Disclaimer: The characters belong to Mr. W, not me.
'Never say goodbye. Because goodbye means going away, and going away means forgetting.' - Peter Pan
It is a tradition among those in the Kids Next Door to be quiet when someone's thirteenth birthday is approaching. Supposedly, the silence will help the soon-to-be-decommissioned operative to think about and eventually accept their fate. Some thought it was the single most important rule in all of the KND. Numbuh Four thought it was just plain dumb.
His birthday was two days away and the tree house was unnaturally quiet. There was only another person still there other than him. It was Numbuh Three, the youngest one in Sector V. Both Abby and Hoagie had been taken away and Numbuh One was off fighting with the Galactic KND. There was no one there to play Yipper cards or come up with battle plans with him. Numbuh Four had nothing to do and he was sick of it.
That's how he found himself outside of Numbuh Three's room, staring at the flowered curtain and trying to will it open with his mind. When it was clear that wouldn't be happening anytime soon, Wally knocked on the wooden doorframe. The sound echoed through the large hall and sounded foreign to the blonde boy's ears. No one had bothered to knock before Sector V had been all but wiped out.
The curtain opened to reveal Numbuh Three, her eyes were rimmed with red and it was hard to tell if it was from crying too much or sleeping too little. Still she gave a little smile and whispered, "Hey, Numbuh Four. Did you need me?"
"This cruddy place is boring!" He declared, then winced at the loudness of his own voice.
Numbuh Three frowned, but moved away from the doorway to let her friend in. The room looked empty without all the stuffed animals that had been taken over to Numbuh Three's house in preparation for leaving the tree house. Numbuh Four stood awkwardly in the middle of the room and Numbuh Three sat down on her bed. Piles of clothes were there, ready to be packed up and moved.
"Did you need me?" Numbuh Three repeated, folding a sweater as she did so.
Numbuh Four wanted to say yes and tell his friend how scared he was about being decommissioned. He wanted to explain how he hated that he wouldn't remember anything about his time in the KND, including his friends. Numbuh Four wanted to finally admit to having a long-time crush on Numbuh Three.
Instead, he shrugged and said, "Ah was bored. That's all."
Numbuh Three nodded and went on folding clothes and putting them in her bag. (Which was decorated with Rainbow Monkeys, of course.) Numbuh Four just kept standing there, feeling incredibly stupid for coming up to the girl's room in the first place. Finally, he sighed and said, "It's too damn quiet in this place."
"Don't cuss," Numbuh Three scolded quietly, "But you're right."
"Let's leave," The boy replied.
"What do you mean?"
Numbuh Four grinned and began to explain, "Let's run off, Numbuh Three! They can't decommission us if they can't find us, roight? Let's do it!"
"No, Wally. I can't do that," The girl replied, still folding her clothes.
The blonde frowned as he felt annoyance welling up in his chest. His idea was a good one and after all, hadn't kids escaped decommissioning before? Numbuh Four saw no reason why anyone in their right mind wouldn't want to avoid the whole process if possible.
"So yeh want to become a cruddy teenager?" He asked scornfully.
Numbuh Three's reply was simple, "I'm not a coward."
"And yeh're saying Ah am?"
"When we joined the Kids Next Door, we knew we'd get decommissioned. It's silly to run away from the change. Change is inevitable, Wally."
"Don't yeh want to decide your own fate?" Numbuh Four asked, his voice growing angry and loud, "And don't call meh Wally. Ah'm Numbuh Four!"
"For two more days you're Numbuh Four. Then you'll be Wally and eight weeks later I'll be Kuki," Numbuh Three replied easily.
The boy was scowling heavily and he began to walk to the door. Numbuh Three made no move to stop him, she just kept folding and packing. Numbuh Four pulled the curtain shut so fiercely that a few of the rings popped off and clattered to the floor. This sound, like all the others, echoed in the empty tree house.
Numbuh Four went to his room, which had not been packed up at all. He put the loudest, angriest CD he owned into the stereo and turned the volume on full blast. Then, the small boy began to pound on his punching bag. The boy's punches and occasionally kicks made the whole thing shake like a frightened opponent and only added to the noise.
So, when Numbuh Three snuck into the room, all tip-toeing without saying a word, she went unnoticed. She sat on the floor, since Numbuh Four had no chairs, and watched the boy whale on his training equipment. It was obvious Numbuh Four was angry at her, but the girl was determined to talk to him once his frustration ebbed.
Numbuh Three was sitting and watching for at least an hour when her friend finally stopped. Panting, Numbuh Four turned around, intending to go to the kitchen to get a
drink. When he saw Numbuh Three, the scowl returned to his face. He turned off the music, which had been blaring the whole time, and turned to the girl.
"What do yeh want?" He asked, arms crossed over his chest.
"Wally-" She began.
He interrupted her tersely, "Numbuh Four."
Numbuh Three sighed and spoke again, "Numbuh Four, I wanted to apologize for upsetting you. You know I don't like this decommissioning thing anymore than you."
"Yeh could have fooled meh," Numbuh Four replied, his eyes narrowed.
"Don't be mean," The girl said softly.
"Do yeh figure Ah'll still be keen on being yeh're friend in two days, Numbuh Three? Ah'll be one of those cruddy teens. Ah won't care if yeh think Ah'm being mean."
"Not all teenagers are mean."
Numbuh Four snorted, "Can yeh name five who were every nice to us?"
The girl stayed quiet and Numbuh Four shook his head. It was clear to him that nothing he said could change Numbuh Three's mind. He left her in his room and went down to the kitchen for his drink. Once again, Numbuh Three didn't stop him, but she followed him.
"Why do yeh keep following meh, Numbuh Three?" He snapped, feeling more irritated than actually angry.
"There's good things about decommissioning," Numbuh Three said, ignoring his question.
The girl smiled, "We can do things want to without worrying about them later. We won't remember it."
"Yeh think losing yer memories would be a good thing!" Numbuh Four squawked, "Are yeh mad?"
"It means I can do silly things that I wouldn't do before now," She replied, "Like this."
Numbuh Three leaned in a kissed the boy on the mouth. He was so stunned, he didn't do anything, but stand there in shock. A second later, the lips against his were gone and so was the girl those lips belonged to. Numbuh Three seemed to have vanished into thin air and when he Numbuh Four went looking for the girl, he couldn't find her.
The next day went by rapidly and before he knew it, Numbuh 86 arrived at the tree house. She looked a little bit regretful as she took Numbuh Four away without a word. The KND tradition of silence was observed even more when the actual decommissioning day arrived.
Numbuh Four did not fight nor did he try to run away. He had not come to peace with the fact he was being decommissioned. In fact, he was extremely angry about it and scowled and glared as the operatives lead him up to the moon base. Numbuh Three's words and kiss were still clear to him. He would not be a coward.
Physically, the act of decommissioning was painless. He'd done it once before, so Numbuh Four knew what to expect. He was put to sleep, so he wouldn't be able to get back to the moon base as a teen and dropped off at his house, in his own bed. When he woke up in the morning, he could remember nothing about the Kids Next Door.
He was now Wally, who suddenly wondered why he hadn't talked to his friends Abby or Hoagie in a while. He also felt like he was forgetting something, but when he tried to remember, it was all blank. Still, Wally shrugged it off and went downstairs where his mother had a special birthday breakfast for him. Thankful that it was Saturday, Wally decided to call Hoagie and see if he wanted to hang out.
On Monday, Wally went to school just like always. It was a week away from the end of the school year, so the teachers were especially strict. At lunch, he sat with Hoagie and Abby, laughing for the whole time and wondering why he hadn't eaten with them in so long.
A table away, an Asian girl was watching them. Wally noticed this, along with the fact that the girl was sort of cute. When he asked his friends about her, they both shrugged and said they didn't know her. Wally turned to look at her again, but the girl was gone. He shrugged it off and returned to laughing at one of Hoagie's corny jokes.
The next day, Wally saw the girl again after school. She was trying to carry several Rainbow Monkey bags that were so full that they looked swollen. When he offered to help her, she started to cry and ran off. Wally thought he should probably feel bad about it, even though he didn't.
The girl was only some stranger, after all.