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


Home Before Midnight
Chapter 1: Convergence


"Time is a figure eight, at its center the city of Deja Vu."-Robert Brault


November 10 195. Quatre is 15, Dorothy is 16.

It was brutally beautiful. All his life he wondered how it could show him there was splendor even in the highest peak of negative emotions. He wondered why, in the heartache that seemed to fuel his hands to move right now, he could produce notes that could show the ugly bleeding of his insides with vindictive magnificence.

Perhaps, he thought, the magic of music is something that I would never learn the trick of.

He was so wrapped in his thoughts he didn't notice at first the sound of clapping from the doorway.1

"Impressive," a voice announced that made him strike a sour note. He quickly recovered and saved the rest of the piece, slowly flashing a smile at his unexpected listener. He remembered her: the girl whom Relena asked him to sit next to in his first class, and the only student who dared challenged Heero to a fencing match. She leaned against the double doors, arms crossed against her chest, waiting for him to finish.

"Very graceful," she remarked after the last note faded, her claps languid. She picked up her brown leather briefcase (identical to his and everyone else's, as it was part of the uniform) and walked towards him.

"Thank you," he answered politely as she settled her briefcase on the floor next to his own. She stood two feet away from him, her hands clasped behind her back.

"An original composition?"

He gave a curt nod. "I wrote it for my mother."

What made him disclose such a personal matter, he did not know. He never told anyone about it. Not even Sandrock.

Or ZERO.

The girl slipped to the bench next to him, letting her fingertips flutter lightly above the ivory keys, humming under her breath. He recognized the tune. It was the piece he has just played, and he furrowed his brow, a tad amazed and a tad suspicious. That melody…he played it even before she arrived, after Noin left the room. The arrangement was too complicated to be memorized that easily, and he played it just once…

"Music relaxes you," she said thoughtfully, cutting his thoughts off.

Oh, he thought. So she has been eavesdropping? Those were the exact words he told Noin.

"Yes," he replied calmly, shifting ever so slightly so her hair would not brush against his arm. "It pacifies my inner turmoil."

"Does it really?"

He raised a brow. So did she.

"I don't think so. Your music's just making you a lot guiltier about what you did, weaving your inner battles together to form a big, intricate war. I don't call that 'peace' at all."

He flinched at the truth of her every word, but zeroed in on a phrase. "About what I did?" Wing Zero? The people he killed? The colony he annihilated? Trowa?

"About what you did," she confirmed, transforming every question mark of his little questions into accusing exclamation points. He swallowed the bile that gathered at the back of his mouth, and he did not know why he suddenly felt as though he was caught in a cobweb trap. After hearing her fairytale of "two men with the same name", he became aware that she was someone they have to be careful when around. She would know him, especially after…what he did. Information about the Colony 06E3 massacre2 would not be classified to the Romafeller.

"The piece is magnificent, but too melancholy to be considered something inspired by your mother."

"Not every childhood is happy," he said bitterly. Another personal tidbit out.

"I agree," she replied, amusement in her voice. "I'm even uncertain if I should label that stage of my life as 'childhood', because no matter what angle you look at it from, it really wasn't." She pursed her lips—a seductive but nefarious-looking rosebud that mysteriously swaddled his arms with gooseflesh. "Experience is the harshest teacher, isn't it? Sometimes it gives us the same lessons, like what it did in the earlier years of our lives. The only difference is what we do when we're finally handed the exam papers."

And I flunked the test, he admitted to himself. He had the feeling that if he let this go on, he could say something ungentlemanly. More than once in the past he was able to prove that pain could make him aggressive. "I'm sorry Miss Catalonia, but I'm not really interested in any philosophical discussions right now."

"This isn't a philosophical discussion, Quatre Raberba Winner." She got up, tossing her hair. "It's merely a prologue to the next item in your self-organized syllabus. You're about to explore it now, and I wish you the best of luck."

What was she talking about?

"You'll know soon enough," she hissed with a devilish grin, as if she heard his thoughts. She stooped to pick up her briefcase. Midway down she stopped, surprising him with a quick peck on the lips. She giggled when he started, and before she made her graceful exit, slipped a folded paper in his hand.

Quatre felt the heat scattering beneath the skin of his face and neck. He unfolded the paper, revealing numbers—not her phone number though, killing half his assumptions.

"September 17, 186," he mouthed the first line. It was a list of dates.


September 17, 186. Quatre is 15, and 6, Dorothy is 7.

The continuum of vivid colors from a sudden flash of light forced him to crush his eyes close as hard as he could. The swirling afterimage bled through his eyelids; the sharp assault of vertigo was expected. He clutched at his stomach in vain attempts to still his churning lunch, gnashing his teeth so he could trap the scream he wanted so badly to release. Pain, numbness, then pain again—the alternating sensations were beyond tolerance.

All of this perished as fast as they flashed, and when Quatre opened his eyes he was not in that classroom anymore. The first thing that grabbed his attention was the ice carving of a naked cherub towering over him, drizzling him with miniature rainbows as the chandelier lights refracted against its curves. A cornucopia of food spread at the foot of the figure—bruschetta, gravlax, caviar… dishes reminiscent of the humdrum portions of his childhood spent in social and benefit functions. He looked around. The orchestra was playing now, some couples waltzing on the dance floor.

He rubbed his eyes with his knuckles. Where am I? Am I dreaming?

"Are you a clone, too?"

Quatre snapped his head towards the voice. A blonde boy in white tuxedo was standing a few feet away from him, but the question was certainly not for him. The kid was facing another blonde, a taller girl with golden plaits on either side of her head and an adorable but angry pout. A strong hunch that listening would help him figure out where he was or how he got there hit him. Trusting this, Quatre rounded the table and pretended to help himself to a barquette.

"I'm not," the girl scoffed, her little nostrils flaring. "Why do you ask?"

"You're blonde."

"So are you! Well, are you a clone?"

There was an awkward pause. "I don't know. Maybe we're relatives of clones. You're not one of my sisters, then?"

The girl tilted her head. "Definitely not. I'm an only child."

"Oh," the boy mimicked her tone. "I'm the only son in my family, but I'm not unique at all. I'm a copy."

"Copy?"

"Copy of…a copy. There are twenty-nine people whom I was copied from, and they are copies of each other too. I don't know." The boy shrugged and extended his hand. "My name is Quatre Raberba Winner."

Quatre coughed. The girl chuckled, probably at how the boy pronounced the r's in his name with difficulty. She accepted his hand. "I'm Dorothy Catalonia. Pleased to meet you."

"Right, I'm just dreaming," Quatre decided, though he was still gaping incredulously at the scene. What else could this be? After he was exposed to ZERO, his subconscious became very active and sensitive, inserting unneeded episodes in his mind—usually from the past—that would give him a message, like a daily horoscope. This was something different; there was an enigmatic pain as a preamble and everything was palpable. No way could this be a flashback, for he could not recall meeting her before he enrolled in the Sanc Kingdom Institute. The only Dorothy he knew when he was small was the character in an pre-colonial Earthling story.

"The only Dorothy I know is the character from the Wonderful Wizard of Oz," the kid mused, sending Quatre almost choking on his food again. "Are you and that Dorothy the same person?"

"No, that is Dorothy Gale," Dorothy replied, stifling a yawn. "She's not real."

"But Oz exists," the boy whispered. "I heard my father talking about Oz, and he says there are many bad guys in Oz. And then you are Dorothy."

"That's a different Oz and I'm a different Dorothy."

"Oh. Okay." The boy chewed on his lip, and then grabbed Dorothy's hand. "Come on, I'll show you something."

"Wha—wait!"

The kids broke into a run, zigzagging through the moving maze of people. Quatre left the table and followed them, ignoring the stares that his creased Sanc school uniform magnetized—again, something different from his previous 'flashbacks' wherein he was normally invisible.

"Where are we going?" Quatre heard Dorothy asked, hiking her dress up to her ankles after nearly tripping twice.

"To Pietro."

"Pietro?"

"He's my new violin."

"Quatre!" called an older voice from behind them.

As if the knob he was already twisting became red-hot, the boy quickly dropped his hands from it. Quatre stopped in his tracks and stared at the tall strawberry blonde approaching the kids. She was a sister, one of the oldest perhaps. He could not remember her name.

"Where do you think are you going?"

Little Quatre threw Dorothy a furtive glance. "I'm just going to introduce her to Pietro. She'd love to hear him."

"We're in a party, remember?" The woman's eyes fell on the kids' clasped hands. "Father requires you to be here until it ends. And little missy, why don't you go to your mommy? She might be looking for you now."

"I'm not with my mother," the girl snapped. She pulled her hand out of Quatre's and curtsied. "Excuse me, ma'am."

"But Dorothy—"

"I'll see you in the land of Oz, Quatre," she said in a mock-chipper tone. "Bye."

Dorothy swayed her way away from the Winners, slipping out of sight where some businesswomen shared perfumed hugs and juicy gossips. The little boy looked as though he was smothering his sobs, and he obediently tailed his sister as she walked back to the long table. Quatre watched them quietly.

Suddenly remembering the list of dates, Quatre scanned the room for the little girl. I hope she knows something about this...


She was again wearing that pout when he saw her on the balcony, staring up at the colony's "sky". She really was Dorothy—the way she stands, the expressions of her face...he had seen them on the older Dorothy in his 'reality' (if this was a dream after all). He thought he had seen a hint of magenta on her cheeks after her fencing match with Heero, but he could appreciate the blush on this little girl more because it was more pronounced and glowing. Her hair was shorter in those braids, and her yellow balloon dress loomed larger and heavier for her. She appeared comfortable in it, though.

He rolled his eyes when he instinctively arranged his collar before walking up to her.

"Good evening, young lady. Is something bothering you?"

Dorothy slowly turned her head. "Good evening sir. No, nothing's bothering me." She studied him for a while and shrugged. "Except that there are no stars here and the moon looks like a chunk of rock and there is a machine for the weather and the people here are different."

"Well, you're in a colony."

"That's exactly it, mister. On Earth, the crickets will be singing their lovely cruuuueeeee-cruuuuueee during this time of the day, and I will be able to smell the night and the flowers that the real air brings, then Papa will hand me the storybooks that I love and in the storybooks there are mountains and fields and the sky with stars. And…"

Quatre stared down at her. "And?"

"Papa told me not to talk to strangers."

He laughed, then offered her his hand. "Yes, you're Papa's right. I don't think I'm a stranger to you though. I'm Quatre Raberba Winner."

An eyebrow twitched. "Quatre Raberba Winner? Wait, a boy right there also—"

"Please, Dorothy," he got down on his knees so he could eye her levelly. "I think I need your help."

He would have taken some time to marvel at the adorableness of her confused and frightened expression, but he wanted no time wasted. He pulled out the folded paper from his pocket and handed it to her.

"September 17, 186," she read. "That's today. And it's my birthday."


to be continued...

Notes:

1. The first part takes place in Episode 33: The Lonely Battlefield.

2. The colony that Quatre blew up in Episode 24: The Gundam They Called Zero, is Colony 06E3. Though the civilians had been evacuated, a military presence remained in place to defend it.

This will clock up perhaps six to eight chapters, the 'present' timeline running from Episode 33 to Endless Waltz and the 'past' timeline exploring the childhood of both our main characters.