Clio Ash sniffled as she pulled the blanket tighter around her shoulders. Nights like these were the worst. As she stared out at the cold blackness of space, she had nothing but memories to occupy her mind. Thoughts, half formed plans between her and Mike Corbett, painful memories.
She could not sleep, and she did not want to stay awake. She was trapped and she hated that feeling the most. It was infinitely worse than the mind numbing grief. At least then she did not have to feel anything.
Angrily, Clio wiped the tears from her cheeks. She was a Lieutenant First Class in the GSA. She was not allowed tears.
Mike paused at the door. "How did she take it?" He asked Kai.
Kai sighed a bit. "She took it really hard. I've never seen her so driven, or so aloof. Kendrix and I tried to talk to her, but she didn't want to talk. She kept saying that she was fine."
Mike nodded. "She's like that. Clio's always been like that." He gave Kai a hesitant glance. "I guess I should get this over with. The longer I put this off, the more pissed she'll be."
"Go away." Clio muttered as the door chime rang. She did not want company; she just wanted to be alone. Clio closed her eyes and leaned against the plasti-steel window.
"I'm not going away, Clio. Not again."
Clio froze; she knew that voice. She started to shake. This was not the first time that his voice had haunted her at night. She felt a pair of warm hands settle on her shoulders before sliding around to hug her from behind.
Clio swung around in Mike's arm and stared at him. Tears slipped down her cheeks, as she brought a shaky hand up to his face. "M-mike? But they told me you were dead. Th-that you fell down a cliff."
Mike bit his lip. He had to say this right. He knew Clio; when the shock was over she would want answers. Answers he was not sure he could give her. "I...it's a long story."
"But it's you? I'm not dreaming this?" She asked, her voice shaky with tears.
Mike felt his heart break at her words. He never meant to do this to her. Gently he led her over to the couch. "It's me, little cabbage."
Clio flung herself into his arms, not caring that she was acting like a love sick teenager. She felt Mike's arms tighten around her as she sobbed as she had not since this entire nightmare began.
"But how? How did you get back on Terra Venture?" Clio asked, wiping her eyes as the emotional storm slowed. Her arms were still around Mike's waist, but he did not seem to mind. His own arms were still around her and she was resting her head on his chest.
"I...Clio there are some things I'm not going to be able to tell you. Some I don't know, and others...you're going to have to trust me, Cabbage."
Clio giggled through her tears. Mike was the only one that ever got away with calling her Cabbage. It had stemmed from a discussion of terms of endearment in different languages. When she had told him that the French called each other mon petit chou (my little cabbage), he had insisted on calling her Cabbage.
"It's classified." She said quietly. It was the one part of their relationship that was hard. Mike was technically her commanding officer, although both of them reported directly to Commander Stanton. There were a lot of things that Mike had access to that she did not.
"Something like that." Mike hedged.
"Then all that matters is that you're back." Clio told him softly, as she kissed him.
Mike relaxed as he deepened the kiss. He had missed her so much in the months that he had been alive but not quite. It was the best way he could think of it. It was the only way he could think about it. Alive, but unable to do anything to stop Magna Defender from his blind revenge.
"I missed you." Clio whispered when they came up for air.
"I missed you, too." Mike breathed into her ear. He wanted to remember what she felt like in his arms. He wanted her in his arms forever, but he knew she was not ready for that. He would not ask her now, not when he just came back.
"I heard you took it pretty hard." He told her gently, feeling her tense in his arms.
"Who told you that?" Clio demanded. She did not want to talk about this now. She did not want him to know exactly what kind of power he had over her.
"Kai and Kendrix. They told me that you buried yourself in work; that you wouldn't talk to anyone about us. You even brushed off my little brother when he came to talk to you." He smiled to take the sting away. "I'll bet you haven't been sleeping or eating much either, right?"
Clio buried her face in his chest. She did not want him to know. She had promised him that she would stop abusing her body like that. "I just wanted to be alone. Food just wasn't appetizing. I couldn't sleep; every time I did I dreamt about you. Do you know how much it hurt waking up and remembering that you're dead? I hated it. It felt like my heart was being ripped out all over again. It was easier not sleeping, waiting until I was too exhausted to dream." She stared at him. "If this is a dream, I don't ever want to wake up."
He stared down at the young woman he had grown up with. The woman he had entered the GSA with and woman he wanted to build a new world with. "I'm not a dream, Clio. I never meant to hurt you. I...I wish I could have come back sooner, but...it was beyond my control. I don't plan on leaving ever again."
Clio nodded, sniffling. "I hope so."