Bubblegum Crisis 2040: The Things You Don't Say. . .

by Aligator

Official Disclaimer: I did not create these characters and have no claim on them. (I did not write this story to make any kind of profit. I wrote it to show my support for one of my very favorite series. Please don't sue me!) Priss, Leon, and all the rest belong to Mr. Sonoda, AIC and a lot of other people. The shows are distributed in the U.S. by Animeigo and ADV Films, and I HIGHLY recommend you go out and buy them all today... They should be in every anime fan's collection

Author's Note: This is an experiment, of sorts. I write for a living---just not this kind of writing. Please read this, and let me know what you think. Thanks! Now, on with the story.

*****************************

Preparing to go on stage can be such a pain sometimes, thought Priss Asagiri as she patted her arms with whitening powder. Especially when you're trying to hide assorted bruises and scars.

Last night there had been another rogue boomer. It started to bear down on Nene, the AD Police started to arrive, and she just had to ignore Sylia's orders to hold back. Especially once Leon and his partner placed themselves in front of the beast.

"It's a good thing that there are such things as knee-high boots, opaque tights and long sleeves," she muttered unconsciously.

"Priss, did you just say something?" asked Sekiria's base player.

"No. Just talking to myself." If they only knew how crappy I feel. But like that old cliché says, "the show must go on." The guys have put up with my mysterious absences and my moodiness for so long that I owe them this: One outstanding performance when there are A and R scouts in the audience.

*****

They were hot. It was as close to perfect as live performance can get. Nice and tight. The crowd was into it, from the opening number to the final encore. She had spied a number of regulars in the throbbing mass of bodies that surrounded the stage. At the very back, she thought she caught a glimpse of Leon.

It's funny. He started out as a total pest, but now I almost miss him when he isn't here for nights like this, she sighed to herself as she placed the final touches on her street makeup. Satisfied, she started for the door to the alley.

"Bye, guys."

"Priss---"

She turned around to face them. "Yes?"

"Thanks. Anyone can see that you didn't start out feeling well, but you really put it all out there tonight. No matter what happens with the record companies, we wanted you to know that we noticed," said Sekiria's lead guitarist.

He was rewarded with a slightly crooked grin. "Ya'll put up with a lot from me. This is my way of saying thank you."

Without another word, she was gone.

"She hasn't smiled in months..."

"I wouldn't exactly call that a smile..."

"But I'm glad she finally did," said the guitarist as he led the boys back into the bar for the "liquid" part of their paycheck.

*****

She grinned to herself as she closed the door and leaned for a moment against the building's wall. I know they worry sometimes. One foot lightly shot forward to propel her away from the wall, but she suddenly became overwhelmingly tired.

"I'll just sit here for a moment. God knows I can't ride my bike home if I have no sense of balance," she muttered to herself as she slid down the wall to the ground.

How ironic. Having my back against the wall is making the ground I'm sitting on more stable. Who would've guessed.

Headlights shone brightly as a car pulled up to the club's back door. It was Leon McNichol, AD Policeman-extraordinaire. As he pulled the car closer, she gave him a middle-fingered salute and a wicked grin.

He got out of his car and walked toward her. As he got closer, she realized he was carrying a single, purple rose.

"Good evening, Miss Priss. It's nice to see I'm moving up in the world," he said jokingly as he looked down at her.

"You're very astute, Detective McNichol. You've graduated from me not thinking of you at all to me flicking you off." Gosh, that was mean.

He placed the rose in her offending hand and slid down to join her. "Well, anyway, it was a great performance."

"You were there?"

"Yes. In the back. I've got a regular spot."

"Oh. I didn't realize you came to the shows that often," she said, facing straight forward. Don't get any closer, buddy. I need my distance.

"I've got my reasons," he said quietly.

They sat for a few moments in silence. Her with eyes closed. Him stealing sidelong looks at her.

She usually acts like she can't wait to get away from me, but tonight she looks a little sad. "Umm... I especially liked your encore. That's a new one, isn't it?"

"'Waiting For You'? It really takes a lot out of me," she said as she turned to face him slightly, catching his gaze in the process.

"Well, it's really emotional. It suits your voice."

Their eyes locked for a brief moment--- until she jerked her head forward.

Change of subject. "I'd better be going. I'm dead tired, and if I don't get up now, I'll be sleeping in the alley tonight," she said, straining to sound normal.

Leon, who could actually be a gentleman when he made the effort, was on his feet and offered her a hand up.

She took it and propelled herself off the ground only to have her legs give way beneath her.

"You really did give your all in tonight's show," he joked, trying to hide the concern he knew was in his eyes.

Her snarky grin was gone, and her eyes were wide.

Priss, you didn't expect that to happen....

Time to change the subject, he thought. "May I have the honor of driving you home?"

"But my bike---"

"Let me check in with the club owner, and I'll make arrangements for him to keep it locked inside tonight. AFTER I get you to the car."

He swooped her up, surprised by how light she was, and placed her in the passenger seat of his sports car. "I'll be right back."

For once Priss was at a loss for words. Although she often didn't say anything, she usually was constructing smart-ass remarks and filing them away for future use.

He came back to the car. "You buckled in?"

"Yes. Thank you." Why are you being so nice to me? You should have run away screaming by now...

*****

When they reached a stoplight, Leon paused a moment to look over at his passenger. Her eyes were closed, and the only movement to be seen was the rising and falling of her chest caused by her breathing.

She's usually pale, but she looks like a ghost right now.

The light turned green, and they continued to her trailer.

It was a deserted part of town. Destroyed long ago by the earthquakes that rocked the city. Once, he had wondered why she would live in such a place, but, after he learned a little more, it made sense. It was secluded, so no one could see her comings and goings. And, she had lived there before the earthquakes. Maybe she has no other place to go.

He maneuvered his car as close to her home as possible, walked around to the passenger side and opened the door. Luckily, she already had her keys out. He opened the door knowing full well that he would have to carry her into the structure.

Leon scooped her up carefully. She was even more pale now. You know, Priss, you shouldn't have gone on tonight. Not after last night.

A morbid thought briefly crossed his mind, and he placed his fingers where her jaw and long neck met to check her pulse. He sighed with relief, and softly brushed her hair off her face as he entered the trailer, pulling the door closed behind him.

BANG! Damn!

The noise caused her to stir, and she clutched the collar of his jacket tightly. Sleepily she muttered, "Don't leave... leave me." She tightened her grasp.

His eyes widened and started to well slightly with tears. If he hadn't been holding her, he would have thought she was muttering the unintelligible things people mutter when they are delirious.

Quickly, he scanned the compartment. A living room of sorts with a couch. He carefully made his way to it and sat down, still cradling her in his arms.

Priss, this will have to do for now. I'm not going to try to make you too comfortable, otherwise you'll sleep all night in these clothes. I don't want to be the one to undress you under these circumstances.

He pulled her closer to him. I'll just rest my eyes for a moment.

*****

Rain pounded on the roof over his head. For a brief moment, he wondered where he was before his eyes rested on the woman still clutching his jacket collar. The illuminated clock on the stereo read 4:00 a.m.

She looked really small like this. Leon had never really paid attention to her height or her build. Between her stage persona, her hardsuit and her attitude, Priss had always seemed larger than life to him. He knew she was about 26 or 27. She had told him her age, in exchange for him buying her a post-show drink one night. Just to be sure, he had Daley confirm it through the ADP's computers.

Fingering her tousled hair, he whispered, "I don't know your full story, but you've made it through a lot."

She stirred again, finally opening her eyes. "Leon?"

"Shhh. You passed out on the ride home."

"Oh." Damn. That boomer clocked me harder than I thought. I need to start actually doing what Sylia's doctor says. "I must have overdone it on stage," she said as lowered her left arm, shifting so she could get up off of his lap. "Don't get to used to this." Why do I do this?

"Well, there have to be some fringe benefits to knowing you, Priscilla S. Asagiri," he shot back with a grin. God, this is pathetic. We're back to our regular roles: she's a sarcastic bitch, and I'm a cocky bastard.

She got up and slowly moved just about a yard before her hand shot out to grab for some support. Leon jumped up but couldn't reach her in time, and she sank to the ground.

He froze, staring at her. He heard a small voice.

"Leon, help me. To my room, I mean."

She was obviously in pain. From the hit she had taken, it could be a concussion, pulled muscles, exhaustion, shock or all of the above at once. She must have been running on pure adrenaline at the show.

He crouched to her left, noticing her wince as he guided her arm to his waist for more support. They made it to her room but not without a few near mishaps.

It would have been easier to pick you up, Priss, but you're a fighter all the way.

Why is he helping me? Priss thought. Because you asked him, answered a voice that sounded suspiciously like Linna.

He guided her carefully to her bed. "You probably should change into some more comfortable clothes so you can rest," he said as he turned to leave the room.

"Leon... don't get the wrong idea, but. . . could you stay? I need the pajamas out of the top drawer," she asked.

Without a word, he handed them to her.

"Thanks. Just stay close... in case I get stuck o.k.?"

"O.k.," he said as he stepped out of the room and stood in the open door's frame with his back turned.

What seemed like forever, but was probably only about five minutes, passed.

Women sometimes take a long time to get dressed, but she was just getting into some flannel pajamas. "Priss?"

No answer.

"Priss?" He turned around.

She still sat on the edge of the bed with her bare back to him. To an outsider, she would have appeared to be an abused wife or an organized crime figure: her back, neck and arms were entirely covered by a patchwork of bruises in varying shades of black, blue and purple.

He couldn't take it anymore. With a note of pleading in his voice, he erupted, "Priss, I know you're a Knight Saber."

"A what?"

"You heard me. A Knight Saber. And you may have started doing it for the thrill or the money I'm sure you're paid, but that can't be all there is to it..."

"Stop it, Leon. You don't know anything," a weak voice replied.

"No," his voice was getting louder. "That can't be all there is to it. Otherwise, you wouldn't put yourself in situations like you did last night. You either do it because you have a death wish---"

"STOP IT!!!" a strange voice sobbed and screamed at once. "Maybe I do have a death wish. Maybe I just don't care anymore---"

"Maybe it hurts too much," he finished calmly, staring intently at the back still to him.

"You can go away now," she snapped.

"Not on your life."

She wasn't moving.

"Priss," he said softly as he walked toward the bed and sat down behind her. He picked up the pajama shirt, unbuttoned it, and gently placed it around her shoulders, sliding her arms into the sleeves. With those injuries, it's no wonder she couldn't put it on herself, he thought as he buttoned it up.

"Priss," he said more insistently as he encircled her waist with his arms and lightly rested his chin on her shoulder so he could get some kind of view of her face. "You're crying..."

"You just don't get it do you? Everyone around me dies, and I'm always left behind. My parents, my boyfriend, even my cat!" she seethed. "They all die horrible deaths."

"Priss."

"Leon---YOU shouldn't be near me---"

"Priss," he whispered. "Did it ever occur to you that I might want to be near you, no matter what? Did it occur to you that you'd leave people behind if you got killed for taking stupid risks? People that you pretend to not care about. People that care about you."

"But---"

"It's my turn now. You're not protecting them by refusing to have anything to do with them. You're not even protecting yourself the way you think you are."

Her breathing had slowed, and her back was leaning against his chest, allowing him to support her--- for once.

You're either tired of me talking or just plain wiped out at this point, aren't you? he thought.

He got up, with the intent of moving her more onto the bed and tucking her in, when he spied something tossed in the corner. "A teddy bear? You don't strike me as the stuffed animal-type."

"Bear was from several lifetimes ago," she said, still fighting tears as she watched him walk to the corner.

In one motion, he turned, knelt in front of her and placed the worn toy on her lap.

"See, someone can survive several lifetimes with Priss Asagiri---- and he doesn't even have a crash helmet," he smiled, his watery eyes crinkling.

She looked into those eyes and surveyed the facial geography they inhabited. His forehead had more worry lines than she remembered, and his thick, brown hair was graying prematurely.

Nene, in her never-ending quest to torture him, had shown Priss a picture of Leon shortly before he had transferred to the ADP. He looked so young. . . but that was before his first partner was killed. Before he met me. It wasn't all that long ago. Leon, you'd never admit it, but we've done this to you, haven't we?

So much for not crying, Priss thought as she finally dissolved, letting him hold her for a long while. Finally, he turned back the covers and tucked her beneath them.

She weakly, but purposefully, tugged him until he rested beside her.

"Leon," she said with more strength than she had mustered for most of the evening/morning.

"Yes," he replied, wrapping his arms protectively around her.

"Thank you for being here."

"Thank you for letting me be here. You don't have to be alone."

"Neither do you, Leon."

He smiled as looked down at the girl he had always watched from afar. The woman who was now sleeping peacefully in his arms.

"Eventually, someone has to outlast Bear," he whispered. And I want that someone to be me.

-----Aligator

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