I don't get much time to myself.

I've learned how to adapt to it, though. You know.. you share the last piece of cake. You don't hog the bathroom when everyone is trying to wake up and get ready in the morning. You respect each others space as much as you can, even though when you live right on top of each other it's a little hard.

You learn to sense each others moods. You stay out of each others business, unless you are invited, of course.

I was spending the morning in the lab with Piper. The Condor had been back in flight status for several weeks now, and we were on our way to another of our numerous missions. But today was basically a free day since we wouldn't be doing much but going from one point to another. Normally, I wouldn't be just dallying in the lab, but today was different.

Piper had asked if I could just slow down to spend some time with her, so I had gone ahead and foregone my morning work out. You have to take some time to just... enjoy life. Do things like look at rainbows.

I smiled a bit at that thought. Rainbows are pretty.

She wasn't doing much out of the ordinary today. She was refining some crystal or another for Finn's crossbow, I think.

We stayed there in comfortable silence, every now and then smattered with light conversation. It was nice. It felt good to slow down and relax. It gave me some time to think, without distractions.

Well, aside from the distraction of watching Piper work. It was like watching a living work of art. Such was her talent… and now that I can freely admit it to myself, such was her own beauty as well.

But I was also thinking my own thoughts. Lately I have tried to be more introspective. According to Finn, I'm as dense as a lead paperweight when it comes to the more delicate circumstances surrounding the people I care about. That comparison kinda bothered me, because I never really thought of Finn as the most empathetic individual in the world. So who was he to tell me something like that? I couldnt let him show me up.

So I have lately tried to expand my understanding of those around me.

I think that I have been a little unfair to the team. The audacity to think that I could demand that they stay safe for my own conscience is really astounding, when you think about it. We all have our reasons for being here, and I have no right to try to shield the others so completely from the world we live in. I mean, I don't want to lose any of them, and I have slowly become aware of the fact that they feel that way about me.

You just cant expect your team to conform to your demands without an explanation. And you cant expect them to follow rules that you yourself do not ascribe to.

I mean… you have to look out for each other, right?

And on top of all that, you build lifelong relationships with people that you fight alongside. I would gladly give my life for each and every one of my teammates. I care for each of them like they are family.

Because, really, we are all each other has. We ARE a family, no matter how different we look or act.

Take Junko, for instance. For such a big guy, he's just a huge softy. You walk into his room and you see stuffed animals and books. You look at him, and that's the last thing you would expect among his personal possessions. He is the most innocent out of all of us, but he constantly surprises me with the depth of his understanding. He's almost like that crazy younger brother I never had.

And speaking of crazy family members, I don't think I could ever trade Stork for anyone else. Its because of him that we all survive as well as we do. I mean, even back on the terra, we would have been toast if it wasn't for his foibles and obsessive paranoia about personal safety. He's the one who patched Piper and I up after we came back. And really, I have lost count of the amount of times he's put both me and my skimmer back in working order after a fight. So I can safely say that without him, I might not even be here now.

As for people who watch my back… Really, can you come any closer than Finn? Sure, he's got a knack for being annoying, but he's there when it really counts. He and I are best buds. Brothers, even. He sometimes knows me even better than I do myself. Strangely enough, he is the one who tends to set me back on the right path when I falter or wander to the wayside. I know he's loads smarter than he acts, and I guess that he just hides it for some reason. Could just be a defense mechanism. I mean, he might even be able to give Piper a run for her money in the smarts department if he put his mind to it. I don't think he'd ever bother, though.


If there is one person who I cant comfortably insert into a familial role, it has to be Piper. If you'd have asked me a few weeks ago, I would have immediately told you that she was like my favorite sister, or maybe just my best friend. We held no secrets from each other and we shared a camaraderie that would leave most people breathless. She and I have stood shoulder to shoulder against many an obstacle. She's never backed down and I respect her for that. She's been a bastion of strength for the whole group, and I don't think even she realizes how important she really is to the team.

How important she is to me.

It took me a while to realize that. I don't even know if I'm really all that comfortable with the idea yet. But I can say this: Piper is definitely not like a sister to me anymore, if she ever really was in the first place. It has come to the point where I don't know what I would do without her by my side, holding me up when it gets stormy, backing me up when I'm right, and making sure I know when I'm wrong. Its like…

Its like…

She makes me strong.

Stronger, I guess.

I never really understood that. Not until today. I always worried about being the best I could. Working myself to the point where I could show marked improvements, physically and mentally. I always strove to accomplish that which others said was impossible. I took no excuses.

No was never an answer to me.

I couldn't stop. Too many people depended on me, and I couldn't let them down.

So I had to be stronger in every way I could.

But see, I never realized that as strong as I could make myself on my own, it was nothing in the face of how much the others contributed.

So I discovered something today.

I could never let any of them go. We were a family. Piper and I… well, I'll have to explore that one a little more. She makes me happy, sad, confused, and elated all at once.


She just…

I cant even find the words to describe her. I don't even know how I feel about it all, not yet. But I do know this:

I'm more than I could be, when I am with her.

I smiled. Looking across the table at Piper as she worked on those crystals that held her full attention, I let my gaze wander over her dark skin. I allowed myself a chuckle at her thick inspection goggles that made her warm eyes far too big in her small face. I reveled in the thrill that tickled my spine when she looked up at me with a small, quirky grin I have come to recognize as one she reserves for me alone.

"What?" She asked, planted one hand on her hip while the other rested casually on the table. "Something funny?"

I shook my head. "No. Just thinking."

"Huh." She leaned back down to the crystal she was inspecting. "What are you thinking about?"

"Nothing much," I replied. Then I paused, leaning back against the counter behind me. "Just…"

"Just what?"

"Just…" I watched her, struck with inspiration and a burgeoning emotion that was still so unfamiliar to me that I couldn't bring myself to put a name to it.

"I feel stronger today."


There. All done. I know its short, but its more of an epilogue than a chapter

I like to end things with an introspective touch, especially after all the uncertainty that Aerrow was awash in throughout this fic. He finally got his mental feet underneath him, I think.

This also leaves it open for me to write a companion fic if I decide to come back sometime in the future.

By the way, if you enjoyed this fic, I highly encourage you to thank Madame Lady. It would not have been written if she hadn't asked me to assist her with one of her upcoming fics. Helping with that cleared up my writer's block like magic and this is the result.

If you liked my work, please review. If you have a constructive criticism, please review as well.

I have another chapter fic in the works that should be hitting the pages soon. I may take a few days off to give my hands some rest from typing, but it will be a romance fic. What pairing? Well, cant tell you. The plot will be so much better if you are kept guessing.

Thank you for reading this far. I am honored that people enjoy my stuff enough to stick with it this long.