The Dream Catcher
Running From Hell
Disclaimer: I don't own Gundam Wing.
Warnings: Contains Shounen Ai (1x2, 3x4, 5x6), some blood and gore.
Author's Note: This is actually a side story to Flight of the Bumblebee, but since it is a prequal and has little to do with the story itself, it can be read without reading FotBB. The story explains the dreamcatchers the pilots have in FotBB, though as I said, FotBB has not happened and this can be read without reading that.
This is three chapters, and has been completed. I'll attempt to post once a week for the next three, to give people time to read it, and each section is somewhat stand alone, I think. I hope you enjoy it.
Six pairs of wary eyes glanced around at the dozens of staring eyes as their borrowed military issue jeep skidded to a halt in the middle of a small, rustic town somewhere in the mid-west. They'd been driving for so long no one was entirely sure what state they were in, exactly, though Duo had commented on a sign about one of the Great Lakes three hours before. The six weren't supposed to be there, but after they had been cleared from the hospital, they'd jumped into the jeep and drove, trying to escape the nightmare.
It was supposed to be a normal mission. Trowa and Duo were supposed to sneak in for some data while Hiiro and Quatre hacked into the system to act as sentiries using the cameras already at the once-abandoned base. Zeches and Wu Fei had been responsible for keeping the escape route open.
There weren't supposed to be a dozen hostages, half of them children.
The head of the preventors branch near the base hadn't said anything about hostages. He hadn't told them there were four spies planted inside the base. He didn't tell them his scematics were wrong and out of date. He didn't tell them about the extra man power the new rebel force had aquired since he'd put in his request to Une. He didn't tell them about the new weapons they'd since bought, or the extra security they'd hired.
Quatre slumped against Trowa, eyes hidden in the taller's shoulder, one hand clutching at his heart, nails almost breaking the skin even through his thin undershirt. "I can still hear them screaming," He whispered, and heated tears dripped from Trowa's already-soaked sleeve.
They weren't in full uniform, because none of them wanted to wear the bloodied clothes. The blackening crimson staining the treads of their combat boots was bad enough. Zeches was at the wheel. He'd never gone into the building, even after Wu Fei and Hiiro were forced to throw out their plan in a desprate ploy to save the hostages. They'd raced into the building, knowing it could be a trap but not willing to risk civilians. Not willing to risk children.
Wu Fei had been able to remove his shirt, but blood still reddened Hiiro's small hands. The sixteen year old stared at the blurred image, tears dripping from face to fingers, then slowly to the floor of the jeep. He'd tried to scrub the skin off his hands, had only quit when Duo had forced him away from the sink, stopping him before he scalded his hands on the steaming water. Zeches had called Sally, forced her to make the hospital let them go, then loaded all five gundam pilots into the borrowed jeep and drove. They knew they were speeding, but none of them cared. Even Zechs had seen the aftermath, after Duo had detonated the base, when they'd gone to look for survivors.
Duo had done his job too well. Hiiro's bloodied hands were evidence enough.
They'd been nearly silent the entire trip, trying to come out of battle mode and warring with the shock that threatened to overtake them. Trowa was still as a statue, arms wrapped around his lover, face blank. He was barely breathing, hardly blinked.
"I can't stay in a town tonight," Quatre pleaded, hand clutching his chest tighter. "Please."
Zechs nodded. The weather was warming slowly. They could sleep in the jeep if they had too. He pealed off down another road that gradually turned into gravel, then into dirt, kicking up dust and loose stones. Quatre relaxed as they took him away from the high emotions in the town, but none of them stopped crying. There was nothing down the road, it was old and had obviously fallen into disuse, following an old creek. Zechs didn't say anything as they skidded around turns and trees, stopping only when he spotted an old house. "Let's see if there is anywhere outside civilization to sleep for the night," He told the others, stepping from the car. Wu Fei tumbled after his lover.
The old cabin was in good repair and fairly large, despite being in the middle of nowhere. It didn't rival any of Quatre's houses, but a decently sized family could easily live there. The blond pounded on the door, seeing there was no doorbell, and was surprised when, several minutes later, it was actually pulled open. None of them had expected anyone to actually live there.
"Good evening, friends," The voice was soft and gentle, full of warmth. Wu Fei shuddered. They didn't deserve to hear such soft tones. Not after what they'd done. The speaker smiled at them, pulling the door open a little further. "It's late to be out."
She was an old woman, probably in her mid-seventies, with wise, dark eyes and copper brown skin. Heavy wrinkles lined her worn face, gray and black hair falling down her back in a heavy braid. It wasn't as long as Duo's, but the healthy braid was at least as thick. A shorter strand was decorated with beads and tipped with a feather. Wu Fei watched her almost blankly for a moment, and Zechs managed a smile. "We're looking for somewhere to stay that isn't in town. One of our friends. . . isn't up to being around crowds tonight."
She was already in her nightgown, a warm robe falling around her body to ward off the March night's chill. The hem of it swept the door as she pulled it open a little further to see the jeep. Moccasins shuffled softly as she moved, her footsteps soft and quiet, but loud enough for a warning of her presence. "You look like you have been through war," She gently touched Wu Fei's cheek, darting her hand back when he reached to grab it out of reflex. "I'm sorry to say there are no inns near-by, except for those in town."
"Thank you," Zechs smiled slightly, glancing at Wu Fei. "Come on. I guess we're camping out."
Her eyes narrowed. "In the middle of these woods? You barely look ready for the drive you were on."
She was preceptive despite her age, Zechs would give her that. "In many ways," He agreed, nodding. "But my friend just can't be in the city tonight."
She eyed them both for a moment. "None of you are in any condition to sleep outside. Especially not in this cold. Bring your friends. I will open my home to you and your friends, watching elk." Her voice gentled. "I don't think any of you are in any condition to sleep in town. Come. You need a hot meal and sleep."
"We don't wish to trouble you--" Zechs started, but she was already gone, her soft footsteps brushing along the path. Soft enough not to startle, loud enough to be heard. Trowa looked at her dully as she approached the jeep, clearly labeling her as a non-threat.
She tugged at the door, pulling it open and touched Trowa's arm. "Come on, little bear. Time to come back. You're needed here, especially by the little one that clings to your arm." Her gentle words made Trowa blink at her, turning to face her. "You are--?"
"I am called Jaci DreamWeaver, little bear. Who are you?"
Trowa tilted his head slightly. "Nanashi."
"Liar," Quatre whispered, still burrowed in his arm. "Trowa."
"Did you say something, spotted fawn?" Jaci moved away from the jeep so both could tumble out. "Come on, time to eat and sleep, and then we will find where you belong. Who is in the front?"
"Duo and Hiiro." Trowa told her flatly, moving to stand with Zechs and Wu Fei as Jaci coaxed those two out as well. Hiiro continued to stare at his hands, and Duo was almost cataonic, for all he moved. The old woman shook her head. "Poor little things," She murmured, too softly for any of them to hear. "Come on, little ones. To the house."
Zechs and Wu Fei, who was a little more aware by then, helped her herd them to the house. "Thank you for allowing us to stay here," Wu Fei bowed deeply to her, as she was his elder. Jaci shook her head, patting him on the head.
"You need this, I think," She told them, taking them to the kitchen. "I dreamed of you, in any case."
"Dreamed?" Wu Fei stared at her.
"Brother Bear told me I would have visitors. He showed them to be as a bear, a deer, a coyote, an eagle, a moose, and an elk." She smiled at him. "You are, I think, the moose. Brother Bear said that you would need care and shelter, and that you would be warriors, but that you would not harm me."
"Is that why you called me a little bear?" Trowa turned to her, green eyes regaining some of their light.
"Yes, little bear. I think you are the bear in my dream. And the little one you you seek to protect is a spotted fawn. One who wishes to keep his purity, but has been forced to grow and is loosing his spots." She looked at Quatre. "But one does not have to be a fawn to stay a deer."
Trowa tilted his head, not understanding. She shook her head at him, moving to the stove after she set the six of them at the table. It was the work of a few minutes to warm cider, pressing steaming mugs into their hands. The cider took some of the chill away as she set a large pot of stew on the old stove and tucked bread into the oven.
Duo's stomach rumbled. She smiled. "Laughing coyote's hungry, hm?" She asked, stirring the stew. It wasn't yet hot, but the smell was drawing all of them back to awareness and out of battle mode.
Hiiro blinked at her, tucking his red hands out of sight. She said nothing, just refilled his mug. "Do you want to talk about it?" She asked, glancing towards them.
Heads shook rapidly. Jaci sighed. "I might not look it, but I do have training as a counselor. Crisis or otherwise. If you want to talk. . . I will listen."
"We can't," Hiiro choked out. "Classified." They all wanted--and needed--to talk about what happened, but they couldn't. Not to a civilian. They might give something away and then she might be hurt for their mistakes.
"That's all right." Jaci dropped her tone slightly, her voice low and soothing. For several minutes there was little talk as she dished them out stew and gave them bread, listening to the clink of metal against ceramic as they dug into the meal. She sipped at her own mug of cider, noticing as they grew tired from the day's crisis and the stress of driving. She hadn't missed the way they'd checked the food she'd given them for drugs, feeling comforted when she'd tasted some from the pot on the stove, but worried about their bowls as well. She hadn't missed the way they'd checked the bread and cider, too. She was a stranger and they were soldiers of some kind. Their uniforms--or partial uniforms--had given them away as preventors, but no common preventor had ever been so paranoid.
"I have a loft you may sleep in," She told them as they tucked their dishes into the sink. They followed her up the stairs to the loft that overlooked the great room. Her bedroom was the only real bedroom in the house, but the loft had been designed to house guests, with a full bathroom. The balcony railing was a single, low wall, built to offer a measure of privacy. Several eastern style futons were folded away for use, and they saw a few cots as well. She smiled at them and shrugged. The futons were easier for her to pull out and put away than air mattresses, and the cots were only used when her grandchildren came to visit. They would put them away so she didn't have to. Her back was no longer up to it.
These boys, however, would need the comfort and feeling of safety being on the floor brought, where no one could see them as they huddled together. She gave them toothbrushes and a tube of toothpaste the dentist had given her at her last visit, watching for a moment as they got ready for bed. Setting out the futons and laying out blankets, she was only partially surprised to see them curling up against each other when she returned to check on them after cleaning up the kitchen. All of them were still awake.
"You are not tired?" She settled in her old rocker at one end of the loft. She'd read her grandbabies stories from it many nights, and the creaking had often lulled them to sleep.
"I keep seeing them when I close my eyes," Duo confessed softly, a tear trickling down his cheek. "I don't want to dream about them."
"Oh, laughing coyote," Jaci breathed, rising. She left for several moments, then returned with a large hoop. Cords covered the hoop like a web, decorated with beads and feathers. "This will keep the dreams away."
"What is it?" Wu Fei couldn't contain his curiousity. He had always been a scholor by nature, and loved to learn about new things, especially if he had never seen them before.
"It's called a dreamcatcher, drifting moose. I will tell you the story about it, if you will close your eyes for me. If you listen to the story while your eyes are closed, you will see the story instead of your nightmares."
The boys knew it was a little silly to think that way, but six sets of eyes closed softly, waiting for the familier, haunting images. They were so desprate to sleep and forget, just for a little while, what had happened. "Come little ones, and listen to my story," Jaci murmured in an almost sing-song tone, staving off the images a little longer. "Listen to the tale of the dream catcher. Woman-Who-Weaves-Dreams wishes to tell you of the tale."
Jaci smiled slightly as their breathing evened out, their terror abaiting slightly when the images didn't appear behind the darkness of their closed eyes. "Long ago, long before the white man ever visited their home, an old woman was watching a spider build his house. It was near the sleeping space of the gentle Nokomis, a grandmother. She loved to watch the little spider quietly spin his web, day after day.
"One day, while the spider was working and Nokomis was watching, her little grandson came to see her. He saw the spider in the corner, and grabbed a shoe to hit it. Nokomis stopped him. 'No, No-keegwa. Do not harm him.'
"The little boy obeyed his grandmother, and looked at the spider again. 'Why are you protecting the spider, grandmother?' The little boy asked her. The grandmother smiled, but did not reply.
"After the boy left, the spider thanked the old grandmother for saving his life. 'For many days you have watched me spin and weave my web. You have admired my work and saved my life. In return, I will give you a gift.' The spider gave the grandmother a special little spider-smile. A spider-smile is a very special smile, for only the spiders know how to do it. No one can ever imitate it. As the spider smiled, he continued to spin his web for her.
"Soon the moon glistened against the web, making it shine silver in the moonlight as it moved gently in the window. 'See how I spin?' The spider asked the grandmother. She watched intently.
"'See and learn," The spider said. "For each web will snare bad dreams. Only the good dreams will go through the holes. This is my gift to you. Use it so only the good dreams will be remembed. The bad dreams will all become hopelessly entangled in the web and perish as the sun rises.'
"The old woman watched him spin his web and remembered. Then she spun dream webs for the children so they would not be bothered by bad dreams. And so the grandmother passed down the screts to the next generation, and that generation to the one after it, and passed the ages of time so that we may even now make the webs for our children to protect their sleep."
Jaci finished her story, the soft creaking of her old, wooden rocker stopping as she looked at the sleeping boys. "May Brother Bear and Spider Woman watch your dreams," She told them, and crept down the stairs and off to bed.
Hiiro was the first to wake the next morning, as dawn's first rays trickled through the thick woods and swept into the cabin. Duo was still fast asleep, and the room wasn't immediately familier. Prussian blue eyes roved around the room. He wasn't tied, he still had his gun, he was obviously there of his own volition, but where he was. . . he couldn't have said. He was curled up to Quatre as well, who was sprawled on Trowa's chest, and one of Wu Fei's hands tickled his hair. Carefully climbing over his lover, so as not to wake him, Hiiro stood and stretched. A strange ornament hung over their beds. It looked like a hoop with a spider's web in it.
"The bad dreams will become ensnared and perish as the sun rises."
Hiiro blinked, and continued to stare at the dreamcatcher before padding down the stairs. He didn't see his boots. Soft singing drew him to the kitchen. Inside an old woman was standing near the stove, her voice rising an falling in a wordless lilt. She was moving in soft, shuffling steps, almost as though she was dancing. "Ohayo." Hiiro murmured, slightly off-kilter from the events of the day before.
"Good morning, flying eagle," Jaci greeted, smiling at him. "Did you sleep well?"
Hiiro blinked at her, tilting his head slightly. "Yes, thank you. I. . . had no nightmares."
Jaci nodded. "Dream catchers are special, especially if they are made with love."
Hiiro didn't met her eyes, turning away. "May I help you?"
"Go draw some water from the well," Jaci ordered, pointing to the spout. "My house might have running water, but there is nothing like fresh water in the morning. Or fresh milk, but I don't have a cow, and I doubt you could milk it anyway."
Hiiro managed a slight smirk--his version of a smile--and stepped outside. He was still barefoot, but the cool, dew-covered grass felt good against his feet. When he returned to the kitchen, he found Wu Fei staring blearily at the woman. He was asking her if there was any place he could do his kata. Jaci pointed him outside, and Wu Fei paused for a moment, asking about his shoes, but she waved him off. "There is nothing out there that will damage your feet," She scolded gently, shooing him out. Wu Fei shrugged and left.
Hiiro set the bucket down, watching as she dipped a cupful out for him. He sipped it, blinking in surprise. He had only ever had city water, heavily chlorinated and cleaned. The well water he'd drawn was from an underground river, cleaned by the silt it ran through and not at all treated. The depth it stayed at kept it cold, and the lack of chemicals made it taste fresh. He hummed in pleasure. Now if only he had some tea. . .
"I have some black tea, if you want it," Jaci smiled and winked at him. "But I was going to heat some milk for hot chocolate, if you care to wait."
Hiiro didn't really want black tea, so decided to wait for the hot chocolate instead. Duo and Quatre padded down the steps a few minutes later, and Jaci smiled gently at the blond. "Are you feeling better, spotted fawn?"
Quatre stared at her for a moment, his eyes no longer red-rimmed. "Why didn't I have nightmares last night?"
"The dreamcatcher," Jaci sat him down, setting a cup of hot chocolate in front of him and handing one to Hiiro and then Duo. "Did you sleep well, laughing coyote?"
Duo nodded, sipping the sweet liquid. "Thank you." His voice was horse from yesterday's smoke and screaming.
The old woman smoothed back his hair and caressing his cheek. "You are most welcome." Hiiro sat next to his lover, looking up only as Trowa joined them. Jaci gave him a mug of hot chocolate as well, watching him sip it.
Trowa stared at her for a moment, then turned back to Quatre. "You slept well?"
"I. . . didn't see them," Quatre murmured, hand fluttering to his heart.
Trowa sighed in relief. Quatre had the worst nightmares, at least at first, though his faded a little faster than the others' did. "I like it here," Quatre murmured. "It's so very peaceful."
Hiiro nodded, resting his head on crossed arms. Duo stroked his hand through thick, chocolate brown hair, his violet eyes tender. "We have to go back soon, though," He murmured. "We can't stay here forever."
"I wish we could," Quatre cried. "We've done so much. . . why do we have to do this?"
"Because they need us," Zechs' soft voice made them jump. Jaci dropped her mug, but Duo caught it with ease, returning it to her. She smiled in thanks, then poured Zechs a cup of hot chocolate. Jaci turned back to breakfast as the others sat at the table, sipping their drinks. Wu Fei returned about thirty mintues later, sweating lightly. A mug was already waiting for him.
"Have some water first, drifting moose," Jaci ordered gently. "It is fresh from the well. Flying eagle drew it."
"Why do you keep calling use those names?" Duo finally asked, setting down his cup. "Wu Fei doesn't look like a moose."
Jaci smiled gentle. "Each animal represents something different for us," She told him, settling at the table herself. "A moose is headstrong, and shows value and integrety. Your friend reminded me of that. An eagle protects people from evil. He is the creature of the air, and the servant of the sun. An elk is a noble animal; one of strength, agility, freedom, and power. The bear is a healer. He has gentle strength and is very powerful. The deer is gentle and kind. He is graceful and sensitive. He symbolized one who walks in light. The coyote is a prankster, make no mistake, but as playful as he is, the coyote is very insightful. He can see both sides of an issue. As for the words in front. . . I don't know. They just seemed to fit somehow."
Duo nodded, looking thoughtful. "I want. . . can you. . . do all dreamcatchers work like the one from last night?"
Jaci blinked, surprised. "Are. . . are your nightmares always that bad?"
All six of them turned away, refusing to met her gentle gaze. There was no pity in it, just a deep sadness for them, that anyone, especially those boys, would have nightmares so terrible they didn't want to sleep. Jaci sighed softly, then stood abruptly, turning back to the stove. "Breakfast?"
All six were surprised to find they were hungry. Usually after a mission like that they didn't want to eat at all. The dreams always made them sick. "I have oatmeal, and I was going to whip up some pancakes to go with it. Sleeping moose, will you get the berries out of the fridge? The strawberries were frozen, but the blackberries and blueberries are fresh. Though so were the strawberries when I froze them!" The boys all managed a smile. "Spotted fawn, get the plates, please? Little bear, the glasses?"
All of the pilots were quickly set to work, Duo called over to help with the heavy griddle and Hiiro dishing up oatmeal. Fresh fruit and maple syrup followed, and so did fresh butter and milk that Jaci got from a near-by farmer. After breakfast, the boys helped clean up and put the dishes. They would have helped put the leftovers away too--had there been any.
"Thank you for letting us stay," Zechs offered, all the boys bowing to her. "We really should go."
Jaci smiled gently, moving to get their boots. She had cleaned them up, not wanting the boys to see how much blood had been on them. They didn't need the reminder. Jaci watched them drive away, then returned to the main room, sitting in her other rocking chair. Her old wooden one might have been perfect for rocking babies to sleep, but the one in the main room was thick and well cushioned. Drawing a basket closer to her, she pulled out six large hoops, beads, feathers, and colored string. This green was the same as little bear's eyes. That teal matched spotted fawn's. Deep, rich blue for flying eagle and violet for laughing coyote. A deep black for drifting moose and electric blue for watching elk.
Bending over the first hoop, Jaci carefully began to weave.