Two years from now – at least from his perspective – he could blame it on ignorance and surprise. He honestly had no idea time worked that way. One minute in a distant part of the universe could be decades in a far off solar system. Had he known that was a factor, Father might have caught up with him that day he left. But he didn't know. He didn't piece it all together until the day of his return.
At least, that's what he could say to them. In truth, he really didn't know that fact as he left them. But on a short-term visit a few months later – again, for him, not them – he saw the hints.
After being selected to be a part of an intergalactic organization and being told you may never return home, you don't tend to forget the day the kid in black puts a bow on your neck and ships you off like some birthday present. Of course, on par with an operative's life, that's exactly what he was. A birthday present. For her.
Her, of course, being Numbuh 362. Or Rachel, as she now preferred. A close friend. Considering he felt he had no time to "connect" with anyone outside of his team, that said a lot. But she was a close friend, nevertheless. Their drift near the end of his time on Earth saddened him, but he wasn't sure where the blame lied. Maybe him for acting like such an emotional ridden teenager after his breakup with his long time girl. Or maybe Rachel for just…giving up after that night. She was always one to never back down, but she did so without further question after Lizzie. Maybe she knew what would happen to him, and chose not to interfere. Hard to say.
Whatever had been between them seemed dead after that. Even more-so after the final cake fiasco. He really couldn't fault her for it; had he been in the same position and said sector failed to produce results, he would have thrown them out after the second failed attempt. But darn it, at the time it had been his mission, and she was his friend. It was that line of thinking that blinded him to the fact she finally put her foot down after six failures. He never knew of her to be so lenient with anyone else.
But it didn't seem to matter after he departed. They fell apart, final words were shouts; sounded like the end of it. Of course, be it her to prove him wrong.
He honestly forgot about the Kids Next Door "Make-A-Birthday-Wish" tradition. After Kuki almost ended up as take-out for sharks that one year, his team never bothered with it again. But of course, the Supreme Leader never forgets tradition. Make a wish to a operative on your birthday, and that agent would do all he/she could do to make it happen. It was the day before her thirteenth birthday. She was entitled to anything she wanted. Aside from, you know, sidelining decommissioning.
It was her last wish.
She went to Infinity.
He – shockingly – made it happen.
She was surprised as he was. She never really intended for Infinity to follow through with the request. She asked for it in a wistful, almost joking manner. The kid diplomat just really knew how to deliver a punch-line, apparently.
But that had been what had happened. Rachel used her last KND birthday wish to "get a proper goodbye" and there he was. Infinity's terms were that as soon as the word "goodbye" was uttered, then the visit was over. So of course, they used the loophole he so nonchalantly gave them, and refused to even mouth the word for the rest of the day.
It was a day that they wouldn't soon forget. Well, only in his case, sadly. They used the day to do something they had both been denied of doing for far too long: simply be kids. An overdue playdate for both of their sakes. Pizza was eaten, soda was guzzled, he somehow got conned into silly mall photos. They were even able to settle on a movie after a rather amusing debate. The theme was either Spies or Zombies, which turned out being both. They both could say the 3D effects were overrated.
He still wasn't going to the beach though. Thankfully, she never asked.
...Looking back, he might have caved since it was birthday.
A lot happened in those twenty-four hours. It was his to remember, and he didn't want to share it. Not even now. But like all great, amazing, fun, just pure wonderful days, it all went by too quickly. Even if they never said goodbye, it didn't change the fact that tomorrow she wouldn't even know his name. Time was against him. It always was.
But of course, that was the point of this wasn't it? A chance for him to explain the fickle concept of time and he had gone severely off-track. Maybe he did it on purpose. So he wouldn't have to remind himself of what could happen. Because by all chances, it will happen.
And it was going to suck.
So fast-forward to that night. Fast-forward to where they were just star-gazing. Bodies closer then what could be considered normal, but they didn't notice. They were just talking. Talking about tomorrow, about what would come after. But that was when he realized something horrifying. Something that rattled his nerve to the core. Something that left the bitter feeling of remorse in the pit of his stomach. Something really, really, really bad.
The last time he saw Rachel, she had just turned eleven. Now here they were, on the eve of her thirteenth birthday. That was almost a two year gap.
But it had only been five months for him.
Seriously. He counted.
It was the first stirrings of his plight. Slowly, he began tuning the girl out as several bits of sci-fi logic Hoagie pounded into his brain sprung forefront. How had something like that happened? How did time just…pass him by?
At first he tried to shrug it off. Sure, he counted the days ever since he joined the GKND, but it was space. Awesome space. And he was a kid. Kids had low attention spans. He must have lost track of his calendar along the line and didn't realize it. That was it.
Of course, that wasn't it. But he wasn't ready to admit that yet.
So the night continued on. They both wasted time blissfully. Ignorantly. Making farfetched plans for "after". Life when she was no longer bound by a Numbuh, and when his service to the galaxy was finished. Lighthearted promises were made. What if's kept festering away in the back of mind, but they didn't stop him from nodding along. Their hands seamlessly slipped into the other's. What that meant, he couldn't quite say. But, every other notion didn't matter anymore. In that moment, he finally let the emotion swell.
But of course, she had to return to say her farewell to the organization they both surrendered so much of their lives for.
He stood out of sight alongside Infinity as she gave her final speech. He cracked a smile as Abby took on the mantle of Supreme Leader. He held his stance as her screams vibrated throughout the decommissioning chamber. And his eyes never left the girl as she walked down that hallway; confused, yet free. It was over. Numbuh 362 was gone, and Rachel took over. The leader he knew, but now at the same time didn't know, was gone.
But oddly, Infinity's terms were still active. The moment he said "goodbye", he had to leave. Neither of them had said it. Not even Rachel, and she would never have to now, ironically.
Using that knowledge, he stayed for a while. Much longer then what he should have. He watched the Kids Next Door continue on as it always did. He watched as old faces faded, and a new generation started staking a claim in history. He proudly gazed on from shadows as his team, his friends, grow up before his eyes and took on new responsibilities. He cried silently to himself as he watched his parents; happy together, yet a heartbreaking sadness lingering underneath revealing two broken adults who lost something precious, but were denied to know what. He played a silent vigil over Lizzie, stopping himself more than once from reaching out to regain something he took for granted.
He watched them all, but he never once approached them. That was almost too unbearable the first time.
Perhaps more personally then he would have intended, he also watched Rachel. He watched her first bumbling steps into adolescence, watched her become completely blind to the world she once commanded. He watched as her life started over. Because of course, that's what decommissioning was. A reset button. A button that opened a door to a new life that he was no longer a part of.
And unfortunately, he finally realized, he never will be.
As the days passed, Numbuh Infinity's true motive became much clearer. He recalled him once saying that a galactic operative must cut all emotional ties to his home in order to carry out his duty effectively. One could not be fearful that something may occur that caused you to never return to those you held dear. That line of thinking would dampen performance. There was no guarantee for his permanent homecoming, and he had to be prepared for such.
And now, there was a chance even if he did return, he wouldn't be able to pick up where he left off. This was a chance to gain closure on one last chapter of his life. This was an eyeopener to see that time waited for no kid. A year here, was a second elsewhere. Infinity had brought him back to sever that one final bond.
Infinity's "loophole" was no oversight. It was an invitation to give him as much time as he needed, and in the same vein, show him how little time he had to spare. It was a waiting game.
He had said to his mother, his father, his friends. Rachel, and perhaps whatever she represented of his allotted lost time, was the last loose end.
It was all leading up to the moment where he could finally say,
Because when he came back – if he ever came back – it would be far too late for any second chance.
Time would not allow it.
This is...old, to say the least. I honestly don't remember when I wrote this.
Mostly posting this as something to tide over until I finally wrap up that other thing, but also to remind myself of how I used to write, because I don't write many things like this anymore.