Terra Atmosia was bustling with life more than ever. Sounds of metal clanging, voices crying out and engine testing filled the air. Everywhere you looked you could see humans, ocasionally merbs and wallops, blizzarians and scientists from Terra Bogaton preparing for the oncoming battle with Master Cyclonis.
The most important battle in the history of Atmos.
They didn't have much time until sundown and the tension was noticable in the air. Everyone was busy and as they gazed upon the sky, darkened and filled with smoke and ash, they knew that Cyclonia must fall.
And it must happen today.
They knew they were outnumbered. Outpowered. They didn't have the necessery resources, the poeple or the equipment.
But they had hope.
„Foolish, if you ask me."
The merb muttered to himself as he glared at the... thing that Aerrow had managed to get from the Nightcrawler (or Black Hoodie Guy, as Finn called him). The crystal glowed faintly, it's fuchsia colour deceptively soothing. Oh, but it didn't fool Stork, no sir! He knew what was lurking underneath the surface. The ghostly snake-like creature with fangs that jumped out whenever it could and tried to bite your fingers off. Or parts of neck, as the pilot suspected.
The merb sighed and repostioned his goggles, preparing to poke the ...thing again. He raised his metal rod and slowly, as not to rouse the creature, brought it closer and closer to the crystal surface, almost...
„Watch'a doin', Stork?"
The rod fell from Stork's hand and hit the crystal, unleashing the wrath of the beast – it's battle cry was almost entirely drowned out by Stork's shriek of surprise. The 'snake', confused by the noise, quickly retreated to the confiness of it's crystal with a grumble of dissapproval.
„Oh, jeez, what's up with you?" the merb stared long and hard at the hand that was outstreched towards him, then followed it with his gaze up the joints to the face of his would-be-heart-attack-er.
„...Finn." he glared, yet his voice remained dangerously monotone. „How nice of you to join me." then he grabbed the hand and let himself be pulled up from the dusty hangar floor.
„Heh, sorry dude, but I'm only here to get my ride. Then I'll be outta your hair." he patted the merb on the back, making him stagger slightly.
Stork righted the chair that toppled over in all the commonition just moments before. He glanced over at the blond, who was busy checking his crystal converter. Outside of the hangar, people were running, busy with their tasks. Strips of laughter and conversations could be heard, but too jumbled and mashed together to make sense they created more of a background buzz. Stork stood there by his working table (more like supply crate, but he wasn't picky), resting his hands on the backrest of the chair, looking at the blond, wondering what to say, what he felt... he needed to say. A couple of times he opened his mouth but then closed it again, when he couldn't find the right words. He raised his gaze to the sharpshooter again and tightened his hold over the chair – his anchor and shield, for the moment.
„...I heard you're...leaving."
Finn paused in his skimmer adjustments. Slowly he turned towards the merb and put on a lazy smile that didn't look entirely convincing.
„Well, duh, Storky! I've got a solo mission!" he pumped out his chest and took his superhero stance.
He gripped the chair tighter.
„Well, you know, Harrier wanted to go at first, but then I thought hey, what's that guy can do, ya' know? So I volountered and then everyone was like noooo waaaay! And then Starling wanted to go too, but, hey, let's face it, we can't all go, so..."
„...You're... talking too much."
And the blond grinned at him, a big, goofy and confident grin that showed off all his teeth and made him look younger – so much younger – than he really was.
„Aww, you always say that, Storky!" he chuckled and turned to test the handles of the skimmer.
Silence descended upon them for a while, until Stork couldn't take it anymore.
„...What are you going to do?" Stork smoothed out his palms over the chair backrest. His gaze fell upon the alien crystal. He was supposed to be analyzing it, looking for any sign of weakness, not having awkward conversations with Finn.
'But I need it.' he thought, biting his lip. 'I need to make him stay.'
„Well, look for reinforcements, duh!" he adjusted the crystal pouch on the side of his bike.
And then the merb exploded, all his anxiety and anger poured out of him with every word.
„And look for them where? Almost all of Atmos is here, working! There are no more left!" the merb screamed at Finn's back, his knuckles pale from the force of his sudden angry grip on the chair. The blonde was putting his crosbow in the holder. „Do you hear me? There are none! No one will come, you'll just get yourself killed! What are you trying to prove, you idiot!"
„There are still people out there, Stork, you said so yourself. Almost all of Atmos is here. We need everyone."
„And who will come? Wallops? Oh, no, wait! They're on Cyclonia's side! Merbs? Sorry to break it to you, Finn, by my kinsmen are not keen on conflicts. Or maybe kids? Can't you see? There is no one left!"
More silence. Stork took a deep breath in an attempt to calm himself, before trying again.
„The Talons are patrolling the sky, making sure we won't have the chance to form an army. You going out there might blow the cover." he let go of the chair and took a few steps in Finn's direction.
„I don't care! The second you'll up there you'll get shot down, just like always!"
„Well, better me than Harrier. The guy still doesn't know how to crash land." he chuckled and fastened on his armor. „Luckily, I've had a lot of practice."
„Don't joke like that. Never about that."
That made the blonde pause, but still he didn't turn to face Stork. His shoulders slumped and he shook his head slowly.
„What would you have me do, Stork? Sit and do nothing?" his voice was calm and quiet, far from usual Finn.
„Stay here, do... do repairs! Prepare the skimmers, mind the weapons, I don't care! You can't go!" he shouted, hands balled into fists at his sides.
And then Finn turned to him, anger in those baby blues, lips pulled into a thin, angry line, brows furrowed and voice cold like ice it made Stork gasp and forget to breathe.
„I need to go, Stork."
All was quiet, then, save for the noise outside the Condor and their breathing. They looked at each other, blue eyes staring hard into exotic yellow until the merb bit his lower lip and with a shuddering sigh looked down and admitted what he long ago had in his mind and heart.
„...I need you to stay."
Had the merb been watching his companion, he would've witnessed the softening of his features and the most affectionate smile flashed his way. Finn sighed, the last of his anger dessolving and took a step closer, away from his bike and his mission, towards the merb my future my dreams my hope
The sharpshooter placed his arms over wiry green shoulders and squeezed softly, making the merb look up.
„I will stay. I will stay alive, and come back." he leaned closer and kissed startled green lips. „For you. Deal?" he whispered.
„...D-deal." came the whimper.
„Finn! You're still here?"
The merb and human jumped apart and turned to face Aerrow, who just came in with Piper for their crystal training. Both looked confused when they saw the two opposites so close to each other, beet red and obviously embarassed.
„I was just saying goodbye to Storky, Aerrow." he grinned and mounted the bike.
Piper rolled her eyes and glared at him.
„Couldn't you leave poor Stork alone? He's got a lot on his head right now, he doesn't need your pranks."
„Oh, sure, Piper! No more pranking Stork, gotcha!" he mock saluted her and then turned, amused, to the still silent merb. „I've got a couple of other things in store for him, anyways."
„...I might retaliate."
„Oh, I'm lookin' forward to it!" he winked at the merb, then kicked off the support and started the engine.
„Finn..." Aerrow sighed exasperated.
„I'm goin', I'm goin'! Sheesh." he revved. „Well, see ya'! I'll bring some friends for the party, so save
us some treats! Chika chow~!" and then he was off.
The three of Storm Hawks watched as their friend flew away. Piper sighed and shook her head slowly, smiling slightly.
„Things are going to be quite gloom without that airhead around."
Aerrow chuckled and glanced at her fondly.
„Yeah. Finn is... Finn." he looked up, where the retreating figure of their sharpshooter was now only a small dot on the sky. „Come on, Piper. Let's try this thing again."
They went over to the landing platform, leaving the merb alone to watch the dot disappear completely from sight. Then he looked around, at the busy figures, ships. He didn't see the numbers, resources or failure.
He might've seen hope.
'Strange,' he thought, 'it has the colour of his eyes...'