The atmosphere on the ship had changed now that they were orbiting the planet. The hum of the engines, the slight vibrations of space, and the perpetual darkness fought by the interior lights always seemed to give the impression that they were miles under the ocean. Now brilliant blues and whites beamed through the viewing port and the round windows of the dining area. The large square window above ten-foward was transformed from an empty black space into a brilliant canvas. Barracus was a blue eclipse against the harsh sun peeking around the rim, exposing the silhouettes of the space stations and satellites. There was that strange feeling again. The feeling of being so close to something and at the same time, thousands of miles away.
Azriel could see the reflection of his face in the glass of the huge window as he looked out at Barracus. He’d become used to it very quickly, though he still had those moments of doubt when glancing quickly at a mirror as though he was expecting to see someone totally different. That deep part of him, the part that didn’t need memory to survive was still telling him that this wasn’t what he was supposed to look like. He had no idea what he should be seeing rather than the swept brown hair across his forehead, the sharp angled brows that tried to hide his eyes, thick lines on either side of his mouth that pulled his face into a tense thinking expression. It was a strange compromise he had to make with himself every time he saw himself to understand that it wasn’t right, but that was his face.
The hum of the engines was momentarily interrupted by a shuffle behind him. Through the reflections in the glass, he could see movement.
“If that’s what you really want…” Kane sounded unusually compassionate, as if he were trying to force his sarcasm to do its work. “I guess I’ll see if I can get them to let us in. Pretty sure if I use the same excuse three times it’ll work, right?”
There was silence, then the sound of footsteps leaving the room. Azriel let out a slow sigh, watching as a shiny speck of some kind of technology moved slowly across the blue eclipse. His eyes followed it until he saw something else move into the light next to him.
Yuri folded her arms across her chest, her long black hair falling over her face for a moment before she brushed it behind her shoulders. That usual doubtful expression lined her soft face. Azriel had only seen it change a few times since he’d met her, and it was brief when it did. He heard her breathe out softly through her nose.
“Are you sure about this?” she said. It was an accusatory question, one that he was good at recognizing.
He shifted his weight slightly. “Of course not. I’ve never been sure about anything.” He looked at her, expecting her to return his gaze but she continued to look out at the planet. “I just do what feels right,” he said.
Her face tensed slightly. “You do what feels right…” She shook her head. “You went after your brother because it felt right. Turned out he didn’t exist, we got captured, almost killed, and you lost your memory.”
Azriel glanced at the floor for a moment, then looked up again. “We also blew up Center 7 and killed the Director.”
“Yeah,” said Yuri. “And any hope of getting your memory back.”
For a while, neither spoke as the bright eclipse grew darker with the passing of the planet. Out of the corner of his eye, Azriel saw Yuri dip her head.
“Why did you stay?” she said. “You could have gone anywhere. Gotten away from all of this. Instead, you’re jumping right back into it again. Why can’t you just live your life without the Boryokuden?”
Azriel turned and found himself locking eyes with her brown-eyed glare. He gave a weak shrug of his shoulders. “Why can’t you?”
Yuri’s eyes softened. Azriel looked back out to the planet again. The sun was threatening to disappear behind the blue atmosphere, creating a beam of intense yellow against the black of space. The light broke into particles as it passed through the glass and formed orange circles. It would have been prettier if the jagged shapes of the satellites hadn’t been in the way.
Azriel glanced sideways again and saw that Yuri was still looking at him, her eyes scanning his face as though analyzing him. Her expression narrowed as he gave her his attention.
“Is there something you want to tell me?” he asked.
For a moment, Yuri recoiled slightly on the spot as if to leave. Then she moved forward towards him.
“You saved my life three times,” she said. “Stuck with me when you had no reason to. Made sure I was able to eat without getting preyed on by the other patients. You made Giselle let me onto the escape plan instead of Balder.” Yuri took another step closer to him, her voice getting stronger. “You took a bullet for me so I could get out of Center 7. And after all that time, you still found me on Barracus and brought me back to Center 7 so we could destroy it. But…” She put a hand to her forehead for a second, then lowered it, gazing at him again. “ You don’t remember any of it. Everything you’ve done, the lives you’ve saved and destroyed… it doesn’t mean anything to you because you don’t remember it. I look at you─” she motioned to him with a wave of her hand. “─ every time I look at you, I look for the man that saved me on Center 7. Charlie, Delta Six… I know he’s here. He’s in you. And I keep thinking if I look hard enough at your face I’ll see him. But… that man is gone. His face is gone. His memory is gone. He doesn’t exist anymore.”
She paused, her breath slightly labored. Her expression was frozen as if wanting to continue. Azriel studied her for a moment. He tilted his head slightly. “Were we lovers?”
Yuri’s eyes widened in a slight shock. She opened her mouth, then seemed to decide against it. She shook her head. Azriel crossed his arms against his chest and looked out towards the planet. “I’m sorry,” he said.
Yuri made a noise that sounded like something between a laugh and a sigh. “Sorry for what?”
Azriel bit his lip, choosing his words carefully. “I’m sorry I didn’t get my memory back.”
Yuri was quiet again. Azriel watched her in the reflection of the glass. The first time he saw her, he knew there would never be a time when she would truly relax. She would always be the type to worry over something, to suspect danger at every corner. Even now as she looked out at the harsh lights, he could tell that she was only partly there. She stood somewhat bent on the spot, her head held up but her gaze falling somewhere into the darkness. The other part of her was lost in that constant struggle of what if.
Yuri let out a small breath that Azriel could identify as a laugh. “I’m sorry we didn’t escape the first time.”
Azriel looked sideways at her. The harsh white light of the sun lit up her face in unusual clarity. She smiled with the corner of her mouth as she gazed through the window. “I had this stupid idea to stop Balder behind one of the doors… to make it seem like it had just closed on him. I just didn’t trust him. You didn’t trust him either. He was always trying to pit us against eachother.” She paused a moment, her gaze drifting downward. “I don’t know why I did that. He was trapped in there just like the rest of us. It wouldn’t have mattered once we were out.”
“Maybe it did,” said Azriel. Yuri looked at him and he felt a strange jolt at her soft expression, a far exchange from the tense-eyed glare that she usually had. He glanced away, regaining his composure. “I can… feel things, I guess. I get a sense of the way things are and the way things should be. I don’t know that Kane likes me very much, but I get the sense that he’s still my friend. I feel like I belong on this ship, and that this planet, the Boryokuden…” he looked at her. “You. I feel like it all means something. And as long as I don’t know what that is, I’m going to stay.” He shifted so that he moved closer to her. “I don’t know who Delta Six is. I don’t know that I’ll ever understand my past. But just because I don’t remember it doesn’t mean that it has no effect on who I am right now.”
Yuri stared at him before closing her eyes as if struggling to think. “You can’t just say that. If you knew the things that Balder did… the things that I did…”
Without knowing why, Azriel found himself reaching for her, holding the side of her neck and drawing her into him. Yuri gazed at him, that doubtful look returning to her eyes before she placed her hand over his. “... you wouldn’t be the same person…”
Azriel moved into her, the tension in her breath igniting a kind of panic in him that made him pause for a moment, resting his forehead against hers. But he felt her move against him and he tilted his head, closing his mouth over her lips.
Her body tensed and he felt her breathe in deep, her hand tightening over his as she moved further into him. He brought her in, letting her own reaction to him drive that feeling of thrill and terror. The feeling that Delta Six or the other Azriel that should have done this a long time ago. She breathed out against him and he felt her hand against his chest as she began to surrender to him, and just as he prepared to lose himself in her, footsteps echoed in the steel room.
The connection was broken immediately as Yuri pulled away, drawing her hand back and letting out a sharp breath. Azriel found himself gazing at her as she stepped away to look out the bright window, his hand still reaching out for her. In the midst of that strange shock, he looked back at ten-forward.
Kane stood at the other end of the room, one shoulder against the doorway to the cockpit. His bright brown eyes were narrowed in a somewhat expectant but annoyed expression.
For a while, there was only silence. Azriel dropped his hand and lowered his gaze. “What do you want, Kane?”
“Well, I just thought you’d like to know we’re about to enter the atmosphere,” said Kane. “So I suggest you strap yourselves in.” He straightened as if to move. “If you sit next to eachother, you can hold hands.” Kane moved back into the cockpit.
Yuri shifted slightly, and Azriel saw her bite her lip and close her eyes in an attempt to keep from smiling. She turned on the spot and Azriel felt the familiar thrill as she locked eyes with him again. Then she moved past him, her gaze lingering in a way that told him to follow, and she stepped down into ten-foward towards the cockpit.
Azriel stood still for a moment, letting everything catch up with him. For the first time, not knowing what would happen next was terrifying him. Maybe this was all a mistake. Maybe he really didn’t know what he was doing. He gazed back at Barracus, the last light from the sun now a dull red glow against the curve of blue. The last hint of proof that nothing in this universe was the result of everything going to plan.
He drew in a deep breath, letting that old misplaced confidence fill him again. There were no previous memories to tell him if any of this was right. If he was walking right back into another situation where he would lose everything again. There was nothing to guide him except the way he felt. And it wasn’t worth it to worry about what if.
He turned and moved away from the window. The last light from Barracus faded into darkness, and the ship was once again plunged into the deep emptiness of black space.