Clearing the Mind
In retrospect, I shouldn't have been so surprised. I hadn't done much of a job in hiding how I felt, even if I hadn't blurted it out aloud.
At least not while reasonably sober.
I never thought he'd really dare ask me - or even hint the question, like he had just done. Deep down, I had probably hoped he would, though. That way, I wouldn't have to summon up the guts to confess all on my own. Maybe it was easier this way; cornered, practically forced to answer, or struggle to maintain an eerie silence for several hours - not an easy thing to do while trapped together in a small tin-can out in space.
It still felt decidedly uncomfortable, though. A big, heavy lump gathered in my gut, and it felt like something had clamped down on my chest too. I took a deep breath, trying to break the spell I'd caught myself in.
Minutes must have gone by before I raised my eyes to meet his again. I hesitated, not only because I had to get control of myself, but also because I was terrified there'd be judgement in his eyes. It's easier to live with the uncertainty of hope, than the certainty the hope was unfounded.
My relief knew no bounds when I saw nothing but nervous softness and anticipation on his face. I tried to smile, but it must have looked really sheepish. Or creepy. Embarrassed, I turned away again. "Yes..." I mumbled.
A quick glance was enough to read he wanted a better answer than that. He didn't ask, just waited for me to speak.
I mustered up all my courage. "Yes, Duo. I l-" I choked down that word. I wanted to come clean, but I feared that word would be too much for him right then. "I... like you. I really like you, Duo."
Yeah, subtle as a brick. It was what he expected to hear, so I figured I might as well give it to him.
I briefly wondered if there were bars on L2, and if some cheap place would be open when we got there. My throat had never been as dry. I swallowed, trying to get rid of the lump rising in my throat.
Duo reached inside one of the compartments, fetched a bottle with a valved straw and tossed it to me. "Here. It's water."
I accepted and sipped from the canister, looking at him. It was my turn to wait for an answer.
I suppose I knew it wouldn't be what I wanted it to be. He wouldn't magically light up, throw himself at me and confess how much he loved me too, proceed to kiss me silly and- That train of thought headed straight down a dirty track, flashing images at me. A mental headshake was in order, if not an outright brainwash. Lacking the means for the latter, I did the former, and waited.
The way his face hardened shattered the promises of fantasies.