Sure enough, it was Sally. I cut her off, and explained the situation in as brief sentences as I could manage to squeeze in between her verbal lashings. She wasn't too happy about my independent actions, but I managed to mellow her down after a while. Meanwhile, Heero kept grinning at me. Apparently, he found my abrupt sentences and the agitated voice from the other end of the line amusing.
Sally was tough to convince, but she agreed - on the condition that she got to visit us ASAP. I didn't have a problem with that. We'd get home a day or two before she could get there, anyhow. I was almost ready to hang up when Heero grabbed my arm, and in turn, the cell phone. Almost without making it sound like an outright threat, he asked Sally to keep a lid on all of this. He told her he didn't want to be rushed by everyone; he needed time to adjust.
That last word took its sweet time to come out of his throat, though - almost as if he'd struggled to find the right one.
He gave the cell back to me, and I said goodbye. Immediately, I wanted to start an argument. I didn't like him blocking out his friends like that.
I was pre-empted by a fierce glare, killing most of desire to argue. It just wouldn't have been worth it. Instead, I thought I'd get sneaky, when the time came. If Heero thought he could avoid us all forever, he was going to learn differently. After all, Sally and I had found him - even if we hadn't taken the time to tell anyone else. We'd had false leads before, after all.
While he checked the bags, I made the call to Hilde. She was a lot easier to talk to - but then again, she likes to be in your face when she chews you out. I had a feeling she'd have a thing or two to tell me when Heero and I got back.
We got ready to leave. His entire belongings fit in two bags - but I was a lot more worried over the unseen burden he carried. All I could do was offer him to help shoulder some of it. Still, I couldn't come off too strong - then he'd just back away and flee, only to be crushed under its weight eventually.
I couldn't let that happen.
Yet, I couldn't force him to stay with me. At best, I could entice him to - but before then, I had to get a clear picture of what his little approaches - drunken and otherwise - truly meant. Of course, if I asked him directly, he'd probably bolt.
That's when I got an idea.
The trip to the spaceport was uneventful - thankfully. Heero had sobered up nicely, but behaved rather subdued, even for him. At last, he told me what bothered him - or at least, one of the things. This colony wasn't very trafficked; the next commercial shuttle wouldn't leave for another day.
With a grin, I nodded in the directions of the private docking bays. I told him I had rented a small shuttle - one with barely enough room for two - as soon as Sally contacted me. At that, he nearly smiled. Not sure why.
Still, he came along. He didn't hesitate the slightest - until he stood in the airlock. It was the moment of no return - at least for a while. "Are you coming?" I asked.
He glanced up from the deck, and seemed to weigh things up against one another before finally stepping inside. I closed the hatch in a hurry; I didn't want to let him escape now.
I let him help with the pre-flight checks. He lit up at that, and though he seemed a little bit rusty, he didn't mess up even once. Soon enough, we were both strapped in. The launch took forever, and all the while, the question burned inside my throat, constantly changing, attempting to morph into a safe way to ask it.
At long last, we were underway, lost between the stars, between colonies, flight plan locked in, no deviation made easy. Given the tiny cabin and at least half a day in flight, he couldn't avoid me easily - nor could he dodge my question.
I prayed I could avoid triggering his anger, though. "Uh, Heero..."
He gave me a soft smile, busy watching the controls from the co-pilot's chair.
"You keep giving me these strange vibes... I mean, the tattoo, and..." I bit my lower lip. "Uh, you probably don't remember, but before you fell asleep last night, you kissed my cheek and mumbled something about loving me..."
His face fell instantly.