Good lord, stop the presses and call the news media.... Kit has written
something... with judicious help from Jae ^.^ *glomps Jae*

Here is a little ficcy set a day or so after the events in Higashi parts 1
and 2 (posted 8/20/2000)  *That would be the 'Mikey blows up at Aisuru in
the mess' fic*. I have been meaning to write this for so long, but for some
reason, it just wouldn't happen... well, I finally got off my lazy
fluffy-tailed ass and wrote something.

This fic is also the precursor to Lady Aiyoku's Aisuru/Winter fic that
should be coming up shortly.. (right, Erin?)

Here, Winter returns from being off base during the cafeteria fiasco, and
meets Dana.

Ja, mina!
Kitsune

********************
You Can Never Go Home Again
8.3.01
Kitsune



For years, she'd heard that standard supply runs were boring. Well, there'd be no argument from her on that account. With the sheer number of recent recruits on the base, senior ensigns and other officers were pulling more of the support duty than usual, but that didn't bother her, it kept her busy. It refamiliarized her with the various types of non-military craft available on the base... craft that all certified pilots should know inside and out, backwards and forwards, and in their sleep. And she did.

  Now, a few hours out from Yggdrasil on an out-system supply run, icy pins settled all along Winter's spine, and she recognized the tingling of anxiety. It felt much like the unpleasant jolt she'd received yesterday, over a day from the system. Something prickled at the back of her brain, and a persistent buzzing plagued every moment. It wasn't an alarm or an annoyance, it was more like
there was something 'not right,' not wrong, particularly, but not right, either. It concerned her.

A sensor sweep of the base revealed nothing wrong, so that was one worry easily put aside; next came the psionic sweep of familiar souls.
  Duo, Heero, and Wufei were all at their expected places, no changes in their thought patterns or biological processes that suggested anything was wrong.
  A little more of a stretch found her reaching for Michael... only to come up against a rather dark cloud that was unusual to say the least. A frown twisted her dark brows and she pushed beyond it to the next comfortable soul she searched for.

  **Dana?** She didn't have to wait long for a reply, they'd always managed to slip into this easy rapport.

  **Winter. Okaerinasai.** Unlike Michael's foggy and lulling amber
presence, Jordana was the vibrant, beaming gold of childhood sunshine, her mental fingerprint warm and blindingly bright. **How far out are you?**

  **Approximately one hour now, I should be touching down at 18:30 hours.**

  **I'll meet you there, and Winter... shield yourself.** Winter sent a
  wordless reply, not asking questions, yet still curious. Knowing Dana
would not make such recommendations lightly, she shut herself away and withdrew tightly into her consciousness.

  Her mind refused to settle into its normal calm as thoughts and concerns raced at top speed, each vying for center stage and each a more unpleasant prospect than the last. With a practiced patience, Winter levelled off her flight plan and headed for the base, trying to ignore the little voices of curiosity in her head.

  **********

  When she set the ship down in the hangar bay, she could see Jordana
standing at the edge of the safety zone, bangs fluttering in her eyes from the craft's engines, her dark uniform outlining her against the bright metal of the the walls.

  A few moments later, Winter had handed off the supply checklist to a
waiting clerk, filled out her flight and mission logs for the hangar staff, and met Jordana at the bottom of the stair. Her friend's gray-violet eyes reflected a weariness she'd not seen in a long time, increasing the level of her concern.

  "What is it? Has something happened to Khaiya?" Winter had Felt him long before landing, as she had with Jordana, and nothing seemed wrong around him. She'd assumed he was well, as jittery as usual, and left his presence with a muted brush of her psyche. A small swell of relief flooded her chest as Jordana shook her head. The three were close, and she'd hate to think she'd been off the base if something *had* happened.

  It took her less than two seconds to register the sideways looks she and Jordana were receiving, not to mention hear the whispered snatches of disturbing threads of conversation.

  ~He attacked her, right there in the cafeteria.~
  ~They're said to be pretty close... I don't see how anyone can get close to him, he's too strange.~
  ~She's strange, too, you know... all that freaky shit they do. I heard she picked Ensign Tatakai up and tossed him aside like a ragdoll~
  ~I heard she blew up the zero-g training room~
  ~He took off, man... dunno, just disappeared~
  ~Yeah, they say she's doing all right, just shaken up by it... surprised mostly, I guess~
  ~Guess so, she's really nice and a total change from the usual lot around here... hope she's ok~
  ~They're just freaks, the lot of them... shouldn't be allowed out with the rest of us~

  The snippets were completely disjointed, but with the ability to read
minds, it wasn't difficult to pick up the subconscious imagery that went along. With crystal clarity, Winter saw snapshots of Michael, herself, and Ensign Aisuru, whom she'd first met during Basic. Nothing came with the images to tie them together... but perhaps....

  "Dana. What is going on? There are strange undercurrents all over the
base."

  Jordana sighed heavily and blinked her long-lashed eyes. "I know, I can feel it practically oozing over my skin. Come on, let's go someplace less... exposed." Winter nodded and followed, needing no other confirmation from her fellow officer.


  When the two reached Winter's quarters, they noticed the lack of motion in the other suite. Vasya was not in his room. Jordana perched on the end of the bunk, trying to keep up a pretence of normalcy by smoothing out non-existant wrinkles in Winter's coverlet. The coverlet that she often joked was so regulation the Winter must have bounced a quarter off of it every morning before she left. The younger officer allowedher the moments needed to gather her thoughts... obviously this was not going to be a pleasant discussion, particularly if it had Jordana this fidgety. Jordana did not fidget.

  All around and beneath everything she picked up from her friend and the rest of the base, was a pervading cloud of mangled tension and anger, all directed inward, and it had the distinct amber flavor of a soul she Felt as comfortably as her own. ~Michael... ~

  Winter's violet eyes settled on her companion as she finished putting away her clothing and duffle, also taking a seat on the edge of her bed. Jordana pushed a stray lock of long, red hair behind her ear and cleared her throat, not stalling, merely trying to find a way to explain the current situation to Winter, who knew little of the ugly practice of prejudice in the real world. Having lived her entire early life in a laboratory before being taken directly in by Duo and the Black Lions, Winter was actually rather sheltered on a social level.

Jordana sighed, keeping her gaze away, not able to look into Winter's large eyes just yet. She drew her knees up to her chest and wrapped her arms around them, resting her chin. "Khaiya and I were hoping things would be better before you returned home." She bore none of the usual vibrancy that Winter associated with her friend, neither in her voice, nor her aura.

  The younger girl cocked her head at a shallow angle, something she often did when confused. "I do not understand," she said. "There is more tension on the base now than ever. A great deal of it is directed at you and your brother, a little less at me, but the majority is directed at Michael."
Her violet eyes narrowed to this slits, the temperature in the room dropping a few degrees at her expression. "I Felt something strange yesterday, and Michael Felt strange when I returned. Has something happened to him?"

  She could feel Winter's eyes on her and nodded. "Micha left, Winter." A soft sigh slipped through her lips and her shoulders slumped, Jordana's aura darkening a fraction. "He became angry at one of the new recruits and not only threatened her," she raised a hand to forestall Winter's interruption, "no, she wasn't hurt, but he also told everyone in the cafeteria exactly what he was... or wasn't, I should say. He hasn't come home yet. I don't think he wants to be found." Jordana uncurled from her tight, protective ball, eyes still downcast.

  Winter nodded, not really responding to anything that Jordana had said in particular, but confirming her own thoughts. "That would explain the mottled darkness I Felt around him, and the distance between us all. He is withdrawing in his strong shields, hastily constructed as they are. He is still struggling with this perception he has of himself as a monster." Winter's voice was soft, rolling, and slightly deeper than normal, the most obvious sign of emotional distress for her.

  "I knew I should have gone after him! I know you would have if you'd been here. Khaiya didn't think it was a good idea at the time... Micha should be here with US now, not... alone." Jordana's voice caught as she shook her head, no doubt blaming some part of herself for the current situation.

  Winter sighed softly. "I would have, however, judging from his current condition, I do not know if I would have done more harm than good. There are times when Michael's darkness is unknown to me, and in those times, I am certain that I serve as nothing more than a reminder of things he would rather forget."

  Jordana stretched out, grasping one of Winter's small, pale hands in her own. "I don't get that feeling from him, not about you. I won't pretend to see inside of him as clearly as you do, but I think he views you as his solace... not as a point of pain."

  Long, dark, unbound hair slithered over Winter's shoulder as she turned large eyes to her friend. Something in her friend's words touched upon a growing feeling within her, something shadowed and unformed, but taking shape ever so slowly... something she lacked the words and experience to explain or describe. Jordana smiled ever so slightly, her lips curling and softening her face as her eyes twinkled with a brighter light than had
been present over the last few days.

  "Dana?" Winter blinked, her face expressing not quite concern, but
something close at the change in her companion's expression. "What is it?" She received only a small shake of the head and a slightly larger smile in return before her friend answered.

  "Nothing Winter, but if you ever need to ask me anything, I'm here for you."
  Recalling the topic of their original discussion, the redhead's smile
turned wan. "Anyway, since the incident in the cafeteria half the base seems to have decided that we are all suspect, and I suppose they are remembering when the rumors of Michael's destruction of the gym, and the reports of your blowing up the zero-gee lab, and Khaiya's behavior in the hangar."

  With a somewhat wry smile, Winter retorted, "I suppose it is a good thing that they were not around when I obliterated the hangar bay on my first day here, isn't it... I understand the suspicions of the new recruits, but many of the older personnel have known of us for years, and yet there is just as much animosity from them, if not more."

  "Fear makes people stupid, Winter. Even I can't give you a rational
  explanation for bigotry." Dana's voice was not bitter, but certainly
harder than her usually gentle exterior portrayed.

  "There is little about human behavior that is rational."

  "You're right there," Dana replied. With a huff, she fell back onto
Winter's bed, her head sinking into the soft pillow. "I'm worried things could get out of hand, though..." the unspoken 'and all too quickly' hung in the air.

  Winter turned again, sweeping a lock of hair behind her ear. "You are
  referring to the prejudice on the base, or Michael's inner struggle? Both, perhaps?"

  "Inner struggles tend to resolve themselves, eventually... and I don't doubt that Micha is strong enough to get over his, expecially with the three of us willing to help, but the distrust that all this has caused on the base... honestly, I am more concerned about that." Jordana's voice had softened in her concern. She'd had these thoughts for a few days now, but the actual voicing of them sent a shiver through her spine. What was happening to her home?

  "Michael is strong, I only fear that we are not enough to help him this time. However, you are right to be concerned regarding the distrust on the base. It is affecting us all, and for the worse."

  Dana nodded, sharply, coming back to the present. "You are right, he will have to find his own strength first, but if things go nuts while he's finding it... I think we're all in trouble, and not simply from the dangers of backlash." Another, smaller shudder caused the ensign to curl up a little tighter on her friend's bed.

  "What would you suggest? Do we take this matter to the commanders? Would that not deepen the divide amongst the staff and recruits?" Jordana didn't answer immediately, prompting Winter to watch her friend through the lattice of her straggling bangs and thick lashes.

  "I honestly don't know, I haven't really had time to consider a best
  response yet... so much has been happening," she sighed.

  Winter moved to lay on her side, facing Jordana, her head resting on her propped elbow. She studied the weary look in her friend's eyes and frowned slightly. "I know you have been under stress, Dana, I Felt it hours before I arrived. How are you holding up?"

  A soft smile greeted her as her friend's eyes turned to look at her,
  crinkling slightly at the corners, but falling short of her usual smiles.
  "I'm... managing... but I think I need some space." She laughed quietly, "I'm thinking of following Micha's lead and running away for a while."

  The dark-haired ensign focused her eyes on her coverlet, hiding her gaze from the older girl. "I did not mean to invade your space or personal time, Dana, please forgive the intrusion." A quick glance at the door connecting her suite to her roommate's confirmed her earlier thoughts. "Vasya is not likely to return before dinner, and it is nearly time for my workout. You may rest here, if you like."

  Dana sat up quickly, surprise on her face and evident in the widening of her eyes. "What would ever make you think you are invading my personal space?"
  She sat up and enfolded the smaller girl in a gentle hug. "I'm so happy that you are home. I just wish you were returning to a happier one." After a few moments, Dana released her embrace, noting that Winter's arms had come up to hold her for a few moments. Such a change from when they'd first met all those years ago. *

  "You are uncomfortable. I know it is not me, but rather the situation, and lack of resolution or even opportunity to act. Regardless, this is home in whatever condition it is in. By the way," she turned a wry glance to Jordana, "Marco deserved to be taken down a peg or two for his prejudices, and as for his comments about Michael, he is fortunate that you have more restraint than I do."

  Dana laughed, a true smile blossoming over her face and transforming her features into the cheerful , vibrant person she'd known for so many years. "He was lucky that Commander Maxwell's frowning visage looms so large in my mind!"

  Winter's soft response set her giggling again. "That, too."

  Winter rolled herself off the bed and began changing for her workout,
stripping out of her flightsuit and into her more practical black tanktop and sweatpants. Dana's breathing was slowing and Winter could feel her aura quieting and slipping behind that fuzzy comfort of sleep. She stepped to her closet and pulled the extra blanket from the top shelf, spreading it over her friend's slumbering form, she switched off the light and palmed the door shut behind her.

  As she walked down the hallway, a spare towel grabbed from her closet
slung over her shoulder, she cleared her mind of all the extraneous concerns that had plagued her as she and Dana had spoken, and save one last stretch out to Michael, she forced all other thoughts out and focused solely on her upcoming workout.

***********
OWARI
***********

* NOTE:
There will be a fic written in the future about how Khai, Dana, and Winter came to know each other as they do when Khai and Dana first came to the base.


*mrph*
It has been so incredibly long since I've written ANYTHING that my writing has suffered severely....

Kitsune