Title: Don't Ask
Author: Thing With No Talent
Genre: Storm Hawks
Disclaimer: Nerd Corps owns Storm Hawks (and, by extension, my soul).
Warnings: Not much. Nonspecific references to past trauma.
Summary: Stork does NOT want to explain why he reacts the way he does to the crack of a whip.
Notes: Inspired by a scene at the end of Episode 25, 'The Lesson'. For those who haven't seen it, it involves Finn messing around with a bullwhip acquired from one of the Raptors, ultimately making Stork's pants fall down. (Oh Storm Hawks, you and your sophisticated humor.) But it was Stork's reaction a second or two before the pants-drop that set my mind a-wondering. I imagine Aerrow had a few questions too, hence this little ficlet.
"Are you okay?"
It's simultaneously the stupidest and the most relevant question you could ever ask Stork. He's gotten used to hearing it on a regular basis, usually from Aerrow. He's also gotten into the habit of responding with sarcasm. Currently, though, his mind is much too elsewhere to manage a snarky reply.
Aerrow's looking him over carefully, like Stork might be bleeding somewhere he hasn't noticed yet. "Finn didn't actually hit you with that, did he?"
Oh. Finn. The whip. That's what this is about.
Stork looks away to the left, reflexively, letting his hair form an impenetrable curtain between them. "No, I'm fine. Just a bit of bruised dignity."
"Yeah." Aerrow puts about as much stock in Stork's claims of being 'fine' as he does in Junko's claims that his cooking won't kill them, and they both know it. "It sure looked like you felt something. That was a pretty strong reaction."
He knows there's something more going on, and he's trying to draw it out of Stork. The pilot senses this and prepares for evasive maneuvers. "Well, you know. Hysterical drama is my specialty."
"I do know that. I also know the difference between you being dramatic and you trying not to have a panic attack." Aerrow unfolds his arms, his posture going from suspicious to open and inviting. Trust me. "If this is a trigger kind of thing, tell me. I can keep it from happening again."
Evasion isn't working. Commence firing snark cannons. "Ah, I'm pretty sure Finn swinging a weapon that can slice metal around in the hangar bay is something nobody wants to happen again."
Aerrow's mouth quirks a little. "Okay, good point. But if it was, say, Piper? Or Junko? Would that... still be a problem?"
The image of either of them with a whip is just a little too bizarre to consider that question seriously. Instead, Stork imagines Aerrow in Finn's place. The reaction is unmistakable. An icy tingle in his veins. A shiver of muscles as he fights off a full-body flinch. His left eyelid vibrates visibly. It's all the answer Aerrow needs.
The Sky Knight lowers his eyes for once, sparing Stork having to meet them. "I get if you don't want to talk about it. I'm just trying to help. If this is something that really bothers you, I'll take care of it. Just say something."
Say something. It's what he's been telling Stork from day one... they all have, really. Communicate. Be open. If you're about to have a breakdown, tell us. If there's something we can do, don't hesitate to ask. Not that Stork is a shrinking violet - he has no problem speaking out about all manner of trivial issues - but when it comes to the things that are really important, he closes up. It's an old habit.
And Stork can't lie to him. He can stall and misdirect and try to change the subject, but when it comes down to it he can't flat-out lie to Aerrow. To anyone else, yes, without blinking. But against his leader, there are only two options: honesty and silence.
The silence is much too thick. It sits in his throat, choking him. Finally he clears it.
"I just... really don't like that sound." That's the truth. No need for further detail. "I'd rather not hear it on my ship, if you don't mind."
Aerrow nods once. It's enough for him. "I'll make Finn throw it out. Not like he needs another Cyclonian trophy, anyway. His room's a mess as it is."
Stork relaxes with an inaudible sigh of relief. Aerrow will get rid of it - and he'll give a reason that has nothing to do with Stork. No more awkward questions. With luck, it'll never be mentioned again. The others will soon forget what they saw - after all, Finn has the attention span of a flea, and Junko's too sheltered to guess the truth without a big fat hint. Piper might, but she's too polite to bring it up unless Stork does, which is never going to happen.
That's that, then. Stork turns to leave, assuming Aerrow is finished with him. The Sky Knight's next words make him freeze.
"I did kind of wonder where those scars came from."
Scars. It's been years, but they're still there. Almost invisible unless you get close - merbs have incredible regeneration abilities, including their skin, and they don't scar like most species. What would be horribly disfiguring on a human or wallop just shows as barely discernible lines of lighter color, overlaid like a roadmap on Stork's natural spots and stripes. Most of the time even Stork forgets that they're there.
But as soon as he heard that earsplitting crack, he felt every single one of them. He can still feel them, tingling faintly, live wires running through the flesh. The muscles on his back tighten in memory. Aerrow can probably see them twitch.
Stork doesn't turn around. He stares hard at the air in front of his face, and his voice is flat and empty as a pane of glass. "Keep wondering."