It was the first night this week that the other Storm Hawks had managed to convince him to retire to his own room for the night, instead of allowing him to nearly fall asleep at the helm. More like dragged him away. Nevertheless, despite his complaints, whining, and protests, he had to confess that he was.. Maybe a little tired. The looks on all their faces were easy to read when they saw his. They were concerned for their safety along with his. He couldn't pilot being as sleep deprived as he was. Finally surrendering to the banishment, he figured it wouldn't hurt to get a little shuteye. Drifting off the moment his head hit the pillow.

I'm sleeping
And right in the middle of a good dream
Like all at once I wake up
From something that keeps knockin' at my brain.
Before I go insane I hold my pillow to my head
And spring up in my bed
Screaming out the words I dread:
"I think I love you!"

He was dreaming about the Condor. In this dream, his beloved bird had just been repaired fully and fitted with every trap and repellent against all the hideous beasts of the Atmos (all installed by himself of course). It was then when the dream took a turn for the worst... The Merb bolted upright in his bed, covered in a thin layer of sweat and looking as terrified as ever. "I.. I think I l-love you." He uttered the forbidden words, one eye twitching like crazy until something snapped, swaying a moment before ending up sprawled on his back again, unconscious.

This morning
I woke up with this feeling
I didn't know how to deal with
And so I just decided to myself
I'd hide it to myself and never talk about it
And didn't I go and shout it
When you walked into my room.
"I think I love you!"

Such a sweet comatose would only last so long before easing its grip on its victim, leaving Stork to stir lightly from his slumber.

The fates wouldn't allow that, it seemed, when the memories of last night flooded him in his now conscious state. His initial conclusion was to ignore it, blame it on some unknown ailment. "Probably mindworms," he droned, making a mental note to run a diagnostic on himself. Maybe it wasn't too late to save his lower medulla. Likely not.

"Stork?" His thoughts were interrupted by a soft knock on the door and the muffled voice behind it.

"Stork, is everything alright? It's pretty late and the boys are getting antsy. Unless you want Finn bombarding you, I'd suggest making an appearance soon." Piper warned, a faint hint of amusement gracing her tone. Not directed at Stork, oh no. Merely picturing the sharpshooter's fate should he go through with his plan. She figured she'd give him fair warning, just in case.

He eased the door open hesitantly, peering out at her with a plain expression on his face, unblinking. "Right. Just.. Give me a minute." It took all he had to even handle that, somehow he managed. Piper seemed satisfied, giving him a soft nod and turning to walk away, and Stork hadn't died. Just yet.

I think I love you.
So what am I so afraid of?
I'm afraid that I'm not sure of
A love there is no cure for. I think I love you.
Isn't that what life is made of?
Though it worries me to say
I've never felt this way.

It wasn't until the afternoon when Stork was allowed some alone time again. The boys were out on their skimmers, playing some ridiculous game that he was convinced would attract Flying Gorge Sloths or something of the sorts. His mind was everywhere right now, he couldn't even remember what cause went with each painful death he knew.

This was why he turned to his books. All of them filled with the knowledge of every terrible creature or agonizing disease imaginable. He tore through them at such speed, trying to match his symptoms to his inevitable demise. Nothing seemed to match up.

He was just thankful that Piper stayed in her room the whole time, working on crystals or something of the sort.

I don't know what I'm up against.
I don't know what it's all about.
I got so much to think about.

Days went by and still no information was found on this mysterious ailment. And as time went on, his symptoms were getting worse. It was getting more difficult to keep this to himself. If he didn't know, and nor did his books, then surely this had to be a new disease. One that nobody discovered yet. And if it hadn't been discovered yet, that definitely meant there was no cure.

"I'm doomed," he muttered disdainfully just as the girl entered the room.

"What was that?" She inquired, eyeing him from across the bridge.

"Nothing," Stork practically groaned, shifting uncomfortably at the helm.

He was starting to question the possibility of this being the real thing and not some weird bacteria eating away at the remainder of his sanity.

Hey, I think I love you.
So what am I so afraid of?
I'm afraid that I'm not sure of
A love there is no cure for. I think I love you.
Isn't that what life is made of?
Though it worries me to say
I've never felt this way.

After a few more days, he slowly grew accustomed to the idea. Though he tried to justify it by telling himself it was better than a horrendous death by infection or food poisoning, nothing seemed to settle his nerves.

This was just as bad, no, worse than anything his imagination could conjure up. They were just as real as this, but at least anything else would have just left him dead. This was way worse.

Death he could handle. Anything was better than this. Better than his eminent rejection.

Believe me,
You really don't have to worry.
I only want to make you happy
And if you say,
"Hey, go away," I will, but I think better still
I'd better stay around and love you.
Do you think I have a case?
Let me ask you to your face:
Do you think you love me?

That night he found himself alone on the bridge with none other than Piper. He had been silently steering the Condor, gaze focused on the stars in the distance. She, too, was working silently, just standing at the table behind him, finishing mapping their course for Stork to fly before she went to bed. And, even so, her presence was driving him crazy.

The Merb tolerated this torture for only a few minutes more before giving in; pulling the autopilot lever before turning to face her. "Piper, can I.. ehm, talk to you a moment?" He swallowed hard.

"Sure, Stork. What's up?" She replied with a soft smile, setting her compass and pencil down onto the map in front of her.

Hesitantly, he made his way down towards her, stopping on the opposite side of the table, staring down at his feet. Normally he wouldn't even consider doing this, but he was desperate. Maybe this would be like a splinter. The quicker it got pulled out, the less it hurt. That is, of course, if it didn't get horribly infected in the process.

I think I love you.

I think I love you.

I think I love you.

I think I love you.

I think I love you.

I think I love you.

I think I love you.

I think I love you.

I think I love you.

The words ran through his head like a broken record. Each second he stood here, with her focus completely on him felt like an eternity. It was a miracle that he rediscovered his ability to talk before Piper had to question him.

It took longer than expected, but he finally found the strength to lift his head up just enough to look over at her through his bangs. "S-see.. Y-you and I h-h-have been f-friends for a l-long time now. And... And I-I've felt th-that w-w-we..."

Inevitably choking on his own words and trailing into silence. And though he was watching his feet again, he could feel the girl's eyes on him, confused and questioning.

He couldn't do this, he really couldn't do this. But he couldn't prolong this anymore, either.

"I... I think.. I LOVE YOU."

Hitting his palms on the table, gripping the edges tightly to brace himself, face flushed with red.

The sudden outburst even came to him as a surprise. It wasn't out of courage; he was still lacking in that department. He just couldn't stand it any longer.

And one hesitant glance upwards allowed him to see Piper's face tinted with a blush as well.

Turning away from him as she smiled,

"I think I love you too."