Disclaimer: GW's not mine.
A/N: Trowa and Catherine's finally here! Hee! Based on a book by Audrey Niffenegger, The Time Traveler's Wife.
"Wake Me Up When September Ends"
by Schizoid Sprite
"Here comes the rain again, falling from the stars; Drenched in my pain again, becoming who we are."- Green Day
It wasn't music; it sounded more like a clock.
Its rasping ticks were different from each other, not in terms of the quality of vibration they produce but of the atmosphere they build. One would make him feel as if he was floating in outer space, the succeeding tick would transport him to the familiar setting of a flying trapeze or a high-wire act, the next would bring him underwater, and so on and so forth. They held meaning but he didn't try to decode them just yet. He needed to see first.
He reached out to navigate the darkness, flinching when tongues of flames—invisible flames—licked his stretched arms. He didn't pull back.
Instead he allowed the unearthly heat guide him. It's always like this. Every stride forward caused the sound to decrescendo. He wouldn't want to lose the ticking, but necessity urged him to go on and forget them. He'd hear them again.
One thud of his foot overlapped the weakest echo of the last tick. His emerald pupils constricted at the sudden burst of light, and all of a sudden he was standing on the cracked cobblestones of a colony street, squeezed in a claustrophobic band of whispering people. There was a reason why he was here. Standing on his toes, he followed their traumatized gazes.
His eyes landed on the scraps of metal and wood hunched up against the wall of a greasy spoon on the other side of the road. The scraps suggested that they came from a vehicle, which was hard to tell what type of at first for it was crushed and toasted beyond recognition. Resting a few feet away from the pile were couples of blackened spokes, some of which were still attached to a metal hub. That told it all—it was a wagon. A circus wagon to be precise, as a dented steel logo saying "The Circus: Since 1667" was wedged between one of the radiuses of the broken wheel.
All attentions were turned when the smaller heap of semi-recognizable carriage parts near the larger one moved. Pawing her way out, an auburn-haired girl managed to get some of the scraps off her back. She squinted at the light, but the tears still clung to encumber her eyes. Her cheeks were smeared with ashes and tears and blood, and when she cocked her head to stare at him, his heart wrenched. He closed his eyes.
He flipped his lids up and wasn't surprised at all when he found himself tied up against the wall. He was back in that performance day. Catherine was in front of him, arm frozen in mid-throw with the glistening knife trapped between her fingers.
"Look a little scared," she said. "Otherwise I won't have any fun, my little doll."
How could he possibly fear something like a fancy blade? He saw how her face twisted in disbelief when she realized he was actually begging for his death right then and there.
He already half-lidded his eyes when he felt his cheek stung. In fact his face was awkwardly angled to right, in a way like he had just been…slapped.
"Did you give a thought to the people you'd left behind?" Catherine angrily chided, water blobbing on the corners of her eyes. It was this day, he thought. When he first attempted to self-detonate. "You're the most pathetic person I've ever met! You didn't think about us…the people you'd leave behind. We'd have to live in sorrow…"
Tick. Tick. Tick. No, it wasn't music.
The staccato flow of sounds kind of lulled him, and he would've fallen asleep if he didn't feel warm arms enveloping him in a defensive circle. He felt cold. And scared.
"There, there," Catherine comforted in her ever-maternal voice, hugging him closer. "It's alright. I'm by your side."
Both of them snapped their heads up to see a panting Quatre.
"It's dangerous," the blonde gasped. "Hurry to shelter…"
"What's going on?" Catherine demanded. He could feel her tense.
"It's a battle," Quatre responded. "Mobile suits are exchanging fire near the colony."
A gasp—a sob—escaped her lips. She trembled with rage, and water started to build up again in her eyes. When he leaned a little closer, he noticed that some dew-like drops were resting on her lashes.
"But why?" she croaked. "We're just trying to live here in peace! How many people have to be sacrificed before this ends?! I'm tired of losing people who're important to me. I can't take it anymore!"
"Don't cry, sis," he tried, even if he himself was feeling an odd kind of fear. "I promise to protect you."
Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.
The next scenes passed by a little slow and half of them were hardly comprehensible, as they came as warped reflections you would expect to see in funhouse mirrors. The slides he recognized were those of the other Gundam pilots. He caught a glimpse of the scene where Heero made him laugh for the first time; the scene where he blew up Gundam Deathscythe while hearing Duo's scream from far away; that precious piece of memory of him and Quatre playing with their instruments; and that time he spent with a sulking Wufei, handing him a bowl of soup as the fire merrily crackled in front of them.
The snapshots were interrupted when he heard a loud clutter that made him jump. The warped colors of his other memories focused and took shape—to present to him a blonde man in his late twenties, standing stock-still just an arm-length away from him, shocked eyes peering through glasses. It took him a moment to realize that the man was actually Quatre.
"Trowa?" Quatre managed to ask with his trembling lips. His voice now has gone a lot deeper than the one Trowa could remember. "I-is that really you?"
Confused, he gathered his brows and cocked a noncommittal nod. Sure he knew who he was, but he was positive there was something going on that he desperately needed to know. What was he doing here in this office, leaning casually against the custom-made black cherry-desk that separated him from his dear friend—who, by some kind of miracle, looked a lot older now? He searched for anything sensible to fill in the silence, but all he could come up with were ridiculous questions he knew Quatre wouldn't even try to answer.
The blonde leaned back against his cushioned chair, recklessly raking his tortoiseshell spectacles off his nose. Trowa noticed how Quatre's hand tightened around the Styrofoam cup he was grasping. He also noticed the glimmer of a wedding band there as it caught the rays of the false colony sun from the window near them.
"You're married," Trowa stated matter-of-factly.
"I am," Quatre said with a wince, eyes evasive. Trowa suddenly felt like he was viewing Quatre in a kirlian photograph. The aura of fear –and something else that he couldn't label—was almost visible. It bothered him to no end.
"Is there something wrong?"
The blonde released the cup, made as if he'd finally look straight into Trowa's eyes, but readily shifted his eyes to the wall behind the boy."Trowa, everything is wrong. And you've just came up right here to finally make something right."
Trowa flinched. The pain in the Arabian's voice was razor-edged and it kind of slit something open in his chest. "I'm lost. Why am I here? What's happening?"
"You're not lost," Quatre responded in an aberrantly low tone. "In fact you're just in the perfect place. I've waited all these years for the punishment."
Quatre rolled his chair back a little, pulled a drawer and dug in. When his hand reappeared to Trowa's line of vision, a silver pistol was dangling from his pallid fingers.
Trowa was stunned for a second. "What's this?"
"I know it's a goddamn gun, but what are you trying to tell me?"
"Trowa, you're here to rectify the largest mistake I ever made in my entire life," Quatre muttered so low that the other boy could barely make it out. "And you can do that by eradicating me from this world. You're here to kill me."
He grimaced. "I don't understand."
"Oh you will, Trowa, just after you finish me off." Quatre inched the object towards him. "Take it."
He didn't move. Couples of questions were thrown silently from his unsteady green eyes. Quatre couldn't make himself to catch them directly, but he knew what they were before Trowa could even think of them.
"I killed you Trowa. But you're not dead yet."
"I don't like to hear any riddles right now."
Heaving a sigh, Quatre disconnected his fingers from the gun and let it slip down centimeters away from him. "Do you know what year it is now?"
"A.C. 200," his temples throbbed when he spoke.
"Wrong," Quatre nonchalantly answered, confidence in his posture saying he expected his words to be incorrect. "It's A.C. 207 already."
Trowa leaned forward, pressing his fingers to either side of his head. He scowled at the electronic calendar sitting next to Quatre's penholder, mocking him.
Quatre watched him levelly while he nudged the ring with the knuckles of his other hand. ""It's been seven years since my wedding. My wife said that the marriage was a punishment in itself, but I don't think it really was. And now you're here to give me the proper castigation for what I've done. You've kept me waiting."
"I don't follow."
Quatre ignored him. "Catherine Bloom is my wife."
"We both know that I don't love her," the blonde reminded, his voice faltering at the last words. "I love somebody else."
Trowa knew. The woman who couldn't cry.
Quatre suddenly balked as if he heard the boy's thoughts, but went on as if anything about that other woman wasn't mentioned. "But when Catherine offered her punishment for me, I just couldn't decline. My guilt was burning me alive, and she offered me her life, proposed to me. Don't get it all wrong though—she doesn't like me, and she never will after I killed you. She regarded me as a savage. A beast. She assigned herself this mission to remind me of you every minute of my life and she could only do that by being my spouse."
Tick-tock. Tick-tock. No, really, it wasn't music.
"I know this day would come," Quatre, no matter how hard he seemed to keep his voice stable, failed glumly as the words were let out quivering. "Look at you. You're still the twenty-year-old Trowa I know, my adviser, my best friend, my brother."
"Then look at me. A Quatre that's seven years your senior, a thrash, a criminal, a demon. Your personal killer at that. Guess what? Minutes from now, you're going to be dead—that's predestined and unchangeable—and you have to kill me first before I kill you."
Trowa shook his head incredulously. "I don't understand whatever crude you're talking about."
"I guess then that you haven't learned of your condition yet?"
"Chronic Displacement," Quatre spaced the words with uneasiness. He squinted. "A rare genetic disorder that unpredictably lets you time-travel. Predestination paradox, Trowa."
Trowa's jaw dropped. "You must be mad. There's no such disorder!"
Quatre just chuckled mirthlessly at him. It sounded unpleasant, eliciting a reaction similar to what you'd feel when you'd hear the noise of fingernails scratching against glass. Much to Trowa's relief, the laugh didn't last long. Quatre's mouth was tugged down in an uncharacteristic frown. He pushed the pistol towards the boy until it touched the sleeve of his garment.
"Humor me, Trowa. For one last time."
"I won't do it."
He knew he shouldn't have, for when he lifted his lids back up, he didn't saw the adult Quatre in front of him. Sitting on the same spot, blocking a small portion of the colony cityscape at night, was Quatre that was about the same age as him. He was leafing through the pages of an old yellowing book, eyes bouncing from side to side, seeing but not reading.
Then it struck him. Even after a couple of years since the last eve war, Quatre still suffered from that brain disorder he couldn't quite remember the name of. It seemed like his prolonged exposure to the zero system has long-term effects…
He knew he shouldn't have panicked when Quatre's shoulders started to shake. He knew he shouldn't have been surprised when the blonde burst into a demonic cackle while tears sluiced down his cheeks. He knew he shouldn't have cringed when froth spilled out of his friend's mouth while the lips trembled to silently form the word 'father'. He should've at least moved to get him to the hospital or to one of his doctor sisters.
But most of all, he knew he should've started to defend himself when Quatre flipped one crispy leaf to reveal a gun buried in the remaining hollowed-out pages of the book.
Tick-tock. Tick-tock. Music? No.
Click, went the gun.
He was rendered deaf to the succeeding sounds as a shriek ripped through the hush, a bullet plowing its way into his head.
He knew pain. He knew death.
But he didn't know time.
Before his head thudded to the table, he met his sister once again, only this time he saw wrinkles and an ample amount of silver threads on her curls. He lightly touched her crow's feet when she smiled. He breathed in and it was a waft of her soup that was sucked into his nostrils. He smiled and enveloped her in a strong embrace, as if to shield her brittle body from anything that would cause her pain. Yes, from anything. From everything.
He expected his brow to touch wood, but it was something soft that he landed on.
Tick-tock. Tick-tock. Tick-tock. It wasn't music.
It was time. It was the steady beat of his heart.
And he was more than contented to permanently stop that noise while he rested in Catherine's arms.
Her eyes were bulged and bloodshot from crying non-stop for three days after his funeral. She didn't let her work be affected by it, though. Her life goes on. Trowa silently pleaded her to be strong; he requested her not to be an empty husk after his departure. She should be. Besides, he said they would certainly meet again.
She ran her fingers through her locks and reached out into her pocket to get his 'letter'. Her lips tightly pursed to a frown, she flipped open the crumpled paper she'd read for more than a hundred time that night:
We'll have a good time in your future, in my past. Even at seventy five you're still beautiful.
I have one gripe, though: you should try other recipes aside from your regular stew. There's still a lot of years to practice. I won't like to have the same thing.
See you in A.C. 253.
She smiled a grim smile. They would meet again.
And as for Quatre…