Title: Symptoms

Author: Thing With No Talent

Genre: Storm Hawks

Disclaimer: Stork and the series belong to Nerd Corps. Lucky them.

Warnings: Unfortunate Implications all over the place, but nothing flat-out said. Let your imaginations run wild.

The more he watches Stork, the more he sees.

He sees fear in the pale yellow eyes far too often, even when they're looking at him. He sees nervous tension in the wiry frame, wound up tight in anticipation of disaster, even on the safety of his ship. He sees the pilot flinch in response to loud sounds and sudden movements, and sometimes softer sounds and not-so-sudden movements - especially if a hand ever chances to touch him.

He sees a lot of confusion and uncertainty in his interactions with the pilot, but one thing he doesn't see is trust.

The more he watches Stork, the more he notices.

He notices that Stork's first response to any movement made by another person in his vicinity is to cower in fear. He notices that the merb has no instinct for fighting back directly, that his traps seem to be his only defense. He notices Stork's wariness around Junko, who is big and loud, but has never harmed a hair on Stork's head. He notices Stork instigating contact, tentatively touching an arm here, a shoulder there, but always retreating if someone reciprocates.

He notices the twisted way his pilot walks, one arm drawn up to his chest, shoulders raised, head ducked low as if to shield it from something. A mobile flinch.

The more he watches Stork, the more he wonders.

He wonders how long Stork was alone in the Wastelands. He wonders how much that could account for his behavior, and how much of it might be something more. He wonders what sort of experiences it would take to make someone forget how to trust and walk in a mobile flinch. He wonders what sort of place Terra Merbia is, and if other merbs are at all like Stork.

He wonders why the pilot had to build a trance helmet to help him sleep in the first place.

The more he watches Stork, the more he thinks bad thoughts.

He's strong enough to manhandle the Condor through a heavy storm, but he's piss-scared of a bunch of teenagers. He acts like he's never had a friend before, like we surprise him by treating him like a person. He wears his fear on his sleeve, which is not the response of someone trained to cope with a hard life. That's the response of a trained victim.

I can make him flinch just by saying his name. That can't be from the Wastelands, or Terra Merbia. Only a person can call you by name.

The more Aerrow watches Stork, the less he likes what he sees.

He can only hope the Storm Hawks aren't too late to make a difference.

A/N: These are based on my observations from watching Stork in the show. Since Aerrow pays a lot of attention to Stork, I figured he would notice anything I had.