Disclaimer: I don't own Codename: Kids Next Door. Stop asking me.
It wasn't the first time Numbuh 2 had disappeared after the Tube-a-thon, but it still bugged Numbuh 5. It freaked her out a little; one minute Numbuh 2 would be there, and when she looked up again he would be gone, leaving the room silently so no one noticed his departure.
Numbuh 1 said they should just leave him alone. "Unless he wants to talk about it," the leader of Sector V said to Numbuh 5 when she went to him, "there's no way we can help him. We can't force it out of him, Numbuh 5. I know you're worried, but this is something he has to do himself." Numbuh 5 hadn't argued, but felt rather steamed when she left his room.
Numbuh 4 figured they should just beat the crud out of him, force him to talk. "It always works on the kids at school," he muttered sulkily as Numbuh 5 beat a hasty retreat. Why she had even gone to him in the first place she had no idea…
Numbuh 3, predictably (Or not… Numbuh 5 wasn't sure) believed that all Numbuh 2 needed was a little chicken soup and some time for a nap. "That'll make him feel better," she chirped. Numbuh 5 had just smiled and thanked her, knowing deep down that Numbuh 2's problem wasn't quite like that.
"Well, Numbuh 5," she murmured, "I guess you're just gonna have to handle this by yourself." She walked down the hall to track down Numbuh 2.
Numbuh 2 wasn't in his room when Numbuh 5 checked, and a quick run-in with Cree and "The Tommy" confirmed that he hadn't been seen at all. She chewed her lip for a moment, trying to ignore the worry gnawing at her belly.
"Where are you, Numbuh 2?"
For a moment she entertained the thought that he was flying in the sky, testing a plane, but the thought quickly evaporated. She couldn't explain it, it was just a feeling, but she knew he wasn't flying.
The boy's crazy about the sky…
Which gave her an idea.
Numbuh 5 opened one of the windows, cautiously climbing out. She balanced for a moment, reaching out to grip a small branch to steady herself. She looked up, scanning the treetop, and finally saw Numbuh 2.
He was sitting on a branch, his feet swinging idly, gazing at the stars just visible through the tree's thick branches. Hissing softly as bark loosened from the tree and rained down upon her, Numbuh 5 scrambled as gracefully as she could manage to Numbuh 2, trying to pull herself onto his branch. She felt herself beginning to slide back, losing her grip, and a gasp escaped her as one hand came loose, the bark giving way to rain dust and small insects below.
The next instant a warm hand grasped her own, and with strength she didn't even know he possessed, Numbuh 2 pulled Numbuh 5 from the air onto the branch, gently wrapping an arm around her waist so she wouldn't fall, letting her get her grip. Only then did he release her, and cautiously, she turned to face him. Feeling a little awkward with the lack of distance between them, she scrambled up onto another branch, his hand supporting her back so she didn't fall.
"So…" Numbuh 2 cleared his throat. "What brings you to my lovely hideout?" He swept one arm through the air, showing the thick branches and the starry skies that peeked through the green leaves. Numbuh 5 looked it over briefly before chuckling.
"Numbuh 5 thought you'd be up here."
"You were looking for me?"
"Yeah. You've been worrying Numbuh 5."
Numbuh 5 ran her fingers over the branch she sat on, feeling oddly soothed by the rough, worn bark beneath her hand. "You're always disappearing. Numbuh 5 looks up one minute and you're there, but when she looks up again later you're gone. You've been acting funky ever since the Tube-a-thon. I know you came back to fight Father, and you've been acting weird ever since." She tipped her hat back, fixing a dark, concerned gaze on her friend. "So what's the deal?"
Numbuh 2 looked at her in surprise. "Why do you care?"
"'Cause you're my friend. 'Cause something's buggin' you. And 'cause you're my friend." Numbuh 5 leaned over and gently poked Numbuh 2's chest. "So spill."
"What if I don't want to?"
"Numbuh 5 isn't asking if you want to. She's saying that you have to."
Numbuh 2 knew that, in her own way, Numbuh 5 was worried about him. And he didn't want to just leave her in the dark, when she had come this far to find him. He hesitated, gently drawing small circles on his branch. "Numbuh 5, did you hear Father taunting me? When I came back to save you guys?"
"A little bit. He was saying stuff about your dad, I think." She looked up at him suddenly, understanding glowing in her dark eyes. "Your dad. He's dead, ain't he?"
Numbuh 2 swallowed hard, biting his lip. "I don't know."
Numbuh 5's eyes flickered, but she said nothing. What did I don't know mean? Either the guy was dead, or he wasn't. For a moment she wondered if Numbuh 2's parents were divorced, but her gut instinct said differently. She said nothing, watching silently as Numbuh 2 bowed his head, seeming for a minute as though battling something within him, resisting the urge to reach to him, not sure of how he'd react. Finally, he spoke.
"You know how I love to fly? I got it from my dad. He was an airplane pilot, one of the best there was." He smiled wistfully. "I looked up to him so much. I wanted to grow up to be just like him."
Numbuh 5 said nothing, simply listening. She glanced briefly at the stars, shining dimly through the thick leaves, before looking back to her friend. She didn't interrupt, didn't ask him to go into detail. She just listened. Numbuh 2 bit his lip.
"When I was six, Dad was sent out to fly. I think it was to Florida. I don't remember, and Mom never mentions where he was going." He swallowed hard.
"Something went wrong. The plane malfunctioned. The airport lost contact with my dad. They think he crashed somewhere near the Bermuda Triangle. They don't know for sure."
And still Numbuh 5 said nothing, couldn't say anything, because she didn't know what to say.
"They never found him. They never found the plane, the passengers, the cargo… it was like everything just vanished into thin air, like the sky had opened up, lifted them into the clouds, and just closed the gap it made in the process." A single tear eased from beneath Numbuh 2's goggles and ran slowly down his cheek, streaked silver-black in the dim starlight. Gently, Numbuh 5 reached out, wiping the tear away, pulling her hand back to rest it on Numbuh 2's shoulder. He jerked slightly, but didn't protest.
"Tommy was little when Dad disappeared. He doesn't even remember him. But… I do. I know that Dad is probably dead, I mean if he was still alive, he would have come back, so I kind of know he's dead…" Numbuh 2 looked at Numbuh 5 sadly. "But there's still this part of me that's hoping he's still out there somewhere, still alive, and he just hasn't been able to find his way back yet."
"So when Father started sayin' things…"
Numbuh 2 laughed hoarsely. "Yeah, he struck a nerve. I guess that was his intention."
Numbuh 5 chewed her lip, watching her friend. She couldn't imagine what that was like. "Hoagie," she said softly after a moment, "would it have hurt as much if you knew your dad was dead?"
"It would have hurt either way, but… even if he's dead, I'd be okay with it, because at least I know what happened to him, you know? At least I'd know he's gone, and he's never coming back. But I don't know because nothing from his flight was ever found, so it hurts because I've never really stopped wondering."
Numbuh 5 fell silent, glancing up at the stars, thinking. Mentally, she tried to imagine her family without her mom, without her dad, heck, without Cree, tried to imagine what life would be like knowing one of them was gone, but never knowing if they were dead or alive.
It hurt. It hurt a lot.
"Hey, Numbuh 5?"
She glanced over at him. "Yeah?"
Numbuh 2 looked hesitantly at the ground before slowly raising his head to meet her gaze. "Do… do you think, maybe, my dad is still out there?"
"Hoagie, you said so yourself that he could still be alive."
"But what if he is? What if he is, but he doesn't come back? What if he never comes?"
Numbuh 5 pondered this for a moment; after awhile, she glanced back at Numbuh 2, and he was taken aback by the burning intensity in her gaze.
"He'll come." She smiled slightly. "Because you've come back for us every time. If he's anything like you, Hoagie, he'll come."
Numbuh 2 timidly returned her smile. After a moment, the two friends looked up at the stars. Cautiously, Numbuh 5 climbed from her branch down to Numbuh 2's, sitting in front of him, leaning back against him, a small smile on her face. Numbuh 2 blushed lightly, but didn't pull away.
Up above, a shooting star flashed across the sky before fading back among others, a single beam of light in the darkness.
More a 2/5 friendship thing really, but I like it.