Disclaimer: GW is not mine. Drat.

Pairings: 1+2 friendship
Warnings: language
Category: ficlet, drama
Rating: PG-13... or whatever the f-word rates

Notes: Sequel to "Inconsequential." Written for the gw500 lj community's "phobia" challenge. Not beta'ed

by Stacy

The damn boom line was stuck. Duo braced his feet on the base of the assembly, secured his grip on the release lever and threw all of his weight backwards. With a silent shudder, the lever sprang open and the line played out a few centimeters before stabilizing. Clipping his safety line to the base of the boom and releasing the catch, Duo pushed off from the surface of the reactor housing towards the second boom. He caught the handhold on the second assembly and pulled himself to a stop. After re-engaging the brake on his safety tether he took a moment to stretch, trying to work out the kinks in his back. His suit was so bulky that stretching was a lost cause, but he had to give it a try anyway.

He checked the chrono on his helmet's heads up display. He'd been out here three and a half hours already, and only one of the boom lines was free. Damnit. Three more to go and he only had 10 hours to get them all free and the sail ready to re-deploy. Another six hours, give or take, and they had better damn well be able to start the burn or they'd miss the window.

That really didn't bear thinking about, so he bent to examine the assembly.

This one didn't look like it would give him too much trouble. The loss of power had reset all of the relays, so it was simply a matter of checking the connections and powering each one up. The job would take him about an hour.

As he worked, his mind turned over the situation in the crew cabin. He was relieved to be out on the EVA, truth be told. Two of the crew were in the process of having separate nervous breakdowns and had locked themselves into their respective bunks. Another had simply gone silent and immovable, floati ng off to the side of the main living area. If the situation had not been so dire, Duo thought he would've laughed at the grumbling of another crewmate as she stashed the catatonic woman in her bunk.

The breakdown had come all at once. The braking and retraction of the sail had gone off without a hitch. After a quick celebration, they started the turn and burn, bringing the craft around for the return trip. Duo's hands faltered on the relays, the memory of the sudden pop-pop-pop of control boards failing and sickening lurch as main power failed enough to send a shiver down his spine. Pushing the thought aside, he focused on the circuits.

Because, really, if he thought about what was going on, he might just want to scream.

All five LEDs winked green at him and he let out a breath he hadn't realized he was holding. A quick tug on the release lever and the control line played out and stabilized. Two down, two to go. He checked the time. Only forty-five minutes on that one. Good. Securing his safety line once again, he pushed off to the next assembly.

Another simple reset. Evidently he had a little good karma stored up. Now he just had to get both of the remaining relays up and he'd have his part done. Back inside after that to see what else needed doing. After that, all he'd have to do was make it through the yearlong ride home without developing any major psychoses or phobias. He snorted. And promptly gagged at the stench. God, he stank. All of them did. The first thing to go had been the extra water. They had just enough to drink and produce the oxygen they needed to breathe. Washing just wasn't a priority, but damn, after six days the smell was almost enough to make him puke. He had even toyed with the idea of shaving his head - the damn hair seemed to collect and intensify the stink.

Of course, he didn't want to spend all of eternity as a bald corpse. Anyway.

What was it called? Olfactophobia. He grinned with black humor. That was one he definitely wouldn't have after this joy ride. He'd already made it through the desensitization therapy. Five green lights, release the line, secure his safety tether and off he went.

Damn, it was dark out here on the ass-end of nowhere. The sun was nothing more than another star this far out. He hesitated before bending to take a look at the last assembly, taking a long minute to just stand and breathe. No matter what else happened, he had made it farther away from home than any other human being. It was humbling to stand out here and know just how very small he was. How little his life mattered to the universe...yet it also inspired a sense of wonder. After all, he had made it all this way to stand on the surface of the tin can and feel insignificant.

With a grunt and a shake of his head, he got back to work. One had to make it back alive to get into the record books.

Otherwise, he'd be a frozen mile-marker for the next mission out this way. Moving on.

Lets see... what was fear of the dark. Achluophobia? Nyctophobia? He couldn't remember. Not that it mattered. He didn't think he'd have that one, either. They had managed to get all of the battery packs operating at peak efficiency so that there was enough power to breathe. And drink and have enough light to work. And, thankfully, charge up the power packs for the suits. And here he was, trying to keep his act together long enough to do his part.

Fuck. Three of the five relays on the final assembly were fried. He had four replacements on him, but one of those was iffy and there was a possibility of a surge during the reset. The relays were still tied into the main wiring harness and there was no good way to isolate them for replacement. Even if there was a way to isolate them, the reactor still hadn't been stabilized and they really didn't have any time to screw with the relays. The first two days had been a desperate struggle to keep the reactor on line. If they hadn't. Well. He supposed they would make a good example of how not to design a compact ion engine.

Too bad that no one would be able to collect the prototype for study.

The fuel situation. Now that was a sticky point. The overload and near shutdown of the reactor had consumed enough of the ice - their fuel and lifesupport - that getting back to Earth was not possible. They'd make it to just inside Mars' orbit, once the reactor was stabilized. And the relays were inspected. And the sail was redeployed. And they could complete the burn before the window expired. They were betting that someone would be willing come out and pick up their sorry asses once they were that close to home.

So here he was. Damn, it was dark. Damn, he stank.

One relay in. Duo flexed his fingers and checked the time. Six hours left. He bent to his task, trying to keep his mind on the present. Seven hours out here and he still had two more relays to replace. Not to mention get the sail going. He could really use a partner. A sharp ache filled his chest and he wondered what Heero was doing - he cut that thought off. Heero was most certainly too far away to help and three of his other crewmates had gone off the deep end. He was on his own.

God, he really didn't want to be out here alone.

Autophobia. Now he might give that one some thought. You don't get much more alone than where he was now. The solitude had been welcome at first after the long days of being hounded after the wars, but the loneliness was beginning to suck. He missed his friends. He missed his best friend. Heero's refusal to come on this mission still stung, but he supposed he'd get over it.

Might be getting over it a bit quicker than he had hoped.

The second relay went in. The reset went perfectly. A feeling of dread crept up his throat and he stuffed it back down his gut where it belonged. He didn't have time to get nervous.

Third relay in, now for the reset. He toggled the switch and flinched back at the bright arc as the second relay blew. He lost his grip on the assembly and flew backwards, coming to a sharp stop at the end of the tether. He hung there for a moment, too discouraged and sore and just plain exhausted. With a tired curse, he hauled himself back to the boom and got back to work, ignoring the shake of his hands and the dread burning a hole in his gut. He was now an hour down and one replacement part short.

Fuck. Nobody to raid parts from out here in squat-hell nowhere.

Damn, he needed a partner.

Swearing didn't seem to be helping his cause, so he got busy replacing the third relay. Again. With the iffy part. Fuck. Whoops, seemed like he'd be swearing anyway. He worked quickly because he really didn't want any suspense. If he was going to be fucked, he'd prefer to find out now, thankyouverymuch!

He took a deep breath then let it out right way because the air reeked. He took another one because it turned out he really didn't want to know if he was fucked after all.

He was a fickle bastard, he supposed.

So if the fear of dying was thanatophobia, would the fear of dying alone be autothanatophobia? Sounded vaguely obscene. Not that he really had anything to fear about dying. He wouldn't be too bored; after all, he had a job lined up if things went to hell. An eternity of haunting his best friend should keep him occupied in the afterlife.

Hooray for job security. Good to know he'd be busy even when he was dead.

Unable to delay the inevitable, he toggled the last relay. Since there was no one around to see, he closed his eyes tightly, not wanting to see the bright arc that would signify his entry into the afterlife workforce.

Was there a fear of opening one's eyes? Optophobia? God-I-really-don't-want-to-see-this-shit-ophobia? He'd have to look that one up.

Of course, that meant he'd have to open his eyes. Of course, for him to look it up meant that the damn relay couldn't blow. Again.

Fucking iffy part.

Fucking tin can.

Fucking gravity.

Fucking Heero.

His eyes popped open at the last thought, startled by the bitterness. Five unblinking LEDs greeted him and he could've cried.

He could've pissed his pants, too, but that'd be a little messy. Then again, he was wearing a suit so the problem would be all taken care of. He choked back the hysterical laughter trying to break its way out of his chest and quickly released the final line.

One last push and he was back to where he started. Clipping the secondary tether to the hull, he released the anchor for the first tether and watched as it snaked it way free of the clips and back to its spool. He lifted a trembling hand and punched the manual release for the sail, barely able to feel the action through the thick glove. His thoughts moved slowly as if caught in thick syrup as the sail slowly began to unfurl, the thin webbing catching the light like a giant spider web. Mesmerized by the stately motion of the glittering membrane, he missed the first request for acknowledgement. And the second. At least the third time was a charm.

"Dammit, Maxwell, get your ass back in here so we can start rotation and get this damn tin can on the way home." His crewmate's voice shook, trying for testy and only managing to sound elated. "We've got the reactor back online and we're an hour away from the burn."

Home. If he could've, he would've danced. He contented himself with laughter that hovered just on the right side of hysteria. He most definitely did not have nostophobia. Nor did he have logophobia. As soon as communications were back up, he had someone back home he had to tell off for not being out here.


A/N: nostophobia - fear of going home. logophobia - fear of words. Hooray for google!


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