Echoes in time

Warnings/notes : Gareas/Ernest [past], Zero/Erts [present](both unestablished in the beginning of the fic), bits of bad language

Disclaimer : I don't own Candidate for Goddess.

written at 29th december 2003, by Misura (yes, that's a loooooong time after the first two. hope it doesn't show too much quality-wise!)

If it hadn't been for someone e-mailing me and asking me to update this fic, I'd probably never have written this chapter. So … I hope you'll like it! And sorry for daring to forget about this fic after all those kind reviews you readers gave me. I'll really try to write more for this fic, if you don't think I lost my touch for these characters, of course. It's been a while after all … ^^;

italics = images from the past

:: italics :: = mental speech/thoughts

**********

"Yes, I definitely think that tea's gone cold by now."

Erts looked up, a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. "Good morning, Zero."

"It should be, now that we get to pilot the Pro-Ings again." Zero beamed, placing his tray on the table and sitting down.

Erts remained silent, staring at his tea that had, indeed, gone quite cold. Staring out of the window, he sighed softly, unwilling to let Zero press him again about his sober mood yet unable to put on a happy, carefree face, after a night of nightmares he could never quite recall in the morning.

*

Gareas spotted Ernest as soon as he entered the mess-hall. The other future pilot tended to be painstakingly punctual, unlike Gareas who considered showing up a quarter late no reason to make such a fuss as some of their instructors did.

Sighingly getting in line for his portion of what was supposed to pass for breakfast, he noted that Ernest was, as usual, sitting all by himself. Normally, it would have annoyed the green-haired man to see a person he considered to be his friend shut himself so determinedly off for the people around him, but this morning, it fitted in nicely with his plans.

He intended to have a little talk with Ernest today. Somehow, he thought his odds of succes wouldn't improve any if their conversation wouldn't be as private as possible on this ship.

Impatiently waiting for the cook to deposit a portion of food on his plate and hastily snatching it away before the ladle would double it, he sauntered over to where Ernest was awaiting him. Well, actually Ernest looked more like he wished Gareas would go sit somewhere else, anywhere but at *his* table, yet Gareas chose not to mind.

Somewhere deep inside Ernest did enjoy his company. Or so he hoped. Cheerfully placing his tray in front of the seat opposite Ernest's, Gareas sat down with a meant "Good morning" to which Ernest chose not to reply.

"Aren't we in a good mood today?" Gareas inquired, grimacing as he tasted his breakfast. It was edible, warm and filling, he had to admit, but tasty was quite a different case.

"I wouldn't know about you." Ernest replied. Gareas blinked, then started to laugh.

"You actually made a joke! See? There's hope for you still." Talking, laughing and eating at the same time was probably not a good idea, so Gareas temporarily let his spoon rest.

Ernest sighed. "Why can't you simply leave me alone? Why do you have to be so stubborn, Gareas?"

The other shrugged. It wasn't as if he'd never asked himself those same questions. There were, after all, quite a lot of people on this spaceship and, sadly, Ernest was far from the only one who seemed to hardly have any social contacts.

"Pilots are supposed to be stubborn." Gareas replied, picking this as the best sounding answer. It made sense too, because it was true. "If you're a quitter, you'll never make it. Not here, and not in any other place."

Ernest remained silent for a moment, seemingly considering his words. Gareas sourly wished any of his other remarks would have received so much contemplation. Stubbornness worked two ways after all ; Gareas was stubborn in wishing Ernest to come out of his shell, yet Ernest was also stubborn in refusing to do so. Unless either of them gave, they were never going to get anywhere.

"Changing is a bad thing then?" Ernest seemed to have read his mind, even without having to touch him. Gareas postponed having to reply by taking another spoonful of breakfast. Being cooled down from 'hot' to 'warm' hadn't improved its taste in any perceivable way.

"Not always." It wasn't a very strong response. Of course, what he actually meant was 'Not when it's you who changes, only when you want me to quit bugging you about becoming more social'. Gareas knew Ernest probably knew that too.

"You keep double standards." Ernest remarked accusingly. Gareas snorted.

"Either you understand me too well, or you just read my thoughts. Which of the two is it? I'm curious. And, naturally, stricken that you've seen through my facade of honesty." Gareas grinned.

Ernest looked slightly taken aback. "I have no idea why you do what you do. And you're perfectly aware I can only read people's minds when they're touching me. Which you aren't."

Gareas considered Ernest's words for a few seconds then reached out his hand to softly grasp Ernest's wrist. His grip was loose enough for the other to pull free at any time, yet strong enough to allow the blond to hear his thoughts.

"Do you really expect me to believe you're entirely unaware of why I'm trying so hard to reach you through that thick, icy shield of yours?" Gareas demanded softly.

Ernest bit his lip, beginning to shake his head. Then his eyes widened. Almost violently jerking his arm out of Gareas' hand, he jumped up from his seat and stormed out of the hall, leaving an utterly perplexed Gareas behind. True, he had been hoping for some sort of reaction but ...

"What the heck is that guy's problem?" Gareas wearily eyed the remaining food on his plate. He didn't feel like eating it anymore. His stomach was too busy tying itself in knots to bother him about not being properly filled.

Letting his head rest on his arms, Gareas stared at the endless blue of space outside the window. The color reminded him of Ernest's eyes for some reason, even if those were much lighter. Then again, a lot of things seemed to bring Ernest to his thoughts recently.

"And what the heck's *my* problem, for that matter?"

*

"Would you like me to get you a new cup?" Zero offered generously. "Or would you like mine? I don't like tea that much anyway."

"No thank you." Erts replied politely. "I think it's time we should go anyway."

"Hmmm, yes. This is *one* class I definitely don't want to be late for!" Zero jumped up, beaming at the prospect of today's practice bout.

~tbc?~