a/n: Companion piece to Fork in the Road. Weird, I know. I highly suggest that people read that before reading this. And yes, italics in place of the quotes once again.

I literally appreciate all pairings. I know it sounds far fetched, but it's true. But...I just had a huge urge to do a repeat. It's probably because of the amazing talent and encouragement I've been witnessing from a few select individuals lately that have inspired me to do a little more. This is the result of reading defectivebrainstorm's million dollar monologuing, not to mention DarkSmokinAces' awesome fanart. To be honest...this is just fluff. Sorry to waste anyone's time.

Anyways...

Don't own the Storm Hawks.

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For the first time in his life, he was actually attempting to emerge.

Out and away from his protective cocoon that he had made for himself.

To Stork, at first love was like a strange kind of science. He bit his lip repeatedly in solitary contemplation trying to figure out what the girl saw in him.

He tried to convince himself to feel grateful that a girl like Piper had even thought about him that way, but somehow his brain wouldn't let him. His younger years were spent with his forehead pressed up against various bathroom mirrors because he believed so fervently that he was an undesirable creature and he could not stand his reflection. It took him a long time to shed the self consciousness of his appearance. In fact, it was only after he pounded the tolerance of his appearance ruthlessly into his brain that he no longer found it as something to flee from.

Not too long ago he figured a person like him would surely remain a loner in the romantic department. After a fair amount of psychological research he could vaguely see why she would be attracted to his looks. To an inquisitive and open minded girl like Piper, his oily black-green hair, neon yellow eyes, and weirdly sinewy body might be pleasing to the eye.

But to put up with his personality

For God's sake, he was the one who pulled an all nighter cleaning the kitchen because he swore he could see the germs multiplying on all of the surfaces. Looking back on the incident now, he could remember Piper's face curling into a small amused smile as he mumbled incoherently about how he could see the bacteria's cilia and flagella wiggling about.

He discarded the expression as just another silent jibe at his peculiarity.

Until the next morning she took it upon herself to gently rub calendula on his knuckles that were raw and scraped from the rag he was cleaning with.

Sometimes I really wonder why you do the things that you do, Stork. She said.

The words didn't quite register. He was too busy looking at her tranquil face as she said them, as well as getting goose flesh as her finger tips rubbed the clear soothing balm into the chaffed green flesh.

Stork piloted the Condor that day with his hands not stinging from his abrasions, but from memory of the dark girl's touch against his skin.

It took her brutally honest confession to bring forth the idea that maybe his harbored feelings for her were not so misplaced after all. More than often he would find his mind drifting to something that involved her. From simple preserved observations, like the thick navy strands in her gravity-resistant hair and how they shimmered astonishingly in the sunlight; to more provocative ones, such as the beads of salt water that dripped off of her brown creamy complexion whenever she came back on the ship from swimming laps in the waters of Tropica.

One forceful jolt of his head, and those thoughts would usually go away.

It was wrong and unrealistic to have them.

The moment she thrust her hands into his and nearly begged for his affection caused every single interaction that they ever had to come rushing back in a tsunami of unsorted emotions.

Love meant sharing a lot of things.

And even now, Stork didn't know if he was ready for that.

Naturally though, all of the study, all of his overdone reflection, seemed to mysteriously disappear every time the two of them would take a hasty opportunity to wrap their arms around each others waists and shoulders. A simple brush against the smooth supple flesh of her collar bone or a long kiss was enough to make every last bit of his bodily sovereignty diminish in an instant.

The others had to have known. He and Piper couldn't always be careful; it took up a lot of energy to be so secretive all the time. With their hours filled with rigorous piloting on his part and concentrated crystal tampering on hers, at the end of the day they didn't have the strength to pull a curtain in front of them to hide themselves. Stork was iffy at public displays of affection at first, but his insecurity came from himself, not from other people.

The use of sneaking around finally eluded him.

More often than not he could see Finn straining himself to the point of physical pain trying not to say anything, hear Junko's childlike chuckles, or cringe as Aerrow's handsome face creased into a knowing smile. It almost kind of insulted him, how they beat around the bush about this. Although it was grating to endure, he actually preferred their teasing to all of this pointless privacy.

But he could sort that out later.

It was those moments, those very special moments…

That he could breathe in the scent of her hair and press his lips against the curve of her neck without worrying if anyone was looking. Of course he wouldn't of his own accord. It was just that now, he could.

Present the freedom and it's rarely used, some insignificant person probably once said.

They stood on the front part of the deck one day, their shoulders and upper arms leaning up against each other. Stork wished he could have called that moment a comfortable silence. Well, perhaps it was for Piper. But as always, his mind was a raging sea and the pensive turmoil wouldn't cease.

Hey Stork?

Yeah?

How come you never bathe?

That was random. She usually never asked up front questions like that.

What are you talking about? Of course I bathe. He said.

Piper chuckled. You don't smell like you do.

Did she think it was disgusting? Was she inwardly squirming every time she was close to him? Was there some ulterior motive and she was just putting up with whatever stench he was giving off-

Woa. Calm down.

I take baths all the time. I just don't use the…stuff.

Aside from him believing that shampoo and conditioner were filled with toxic substances that would seep into his brain and infect it with some kind of synthetic meningitis, he preferred his unmasked scent to slathering cologne onto his neck, antiperspirant on his armpits, or fruit fragrance soap into his skin. Most people weren't used smelling like they naturally would without all of the artificial products that they were always coerced into using.

He gulped noisily.W-Why, does it bother you?

She smiled, the one that always made him wonder just what her capacity for his strange habits were and when they would finally give out.

It was amazing how patient she could be with him.

No.

Helplessly in love, he swooned at Piper's power over him and how she didn't abuse one bit.

But it couldn't be this good.

There just had to be a limit.

Stork's mind never just let go. Even when it felt like it did and he was about to spread his wings, eventually and in a short amount of time all of the facts, all the cautions, all of the preconceived notions about the behavior of others and how they would always draw away from him in the end would bombard him once again.

He wanted to break away, he really did.

Piper was so much younger than him.

Not any less intelligent, just younger.

And he got the bitter feeling that she had a lot more to learn about people and how horrible they could be.

After all, he learned from society itself how to be the way he was.

Often through her lips, her youth and relish for…well, everything, would radiate into his. And it felt nice. Everything she did with him felt nice. However he feared that one day he would look into her eyes and her love for him would be no more. The fluctuating battles with their foes kept the time they had together lengthy. It was wonderful, but he almost felt suffocated.

Not by Piper, heaven's no.

She made his roaring ocean as clear as glass.

Or the other way around, in certain circumstances.

It was his entire fault. Like always.

Sometimes it didn't seem logical, or even real. He secretly pummeled himself for thinking like that, even after all the times that she would lick his silver hoop adorned ear and whisper things that made his all six of his toes curl.

It was very cool that day. The misty clouds clung to the Condor as it sat in an Atmosian dock while they all loaded up on supplies. Not a hint of sun penetrated the thick vapor. The air was thick with laziness and fatigue from the weather, and the team took the opportunity to slow down and have a break. While everyone else lounged around the circular table, Stork leaned against the stationary helm with his tired face resting in the palm of his hand. He glanced at Piper, who stood in front of the large windows watching the rivulets of moisture run down the thick paned glass. Strangely enough, she was bootless and barefoot on the frosty steel floor of the Condor. He smirked slightly in spite of himself when his first thought was to warn her of sharp rusty objects for fear of her getting tetanus.

You have the smallest feet I've ever seen. He said to her, raising his eyebrow while still looking at the dark brown appendages.

Piper wiggled her toes playfully, and he wanted to pinch them.

There was something endearing about a human foot. Of course he knew they were disgusting and how much dirt and bacteria they collected every day, but all feet were like that. He certainly preferred the look of human feet to his own; three black nailed toes protruding from a single heel. Yeah, really charming.

But whatever, they were what he had, right?

Well yeah they're small. Piper said, walking over and putting her foot next to his, measuring them.

Compared to yours.

Her pinky toe brushed against his and he moved it away at once. Piper sighed, and yawned.

I'm going to have a nap. Wake me when it's time to leave.

And she retired to her room.

Where she would be all alone. To read, to sleep, to tamper with crystals, whatever she wanted.

Probably not bothered by anything.

While he was left here in the same room as his other eavesdropping teammates to think about what moron he was.

What in the hell would it take?

Letting out a low frustrated growl Stork disconnected himself from his precious controls and made his way swiftly to the dormitories.

Something wrong, Stork? The voice of his red haired leader asked.

Stork paused and looked at him, trying not to convey a thing going on inside of his head.

I'm tired. I'll be back later. He said while his eyes darted quickly to the exit.

Sure, no problem.

The hint of mischief in Aerrow's voice was hardly concealed.

He walked down the corridor as quietly as he could, but the static of his criss crossing thoughts made it seem like he was making a huge racket. It wasn't right. It wasn't fair to be doing this to her, still rejecting her in ways that were small but noticeable to the both of them nonetheless. To put himself out there and the reel himself in lightning fast; it was despicable. And there was no way she deserved that.

Standing in front of the door to Piper's room, he drew in a deep breath and knocked.

The scene was quite familiar; but this time Stork was very aware of what would happen if she let him in.

Go ahead. She said from the other side.

Heavy vertical doors opened and he stepped inside, looking at the floor as if it might object to what he was about to do.

Stork? She said, walking over to him. Her brows furrowed.

Are you okay? She asked, and put the soothing but calloused flesh of her hand on his clammy forehead.

…Did he look sick or something?

Stork tore his eyes away from the floor and looked at her. Her face of concern almost made him flinch and his stomach violently tied and untied itself in painful knots.

But then, by some miraculous spark of fortune it all stopped.

Screw his thoughts and insecurities, however deep seated they may be.

He gently pushed her hand away from his forehead, reached up to cup the curves of her jaw line, and kissed her.

Nothing hard or desperate; just enough to convey his feelings that he still kept locked up with a jumbo sized padlock.

She seemed to freeze at first, her breath audibly getting caught in her throat. He felt her lips slowly smile against his. Her hands draped themselves around his neck and held him there, while his own tentatively went around her slender waist.

They pulled away finally and their faces were inches apart.

My my, what's gotten into you today? She said with the tiniest smile gracing her palatable mouth.

I'm…sorry. Was all he could manage.

She frowned. What for?

He didn't meet her eyes completely. I…I'm just doing everything wrong with you-with us.

Piper narrowed her eyes. Don't ever think that. It's not true.

Uh huh, sure, he sullenly thought.

Stork, I'm serious.

His thoughts must have shown.

She pecked him on the lips again, smiling her classic Piper smile. He gave a timid one in return.

Piper had a barrier. On one side was the warrior tactician, fierce with her staff and mercilessly cunning. On the other, the gorgeous zest for life that seemed to color her expressive eyes as such, the part of her that wanted to be loved and caressed like a newborn divinity.

Each one showed themselves at the appropriate time.

Her shell was practical. And she could decide when and where to shield herself.

Stork just wished that he could harness the strength to step out of his own more often.