined to find Heero staring at me
with a look on his face that I could only describe as... upset. When the
attendant walked away, he picked up his own bottle of water, but just
held it, looking at it instead of me and quietly said, If you want
me to let this go... I will.
What? I choked out, and couldnt help the gap-mouthed
thing I did for a minute. I got to watch him blush to the roots of his
hair. I couldnt get my head around what hed just offered me.
Had Heero Yuy... Heero Mr. CodeOfEthics Yuy just offered to
ignore such a blatant illegal activity, for my sake? Just like that? Just
because Id mentally wandered off and gotten introspective about
reporting it? I couldnt decide if I should be furious or giddy.
You asshole, I finally whispered, and when he looked up at
me, I grinned and said, I love the hell out of you for that... but
dont you ever, you understand me? Not for something as stupid as
the fact that I feel bad for the kid.
The relieved little smile he gave me then, told me just how much it would
have torn him up to have followed through with the promise. He ducked
his head again. Im sorry. I just...
I know, I interrupted, and took a sip of my water. But
like I said... if you dont; I will. We cant just ignore this.
He nodded and then our dinner arrived, breaking the conversation again.
It was typical shuttle fair, I swear to God, I dont know why they
dont just serve TV dinners; theyd have to taste better. But
it was food and we ate it, not lingering over it. I was pretty sure that
Spencer would be tied up for quite a while, sitting in the cockpit working
cross-word puzzles or whatever he did during his turn on watch, but I
didnt want to chance his coming back. Anymore than I wanted to chance
running into the Captain. So we ate quickly in unspoken agreement, and
headed back to the cabin. It wasnt really all that late, but I felt
tired enough that I thought I could sleep, if I could manage to relax
enough to doze off in the first place.
At least the whole stupid Spencer the not-quite-pilot thing had served
to dampen the earlier somewhat romantic mood. I was not at all sure that
attempting any sort of... intimate activity out here aboard a shuttle
was a great idea, but if Heero had shown any serious interest I dont
think I could have said no. Not after that horse-play in the cargo bay.
It would have been too much like blatant cock-teasing.
I was more than a little relieved when we simply stripped to our underwear
and climbed into bed together. Though I wont deny the thought was
there in the back of my mind, I just honestly felt too vulnerable to relax
enough to enjoy it. Hell... I didnt think I could relax enough to
Heero pulled me down to rest against his shoulder, telling me that he
wasnt quite ready for sleep. Our typical sleep position is him spooned
at my back, but when he wants to talk, he prefers me facing him.
I was a little nervous about what was on his mind until he told me, This
afternoon was... nice.
I smiled to myself, both pleased and relieved. It was very nice,
I confirmed. I enjoyed it a lot. Thank you for thinking of it.
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