Disclaimer Poem:

Through wind and rain and sleet and snow,

There is one thing that I do know:

And that is these are not mine

I claim they are? A hefty fine!

And since I'm poor and have no dosh

To say I own just wouldn't wash.

Kazuki Takahashi – me?

You surely know that cannot be.

A/N: This was originally part of the As Deep as the Sky ficlet collection. The premise of that collection is that you put your music playlist on random and have to write a fanfic based on whatever song pops up, but you only have the duration of that song to write it. I cheated a little on this one and played the song twice because I hadn't finished when the song ended the first time, hence I've put it separately because it didn't totally conform to the rules like the others and was quite a bit longer.


Gone

© Scribbler, August 2008.


Some sunny day - hey baby,
When everything seems okay, baby,
You'll wake up and find out you're alone,
'Cause I'll be gone.

-- From Gone, Gone, Gone (Done Moved On) – Alison Krauss and Robert Plant


He waited for a long time. At first he thought he was waiting for her. He waited in his apartment, looking out of the window and watching the road. He waited on the beach, because they'd been there before and he found recognisable tracks in the sand that first morning. He waited in the little café in town where they stopped for coffee and pastries once, after she admitted she was hungry and he coerced her stomach to join him, if not her head. Or her heart.

She was still the first one to break and do something with him that wasn't related to the mission. That meant something.

He waited in the garage a lot. His bike remained precious, despite the memories attached to it, and he still had all the tools and things he'd bought with his 'salary'. They'd all been paid a wage; an astronomical amount that the others used just for basic amenities at rest-stops. He was the only one who'd actually used his to buy and furnish a place, as though after the world ended he planned to live there or something. He couldn't explain it, not even when they looked down their noses at him for getting distracted from the mission by trivialities.

He brought her here once; showed her his pad and embarrassed himself by being unable to find the coffee pot, and then nearly setting fire to the kitchen. It was his, but it wasn't his at the same time – it was more the cleaner's who came in once a week to dust. She'd given a half-smile at him dancing around with a flaming sleeve. Then she'd realised what she was doing, schooling her face back into a scowl so that he had to chase her down the drive and suggest the café or risk losing her to the road again.

He'd wanted a home for so much of his life that he didn't care whether he spent much time in it; he just needed to know it was there, waiting for him if he ever needed it.

And that's where he finally sat up from under his bike one day, sweaty and covered in oil, and realised maybe it wasn't her he was waiting for at all. That was the day he finally left town for more than an hour. He went to a tiny graveyard by a rebuilt church in Edogawa, Tokyo. He laid flowers. He said a prayer. He tried to explain everything and couldn't; not to bare earth. He considered going inside to one of the confessionals.

He felt like an idiot.

Then he drove away again and got on the highway, and he drove as fast and as far as he could. Eventually he ran out of fuel, but he just trudged along to the next gas station, filled up, and kept on driving.

He stayed in motels. Once or twice he opted for a Bed n' Breakfast place. Sometimes, if there was nothing else or he was too far from habitation when he started weaving with his eyes closed, he slept on the side of the road. If anybody had bothered him, he knew how to take care of himself. Nobody did though, and part of him was glad for that. He was a fighter. He grew up fists first, but he'd lost the taste for it. Twenty-five years of punching the world until he left an imprint on it that said 'I'm here, I'm not going away, and I matter!' and now the thought left him itchy, like he'd fallen in a patch of nettles and the stings were bothering him long after he'd pulled himself out again.

He didn't go to places, he went through them. He didn't have a particular direction, just went where the whim took him, which sometimes meant he raced past national treasures without knowing they were even there. Landmarks were just a smear of colour. Countryside and cityscapes were interchangeable blurs. He slowly ate his way through his savings, scouring the country for … something.

Except with every mile he told himself he wasn't waiting anymore. You couldn't wait if you weren't in one place to do it.

He wasn't waiting for someone else to make him feel better about himself. He wasn't waiting for some bigger power to take his pain away. He wasn't waiting for the end of the world. He wasn't waiting to forget. He wasn't waiting to remember. He was just getting on his bike, buckling his helmet and going full-throttle for as long as it would stand it.

It stood it for a few months, before the constant hard riding and transient fix-me-ups took their toll. When he was on his back watching his own crumpled front wheel still spin, making a weird 'chk-chk-chk-chk' noise, he reflected that he was waiting for something this time, and that was for someone to find him before he passed out, bled out, or checked out. He was waiting to see whether he'd live or die this time. He couldn't feel anything from the waist down, though warm blood was pooling inside his leathers.

After a few moments, sill hearing the 'chk-chk-chk-chk', his vision greyed. He thought he heard the grind of an engine before it all went dark.

When he awoke it was to a merciless halogen light and grey walls.

"What the hell were you playing at?"

No 'hello'. No 'I'm glad you're okay'. He shifted his eyes to the seat next to his standard issue hospital bed and swallowed because his throat was drier than a camel's backside. "Where am I?"

"Domino General."

"Huh." Another swallow. He was too hot. It was like being next to a miniature sun. "I didn't realise I'd come this far." Or was even headed in this direction. That hadn't been a conscious decision.

"Shut up. You nearly died. I go to your house and you're not there, so I come home and find you half-dead at the side of the road, and when I pull you clear your bike explodes and nearly cooks us both. You have no right to talk to me." She folded her arms and hooked one leg over the other. "The doctors said you were lucky you weren't paralysed when I moved you because I was so rough, but frankly it was that or barbequed biker."

He coughed in reply.

"Your neighbours said you hadn't been there in months, but neither of your buddies -"

"They're not my buddies."

"Neither of them knew where you were," she snapped in irritation. "What have you been doing?"

He paused mid-cough; suddenly realising he'd been doing the same thing all along, though he hadn't known it. "I was … waiting."

"For what?"

"For … you."


Fin.