The Wayward Son (Epilogue)
By: Mourning Ophelia
Disclaimer: Hahaha Septem gets mentioned last and shot/pushed out of an airplane! Sucks to be him, but it sucks even worse that Gundam isn't mine.
Here it is! I'm sort of relieved that this is over now, so I can go back to trying to finish Lavendar Castles (happy 6x9 and 1xR) which has a cute ending too (if I ever get to it). I have so many other projects that I need to get started on before I head off to college. I never realized how hard it is to balance fanfiction and websites.
Anyway! Sometimes I wonder why I didn't just write this as a one-shot, but I guess I feel like it wouldn't have the same effect. So I cheated and made it a multi-part! And you know, this story was never excessively popular, but I love it the most—thank you so much for reading and keeping me on my toes. Eventually I'll go back and rework some grammar (EMBARASSED), but for now, the story is done!
I have no idea why the formatting on the last chapter looks so weird, but I digress! Please consider reviewing if you've been reading and haven't. I want to know if it lived up to expectations. D:
March 2, After Colony 198
The old man looked like he was about to cry.
"…Are you sure about this? I mean, I don't want to lose…"
Zechs gave the Project Manager the best sympathetic look he could muster, "I'm sorry, but I just feel like this is for the best."
The old man nodded, "I understand… you two are still just kids and have your entire life ahead of you. But tell me, does she know about what you're about to do?"
The former OZ officer looked to the floor and back up, trying to bite back a guilty look. There was a certain fondness that the older man had always shown him, regardless of the fact he knew about Zechs' past. The Project Manager patted him on the shoulder, already knowing the answer.
"I just hope you know what you're getting into by tricking her like this."
Zechs laughed nervously and placed a hand behind his head, strangely relaxed for what felt like the first time in a hundred years, "You and I both."
Noin's approach was signaled by the dull thudding of her boots against the shuttle ramp, "Sorry about that. The people were saying goodbye like they were never going to see me again." She laughed, missing the look at Zechs and the Project Manager shared. The latter stood to embrace her.
"Not you too!"
"Good luck, kids. Be in touch soon."
Noin waved to him as the doors slid shut, a bewildered look still on her face. In the back of her mind something had been gnawing endlessly on her curiosity, resulting in the plague known simply as anxiety. With an air of obvious apathy, she assisted Zechs in maneuvering the shuttle from the Martian spaceport, watching his reaction more than the controls before her or fast approaching vastness space.
Zechs felt her eyes burning into him, but refused to look over.
… he was always so transparent with her…
"What are you planning, Zechs Merquise?" She asked finally, her voice drawing out slowly. He fought back the overwhelming need to wince, his guilt hiding behind a deftly conceived mask of innocence.
"A short supply run to L-1, why? What are you planning Noin?"
He internally congratulated himself. She seemed satisfied enough—at least for the time being. At Lake Victoria, Noin had always somehow found a way to outsmart him in battle tactics. Over the years he had picked up tips and experience that thrust him past her—but this wasn't a battle. This was Noin.
"It's going to be a long flight to L-1, do you want to split the shifts?"
Noin raised an eyebrow, "Are you telling me you actually want to sleep during a shuttle flight?"
He shrugged carelessly and looked ahead into empty space, "I was going to give you the second shift, since I figure you'd want to rest… after last night." Zechs' eyes flashed over briefly to catch her reaction. Having recently discovered his affinity for seeing his partner blush and throwing most of his reservations to the wind, Zechs found it occasionally appropriate to provoke a reaction from her.
"I! Well… I!" A light flush had set into her face, though he wasn't sure if it was out of modesty or annoyance. Her eyes flashed dangerously as she stood up, "I'll take the first shift and you take the second shift. That way I'll be able to figure out what you've got up your sleeve." She unbuckled his restraints and pointed swiftly to the back of the shuttle where the sleeping cots were located.
Zechs blinked, having expected more resistance or, at the very least, suspicion. Why hadn't she just asked why they couldn't sleep in their seats? He, however, stood up and favored her with a slight smile. She returned it, but waved him off.
"Have a nice rest. I'll wake you up in four hours or so."
A sly smile formed as he turned his back to her. It occurred to him then that he had probably smiled more in the last 22 hours than he had in his entire 22 years of existence.
The former OZ officer pulled down the thin white sheet of the cot, sliding himself beneath it. He had no real intention of actually sleeping (there was his pride as a pilot to be considered, after all), but the comfort of being able to lie down without fear of approaching attack or danger was a nice luxury. From the front of the shuttle, he was able to hear Noin talking to herself, half humming out a tune he didn't recognize. If he closed his eyes, he could clearly see the scrunch in her nose as sniffed, her delicate fingers brushing through her hair (he had to admit that he liked it longer; the texture was so incredibly soft he often found himself unwilling reaching out to touch it), the squint of her eyes as recited each star formation they passed…
He knew every part of her now, both inside and out. Her favorite color, her favorite food, where her skin was the smoothest, the curve of her hip…
Passing a hand over his face, he had to suppress an audible groan. It was ridiculous, he decided, how she had invaded his thoughts.
"Orion, Little Dipper, Pleiades…"
No, she hadn't invaded them—the realization hit him like a ton of bricks—he hadn't taken a break from soldiering or from war. He had taken a break from her. How had he survived being separated for so long without her there to ground him? What a fumbling, bumbling idiot he had been as a kid, so wrapped up in his vision (which, he reminded himself, ultimately failed) and his pride that he hadn't even recognized what it was that he had felt. Or maybe he just hadn't learned the word for it?
How appropriate, another smile crept up his face slowly, that Noin, his eternal instructor, had taught him another life lesson.
It was then that the thousands of unwritten letters seem to finally spill from his heart, his fingers tracing the outline of each letter on the cotton sheet. He decided that if he ever came across enough paper, he would write down each and every one of them and at last give them to her.
A snort as he turned to his side—Zechs Merquise was becoming a romantic.
He closed his eyes, his entire life passing beneath his lids in streams of sorrow, anger, regret…
And hope. A tiny thread, shining the brightest, always lurking beneath his agony…
He sat up and smoothed down his hair. Had he really spent four hours day dreaming about her? (He vowed to find a new hobby soon; this obsession could not be healthy to a man of his age.)
"I'm coming. Do you want me to get you some water?"
There was a pause before her chipper voice replied, "How thoughtful of you, Sleeping Beauty. I would love some."
If it hadn't have been for her tone of voice, Zechs would have regretted having to do what he was about to. Reaching into his duffle bag he felt around until his hand came to the small pill case. He stood slowly, letting his muscles and bones creak as they stretched out again. The water bottles were stored under her cot, and he had no trouble opening one, nor did he experience any difficulty in empting the gel tablets into hers.
It took two deep breaths before he was able to work up the nerve to hand it to her. She gave him another heartbreaking smile and it took all of his willpower not to trade bottles with her at the last minute.
"How was your little nap?"
"It seemed a lot shorter than four hours." He admitted slowly, "I pulled back the sheets of your cot…"
"I think I'm probably just going to stay up the rest of the way." She shrugged nonchalantly.
'No you're not.' Zechs brushed a hand through his hair as she took a deep gulp.
In that next moment her eyes flashed in anger and he knew he had been caught.
"Zec!" She managed to growl before her body went limp. Zechs' arms shot out to catch her upper body from falling against the counsel. Carefully unbuckling her seat restraints, he deftly lifted her into his arms and carried her to the back of the shuttle. As he tucked the sheet of her cot around her, he brushed the hair out of her face.
"You can kill me when you wake up." He promised. In her sleep she seemed to clutch the sheet just a little tighter.
Stretching his arms above his head, Zechs contemplated his next move.
He could take his time though; he had a guaranteed ten hours before he was a dead man.
Zechs was surprised to see a familiar pair waiting for him at the bottom of the shuttle's landing ramp. Shifting Noin carefully in his arms, he made his way down the metal surface.
"Milliardo." Relena's accusatory tone made his head hang a little lower.
He cleared his throat as if trying to maintain some dignity, "She'll wake up in three hours."
Heero's eyebrows seemed to go up ever-so-slightly, as if a new idea had just worked its way into his mind. His eyes flashed from Noin to Relena very quickly.
"Don't you dare." He told the younger man in a flat voice.
"Hn." Heero seemed to snort in hilarity more than anything else.
Relena sighed and passed a hand over her face (Zechs realized it was a habit that they shared) and began to speak again, "Anyway, all the arrangements have been made. There's a black Range Rover parked just outside this hanger and Sally said that she'd be by in a few hours to pick up the shuttle. Everything should be in order when you get there… oh! I made Heero pick up a few maps of the countryside so you wouldn't get completely lost… I think that should be it…?" She looked at Heero, who seemed to currently be functioning as her other half.
"Oh," she gasped, "oh! That damned thing! The realtor had lost the code to get in so it took about five hours to reprogram it. It's just set as her birthday."
"Are you complaining? You spent the five hours shopping for an entire new wardrobe for her."
Zechs' brows rose dramatically.
"Don't worry," Relena waved her hands with a laugh, "I consulted with Sally before I bought anything."
"Thank you," Zechs said finally, in such an earnest and passionate way that Relena seemed taken back by it for a moment. A truly bright smile lit of up her entire face as Zechs leaned down to receive a kiss on cheek.
"Have fun." An echo of a smirk on Heero's face made Zechs feel the slightest bit uncomfortable.
It wasn't until he got to the car and saw that all the maps were in Arabic did he finally understand why.
"Damn you, Heero Yuy." He grumbled, but not even the foreign language could sink the elated feeling that was welled up inside of him, or crease his own grin.
A nose crinkled.
A body attempted to burrow itself deeper into the cocoon of silk blankets, a face pressed itself harder against a pillow with a familiar scent…
Lucrezia Noin shot straight up out of bed.
Her head and body throbbed from the sudden movement, and it took a few minutes to clear the fog from her vision. The events of the shuttle came rushing back to her in that instant.
'I'm going to kill him…'
Dropping her hands to her lap from where they had been rubbing her eyes, it took her another moment to digest where she was.
"Oh my God." Her voice croaked out, and she instantly rubbed her eyes again making sure it wasn't a hallucination.
All around her was the familiar comfort of the pastel purple of the walls, the white furniture of her girlhood… and the stuffed elephant, Francesco, which she had gotten with her Aunt and Uncle when the circus came to town… She reached over to his usual perch on her nightstand and brought him tightly to her chest.
Noin would never know how long she merely sat there, soaking everything in. It occurred to her once or twice that Zechs might actually have killed her and this was her demented form of Heaven—or that she was still locked inside some strange hallucinogenic dream brought on as a side affect of the sleeping pills…
Finally building up the courage, she slipped out of her bed, feeling the pale carpet embrace and warm her feet. Noin traced the familiar path out of her childhood bed room to the upstairs hallway. Someone had left the window open at the other end and she could clearly see the flimsy, sheer curtain blowing against the wind. Bracing a hand against the wall, she let it carefully drag behind her as her eyes devoured the portraits on the wall. It amazed her that every picture remained the same, unchanged since her last visit so long ago. Out of sheer curiosity and confusion, she opened each of the ten upstairs bedrooms and found them in a similar state.
When she finally came to a portrait of her aunt she found herself firmly planted before it.
'Well, Auntie? How did I do?'
The portrait seemed to smile back at her.
It was at least an hour before she made her way down the grand staircase. She was still unconvinced that the entire situation was real until she found her partner in the breakfast room.
At first she thought it was her uncle, but she quickly realized her folly. Zechs had changed and showered, presumably. He wore simple khaki pants and an open blue dress shirt with a white undershirt beneath it and was currently scanning over a newspaper. Noin, for the briefest moment, had a vision of him twenty years in the future with strands of silver intermingled with gold hair and silver spectacles—and a flashback of his boyish blond curls and intense stare.
"Hello, dear," He snapped his newspaper, "Who's your friend?"
Noin blinked, before realizing she was still clutching her stuffed animal tightly against her chest.
"Francesco," she reported, not missing a beat, "he kept my bed warm before you did."
She smiled seeing his cheeks tint slightly; he cleared his throat before standing up to walk over by the windows. The light that filled the room and surrounded him seemed so warm and pure.
Watching as she shyly walked up to him, he couldn't help but look down and smile at her.
Noin smiled sweetly and punched him in the arm with all the strength she could muster.
Zechs grimaced, grabbing his arm slightly. He deserved it.
"You drugged me?"
"You drugged me and brought me to my old home?"
He nodded again, but spoke this time, "It's your home."
"It hasn't been my home in a decade." The wheels began to spin in her mind as she digested his words. It was her house?
Noin watched as Zechs pulled something from his back pocket and as he handed it to her. She glanced it over, but had recognized her family seal on the paper before she even scanned its contents. It was a deed to the house? How could he have gotten something like this? The last she knew her second cousin had offered to buy the estate as a summer home…
"I don't understand…" She began; her voice was small, wavering slightly. It completely betrayed not only her uncertainty but also a sense of impending fear.
Feeling both his hands run through her hair, she allowed him to tilt her head back so that she was staring him right in the face.
"Happy Birthday, Noin. I know I'm a couple of days early, but I figured since I was inconsiderate and forgot your last birthday I had to come up with a really nice surprise." She would never know the exhausting effort of tracking down most of her old belongings that had been sold, or even just buying the house in the first place.
"… I thought we weren't going to get each other presents…" He had pulled her into a tight embrace, but she pushed him away.
"Wait, wait a minute. I know what this is about! This is to get me to stay here while you!" She didn't seem to want to finish the thought, "How could you trick me like this!"
Zechs was much stronger than her, and she was instantly back in his embrace, "Don't be ridiculous, Noin. I just took a dear friend's advice. I bought some real estate. I'm going to try to settle down. And even though I'm giving it to you, I was hoping you'd let me stay here for a little while…"
She was nodding against his chest.
"…since you do have eleven bedrooms in this house…"
Noin chuckled in delight, "It's actually fourteen if you count the downstairs,"
She was suddenly silenced by the brush of his lips against hers, but before she could make any move to deepen the kiss Zechs pulled away.
"You need to go get changed. I have one more surprise for you."
Noin raised an eyebrow, "What type of surprise?"
A secretive smile crossed his face, "One that has to be perfectly timed. We'll stop and get some dinner first though."
"Oh, are you going to treat, Mister Peacecraft?"
"Of course, Baroness Noin."
Noin shook her head, glad that he didn't seem disturbed by the fact that she had referred to him by his real name. Picking up Francesco from the table a thought struck her.
"I don't have anything to wear…"
"Don't worry," Zechs called after her, "Relena took the liberty of shopping for you."
"Oh God." He heard her mumbled she made her way upstairs.
And he couldn't help himself—he burst into laughter.
"I can't believe I actually found this place." Zechs mumbled, taking Noin's hand in his own. He had dressed in fine slacks and a button-up shirt. Noin had been secretly pleased to find her former charge's taste in clothing had been drastically improved—she slipped into a plain form-fitting black dress that came down to her knees. Her partner seemed shell shocked for a moment as he watched her walk down the stairs to meet him—had she chosen to wear a dress… willingly?
"The fact that all your maps were in Arabic probably didn't help." Noin pointed out, still confused about that detail. Zechs merely shook his head and let out another low chuckle.
Dinner had gone remarkably well. For some strange reason (it was probably the way the sunset seemed to cause her skin to glow and the warmth of the Italian night) he had become deathly nervous during the middle of their meal and almost broke down and told her what they would be doing.
"Zechs," she had said grinning, "This is our first date."
Noin eyed him suspiciously again as they came to a plain brick building; she wasn't familiar with this part of the town. Somehow Zechs had managed to be incredibly sneaky about the entire situation and it was driving her crazy. The other thing that had bothered her throughout the night was his incessant glancing at his watch...
"It's… a fire escape?" She tiled her head to the side slightly, vaguely aware of the sound of a familiar opera. They were a few blocks away from the open aired opera house so she didn't think much of it.
"You're still as sharp as ever, Noin." She punched him slightly in the arm again, but couldn't help but smile.
Once they were at the top of the building and laying down flat on their backs, she could see why he was so eager to bring her up.
"Oh… wow…" She whispered.
From their perch they could see millions upon millions of stars dangling above them, tantalizing the former students with their splendor and sheer brilliance. No photograph or painting could ever really convey the sky's glory.
"Oh wow…" Noin repeated this time, more as a breathless whisper, "I don't suppose you brought a…?"
He silently handed her a telescope, a knowing look in his eyes.
They sat in a pleasurable kind of stillness before Zechs raised his hand and pointed, "Lucy in the sky with diamonds…"
Noin could feel the tears begin to well up in her eyes. Only tears of happiness were allowed in her world, but she was still trying to hold them at bay. It seemed as though they had drifted back into a memory of so long ago…
Nessun dorma, nessun dorma ...
Tu pure, o Principessa,
"Noin," Zechs turned his head so he was whispering directly in her ear, "Do you hear that?"
Nella tua fredda stanza,
Guardi le stelle
Che tremano d'amore
E di speranza…
She blinked, the sound of the opera suddenly becoming much louder than it had been before. He kept his face buried in her hair, and as soon as the words registered in her mind, she frantically sought out his hand to grip very tightly.
Ma il mio mistero è chiuso in me,
Il nome mio nessun saprà, no, no,
Sulla tua bocca lo dirò
Quando la luce splenderà,
Ed il mio bacio scioglierà il silenzio
Che ti fa mia.
It felt as though something broke inside of her; that last lock of emotions of strength gave way to the simple need to release every frustration, sadness, and now extreme joy—the tears that filled her vision spilled freely down her cheeks, and she made no motion to brush them away or hide them. He had ripped away a cold veil and revealed her for who she really was. Noin was sobbing wholeheartedly now, the weight of war and sorrow lifted, destroyed. She had transcended into a new being of sheer, uncontrollable, happiness. What was Lake Victoria? What was the war? What was Mars?
Nothing compared to now.
Il nome suo nessun saprà
E noi dovrem, ahimè, morir
"Noin," he whispered, and she could detect a slightly nervous smile about him, "Don't tell me you don't like Nessun Dorma anymore…"
Dilegua, o notte!
"Zechs… Milliardo… Zechs…" she whispered, turning so that she was facing him, their noses and foreheads touching. Thank you, she had wanted to say, thank you, thank you, thank you.
He was trying so hard to read her—he had always been perceptive, after all—but it occurred to him at moment that it didn't matter. It didn't matter what his name was. It didn't matter where they were…what he thought, what she thought—as long as they were together, they could do anything.
"And there," he whispered once again, the sounds of the opera fading out from the world around them, "Space and peace forever."
(if you didn't get the last line, go back and re-read chapter one)
Oh dear, I've gone and finished. I hope I didn't overkill the fluff or the Nessun Dorma.
If you'd like to read more about the opera Turnadot (which is a little effed up plot-wise), check out: home.earthlink(dot)net/markdlew/comm/turandot(dot)htm Maybe you'll catch the bits and pieces I plugged in the story. (By the way, he uses a different translation from the one that I used earlier in the story…)
Hm, let's see. The Wayward Son is a story about Zechs Merquise. Hence, the title. Wayward Son. I personally see Zechs as being a possible wayward son... one who drifts away, but comes back victorious. And if you've heard the Kansas song (carry on my Wayward Son, there'll be peace when you are done) you'll get it too. Even though Noin was a major character in this story, I really wanted to use her more as a tool for his characterization. I think that you can't really have Zechs without Noin or Noin without Zechs... Noin was just aways more clear in her caring for Zechs. And if he seemed overly happy or gleeful in this epilogue... well, what can I say? You can't stay that little boy who doesn't even trust himself forever. :)
... eeek. I don't know what to do with myself now...
... wow. It's like this emptiness in my heart that can only be filled with reviews/comments/criticism…