Disclaimer: Gundam Wing and all its characters © Sotsu Agency, Sunrise, and TV Asahi. All fics are not for profit.


"Running from Safety"

by Schizoid Sprite


"Only when we are no longer afraid do we begin to live."- Dorothy Thompson


Sometimes, reality could be confusingly unreal.

Or perhaps it was just her. Perhaps she was losing her mind after all. It started that day when the delegates at the conference table appeared to be too static, like they were just cardboard cutouts propped up in place of real humans; the nights crawled to her like a digitigrade nightmare, and she would watch a cat's shadow outside her window as it stretched into something large and formless, clobbering her chest as it reminded her of a broken space battleship.

The same feeling would appear when she would stare at the mirror to see a stranger looking straight back at her:

"Are you crying?" the reflection would ask, two beads of tears crawling down its cheeks.

"No, I'm dying," she croaked back, "And I'm tired of it."

She was certain that outer space could heal her, but the idea was a double-edged sword: reuniting with the cold expanse of her chosen gravesite might feel right but being there without any emotional defense also meant she had to die all over again.

So as much as she hated the thought of it, all she could do was visit a planetarium. One of the things that she abhorred the most was going near any of the ersatz copies of what she truly loves, and that was exactly why she refused to accept the six private planetaria that the Duke had given her as a gift for her twelfth birthday. She disliked the colonies for the same reason.

She brought an orange at the night of her watching, and she arrived there early. Fiddling with the fruit, she counted the seconds down until the fulldome projector system finally operated; she was at three thousand five hundred fifty-nine when the first star appeared. Not too long, not too short—an hour was just enough to ready herself.

"Not bad," she commented at the spectacle, chewing on the last of her orange.

"They look like the real thing, don't they?"

The voice stole a heartbeat from her, and suddenly she was under a paralysis spell. Was that one of her auditory hallucinations that frequented her mind in her 'unreal days'? Slowly turning her head towards the stingingly familiar voice, she told herself that if there was a last bit of sanity left in her, she must grasp it real tight now because she knew she was going to lose it once she confirmed—

"Hello, Miss Dorothy," Quatre Raberba Winner's too-happy face greeted her. "It's very nice to see you again."

An hour-long preparation was way too short for an emergency situation like this, she decided. Of all the people whom she could possibly bump into, why should it be one of the very reasons why she was sitting there at the first place?

"Very nice to see me?" she mocked as soon as she regained her composure. "Too much friendliness can kill you, Mr. Winner. What will you do if I continue what we weren't able to finish before?"

He tore his eyes from her to gaze up at ceiling. "Well, what do you think I should've said? 'I'll kill you because you turned me into a human shish-kabob'? A fencing rematch sounds like a good get-together too, so I certainly won't mind it if you pick up where we left off."

She blinked at first, unable to discern if he said it all in jest or he was serious. Either way, that was her signal to leave. She wouldn't be fighting a losing battle now. It wasn't because her defeat at Libra made her a coward, but because she was brave enough to acknowledge her fear to be crushed again, especially under his gentlest words. She slung her bag to her shoulder and motioned to stand up.

"Where are you going?" Quatre asked.

"Out of here, obviously," she responded tersely.

"The lecture hasn't even started yet."

"I'm not here for that."

Quatre didn't make any move to stop her then, but his sudden silence was a pair of heavy cuffs on her wrists. She stayed, flustered, while a self-satisfied grin spread across his face.

"It's my first lesson about constellations," Quatre confessed quietly as the lecturer took his place at the podium. "The online lights in our sky engines are mostly fluorescents, and not even one of them gives off a stellar glint. No matter what angle you look at them from, you'll never see any pattern as beautiful as these ones. They twinkle…and they even have names!"

Dorothy almost rolled her eyes at his childish delight, her fingers mindlessly toying with the orange peeling. She scowled when she thought its shape resembled a colony.

"Ah," the meager light bounced off Quatre's hair when he nodded to the direction of the talking lecturer. "So my birthday falls under the Virgo sign. That's quite amusing."

"Amusing indeed," Dorothy agreed. "The Virgin—how fitting! But I want to know what you see."

She felt rather than saw Quatre's confusion when he furrowed his forehead.

"Look at the Virgo's pattern," she lazily twirled a finger around a stray lock. "What do you see? Is it a female figure or an outline of a mobile suit?"

Quatre's eyes widened in the dark, glowing like blue Day-Glo balls that reminded her of her childhood that wasn't. He turned into a statue for a while until he said with a beastly spark in his pupils,"Neither."

A corner of Dorothy's lips tilted higher than the other. "You see something else? I want to know."

"I see their tears," Quatre said readily. He smiled, even if his own tears threatened to leak. "I made them cry those tears. For me the figure they form isn't something I already know. They stay suspended up there forever to tell us something we are yet to decode."

"You won't be able to work it out if you don't want to," she said, knowing full well what he was talking about. "It hurts, doesn't it? In your case especially—you forgive people so easily, and here you are, suffering while judging your own sins. It hurts when you can't forgive yourself."

He blinked at her. "It does, and you know it. We're pretty much stuck on the same boat, aren't we?"

Touché. She looked down at the peeling in her hand and in its swirl she saw again the shafts of light in the ZERO. She suddenly felt so naked again, very much like the sensation when his eyes pierced through her while her weaknesses were laid in a tray for him to feast on.

"Dorothy, look at me."

She lifted her face against her own volition.

"What do you see?"

She stared. She saw a ghost, for a ghost to her was an outward and visible sign of her inward fear. She shook at what she felt: she was afraid of him.

"I'm afraid that I know what you're afraid of," he whispered, as if he read her mind. She noticed that he was leaning closer to her as he spoke, but it was only when she inhaled his breath that she realized their dangerous proximity. She pushed herself deeper into her seat.

"What do you want?" she demanded breathlessly.

"I want you to keep your eyes open," he said, and without another word, he captured her lips in a soft assault. Shocked as she was, Dorothy didn't pull away, partly because she was afraid about what he would do if she would, and partly because the gesture was persuasive enough to make her respond. But she didn't retaliate—she knew she would lose this game from the very start, so the least she could do was play it well. He cradled her face gently in his hands, fingers slowly crawling to her scalp, leaving warm trails that almost tickled her. She kept her eyes open as he requested but she couldn't see anything—not even him. It was as if all her senses, with the exception of touch, ceased functioning. Her lips trembled as he pried them open with his teeth; it made her wonder if her sense of touch was giving in as well, because the pain and pleasure from it was so intense that she couldn't make out what to call this new sensation. His hands were gone from her head now—they were suddenly everywhere.

She clutched the peeling with her fists when his lips, teeth and tongue languidly slid down to her jaw, to her neck. He was speaking in his mind; she could feel his thoughts that transformed the tender kiss into a crushing one, and it was savage and exciting and tingling and literally breath-taking, and suddenly she wanted to be sick because it was so intense she couldn't take it anymore.

She let the peeling fall down to the floor and in a swift move, pushed Quatre away and gave him a slap hard enough for everyone in the dome to hear it. She shakily stood up and ironed out her skirt with her palms, all the while glaring at Quatre. He was downright shocked at her attack, hand on his cheek.

"M-miss Dorothy, I—"

"At least I discovered that I'm not the only one who puts up a mask," she panted. "Excuse me, gentleman, but I think need to go now."

She swished away and broke into a clumsy run, tears freely falling down to be added to Quatre's constellation. This—her second defeat was worse; she couldn't be 'repaired' anymore.

One look back told her that Quatre was following her, and in an attempt to escape faster, she twisted her ankle and fell. She whimpered at the pain and took a lungful of air when she saw the stiletto of one of her shoe a few feet away from her. Quatre's approaching footfalls made way for a new gush of adrenaline. Repeatedly cussing under her breath, she kicked off the broken shoe and resumed the race. She was aware that she made an image of sweet Cinderella, and for once she knew the irony of her way of expressing herself through pseudo-fairytales came crashing back on her hard.

She crossed the pedestrian unsteadily, and when she reached the other side of the street, she felt a warm hand enclosing her wrist.

"Dorothy."

Quatre.

He spun her around and held her eyes captive with his own.

"I'm—"

"You're not sorry," she cut him off icily. "Don't pretend to be."

"I'm not and I definitely won't," he said firmly, shaking his head. "I'm not a hypocrite—I never apologize for something that felt right."

Right? Right?! "What do you want?" she sobbed angrily.

His face contorted in concern for a second and his hand flew to his chest. "I want you to close your eyes."

"Quatre Raberba Winner," she said between gnashed teeth, "I want to inform you that I'm not a hooker, so if you can't keep your horndog side behaved beneath your phony, well-mannered image—"

"Close your eyes," he commanded, voice nondescript. He might have felt the rage and fear balanced in her voice; the scale was teetering, so he decided to give it a push: "I won't touch you, if that's what you're worrying about."

"You're going to pay for this," she promised, but she believed him and let her eyes flutter close. Silence drowned them for a long stretch of time. She figured that Quatre did it in purpose, waiting for her breathing to go back to a normal rhythm and let the wind dry her tears. It was a calm evening, she thought. It was the very first, real peaceful evening since the war.

"Are you there, Dorothy?" came Quatre's hushed question.

"I'm here," she said, and she felt the astonishing comfort that the words emitted. She remembered saying them aloud to herself, whenever she was terrified, whenever she was alone. "I'm here." She didn't usually feel that she was, because she thought that sometimes, her reality could be confusingly unreal. Tonight it was eerily different.

"I'm here, too," Quatre murmured to her ear, soft as a feather's touch. She opened her eyes just in time to see him sinking to his knee.

When she felt his fingertips brush slightly across the toes of her shoeless foot, she came to realize that she has been walking in just a single shoe all her life. That was why she ended up bruised and wounded after every precarious waltz that she danced. She was incomplete.

Quatre tugged at his left loafer until it came out, and gently slid it next to her foot. He looked up expectantly.

"I'm a man of my word, Miss Dorothy. I won't touch you, and that means I won't be carrying you back to your car. I won't let you walk barefoot either, so please wear my loafer—and don't roll your eyes at me. I know it's silly, but it's better than having you trudging on frozen ground."

He pushed the shoe so that it bumped against her toes. "Come on."

Rolling her eyes for one last time, she lifted her foot and lowered it inside his shoe. Warm.

"Can you walk?"

"I'm not crippled," she scoffed. She stepped forward and when she wobbled embarrassingly, he didn't stifle his giggles. She glowered at him, which he answered with a look that screamed, 'I'm certified immune to a Dorothy Catalonia glare'. She huffed and he giggled some more.

"Perhaps it won't hurt if I break a promise once." Quatre squatted before her and winked. "Piggyback ride?"

He didn't even give her the chance to answer. He grabbed her by her forearms and looped them around his neck, ignoring her shrieks of protest. He groped for her legs and hoisted her up to his hip with a grunt.

"Oh-kay," he cheerily declared. "Well, I don't feel like the Prince Charming at all...it's more like I'm the pumpkin carriage."

"I'm not Cinderella," she bristled. "And I can't remember telling you to carry me. You're free to drop me whenever you like."

"Fine. I'll drop you to your estate by tomorrow morning."

"Wha--"

His laughter filling the air, Quatre jogged with a single shoe across the street. Dorothy bit back her own chuckles and buried her head sheepishly in the crook of his neck, tightening her hold.

They weren't and never would be in a fairytale—that was for sure, so a once-upon-a-time start like this woudn't automatically call for a happy-ever-after ending. Dorothy never believed in one even as a child, and she doubted that Quatre ever did. Right now, they were just broken puzzle pieces that happened to fit together at the edges. But the edges could corrode with time, break if influenced by outside forces. No one would know how this story would end, but for Dorothy, tomorrow would unfold the way it was written in the lines of their palms. Everything would fall right into their places.

Tonight she realized she was running away from safety without her knowing it.

Tonight she stopped running.

In a long evening, she learned that something as unreal as a fairytale could be confusingly—but satisfyingly—real.


fin.

A/N: This is the 'remake' of my oldest (and perhaps my most terrible) 4xD fic, Yellow Wedge Heel. The only elements that I retained from YWH are the bold!Quatre, the uber-broken!Dorothy, and the little Cinderella scene at the end. Some drabbles that I've written in LJ are incorporated in this fic. The bold!Quatre might be something new, but my take on Dorothy here (or in any of my fics where she is featured) is by no means unconventional, no matter how much I want to claim it to be. You don't have to squint to see the evidences in the series. :)