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Attitude Adjustment

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1987. Fightertown, USA

Maverick's watching the planes overhead, thinking about never flying in one of them again. Never feeling the jet engines rumble, never riding 45 tons of steel and fire into the blue.

Never losing again - never falling out of the sky, never bailing out, never looking at the body of a friend whose death is his fault.

It's a tradeoff he's willing to make.

The air shudders with heat and noise as a jet comes in for a landing. Maverick watches blankly as the pilot touches down nice and smooth on the tarmac. His mind is spinning in a circle of planes, Goose, loss, and the touch on his shoulder is the first he's aware that he has company.

He spins around fast. He just might be in the mood for a fight with any asshole stupid enough to bother him now; his heart beats faster at just the prospect of something he can do, something he can do right, even if that's just shove his fist into someone's face. And he almost smiles, because he's found the perfect target, or the perfect target has found him - Iceman, standing there with his arms folded, eyes narrowed, looking like he's smelled something rotten.

"Fuck off," Maverick says, and it feels damn good.

Iceman studies him. "You're quitting," he says, and it's not a question.

"Hey, you must be a genius. Since you saw me clearing out my locker and all." Maverick's leaning forward a little, getting his weight onto the balls of his feet, and Iceman's doing what he always does, looming, pushing into Maverick's personal space, staring a little too hard.

"Won't bring him back." Iceman says it like he read it in a manual somewhere, like this is another routine like saluting or polishing his shoes.

"Fuck off," Maverick repeats. Another jet comes in for a landing, revving up Maverick's pulse a little more. Neither of them looks up, or away from each other.

Iceman's moving in closer, unfolding his arms. "You lose people," he says. "You're a soldier, or you're supposed to be. Did you think you wouldn't lose people? Did you think you were immune? Oh, no, wait - you thought you were special." He's starting to sound like himself again - he's not reading from the manual anymore. He's starting to sound like the guy Maverick has always wanted to punch in the mouth.

And now he can. There's no reason not to - no Goose, no record, no risk of losing his flight status. Maverick's pulse pounds and his fist clenches and Iceman's still talking but he doesn't have to listen anymore. He plants his feet and throws his fists at Iceman. He wants to feel Iceman's body give under his fists, wants to taste sweat and blood, but Iceman won't fucking give him that. Instead, he sidesteps, grabs Maverick's arm, forces him around and up against the fence.

"You think that's going to help?" Iceman sounds genuinely curious, still distanced and disapproving. He's barely breathing faster. Fuck him, Maverick thinks. Anyone here thinks he's special, it's Iceman.

"I think beating your face in is the best way I can think of to spend my evening, and I don't have to worry about regs anymore. I'm going to be a civilian."

Iceman drops Maverick's arm and backs up. "You want to fight, we can fight." He raises one corner of his mouth. "But I'm not going to let you beat me just because your RIO died."

Maverick throttles up into the red zone. He steps in again, throws himself at Iceman, but Iceman isn't there. He's fast, faster than he should be, and a better fighter than Maverick expected - it's almost like all that posturing and superiority was based on something. That just pisses Maverick off more, and he swings again, with enough force that he stumbles when he misses, and Iceman laughs a little. Swing, miss. Swing, miss. Fighting Iceman is like fighting the fucking air.

"I went to USNA, you know." Iceman's voice is steady, like they're not even fighting, just maybe talking in the locker room after a workout. Maverick would like to know what would get this fucker's blood moving. "Did real well in the mandatory hand-to-hand classes. You went - where, again?"

Maverick goes in for another punch, and Iceman grabs him and pins him against the fence again. "You can't win here either, Maverick," Iceman says. "Or I guess I should call you Mitchell now. Since you're not a pilot anymore."

The words hit Maverick like Iceman hasn't yet: he's not going to be a pilot anymore. Not going to be Maverick anymore, when Maverick's the only thing he's ever wanted to be. He feels his body go slack, and Iceman lets him go.

They stand there for a long moment, Iceman watching, Maverick just staring blindly at nothing, trying to imagine the rest of his life as Pete Mitchell - just Pete fucking Mitchell. And then Iceman says, "You want a drink?"

Maverick does, but, "Not up for the officer's club right now." Not up for the memories of Goose or the stares or the fake sympathy from people who don't really give a shit.

"You're also not really an officer anymore, remember?" Fucker just has to keep driving that home. He shrugs. "I have something back in my quarters." It's the best thing Maverick's heard about Iceman in all the time he's known him.

Iceman has a fifth of Absolut in his room in flagrant disregard of the regs. After the second triple, Maverick almost likes him for it.

"Go easy on that," Iceman advises, but he's back to his reading-from-the-manual voice.

Maverick grins at him, the first time he's smiled since - since. "Hit me again," he says, waving his glass.

"I haven't hit you the first time," Iceman says. He smiles, just a little. Iceman is the kind of guy who's always holding back, always has to play it cool, the guy who never whoops over the coms or gets drunk on Friday nights. Maverick wants to see something real from Iceman, just once.

Maverick frowns into his third triple. "Maybe you should." That sounds wrong, though - too weak, not Maverick enough - and he rescues it with another grin. "Maybe you should try."

Iceman sips at his drink - the fucker sips his liquor, and doesn't that just say everything that needs to be said about him? He sighs. "Is that what you're looking for? You want someone to punish you?" He looks up, makes eye contact, and it's different from his usual superficial icy stares. This is intense, and real, and something about it jacks up Maverick's pulse, sharpens the sting of the alcohol in his throat.

"Not enough for you, fucking up your life," - ending Goose's life, Maverick hears. "You need someone else to fuck you up too?"

"You think you're the man to do it, Iceman?" Maverick laughs. Iceman could take him, actually, but that doesn't matter. Maverick's feeling restless, feeling like breaking something, and he doesn't much care if that something is in Iceman or himself. He holds the eye contact, ignores the heat in his belly - from the liquor, of course.

"I don't think you could take it." Iceman's voice is low and even, but he's leaning forward like he wants - wants something, and Maverick doesn't know what, but he'd like to find out.

"I can take anything you got."

Iceman laughs, steps forward, and Maverick's suddenly aware that Iceman is big, bigger than he is, that he fills up every room he walks into with his confidence and cool. But Maverick doesn't give him an inch of space. There's a moment when they're almost chest to chest, ready to move but not moving, and Maverick doesn't know why. It's time for someone to push, time to take a swing.

But Iceman's not taking the shot. He looks like he's waiting for something.

Maverick will always take the shot, if there's any chance in hell, if there's any way he can get it, and so he does, even though he knows he's well on his way to drunk and Iceman could take him down even sober.

Iceman catches Maverick's fist, uses the momentum to swing him around and push him up against the desk. Maverick's really pinned this time; he can't move, the desk is solid and unyielding the way the chain-link fence wasn't, and Iceman's not giving him an inch. "Still think you can win, Mitchell?" Iceman growls into his ear. He's pressing more and more of his body weight against Maverick, driving him down into the desk, catching him between two hard places.

Maverick pushes against Iceman, trying to buck him off, and Iceman laughs.

"Need someone to beat your guilt out of you, punish you for being alive, for making it out? Need some absolution for your bullshit hotshot attitude, so you don't have to live with yourself?" Iceman is talking low, right in Maverick's ear. Maverick can't get away no matter how he twists and shoves.

Maverick flushes and sweat prickles at the back of his neck. "Shut the fuck up," he grits. "You have no goddamn idea what I need."

"You think not?" And, holy fuck, that's Iceman's cock, he's hard, rubbing himself up against Maverick's ass.

"You going to punish me with your dick? You've been watching too much bad porn, man." Maverick knows he should be freaking the fuck out now. He doesn't want this. He doesn't. This isn't who he is. But his cock is hard against the edge of the desk.

"I'm not going to punish you at all," Iceman says, stilling. "I think maybe you're the one who's been watching the bad porn. You want a spanking, you'll have to get it from somewhere else."

"Then what the fuck," Maverick says, but he sounds breathless, even to himself, and he can't help pushing back into the solid heat of Iceman's body behind him.

"I think maybe you need this." Iceman rubs his cock against Maverick's ass, a slow, obscene push that makes Maverick want more, drags a whine from him that he hopes Iceman can't hear.

Iceman works his hand between Maverick and the desk, rubbing against the seam of his jeans, teasing his aching cock, offering touch and then taking it away again until all Maverick can think about is Iceman's hand, so close, so fucking close, and his hips jerk forward just a fraction.

"You really want it, don't you?" Iceman's voice is rougher now. "You just want someone to fucking take you. Well, you're in luck, flyboy. I can do that." And he pops each button on Maverick's jeans, taking his time, making Maverick gasp a little with each tiny release. "But you have to ask for it. You don't get anything unless you ask for it." He pushes his hand into Maverick's jeans, molds his hand against Maverick's cock, and Maverick's hips jerk forward again.

"You're so fucking hot for it," Iceman growls, and then he's biting on Maverick's ear and still just pressing his hand against Maverick's cock and Maverick needs friction, he needs movement, he needs something to happen.

"Fuck - Iceman - fuck." Maverick's thrusting helplessly now, but Iceman's moving his hand in time with the thrusts, and Maverick can't get any friction.

"Ask nicely, Mitchell, and then maybe."

"Do something," Maverick says back. Iceman shoves his hands into Maverick's briefs, pushes his pants down around his thighs. And then he's back, stroking Maverick's cock and moving away, grabbing his balls, sliding a finger between them, back behind them, and it's all good but it's not quite enough, and Maverick can feel Iceman's dick hard against his ass, and he needs, he needs - "God fucking damn it, Iceman, do it."

Iceman moves his hand back up, gives Maverick's cock a single light stroke. "I don't take orders from civilians," he says, and presses hard at the base, holding him still.

"Just - fuck - please," Maverick says, and Iceman's breath is hot as he laughs against Maverick's neck.

Then Iceman moves the hand holding Maverick down, moves it away, and the next thing he feels is slick fingers sliding down the crack of his ass. Iceman's not teasing any more, not holding Maverick back. He's letting Maverick rub off against his hand as he pushes two fingers inside. Maverick gasps - it hurts, but it feels just right, and Ice man was right, goddamn him. This is exactly what Maverick needs.

"You take it like you were born to do it," Iceman says, and Maverick thinks maybe he was, because his body is relaxing, opening up, and it's kind of shameful and so fucking hot. "You ready for me?"

Maverick doesn't say anything, can't say anything, and Iceman twists his fingers just a little. He hits something, something that sends a sharp shock of pleasure through Maverick's body, has him gasping and panting, bucking against Iceman's hand. And then Iceman says it again. "You ready for me?"

"Yeah," Maverick says, and he doesn't recognize his own voice - it's raw and rough and needy and it sounds nothing like he's supposed to, nothing like he's practiced. "Yeah, do it." Iceman hesitates, and Maverick can't fucking wait on him to find the perfect time. "Just fucking do it," he snaps.

"Nice mouth on you," Iceman says, but he's pulling his fingers out and undoing his pants - Maverick can hear the zipper going down. And then Iceman's back, putting his hands on Maverick's hips, sliding his cock in - slow, but that's as fast as Maverick can take it. It feels like being opened, like turning into something new. It feels dangerous.

"Breathe," Iceman says, and Maverick gasps, gasps again, and his body relaxes, accepting, adapting. "That's it." And Iceman thrusts in all the way, and then they're fucking. I'm being fucked, Maverick thinks, and he shoves back into it.

Iceman digs his fingers into Maverick's hips - there'll be bruises there tomorrow for sure - and moves him just a little, and whatever he did, it's right, it's perfect. Maverick grips the desk harder as Iceman hits that spot inside him again and again, absolutely on target, absolutely merciless, until Maverick is fucking desperate. "Touch - touch me," he says, almost begs.

Iceman reaches out, grabs Maverick's hand, moves it to his cock. "If you want it, work for it," he says, and Maverick pulls and rubs at his cock desperately, no finesse, just a driving need to come, come now, and, fuck, yes, he is, all over the desk, gasping as his body contracts around Iceman's cock. "Yeah," Iceman says, deep and guttural, and he's got his hands back around Maverick's hips, and he's thrusting fast, slamming into him until he freezes, buried balls-deep in Maverick's ass, shuddering.

Their harsh breathing is the only sound for a long moment, and then Iceman pulls out. It hurts, and Maverick knows he's going to feel this tomorrow. Iceman walks off, doing up his pants, comes back with a handful of tissue, and when Maverick doesn't take it - he can't, he can't move or think - Iceman cleans him up, pulls his jeans back up, and by then Maverick's able to do up the fly himself.

"Fuck," Maverick says. He has to fight to meet Iceman's eyes. He can't quite get the expression on his face right - actually, he's not sure what the right expression would even be.

Iceman laughs.

"I, uh. I should go."

"Yeah." Iceman looks at Maverick for a long moment. He's not triumphant or smug, just assessing, evaluating. Almost like he understands what Maverick's thinking, which is pretty fucking impressive, since Maverick himself hasn't got the faintest clue.

"Look," he says, and then he goes silent for a minute, still watching Maverick intensely. "What we do - it's not easy. It's not supposed to be easy," he says, finally. "It's not a game, it's not recess with our friends and our toys. But it matters. And you could be a damn good pilot." He shrugs. "Think about it."

Maverick walks out the door.

But he can't walk away from the words, from the night. He feels emptied out, re-set. Not healed, and not forgiven, but like he'd been banging his head into a wall and someone had turned him around so he could see the way forward. Maybe he'd rather that someone not have been Iceman; then again, maybe Iceman's the only one who could have gotten through. He stays awake a long time, staring into the darkness.

The next morning, he wakes up and goes to Viper's house.

He's not quitting.

1999. Fightertown, USA

Maverick's sitting at his desk, looking out at the shimmer of heat rising over the desert beyond the runway. The new crop of hopefuls is due in two days. Their files are open on his computer, and he should be planning his assault - breaking through their conceit and their thick skulls is a battle, one Maverick fights every six weeks - but he's thinking instead about the other file he's got in front of him.

LCDR Kazansky, Thomas J. - "Iceman"

1987-1989// USS Carl Vinson, Sea of Japan and Pacific Ocean
1990-1991// USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, Red Sea
1991-1993// USS Abraham Lincoln, Western Pacific (Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm)
1993// USS Theodore Roosevelt, Suez Canal (Operation Southern Watch)
1994// USS Carl Vinson, Persian Gulf (Operation Southern Watch)
1995// USS Abraham Lincoln, Western Pacific (Operation Southern Watch, Operation Vigilant Sentinel)
1996// USS Carl Vinson, Persian Gulf (Operation Desert Strike)
1997-1998// USS George Washington, Persian Gulf
1999// USS Theodore Roosevelt, Ionian Sea
1999, 14 April// Downed BEL Kosovo
1999, 1 May// Recovered MCAS Unit 77
1999, 8 June// Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center, United States Navy Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor Program

Maverick looks at the last three entries in Iceman's summary docket, thinks about what they mean. Every pilot's nightmare: shot down. The only survivor. Captured. Iceman's lost everything, more spectacularly than Maverick had ever managed, even if he's come out of it covered in glory.

Maverick's known a couple pilots who spent too much time on the wrong kind of ground, and he tries to imagine Iceman like them. He can't picture it. The Iceman in his head is still the guy from all those years ago, the guy who did everything perfectly and by the book, the guy who thought they could fuck and not let it change them.

He taps his fingers against the edge of his keyboard, grinning at nothing, at his memories. He's looking forward to seeing Iceman again. Seeing who Iceman's become, seeing if maybe the perfect pilot has learned to bend a little.

Iceman's due in today; actually, his transport landed an hour and a half ago. Maverick doesn't want to wait until Monday, see him for the first time here on base. He stands, grabs his gear, and heads out.

Twenty-seven minutes later, Maverick's pulling his motorcycle over to the curb in front of Charlie's old house. And then he's knocking on the door.

Iceman looks pretty much how he expected - limping, fifteen pounds underweight, lines on his face that are obviously new and not from age. But he smiles when he sees Maverick. "Well, if it isn't Petey Mitchell," he says.

"Around here, I'm known as Maverick." Maverick steps inside and looks around. The living room is clean but empty, just a big duffle bag sitting against one wall. "Can I buy you a drink? Officers' club."

Iceman considers. "Not sure I'm up to that."

Maverick shrugs. "Diesel probably put a six-pack in your fridge for you," and of course he did - the cheap crappy American beer Diesel loves.

Iceman stares at the label for a long moment, then hands one to Maverick, takes one for himself. "Probably shouldn't," he says, shrugging. "Meds. But if I'm not dead yet, a beer's not going to kill me." And they stand in the kitchen, drinking in silence, watching each other. The space between them is just as charged as it was a decade ago, but now Maverick thinks he understands what that means.

Maverick drains his beer - Iceman's only half into his - and tosses the empty into the trash. "So," he says, grinning at Iceman. "You looking for a fight? You want someone to punish you?"

Iceman takes another sip from his beer, puts the can on the counter. "Actually," he says, looking right back at Maverick, "I'm looking for something a little better."