Disclaimer: GW and the characters featured in this collection are not mine. Except the OC's, of course. :D
A/N: Since I think it'll be awkward to post individual oneshots all about Quatre, I just decided to make one full anthology for him. Hee, don't worry, my whole fanfic list won't be all about Quatre or just 4xD; Trowa and Catherine will be here before February ends, and Zechs, Noin, and Duo are coming this March. Enjoy!
This first story is for korachels, Kira's Avenger/kreisha, Pink-stripedflamingo, jay, and all of my fs friends who bothered to read some of my works. You'll be able to relate to this.
Light Rail Transit
by Schizoid Sprite
"The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof." -- Barbara Kingsolver
"Why is the sky blue?"
He started at the voice. The very slight movements of the muscles around his scapula made one strap of his backpack slide down. With a quick upward jerk of his upper arm, he was able to stop the leather in mid-slip before it reaches his forearm. He shrugged it up again to his shoulder and looked around, searching for the source of the little voice.
"Why is the sky blue?"
A little schoolgirl, her age playing at nine or ten, was tugging at the hem of his shirt. But she was staring past him, her eyes ricocheting from the cloudless summer sky to the busy cityscape right below the LRT depot where they were standing in. Her caramel skin glowed as he looked, complementing the sunshiny weather. A ghost of a smile was flitting on her lips, and her little brown fingers twiddled around the jet-black plaits on either side of her head. There was an aura fluttering around her that was vaguely familiar to him, but no matter how hard he strain his senses, he just couldn't place where he'd seen or felt that.
"Why?"she asked with a tilt of her head, coal-dark eyes shining with a film of youthful gaiety as she fixed them on him.
He gave her an odd look, irked by a quirky, random question she directed at a quirky, random stranger that was him. He turned on his heels but even when he bought his ticket at the counter, he kept her in his peripheral vision.
She leaped over the tracks of an imaginary hopscotch as she followed him walk towards the turnstiles, humming an out-of-tune nursery rhyme. Her giggles rang across the mezzanine like a peal of bells. Smiling at the sound, he pushed himself to the other side of the faregate as soon as his magnetic ticket was accepted. He didn't know why he waited for the girl to enter before he resumed walking.
"Mister, do you know why the color of the sky is blue?"
He threw his head back a little diagonal so that he could get a full view of her face.
Cast the die. Physics or fairytale? He smiled. "The sky is blue because the angels played tag in heaven and accidentally spilled a can of blue paint."
The girl laughed at the statement. At first he thought it was because she was amused, but when she spoke, he knew he'd just given her a false judgment.
"How about the Rayleigh scattering, sir?" she coyly asked, one chocolate finger tapping against her chin. "I learned in school that the sunlight is made up of all different colors of light, but because of the elements in the atmosphere the color blue is scattered much more efficiently than the other colors."
He gaped stupidly after the last word hung in the air. So Earth kids are that smart? He laughed to himself. "Very well said."
"So why is the sky blue?"
They both stared as the light-rail train emerged from the horizon. "Didn't you just answer that yourself?" he asked, bunching his hands inside his khaki pockets.
The train slowed to a stop. He winced when the grouchy-looking security guard ordered them to get out of the way with a shrill blow of the whistle. The automatic doors hissed open and a flood of people rushed out, shoving them to the side. He caught the smirk of the guard. He frowned.
Once the crowd thinned, they jumped inside and secured seats near the windows. They sat side by side, both heads slanted to their right to get a better view of the passing blur of the city.
"My name is Ilao," the girl introduced. She swung her pack to her front and slid it down so that it was resting on her feet. "Will you tell me why the sky is blue?"
He looked down at her and noticed that the girl's white blouse seemed a bit old that it was yellowish at the collar and around the buttonholes. The pleats of her ankle-length tartan skirt were disproportioned, loose threads hanging at the hem.
He didn't feel like giving her his name. "Rayleigh scattering, you said," he drawled out with a crease of his brow.
"The same on the colonies?"
He flinched. It might be obvious that he didn't come from here, having that blonde hair and all, but what was the indication that he's a colonist? He was aware that there are millions of other blonde earthlings.
"No," he answered quite dismally. "The skies on the colonies aren't blue at all. What you see behind the white clouds are metal…roofs."
He could have added something more to that, something containing a bit of mechanic's jargon and something that would suggest of a mechanical way of living. He held back.
"Doesn't that make you feel confined? Like you're in a steel box or something?" she leaned forward and weighed her head onto two open palms. "I saw in books what a colony looks like. A big rotating wheel, where people clusters inside the inner rim to live. Isn't it hard to live there?"
He balked. A mind-reader? "No it's not. And there's more to it than what you see," he said rather stoutly. Control, he chided himself. Just a kid. Explaining his sentiment-laden opinion to a child would be ridiculous.
Ilao smiled. "I understand. Papa came from the colonies, too."
"Really?" he asked thoughtfully, noting the glint in her eyes.
She nodded eagerly. "Yes. But I never saw him after the war. Do you know death?"
The temperature seemed to drop significantly to serve as the sensory punctuation mark to her last sentence. A shiver ran up his spine, a film of frosty sensation making its way to overcoat his whole body. He sought for something that would make the coldness go away. As if magnetized, he turned his head to her and drowned his sight in the depths of her eyes. He felt warmth there, but not the kind of warmth that he wanted at the moment. He caromed off the feeling. Why so warm anyway, while speaking about something so cold?
"Yes. I know death." He couldn't speak anything with sense after that. He looked away.
"I figured as much," she readily, too-happily replied. "But I know death better than you do, sir."
He balked again. He didn't speak.
"I once heard a story where death speaks, like an anthropomorph," she said, now putting an earnest expression. "She tells this story of a merchant in Baghdad. The merchant sent his servant to buy provisions in the market and in a little while the servant came back, white and shaking. The servant said—"
She cleared her throat in attempt to change the quality of her voice. " 'Master, just now I turned and saw it was Death that jostled me. She looked at me and made a threatening gesture; now lend me your horse, and I will ride away from the city and avoid fate. I will go to Samarra and there Death will not find me.' "
A choking sound made its way up her throat and she coughed. He shot his eyes back at her with concern and motioned as if to stroke her back, but the beam she gave him assured him that she's alright. She continued the story. "The merchant lent him his horse and the servant mounted it, and dug his spurs in its flanks, as fast as the horse could gallop he went. Then the merchant went to the marketplace and he saw Death standing in the crowd. He came up to her and asked why she made a threatening gesture to his servant when she saw him this morning."
There was a dramatic pause that made him look at her again.
"Death answered him." Ilao went on, completely oblivious to his intent stare. "She said, 'That was not a threatening gesture. It was only a start of surprise. I was astonished to see him in Baghdad for I had an appointment with him tonight in Samarra.'"
He pressed his lips in a thin line, drinking in what the story meant. Ilao's neck was bent a little, like she was staring at something on her chest, and it kind of bothered him. He followed her gaze and saw something dark, like a large butterfly stretching its wings across the yellowish whiteness of her blouse. The color in his face was drained when he realized what it was.
"I believe that fate exists," she said, prodding the dark shape with a shaky pinkie. "Because if it doesn't, I wouldn't be here talking to you, sir."
He bolted up from his seat, frantically gripping Ilao's arms, worry swimming in his eyes. He watched how the blood seeped through the fabric of her uniform, the butterfly shape now gone to give way to a large, cabbage-shaped stain. Soon it became formless, and he would've believe that red was the original color of her blouse.
"I'll bring you to the hospital," he breathlessly offered, enveloping the girl in his arms. Ilao struggled.
"I don't like hospitals," she said mulishly. As she spoke, the skin of her lips slowly corroded, exposing a burnt lump of red flesh. Blood blobbed up from her mouth and spilled out, dyeing her chin and neck a dark, glossy scarlet. He watched in horror as her hair curled up in response to an invisible fire, some strands falling to ashes, some staying knotted and embellished with dying embers. Other wounds emerged, tearing up to let blood, puss, tears, and some other fluids he couldn't identify sluice down her face.
He stepped back from the macabre form. "Ilao.."
"Have everybody really learned their lessons?" she sobbed. She scrubbed roughly at her cheeks, which ripped the remaining skin there. "War is a harsh teacher, you see. When she speaks from the mouth of a bomb or a gun or a mobile suit, we humans are turned mute. No one listened to me when I called for papa. No one listened to me when that I scream for help and when I told them that my bleeding knee hurts. People involved in the war couldn't let their hearts speak, because they say when you let your emotions rule over you, you'll lose the fight. I wondered why it never occurred to people that nobody wins in wars."
She wobbled out of the seat and bounced to kiss him on the cheek. To his surprise he didn't recoil from the sticky touch.
"Say hi to papa for me," she whispered. "Tell him I miss him, and that the sky is not blue at all. In the place where I am now, rainbows are permanent and the sky is a mirror, and I could see him there. Tell papa I love him. "
Quatre flipped his eyes open to find himself clutching at his chest. He was aware of others' presence in the room, their eyes on him, but he didn't pay heed at first. He was glowing yellow like a bulb, and his breathing was short and staccato.
Upon hearing the captain's voice, the tightness in his chest somewhat loosened. He looked past his sweat-soaked bangs and at the giant man and smiled a smile that said he's okay. Rashid didn't return the cheerful gesture. The leader of the Maganacs knew him well, especially in situations like this. He knew he was downplaying the pain.
Soon, the yellow glow weakened. A blur of red fezzes swarmed around him, voices buzzing. Rashid was not so hard to find as he stood out among the others.
"You didn't tell me you had a daughter," Quatre panted.
Rashid flashed a surprise expression. Sadness came quickly to mix itself with the shock. Everybody was silent, but the mute conversation the Maganacs were sharing with each other was more than deafening in its loudness. So I'm the only one who didn't know anything about Ilao, Quatre thought.
Rashid's face went earnest, reminding him of the girl's face when she tried to look serious while speaking about death. "Yes. And this was her room."
Quatre cocked a small nod, studying the faded pink walls of the room. He could still feel her. "She's a kind girl. She said she loves you."
A sad smile cracked across the broad lips. "I knew that quite well." Rashid sauntered to the side-table where a pitcher was resting. He half-filled the mug next to it and handed it to the blonde. "She died back during the days after we accomplished our first mission to destroy OZ facilities in the Middle East. She was on her way to school when a suicide-bombing by a paramilitary army occurred, prompting the Alliance to go 'protect' the city. The train where she's in was only one of the public vehicles that were wiped off by the first bomb. It's from an Alliance fighter plane."
"She's from Earth," Quatre said. He shook off the images that sprouted in his head.
"Yes," Rashid distantly answered. "From the Philippines. Her mother died at childbirth."
"She's actually the one who started the Maganacs," Ahmed chimed in, stroking his handlebar mustache. He's staring at Quatre but seeing nothing, a slight beam widening his face. "The actual term came from her native language, which means 'family'. At first it sounds like a joke-of-sorts, but time came when we realized it's got a deeper meaning than what we've thought." He laughed. "I remember when we first visited Ilao. She's practically screaming, 'Tito Ahmed! Tito Auda! You're part of our mag-anak once you step in this home.'"
Auda snickered. "Yeah, I remembered that too. She doesn't know the English term for family so she used the Tagalog word. And heck, her mouth's a machinegun! I can't get to stop her talking even after I told her the story of the boogeyman that eats noisy children at night."
Quatre chuckled. "She's too smart a girl to believe that."
Everybody stared at him.
He chuckled some more and stretched his arms. "Rashid, do you know why the sky is blue?"
The captain raised a brow.
"Because blue is peace," he answered his own question. "And I intend to keep it blue forever."
The family exchanged meaningful glances. He knew they're all in this together. He'll never let another Ilao end up like that again, and no matter how many times he had to cheat death to do that, no matter how many times he had to step and breathe into that sandstorm he likes to call his own fate, he would do it just for the sake of his new mission not going awry.
And, like any other mission he had in his life, it commences with your own heart—fueled by hope and a sincere wish for peace.
Yaay! I've actually written it! Heehee! This one's playing in my mind for a while now. And for some trivia:
~The story about 'Death' coming to Baghdad is adapted from a play by Somerset Maugham, Sheppey. It is in turn adapted and translated from a book entitled Hikyat-I-Naqshia, written by the 9th Arabian Sufi, Fudail ibn Ayad.
~Ilao is a name derived from the Tagalog word 'Ilaw', which means light in Tagalog (the same language where the word "Maganac' originated, and, coincidentally, my native language too, haha!). Specifically, it refers to an artificial light (i.e. a fluorescent lamp) as natural light was referred to as 'liwanag' (i.e. sunlight). I want to emphasize here that Rashid wants to say he's proud to be a father of a naturally born child, but still proud even if he's just gestated in a test tube. He named her 'light' for a quite dramatic, obvious reason. She's his light, source of hope.
~The thought that 'maganac' is a Tagalog word made me think if the group—or just the captain—has some kind of connection to my country (well maybe except the fact that there are hundreds of overseas Filipino workers staying in Saudi Arabia as engineers and domestic helpers). And then this ficlet's born.
~Tito is the tagalog term for 'uncle'.
~The reason why Quatre chose blue to represent peace is because the color blue represents peace in the Philippine flag. Heehee, the blue color was placed on the top of the color red, which represents war.
~Ilao spoke of 'war' in the end as 'she'. That's inspired by a character in the song of the band My Chemical Romance, Mother War.