Bean/Ender, if you perceive it that way
Rated T for no particular reason
I own nothing in this story
drunkopp: First thing you should know before reading, this is a slight AU fanfic, in the sense that I changed things up a bit to fit my liking. It's still the exact same story line universe, set roughly after Shadow of the Hegemon, but they're a lot older. I don't like writing about kids, and it wouldn't have made as much sense if they were so I made them older even though they're still supposed to be children at this point in time. Hah. It's an age warp, deal with it. I'd say they're in their late teens, early twenties in my version. Also, I haven't read the Ender's Game series since elementary, so forgive me if I get some facts wrong. Just remember, this is a slightly altered AU version. You can blame any inconsistencies on that fact.
This is the last video conversation between Ender and Bean.
He was certainly taller than he remembered. Rugged and broad-shouldered too, no longer the frail string bean formerly picked on for his size. It was vid chats with people he used to know on Earth like these that made him feel rather young, and short. Then again, he always felt young, even now, when he was supposed to be considered an adult.
The screen was on, and their faces both visible, but silence continued to fill the speakers. Ender supposed they were both too busy studying each other for a first reaction. The thought almost made him laugh, even with this supposedly heartfelt reunion, that's what you'd expect from Battle School graduates.
Bean was the first to speak, after those first soundless few seconds. "Ho, Ender."
His voice was so deep, which surprised Ender for some reason. Why would he be surprised? It was only natural for Bean to grow up after hitting puberty at a late age. It must've hit him hard; Bean was taller than any of his fellow comrades by a noticeable margin. No longer the shrimp in Battle School everyone looked down upon. Ender was pretty sure if this wasn't video chat, he'd have to stand on his tip toes just to reach the other's mouth. "Ho, Bean."
Why Ender was so fixated on Bean's looks, he didn't know. Maybe he was getting so concentrated on the things that changed, and maybe he didn't like it. Maybe he missed it, the old Bean. But this was still Bean, just a bit more mature, his thoughts were silly and he knew it.
"I heard what happened on Earth, the Achilles incident they were raving about on the nets."
Bean nodded. "It was one hell of a struggle, but we managed through of course." He paused."Although now, Achilles is just a small part compared to everything else going on."
"I know, but he was still an important case, despite how the media wanted to publicize it."
Bean just shrugged. "Peter just hates being overshadowed in his time of glory, that's all."
A statement so true, the shorter of the two couldn't help but laugh, "Indubitately."
Bean smiled at hearing Ender's laugh. It was refreshing, the anxiety he felt settled just a bit, although it was still there.
Ender softened his gaze, which was currently directed elsewhere. "You and Peter close now?"
There was hesitancy before he replied. "I wouldn't say that." He unconsciously shifted his weight from one foot to another. "We're business partners; I promise it's a purely platonic relationship."
Ender looked back towards the screen, a hint of amusement in his eyes. "Good. Since I'd hate to see you ruin your life by committing yourself to my brother."
Bean pondered in thought. "That doesn't sound too bad, means I get to be your brother-in-law."
"I'm certainly the best there is, since I'm never around."
Bean didn't really say anything to that. "How are things in Eros?"
"Can't say I can complain." He shrugged. "It's nice." He almost brought up the fact how he had no other place to go, but figured it would be better not to say it.
"Ever thought about coming back?" Bean accidentally let the words slip from his mouth and he mentally wanted to slap himself for it.
Ender raised a brow at the question, as Bean himself discreetly avoided eye contact. "You know I can't. Peter forbade it, remember?"
It was to protect you, Bean wanted to say. Achilles was finished, the immense threat that opposed Battle School veterans had died down for now. If Ender were to return, it would still potentially put him at risk, but there were plenty of people willing to protect him. Bean could protect him. "I could talk to him."
Ended looked like he was going to sigh, but didn't. "That won't work. Peter isn't one to get persuaded so easily, even if it's you." He frowned ever so slightly. "If you're worried about me, I'm fine. I do like it here, Bean, and I have Val -"
"It could work." He repeated to affirm it. "I miss you."
Ender flinched, barely enough for Bean's eyes to catch it. "Don't," Ender said. "I've got enough guilt on my hands as it is."
Ender didn't say anything, and Bean could tell he wanted to get off the topic.
"I met your parents." Bean immediately jumbled out as a desperate attempt to cover up the silence. "They're really nice people" Bean wasn't so sure if this was a better change of topic or not.
"I would know, they're my parents after all. Let's talk about something that's not related to me though." Painful regrets was the last thing he needed right now.
There wasn't much to discuss in the news that wasn't about Ender, or someone closely related to him. It was terribly hilarious that way, and Ender knew it, resented it. So he voiced out the first thing he thought when he saw Bean again. "I think you've grown a bit since we last met, Bean."
The Greek rolled his eyes. "No, really? I'm certain I was to stay a puny squirt for the rest of my life."
Ender noted for a split second the uneasiness in Bean's reaction. Like he didn't seem too glad to hear it. Perhaps he preferred being short over a tall giant. "The little Bean grew into a beanstalk. This way, people have no choice but to look up to you."
Bean smiled. "So does Peter, and he hates it. Guess that's one of the many consolations."
Consolation? "I can imagine that." Ender tried to ignore how casually Bean would bring up Peter into the conversation. It's not as though he disliked the mention of his brother, he'd long gotten over that. But the way he said it, the implication was obvious. They were good friends.
"We get on each other's nerves a lot. Even more than you and I did." Bean smiled again, but Ender didn't return it. "Do you remember? I was so immature and cocky back then, and even though I did resent you at times, I respected you all the way."
"I remember. You're not immature and cocky anymore then?"
Bean shrugged. "To a lesser degree."
Ender smiled faintly. "You've changed, but not in a bad way. That's no surprise considering all you've been through." He breathed out softly. "War can change a man."
"You've changed too," Bean added. "You seem, how do I put this, content with yourself?" He ended his statement with a slight questioning tone, unsure if that's the right word for it. "Like you've finalized a resolution."
Ender flashed a small smirk. "I have. Is my gloat that noticeable?"
"I have to shield my eyes just to stand the glow you're radiating."
Ender expected Bean to probe about it, but he didn't. Maybe because Bean knew Ender wouldn't tell him. His intuition had sharpened, or maybe Ender was letting his guard down too much, causing him to become readable. The effects of not being constantly tested for once in his life.
He hesitated for a moment before telling him. "I'm thinking of writing a book."
His sudden declaration greatly piqued the other man's curiosity by the look on his face, which was so worth telling him for. "A book?" He blinked. "About what?"
Ender had to pause for a second, collecting his thoughts to choose his wording carefully as to not expose too much. "The truth, about everything."
Bean stared at him, with solid eyes that were trying to read the meaning behind those words. But alas, to no avail. Ender had his guard up now. So instead, he just nodded. "If it's written by you, it'll come out as a best-seller for sure. I just hope I'm still alive when it's published." Bean half-joked.
"Don't worry, you'll get it. So long as you don't die in any freak accident or bombing. Again."
Bean forced a smile. "No promises."
Bean was hiding something, but so was Ender. That's why if Ender were to pry, that would only mean Bean had the right to pry as well, and Ender couldn't afford that. Two old comrades hiding secrets they could not share. It was too bad it had to turn out like this.
The tension was weighing thicker now, perhaps Ender had said too much. He was getting weak, peace did that to him. The thought of Bean seeing through him scared Ender, because he didn't want to lose Bean. The boy - no, the man was his former comrade at arms, his friend. The person who was closest to understanding him, even if they were light years apart. If Bean found out about the truth, he might grow to hate the one he respected the most. Ender wanted to end this conversation, turn away and close the screen. He wondered why he even agreed to a video chat in the first place, when he knew it would only make things harder on him.
It was too late to go back on his decision now, but the next best thing he could do was cut it short. "I should go."
Bean furrowed his brows in slight confusion at the sudden change in attitude. "What's the matter?"
"Nothing, it's just I have important work to do. I can't be wasting my time too much." Great job, Andrew, you just categorized talking to your friend you haven't seen in years as, 'wasting my time.'
If Bean was offended by his words, he didn't show it. "Writing that book of yours?"
"Something like that."
"Will we contact each other like this again?" Bean was sharp, he knew Ender wasn't going to answer anymore calls after this.
Ender's expression didn't change. "No." He put it out straight and simple.
"Then stay for a little longer." Bean smirked. "If this is the last time I'm going to talk to you, I want to make it worthwhile."
He should've lied, said that he'd definitely arrange more video calls in the future. But then again, Bean would've probably seen through that. Because while Ender was lazing around on Eros, free from war and capture, Bean was sharpening his skills through real-life experiences of survival from life-threatening dangers.
"Fine." He grumbled, wishing he could show a little more enthusiasm rather than coming off as a complete asshole.
Although, Bean didn't seem to mind his apathetic attitude. "I wish this was in person, rather than video chat." He adjusted his camera slightly. "Then I'd know a way to make this really worth while."
Bean was smirking, Ender indifferently raised a brow at his innuendo. "You're not expecting me to do anything onscreen for you, are you?"
"No, not at all." But that didn't stop him from pondering the suggestion.
"You said the second part out loud." He told him, shaking his head lightly.
Bean hadn't realized he did. "Or maybe you're just a mind reader without me knowing."
"Is this the memorable last conversation you kept me here for?"
"I didn't expect it to be anything relevant. I just wanted to keep you here as long as I could."
"You don't seem to be too against it, so why not?"
He couldn't argue with that.
"So," Bean began quickly, "Me and the rest of the jeesh could try and get permission for you to come back, it might take a while but we could definitely -"
As always, Bean didn't listen to jack shit what Ender told him. "I'm leaving with the first colony."
That got to him, and it visibly showed through the screen. The bewilderment in his eyes, like a deer caught in the headlights. Ender wanted to look away. "Valentine already made it so I couldn't return to Earth, but she also made the resolve to follow the colony with me. We're leaving in a few days, that's why I have so much work to take care of before we go." Bean didn't express anything, didn't interrupt to cut him off with some outrageous remark. "I'm not going because of Val though, so don't get the wrong idea. I killed their entire race, Bean. Their queens, the buggers, all murdered by me."
"You had no choice." Bean finally interrupted.
Ender continued on. "If anyone's going to understand them, to make it up to them, it should be me. It's the least I can do for raining genocide upon their species." He didn't know why he was explaining himself like this to Bean. Ender had every right to follow the colony, it was his life, his decision. And yet, here he was, pleading his case to reassure a grown man.
Ender knew his words were unarguable, and so did Bean, although he didn't want to admit it.
"Why didn't you say anything earlier?"
"What good would it have done if I told you earlier?" Ender paused. "You're the first person to know on Earth, outside of my family." Alai, Petra, and the others didn't know, but unintentionally Ender had just passed on the burdensome task of telling them onto Bean's shoulders. That made him feel kind of bad.
Bean chuckled humorlessly. "Was that supposed to cheer me up?"
"No, but if it did then that's a plus." The dejected aura around Bean made Ender feel the slightest embarrassed. "I don't know why you're so upset about it."
Bean furrowed his brows. "Why wouldn't I be? My friend is moving away to a planet light years away and I'll never see him again."
So Bean did consider him as a friend, and not just his commander. "And if I returned to Earth, we would see each other everyday?"
"Not everyday, but more than we would if you followed the colony."
"It's my decision, Bean."
"I know, but that doesn't stop me from how I feel."
Seriously, what did Bean want him to do? Console him and tell him everything was alright? Burst into tears and throw himself onto the screen, crying how he'll stay and never leave the poor boy's side?
"I want you to come back."
Okay, now who was the mind reader here? "You're not a child anymore. Gimmie gimmie doesn't get."
"If only." Bean plopped himself down into the chair set a few feet away from the screen. "We all miss you."
Ender previously asked him not to mention that, and despite it, Bean intentionally took advantage by trying to guilt trip him. Ender sighed, "I miss everyone too."
"Then return to Earth."
"But that doesn't mean I should let my feelings take control." Because Ender was a soldier, still is, just a different kind of soldier on a different kind of mission.
Bean decided to act like a petulant child and gave him a silent dirty look. "So what now?"
"I leave with the colony, you live your life on Earth. It's simple."
Somehow, it made Bean feel like he was being cast aside. After all those times they fought together, Ender relied on Bean, trusted him even. And to Bean, vice-versa. But now, it felt as though he was being left behind.
"I'll be dead before you reach it." Bean muttered irritatingly under his breath.
And there was silence.
Until Bean spoke up once again. "You know what Peter says is the most amusing thing about me?"
Ender wasn't particularly curious, but since it was a question that was going to be answered anyways, he decided to humor Bean by answering, "What?"
"The fact that I keep seeing you through him."
That struck Ender as both endearing and creepy at the same time. "He's probably more annoyed by it. He doesn't like being compared to me."
"You're right. I think part of me keeps doing that just to piss him off."
Ender smiled, the thought of his former soldier antagonizing Peter was certainly an amusing thought. Bean was probably one of the few people who could actually deal a blow to Peter's humongous ego.
Ender shifted in his seat. "I think I've stayed long enough, more than I expected to actually."
"Really? I must be pretty good at this then."
"Maybe. Or maybe it's because it's you that I stayed."
"Don't tell Petra."
Bean smiled. "I won't."
"Do tell her this though, my thanks for everything she's done for me, and for always being there when I needed it. And that I love her."
"Should I pass this on to Alai and the others too?"
"It's not worth the trouble, since they should already know."
"No, I'll tell them." Bean paused for a moment. "Was that for me as well?"
Ender simply stared at him and shrugged. "If you want. Were you expecting something different?"
Bean blinked slowly. "Not really."
"Thank you, Bean."
"For what?" Bean inquired.
Ender smiled genuinely. "Everything."
The commander leaned forward, his face filling up most of the screen. And it wasn't until Ender's hand reached the screen of the projector did Bean realize what he was doing. "Wait - " He protested, jumping out of his seat. But before he could say anything to stop him, the screen went blank.
With wide eyes, Bean tried to process what just happened. Ender turned off his screen, the video session was over, he no longer held contact with Ender Wiggin.
He really didn't want to believe that was the last time he would see Ender, but in his heart he knew it was. Ender was leaving with the first colony to the former Bugger planet, as an act of retribution for the sins he'd committed. Bean would never see him again. No matter how many times he'd call, Ender would not answer his messages because that's the sign of his resolve.
This feeling was strangely familiar. That time, back when Dragon Army was disbanded and Ender got transferred to Command School without a word. It was all happening again. Except this time, there was no talking to him later via radio with the rest of the jeesh to surprise him. No reuniting after everything was done and over. No more anything. Ender Wiggin was gone for good this time.
And just like that time, Bean felt like crying. So he did.
drunkopp: So I basically trashed the characterization in this story, shoot me. It's hard, okay? Grasping their characters and such, since I don't know what it's like to be a genius, or act like one. But yeah, not much romance as I originally intended. There's only so much you can do via video screen, and I felt any mushy bullshit would be too out of character. Nevertheless this was real fun to write, it was on a spontaneous craving. It's purely useless dialogue, that's why I enjoyed it. I also noticed Peter was mentioned a lot, well that's cause he's freaking awesome.