It’s an order.
Not an idea or a suggestion or a statement, but an order. He can’t refuse an order from a superior no matter how much rage is heating his arteries and veins. It doesn’t matter if he can’t comprehend how no one seems to realize what a monumentally stupid idea this is. He’s not sure whether it was Pentecost that came up with the idea or Tendo or one of the Drift scientists, but there is no way this shit is ever going to work. Who the hell in their right mind thinks that two idiots that were trying to beat the ever living shit out of each other a few days ago were going to be able to Drift together?
Not to mention that Rah-leigh had just rather spectacularly failed to drift with Mako, who was clearly a better match as she was not fighting with him at every goddamn turn. This is never going to work even a small, tiny, miniscule of a bit. Orders are orders though and that’s how Chuck finds himself being strapped in Gipsy Danger’s rigging two hours later for a Drift test with Raleigh-Fucking-Becket. Chuck’s going to be surprised if they manage to not bring the whole Shatterdome down with them as they fight whatever connection they’re trying to form.
They won’t chase any rabbits because they’ll be too busy running from each other.
And why the fuck couldn’t they have done this in Stiker Eureka? In theory it’s a Jaeger and Chuck should be able to pilot it, but it just feels so fucking wrong. This isn’t Stiker. This isn’t his side. This isn’t his space. This is Raleigh’s space. Yancy Becket’s space. Gipsy feels like she’s filled with ghosts and Raleigh looks like he’s seen a few. Chuck wants to break open this Conn and claw his way out. He doesn’t need any more ghosts, he already has his mother’s haunting him. He already has the shadow of who his father was. He doesn’t want to be here. He doesn’t want this. This is wrong.
He hears Tendo asking warm up questions. He hears Raleigh answering him quietly. Subdued. Haunted. Chuck looks at Raleigh, really looks at him. He looks thoroughly exhausted. The circles are deep purple wells around his eyes. He’s already done this once today. He’s already shared his broken mind and broken thoughts with a stranger. And he looks ruined with the very idea of doing it again. Raleigh’s looks up. Their eyes meet. There is just as much panic in them as there is in Chuck’s. There’s just as much fear. There’s just as much wrong. This is an incredibly bad idea. They shouldn’t even try.
They’re going to implode.
It’s pure, unadulterated chaos.
A memory, a thought, an impression, a sound, a belief, affection, all go rushing by in a swirl of kaleidoscoping colors.
He’s holding Max for the first time and his mother smiles at them both. She kisses his temple. His dad is hugging him and telling him he’s proud of the A Chuck got on his first math test of second grade. He’s lost his parents in the grocery store. He’s throwing a tennis ball to Max. Learning to surf. Reading. Hiking. Jumping. It all tears away as a Kaiju rears up outside his window and suddenly half his house is gone and he’s screaming for his mother. She never comes. His dad does two days later, finds him sitting at the edge of their house staring off into the distance waiting for his mom.
He hasn’t moved in two days.
Red brown mixes with sulfur and dark green to create a foul pollution that has him fighting and constantly competing with the only family he has left. The only family that wasn’t there for him. That didn’t save him. That didn’t fight for him. That still doesn’t now. His dad. Sure he goes with his dad, he can’t very well sit in his destroyed childhood home and wait for a dead woman to come back. So it’s military base to military base to Shatterdome to Shatterdome to Jaeger pilot school. He pushes, he falls, he struggles back up. He’s gotta make his dad notice him. He can’t keep getting ignored. The top scores in his class get him a nod. Their first drift get him a nod. His anger boils over into a frothy toxin of resentment.
And then he’s watching Jaz dart by openly laughing at Yancy chasing after her to gain back his Ipod. They’re all jumping into a pile of gold red leaves. He gets the taste of warm apple pie, of lazy Sunday mornings on a rundown rug in front of a fire, of sunlight streaming into the room as their mother reads Harry Potter out loud to their wide-eyed excitement, and of snow and ice. Raleigh kisses his sister on her red-tipped nose and she grins up at him.
It snaps with a midnight blue to a woman lying in bed whispering to Yancy to be strong. To take care of them. It’s up to him. He’s terrified, completely and utterly. He’s only fifteen, how the hell is he supposed to take care of two younger siblings? To a man coming home late smelling heavily of liquor. Of empty stomachs and smarting bruises. The world tilts into joyful reds, yellows, and gold’s when Yancy turns eighteen. He wins custody. He’s got his brother and sister. He hugs them like they’re going to disappear back into the foster system they had to wait in while he fought their father for custody.
Everything whiplashes with the colors of sea and ice and in seconds he’s suddenly in a Conn Pod and his entire being is ripped, shredded, destroyed from the inside out. Part of himself, part of his mind, is being torn away. It’s stealing things, memories and honey warm days and love. It’s leaving other things that don’t belong to him. Everything is black now with deep, dark red bleeding through and he can’t see through it, can’t see a way out. He’s stuck in a never ending feedback loop of death and pain and grief and tiredness. He’s tired. He’s so, so tired. Something’s missing. He can’t see it through the black. He can’t find it. He’ll never be able to again there’s too much black.
But there’s white.
There’s white there.
It’s calling to him.
“Chuck, you have to come back,” it whispers, “Chuck.”
Affection in the form dark pink blossoms through in intricate patterns of images of hugs, kisses, and murmurs of darling. Of his dad kissing the top of his head and tucking him in the day before he has to go back to base, of a brother clinging tightly to his siblings because he can’t bear to be separated from his older brother and little sister again, of Max snuggling into his chest. The images keep rushing by in a whirl until he turns and Raleigh’s walking up to him. The endless memories stop. Raleigh stops. He stops in front of Chuck. He reaches out for Chuck’s hand, but stops just shy of grabbing it.
“Come home with me,” he says.
Chuck takes his hand.
The world goes a pure, brilliant white.
He’s eyes break open and he doesn’t have clue when he closed them. He can feel the tears slipping and sliding their path down his cheeks. He can feel the endless waves of comfort Raleigh is sending his way. He can feel Raleigh’s eyes focused on him. He turns his head to meet them. He can hear Tendo announce that the Drift is strong, very strong, and holding. He doesn’t register Pentecost’s congratulation or his order to cut the Drift. Its background noise compared to the voice in his head humming tenderness and warmth. Compared to the hand that’s enfolded so tightly in his he swears he can feel it through his suit.
But then it goes black.
Chuck gasps. He’s so incredibly disorientated. He’s never been like this before. He honestly can’t tell which way is up and which is down because they both seem to be the same thing at the moment. It’s Raleigh that sets them right. They’re still drifting. He’s still there. Chuck latches on something fierce and then frantically starts undoing the mechanisms that hold him in place. Raleigh follows suit and gets out of the rigging first. He tears his helmet off, throws it to the side, and then makes sure to hit the comm off button before going to help Chuck wriggle out of his rigging.
As soon as he’s clear Chuck buries himself in Raleigh’s arms. There’s cold metal fingers making themselves home in his hair. A soft kiss gets pressed to his temple. He clings a little bit more and hides his face in as much of Raleigh’s neck that’s exposed. Raleigh is thrumming under his skin. The whispers in his mind echo the ones being poured into his ears. Promises of comfort and heart and home. They’re going to do this together. They’re going to be amazing. They’re so strong. They’re reminds him of something. He cuts into the assurances,
“Some of those memories were Yancy’s.”
Chuck swears that he can hear the emotion in his head out loud in the silence following that statement. Raleigh’s tensed up. His grip gone almost painful on Chuck’s hair. Chuck unearths himself from the other man’s neck to look him in the eye. It’s okay, he broadcasts, Not going to run away. In a rush the tenseness is replaced with exhaustion and weariness. Raleigh rests his forehead softly against Chuck’s, his thumb rubbing small circles into the side of Chuck’s neck in a calming gesture. Chuck can’t help, but think that it’s more for Raleigh than for Chuck. Raleigh snorts at the thought.
“When Yancy,” sharp inhale, shaky exhale, “When Yancy…died, “deep breathe, closed eyes, “Some things got taken and some got put in. I see his memories all the time.”
Chuck keeps his gaze steady. Nuzzles his nose against Raleigh’s like Jaz did when they were kids. Eskimo kisses she called them. They made young Raleigh soar with happiness. Made him feel like he could do anything.
They still do.
“The insomnia is because I still Ghost Drift with him,” the purple-blue bruising around Raleigh’s eyes has never stood out more. The crack in his voice has never made him seem more human,
“He’s still there. Still alive to me.”
Chuck nuzzles his nose again. The smile he gets in return in weak, watery, basically it sucks, but it’s a smile. He’ll take it. Raleigh outrights laughs and Chuck grins. Raleigh’s responding grin gets lost in his words,
“Hey. It’s not so bad. You and me,” Chuck rolls his eyes in the exaggerated motion that he possibly can, “Two assholes with abandonment issues.”
“Hey! Who’re you calling an asshole? I am –“
He would have said more, but he’s a little preoccupied with the kiss Raleigh decided to shut him up with. Not that that’s going to work. Chuck is not going to be distracted by this underhanded tactic. Raleigh bites his lower lip. Ok, he might get somewhat distracted.
Or a lot distracted.
“Jesus Christ guys! We’ve been calling you on the comms for over twenty minutes. What the hell-“ which is how Tendo ends up interrupting them. They all stare at each other for what feels like a full minute before Tendo turns tail and walks away muttering about crazy fucking pilots. They grin at each other before Raleigh dives back in for another kiss that Tendo decides to interrupt again (and Chuck is contemplating where to hide the body. Raleigh chimes in to remind him that Gottlieb would not appreciate a dead body in his lab even if Newt might),
“Stop doing indecent things. The techs are coming to get you out of your gear.”
“Not indecent Tendo,” Raleigh’s disgruntled mutter doesn’t do much, but make Tendo glare at him. Chuck hears his father’s voice drift down the walkway asking what indecent things. Alarm blooms a deep rich brown and he can’t help, but laugh at the stricken look on Raleigh’s face. It’s like he just released that Chuck has a father, an overprotective one. He can’t stop laughing and Raleigh’s retaliation is to kiss him silent again.
That shouldn’t work as well as it does.
Startles the shit out the techs though, which has him laughing all over again.
Their grins are a mile wide and matching. The second they’re both out of their gear Raleigh’s got a hand reaching for a Chuck. He takes it and squeezes tight. The bright pink is back and sweeping broad strokes over his consciousness. Chuck can’t help, but think that he was both right and wrong. They did implode. They created an incredibly volatile storm that swept them both away, but they managed to ride it out. To calm it. He didn’t expect that. He didn’t expect them to work. That’s where he was wrong. They do so much more than work, they fit.
He’s never been so glad to have been wrong.