Disclaimer: You certainly know the score.
Notes: Nine years ago, they said 'Good bye'. Now they are summoned back. Has time healed their rift? Can they ever fix their broken friendships? What does it mean to be Gundam, when a Gundam Pilot lies dying?
Warnings: I'm a slash writer; in my view some characters are not heterosexual. This may be different from your own interpretation of the characters. I hope you enjoy the story, despite our disagreement and I thank you for staying with me, despite Chapter 9 being your safe stopping point.
Song: The Feeling – Love It When You Call
::I found a switch::
::You turned it on::
::I hit the ditch::
::You carried on::
::I was so near::
::Now you're so far::
Fade to Black
By Doctor Megalomania
Chapter 30: Remember Me
::Are you quite sure just who you are? ::
::Oh, you could chose a friend but you don't seem to have the time::
"So, will you sign it?"
He stared at over the top of the paper, his daughter's hopeful smile was bright. The wind played lightly with her fringe, and the sun was warm on her face.
Wufei raised an eyebrow, "Fun run?"
"Actually, it's more like a kiddie marathon." Wufei glanced at Sally. She smiled as she continued, "She'll be largely walking most of the way."
He glanced at his daughter, Nataku pulled an annoyed face. "I'm running all the way." The girl stirred her hot chocolate ferociously, "I'm not a baby, I'm actually really good a running." She made a face as she remembered something, "Miss Jenkins thinks we're all little, she never trusts us to push ourselves." Wufei's eyebrow raised as his daughter started ranting, and Sally had to hide a smile behind her coffee cup. Nataku put her spoon down with a harder than necessary clink. "She thinks I need special care because I'm a little girl, but I'll show her!" Nataku bunched her fist and shook it, "I'm not just a little girl! I'm going to win the fun run!"
"Fun run?" He repeated, glancing back at the paper. It was a bright design, clearly done by children. His daughter had been proud of it when she handed it over to him. Around him, the chatter of the other patrons seemed calm. It was an old habit, one he could never quite leave behind, but he scanned the area again. Nataku had picked this place because it was near the hospital, but also near a park so they had many options after tea. She had her attention on Sally now.
"Are you going to sponsor me, Sally?"
"Absolutely, kiddo, I'm betting on you winning!" Sally grinned brightly as she picked up her coffee. "I'm sure Noin and Zechs will too." She glanced at Wufei. He was carefully reading the letter, pen poised to sign his consent. She smiled and looked over at Nataku. The girl was casually swinging her legs and watching people walk by. It was a lovely L2 day, and they were comfortable at the cafe. Wufei and Sally were glad to spend their day off together with Nataku. Wufei signed the paper, and turned it over, the bright flyer on the back announced the intention of the school to host a children's marathon, combined with some other activities. He glanced at Nataku, "Parent-Child Sack Race?" His eyes narrowed slightly, as he quite seriously nodded. "We would totally win that."
Nataku's look of surprised delight made both Sally and Wufei chuckle. Nataku leant forward, "Do you think you could make it? It's a work day!"
"I'd much rather be there with you," Wufei sipped his coffee, "Besides, it looks like it could be fun."
Nataku laughed at Sally's look of mock horror. Sally held out her hand, "Who are you? What did you do with Wufei?" She laughed, and turned to Nataku, "If I can swing the day off, can I come?"
"I'll ask, but I'm sure it'll be ok. It's meant to be a fun day for kids to spend with their family." Nataku was delighted, "I'd..." She slipped out of her chair and hugged Sally, "I'd really like you to be there, Sally."
Smiling, Wufei looked down at the colourful piece of paper in his hand.
Frowning, Trowa stared at the colourful piece of paper on the wall.
"Hey Hot Shot, what's up?"
Trowa raised a hand and tapped the paper thoughtfully, "This is the same school that Wufei's daughter goes to."
His supervisor chuckled, "Oh, of course. She'll be taking part in this." She slouched against the wall. "My best friend's niece is taking part as well; she's in the year above Nataku."
"You know her?"
That's earned a full bodied laugh from his supervisor. She sobered when she caught his confused look. "I didn't want to mention it, but yeah: I'm aware that some super famous Gundam's daughter happens to be going to my best friend's niece's school." She snorted. "You be thankful I haven't told my best friend's niece I know you yet! I genuinely don't know who'd kill me first, you or my best friend, the former federation rebel fighter who suspects she was at one of the first bases you attacked, by the way." She tapped the letter's logo. "Some kind of crazy war stories storytelling craze has broken out in the last couple of years, some kid called Sjobol has this –"
"Ex-OZ special aunt," Trowa nodded understandingly, "I think Nataku's taking part in the storytelling too."
His supervisor chuckled, "My best friend's niece has been pumping me for sweeper stories, pumping her aunt for every scrap of a battle, they all seem interested in getting the most outrageous tales." She folded her arms, and glanced at him, "I'm surprised that Wufei Chang's daughter isn't doing better; she has access to all five Gundams now."
Trowa looked at her sideways, "It's an actual competition?"
"You better believe it," His supervisor held out her hands like it should have been obvious, "There's a whole underground points scheme, run by the older kids, and there's sweets and trades and all manner of crazy." She jerked her thumb at the flyer, "I'm only putting this up so I can get her loads of sponsorship, so I can go meet the legendary Sjobol."
"The legendary Sjobol?"
She nodded, "He's winning at the moment, crazy good at telling the stories. He's got this killer story about one of the high ranked crazy OZ commanders and some guy she shot after she dropped him out of a plane – Super crazy story, but it's winning." She dug in a pocket and withdrew a pen, "So, feel like ponying up, Hot Shot? My niece would love to know she got a Gundam sponsoring her in the fun run... It would almost be worth my best friend's wrath."
Trowa took the pen, and added his name to the list of sponsors. He thought for a moment, "I wonder if Nataku is taking part."
"I should imagine, the whole school is going to be doing something all day for every year group. My best friend's sister is dreading the egg and spoon race her daughter's signed them up for."
Trowa glanced at the flyer and traced his finger over the different year groups, and found Nataku's. "Sack race?"
"Parent and Child Sack Race," His supervisor chuckled, "I'm even more keen to go if it means I get to see a Gundam taking part in a race." She squinted for a moment, "It's kinda hard to imagine that pretty serious guy taking part."
"Wufei?" Trowa tapped his finger thoughtfully over the flyer, "In a sack race?"
"Wufei." Quatre blinked, his eyes slightly unfocused, "In a sack race?"
Trowa swallowed his wine before answering, "Could be."
Quatre looked at the photocopied paper, "And Nataku could be taking part?"
"We could sponsor her," Trowa pointed to the Fun Run advert, "She'll likely take part in this."
"Wufei. In a sack race." Quatre put his wine glass down, "This I have to see. In all seriousness, I need to see this." He placed a hand over his heart, "We need to see this. I have never seen Wufei do anything crazy, I want to see him go."
Trowa tipped his head back and laughed. It felt good to laugh freely, albeit drunkenly, and to hear Quatre's laugh as well. Trowa leant forward and tapped the paper, "Well, if you need any more convincing... I'm reliably informed that there is an opportunity to meet the legendary Sjobol as well."
He burst into a fresh round of laugher as Quatre clapped his hands to his mouth in mock-excitement. Quatre shook his head, and poured another glass of wine for them both. Dinner was a quiet affair; they'd cooked together and were now relaxing with a good wine. Quatre leant back in his seat, "I'm serious about wanting to see this, I'll sponsor Nataku's entire class if it means we can go." Quatre smiled warmly, "It would be a brilliant day together, for all of us. It would be a great opportunity for us to do something else... bond, maybe!"
"Bonding over Wufei's utter humiliation as he is utterly defeated by his own daughter in a sack race?" Trowa strove to remain deadpan, but couldn't help the laughter escaping as Quatre tried to hide a smirk behind a glass. "You're so cruel!"
Quatre swallowed and shrugged one shoulder, "Let's hope that Wufei's athletic grace can match yours." They sat in silence for a moment, as Trowa watched Quatre thought. Quatre's expression was light, and his eyes drifted with his far away thoughts. The blonde man sobered slightly, "I'd love to see you perform again." He sipped his drink, "Have you heard from Catherine?"
Trowa smiled warmly, his voice fond, "The circus is doing extremely well, they're getting rave reviews." He paused, swirling his drink in his glass for a moment. "She'd like me to think about when I could join them again."
Quatre paused in his drinking. He swallowed, and smiled carefully. "That's a good opportunity for you to return."
Trowa looked at the other man. "I told her that I wasn't interested, and was unlikely to be interested in returning for a couple of years." Trowa paused before admitted quietly, "I'm... happy here."
The blonde man's delight was well hidden, but Trowa caught it. Quatre nodded, "I did catch some of the reports of your department, and you've made quite an impact on productivity." Quatre smiled lopsidedly, "If it wasn't Duo's company you were working for, I'd be head hunting you."
Trowa snorted, "My work is good, it's challenging and it makes me feel useful." He put down his glass and reached out to touch Quatre's free hand, "I wouldn't say it's the only reason I'm happy here."
Quatre flexed his fingers and laced them with Trowa. Trowa's dull eyes were warm with both wine and his own feelings. Their hands held each other tightly as Trowa leant forward, "I'm glad to be here with you."
It was a nostalgic feeling, that funny flipping sensation. Trowa felt it as Quatre's smile light up his face, his eyes and his whole being. Trowa felt like he was young again, as the years fell away from Quatre's being and – for a moment – they were in the music room again.
"That's..." Quatre put down his own glass, almost toppling it in his haste. He pressed a hand against their clasped hands, "That's ... that's how I feel, too." Quatre smiled a little helplessly, "I'm... glad. Yes, I'm happy too." He glanced down for a moment and laughed quietly, "Oh, that wine. It goes straight to your head." He glanced at Trowa, shy almost, "I don't mean to gush."
"You're not." Trowa smiled, finding it easy to smile. He joined his free hand to the clasp of hands, patting Quatre's top hand softly. "I don't want you to think that I'm going to leave, join the circus again."
"Which-which you're free too." Quatre said, adamantly, "You are absolutely free—" He stopped himself, "God, I'm so patro—how do you deal with me being so patronising all the time? You're an adult, who can make his own decisions."
"We're adults," Trowa squeezed his hand. "We're trying to build a new relationship."
Quatre sobered, and Trowa nodded.
"Let's make those decisions together, Quatre."
Quatre smiled, calm now. "I'd like that."
They sat quietly together for a moment, before Quatre squeezed Trowa's hand. "How would you...?" A frown flitted over his brow, "I'd like... It seems silly for you to be paying rent at your old place, and paying rent here too. I was thinking..." He paused again, his expression resolving into careful hope. "I'd like you to move in, Trowa. I miss your company."
Trowa thought about that for a while, smiling softly. He nodded, "I'd like that."
"I don't mean now or tomorrow," Quatre clarified, he sighed, "I'd like us to try being..." He motioned between them helplessly for a moment, "Being..."
Quatre nodded gratefully, "Yes. You don't need to pay rent for here. That frees you up to continue holding on to your other apartment..." He paused, thinking, "Or perhaps look for a closer apartment."
Trowa chuckled, "And turn this complex into the Gundam apartments."
"Something like that," Quatre shrugged and reached for his wine. He sat back, he looked into the swirling red depths before looking up, fondness in his eyes. "How do you want to do this?" Trowa's look of confusion made him carry on, "This relationship... Do you want to pick up where we left off? Do we start all over?"
"How about we take it as it comes?" Trowa tipped his own glass toward Quatre, "We're not the people we were. So, let's approach it in the way we never did."
Quatre nodded, his smile warm. He raised his glass, "To Wufei?"
Trying to hide behind his wine glass, Quatre smirked, "May his getting in the sack, help us to get in too."
Trowa looked speechless for a moment, before a warm smile broke out.
Their glasses clinked together.
The glasses clinked together as Quatre pushed open the door, he smiled warmly as he brought the tray over.
Duo looked up from the colourful piece of paper, "So, let me get this straight. There is an opportunity to meet the legendary Sjobol?"
Quatre passed him a glass of water, and sipped at his own as he sat. "Yes, apparently."
"I totally want to go." Duo looked over at the nurse. "Clarice. Please tell me I can go."
The nurse looked up from Duo's chart, "I'll ask Doctor Hobbs to come talk to you about it, I'm not sure if you're cleared for leaving the hospital yet." She tilted her head, motioning his chart. "Your immune system might not be able to handle such a complex environment." She shrugged apologetically, "You've been in a clean environment for over four years now, and it might be very difficult."
Duo looked at her, his expression almost mournful. "But, Clarice, it's the legendary Sjobol!"
"I don't even know what that means." The nurse smiled faintly, "But I'll go talk to Doctor Hobbs right now."
"Here, you better take this." Duo held out the colourful flyer, and tapped it. "It's important she reads this bit, this bit about how Wufei and his daughter are going to be doing a sack race." He looked at her sincerely, "That's the really important bit, Clarice. Like, super important. You might want to circle it, twice to be sure. Make sure she reads it. Carefully." He spoke slowly, his eyes deadly serious. "Say it like this: Wufei. In a Sack Race."
The nurse chuckled as she left, and Quatre shook his head. "I would have thought Heero would have been here."
"He's got therapy today," Duo shrugged, "He usually takes the afternoon off to ... contemplate what it all means, and ..." Duo's fingers flexed, as he thought. "Something." He glanced at Quatre, "You seem a little lighter today."
Quatre tilted his head, "What do you mean?"
"You just seem like ... I dunno," Duo shrugged again, "You just seem a bit lighter."
Quatre leant back in his chair, his blue eyes warm. "Perhaps I am just ... glad to be here."
"Glad?" Duo glanced at him, but Quatre smiled a private smile and did not seem moved to elaborate further. Duo shrugged, "That's cool." He shifted in bed, "If I can't go, you're gonna tape the race right?"
"I'm going to set up a live feed to this room." Quatre replied easily, "You'll be there, though."
"You think so?"
"Know so." Quatre's smile was warm, and Duo was taken back to a warm desert and a welcome he wasn't expecting. He reached out and Quatre met his hand. Quatre's eyes were bright and free, and Duo felt it in the warmth of their hands. He wondered when his hand had felt warmer.
His hand had been warmer before.
It wasn't ketchup on his hand.
He blinked and stared at the man before him. His dirty blond hair was wayward, but kept short. It was so hard to concentrate. It wasn't ketchup on his hand. Where was the blood coming from? The wall beyond the man was painted. Red and wet. The words dripped. Red washed over one of his eyes, and black threatened to take his vision. A hand under his chin. The man was crouching.
"... so very sorry..."
He smiled. Eyes narrowing. Duo couldn't hear anything, could only read the man's lips.
He said something, but Duo could only see an explosion of white feathers in his mind. The image faded.
"... do you remember them?"
Dirty blonde hair. Brown eye. White eye, unseeing. Scars littered his face, little scars like the ones on Heero's hands. Two over his upper lip.
Duo tried to concentrate.
The man's lips were moving.
"... don't have save..."
Red wash, black took his sight.
Scarred lips moved.
Wufei's face, almost scarlet with anger. Black hair whipping in the wind as he roared.
Black stole his sight for a moment.
A caress on his check.
The man walked away in OZ Pilot issue boots.
Black came again.
Doves in flight.
"Doves in flight."
Duo blinked as the words left his mouth. He blinked again as focus came back, and stared at the mobile phone in front of him. Pale hands clutched it, as if concerned the device would fall. He followed the pale hands, to the arms, to the man connected. The blonde man stared at him, bright eyes concerned and desperate. He looked beyond the blonde man, to the woman in a lab coat, taking notes. She paused in her note taking and looked up, when she realised he'd stopped talking. She looked familiar. Her lips pursed for a moment, and she looked over her shoulder to another woman standing at the end of his bed. This was an older woman, her hands deep in her lab coat. She stared at him thoughtfully for a long time, before stepping forward. "Hello Mr Maxwell, how do you feel?"
Duo tried to answer her, but found the words difficult to say. His mouth tried to form the ideas in his head, but nothing came out.
She tilted her head, thinking carefully. She glanced around the room for a moment, eyes landing on something to his left. She looked back at him, and nodded to his right. "Look at the man on your right, Mr Maxwell."
He stared at the blonde man with the bright eyes. His hands were in his lap now, and he was leant forward. Duo looked at him, mouth slack. He heard the woman speak, "Yellow."
"Quatre." He whispered and with the word, recognition flooded back. Quatre let out a breath, his bright blue eyes wide with confusion. He nodded to Duo, and Duo swallowed hard. He looked up at Sally who added something to the notes she was taking, and then at Doctor Hobbs.
Hobbs looked grave, "Hello Duo." She glanced at her watch, "You've been under for approximately three hours. During those three hours, you have slowly been describing the moments of consciousness after you were shot. Mr Winner has been recording since he realised what you were saying. We've recorded the last two and half hours of speech."
"What did I say?"
"A lot of it is broken English, odd words and short phrases. You seem to have a very visual memory; your other senses seemed to have been blotted out." Hobbs looked down for a moment, "Doves. You talked about doves for twenty minutes, repeating the phrase: Doves in flight." She tilted her head, "Do you recognise it?"
Duo thought for a moment but nothing came forward, he glanced at Hobbs and shook his head. "Sorry, no."
"Maybe Wufei will." Quatre said, he glanced between them. "You described Wufei, he was standing on his own Gundam, shouting."
He thought about that too, but frowned. "That's... ancient history." Duo glanced at Sally, "Did I at least say anything useful?"
"You gave a good description of the shooter's facial features, I've got at least three points of reference now: dark or dirty blonde hair, one scarred white eye, and two scars on the upper lip." She tapped her pen against the clipboard. Sally looked at him, "I wonder if you can sit with an E-fit artist, and compose an image of this guy."
Duo tried to remember and found nothing. He swallowed, "I don't think so. I don't even know what he looks like."
"Not consciously." Hobbs said, her concern making her frown, "You have a very remarkable defence system against trauma."
Duo's smile was weak and bitter, "A lifetime of practice."
He felt his head suddenly tip forward, and darkness crashed in on him.
He jerked his head as he woke up, and he stared into the darkness.
When his eyes adjusted, Heero was surprised to realise he'd fallen asleep at Duo's desk. Pushing away from the computer station, Heero raised his arms over his head and stretched. He closed his eyes and yawned. He dropped his hands and tapped at the keyboard. Nothing happened. The computer had switched itself off, and he stood. He left Duo's study behind him, and walked out into the living room. His own laptop was on the coffee table, his mobile next to it. He paused by the table, still unsure what to do or what to think.
His session had been thought-provoking, more so than usual, and he'd come here to think carefully. His own apartment was not as comforting as Duo's. Heero started around the darkened room. It was only illuminated by the lights of the city, from the large bay windows. It seemed the months were slipping by, Heero was struggling to keep up. Every day, Duo seemed to gain a little more independence and it was becoming clearer that Heero's role as a possible carer might be smaller than he'd initially...
Heero dipped his head, and covered his eyes.
He had hoped that Duo would need him more. He had hoped that Duo would be dependent on him.
It had been a tough realisation in his session today, and Heero had found it difficult. He wanted Duo to recover, like a good friend. He wanted Duo to be weaker, because he was selfish. In his imagination, he had constructed a plan that required Duo to not recover past a certain point. He had built on that plan, and developed his own role as Duo's carer. Heero swallowed. His therapist didn't call it selfish - that was Heero's word. His therapist had challenged Heero to come up with a different word, seemingly knowing something that Heero couldn't see. Heero could only call it selfish. For this plan, that had needed Duo to be weak and in need of someone stronger. Heero had been looking forward to caring for Duo in the long term. A lot of his research had revolved around the long term care of an impaired post-coma victim.
He opened his eyes, and stared out the bay windows.
By all reports, Duo would rapidly not need him. Within two years, Duo could possibly be returning to the life he had led before the coma. Heero looked around the room. That life had wanted the other pilots to be there, but hadn't needed them. Duo didn't need them around. He glanced down, looking at his clenched hands. Heero wanted to be in that life. Wanted to be a necessary part of that life.
Wanted to be good at something in that life.
Wanted Duo to need him in his life.
He crouched, his eyes focused on the glass of the coffee table. The reflections from the city.
It was a while before he moved.
It had been a while since he'd moved.
Wufei was gazing out of the window, watching the city. He'd come to the office to think. Nataku was staying at a friend's house for the night, while Wufei was following some leads. He was taking the time to think through it all. Behind him, Zechs flicked idly though their timeline. Wufei let his eyes refocus on the reflection of the large conference screen. The six month gap. It was impossible.
When questioned, Duo didn't seem to know what had happened. He acknowledged that he'd stopped communicating, changed his MO for his business dealings. For Duo, it seemed like a good time to let go. Doctor Hobbs had noted that Duo's memory was unreliable, that he might not recall the thinking or the emotions behind the actual event. It would be too delicate a memory for him. Duo's recall on events had been very good, but emotional memories were still something he was dealing with.
Wufei closed his eyes.
Comm. messages stopped.
Reveals name and location.
Military-related hate mail increases as a result.
Makes his video messages to the five pilots.
Business for Second Chance Inc improves.
Evidence from Duo's apartment suggests he also stopped looking for them at that time.
Six months before he was shot.
Wufei opened his eyes.
Unterward had given Heero keys to Duo's apartment.
In his mind's eyes, he saw a memory of Heero shaking his head as Sally approached.
Raising his phone, Wufei dialled a number. He pressed the phone against his ear, and stared blankly across the city as he waited for an answer. As soon as the call was picked up, he spoke.
"What did you find at Duo's apartment, Heero?"
::Remember me, I used to be the best time buddy::
::That you couldn't wait to see::
::But getting old, it takes its toll::
::And hearts getting broken lead to people growing cold::
A/N: So, I'm trying to identify what warnings to put on the prologue. I've decided that I need to go back and replace the chapter with an adequate warning – but I want to avoid spoilers. Also, I'm crap and have been out of fandom for a thousand years. Which warnings would you tag this with? Also, I hope to see your review this week. Thank you in advance for your review!