THE SOUND OF THUNDER
1+2, POV, some of both angst and yaoi
I know it’s pathetic. That I’m pathetic. I’m sure that’s what the others would say, if I ever shared these thoughts with them. But I haven’t done that, and no-one has the time to prise them out of me. We’re all too young and too busy fighting and – let’s face it - too damned fearful of failing, to stop and discover the boy beneath the banner of colonial salvation.
Boy. That’s the key. I’m a boy who’s become a man, too early. I’ve missed out on a normal childhood; on education; on knowledge, the same as other peers have had. Yet what exactly are those things? My role models have been a strange succession of people, all with their own, distorted agenda. There’s never been anyone to take me aside and explain things in context; to clarify the conventional morals; to put my fears into a proper perspective.
To laugh at them, maybe. To give me the time and support to overcome them.
I have to join the others at dawn. This is only a reconnaissance trip. I offered to go alone because it didn’t merit anything more than that; one operative to be dropped into a small area of countryside; one night in a shack on a hillside. Establish the lie of the land and determine any enemy threat, then be picked up again in the morning to travel on towards the battle.
I haven’t achieved any of that.
I have no idea of the lie of the land; no idea if I’m surrounded by enemy troops or sharing the hillside with nothing but a fox. I haven’t moved from the shack since I first dropped my backpack onto its grubby floor. Scanning the view from the cracked window, I saw the clouds rolling far too quickly across the sky, tumbling into thick, dark, threatening piles. The rain drops came slowly at first but were heavy and grey. At the first rumble in the distance, I drew back inside the shack, unable even to be near the window.
I’m deeply ashamed to admit it, but I’ve not moved since.
I tell myself it’s just a weather condition – a storm that’ll soon pass. I listen to myself, but I don’t hear. All I hear is the growling of the sky and the shuddering of the flimsy structure around me. And the whimpering of my own fear.
I don’t know when the phobia started – maybe I’ve always been afraid of storms. I’ve been able to hide it so far from the others, but I’ve been caught completely unawares tonight. The hillside is barren and exposed to the elements – the conditions are exaggerated. It’s nothing like being in my own quarters where I can find distraction, though the others would call that ‘hiding’, I’m sure. But that’s my shame and I have to face it. As I curl up into the furthest corner of the room, I’ve never felt less able to face anything in my short life.
When the hammering comes at the door, I’m terrified that the wind is finally breaking down the rotten wood, finally exposing me to the full force of the storm. The sweat is slick on my palms and my heart is painful against my chest, but I want to struggle to my feet, to meet the fear upright; to find some last thread of courage.
I’m still clutching the wall when you burst through, battling with the hinges, trying to push the door back shut behind you, locking out the whine of the storm at your heels.
“Shit!” Your voice is loud and bold and you don’t sound at all scared. Just pissed.
When the door slams shut again, it’s very dark inside the room. “Are you here?” you call out. “Heero? What’s up?”
You stumble against my pack as you cross the room, your hands held out cautiously in front of you. And then you find me, huddled in the corner. “Thank God! The communications went down with the storm and I wasn’t even sure you’d made it to shelter here. Are you hurt?”
“No.” My voice sounds as strained as a high wire. “I’m… fine.”
You’re peering at me, confused. “You don’t sound it. Is there danger here?”
I laugh then, a high-pitched, hysterical sound. “Only from my own mind. I can’t do a thing, Maxwell. It’s paralysed me – the storm.” I can’t see any point in keeping it secret any more. I need help here and now, and afterwards my weakness will be common knowledge. “You’ll need to put me on report for it…”
“Heero, snap out of it!” you growl, startling me. “That’s self-pity talking, not you. Keep a hold of yourself and it’ll be over soon.”
I stare back at you, shaking my head. How can it ever be over? “This is appalling; I’ve failed. A pathetic yet crippling phobia – it means I can’t be relied on.”
“You think it matters?” You look angry, your eyes glinting fiercely in the darkness. “Fuck, we all have our ways of coping. We all have our own problems.”
“But of course it matters!”
You snort. “You think it matters that Trowa has nightmares and cries in his continuously broken sleep? That Wufei asks too way much of himself in battle and has the debilitating scars to prove it? That Quatre has to lock himself away sometimes, needing the silence to stop his limbs from uncontrollable shaking? That I…” You pause.
“Everyone?” I shouldn’t believe any of this. But could it be true?
You shock me then, reaching out a hand to take hold of mine. Your fingers are strong; warm. “It’s your fear. We all have one – or many. It’s part of you. There’s no point hiding it.”
I can hear you drawing a sharp breath in the darkness. “Fair enough. Mine’s the fear of losing what little I have.”
You shake your head, impatient with us both, perhaps. “Everything I have is from the war, from the last few years and nothing before. That’s my life, Heero – my support, my gospel. The rush of adrenalin from the moment I wake; the terror; the purpose. The madness and the passion and the downright stupidity. The friends. The reason for battling on. You.”
“Me.” I’m sure you won’t hear my whisper, but maybe you do.
“Yeah, you.” You’re grinning now, and your arm snakes round my shoulders, pulling me nearer to you. “What the fuck else is there, Heero Yuy?”
The arm around me feels alien; like an invasion. At the same time it warms me, the feel of another living being close to me. Holding me, willingly. Giving to me.
“Why?” I ask, hoarsely. “Why did you come out here after me?”
You shrug, but your eyes flicker away from me for a second. Then you sigh and look back steadily enough. “I read the long range forecast, I knew this was coming. I knew how you’d be.”
“I didn’t tell anyone,” you say, hastily. “But I’ve seen you before when there’s been a storm. I told the guys there was some surveillance equipment I’d forgotten to pack for you, that I’d drop in alongside and we’d sit out the night together. No problem.”
“No problem,” I echo, dully.
“We didn’t know what might be up here,” you protest. “I couldn’t risk you here on your own, not with you… not at your best.”
“You could have landed right in the middle of enemy action,” I said. My paranoia is my own weakness; I should be the only one endangered by it. “We’d have lost two agents, not just one.”
“I don’t wanna lose even the one,” you growl. Your fingers tighten on my shoulder. “Not this one.”
“Maxwell… I can’t…” I don’t know what to say to you. To explain; to apologise; to thank.
You shrug, like you’re not expecting anything, and you don’t release your grip. “So let’s drag out one of the blankets and some ration packs to pass the time. It will pass, believe me, and I’m here until it does. Then we call the others up and head back together.”
I can barely assimilate the relief that swamps my body. “I still have a mission to complete.”
You laugh softly. Your warm breath on my collar distracts me. A flash of lightning passes and I forget to shudder. “It’s done, Heero. I’ve been all round the place and we’re secure. The enemy is long gone. The data’s collected.”
“But I didn’t do–“
“I did it. For us both. We did it, OK? You and me. The team. That’s all that matters.”
The thunder rocks the sky again, the lightning following with its spear of fierce light. But this time I don’t see the jagged split across the sky or hear the angry crack of thunder. I just see you and your face lit up by it, your eyes wide and your teeth white beneath a grin.
For the first time in a long while, I smile back.