I let the sound of his heartbeat
fill my consciousness and held very still in the little circle of peace
we made, hoping to hide from the rest of the memories. Hoping they wouldnt
find me here. But it seemed a vain hope, even in this... place of peace.
This is supposed
to be a peaceful place! Echoed
through my head and I wondered when that little kid who lived in there
had gone from being such a hard-headed, tough as nails little snot, to
the whimpering thing he was now.
Or maybe that was me. Maybe the kid was the tough one, and I was the pathetic
And as if the echoes werent enough, Heero didnt seem to be
quite ready to stop listening. More wine? he asked, ever so
cautiously. I couldnt help snorting.
You havent heard enough? I said, ignoring his offer
for the real question behind it.
Im greedy, he told me, and his arms cradled me close,
just like I knew they would. You smell good, he murmured against
my hair. Like the sea.
I shivered hard, the damn comment coming at just the wrong moment, kicking
memory back into high gear and it fairly took my breath away.
Sister Helen had hated it when I fought.
Duo... What... did
they say to you?
They said... They
said I smelled like a sewer.
And then had come the hug.
You know, it was the first real hug Id ever been given in my short
life. I like to think there was a mother at one point, who might have
cuddled me at least once... before she died, or abandoned me, or whatever
in the hell happened to her. But that hug from Sister Helen was the first
one in living memory. I remember being shocked. I remember feeling...
good. I remember her telling me,
not smelly at all.
I hadnt even known how
to hug back.
I breathed a shuddering sigh, trying to remember the Sister Helen of the
hugs, the one who always looked slightly shocked at my declarations, even
as Father Maxwell laughed at my odd notions. Trying not to remember the
other one. The one with the blood. The one lying in the rubble. The one
who asked God to bless me with her dying breath, even as it became apparent
to me that if there truly was a God, he just flat did not like me very
She had blond hair, I told him, giving it up for lost and
letting that memory, of the only time Id ever seen her hair, come
flooding through. I had not known that. The year I spent at the
church... I always thought that nuns were bald. I thought they had to
shave their heads and thats why they wore those weird habit things.
To hide their heads. But she had... beautiful, long blond hair... or it
would have been... if it hadnt been all matted with... dirt... and
blood... I staggered to a halt and just concentrated on breathing.
Talk to me, Heero whispered, sounding almost afraid of speaking.
Im just trying to get through this without the damn tears,
I told him.
There was a long minute before he quietly said, If you can get through
this without the tears, then maybe you arent reaching quite far
There was some part of me that thought that was kind of a shitty thing
to say. And a part of me that understood he was probably right. It was
probably cheating to dance around the edges of the story so damn much.
But, God... I was just so tired of it. Just so tired in general. Itd
been a rough week.
Theres gonna be nightmares, I had to tell him.
I know, he sighed. But Ill be here.
So I had to dig a little deeper. Had to fess up to that last little bit.
And yeah... he got his damn tears.
... my damn fault...
... just a child...
...got so angry... just wanted them to leave us alone...
...of course you did...
...gave em what they wanted... Broke onto the base...
...oh dear God...
...dont know how I got out alive...stole the damn mobile suit...
but I was too late... too late...
... oh my baby...
... the church was leveled. Just... gone. Sister... Father... All
... Its all right... just let it go... Im here.
And I did; despite my best efforts. Despite the resolve Id had at
the beginning of the tale not to let it get to me. Though I managed not
to do the hysterical sobbing thing, for which I was grateful. Low key;
thats me all the way.
We were quiet for a very long time after I finished leaking all over him,
though I knew he was still awake because he kept stroking his hand over
You know, I had to tell him, though I felt stupid saying it.
It seemed so... clichéd somehow. But it was important. Important
to me, if not to anybody else. Ive never told that to anybody.
The catch in his breath told me it might have been important to him as
well. Maybe just a little.
We drank a little more wine after that, but I think we were both just
too tired for much more talking. I, at least, was all talked out. Tired
of the topic, tired of the emotional turmoil, just tired in general. At
length, we turned out the lights, Heero spooned at my back and we settled
down for sleep. It rather predictably eluded me for quite awhile, though
I felt Heeros breathing level out fairly quickly. A sure sign of
how exhausted he was.
I felt kind of bad for the ride Id had him on the last few days,
and not for the first time, wondered at his willingness to shoulder all
my crap. Wondered what he saw in me that had won me that fierce love of
Though, and this may sound kind of weird, but it wasnt just my memories
that kept me awake that night, but my wondering about what Heero had been
doing while my life was being turned upside down. Wondering just what
it was that he wasnt sharing with me, at a time when he was asking
me to peel away all the masks and camouflage to reveal the dirty secrets
underneath. Wondering about that look that had come over him.
I fell asleep trying not to feel hurt, trying to convince myself that
hed get to it in his own time.
Gave me a whole different set of dreams than the ones Id been expecting
Wed not thought to pull the blinds the night before, and the first
glow of the day-cycle woke me long before I was ready to be awake. For
the first time in days, I was awake before Heero though, and I found that
I kind of needed it. Thinking back on the previous evening, I was overcome
with a fit of embarrassment. Hadnt this just turned into a rather
humiliating couple of days? I slipped silently from bed and went to cover
the windows before the light woke Heero too. Then I stood there and watched
him sleep for a few minutes before deciding that I should probably wash
the brine salt out of my hair. I hadnt gotten my braid soaked through,
but I hadnt been able to entirely keep the tail end from slipping
into the water more than once.
The bathroom really is a poster-child for self-indulgence. Besides the
whirl-pool bath, theres a shower stall, and that was where I took
myself that morning while Heero slept. And if there were the ghosts of
other hands on mine as I unbound my braid, I paid them no mind, because
I knew whose they were.
The trouble with stirring up old memories is that they have a way of staying
stirred up for awhile.
I knew, at some point when the mental images of how pathetic I must have
looked last night faded a little, I would probably be glad that Id
told Heero about that time in my life. That Id finally gotten around
to confessing my sins to another living being. But between me and that
feeling of relief was a wall constructed of my feelings of weakness and
embarrassment and I was pretty sure that would have to fade first before
I could convince myself that any of this had been a good idea.
I was standing in the middle of the bathroom after my shower, combing
the water out of my hair, when the bathroom door opened, and I glanced
up to find Heero standing there. Still tousled from sleep, wearing only
his underwear, he leaned in the doorway and just watched me.
Morning, I mumbled, feeling a full-body blush coming on at
his intense scrutiny.
Good morning, he replied, and just kept standing there.
I... didnt mean to wake you, I ventured, wishing hed
stop staring, and I got a tiny little frown from him. I put the comb aside
and reached to separate my hair for braiding, suddenly taken with the
urge to finish what I was doing in a hurry.
He pushed off from the door and walked across the bathroom to join me,
gently pushing my hands away and taking my hair into his. He just held
it for a second, then leaned to kiss the back of my shoulder before beginning
the task of braiding. You amaze me, he said softly as his
I think I was supposed to say something, but I didnt know what it
should be and just stayed quiet.
So much going on inside you, he whispered, his fingers deftly
weaving. So many demons... so many memories...
I... I began, still not entirely sure what I should say, but
he stilled me.
Hush, he sighed, his fingers stopping for a moment while he
leaned in again and gently kissed the back of my neck, making me shiver.
Then he straightened and I felt the tug of his braiding on my hair again.
So strong, he said then, letting that amazement hed
spoken of, come into his voice. Youve been through so much...
but you never let it break you. Hed reached the end of the
braid, and he slipped it into my numb fingers, squeezing his hand around
mine to make me hold it. He kissed my shoulder again, whispering next
to my ear, You are amazing.
Then he left the room and left me alone.
Well damn. How does he always do that?
I knew it had been designed to help me get over the discomfort of the
morning. Knew his words had been carefully weighed and thought through,
but they were no less a comfort for all that. The mere notion that Heero
might not be utterly appalled at my bawling like a babe, yet again, was
something of a balm.
While I was thinking about it, I dug the bottle of tranquilizers out of
the bag of bathroom paraphernalia and flushed the damn things away. Wasnt
taking a chance that Heero would try that stunt again, though I think
hed learned his lesson. I wasnt a total shit, though; I left
him his package of la-la land patches, just in case of an emergency.
Then I finished my brush and floss routine and ventured out into the other
Heero really did seem to be understanding my skittishness, and had refrained
from dressing completely, until I had remedied my buck naked state. Nothing
makes you feel quite as vulnerable as being the only unclothed person
in a room
If youre done with the bathroom things, he told me while
I rummaged for clothes. Ill pack them up when I get done.
I grunted an affirmative and he went on into the bathroom, letting me
have a minute to get dressed. I hoped this uncomfortable feeling went
away soon; I didnt like this weird sensation of not feeling at home
in my own skin.
I pretty much decided that morning, that if I ever got around to telling
him about Solo and the kids... it was going to be a good long time in
Our shuttle didnt depart until mid-morning, so we had plenty of
time to clean up and pack. Heero let me be for about a half an hour before
he came and planted himself in front of me, wearing an odd little bemused
smile. You look sun burned, he observed wryly, and only escalated
I ducked my head and blew out a breath, feeling my bangs stir. I
think its a permanent condition.
He snorted and reached for me and I took the opportunity to hide my face
against his shoulder. You have nothing to be embarrassed about,
he told me gently. Especially not with me.
I heaved another sigh, and felt him kiss the back of my head. Oh
yeah... hysterical weeping is just what every guy in the world wants to
I could feel him smiling, dont ask me how, but I could. But he said,
tightening his hold, If you had told me about... that night, without
weeping, love, Id be worried about you. Besides... if
you cant cry in front of your husband, who can you cry in front
I had to lift my head to look at him so he could see the sardonic irony,
and the raised eyebrow. He had the decency to duck his head and blush
just a tiny bit, but had to give me a cheeky little grin anyway. Its
an injustice, I muttered and won a laugh.
Forgive me? he whispered, all husky voiced.
I heaved a theatric sigh and told him, of course.
Then he gave me my good morning kiss, and by the time he drew away, things
were feeling a little less uncomfortable.
With all the presents gone, our bigger suitcase was completely empty,
so we simply packed the slightly smaller one in it, and only had the two
bags to deal with.
I was concentrating entirely on the packing/check out thing, keeping my
mind off that whole shuttle/launch thing, and didnt immediately
realize that Heero was heading us into The Courtyard again
until it was almost too late.
Uh, Heero, I stammered, hesitating just outside the doorway.
Do you think we could find somewhere else to eat breakfast?
Heero stopped walking and looked back at me quizzically. Are you
telling me youre going to let that man run you off?
I gave him a half-hearted glare, but resumed walking because the conversation
was obviously only going to turn into a scene if I tried to continue it.
Apparently not, I grumbled.
My favorite waiter was, indeed, on duty again, and took his own sweet
time coming to show us to our table, despite the fact that the place wasnt
all that busy. And then he tried to give us the table right behind the
kitchen door. I had to roll my eyes, and gave Heero an I told you
so, look behind the guys back, but Heero apparently wasnt
in the mood for Mr. Rude this morning either.
I believe well take that table over there, Heero said
stonily and got an exasperated little sound out of the guy. Heero didnt
wait for any sort of acknowledgment though, simply leading the way to
a better table and setting down the bag he was carrying. I settled the
other bag beside it and took the seat opposite him. It wasnt like
seventy percent of the tables werent open anyway.
I thought the guy was going to rupture a blood vessel, and I was sure
I could hear his teeth grinding, but he went off to fetch menus and the
When he came back, he didnt bother to hand the menus out, simply
put them down on the table, and barely managed to get the water poured
without spilling it.
On a better day, I might have risen to the occasion and needled the guy
just for the fucking hell of it, but I just wasnt in the mood to
deal with his brand of prejudiced stupidity on top of the rest of my week.
And it wasnt helping that I hadnt wanted to come in here in
the first place; it was misdirecting a bit of my irritation in Heeros
direction and that was the last damn thing I wanted.
When the guy stalked off, I picked up a menu with an almost unconscious
sigh and tried to find something that I could identify. Mr. Anal-waiter
wasnt the only reason I hadnt been all that thrilled with
coming in the place. Im kind of a meat and potatoes sort; I like
knowing what Im ordering before it finds its way to my plate and
Im stuck with it.
Heero didnt seem to be having any trouble, folding his menu and
laying it aside after only a minute or so. I fought the blush I felt attacking
my cheeks and just gave up, folding my own menu and putting it on top
of Heeros. Can you just order something for me? I mumbled
and kept my eyes on the water glass in front of me, turning it and watching
the condensation form.
There was a moment of quiet that made me glance up at him, and I felt
a little better at the guilty look I found on his face. You really
didnt want to eat here, did you? he asked. Not just
because of... that man?
Well, I shrugged, going back to playing with my water glass.
Between him and the menu... I cant say Id ever recommend
this place to any of my friends.
Heero snorted softly, but tilted his head, looking at me intently. We
can leave, its not like weve ordered yet.
I shook my head. Were here now... it would be a waste of time.
Just pick me something fairly simple that doesnt have kumquats in
He chuckled, but it was brief, and I saw him looking around. Wed
been sitting here more than long enough to have had our order taken. Heero
must have managed to make eye contact with the guy over my shoulder somewhere,
because I saw him execute that dark glare of his and Anal-waiter showed
up at the table a few minutes later.
What can I get for you? he asked, staring off somewhere over
our heads, obviously pissed as hell.
And that was when I saw Heero reach the end of his patience. What
you can get for us is someone to wait on us with at least a modicum of
courtesy, he snapped, voice as cold as ice but loud enough to carry.
Because I am quite done dealing with your attitude problem.
It was kind of pleasant not to be the one turning fifty shades of red
for a change. The guy went stiff as a board and turned to stalk off without
Jeez, I muttered under my breath. Hope the guy doesnt
have a family history of heart trouble.
Heero stifled a little snort and I couldnt tell if it was amused
or disdainful. He seriously pissed me off, was all he said.
It didnt take more than a couple of minutes before a waitress came
from across the room, smiling broadly the whole way. I glanced around
for Mr. Rude and didnt see him.
What can I get for you gentlemen? she asked when she got to
our table and I felt myself relaxing just a little bit for the first time
since wed walked through the doors.
Should we move to your section? I asked her, returning her
smile, and got to watch it turn into a full-fledged grin.
Thats all right, she whispered conspiratorially. It
irritates Stuart more to have me coming over here.
In that case, I whispered back, if you promise to keep
him from poisoning our food, well stay right here.
She laughed in delight, but then got back down to business. So,
what would you boys like this morning?
I couldnt help the rueful little smile. How about something
She grinned at me again and leaned a little closer. What do you
usually eat for breakfast, sweetie, and Ill translate it into high-brow
I flashed her a full-fledged grin. Something simple? Something with
less than ten syllables? Like an omelet or pancakes?
She winked at me and nodded. Got it... dont worry; I think
I can find you something. Then she took Heeros order and started
to walk away, turning at the last minute to tell us, And I promise
to keep Stuart away from your food.
I chuckled at the joke, only I hoped she wasnt joking, and turned
from her retreating back to find Heero looking at me bemusedly.
What? I asked, feeling odd about the look he was giving me.
I dont know, he told me. It was like... watching
you wake up or something.
I snorted and shook my head. I guess I just dont deal with
bigotry very well, first thing in the morning.
No one should have to deal with that, he said, his amusement
fading back into irritation. At any time of the day.
Life aint fair, I quoted with a smirk. I suppose
you have to draw the asshole card every once in awhile.
Which, perhaps, wasnt the thing to have said, because it just started
me thinking about Allison again; life being not fair and all that. Across
the table from me, I heard Heero let out with an almost exasperated sigh.
Whats the matter? I asked, blinking at him in confusion.
Duo Maxwell, he told me blandly. I can not keep up with
you. What in the world is going on in that head of yours now?
I quirked him a slightly self-deprecating smile and kind of shrugged.
Sorry. Maybe Im just a manic-depressive at heart?
He snorted, but only gave me a questioning look, letting me know he was
still waiting for an answer.
So I told him, It just made me think of Allison, is all. Unfairness
to the extreme, I guess.
His expression changed to one of understanding, and I know he would have
reached for my hand if wed been somewhere private. It isnt...
horrible, love. It could have been much worse.
I know, I sighed. But that wont make it any easier
for her, growing up into a young lady with that scar on her face. Hell...
it might even affect her chances at being adopted. People dont always
look past the physical.
He gave me an odd look, somewhere between tender and scolding. I
thought you said scars dont make a person ugly? Or were you lying
I bristled and glared across at him. No, I was not. Not in my eyes,
it doesnt. Shes still Allison.
As much as youre still Duo, he said gently, and he did
dare to reach out and brush his fingertips across the back of my hand,
the gesture disguised by his picking up his water glass and taking a sip.
There was an almost angry retort on my tongue, but the waitress reappeared
then with our breakfast and I bit it back. She settled a plate of eggs
in front of me, scrambled with bits of sausage and cheese, with plain
old ordinary toast on the side. My irritation was lost when she gave me
a broad wink and I had to set it aside to grin widely and thank her profusely.
Heero got whatever hed gotten the day before, along with the fruit
thing that Id ordered, only mandarin oranges seemed to be the fruit
of the day instead of kumquats.
He let the subject drop, probably afraid of spoiling my already iffy appetite,
and I decided it was a topic I was not going to delve into, and let it
Stuart-anal made his reappearance somewhere in there, stalking past us
as though we didnt exist, delivering an order to a table not too
far away. Francis popped up on the edge of the table to help me resist
the urge to stick my tongue out at the mans back. I glared at the
little guy, but then he made up for stifling me, by scampering off to
follow the waiter around the room, wearing a little matching tux and mimicking
his every move. Had to bite back the laughter all on my own though, since
Francis was busy.
Too bad the damn little things are invisible; they were working up quite
the little vaudeville act. Bet I could make a fortune if I could just
get them an agent. Put me in mind of that singing frog cartoon.
You have managed, Heero suddenly said, to go from depressed,
to pissed off, to amused, in the space of about thirty seconds. What in
the hell are you thinking about?
I swallowed my mouthful of eggs and looked him in the eye. Allison,
your smart-ass attitude, and dancing frogs. In that order.
It took him a second to connect his part with the proper emotion, and
he blushed, but then surprised me with, Frogs?
Yeah, I confirmed. I was thinking about that old cartoon
about the guy who finds the singing frog, only the frog wont sing
in front of anybody else.
Michigan J. Frog, Heero supplied drolly and all I could do
was blink at him.
I dont believe you know that, I had to tell him, and
got to watch Heero Yuy look smug.
I got tired of not understanding your damn references, he
informed me, and pushed his bowl of fruit a little toward the middle of
the table. Orange?
I just fucking gaped at him for a minute, stuck mid-way between incredulous
and... oddly touched. You researched cartoons for me? I finally
My reaction seemed to please him and he smiled. Yeah. I did.
I ate the offered fruit, and my sharing from his plate seemed to please
him even more, because his smile got warmer, making we want to lean across
and kiss him. God, I muttered. I can not believe
were having a... a frog and fruit moment here in the middle of this
He snickered, spearing another piece of orange, making an odd gesture
with his fork that left me fearing for a moment that he intended to feed
it to me, but then popping it into his own mouth.
You make it damn hard to stay mad at you, I grumbled, feeling
like the whole place was watching us flirt with each other.
He gave me a weird little look, a bastard mix of crest-fallen and innocent,
and asked me softly, But why are you mad at me?
I gave him a shake of the head and muttered, I dont fucking
He grinned then, completely destroying the hint of innocence, and simply
We finished not long after that, and when Heero settled the bill, I thought
our waitress was going to crack her face grinning at the hundred percent
tip Heero gave her. I had little doubt that dear Stuart would be made
aware of it as well. Revenge can come in many different forms.
But then it was time to gather our bags and make our way to the docks,
and there wasnt any amount of bantering that was going to keep that
fact from entering my thoughts anymore.
And Stuart The Rude Anal, was suddenly not even a blip on
my radar of concerns. I think Id forgotten his name by the time
Heero had the cab hailed.
Think theyd let me just pilot the damn thing, I blurted
when we were settled in the cab and on our way. If I asked nice?
Heero turned to me, giving me that sardonic raised eyebrow look, and I
wandered off on a tangent for a moment, wondering why one raised eyebrow
is sardonic, but two is more... incredulous. What? he finally
asked, bringing me back on topic.
Its like riding the bus, I explained. Its
all about control.
He smiled. Theorys valid... but I seriously doubt that Im
a control freak is going to get you behind the controls of a commercial
The line took me by surprise and I laughed, understanding that he appreciated
this time, a little bit better, just what would help me get through this
and what would not.
I wondered if hed found the empty tranquilizer bottle yet, and just
kind of hoped it wouldnt become an issue.
Technically, I mused. My license hasnt expired
yet. Maybe if you flashed your badge, we could convince them?
He played my game with me, rolling his eyes and giving me his indulgent
sighs. Helped me keep the little kid placated, helping me keep the brooding
silences at bay. Verbally sparing with me and keeping my mind occupied.
Thats all it really takes. When you dont think you can do
something, you simply dont think about it until its too late,
and you have no choice but to deal with it. Its the anticipation
and the thinking that will kill you. Its a very simple method for
dealing with stressful situations. It has stages. One... denial. Two...
teeth gritting. Three... uhm... I think that ones the emotional
collapse part. Im still working on making it a two step process.
We got through the cab ride joking about pilots and licenses and the probability
of my charming my way into the cockpit with autographs.
We got through the walk into the dock area with a conversation speculating
on the possibility that Sally really would attempt to give us her killer
cat for Christmas or the next convenient holiday.
Check-in was managed with a lengthy argument over who had carried the
heavier bag the most, and why it was ludicrous to act like anemia was
a condition that rated admission to the ICU.
Boarding just couldnt be done with any bantering, I totally lost
the thread of the conversation about whatever in the hell wed been
talking about, when we walked through that hatch. Heero managed to touch
me three times without being obvious and whispered, Im right
here, at least twice.
I managed to work up a small smirk in return, which seemed to surprise
I swear to God, nobody freakin goes to L2 for the holidays. When
we settled ourselves in our seats and the flight attendant came around,
I realized it was the same one that had been on the trip out; we had to
be on the same damn shuttle.
She was delighted to see me, thanking me for the autograph again, and
making me suspect that I might be signing more of them before the trip
was over. Heero got a reminder to stow our bag before launch.
When she was finally gone, I found I had to take a deep breath and hang
onto it for a second, concentrating on settling my heart rate just a little
bit. I glanced at Heero and he was watching me with a strange little smile
on his face.
You doing all right? he asked and I smiled in return.
Not too bad, I told him. A little anxious, but over
all... not all that bad.
He looked a little shamefaced, dropping his eyes for a moment. Im
very sorry about... the trip out. I should have backed off.
Let it go, Heero, I said. In the scale of things, I
think youre still way ahead of me. If anybody should be apologizing
its me. I know Ive been a hell of a handful the last couple
He dared reach out to brush his fingers over my cheek, smiling gently.
But youre my handful.
I couldnt help rolling my eyes at him, but somebody went walking
down the aisle then, and he sat up straight again, sighing softly. I understood
I dropped my head back against the headrest and closed my eyes, taking
stock. Heartbeat was up just a little and breathing rate needed to be
adjusted again, I was starting to sweat just a bit too, and I knew before
long I would be feeling chill. I worked the equivalent of a mental kata
for the next few minutes until I lost that strange tight feeling in my
I opened my eyes again to find Heero watching me intently, a strange look
in his eyes. Approval? Something akin to it, at least. It made me flush
and look away.
So you really did research on cartoons just in order to converse
with me? I opened, and he met my thrust with a gentle parry.
I held out hope for a long time that you would pick up some culture
from me, he informed me haughtily. But your tastes seem to
be too ingrained. Slap-stick is obviously more your style.
Slap-stick? I asked in wide-eyed indignation. There
is nothing slap-stick about Pepe Le Pew! That cartoon has deep meanings
about the perceptions of society and what is acceptable romantic behavior.
I thought he would laugh out loud, but managed to contain it to a smirk.
Duo... its a show about a horny, near-sighted skunk. Theres
nothing deep about it.
Ah, I sighed sadly. Like so many others before you,
you just dont get it. Its a story of forbidden love. Star-crossed
lovers, destined to forever hide their relationship. Hiding it in plain
He actually did snicker that time, staring at me like Id lost my
mind. You have got to be kidding me.
Come on, Heero, I pounced, Think about it... how else could
Penelope accidentally end up with a stripe painted down her
back every single episode!
Penelope? he asked, looking skeptical. The cat has a
name? You mean... its the same stupid cat?
Thats exactly my point! I crowed. Same cat every
time. How many places can you just find wet paint? White wet paint,
no less. Shes doing it on purpose.
I know Ive said it before, but I will say it again... Heero Yuy
will surprise the hell out of me right up until the day I die. I could
not get my head around the fact that hed looked this crap
up just to be able to understand my one-liners. I would never in a million
years have imagined Id be having this conversation with him, under
these or any other circumstances. Made me stop and wonder, for the millionth
time, just what Id done to deserve him.
It frightens me a little bit that youve thought about it this
hard, he quipped, quirking me that little half grin of his.
A lot of hours out here with not a lot to do, I informed him,
faltering for a second when I thought about the implications of that statement,
but recovering quickly enough that Heero didnt catch it. You
can only spend so much time running diagnostics before you go nuts.
He reached out and took hold of my hand then, so maybe he did catch it,
but said, I suppose that explains the Hell-Bound Beavers
Ah! I exclaimed, leaping at the verbal offering. Political
satire at its best! Do not mock the Beavers unless you have read
them! No one should be allowed to enter politics without having a subscription.
I finally got the full fledged laugh out of him Id been looking
for, and grinned at him unrepentantly while he rolled his eyes. Somehow
I cant see Relena reading a copy of a comic book, especially not
Perhaps that explains her problem? I suggested with a smirk.
Maybe if we...
But I totally lost track of the conversation when the flirty flight attendant
came on the loudspeaker to tell the passengers to put their seats up and
strap down. I half expected her to warn us to keep our arms and legs inside
the car until the ride was over.
Heero tried; giving my hand a little squeeze and steering gently toward
the track Id been on. You think Relena needs to read more
I opened my mouth, waiting for the words to come dancing out and make
sense, but I think I only managed to stammer something completely unintelligent
about beavers. Or maybe it was hamsters. Im not sure.
Heero raised our clasped hands and kissed the back of my mine. Its
all right, love, he said softly and I nodded.
I had to abandon the verbal sparring in favor of the panic regulation
for a couple of minutes, just not able to do both at once. The brain just
doesnt work all that well when youre struggling not to pant
like a marathon runner.
So, I blurted when I had the attention for it, snatching at
the first random thought that surfaced. Do you do this Christmas
thing with the guys, or not? Because Im just confused as hell on
Heero seemed unsure for a moment, if this was just more joking or if it
was a serious question, but after a slight hesitation, he answered me
bluntly. I assume you mean exchanging gifts?
I nodded, not able to articulate much else as I heard the engines flare
Weve never really done anything before, Heero told me,
voice trying for soothing and calm. But I think your being here
is making them think about it.
What? I managed, blinking over at him. Why in the hell
would I make any difference?
He smiled affectionately and leaned just a bit closer to tell me, Theres
just something about you that makes people want to give you the world.
I stared at him for a minute, not sure if he was serious or if he was
just trying to shock me into forgetting about the sounds of a ship preparing
But... I stammered. They cant... we dont
have anything... I was having trouble concentrating past the sounds
around me. The sounds that were telling me just what stage of launch we
Obviously, launching from a station is a whole different animal than launching
from planet side. You dont have to struggle to defeat that thing
called gravity. So, it isnt as stressful, it isnt as flashy,
and isnt heralded by all the smoke and fire and hoopla.
Its evidenced more by a series of clangs and hisses and the rumble
So, for the average Joe-tourist, its nothing. Almost anti-climactic.
For your average student of the fine-art of vacuum-phobia... its
not so darn easy. Because hoopla or not... youre still going out
into that place that almost ate you alive. Youre still going out
where its cold and dark and still as death. Going where the fates
are terribly amused by that whole pushing your luck thing,
beckoning with their gnarled little hands for you to come and roll the
dice just one more time.
We should have gotten a batch of those stupid My Buddies went
to L2 and all I got was this stupid shirt shirts, I exclaimed,
happy to have strung two words together, but not so happy about the strange
hitch in my voice. Cause we dont really have time to shop
Then the ship was moving. There was the rumble of the engines and the
vibration as the last of the seals fell away, all perfectly normal. And
there was an extra sound that told me our pilot was probably still that
newbie, as the ship kissed the launch guide. Its a sound
that you hear through your bones more than your ears and made me flinch
in sympathy. Any self-respecting pilot would be dying of embarrassment
right now, as control razed the hell out of them. No pilot worth their
salt does that more than once.
I grinned at Heero, knowing hed recognize the sound as well as I
did, and he gave me a rueful little smile in return. Poor bastard,
he whispered, and there was a strange moment of quiet remembrance.
You ever do that? I asked, just to keep that quiet at bay.
Nope, he said with a hint of smugness in his tone. You?
Not even the first time, I was able to report, and was kind
of glad I could match him. But then I couldnt quite keep my gaze
from flicking toward the view port, and it was no longer dock I saw through
there, but the open stars. Crappy launch not withstanding... we were away.
Duo? Heero questioned softly and I drug my head around to
look his way. Still with me?
I smiled and heaved a sigh that was an effort to slow my breathing again.
Where else would I be? I teased, but he didnt laugh
at the lame little joke.
Sometimes, he told me. It seems youre a million
miles away from me.
I couldnt help saying, More like 353,535,000 kilometers. Give
or take. Calculated from L2 since thats the closest launch point.
The pained look that came into his eyes made me instantly regret the words.
Sorry, I murmured.
Dont apologize for telling me what youre thinking,
he scolded lightly. I wouldnt ask if I didnt want to
In the background, we heard the all clear chime ring, and
the level of conversation around the cabin rose as people began unbuckling.
Heero let go of my hand and I missed the warmth of it before his fingers
had completely left mine.
Come on, he told me gently. Lets get you to the
Would you mind, I asked hesitantly, feeling my way through
the idea, if we went down to the lounge for a few minutes? I would
absolutely kill for a cold soda.
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