In the silence between bursts of radio traffic, Mueller imagines he can hear Alex's heartbeat.
It's always strong and steady and rhythmic, just as it was under his palm the night before. It rarely pauses and spikes like his own. In this, like so many things, they are the two opposing sides of a coin.
"Dip your wings, Blue," Alex's voice crackles into his ear.
"Already?" he comms back.
Alex doesn't answer and his signal blips off the radar. Mueller is forced to crane his neck to find the drop of red floating in the water like blood. He could touch down immediately, let the engines of his Aries whine down and turn seawater to steam, but he hits his thrusters and shoots upward, leaving trails in the sky for Alex to see.
In the corner of his screen, vid flashes to life. "Who are you trying to impress," Alex chides.
"Instructer Noin, of course," Mueller laughs and adjusts his goggles.
His pulse races. He feels more alive now than he does in battle. Maybe even more alive than when his body is crushed into the mattress of his bunk and is slick with sweat and aching to come.
"She's not here."
"I'd forgotten. Must be you."
The corner of Alex's mouth twists upward.
The harness starts to dig into Mueller's shoulders, pulling at him like arms wrapped tight to drag him back down.
He's almost tempted to keep going; fly up and up until he can see the stars through the thinning atmosphere. He could go until his fuel runs out and just drift like Alex is drifting on the ocean below.
Mueller can almost see stars when he cuts a clean 180 and shuts off his systems. The air howls as he plummets blindly. Broken-winged bird. Fallen angel.