Title: Sleepless Memory
Word Count: 3279
Chapter One: Not So Bittersweet Ending
~oO0Oo~ 10 Years Ago ~oO0Oo~
She stood there and stared at them, her dark blue-gray eyes shinning with tears.
Both twins felt their eyes begin to burn in response as water sat on the edges of his eyes, but they refused to let her see them fall and them cry. The twin brothers scrubbed at their eyes stubbornly, trying to appear strong, or at least a strongly as a pair of near identical seven year-old in-training Kung Fu masters could look.
She stood between her parents and grandmother, looking sad, angry, and mutinous; her daddy had a firm grasp on her five year-old hand to keep her from trying to run away like the last two times. Both boys took great care to memorize every detail of their departing friend's face; her longish purple-black hair, slanted dark blue eyes, her heart shaped face. The small girl was practically drowning in her over sized, dark blue winter coat, striped yellow and light green scarf, and backwards blue and yellow baseball cap that was a few sizes to big for her pigtailed head, clutching a small, green stuffed Martian.
The brothers and their Kung Fu master and their grandfather were also dress in their winter gear as they all stood in Pudong International Airport near the boarding gate. The adults were too busy having last minute talks to really be paying the children much attention aside from making sure the three didn't try any funny business.
The three children winced in dismay as the boarding call for the flight was called.
The younger of the twin brothers stepped forward, drawing the attention of the adults, and held out a small, yet wide blue star dotted box with a red ribbon. "I know you like to draw so I got you this."
Then the older twin stepped up and presented the younger girl with a much smaller, long purple box with green and pink aliens decorating them and a blue ribbon. "And I got you something for when you go bike riding."
The girl looked between the twins, then down at their gifts before handing her Martian off to her mommy and took them. When she opened them she saw in the blue box was a set of eight different paintbrushes; all of them were long and had polished red wood handles with her name and a dragon etched and painted in gold in them. The purple box was a pair of pink goggles with blue lenses.
Looking up, the little girl gave her friends a watery smile before she lunged forward, one arm looping around each boys' neck, bringing the two older and taller youngsters down into a hug.
Pink rose up on both brothers' faces and colored their ears in surprise and embarrassment before awkwardly returning the hug.
"W-when I get to America," she sobbed out, "I'll call you guys every day so you don't forget me!"
The younger twin nodded. "We'll write to you."
"And send pictures." the older added.
"We'll visit when we can." both boys chorused in perfect unison.
The little girl opened her mouth to say more when a slightly wrinkled hand of her grandmother landed on her shoulder. "Come granddaughter, it is time to leave." the older woman said solemnly.
With a defeated sigh, the pigtailed girl nodded. As the parent of the little girl gathered their travel bags the girl grabbed her Martian back from her mommy. She gave the plush a determined stare before shoving it in the arms of the younger twin and then taking off her cap and forcing it on the older one's head.
Both boys and the four adults gave the girl startled or questioning looks. "You guys gave me presents, so I'm giving you Marny and my favorite hat." she simply said
The older boy adjusted the cap so it sat correctly on his head, unconsciously swearing to wear it always, while his brother wrapped his arms more securely around the only plush that would ever grace his and his brother's bedroom for years to come. They gave her a 'thank you' smile before hugging her one more time.
As her daddy picker her up and carried her off to the plane, she wave at her friends, calling out "Good bye!" as they waved back until they couldn't see each other anymore.
The twins made their guardian stay with them in the airport to watch as the airplane rolled along on the runway and then took off for America from their place at the windows. When the plane could no longer be see in the grey overcastted skies the three finally left for home.
As the trio left the airport, the now hat wearing bother looked at his sibling and asked, "Do you think we'll ever see her again?"
The younger boy nodded. "I think we will, someday." he said, sounding more confident than he felt about it.
Suddenly their cheeks were pinched by their grandpa's hands. The two boys squealed at the minor pain as the old man let go, laughing at their expressions. "You two are too depressing. Your melancholy is even beginning to bring me down. Now, let us get back to the restaurant and get something warm into you kids." The boys gave enthusiastic nods, they were feeling a bit hungry.
~oO0Oo~ Present ~oO0Oo~
"GET OUT OF MY WAY!!"
Pedestrians left and right dove or quickly stepped to the side as a youth, a teenager, riding fast and almost recklessly through the streets on an orange and yellow skateboard, dodging the few people who couldn't move out of the way fast enough. He wearing a blue and rather, but still good, old baseball cap, long sleeveless Kung fu white shirt, yellow wristbands, and black pants and sneakers. Slung on and hanging from one shoulder was his backpack. To most people this teen was known as one of the Twin Dragons of Kung Fu in their hometown, the Raging White Dragon, and was the older of the Lee Brothers, Yun.
"I'm almost out of time!" he yelled to himself almost frantically.
It was about a quarter to nine, that meant he had about fifteen minutes to get where he had to be before he was punished for being late.
'Stupid Yang, he left me back home and didn't bother to wake me up. Now I'm running late and its all his fault!' he mentally cursed he younger twin. He was still fuming at the memory of waking up to an empty apartment with only a note from his brother on the kitchen table.
(Dear brother, you're going to be late for work if you don't leave now.
A quick glance a the wall clock, it read 8:38, had him mostly dressed -- he managed to get his pants and sneakers on, his favorite hat sat precariously on his head, his shirt hung half open, and his wristband were hanging between clenched teeth -- and grabbing his board by the time he out the door and hightailing it out of there so fast it was as if someone lit a fire under him. At least he was a good enough on his skateboard to be able to fix himself up without stopping or falling off because he wasn't fully paying attention. He decided his hair would stay loose for now until he could get in front of a mirror to properly brush and braid it, and besides, his hairbrush was in his locker.
'You'll pay for this, Yang,' he thought darkly as he gritted his teeth, 'I swear I'll get you back!'
Then he saw it, his godsend lucky break. A few yards ahead was an alleyway that he knew would cut through several blocks and save him five extra minutes to get to his destination. "Alright!"
He turned into the alley when he came to it and rode along the empty pathway, doing an occasional kickflip, Ollie, or grinding on dumpster rims to make the ride more enjoyable. In less than three minutes Yun's blurry form shot out of the alley and down the street. The Chinese Street Fighter using his powerful leg muscles to push his board to move faster when the restaurant came into view.
As Yun rolled in front of his family's restaurant, the Dragon's Pearl he stepped on the tail of his board, making the nose fly up to his waiting hand, and flew through the front door and into the waiting area where nearly crashed into his waiting grandpa.
The old man had yet to look at he long haired grandson, to busy watching a stopwatch, for as soon as the teenaged Street Fighter came through the door he press the stop button on the timer, making it beep.
"G-grandpa!" Yun choked. "… I'm not late, am I?" he asked in trepidation as he looked down at the old martial artist. He really didn't want to do 500 punches and kicks with each arm and leg all night.
"Hmm…" old Lee's smile was almost wily as he watch the youth squirm "you are safe." Yun gave a relieved sigh. "However, another two minutes and thirty-two seconds and you would have been late." the old man frowned. "You also slept through your morning Tai Chi exorcises."
"Sorry, grandpa." Yun winced, bowing his head at the reproach before turning away and clicking his tongue in irritation as he watched his brother moving around between the tables, carrying a large tray of food in one hand an a pitcher of water in the other. "Yang was supposed to wake me up." he muttered.
Yun didn't see Lee reach up until he felt a sharp, painful tug on his ear. The older twin yelped in pained indignation.
"Placing blame on your brother, are you now? I know for a fact you were up all night on that blasted video game," the older man accused. "Do not deny it, I heard it through the wall." Lee gave an insistent pull and dragged his grandson through his shop, gaining every patron's inquisitive eyes and snickers from Yang.
" I specifically told Yang not to wake you. You are a warrior, you shouldn't have to rely on others to make sure you are up on time!" the old man scolded as he led Yun to the back of the shop and to the lockers. "Now, put on your uniform and head to the kitchens for you first order." the retired Street Fighter commanded as he left.
"Yes grandpa." when the old man turned away.
Within minutes Yun was changed, put his normal clothes and hat in his locker, brushed and braided his hair in his customary ponytail and was walking to the kitchens to punch in and start his work as a waiter.
Yang sighed as he flopped into a chair in his grandfather's office room several hours later with a small pot of green tea with a cup and his lunch of orange chicken and rice, it was the only other room in the restaurant besides the dinning room with a working air conditioner. It was too hot and stifling outside to sit at one of the outdoor tables, staff members do not dine among customers, and he refused to park himself in his normal spot in the kitchens.
The young martial artist had taken his break the moment Houmei walked into the eatery carrying a steam pale of Baozai (Chinese steamed buns with vegetable/meat filling) to share with him, grandfather, and Yun. He greeted her, took two of the eight buns, thanked her and left before he could be pulled into a conversation.
Yang was already at the door when he heard Yun put his foot in his mouth, complaining about her 'lousy cooking' even though he was already taking his third bite from her accused cooking. Houmei's expected retaliation came quickly and painfully after the door closed behind Yang. Even though it amused Yang to no end that no matter how strong Yun was he could always be brought to his knees so easily by a girl who was more than a head shorter than them and knew about as much about fighting a as toddler, it was also a sight that caused his heart to twist unbearably without fail each time.
It was a bit after one so his lunch break was late, but the Storming Red Dragon didn't mind, as long as he wasn't in the kitchens at the moment, he was fine. '...Oh, who am I kidding?!' Yang thought, his shoulders sagged in depression. He allowed his forehead to fall on the edge of his grandfather's desk. 'Its already been six months since Yun and I returned home from our travels around the world in an effort to protect our town from that wannabe god, Gill, and I still have yet to let go of Houmei.' Yang sighed before picking up his chopsticks while sitting back up and pulling them apart. 'I must honor my brother and accept she is his girlfriend now and move on.' the quiet teen gave himself a not-so-self-assuring nod before picking up his rice bowl and starting into his lunch.
Therein also lay part of Yang's problem. He had no idea how to attract a pretty girl. Sure, he knew Shaomei, Houmei's little sister, had a crush on him, he'd have to be blind to not notice, but he was seventeen and she was nearly four years younger. She was also more like the sweet little sister he never had. Yang just couldn't see himself and Shaomei together in a romantic way and trying to picture them as a couple just didn't feel right to him; any relationship between him and Shaomei was strictly platonic.
Yang absently bit into one of Houmei's Baozai buns while he poured himself some of his tea. 'Though, there was this one girl I liked before Houmei.' the young fighter/waiter let his dark grey eyes roam the surface of the desk before landing on a small, old picture frame.
The photo in the frame was of five people, two elderly and three kids. Lining the bottom of the was a younger version of him and Yun, way before they became Street Fighters and when they were just starting to learn Kung Fu, and a little girl with dark eyes and shoulder length hair that was half pulled up in pigtails while the rest hung around her shoulders. Grandfather Lee stood behind the kids with and equally old woman who was the grandmother of the girl. The two seniors where smiling in the background while kids took up most of the picture standing in awkward fighting poses for the camera, dressed in their training uniforms and looking scruffy after their sparring session.
'Its been a while since brother or I called her. I wonder how she is doing?' he thought while eating some of his chicken.
The unibanded teen's musing was interrupted when the office door suddenly slammed open and Yun walked in, grumbling about 'bossy, violent, and un-cute girlfriends'. When the older twin looked up, spotted his brother watching him, he said, "Oi, what up?"
"Nothing," Yang turned back to his food.
"What you doing in here?" Yun asked as he pull up a chair and sat next to his sibling.
"Aside from finishing my lunch, just thinking."
Yang pointed at the photo he'd been looking at earlier. Yun followed the directing finger to see the picture. The older boy's eyes widened a little before softening. Yun reached forward and picked up the framed snapshot. "Hey now, there's a familiar face. I kinda remember this." He smiled down at the frozen image. "She was our first best friend. I miss her."
Yang gave a small smile. "I remember her being a bit of and oddball who loved to draw and had this obsession with aliens."
Yun made a grab for the lonely, uneaten steamed bun that sat alone on its own plate, but was blocked by Yang's faster hand. "Yeah, she was the one who gave you her Marny the Martian." he said, still eyeing Yang's Baozai bun and inching towards it for a second attempt. "And she gave me my cap."
The younger twin nodded, calmly pulling his Baozai bun away from his brother when he noticed his sibling's subtly shifting near it. "You know, brother, since its been so long, I think we should go visit her in America. I'd like to see how she's been doing."
Yun blinked at his brother as he place the picture back on the desk. "Yeah, we should. We didn't get to see her when we went to America, did we?" he said, eyebrows furrowed. They'd forgotten that their old friend lived in America, and with everything going on, they couldn't exactly pull away to go visit. "But, how would we get there? Plane tickets, hell, even boat tickets are expensive." Yun said. "Chasing that Gill creep around practically emptied our pockets and set us back nearly two months."
'That is true, we had to street fight and enter underground tournaments to earn enough money to feed ourselves and get around.' Yang thought of all the people he and Yun challenged during their travels. "Grandfather could help."
The older twin's brow ticked. "I'm too not sure about that old bird. Don't forget, Grandpa was also the one who made us pull double shifts for three weeks just to work off all the time we were gone when we got back. Then he had us up before the crack of dawn to nearly mid-night training and running around town doing all sorts of odd jobs like we were a couple of errand boys when we weren't working here at the restaurant." the White Dragon shot back moodily with crossed arms as he gave Yang's bun another scheming look. "I don't feel like repeating that."
The Red Dragon winced, eyes raised to the ceiling in contemplation. "Ah, but we left without telling him and we ended up fighting for our lives, so he was right to be angry with us." This timeYun tried to capitalize of both his speed and Yang's distraction to snatch his brother's Baozai bun.
"But this time we aren't fighting anyone and we only going to visit a friend. Who knows, maybe he'd come with us? It would only be a few days to a week or two." Yang pointed out as he slapped Yun's sneaky hand away without looking before sipping his tea. "…Stop trying to steal my bun. You're not fast enough."
"But I'm still hungry! Houmei wouldn't give me my second bun!"
"Maybe if you'd stop insulting her cooking, she'd give you more."
Yun scowled. "But her cooking skills aren't even all that great."
Yang resisted the urge to roll his eyes. "Her food doesn't have to be great to be good. She's not a four star chef." he said as he broke his bun and handed half of it to his bother.
Yun grinned hungrily as he took his half and ate it. "We'll ask grandpa to spot us some cash latter tonight when we close up." Yun stood, brushing crumbs off his hands, and started for the door. "Hurry up bro, your lunch break time is almost up." he waved as he went back to work.
Yang nodded, he was mostly done already. The teen quickly polished off the rest of his lunch before gathering his dishes and walked out the office. He threw a glance back at the picture before leaving. 'See you soon, Hay Lin'