Date: CurrentRating: GSummary: Ambassador Tachibana is bursting to brag about his shiny, new fighter that Shinji built him and thinks that Inanna at least will Understand and Appreciate. He's right and so it happens that they go and not quite have a ball on Mars. :)Kippei had been meaning to do this for quite awhile now, ever since the occupation had left, in fact, and with one thing and another had been too busy to get around to it. But this time he'd called Inanna and found a day when they both could take half a day off, and told her he would be there to pick her up soon after lunch. He had originally thought of just telling her to take a day off, but ever since their fight he'd been more cautious about any demands on her time. He still went to see her just as often, but he tried not to take anything for granted anymore. When he poked his head in at the Blue Angel, he gave her a grin that no one but Shinji had seen since he came to TP5. "Ready?" he asked her. Inanna brightened visibly at the welcome sight of Kippei peeking in her door. She was curious as hell as to what he had planned, since he had refused to say anything beyond that they'd spend half a day in each other's company. Which had made it absolute hell to dress for the occasion, since she didn't know what the sodding occasion was. She had landed on an elegant trouser-suit, which would fit just about anything. It was Tachibana Kippei, after all, so it was unlikely to be something formal. She'd probably be fine and dandy in jeans and flannel, even, but she was Madame Inanna and she had a reputation to take care of."I'm as ready as I can be, when you insist on being a secretive bastard," she chirped and floated over to kiss him hello. This time, the peck came with an affecionate tweaking of his nose, too. Just because. "Yes, I do," he agreed, looking smug and pleased with himself. He gave her a quick, hard hug, and then tugged her out the door. "Come on!" And he wasn't telling her anything yet. He kept silent, a little mysterious smile playing around his mouth all the way down to the docks, which unfortunately made it plainly obvious where they were going, if not what exactly they might be doing. "You've seen the Storm before, haven't you?" he asked her as he headed over to unlock the private landing bay the ship was stored in. "This is my ship," he added unnecessarily as he led the way in. "Shinji made it for me." As they made their way towards the docks, Inanna started to catch on pretty fast. Was he planning to take her out flying? Or just fanboy around the space crafts? Or what? A slighty nervous voice whispered in the back of her mind, worrying about surprise jumps to Fudoumine space and all the bad things that might cause. Inanna silenced it, annoyed at herself for being so paranoid. But it was a life-saving habit, so it was hard to shake -- even around Tachibana Kippei."I've seen images of it, and a couple of times from afar. But I haven't been introduced to it yet," she said, smiling a little when Kippei fiddled with the lock. "I've sort of been wondering when Shinji would drag me out here to show it off. Guess you pulled rank?"Kippei practically beamed at her - which is to say he tilted his head and his grin quirked again, eyes shining with both pride and amusement. "She's mine. Truth is I think Shinji's a bit jealous of her, really. He's not much the flying type." He crossed the floor to the shiny fighter and laid his hand on the side of it, a caress of greeting as he murmured a hello. He knew it wasn't alive, but sometimes it almost was. "The best damn fighter out there," he said after a minute, looking back up at Inanna. "Come see. Her name is Arashi. She can fly the hell out of any other fighter ever made." He reached for Inanna's hand, tugging her closer to 'introduce her properly'. "Shi-chan, this is my lady Inanna, and we're going to take her for a little ride today, mmk?" Her heart twisted a little inside her. How long had it been since she had seen Kippei like this? Inanna thought it must have been back in her former life, while she was still at the Military Academy and Kippei had become a pilot in his own right. A life time ago and more, that was. Her smile turned just a little misty when she watched him fuss over his fighter, but she pulled herself together to offer him nothing but cloudfree sunshine when he turned back. Inanna let herself be pulled along quite happily, making sure that she only let the joy that he was sharing with her rule her inside. The other, conflicting emotions that this 'date' had set off would simply have to wait until she was back in her lair again. "Arashi, hm? It's a good name for a very goodlooking fighter. And you're taking me out flying?" Little flutters of nervousness tickled her insides. Inanna hadn't been outside the station since her arrival several years ago. And suddenly she was about to go outside those safe, familiar walls -- with no prior warning. Kippei turned to study her, his smile twisting a little wryly. "Only if you want to. Shinji...doesn't exactly enjoy it. He thinks I go to fast. But this was made for fast." It was faster than anything else, and more powerful, and just...more everything. He would have given a lot to fly this in combat. Or, he amended to himself, to have flown it when he was in combat. Shinji would not be at all happy if he ever did that again. Inanna lowered her eyes for a moment, not daring to look Kippei in the eye as another surge of conflicting emotions washed through her. "No, I think I would enjoy it. It's just . . . I'm nervous. I haven't been outside the station since I came here six years ago."He reached out to touch her arm, a brief reassurance. "I'll...fly slow," he said, with some effort, but he was smiling. "Don't worry, it's perfectly safe, and we're not going far." Far being an entirely relative thing. He had only the most vaguely formed idea of where they were going, but it was gradually taking shape into a more concrete idea. Once again, Inanna pushed back the sentimental, too-damn-hard-to-kill feelings and let the sunshine out alone. She looked up at Kippei again and smiled, tucking her hand into his. "There was a time when I loved fast, but I can scarecely remember it anymore. So let's pretend I'm a virgin for this one, and take it slow at first. Lead on, Captain."Kippei looked amused, but also faintly relieved, and turned to pop the hatch, jumping up and then leaning down to give her a hand, helping her into the rear seat. He took his own seat at the controls and started her up, going through his preflight checks with religious care, not wanting to take any chances since she was already nervous. He made his usual half-caressing apology to the ship, brushing the side of the cockpit with his hand as if to say that he was impatient too, and sorry that it took so long just to start up. "Ready to go?" he asked Inanna over his shoulder as all the displays went green. "As ready as I'll be, Captain," she answered, making herself seem more comfortable in her seat. It wasn't easy, becuase several flocks of butterflies were thrashing madly around in her stomach. Once, back when she was just a girl and her name hadn't been Inanna, she had dreamt of this. Or more precicely, she had dreamt of sitting where Kippei was seated and be mistress of her own fighter. To fly into battle in formation with him and fight wing by wing with her brother and their comrades. She had had to compromise on that, though, because her going to the Military Academy at all had been a tough nut to slip past her family. Becoming a fighter pilot had been right out at the time. But the girl she was then had dreamt; oh, how she had dreamt.Inanna took a deep breath and let it out with the ghost of her past. Life had changed, and the woman she was now would simply have to enjoy the ride. "Show me what the two of you've got."Kippei was grinning as he took the fighter out, kicking off smoothly and shooting out into space, remembering his promise to go slow but really wanting to show off, too, looping out up over the station and coming around again, heading deeper into seemingly random space. "Hang on then," he called back to her as he opened up the throttle. Hang on? Inanna was all but squeezing her fingers into the arm rests on her seat, she didn't think it was possible to hang more on than she already did. Oh, breathing. Breathing would be good. She gasped a couple of times to get new air into her lungs after holding her breath a little too long. The view was absolutely breath taking, and completely different from what she remembered of her arrival. That was the only other time she had seen the station from without, and her mind had been far too full of other things for her to appreciate the view. Now, though . . . Now, she was free. She was her own person, belonging only to herself and a friend was taking her out for a spin in his new fighter craft. "Hanging on, sir," she piped up, only remembering that she wasn't supposed to slip into military speech after the words slipped from her mouth. Hopefully, Kippei would just assume she was "getting into the spirit" and playing around. With eyes wide as saucers, Inanna looked out on the station and the jump gates and the infinity of stars. Oh wow.Kippei did, in fact, think just that, not really noticing the oddity, merely grinning to himself and sweeping around to give her a better view, making another long, wide loop around the station, steering well clear of the jump gates. He wouldn't be using those today. "Let me know if I'm...going too fast," he said reluctantly, wishing he could say, let me know when you want to go fast, but he'd gotten more or less resigned to the fact that most people were more sane than he was. "Alright. No problem so far, Tachibana," she answered. The rush of adrenaline was stabilising now, and Inanna was beginning to achieve a good, happy state of excitement. Her stomach had once again rejoined the rest of her intestines and her body informed her that it was all in alignment and good to go. Yeah, this had been one of Tachibana's better ideas, that was for damn sure. "This is absolutely fantastic," she breathed. "Awesome."Kippei's grin stretched until it nearly hurt his face, unaccustomed as it was, but he was thrilled to be flying, and flying with someone who evidently appreciated the wonder. He loved taking Shinji flying just because he loved having Shinji with him, but Shinji did not love flying, nor did he think it was fantastic. Kippei did not mind this, but it was nice too to have someone along who felt even a little the same way he did about it. He took larger, longer loops out away from the station, until it was barely visible, though still plenty close, doing relatively gentle loops and curves and rolls, showing off a little and trusting her to speak up if she was uncomfortable. The rolls scattered her intestines and shook them around a bit at first. Innanna would deny it to her dying day, but they had also shocked an undignified squeak out of her the first time around. But once her various body parts reported in that they were in good condition and strutting with adrenaline, Inanna's breath reverted to a regular rhythm. Only her heart insisted on doing the odd skip and jump, still. "Tell me when you've reach max velocity, hm?" Kippei couldn't see her eyes, but they were on fire, adding punch to the eagerness in her tone.Kippei threw a startled look over his shoulder, as if he could see her, and then he studied the gauges with a considering look. Max velocity? He hadn't been planning to do that, not today, not with her. Shinji had kind of...freaked out a little when he'd done that before. "You sure you want to?""No, but I am sure that I want to see what kind of wonder Shinji made this time." And Inanna had been in a fighter at top speed before, piloted by the very same man who was her pilot today. "So you'll let me know, yes?"Kippei laughed, surprised even himself by laughing out loud, feeling almost carefree, almost the way he felt when he was with Shinji and everything was perfect and light and easy. He opened up the speed a little more, sending the gleaming shape of the fighter hurtling through space like liquid metal, smooth and bright and sharp, a straight clean race to top speed like a streak of silver lightning. Okay, maybe Shinji had a little bit of reason to be jealous of the fighter. But not really, because really no one, nothing could match Shinji if it came down to it. Kippei just really, really hoped he never had to choose. "Almost there," he called back to Inanna, sheer elation making his voice nearly sing-song with delight. When he got back down, grounded again, the high of adrenaline drained away and leaving him mostly sane, he might be mortified by the thought. But right here, right now, he couldn't be anything but absolutely thrilled as he threw the engines wide open and screamed for deep space. "Now!" he practically shouted as the g-force climbed, the inertial dampeners not quite eliminating it at this speed. Not that he kept them at standard settings anyway. He liked to feel it. This was flying.Oh, yes. This wasn't like the jump-speed of the big crafts at all. Here you could really feel the velocity and how the body protested it. It was like having a giant hand clamp you tight into your seat, Inanna thought as she struggled for air. A hint of panic stirred in her belly, but her heart sang with excitement and a treacherous, infinitely tiny part of her noted that if they never turned around to return, it wouldn't be a moment too soon. That thought went largely unheard and unloved, though. Kippei's boyish joy helped, too, because it was impossible for her to not be infected. She could sense it radiating off him and it made her grin so wide her ears were the only thing stopping it from reaching all the way around her head. "Oh, Mother . . . Yes!"Kippei laughed again, because she sounded like she was having sex, but then again it was...a lot like that. "You hang on!" he told her, and began a series of more daring and intricate loops and maneuvers, playing in the vast, wide open space, drawing silver bright patterns against the inky blackness. Wandering further and further out, away from the station, skirting the edges of asteroids and not letting himself think, yet, about what else was out here. Right now he was just having too much fun. It was breathtaking! Inanna found her equillibrium as her body adjusted to the speed, and she went quiet in her seat. Although she had spent many an hour at the panorama windows around TP5, both alone and in various company, this was different. Different celestial bodies, different space, different setting altogether. Never had space seemd so vast to her, and she craved it as much as she feared it. Suddenly Inanna had to laugh. "You're dancing, Tachibana! You and Arashi, you're dancing with the asteriods!" And it was beautiful.Kippei didn't know about dancing, had never had any interest in dancing and didn't think much of it, but he figured she meant it as a compliment and it sounded pretty, at any rate. He chuckled and took the fighter through another series of intricate patterns, looping and twisting and rolling, delighting in the freedom of it. "You alright back there?" he asked after awhile, just checking. He shouldn't let his enthusiasm run away with him. "So far, so good!" she chirped. But it would've been even better if she were in the pilot seat! "You should teach me to fly, some time when you're tanked up on spare time," she said on impulse. The thought bypassed her brain completely, never caring if it was a wise thing to say."Sure," Kippei told her easily, thinking nothing strange about the remark. "Anytime, you just tell me when." It would be fun, be good to teach someone else how to fly. He hesitated a little, going quiet while he leveled out and set a course with a little more direction, deeper into the asteroids. "Got something to show you," he said after a minute. Inanna blinked at how easily he agreed. Oh, dear. Something warned her that this needed more thought, seriously more thought, before she truly set foot on that path. For now, though, she would enjoy herself and the time alone in space with her . . . with Tachibana. His words piqued her curiosity, and she leaned forward to peer into space. "What is it? Where are you taking me?"He didn't answer right away, just concentrating on navigating his way to the asteroid he was looking for, out in the middle. A largish one, that just happened to have a small base on it. "I spent some time out here, awhile back," he said at last, his voice quiet and a little subdued. He wasn't all that sure he wanted to go back, but somehow he wanted someone else to see it. Inanna peered at the asteroid, then she stretched to see if she could catch a glimpse of the controls to see which coordinates they were at. She suspected that it might be the same station that Yukimura had told her about, but it didn't have to be. "How far back was that?" she asked when her neck ended up not being long enough."Not so long ago," Kippei told her, but it seemed a long time ago, sometimes. Sometimes it all seemed like a bad dream, like maybe it had never happened at all, but at the time it had seemed like eternity. "During the occupation." They were close, now, and he had to be careful as he maneuvered his way in close, heading for the small space dock that wouldn't service more than a couple of ships, and those not very large ones. "Not really that far from the station, is it?" he noted, and the wryness in his voice was sharp and faintly bitter. So near and yet so far, just enough to drive him crazy. "Not really far at all, at least not with a fast flyer," Inanna agreed, looking around curiously to take in the details. "I don't see any markings anywhere. What is this base, and whose? Yukimura wouldn't tell me much about it at all, and I was too afraid of listening ears to press.""Don't know," Kippei answered, not caring much at this point. "His, I guess. He stashed me here during the occupation," he grumbled, still a sore spot. He took them in, expertly landing the ship and shutting it down, carefully going through his checklist like always. "Come on, I'll show you around." Not that there was much to see. And thank Mother for that kindness, Inanna thought to herself. Yes, Yukimura had multiple reasons for doing it, but one of those reasons was that he genuinely wanted to do something good for her. Tachibana could be as grouchy as he liked, she was grateful that he'd been 'stashed away' during the occupation, and no mistake. She waited until he had opened the hatch, then got up and jumped out. Perhaps she looked a bit out of place in her businesslike outfit amidst cold, sterile walls and the scent of spacecraft fuel, but Inanna was more than enough lady and aristocrat to make herself appear completely at home and in charge anywhere. "Alright, Tachibana. Show me your lair."He shot her a look that couldn't quite decide what it wanted to be, and ended up a twisted smile. It had been something like that, he supposed, but the word implied something a little more...comfortable, something a little more personal. Something a little more home. There was nothing comfortable about this place. "It's pretty small," he noted, taking her through the door from the hanger into the few small rooms that comprised the base itself. Storage and warehouse space took up most of it. Observation deck and control room on one side. Small galley. Small cabin with a narrow bunk. Small washroom between them. That was pretty much it. "I can see that," Inanna murmured quietly as she took in the place. It was nice and clean, at least. But quiet, so very, very quiet. "I think I would have gone batty from sheer boredom sitting here," she admitted before looking up at him with a crooked smile. "I'm still glad you did sit here, though. No matter how much you hated it.""I...yeah." Kippei shook his head and rubbed the back of his neck as he looked around, too, remembering the long bleak days. "I got...really bored," he said quietly. His gaze fell on the bunk that was only big enough for one person, and he winced a little. "I didn't actually spend very much time in here," he admitted. "I started sleeping in the fighter." Inanna snorted softly, half in sympathy and half in amusement. "I think, Tachibana," she drawled teasingly, "that we might be headed for Too Much Information territory, considering how you feel about your fighter." Kippei shot her a startled look, and then snorted too, wryly shaking his head. "Screw you," he answered mildly. "If I was referring to that I wouldn't be telling you about it." Actually he didn't know why had said it anyway. She didn't probably know what it was like to be so used to sleeping in the same bed with someone else that it was easier to sleep sitting up than to sleep in a bed without them. "I did start talking to her, though," he said, a little embarrassed. "It was just so damn quiet. That's when I really thought I might be cracking up, because sometimes, it's almost like she can answer; not in words, but just..." He shrugged and gave her an awkward smile, aware that he sounded absolutely crazy. "You already did," Inanna retorted and stuck her tongue out at him like a true little brat; much in contrast to her ladylike exterior. Then her face softened and she shot him an understanding smile, even curled her arm around his and gave it a sideways hug. "Shinji's gizmos are like that, so it's not at daft as you think. That, or I am as daft as you. He somehow manages to add personality to the stuff he builds, even to a taser. Frankly, I'd be surprised if Arashi didn't have that extra something about her, and there ain't no place like the silence of deep space to discover traits like that."Kippei shrugged, quiet for a minute. "There's a lot of him in it," he agreed at last. "I figured talking to her was safer than talking to him and imagining there was enough of him in it to hear me and talk back. Then I would have really wondered about my sanity.""Good thinking," Inanna agreed. That was the danger of deep space; too many travellers had gone stark, raving mad out there when it was just them and the endless vastness of space. "And there was no traffic here at all while you stayed? No signs of life?" She looked around again, really curious about the place. It didn't look completely abandoned, but nor were there any signs of recent activity. How strange. And if this was something that belonged to Rikkai, why wasn't there anything marking it as such? They were in neutral space, as far as she knew, so . . . why?"No," Kippei answered, not at all curious. "The only time I saw anyone was when I discovered Ojii out here on his own ship, lurking over that way," he gestured vaguely out into space, "and headed over to get some news from him. He let me contact Shinji from his ship, and brought him there to see me for a bit. I'm not sure if it was worth it, when I had to come back here alone." If he knew what Ojii had done to make a profit on it, he probably would have decided it was not in any way worth it. Inanna blinked, her mind promptly parading up several likely scenarios on what Ojii's motives could have been and what price he had extracted for it. Oh dear, oh dear. She wondered if Tachibana knew that Ojii was a psi, and a damn powerful one at that. Combined with absolutely no shame whatsoever, it was more than enough reason to keep a distance to the man unless you knew how to play the game. Oh dear. Inanna went silent for longer than she meant to, pondering whether she should warn Tachibana or stay professional. She commented on auto-pilot, "That was nice of him," but there was little presence in her tone.Kippei gave her a sharp look, wondering what that meant. And for the first time, wondering why Ojii had bothered to help them at all, considering he'd gotten nothing out of it. "What?" he asked warily, wondering too if she knew something. Oops, busted! Inanna drew in a deep breath, sighed it out and straightened her shoulders. "Ah, sorry. Didn't mean to zone out on you, sweets. Anyway, it was good that you got to see Shinji at least once during that time, although I reserve the right to object to the risk involved for both of you. If they'd caught you . . . I would've been very unhappy." Kippei frowned at her. "Ina-san....does that work on Shinji?" Cheerful evasion and misdirection; it might have even worked on him once, but not anymore. "What is wrong?"Her eyes turned sharp and focused and she locked gaze with Kippei for a moment. "To my knowledge, nothing is wrong. But remember that no one out here does things solely out of the goodness of his or her heart, or solely becaue they can. Always be aware of your own position in the field of give and take, Tachibana, and never lose sight of the price tags." And that was all Inanna was going to say about that. Kippei would have to draw his own conclusions. Ojii was a crafty old man, but fortunately not a bad guy per se. More than likely, what he had gotten from this was entertainment and little more. Yes, it could have been a whole lot worse . . . Kippei frowned, not liking the sound of that. He definitely didn't think Ojii had any goodness of heart to do anything out of, so more than likely she was right. He'd gotten something out of it. Kippei just didn't know what it was. He didn't like that at all. "Hm," he said finally, and resolved to do a little investigating. A quiet, half-amused snort was Inanna's only comment to his grunt. "Another thing, Tachibana. While we're out here talking about this and that, how much of this do you think it being caught by listening equipment?"Kippei looked startled, then slightly chagrined. "I...very much doubt it," he said doubtfully, but he wasn't sure. He should have thought of it, in any case, but he really couldn't see any reason why this place would be bugged. It seemed to be a private place, and if it wasn't Yukimura's personal hideout then it was something very like that, and while he didn't trust Yukimura as far as he could throw him, he did think that Yukimura would not have bothered to bug it on the off chance that Kippei would start talking to himself and possibly say something worth hearing. "Mm." Inanna gave him a slanted look and a wry little smile that really said it all. If this had been her hidey-hole, there would be recording equipment and cameras all over the place. But then she liked to play the better safe than sorry game whenever she could. There wasn't always time for it, but that's what Mother gave you instincts for. Kippei shrugged it off, because they hadn't said anything dangerous, and reached up to tweak the ends of her hair. "Ready to go?" he asked, suddenly anxious to leave the place that was really nothing but bad memories. Maybe now, though, it would haunt him a little less. Like a kitten, Inanna nudged her head into his hand and smiled. "Sure. Any time, Tachibana." And like a true flirt, she curled her arm around his again as they strolled back to the little space dock. If she had been alone, she knew she'd been ready to fall apart by now. But together with this man, it was okay to be away from the safe, enclosed piece of deep space she had called home sine she was sixteen. "You can take me home now, but you don't get to keep me~"He snorted, amused, and picked her up to give her a bone-crushing hug and a kiss on the forehead before he gave her a boost back into the fighter. "Tease," he accused, grinning as he swung himself back up too and closed the hatch, feeling relieved to be back in his ship and heading back to home. Inanna laughed and readied herself for takeoff. "I love you, too, Tachibana."