Yuuta Aoki takes a deep breath and observes the faraway, distant image of Gaia. As the elevator that rumbles beneath his feet rises farther up into the station, straight lines of dark shadows caress his face with their invisible touch; Yuuta wants to reach out and grab them, just like many other transparent occurrences in his life.
He wonders if the air tastes different over there, on humanity’s ancient home, or if its ruin has led to nothing being quite pure either anywhere anymore.
The doors open with a ding. He steps out and pushes the question—he could never ask his biology teacher back in fifth grade—from his mind. Ridiculous, he thinks as the cold rage that tumbles within his gut turns to annoyance once his eyes meet with the landing dock’s pristine white floors.
Yuuta kicks an old bolt and sends it flying into a garbage can. It vaguely catches the attention of his crew, but, not as much as he’d like—for they are used to his antics by now. “This is stupid,” Yuuta snaps. “We were trained for action, not playing janitor! Space-spring-cleaning, my ass. I thought we’d blast asteroids that threatened future collisions, but great,”—he scoffs, grabs a discarded can of tuna that had rolled behind one of the dock’s fighters, and holds it up—“this is definitely what I had in mind when I joined the S.C.U. Too bad I didn’t get the memo that it stood for Spatial Cleaning Unit and not Spatial Combat Unit.”
Out on the deck, Miranda groans, and even though Yuuta cannot see her, he is close to certain that she is rolling her eyes that are the colour of skies he likes to imagine sometimes.
Behind him, a presence he knows all too well approaches. “What’s wrong, darling?” Xander coos beside his ear, his chest pressed to Yuuta’s back as a few of his dreadlocks tickle the bare skin revealed by his burgundy tank top. “You need help holding your sponge?”
Yuuta’s eyebrow twitches. He pushes Xander away and throws him a glance filled with murderous intent. “Don’t be a dick, Xander,” he snaps, as a grin sinks into his features. “Or you’ll regret it later during training.”
Xander licks his lips, standing tall, confident and proud as he always does after having relentlessly teased Yuuta, he mutters, “Is that so?” His eyes darken alongside his voice, now raspy and raw. “I can’t wait to see—”
“Williams! Aoki! Less talking and more cleaning!” Diane shouts from across her side of the room, already pristine and whiter than the whites on the walls surrounding them. “We must be out of here in less than thirty. You’ll have time for your bickering all you want by then.”
“Yeah, whatever…” Yuuta shrugs. He rubs the wing of a large fighter clean and shuts out Xander’s profuse apologies, directed at Diane. He wonders when things started getting this way between them, and how exactly it started; why it became harder to talk to Xander normally the closer they got in this unit.
Listening to Xander speak so casually to others, whilst all they can do is communicate with dry sarcasm and words void of any true meaning, stings Yuuta more than he likes to admit.
“Hello? Space station to Yuuta? Is anyone there?” It’s Miranda. She’s waving her arm between Yuuta and his reflection on the fighter’s wing. “How long are you planning on polishing that thing?”
“Oh,” Yuuta blinks. He briefly observes the fazed, young man looking back at him on the wing. “My bad…” he mutters.
It is only when he looks at Miranda once more that he notices she’s cut her dark bangs a little too short. And it would seem Miranda notices that he has noticed too, for she is quick to blurt the words, “Screw you, at least they don’t cover my eyes!”
Yuuta parts his lips in preparation for his defense, but it’s too late, Miranda has already stormed off to find her mother—Diane—her once pale features now flushed a darker shade of pink.
For a brief moment, Yuuta observes Miranda speaking to Diane, who rearranges her white bun as she pushes her rectangular glasses back up the bridge of her nose.
As Yuuta steps off the stool he’d been standing on, to fetch another bucket of water for the fighter’s other wing, he catches a glimpse of Xander working on an engine in the background. Xander briefly pulls out from beneath the ship. He wipes sweat and oil off his forehead with the back of his arm. The sight makes Yuuta want to punch him, softly, he thinks, with my mouth, and not my fist, as we’d lean in and—
He stops himself, shivers at his train of thought, before locking it away in a box he stores far in the back of his mind.
It is only now that he realises Xander is staring.
“Can I help you with something?” Xander asks him with a raised brow.
“No. No thank you!” Yuuta blurts, as he stomps off in the opposite direction, red in his cheeks and mortified at his voice for cracking again midsentence.
Xander smirks. Cute, he thinks.