Disclaimer: Not mine. The end.
Comments are always welcomed.
By, Nicole Silverwolf
"We do not remember days; we remember moments."
February was a cold month almost anywhere north of the Equator on Earth. The winter of After Colony 195 was no exception. La Ninya had moved in, sweeping rain and consequently snow right up the coast of the Americas for days on end. Storms finally passed and people managed to dig out just in time for the next six inches or more to make a home on the local sidewalks, parking lots, drive ways and such.
Great for ski resorts.
Bad for just about everything else.
Including Gundam transport and repairs.
Without a clear window of opportunity, one where there would be no road blockages, detours, or too nosey/helpful state troopers there was no chance that Duo could safely leave for Delaware and its OZ base anytime soon. Repairs were slowed when extreme cold would numb his fingers, freeze his equipment and wind would wash snow up around him every few minutes, leaving him soaked and shivering.
Every hour or so he was forced to break and go back to the house to change into his spare gear, try to dry out his gloves, hat, gator, jacket and all the portable equipment he could carry with him on that trip.
It was a small comfort to know that Heero wasn't doing much better.
They would have missed each other entirely. Had Duo actually been able to safely leave on time and Heero not been forced to postpone a strike on a base about two hundred miles north of this place. Where storms had been blowing constantly for nearly a week leaving incomplete tactical information and dangerous flight conditions even for a Gundam and its pilot.
Though it seemed like the Wing Gundam was ready to go, there was always something that could be upgraded. Minor repairs that only perfectionists like Gundam pilots would notice. After all, they were the best of the best.
So every morning when the sun would come up enough for them to see and not to freeze on the spot, both boys would head in opposite directions for their Gundams. Periodically during the day they would pass each other on a drying run, and at night when it was too dark to do anything without arousing suspicion.
Heero headed up a steep incline to a flat plateau about a half mile away and Duo a half mile through dense brush to the dilapidated, unused and small dead end road.
The morning was relatively mild. There wasn't any wind and it hadn't started snowing...yet. It smelled like it would later and the clouds were ominous gray to prove the point. Jogging quietly to keep warm Duo hurried down one of the three paths he had beat to Deathscythe. It was paranoid and probably total overkill but he didn't want to be caught or have his buddy caught either. And with Heero not far away it was better to be safe than sorry.
Plows had scraped by loudly that morning. But he had barely heard them through the early morning fog in his head and the distance to the main road. There was a thin blanket of snow now covering the tarp on his Gundam; testament to a light dusting the previous night.
"Morning Buddy. Let's hope this storm holds off for an hour or two right?" He smiled up at the quiet metal creature who he had a tendency to converse with.
Humming a tune to distract from the cold, he began to pull back tarp and brush off snow where he had been working the day before. No matter how hard and carefully he tied it down; the white flakes always managed to blow in.
"Alright, let's see if we can get this relay up and working today."
And he set to work.
The storm had started as nothing more than a few flurries. Those were hardly worth worrying over so Heero had ducked back down into Wing's cockpit from where he had come up to check on the weather.
Ten minutes later, the world was nothing but pure white and Heero couldn't even see halfway down Wing's torso.
With no where to go, no way to really stay in Wing's cockpit until it was over (the cockpits were sealed and would require some form of airflow from outside to avoid suffocation) it was becoming increasingly obvious he would have to go back to the house. The coat and just about everything else he was wearing were soaked and he had no food or heat source.
He had to go back.
After making said decision he wasted no time in getting set to go.
It took almost fifteen minutes to get the tarp secured back over the Gundam, when it normally should have taken only a minute. Though Heero was strong, even he had to struggle fiercely against fifty mile an hour gusts up the hill. A normal person would have probably just given up and left it undone.
It was like working with sails in the middle of a hurricane. More than once the heavy tarp was bodily ripped from fisted hands. Ropes wouldn't hold, or a corner would fly up at slam into his face. It would hurt or take him by surprise and twice forced him to let go with both his hands.
By the time he had finished, the storm seemed to have subsided enough for him to make an attempt back without risking injury from a misplaced step or unseen obstacle. Pulling his gear together, sliding the hat more firmly down on his head, and retreating slightly further into a thoroughly darker coat--soaked with equal parts sweat and melted snow--Heero headed across the plateau and down the hill towards the farm styled house below.
"Ugh," Duo let the frustrated non-word out as a few more pieces of ice and freezing water bounced from his braid to the floor and onto his now dry and slightly warmer bare feet. From experience he knew that putting on socks before drying his braid out would only result in putting another pair of socks back on when he was finished.
Wringing the last of the snow from his water logged braid he tossed it haphazardly back over his shoulder and dropped the towel to the floor. His foot helped the terry cloth catch up some of the extra water that had trailed behind him from the door where he had come in. He didn't have time or the energy to really wash and dry the hair so he'd leave it till he came in for the day. It would be a waste of resources to wash, dry and braid his hair only to have to do it again if he went back out. Besides, it wasn't like Heero was going to care so Duo left it alone.
Grabbing newly heated, dry socks off of the ancient radiator, he slipped them on while making his way back to the sliding glass door that barred the now swirling white from getting into the warmish building. He couldn't see where his footprints had been not ten minutes ago. Beyond that it was a nearly silent, hushed wall of white that blew about. Only a slight sound, like the rustling of papers and materials betrayed the fury that only a few inches of glass separated him from.
"Shit it's coming down. Almost a white out."
Tilting his head to one side and going still, it was obvious that he was also very alone in the house.
He had noticed it when he had blown in, quite literally. When the first few flakes had settled on the console he was working with he had taken notice and kept a watchful eye on the sky above. And when the wind started to pick up slightly and the snow started to come down a little harder, Duo had rushed to get his stuff finished to leave.
I might not have been born on a colony with snow or a lot of rain, but at least I've got the instincts to tell when something's about to go bad.
Even still, he had been forced to run the last eighth of a mile back to this house. And Mother Nature had succeeded in soaking him quite thoroughly none the less.
"Hope Heero's alright." He commented to no one as a particularly rough gust rattled the pane and made some of the supports protest with straining noises.
He knew that Heero was probably fine. The pilot of the Wing Gundam was more than capable of taking care of himself and what he had to do. Sharpened reflexes would have picked up the storm early enough for him and he would have either bunkered down till it blew over or would already be heading back. And even though he couldn't see two feet in front of him, Duo doubted that made a difference to Heero. Along with a built-in body clock he seemed to have an innate sense of direction. In zero G with no landmark or bearings he'd still be able to make it wherever he needed to go.
Heero was just like that Duo figured.
Staring at the hypnotic view of white specks on white specks for a few moments Duo let his mind drift without direction before snapping out of it. He was still chilled and something warm like coffee or hot chocolate--if he could find some--would be enough to up his core temperature so his fingers and toes wouldn't be constantly shivering. And if Heero was making his way back he'd probably be freezing too.
He rooted through the drawers and the very small supply of foodstuffs left in the house before emerging triumphant with a couple of instant hot chocolate packages.
"Life is pretty good today," he laughed to no one in particular as grabbed a tea kettle and flushed water into it.
Heero was relieved to finally see the tiny, too square piece of darkness that indicated something manmade and not organic. For the last five minutes or so he was beginning to get the sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach that he had somehow, someway gotten turned around in the storm. And though he had a rudimentary knowledge of this surrounding area, it felt a bit queasy every time he took a step wondering if he was getting himself more lost.
He had considered stopping a few times, and simply waiting the gale out. But he didn't know how long the storm was predicted to last and he was already soaking wet and getting more so by the second. If this lasted longer than the weather reports and satellites were predicting he would be in danger of getting hypothermia or any other of those cold induced sicknesses. Though his body could resist a lot of stress that others might not, he knew there were limits to what it could take.
But that didn't matter. The old house that might have once been an ancient dairy was less than a hundred yards away. He wasn't lost and soon he would be able to get out of the clothes that while also wet were beginning to chill him to the point of lowering his entire body temperature.
For an idle moment he wondered why being lost bothered him more than dying but then clamped down on that thought and the can of worms that it opened along with it.
Duo had hooked a towel on the chair; dry and a little warm from the heater it had been laying on by the door. The storm had calmed for the moment. Though he was sure that wasn't the full extent of it. This was just a lull between fronts.
That was all that allowed him to see a small figure hurrying as fast as he could through snowdrifts, heading unerringly towards this building. Nodding and letting go of the niggling sense of worry when Heero hadn't shown up moments after himself, he poured another cup of water.
A minute later there was a whoosh sound, and abruptly the sounds of the outdoors were amplified--but not as much as one would think. It was eerily quiet actually as the snow provided the world's largest muffler. The sounds of snow hitting glass, ground and each other were all that was left.
The door was shut again, with resounding finality, and soggy movements could be heard as Heero struggled out of his jacket.
The thick blue material had tinted to almost the color of his eyes and the thin covering of white flakes was already melting off to stain it a darker blue. The snow pants, which remarkably resembled the black spandex he was most comfortable in, were wet from a little above mid thigh down. The coat had provided a little protection. His boots and socks were wet and the latter had to be peeled off his feet. And though they had once been white, they were now dyed with indigo black and white indentations that suspiciously matched his toes.
His gloves were both wet and soaked from sweating and from digging through the drifts. Pulling the knit cap off his head made the wet bits that still hung out, spring in all directions. Not to mention the usual disarray his hair found itself in. He looked like a semi-dried dog.
Having that outer layer off and pooled messily by the door lent a marginal bit of comfort to Heero.
Padding off, Duo saw him retreat to his room--to change he assumed. The towel that had been on the chair had been snatched up and was trying to dry the dripping bits of icy hair.
Exactly five minutes later, socked feet slid quietly along the wood floor as he returned to the entranceway and scooped up the dropped stuff, lying it out similarly to Duo's. His gear blanketed about half the radiator and anywhere hot, dry air was coming from. Liners were pulled out from inside his boots and propped upside down over things to try and dry them. Those would take the longest he knew from experience.
When everything was set out to his satisfaction, and only after that was done, did Heero take notice of the other person who was standing in the hallway with two cups of something that had steam floating off the top. As Prussian blue eyes locked with his Duo held out one of the cups with a grin and tilt of the head.
"Figured you might want something to warm up with. Here."
Surprise at the random act of kindness--as if unused to any such acts--flickered across Heero's face for a moment as he automatically reached and took the proffered cup.
Eyeing it warily for a second he took a small sip and tried not to savor the warmth, chocolate and caffeine.
"Thanks," was the quiet, almost mumbled reply.
"No prob. So what? Did you not see it was getting that bad out before coming back?" Duo teased gently from where they stood.
"Didn't think the first few flakes would change to this so quickly. The satellite showed this as a slow moving storm. I was more concerned with fixing the tracking system than a little crystallized rain."
Indigo-violet eyes debated that answer for a moment before nodding in mild agreement. It seemed like something Heero might get distracted about. He was about as possessive as a person could get about a piece of machinery. Distractions like major weather patterns would probably not affect him.
"Well I checked the radar again, looks like this will blow over tonight. And the next five days look clear too. It'll probably be a good time to head out."
Heero nodded, cup in hand. With one last glance out the window at the wall of white which had returned, he padded towards the more open common area, where there was room and the appropriate lines for a computer hook up. When leaving the laptop in the room managed to short the breakers twice in the first day Heero had reluctantly moved it to this more suitable area.
Setting the cup to one side and moving fluidly to sit in the seat he started to type. Even with no mission there was always things to do. Records to set up for the next school or business or organization he should infiltrate. Parts inventories, logs of upgrades. Strategies and ins and outs for the next mission that could always be improved based on the new timetable and the activities of OZ. It was no wonder so many thought that he was attached to a computer or laptop of some sort.
Duo flopped a bit more casually on the futon type couch and pulled his own laptop in to do much the same. But since he had been here longer, he had less work to do. There were some things he had to do--emails to check and such--but he was done with his work much sooner than Heero.
Checking out the window again, it looked like it almost might let up for a while but within a moment it was back to the way it had been before.
Duo frowned slightly. Can't go back outside, not yet at least.
Wandering back into the main room with the book he had been reading/dozing over Heero caught his eye for a moment and seeing the answer in it set back down to the book he was reading.
Dinner came and went calmly enough. Though the meal was meager it was enough for them both and they ate in comfortable silence. They almost didn't notice when the quiet swishing of snow on the building disappeared. It had become such a constant presence it had been relegated to background noise.
A pause and careful consideration.
"Yeah, I guess it did."
Looking out into the clear air they could see the foot and a half of snow that blocked the door and the untouched flat expanse that stretched away till there was no more light from the door to shower it's path. Beyond that, everything had taken on a moonshine that dripped muted blues and indigoes.
The clouds had passed completely and a silver waxing moon hung in the sky. The black blue blanket that covered the sky was littered with bright white pinpoints, too numerous to be counted. One of the colonies was clearly visible.
Heero decided it was worthy of any number of poems or photos or drawings.
The two of them stood together, staring out at it impressed by nature's ability to shine even in the midst of a war. It was quiet and peaceful and a rare gift for both young pilots.
All they would have needed was the fire roaring in a fireplace or stove to make it a card. But the practicality of that and the threat it would have posed had won out. A subtle but sharp reminder of the reality they had been placed (some might say walked) into.
"What are you doing?" Heero's flat voice questioned. It didn't feign interest and he had deliberately pitched it that way.
Duo was tugging on his dry boots over his pants and socks quickly as if he was in a great hurry.
Does it have something to do with his Gundam? the Prussian eyed boy wondered.
"Going out," Duo interrupted.
"There." He pointed vaguely out the door.
"Going flying. It only really works on clear nights like this when it's cold and when you're far away from big cities."
Heero quirked an eyebrow at the confusing statement. If he was going flying he must need his Gundam. But he wasn't packing like he was planning to leave for good.
"Not with my buddy, Heero. Just me."
Deathscythe Heero automatically translated for Duo's reference to his buddy.
"If you wanna watch or try you can, though you might not understand it. Why? Because haven't you ever wanted to fly without a Gundam?"
What pilot didn't dream of flying under their own power? Heero was not immune to that desire. But knowing that it was also impossible to really achieve apart from the imitation that a slightly negative gravity created in space made Heero question Duo's sanity.
"I mean, you can't really fly. But it's pretty close to what I think the feeling would be like."
Duo glanced up through dripping bangs from where he was sitting on the floor.
"You don't have to come and baby-sit me Heero. I thought we both could take care of ourselves. I know what I'm doing."
And without more than that, Duo bounced to his feet, slid the glass door open then closed and was stepping farther away from the house towards the field not ten feet away.
Duo considered walking around the house to where there were no windows but rejected it because there were too many trees. The house bordered on the edge of regrown forest that was a tangle of dead branches and thorns to get through.
For almost a second it felt good to be outside, the cold sharpening everything and feeling good against Duo's warm skin. But it was close to zero Fahrenheit out and he was wearing nothing but a sweater and jeans.
His body started to shiver without his consent instantly. Teeth chattered of their own volition and he wrapped his hands around him for at least the time being as he trudged out past the light from the window.
If Heero was watching or following, Duo didn't really care. He doubted he could force him to leave if he wanted to watch or persuade him to come out and try it if he wasn't interested. Very few people had that kind of power over Heero Yuy.
Crisp sounds of crusty snow breaking weren't available as he plowed his feet through the feather soft powder. Tomorrow morning when he left with Deathscythe there would be a nice crust that would make a particularly fresh, crisp sound.
Accompanied by only the sound of breathing and the swish of new snow he stopped when he was just far enough to no get caught in the light but far enough to get an unfettered view of the sky.
Feet planted apart, just so, he was well balanced over the center of his body.
Both hands, wormed out from their respective armpits were held out at his sides and raised so that with his arms stretched out he vaguely resembled a "T".
Duo focused for a moment before tilting his head back, eyes closed until he could regain the balance he had momentarily lost.
Indigo-violet eyes opened with an anticipation meant for children on Christmas, to nothing but more stars than Duo had ever seen in his short life. It was so clear that he could see the straight lines of satellites orbiting along and the barely there off white glow of the Milky Way.
And for a long moment he chose not to complete the odd little ritual as he simply enjoyed a view beyond description.
But, because he liked this last saved part even more, he went the rest of the way and carefully rolled up onto the balls of his feet. In effect standing on tiptoe.
And it was like flying.
Heero watched from the door, now closed as the American pilot trudged effortlessly through the light, frozen crystals. It would be much harder to do that in the morning.
And though he was trying to remember if they had a shovel so they at least could get out the door in the morning he was more curious about what Duo was doing.
Prussian blue tracked the whole proceedings with a rather jaded air. Exactly what was that guy up to? It didn't really matter as long as it didn't affect anything around their missions or compromised their safety.
He could barely make out Duo; nothing more than barely present shadows.
But he could make out that the boy was smiling.
Quite a different smile than he had seen as of late. Simple. True might be a better word.
For a moment he wondered if what Duo had asserted about this strange ritual/pastime was true. And never one to dwell on a mystery or to be indecisive in action he grabbed a jacket and rushed out the door as well.
It was like flying. And then Duo overbalanced slightly and fell on his ass.
He almost grumbled about it. He almost laughed his head off. But instinct had told him he wasn't alone. And Duo was forever glad he had been silent.
Because for a few seconds--before he realized there was someone watching him and he wasn't playing his part--Duo Maxwell was treated to an awestruck Heero Yuy flying with the stars.
Soooooo what did you think? Comments, criticisms, flames, reviews...anything you'd like to throw at me? Please do so now.
Thanks for reading.