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You took a fall, then you landed soft.

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“So Ice, how exactly is this supposed to work?”

It was a follow up from the locker room incident. Or, what Maverick decided to call Iceman’s ‘actual attempt at consoling him’- whatever he’d left unsaid whilst Maverick forced himself not to turn around and punch him. He’d clung to his locker tight, his career was falling apart all around him.

Maybe a little time to get out of his head was worth it.

That and, Iceman had again caught him. There had been tears in his eyes the second time. Tears Maverick couldn’t deny nor had Iceman, thankfully, sneered at him for.

They’d spent a couple of hours together, in the midst a leisurely midnight stroll on the beach after Maverick had guided Iceman to the space on the landing strip. His own, private and secluded space.

“It’s easy.” Iceman began, turning to Maverick’s silhouette as moonlight beat down upon them. “Since you’re always lacking about twenty I.Q points, at least when I’m around, I’ll run it over a couple of times. Let you get a feel for the game.”

“Game?” Maverick asked, incredulous.

“Competition.” Iceman confirmed, with a wink.

The two pilots continued to roam on the beach, until Maverick decided he’d found his spot and sat down. Iceman just watched the tide wash over Maverick’s bare feet, the water staining his jeans even though he had rolled them up.

“Simply put, one person has to say something about themselves and the other decides whether or not it’s true.” He saw Maverick’s brow furrow, his head cocked to one side. “You say the truth. You don’t think about it. Actually, this sorta shit should be right up your street since it’s a well known fact that you don’t think.”

Maverick cast his gaze out to sea. To the moon, it’s reflection on the smooth, bobbing surface of the water.

“Damn it Mav, you might actually win this. When the other person accepts that what you said is true, you take off an item of clothing.”

“What in the- Kazansky. Why in the hell would I- wait. Take something off of me, or my opponent?”

“That’s up to you. We’ll play the Navy version: don’t think, don’t be ashamed. You’ve seen it all before. Oh and, don’t touch the dog tags.” A long, dexterous and accusing finger was pointed at Maverick.

He considered. Iceman took that weary look on his face as not exactly a no, so he pressed on.

“Shit, Maverick. I know you’re hurting but I- you need this. Someone to talk too, someone to take your mind of off…” Iceman’s voice trailed off as he crouched down beside him.

Iceman reached his hand out slightly, cautiously, to the back of Maverick’s head. Maverick wasn’t looking at him so his movement went unnoticed, he quickly drew back.

“If it helps, I’ll go first.” He continues in his rich silken voice, he grinned slightly as Maverick finally turned to him. The niceties were then forgotten: “You’re not going to say anything Mitchell, unless it’s forced out of you. Unless it’s a challenge.”

Maverick said nothing; his mouth opened and closed a couple of times in silent protest. Iceman just raised his eyebrows and slowly peeled his bomber jacket off, setting it down next to Maverick. The smug look told Maverick, he was right. Maverick’s eyes ran over the patches, the familiar and the alien ones: the F-14 patch, the squadron patch...

“Now it’s your turn. Tell me the truth Maverick, about what you’re feeling and what you want to happen.”

Maverick remained quiet. There were too many thoughts, emotions. General bad stuff. Not enough for him to fight Iceman here with his distraction.

After a beat Iceman added “You do want to win, don’t you Mav-erick?” In that special tone of his, the extra emphasis to the end of the callsign was sharp, taunting. Inviting, persuasive.

“...I want to win.” His voice was small, almost a whisper.

“What?” Iceman demanded.

He took hold of Maverick’s hand as Maverick got himself to his feet. They stood face to well, Iceman’s shoulders.

“Say it again, Mav.” Iceman was softer this time.

“I want to win.” Maverick watched with interest as Iceman slipped his own beaten bomber jacket from him, as it dropped carelessly into the sand.

“Well, you’re not going too.” Iceman wrapped his large hands around Maverick’s, guiding his movements to wrap them around the hem of Iceman’s shirt. Iceman flung it to his feet.

“You’re three points head.” It was blunt but true so Maverick fumbled with his belt.

“You’re a hell of an instinctive pilot. Just too much of a shit head to realise you’re putting yourself in danger.” Iceman’s hands clutched at Maverick’s chest, yanking off his white t-shirt.

“I like the danger.”

“Precisely.” Iceman quipped, as he unbuckled his own belt. “You missed one, take something off.”

Maverick’s hands fell to his jeans, undoing the button. Undoing the zip, slowly. His eyes locked on Iceman, taunting him. Full of cockiness, just where Iceman wanted him.

Iceman licked his lips, as his arm shot forward batting Maverick’s own hands out of his way. He snatched Maverick’s jeans from him.

“Goose. Goose’s death wasn’t your fault.” Maverick’s head snapped up, like a double take.

“The jet wash wasn’t your fault. You lost control, flew into it. You know you couldn’t reach the ejection handle. You know about the canopy. So stop blaming yourself.” Iceman’s voice was non-negotiable; not full or sympathy or blame.

Silence.

“Is that the truth? Am I lying to you, Maverick?”

Their eyes met, Maverick’s were starting to water and he disengaged, finding something on the ground suddenly very intriguing.

“No. No I’m not.” Iceman finished it for him in a self- righteous tone, tugging down his own jeans. He added them to the pile of abandoned clothing. “Neither is the brass.”

Iceman’s hands were gesturing wildly to Maverick’s waist. He watched Maverick glance down at himself, he smirked slightly when a quiet ‘shit’ dropped from Maverick’s lips.

“Maverick.” He egged him on. “Goose’s death was a tragedy and perhaps, it could’ve been avoided. But it happened. It doesn’t make you any less of a pilot, or any less of a man for beating yourself up over this. It’ll take time. And that’s okay.”

That was it, Maverick let the tears fall and Iceman stood still. He kept his breathing controlled, listening to how Maverick’s breaths sped up as he cried out. Maverick launched himself forward; flung his arms around Iceman and just bawled.

“We all lose people. We’re all going to lose people.”

Iceman decided that he’d said enough. He’d let Maverick cry. Iceman had won the game after all, getting the emotions off of Mitchell’s chest was all he ever wanted. He knew he’d have to compete. Only Maverick’s own cockiness would let him breech this touchy subject, let Maverick have his guard down.

Maverick’s hands skirted over Iceman’s back, down to his waist. He fingered the elastic of his boxers and Iceman retreated, letting them fall.

“So the game isn’t over.” Iceman smiled, with all sincerity.

Through staggered breaths, Maverick ground out “Goose’s death...it wasn’t- it isn’t my fault.”

“You’ll fly again, Pete.”

Maverick hastily rubbed at his face, then his right hand clung to his briefs. With a swift motion, they dropped to the ground and he stepped out of them. He didn’t miss Iceman glance down to take in the sights before he fixed his gaze back on Maverick’s tear stained face.

“I’ll fly again, Tom.” After a moment, “Shit, there’s nothing more to take off. Now what.”

Iceman grinned, full of stupidly white teeth and promise of trouble. He lightly pushed Maverick backward into the sand.

“Whatever the hell, we want.”

Maverick held his gaze, meeting that dreamboat smile with a huge grin of his own.

“C’mon Ice. Who won?”

“Doesn’t matter Mav. It really doesn’t matter.”