Disclaimer: Gundam Wing and all its characters © Sotsu Agency, Sunrise, and TV Asahi. This fic is not for profit.
A/N: My first 3xMidii fic! This is originally written as an 'extra' for this year's darkfic exchange at the LJ community gw_dark, requested by theoriginal_ist (aka Lune Solei here on FFN). The prompt is 'someone suffering from mnemophobia (fear of memories) from the war, before the war, whatever. Angst, psychological.' A part inspired from the book 'Tuesdays with Morrie'.
by Schizoid Sprite
"The past is never dead; it is not even past". -William Faulkner
They were not empty anymore.
In fact they shone as if the world has just been thawed in them. The harsh eons of experience burned in their emerald depths so clearly that they outshined the bright afterimages of falling tetrominoes that lingered when she looked up from her handheld game.
"What are you doing here?"
The electronic plinking of the device that has been her irritating earworm for weeks petered out when he spoke. His voice, too, wasn't as empty as she remembered. His attempt on keeping it inexpressive was roughly pitiable, the words flowing like water hindered by floodgates, snakes of unpermitted emotions wriggling out.
"No, what are you doing here?" she parroted his pretended stolidity. "You're here again."
He'll be aware if those words were a metaphor, considering that she knew he'd grown into a dangerously intelligent man. The moment the last word left her mouth, she wasn't so certain if they really meant anything. She caught the kinking of his forehead before she went back to her game. The words 'GAME OVER' flashed on the screen.
After the dusts of the first Eve War have settled, it occurred to her that she hadn't pulled up stakes for real. It's true that she abandoned her work after he left for space, but a circumstance that brought them together for a moment—something that neither of them expected—enticed her to pick up and dust off her personal spyglass again. They didn't acknowledge each other in that fateful meeting; neither of them dared to, not especially when they stared at one another from behind recycled masks that hung precariously from their faces. Those prosthetic names, and the other man whose arms were securely locked around her with a promise of forever, prevented her from barging into his new world.
She figured that watching from afar doesn't count as being a part of his life so she went on with her plans. It was by choice that she didn't bring any emotional shield; steeling herself would be pointless, anyway. Their asymptotic proximity would disarm her of whatever kind of weapon she wields against him, against every shard of their pasts that seem to linger around him when she looks.
So when her war wounds nettled with infection, she wasn't a bit regretful. She didn't say, however, that she would bear with the pain, especially that each cut throbbed beyond any form of toleration. That explains why she was there, sitting casually atop a wooden box near the cages of beats, silently asking for the medication while he stood disinterestedly before her.
"I have to feed the lions so please hurry up. I'm not paid to delay my work."
Her thumb brushed against the restart button. No pressure was applied, so the screen still blinked with the two words.
"I just read an interesting story," she said. "It's about a wave. Will you care to listen?"
His silence was frigid.
"Thank you," she said quietly. She wiped the fingerprints on the LCD of the device with the fabric of her sleeve. "There's a little wave that is tossing happily with the other waves in the ocean. He's enjoying the kiss of the wind against his face, the playful up-and-down motion that these winds are giving him—until he sees how the waves in front of him crash against the shore and reduce into a spray of foams."
This time, she pressed the restart button firmly and watched the tetrominoes descend. "He worries and asks, 'My God, is that what's going to happen to me?' Then came another wave, bobbing alongside him and noticing the dourness in his expression. The second wave asks why he looks so sad. Panicked, the first wave says, 'You don't understand! We're going to crash! We're going to be nothing!'"
Her eyes followed the digital blocks to the bottom of the screen. She did nothing to manipulate them so when they touched the playing field's floor, they form an uneven structure that presented a lot of gaps. She continued, "The second wave replies, 'No, you don't understand. You're not a wave. You're a part of the ocean.'"
She waited until the blocks reached the top of the screen. "Funny, I only remember this tale when I'm playing Tetris. Maybe it's the falling tetrominoes that remind me of the waves. I arrange them, rotate them by ninety degree units and if they land perfectly, watch them disappear as they hit the bottom of the screen. Just like how the waves dance till they hit land and vanish."
The young man frowned. "Your point being?"
The same two words that dominated the screen earlier flashed again, mocking her. "Do you remember the day when you said we were the same? We'll never be. You were empty, and in the end you said I was not. Now, the situation's reversed."
She paused for effect. "I'm empty now. I'm weightless because I refuse to keep memories."
"You speak in riddles," he interrupted. "I thought I made it clear that I have more important things to do."
"But refusing to keep them," she continued, as though she never heard him speak, "Doesn't necessarily mean forgetting them. I can't get out of my past. I'm through with it, but it's not through with me yet."
She slowly cupped the device in both hands and lifted it with care, as if it were something as delicate and precious as ancient china. "My memories, they're like the blocks. They come in different forms and shapes, sometimes more twisted. I toy with them in my head, feel them roam around and ram against each other while I wonder what I've done for them to hunt me like this. I see glimpses of explosions and blood, I feel the nauseating touch of every man that turned me into a living dead in exchange for money. I'm brought back to the days where I decided to enter the battlefield as a spy and cook for someone else while my sick siblings starve at home. I see your face."
"You're still playing with that?" he asked indifferently, as though he never heard her speak.
It stung. Realizing that the unseen sluicegates had been removed and no real emotion poured felt like being slapped.
"The rules of this game are simple," she went on, sugarcoating the pain with a sneer. "Make the figures disappear when they fall and you'll stay alive and advance to the next level. That's what I do. I refuse to keep them, I detach myself from them—that's why I'm so weightless. But you see, when the perfect structure vanishes at the bottom, another batch of blocks will fall. The blocks are a part of the game. The waves are a part of the ocean. My memories are a part of me. It's an unending cycle."
He took three paces towards her. "You're selfish."
Like the words he let out cast a paralysis spell on her, she wasn't able to move when his hand went to tip her chin. She wasn't a bit astonished when he caught her mouth into his roughly; she expected it. Almost against her own volition, her arms went up to encircle his neck and she began to nip back, tasting him and all the things he gave life to by using his lips: the metallic taste of the flute's mouthpiece, the rusty tang of blood from the countless cuts it got, perhaps even the kisses of other women he'd spent and spending his nights with….
And behind the bittersweetness of the touch, she savored the sour aftertaste of every incubus tongue that violated her since the first day she stepped onto the battlefield. The scent of the captain's sweat came back, the scar on his left eye throbbing with lust, and once again she felt the horror of seeing the drunk queue of rebels waiting to 'play' with her. He wasn't in the line.
A raging heat that exploded in her scorched the skin of her lips. When he finally broke the contact, she quickly spun around and ducked, retching. The lion in a nearby cage turned a pair of golden eyes to the unsightly pool of slimy lumps on the artificial grass that was her today's lunch.
His eyes were glued to it as well. "You're selfish to think that you're the only one who feels that way. Anyone who's gone to the battlegrounds brings bad memories with him as he continues to breathe. When he does continue to breathe, he realizes that the real battle's just begun."
Her hands were clammy now. The handheld game slipped from her trembling grasp and she let it dangle from her neck. She rummaged in her head to find something to say, wiping her mouth with her sleeve.
"I want to shift the analogy," he announced before she could speak. "The waves, the blocks—they're not the memories. They're you. You're not an individual because you're a part of humanity. You're not a single story because you're a part of the history. When you suffer you must know that others are, too, for we are one yet we're never the same. There are others out there that are less fortunate than you. You're more fortunate than me."
He gave her an upwards nod in farewell and turned around.
"No-Name," she called.
"You got the wrong person."
"Trowa Barton now, is it?" she asked quietly. She forced a smile when he stopped in his tracks. "When you take someone else's name, a change in your whole life is a cinch."
Trowa, not turning around, stuffed his hands inside his pockets and shifted his weight to his other leg.
"I figured you'll know how it feels," he said a couple of heartbeats later, "since you also steal someone else's name. Change is guaranteed."
She smirked. "You're right, but you're also wrong. I'm still that Midii Une in your eyes—"
"And you'll always be Chris Marley in Ralph's," he finished her statement impassively. "You're Chris Marley in everyone's eyes, and that makes Midii Une dead. You're Chris Marley since the day you're born."
The laugh that escaped her mouth made her wince; it was an unpleasant sound from someone who was in the verge of crying. "You know that Midii Une's a mask," she croaked. "What I said to you back then weren't. They're true."
He shrugged a shoulder. "Ralph's waiting for you. The lions are hungry now."
This time, she let him go without a word, knowing full well that his turning around is the symbolic representation of his refusal to what she was really offering him. He disappeared in one of the tents without paying her one last glance.
This was the second time he did that to her.
Shakily, she reached for the golden crucifix behind her collar and uttered a silent prayer, her eyes closed, hoping that when she open them she'll be finally healed, that she'll be a part of a brand-new world…without him.
When she lifted her eyelids, everything was the same.