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Never give up

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Getting herself captured might have, technically, been the plan, but that was days ago - Umi was thoroughly fed up of this cell and this waiting, and that was before she even got started on the company.

She'd met the other pilot a couple of times before they were tossed in here with nothing but each other's company for entertainment; given they were tucked in the bowels of the moon base, there weren't windows even in the door. Given Griffin's pilot hadn't been trying to buy time for the doctors to do a refit of his mobile suit - though it was getting it now, Griffin was just as ill-prepared for action in space as Selece had been, which was how they'd ended up in this mess - he'd started off grouchy. The terrible rations and lack of distractions hadn't improved his mood any, either, and Umi was pretty certain he was nursing a couple of fractured ribs from the tentative way he was stretching five times a day.

They'd spent the first day with him sinking further and further into a pissed-off silence, ignoring her every attempt to get a conversation out of him, and sleeping (or pretending to sleep) more than half the time. (She was timing 'days' by the amount of times they got fed, which were probably not on a set routine in an attempt to throw off their circadian rhythms or some such. As she hadn't seen her sense of time in years and the other pilot hadn't stayed awake for three hours at a time, it wasn't doing much except probably mucking with her counting.) By the second day she started trying to pick a fight with him - anything to get a reaction.

It worked, but it was only satisfying while it was happening; they could snap at each other about life, the universe, and everything, but all that did was leave the two of them sulking on opposite sides of the room. Well, and tell her his name - "I'm Clef, not Griffin!" he'd snapped at her, and she'd very nearly stuck her tongue out at him.

Then Fuu visited - how she managed to persuade people to trust her every time Umi had no idea, but she knew the game well enough to go with it and roll with the punch to the stomach - hands automatically coming up to grasp the small device that was pressed into her stomach and conceal it from the watching guards, and she stayed folded over while they left, trying to catch her breath; Fuu hadn't pulled that blow, Umi wasn't acting.

The door clanged shut, the seal about it hissing closed, and she heard Clef come across the room. "Come on, sit down and have something to drink," he muttered, one hand landing on her arm. "I'm sorry, I know you thought 03 was your friend, but-"

Unfolding slowly, Umi grinned up at him, then laughed at the confused look on his face. "Fuu's a good friend, yes," she said, holding out her hand - and the small projector that Fuu had handed her. "Want to share her present with me?"

They spent hours lying on their backs on the floor, staring up at the blueprints as they took turns projecting them onto the ceiling; Umi had the feeling Clef was memorising Griffin's just as she was writing Selece's new design onto her brain, permanently enough she should be able to keep doing her own repair - and in enough detail she should be able to finish it off, if they ran out of time and had to get out of here before their suits were actually finished. Knowing the doctors, they would make sure the things were at least functional enough to move before they started work on the fun stuff.

That possibility got a lot closer when the faint background noise of the air-handling system suddenly cut out.

Umi's head jolted up, and she looked at the vents in time to see the seals come down over them, turning the whole room into one air-tight lock. "They've decided they don't need us, then," she said, voice shaking. After all this time, to die of slow suffocation locked in a box- her hand tightened on the projector.

Clef's hand on her shoulder made her flinch, badly, but she looked at him - and the steadiness of his hand helped ground her. "We're not done yet," he said, firmly. "If we stay pretty still, we should have at least enough air for another twenty-four hours, maybe more. A lot can happen in that time - and we're not alone in this fight." He took the projector from her hand, and turned it on again, pointing it at the wall and flashing up the new image of Selece reborn.

Umi took a deep breath, then felt guilty for having done so. "We don't know what's happening out there. The doctors could be dead-"

"Or your friend Fuu could be in the process of taking over the whole base," Clef pointed out. "We don't know. All we can do is prepare for whatever happens next - but I'm not giving up hope." He raised an eyebrow at her. "I didn't think you were one to give up, either."

"Oh - shut up," she muttered, and flopped back down beside him - closer, this time, near enough that she could faintly feel the warmth of his presence against her side, and watched intently as he went back to flicking through the images, one after another.

There were all sorts of things she'd never had a chance to do, not yet - and over the next achingly indeterminable hours the impulse to ask if he was interested in any of them came and went like an itch she couldn't scratch, but he was right. She wasn't going to let herself give up, and that meant lying still, keeping her heart rate steady, and memorising those blueprints as best she could.

If she reached out after the first ten minutes, and their fingers ended up tangled together between them for the whole time, well. Neither of them needed to mention it.

Not even when they were still holding on when the door finally, finally slid open, and set them free.