A/N: The summary is a comment I saw on DeviantArt that sums up some of the feelings I have about the Antauri/Nova pairing. I can't be bothered to go and look up the username so sorry unknown deviant, your cleverness will have to go unnamed. I'm sure we're all lamenting.
Way overdue EDIT:
Again, many fruitbaskets of juicy thanks to beautybelle300256, who - seeing the mess I'd made on the floor - sighed and walked in with broom and bucket, cleaned up, and left newspapers for me to do my further business on. And I mean she helped edit the first version into this. She doesn't really know where I live or come clean up... that sort of stuff. That would be awkward.
Stupid stupid stupid stupid STUPID.
There was a loud RRRIP noise as the threads in the side of the punching bag admitted defeat and ruptured, letting a steady trickle of sand escape unto the white floor with a gentle hissing sound.
Nova squinted at the bag. With a forceful low kick, she sent it flying off its hook and rolled it onto its side, so it would at least stop dirtying the floor. Stupid bag. Couldn't take a punch for nothing. She picked up some weights randomly spread across the floor and started lifting, angrily huffing and trying to overcome the urge to do something exceedingly violent.
This latest training session had not been one of her finer showcases of restraint.
Antauri just made her so… so angry sometimes and he was not even doing it consciously. And that was just the problem, wasn't it? That was just the friggin head on the monkey-doodling nail. Nova upped the pace and the weights whizzed past her head, up and down.
She was supposed to have this anger management thing down pat. Antauri was supposed to have helped her deal with that. He was supposed to be the cure - not the cause.
Nova thrust her arms upwards and felt the weights leave her hands as she sent them flying towards the door. As luck would have it, someone chose that exact moment to open it and enter the room. Gibson's eyes went wide and he pressed himself against the door frame, avoiding serious cranial damage when the weights went flying through the space where his head had been not three seconds ago.
"I-I-I'll come back later, shall I?" he panted and sent her a panicked look that all but screamed 'what-are-you-trying-to-commit-you-crazy-banshee?!'
"Er, sorry Gibson."
Well. This was unexpected. She had thought that they'd send Otto, hoping he could sedate her - knowing that she couldn't contain her anger with him in the vicinity (his effect on her much like the one the big teary eyes of a loyal puppy might have on its master). Or maybe Sprx would've shown up, voicing his worry through joking (letting her vent her anger onto him when he said something she found foolish). She'd even been prepared for Mandarin to come around and unleash a long tirade about obedience and discipline and proper workplace behaviour and how she should follow his superior example and be something something blah urgh.
"You can come in. I'm not out to kill you - not intentionally at least."
"There's a relief," he snorted, loosening his grip on the door frame. Closing the door after him he walked into her room, but kept a little more distance than polite behaviour dictated (having nearly been made victim of blunt trauma does that to a person).
"Really Nova, weren't you supposed to have outgrown these violent outbursts?" he said and gave her an infuriatingly big-brotherly look of disappointment.
"I'm trying!" she retorted angrily.
But not succeeding, never succeeding. Even Master Offay hadn't been truly able to help her contain the inner bonfire that kept making her act up like this. And these days Mandarin would never let her know the end of it, always commanding her to do extra 'disciplinary training' or perform stupid menial tasks that supposedly should strengthen her paper-thin patience. All it did, of course, was make her want to kick his furry orange rear all the way into a black hole, and a little bit further for good measure
"This erratic behaviour has us all worried," Gibson continued, trying to sound neutral, but irritation tinged his voice. "Especially Antauri. He blames himself."
Rightfully so, Nova thought.
So Master Offay had sort of failed and Mandarin made things worse and so of course Antauri offered to help because he was concerned and attentive and just wonderful like that.
The spiritual guru had wanted her to continue the teachings Master Offay so believed in: never attacking without composing a calm centre, breathing techniques, balance in mind and body and other such delightfully wise practices. Apparently Antauri and their glorious leader had been taught similar things by the Veran Mystics.
It resulted in the two of them spending more time together: extended periods of mutual meditation, private training sessions, and earnest discussions about the things that made Nova boil over. Somewhere down along the road she had felt it evolved from merely being about him teaching her to keep her temper in check into something... else. Something closer.
Acting on that instinct Nova advanced on him and when Antauri seemed to return the feelings they started holding hands and doing things that set their relationship apart from the bonds they shared with the rest of the Team.
Or so she'd liked to believe.
"And your flare-up this morning – which I see no discernible motive for—"
"I was angry," Nova cut him off.
"With Antauri?" Gibson asked incredulously.
Was that so weird? Was it really so earth-shattering a concept that somebody could be upset with considerate, wise, noble, forgiving, sympathetic, devoted, empathic, intelligent, calm, dutiful, resolute, generous, monkey-doodling damn-it-all to the Zone of Wasted Years and back frickin' flawless Antauri?
Was it so utterly incomprehensible that more than often she felt like screaming in his face just to see if he'd actually react to it? Could anybody blame her for wanting to hurl him across the room when she realized that he probably wouldn't?
The blue monkey sent her a stare that assured her that he could indeed blame her for that.
"It cannot go on like this, Nova. That outburst was undeserved no matter what he has done to upset you. Nobody is perfect."
Sometimes Nova really hated irony.
"Antauri is," she hissed.
"Then what seems to be the problem?" the scientist asked dryly. Logic. How refreshing.
"Because he's perfect Gibson – there's nothing that upsets him or throws him off, he can talk politely to anybody and meanwhile I can't even be in the same room with Mandarin without wanting to throw him out the monkeydoodlin' window – meanwhile Antauri just stands there and nods it off and takes everything our idiot leader throws at him because he's just that patient and wonderful and picture perfect!"
Her cyborg brother's eyes had grown progressively wider at the enraged speech, feeling slightly embarrassed at having uncovered such a sore spot in the relationship of the second-in-command and the golden warrior, but unsure how to act on it.
"... Nova, I, er... I'm afraid I still don't quite understand," he admitted awkwardly.
Nova almost felt bad for exploding relationship drama all over the scientist seeing as he was so uncomfortable about such things. But making sense of things was Gibson's forte, and she could use some of that.
The blue scientist frowned when Nova's disposition went from tense to overly relaxed, slumped, even.
"Sometimes I think he's with me… this way… because it makes me happy."
Gibson looked at her like he was addressing someone with the IQ of cardboard. "Isn't that… the point of a romantic relationship?" He asked the question with the same amount of caution he would administer to a highly volatile acidic solution while balancing on a unicycle.
"Yes. Antauri loves me."
"I think that should be obvious."
"He also loves you."
Gibson grimaced but didn't say anything, dearly hoping that the conversation was going to stay platonic.
"And he loves Otto, as well as he loves Sprx and Mandarin. But is he in love with me?"
The blue simian just offered a blank stare in response.
Nova sighed. "Antauri is perfect. He loves everything and everybody. Everybody, Gibson. That's a lot of people. Isn't love supposed to be special? To make you feel wanted and unique? How can you be that when you're-- I'm just another part of his world-spanning hippy Philosophy?" The aspects of the black monkey's character which had initially attracted her to him now were the ever-growing chasm that split them apart. "And this – us being together – I mean, how does a girlfriend fit into that?"
"Antauri would never be dishonest about such personal issues, or anything else, for that matter."
"He wouldn't want to upset me, either, and the truth might."
Gibson looked at her with a piercing stare that contained surprising force; however, his voice was calm: "These suspicions of yours are highly illogical."
And that was that.
"Stop putting so much green wiggly stuff innit!"
"Hey! Who's wearing the apron here?"
"Um, you are?"
"And who's wearing the fancy cook's hat?"
"… You are."
"And who's swingin' the ladle around here?"
"Ow! You are."
"And that means I'm in charge of the stew. Yes? Agreed? Good."
"But I'm gonna haveta eat that!" Otto whined.
"Not if you keep that up you won't," Sprx retorted and stirred the stew, sniffing the results of his culinary endeavours. Eh. It wasn't as good as his soup, but at least it wouldn't kill 'em. Although to be on the safe side, he supposed he'd let Gibson have first helpings.
While the green and light red monkeys chit-chattered over the stove, a Hyperforce member who had kept to herself most of the morning entered the kitchen. Immediately, as if she'd honked one of those large over-the-top truck horns, the room went silent and all attention went to the sunflower-coloured monkey with the bubblegum-pink eyes. Said eyes trailed to the black figure sitting solemnly at the table.
Sprx and Otto exchanged glances.
"Do you hear that, Otto?" Sprx said - unnecessarily loud.
"What?" Otto asked curiously and actually listened.
"It's common courtesy. It wants us to make ourselves go away. Oh, and bring the stew."
Which they did.
The black monkey calmly reciprocated Nova's reluctant eye contact. His posture was straight, his arms reservedly crossed, his eyes observant and serene as always; all in all Antauri gave off an air of tranquil solemnity which would never have you believe the fact his supposedly significant other had thrown a rather vehement fit at him earlier that day.
Standing in the doorway, Nova suddenly found herself unable to act. The stillness was oppressing and she longed to topple over the table just to have something happen.
Why was everything a silent mystery with Antauri – an intricate riddle you had to carefully approach and fiddle with for hours and hours on end before learning some elaborate idealistic lesson? Why couldn't he just speak plainly? Why couldn't she just speak plainly? When had she lost the ability to out-and-out form coherent words and speak or yell her mind - when had everything gone from laughably simple to overly convoluted in a matter of a few months of being with Antauri?
When it became quite clear that the golden warrior wasn't going to initiate any action, Antauri got up from the table and walked to Nova. As he passed her, he gently grabbed her hand and she let herself be led out of the kitchen.
The console beeped sharply as the initial battle sequences booted up. The pillars in the middle of the room rose and began to spew forth various obstacles and swing around lethal-looking equipment.
Nova dodged and leapt, rolled to the floor and whipped around, searching the room for her opponent. He came from above, but ended up colliding with the floor as she darted under one robotic arm bent on her disfigurement.
Antauri grabbed the arm and let it take him into the air, activated his jet-pack for a short thrust and landed on top of another pillar, able to survey the training room. The opposing pillar found that this could not be and decided to bring out six robotic appendages, all with pointy, sharp utensils that assured that many nasty things were indeed about to happen.
Nova watched the black monkey jump and dodge and claw at the persistent mechanical limbs. Never breaking a sweat, never changing his countenance from expressionless to any extreme emotion - never snarling in fury, crying out in desperate defeat or swearing hotly under his breath - only grunting or giving somesuch outburst that couldn't be helped when hit, but always back on his feet with the same determined - however distant - look on his face.
Another assignment, another training session. Ensuring we're up to speed. That's your job – smoothing the rough edges so we function as a whole, a Team. You never care for just any one person – it's always the big picture: Shuggazoom, the Power Primate and the Chosen One, the whole effing Universe.
Nova narrowed her eyes and clunked her fists together. With a shrill battle cry, she lunged forward and dismembered the training mechanisms before turning to Antauri, taking an offensive battle stance.
He didn't flinch, of course.
Was that it? Was that all it ever was to you? Making sure I was calm, collected and able to perform my duty? Just as you are always ready to perform yours?
She threw punch after punch which he either dodged or recovered from.
Just yell at me and I'll stop, she thought.
He tripped her and her tail took him crashing to the floor as well.
Just be angry with me and I'll know you care.
They thrashed around on the floor, flailing and fighting for footing.
Just lose some restraint and we'll be equal.
She lividly attacked and he sombrely retaliated.
Just… have flaws.
Later, when they sat huffing back-against-back, Antauri spoke to her for the first time since she had blown up on him earlier that day. Sure, there had been "thank-you's" and"excuse me's"and "please tell Otto to get his tap-dancing ice-cream scoop out from under my bed" – but no real 'Talking'. … Talking About Us. That sort of talking - the awkward, sappy and sweaty-palms kind.
"You have been distressed as of late," he said; a statement that was laughable in its politeness. "Something is troubling you greatly. Would you like to talk to me about it?"
It wasn't as much an opening as it was a forty kilometres wide runway with a laser show pointing in the right direction.
"… I'm not sure about this anymore..."
What was the point of fighting if nobody was fighting back? Was it even fighting, or was it just flailing your arms about and making a spectacle of yourself?
"… Nothing lasts forever, I suppose." Antauri sounded weirdly muted as if a blanket had been put over his head.
"I just thought… I don't know what I thought. I don't think it anymore, in any case."
It wasn't admitting defeat. She just… chose not to fight this particular battle anymore. They'd pick up the pieces and accept that this… couldn't be fixed. There would be more tense silences and anger and regret to come… but eventually, the silences would become relaxing again and the training could go on without any more fiery outbursts.
"I am sorry, Nova."
"Don't be. You didn't do anything wrong."