Maverick knew. He knew as soon as they were hit and he frantically slammed the ejector button. Goose was dead. They fell together, down down down, and Maverick wouldn't let go, couldn't let go of his best friend, the only family he had left. The water around them was cold, but Maverick's friend was gone, and he wished the freezing sea would drag him down with it, just so he didn't have to face all of this. The rescue team didn't understand, and had to pry the bloodied body of Pete Mitchell's RIO from him. Goose was gone then, and Maverick was left to face that.
They checked Maverick over, and returned him to his classes. And all he could think was how unfair it was that he had survived. He had nobody. Goose had a wife and a son. Maverick had nobody. Peter 'Maverick' Mitchell, all alone in the world because the only person who cared enough to look out for him was dead, and it was all his fault. His fault. The instructors, the rescuers, Goose's family, they all said it wasn't, he shouldn't blame himself.
If it wasn't his fault, then whose was it? Iceman's? True, he could have taken the shot easily, but it was risky, and Iceman only took calculated risks. He played it cool, hence the name. For all their rivalry, Maverick couldn't blame it on him. He knew it wasn't really anyone's fault, things like this happened when you did a job like this, but if he didn't blame himself, if he didn't regret everything, if he didn't hurt, he would be numb.
Sometimes he wished he was though. He went day to day, breaking, inside him cracking, hurting, needing someone to hold him together, choking at the realisation every time he found himself thinking this; the one who did is dead. The other guys were trying their best. Hands on his shoulders all the time, smiles, offers to fly with him, but Maverick just needed someone there for more than a conversation. He just needed someone to hold him, but he couldn't ask that. He wanted to cry, but he couldn't do that. If he did, it would all be real.
He was vaguely managing, until Viper told him straight he had to clean out Goose's things.
Maverick dragged his way down endless corridors to the room just next to his, watched by the only one who hadn't offered him sympathy and support. Iceman was torn up about it, and there was nothing he could do.
Maverick saw the room, as Goose had left it, half tidy, a few things left on the floor. A picture of Carol and their son, framed on the dresser. He threw it into the box he was carrying. Clothes, papers, books, films all went into boxes, Maverick feeling like he was betraying Goose. His guilt slowly turned into anger as he threw his friend's possessions into cardboard boxes. "Why did you have to go and fucking do that, Goose?!" he yelled at the air. "Why didn't you tell me not to be stupid? Why didn't you fucking tell me?!" Maverick caught sight of something on the mirror. A photo. Maverick and Goose stood there grinning, arms around each other, the way they always had been. Maverick's voice had lowered and raw grief was attacking him. He picked up a final item, Goose's dog tags, from the desk and clenched his palm around them until the metal bit into his skin.
"You didn't tell me because you know I wouldn't fucking listen." He said, lowly, resignedly, swallowing hard because he wouldn't break down, he wouldn't, he wouldn't. And then Iceman was in the mirror, looking at Maverick's trembling reflection, the same as Maverick was. He turned around quickly "What do you want?"
Maverick's sworn rival said nothing, but his face showed no sign of triumph, or gloating, as it often did when he gloated at, or teased Maverick. His face barely showed anything, but if Maverick had been looking, he would have seen guilt and regret tugging at Iceman too. "Sorry about Goose, man," Ice said. "I mean...it's pretty fucking bad..." he trailed off, knowing how pointless and clichéd his words were. Maverick turned back to the mirror, looking at the picture and down at the dog tags in his hand.
The tears were in his eyes now. He couldn't let go now. Not in front of Iceman, not in front of Iceman, not in front of Iceman.
Not in front of Iceman - who had his chest pressed against Maverick's back, and his arms around Maverick's chest, fiercely tight. "You think I don't blame myself too?" the blonde said, resting his chin against Maverick's shoulder. "You fight against it so hard..." he said, loosening his grip and turning Maverick to face him. The hazel eyes bored into Maverick's green ones. "You fight so hard, baby...can't you let go?"
Why did Iceman have to understand? Why did Iceman have to say things like that to him? Why did it have to make sense?! Something inside Maverick broke completely, and he didn't want to face all his other feelings. He punched Iceman square in the face, laying into him, until his anger ran out, and his grief got the better of him. And there was Pete Mitchell, crying against Tom Kazansky's shoulder, with steady arms around him, stopping him drifting away0.
"He was all I fucking had, Ice...and now he's gone, and I blame myself, and I blame you, and I blame the fucking world, and whoever I try to blame it doesn't matter because he's still gone, and it still hurts." Maverick blurted out, quickly. Iceman let him vent, just giving him what he knew he needed. This was what Maverick needed. More than a hand on his shoulder, and offers of sympathy. He needed what he was getting; actual human contact. Iceman knew it, because he'd been studying Maverick, his own feelings torn up, knowing only that he felt pain for his fellow pilot. Pain and longing.
Maverick was trembling now, though his voice was fairly level. "I'm sorry I went for you, Tom," he whispered. Using real first names was considered quite intimate. "I'm sorry I've been useless. Why the hell do you have to fucking understand me?"
"Because I want to. I want to understand you." Iceman did not let go of Maverick, who slid his arms across Iceman's back, before breathing on his neck in the most maddening of ways. Iceman waited, barely breathing himself. Maverick's lips were not quite touching Iceman's skin, and it was torture. Maverick looked into Hazel eyes with his red rimmed ones, lips even closer now. "Thank you," he whispered, moving his head the tiniest fraction so he was finally meeting Iceman in a kiss. Iceman played with the zip down the front of Maverick's flight suit.
And Maverick began to think that maybe he wasn't as alone as he thought.