Warnings and Disclaimers: Unlikely plot devices. Yes, you have been warned.
One hand reached back to pull the band from his sweat-soaked hair as Wufei nearly fell into the chair. The tiny motel room he was in had little more to it than a bed, a bathroom, beat-up desk and the chair he was sitting in, but all he'd really been interested in when he'd pulled up on the bike had been the bed and the sign blinking 'wireless access' in the motel's window. The sweep for surveillance bugs had already come up clean, and he was already twenty-four hours past his check-in time with the other pilots.
Quickly setting up his laptop, he opened his email and the encryption program and typed out a quick mission summary. For a moment the pilot's fingers paused over the keys as his mind debated, and then he added a quick note at the end, telling Yu Jie that he was well.
The others might have been used enough to their lifestyle not to worry overmuch when a check-in was a little late, but his friend wasn't. Especially when Wufei's departure had been so hasty that the Chinese teenager hadn't even had the chance to say goodbye, and their last conversation before that had been... awkward.
He glanced out the window at the bleak desert, the sun only just starting to set. Actually going to sleep this early would throw his internal clock off; if there had been some benefit to it, he wouldn't have hesitated, but he refused to submit to his body's weakness. Instead Wufei bent back over the laptop, calling up the search program as he'd been intending to do for far too long. He'd been reluctant, before, leery of finding out too much about Yu Jie past for reasons that were so selfish he was ashamed to even think of them, but that last conversation between them had offered him new incentive.
Protecting and helping his friend had to take priority over everything else, even if protecting Yu Jie meant losing him. And there were things in Yu Jie's past that Wufei had found needed correcting.
Wufei pounded on the door again, actually trembling with anger, but to no avail. It wasn't just locked- they must have barricaded it somehow. The others had ribbed him about it, yes, and there'd been that glint in Maxwell's eyes that said he was genuinely considering it, but how dare they! This went far beyond dishonorable, not just towards himself but towards the civilian they had the nerve to call friend.
A soft noise behind him made him step back from the door and turn around, though he couldn't see his companion in the darkness. A hand groped for the light switch, only to find it had been disabled, torn neatly out of the wall. "Yu Jie?" he asked, worried.
"Stop," the boy answered, and Wufei felt a hand waving through the air, to catch on his shirt. "If you hurt your hands, I've never healed a broken bone before. I don't want to have to experiment on you."
The hand was warm through the shirt, and the teenager fought back a blush, even though there was no way it could have been seen. "I swear, when they let us out…" he growled, briefly covering Yu Jie's hand with his own in acknowledgment.
"May I join you?" his friend asked, a hint of laughter in his voice as, to Wufei's relief, he released his grip. "I knew Duo played pranks, but somehow, this wasn't what I had in mind. Do you think we'll be in here long?"
Wufei reached for the side, where his memory insisted the counter was, and found and leaned against it. "Knowing Maxwell, only the ancestors know," he replied with a sigh. The rage had gone out of him for the moment, leaving only a vague sense of irritation and dread. He knew what the aim of the 'prank' was, but did Yu Jie? If the amnesiac had any inkling of what the other pilots had meant by this, Wufei didn't know that he'd ever be able to look his friend in the eye again.
He sighed again. At least it wasn't an actual closet. Being locked in the tiny bathroom was humiliating enough.
There was a rustle of cloth- Yu Jie sliding down to sit on the floor. Recognizing the wisdom of not standing for a wait that had the possibility of turning into hours-long, Wufei sat as well, his back to the door. With nothing else to do, he closed his eyes and began counting his breaths.
It wasn't anything in particular that brought him out of his meditation, only a sense that something wasn't quite the same. It wasn't as dark as it had been before, with the thinnest trickle of light coming through between the door and the frame. He could just make out Yu Jie, the younger boy curled into himself, and the sounds of his breathing were deep and regular.
"Are you asleep?" Wufei whispered, almost disbelieving. How in the world could the boy sleep under circumstances like these?
"No," Yu Jie murmured after a moment, though the slurring in his voice suggested he wasn't far from it. "It's just so peaceful in here."
The pilot blinked. "Peaceful?"
"Mmhm. An' safe. Like my cupboard."
Wufei went still. Another memory? "Which cupboard would that be?" he asked after a minute or so of silence had passed.
"The cupboard under the stairs. I lived there." Yu Jie yawned and curled tighter into himself. "He couldn't get me in there."
"Lived there…" Wufei repeated quietly, but there was no answer. He stared through the darkness at the slumbering boy, dismay rooting him where he sat.
When Maxwell at last opened the door to let them out, the spill of light revealed Wufei holding Yu Jie's smaller form. The American started to grin, only for it to falter as the martial artist looked up at him. There was no expression on his face, and his dark eyes were hard. "Someone hurt him," Wufei said quietly.
They'd suspected the possibility, based on the myriad little clues in the boy's mannerisms and the shape he'd been in when he arrived, but to have it so baldly confirmed was still unsettling. "Any idea who?" Maxwell asked, for once with no trace of the loudmouthed troublemaker about him.
Wufei shook his head. "Not yet. But I'm going to find out."
Now, with nothing to distract him, Wufei began his search in earnest. Yu Jie's dreams didn't lend themselves to hard facts, but there was one thing he could search for and be reasonably sure of getting results on.
London clock tower, he typed, and hit enter. A list of sites appeared after a moment, and he clicked on the first of the links. The site it led to looked like the kind of report a schoolchild would write.
"The Palace of Westminster Clock Tower, which contained the giant bell commonly known as 'Big Ben', was built in London in 1859 C.E.," he read aloud. That agreed with the vague sense of familiarity he felt, but it didn't give him any other clues to follow. There was a picture included. The clock tower didn't look that much like Yu Jie's sketch, but it was recognizably the same building.
Frowning, he skimmed further ahead, and paused as he came to a paragraph towards the end of the article. "It was destroyed in 2066 C.E. by an unknown group of terrorists."
The logical explanation was that Yu Jie had done a similar report once upon a time, but there was a half-formed suspicion in the back of Wufei's mind that, until now, he hadn't dared to give serious consideration. It was insane, utterly so, but combined with the music, the lack of knowledge of history and geography…
He opened his email again and typed out a message to Barton, the only pilot he could trust to follow his instructions without questions. At least, without questions until after he'd performed the search as requested.
"Decided how you're going to die this weekend?" a laughing voice asked him.
"Neptune is ascendant, so maybe by drowning," he answered absently, paging through his book. "Though I think I might have used that one in August. Think she'll notice?"
"Trelawney?" a second voice asked, one nearly identical, but still distinguishable from the first voice. "Eh… maybe. Make it that you'll be drowned by merpeople, she'll eat that up."
"Really, you two! Don't encourage him," his friend demanded, swiping at their heads with a thick book of her own. "Harry, you really ought to actually be doing your homework, not just making it up."
"Hermione, weren't you the one who stopped taking Divination because it was a load of bunk?" he retorted, trying to ignore the way a third redhead was glaring daggers at him from across the room.
With hardly any transition, Yu Jie was awake and opening his eyes. The first thing he reached for was the notebook and pen at the side of his bed, and he jotted down the details of the dream that seemed most important before they could fade. He hadn't used to keep a notebook, instead telling Wufei and trusting him to remember, but the other boy had been away from the flat for nearly a week now.
He sighed, looking down at the page. Wufei had left so quickly, and the amnesiac had been left with the odd feeling that he'd said something in the bathroom that had upset his friend, but couldn't for the life of him remember what. Duo had apologized for locking them in, but continually refused to say why he'd done it in the first place until he'd managed to escape Yu Jie's questions by taking a mission in the Americas.
Trelawney, merpeople, Harry, Hermione, Divination… He rather thought this had been his strangest dream yet, for all that it felt like a common, everyday scene during the dream itself. Or maybe that was what had been strange about it. Between the unusual words, and the way the girl in his dream, Hermione, had without a doubt been calling him Harry, it seemed like it should have been something more… extraordinary.
His stomach growled, breaking his train of thought. Yu Jie had only picked at his dinner, despite Quatre's henpecking; between Wufei's absence and his normal restlessness, he just hadn't had much of an appetite. With another sigh, he rose from the bed, still with the notebook clutched in hand. He didn't think sleep would come easy now, so he might as well make something simple to eat.
To his surprise, Trowa was already in the kitchen, staring at his laptop with the slightest of frowns on his face. He glanced in Yu Jie's direction as the boy came through the door, then returned his gaze to the screen, where it looked like some kind of search program was running. "Couldn't sleep?" he asked quietly.
Yu Jie shook his head, opening up the refrigerator. "Just weird dreams," he replied.
The boy shrugged. "I guess. Merpeople and some kind of class about seeing the future, I think."
Trowa chuckled. "Sounds like a fantasy novel."
"Yeah…" Looked like they were going to need more bread in a day or so. Three teenaged boys ate a lot, especially sandwiches. "This makes three times for the name, though," he said absently, pulling out the last couple of ingredients he needed.
Behind him, Trowa suddenly paid him a great deal more attention. "Name?" he inquired, pulling up the single result so far of the new search using the amnesiac's fingerprints.
"When I dream, I keep hearing the name Harry. Wufei didn't tell you?" Yu Jie asked, glancing at Trowa.
"No," the pilot answered, staring at the profile. Harry James Potter, he read again. According to the coroner's report, killed at the age of one, along with his parents James and Lily Potter, nee Evans, in a car accident. Trowa might have thought there had simply been a mix-up, and that the babe had survived to grow up to become Yu Jie, if it hadn't been for the date.
October 31, 1980 Common Era; they'd died nearly four hundred years ago. He snorted in derision. Even taking into account all the oddities surrounding Yu Jie, the belief that the boy had somehow survived for four centuries without generating any sort of trail was beyond ridiculous. He didn't know what Chang was thinking, demanding that the search parameters be adjusted to search the records back that far…
There was no picture of the child- understandable, given the severe injuries the coroner listed as the cause of death and the moral sensibilities of the time period. There were photos of the parents available, however. Trowa scrolled down to the section of the report that contained them, only to flinch back suddenly enough to draw a concerned inquiry from the other boy.
Acting quickly, the pilot exited out of the report before Yu Jie could see the face of the dead man, the face that was frighteningly similar to his own.
A/N: As requested through the polls, the next chapter. Courtesy of spending a week in a town teensy enough that the only fast food is a mini-Subway, without any personal internet access. If you see this before the 29th, it's because I found the town library and its supposed computers. Incidentally, this story is currently under editing; the first three chapters in particular really need it. (27th The library computers didn't take my flashdrive. Damn them…)
The next story I hope to get a chapter out on is Strains of Melody. Anyway, the poll has been renewed, Storm Child removed from the choices, and The Boy and the Ring reinstated. I'm keeping track of every poll version and adding up the results on a little spreadsheet, so every vote counts, including multiple votes on a story from the same person. I figure if the reader is devoted enough to vote every poll, the story they want deserves that much more attention. Currently, in first through third place are Melody, Know Thyself, and Moonshine Glories.
Happy holidays, everyone!
29 December 2007