Disclaimer: Not mine. The end.
On that list of Marshall Noventa's relatives that Heero and Trowa visited, ever wondered what the rest of those people on the list told Heero? Well I did and here's the result.
Comments are always welcome.
The Million Dollar Answer
By, Nicole Silverwolf
"Believe that life is worth living and your belief will help create the fact."
There's something wrong with my vision because I can't seem to resolve the slight boy I see in front of me with the person whom I had created in my mind to pilot the Gundams. Surely the pilot who killed my uncle was a heartless madman with bloodlust in his eyes. Cruel and evil to the core who took a perverse pleasure out of killing a bunch of pacifists.
Not a boy younger than the legal drinking age whose eyes are so filled with regret and sorrow that it's physically painful. Not a boy who has offered himself up to me as a sacrifice for the grave error he has made.
This boy killed my uncle? But that's not possible! He's...he's...he's younger than my little brother. The kid's playing some cruel joke.
But there's something in those eyes and I narrow mine in response. Trying to read behind the ice and sorrow there. He's not lying.
There's a bitterness that I didn't think I could possess in my voice when I respond. I don't look at him but speak while facing the desk. I don't know if I should look up again.
"What do you want Heero Yuy? Why did you come to tell me this?"
I do not have the calm diplomacy my uncle does. But I am a doctor. And a teacher of doctors at that, which might qualify me as having more patience than my uncle. Somehow that helps me to keep my temper in check, though it is a close thing.
As the boy--Heero--raises a gun, barrel facing him, I wonder what Uncle Marshall would have done in a similar situation. If it were myself or perhaps Sylvia that had been killed. He always adored his granddaughter. Would he shoot the boy who took her life?
I don't understand...why is he offering up his life to me? He didn't mean to do it. Much as I still can't believe it, he is a soldier...a soldier who was only following orders. As if in a dream I take the gun.
I've never held one in my life.
I don't know what possessed me to remember that particular regiment of my curriculum. Why now of all times when I was standing with a gun in hand deciding whether or not to kill a fifteen year old boy who was responsible for destroying our best chance for peace. For killing a family member whom I loved dearly.
But maybe, just maybe I needed to remember why I ask that question in the first place.
If he's found the answer then I might consider killing him. Searching his eyes for a long moment I spoke in my clear teaching voice as if he was a member of my class of new medical students on the first day of classes.
"What's the answer to the million dollar question?"
Perhaps, as I once read in a psychology paper, we--as a society--are genetically predisposed to certain reactions. The reason that a smile means the same thing in every language of the world. The bewildered look on his face is just the same as every single student I've ever had has given me. Even the ones who had been prepared for it's coming. It's almost comical.
"What's the million dollar answer Heero?"
Familiarity gives me clarity and I don't feel like I'm drowning as much anymore. He doesn't know the answer and by default I now know what I have to do. No one's allowed to die by a doctor's hand in my mind without knowing that answer. Not if it can be helped.
"I...I don't understand. What's the million dollar question?" He asks/admits almost shyly.
I wonder, if he wasn't a Gundam pilot, what he would be. A student--a tenth grader--my mind calculates. Maybe eleventh or twelfth if he was so intelligent as to be a pilot.
Lowering the gun I place it on the desk in front of me. He looks almost disappointed that I haven't killed him. Why does this kid have such a deathwish?
"I studied ancient history as a minor in college Heero. I remember taking a course on the entertainment of the late twentieth century and its social and political ramifications on the world at large, particularly America. It is a hobby of mine."
I can tell he doesn't follow me and I hasten to get to the point lest he leave without understanding any of it.
"A comedian and musician once said that there was a million dollar answer or in his case joke. That joke could be understood and enjoyed by everyone, black, white, poor or rich because it was the joke that was funny to everyone. Not just one or two specialty groups. And that with his work he strove to reach that million dollar answer with every joke he told and everything he said."
"But until you know what the question is you can't search for the answer."
He's looking at me like I'm either daft or extremely dimwitted. Just hang on a second kid...I'm getting to the point. And nope I'm not nearly as dumb as you're already assuming I am.
"What's the meaning of life?" he asks almost sarcastically and I'm surprised at the near humor there.
"Quite a cheesy question Heero. No, that's not the million dollar question."
I shift behind the desk again. "Besides I'm not sure there's a reason to being alive, but perhaps that's my existential side peeking through eh?"
Some detached part of my mind wonders if he even knows what an existentialist is. I certainly didn't at his age. I can't tell whether he gets my attempt at humor...his face is too rigidly set for me to guage any kind of reaction. So I simply plunge ahead.
"Why does the human race merit saving? We are the only species in known existence capable of causing wars, murdering for no reason, capable of dreaming and of imagining things. But why fight in the war? Why try and save a person's life as they lie with a tumor in their brain in your hospital? Why not outright kill a patient dying of an incurable disease when they want to try anything to survive? Why do you fight for peace? I'm not even sure what the real million dollar question is. I like to think that the question is what is the value of human life? But it's kinda open to interpretation."
"Isn't that simply a different way of asking my question?" He replies, the gun and his mission, forgotten for the moment.
"From your point of view I guess it is," I concede and watch him quietly.
For a long moment no one in the room speaks, not me, not him and not the taller boy he came with.
"I don't want to burden you further. If you will not kill me then I must go to your uncle's grave." His voice is monotone and I can't tell if he understood or picked up on the significance of anything I've said in the last ten minutes.
"Why there?" I ask, cocking my head to one side and sweeping it back slightly.
"Your niece, Sylvia is there. I will make the same offer to her."
Something seems utterly wrong about that. Why is this kid trying to die so hard? My mind cannot fathom a reason for it. As he reaches out to gently pick the gun up I see the bandages for the first time. Is this the one that blew up? Is he the pilot of the Gundam that exploded a few months ago?
He must be, because I can tell that as a soldier he doesn't feel pain easily. But as he reaches for the gun the well-muscled arm tenses for a moment and I could have sworn I heard something approaching a very quiet moan. What concerns me though is the fact that the dressings--crude but serviceable--are turning a faint red.
Before I can do anything he's picked the gun up and slipped it away.
A doctor's instinct rose up in me. I couldn't do nothing. I had to at least offer to help.
"Heero...do you and your friend have a place to stay for the night? I know for a fact that the next flight out of here isn't until the morning. You both look in the need of a decent meal and a bed. You know I'm a doctor. I could at the very least look at that arm for you."
It's a longshot and I doubt either of them will concede the point. And I'm right. The taller one speaks in a soft but firm voice.
"We cannot burden you any further. Your offer is very kind but we would only increase the chance that you will be targeted by OZ. You are too kind to understand. We are sorry."
I nod in understanding. But I still want to do something...anything.
"At least let me look at your arm Heero. I can change the dressings and check for infection. You wouldn't want to drop dead before finishing your self appointed mission."
He fixes me with a rather unreadable stare. Obviously considering my words if nothing else. I let him look into my eyes and am honest with what is written there.
Two Prussian blue eyes lower in defeat and he nods his approval.
I gesture to the couch and tell them to sit and wait, which they both do.
Back into the study where I keep a small first aid kit and supplies. Picked those up and a bottle of aspirin off the table and headed back out to where they were both waiting. It doesn't take more than a few moments.
I sit down on the table's edge and I recognize that he's struggling not to up and bolt. So I'm careful as I reach out and take his arm and pull the wrinkled dress shirt up. "Relax Heero," I admonish calmly like I'm in pediatrics all over again.
He does, with much effort as I gently unwrap the bandage. When I get that off there's another layer of thick gauze that's a nice bright red.
Suprisingly he doesn't flinch as I draw it back, though I know it must sting a lot. He watches my reaction intensely, which is slightly less composed. The wound is deep, nasty and still bleeding. The stitches that are holding it closed have broken.
"You popped some stitches and they'll need to be sewn up or this won't heal."
He nods tightly and I look to his companion. "Did you do this?" I gesture to the stitches.
The boy looks almost worried for a moment but then hesitates and nods an affirmative.
"You did an excellent job," I comment as I load a local anesthetic into a syringe. Heero watches as I insert it into his skin, near the wound.
While I wait for the area to become numb enough for me to work I set out the string, and several items to clean the wound out thoroughly. A bunch of cotton to stem the flow of blood while I work. During this whole time trying to ignore the two pairs of eyes tracking my every move.
I test around the area with a probe and Heero nods negative when I ask if he can feel it.
The whole process takes maybe three-quarters of an hour. The stitches will hold but I admonish against using that left arm too much or he will break them open again. I place a bit of a strong antiseptic on a thick gauze pad which goes over the wound and then is replaced by another roll of white cloth tape.
During that whole time Heero kept his eyes on what I was doing. I don't think he's ever had such an opportunity to watch a doctor stitch someone up before. Or maybe he has but he's just curious. I fancy that he's the curious type.
"Looks like you're all set Heero. Take these every six hours." I catch the near derisional look that crosses his face for a moment. 'Soldiers don't need painkillers' it says.
"It's not a cop-out. There are properties in aspirin that will help you heal faster."
He doesn't want to take them but I shove them into his hand and close his fingers over it in a loose fist.
Within moments they are leaving and I lead them to the door. I have no servants to show them out and I will not be rude.
They pause at the door, the taller boy already at the bottom steps waiting for Heero to follow. He turns to me; honest eyes still filled with pain and guilt I don't think I will ever understand.
"I don't know the answer to your question. I'm sorry." He says very formerly and I think he is quite serious about his regret in not understanding.
My reply is something that rolls off my tongue with out really trying to get it out. "That Heero Yuy is what the journey is all about. I truly hope that you find your answer someday."
He looks at me for a long moment and I realize just how young he is again. Nodding he turns and disappears down the stairs and around the corner.
I honestly hope that he understood what I was trying to tell him. And I hope that I have done right by my uncle.
Will Smith posed that comment about the million dollar joke.
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