A Bear Named Puppy
By: Koorino Megumi
This fic was written for my great friend Jchan for her birthday! It takes place after the series, but it only has spoilers through episode 25. Special thanks to Ginger Ninja for her beta help!
"Ooh hey, what's this?"
Nineteen-year-old Elysia Hughes carefully began to pull the furry object from the depths of the large, dusty brown box on the attic floor before her, using her hands to gently work it out from under piles of other keepsakes of all types. The frame of a picture clanked against a tiny, messily-beaded bracelet as she did so, and she paused to avoid hurting either before giving one last tug to free the large stuffed teddy bear.
The bear was covered in short brown hair that was more fuzz than fur. It was spotty in various places, clearly displaying the love that it had been given. A large pink ribbon was still tied around its neck, though there were several dark stains on it, the color was very faded, and the ends were badly frayed. One of the bear's two dark eyes had stitches next to it, showing where it had been sewn back on, and there was a hole above one arm where bits of stuffing were leaking out.
Elysia heard her mother's breath give a little catch behind her at the sight of the item, and she studied the bear a bit more before turning to the woman. "What is it?"
"Don't you remember Puppy?" her mother asked, her gaze fixed on the toy, gray eyes filled with a painful nostalgia as she stared.
"Puppy?" Elysia ventured, lip curling a bit with a smile, "What kind of name is that for a bear?"
Gracia's lips curved into a faint smile as well, laughter mingling with the sadness in her eyes. "You named him that. You were still very little and couldn't say many words yet. And your father..." Her voice hitched a bit, and Elysia stopped her examination of the bear, watching the woman with a lump in her throat. Gracia continued. "Your father heard you call him 'Puppy,' and...as always, he said that you were so smart, that he looked just like a Puppy and it was the perfect name."
Elysia looked back down at the supposed dog. "That's a silly thing to say," she murmured, though her tone held no reproach. More than anything, it was laced with curiosity.
Her mother was silent for a moment, but then she commented, "He did a lot of 'silly' things." There was another slight hesitation. "We loved him very much for it."
Elysia frowned, brushing some dust off the bear's face. "I don't understand, Mom."
Gracia glanced at her daughter, also frowning, but her expression was a response to the sound of frustration in her daughter's tone. "Understand what?"
"Dad! I mean..." The girl chewed her lip, looking back up at her mother. "I hear all the time about how much we loved him and how great he was. And I'm sure he was, but...how do I know? I know I said I wanted to see this stuff, but...I was really hoping to find something. Instead, this..." She gestured at the bear. "A bear named Puppy. A gift from him, right? But it's been sitting in this chest so long that I don't even remember it! I hardly remember anything about him. Just him saying good-bye and going to work. Just that he worked a lot! That's all. And what does that say?"
Gracia was silent for a moment in surprise, just watching her daughter as the girl, tense, her expression frustrated, expecting, hopeful, upset--a whole range of emotions--waited for her response, eyes locked on the woman, telling her that she couldn't avoid this. When Gracia finally did respond, the woman's voice was soft--and a touch sad. "So that's why you wanted to do this..." she started. Then, after a deep breath, "You put the bear away because you said Puppy should always stay with Daddy." And finally, with regret, "Haven't we always talked about him? What do you want to know about him so much?"
Elysia was now caught off-guard, blinking in surprise. She didn't say anything at first, instead looking down at the bear again. She knew that she wanted to know more about her father; that was why she was up here, after all. But...what in the world was she supposed to ask? When she thought about it, there was only one question that came to mind. And it was a question that she had known for a long time but had never dared to speak aloud...
But if I don't say it now, when will I ever get another chance?
"I want to know why," she replied quietly, glancing up at her mother, though she hesitated to do so. "I want to know why work came first...that time."
She heard Gracia let out a faint gasp, watched as the woman's eyes widened and tiny flecks of wetness materialized on their bottom rims. Seeing that, she almost regretted the question, but there was no taking it back now, so there was no point in beating herself up about it.
And her mother wasn't one to go back on her word, either. She brought up a hand to brush at her eyes, but then she pursed her lips in thought and said quite calmly, "There's someone who can answer that question much better than I can."
Elysia blinked at her in curiosity. "Who?"
If Roy had been expecting anyone to show up at his house that day, it was most definitely not Elysia Hughes. In fact, she surprised him so badly that he couldn't help standing in the doorway staring at her for the briefest of moments before he got over his shock enough to take a step back and invite her in.
"Something to drink?" he asked as he ushered her into the living room of his and his wife's small house.
She sat down on the couch at his indication, a bit stiffly, and shook her head. "No, thanks." He sat across from her, watching as she looked curiously around the room, noticing her eyes settle on the photos on a table off to the side. "That's..."
He frowned, clearing his throat softly to avoid the sentimental turn the conversation seemed to be about to take. "Was there something that you needed from me, Elysia-san?"
She turned from the photos and back to him. "I had a question," she admitted. Her voice was firm, and there was a glint in her eyes that reminded Roy very much of a certain other person, on the rare occasions that he was made serious by something. "Can I look at...?" She stood up and headed over to the table before Roy had even opened his mouth to respond.
There was obviously no stopping her, so Roy settled for standing and coming up to stand behind her as she leaned over the little table, first studying a large picture of an enormous group of people in blue uniforms before she picked up a smaller one, closer up, that focused on only two.
"Didn't you leave the army a long time ago?" the girl asked, not looking at him as she spoke.
"Just because you've left something is no reason to bury it." The answer was spoken simply, with little inflection, as if it were the most obvious fact in the world--nothing in the least bit subjective.
Elysia glanced back at Roy, but his face said no more than his words had. She frowned, thoughts of a certain teddy bear coming back unbidden. She returned her gaze to the picture in her hand. There was no mistaking the two in it; she would know her father's face anywhere, after all. He was smiling the same goofy smile that she saw in most every picture of him (especially any which included both her father and herself). Roy, on the other hand, looked distinctly un-amused. Even from the little that she'd seen of the man over the years, this came as no surprise. But that was why she was here--to find out just why her mother thought this man was the one to answer her questions about her father.
"I know you and my father worked together for a long time," she commented, not really sure how else to breach the topic, or even what exactly she was looking to find out.
Roy assented with a nod and something of a grunt.
She frowned again. He certainly wasn't going to make this easy. "Hey!" she cried, turning and all but shoving the picture in his face, "I'm surprised your face isn't stuck like that yet. You make it seem like he was just a coworker when you're like that!" She sighed, shaking her head. "I knew this was a bad idea, but since Mom suggested it..."
Roy eyed her with visible distaste for a moment, and then he turned away abruptly, taking a step back toward the center of the room. "Hmph. You're just like your father."
That stopped Elysia short, but even as her mind raced, a bit of a smirk twinged at her lips. "So it looks like you have emotions after all."
To her surprise, Roy smirked right back at her. "At about this point, your father would realize he was in danger of being burned."
She responded before she'd hardly thought about the words. "But I bet that didn't stop him."
Roy blinked, looking a bit thrown off by that. The smirk disappeared, replaced by the same passive look as before. Again, his words were flat. "No." He headed back over to the chair he'd been in before, taking his seat back. "It didn't."
He made a note of not looking back over at the girl, instead watching her out of the corner of his eye as she seemed to consider what he'd said, still looking down at the picture. He found himself thinking that her family certainly had a thing for pictures. The idea made the ghost of a smirk quirk at his lips, but he brushed it away immediately.
Finally Elysia replaced the photo on the table and came back over to him, sitting on the couch across from him. While he was stiff and straight in his seat, she looked much more comfortable than she had on her entrance, now laying her arms over her knees and leaning forward, the position almost eager.
She was reminding him more of her father every minute, and he wasn't quite sure what to think of that.
She was only silent for a moment before the next question came pouring from her--not surprisingly, with another implied barb. "I thought you were his superior officer?"
Roy had no idea what to make of that question. Had she been told that he...? No, of course not. "I was."
Surprisingly, that answer seemed to frustrate her. "But then why...!" The question died mid-sentence, and she frowned, clenching her fists and looking downward in thought.
He didn't answer the question that he knew she was asking. It was a subject that he didn't want to breach with anyone--and certainly not with Hughes's daughter. But he didn't ask her to leave, either, or say anything frivolous, for the very same reason that he wasn't answering her question.
The silence stretched between them. Elysia wasn't looking up, but he could just imagine her expression, searching for the words that weren't there. In that respect, at least, she was very different from her father. It was almost a comforting realization.
But the Hughes family was ever-intelligent. Finally she turned her gaze to him. Roy waited, readying himself for her words. Did she want to know why her father had been targeted? Did she want to know who had killed him? He had to admit that he had been expecting her to come, someday, with questions like that.
But the question that finally came, softly but firmly, from Elysia's lips was neither of those. In fact, it wasn't truly about her father at all. "Didn't you know?"
Roy froze, caught off-guard in much the same way his old friend used to catch him. Elysia didn't back down, staring at him with those eyes that seemed to belong to another. He considered his words carefully, finally settling for, "He made sure no one did."
Elysia was quiet after that, but finally she nodded. "So...the things he did...they were never about work, were they?"
Something about her tone when she asked the question told Roy that she wasn't really looking for an answer, so he did not give her one, though he couldn't help the thoughts of two boys that came to his mind.
The girl pulled him from his memories, though, holding out the photo for him to take. "Thank you."
Roy stood, setting the photo back down on the table with care. "Thank you for visiting." He turned to usher her back out the door and found, to his surprise, that she was already smiling at him from the entryway.
"For not burning my father, I mean," she added, "See you again...Colonel."
For a while thereafter, Roy was left standing in the doorway with the most dazed look on his face. "Colonel?" he repeated softly, smirking at the disappearing figure of Hughes's daughter. "I should have known he'd have the gall to keep his memory wandering around. You were always the type of person who never let us get away from you. Weren't you...Maes?"
When Elysia arrived home that night, her mother didn't even have to ask what Roy had said to know that all was well now. So she settled for saying good night to her daughter with a smile and not even commenting when she watched the girl bring an old ragged teddy bear into her room with her.
But once she had gone to bed herself and knew that she was safely in her own room, tears began to track down her cheeks. "You'd be proud, Maes," she whispered, "No...you are proud."