This was intended to be a shoujo-ai piece, but looking it over, it’s so very mild that it could very easily be read as being nothing more than friendship...nothing actually /happens/ between them, though the possibility is left open at the end.
Anyway...hope you enjoy this. It was rolling around in my head, like fics tend to do, and it demanded to be let out.
major pairing: D+C
minor pairings: 3+4, implied D+R and R+1
Shoujo ai. AU: disregards Endless Waltz
I really don’t know where this came from, but I hope you like it.
I had never met anyone like her before.
I suppose that could be taken any number of ways and still remain true—that she was the first person I’d ever met who was poor, who lived in a leaky trailer and cut off her jeans so she could keep wearing them even after they were ragged; the first who had actually invented her own recipes; the first who actually looked /good/ in a tulle magenta skirt.
Or it could mean she was the first woman I ever felt really threatened by, or that she was the first person I ever met who did nice things for people without having a reason or trying to make a point.
That would all be true. But it’s not what I mean. I mean that she was the first person I ever met who had seen war up close and personal, but still really, truly believed in peace.
I know that sounds odd, after all the time I spent with Relena Peacecraft, who is after all the Voice of Total Pacifism in the Earthsphere. “The heroine of our time,” I called her once. I called her lots of things. I was, after all, in love with her.
I didn’t have a chance with her, though. She was fixated on Heero. I really don’t understand why—I’ve met him, and I wasn’t all that impressed. I can’t see having great dinner conversations with the boy, or anything. It’s a bit like talking to a brick wall, and just as insane.
But I was talking about peace, wasn’t I? Peace and Relena, two words which are immediately associated together by basically anybody with a brain. She believed in pacifism, I’ll give her that, but she really didn’t have any idea what she was talking about—or who she was talking /to/. World peace sounds great from a podium, but when you’re dealing with aristocrats, what they really want you to tell them is what they, personally, are going to get out of it. All Relena’s pretty speeches, despite their beauty, were childish. I spent months trying to convince her of that, and at the same time trying desperately to protect her from the wolves she seemed determined to throw herself to.
Even amongst her supporters, I’d never met anyone who really believed she could be successful. Until I met /her/. Catherine Bloom.
I met her over Christmas, A.C. 196. It was Quatre’s idea; he and his boyfriend were going to see Trowa’s sister over the holidays and he invited me along. He was always looking out for me that way, like he was trying to rehabilitate me or something. It drove me crazy. I mean, I ran the guy through with a rapier, why was he so eager to forgive me and be friends? Trowa sure wasn’t. He didn’t like me a bit, but he had a good reason, and at least we understood each other.
But Quatre. I guess I’m sorry now for the sword thing. Not that I’d tell him that; he’s already too smug as it is. At the time I really wanted to kill him. I really, I mean REALLY hated him. There he was spouting off peace and love at me, as honest and innocent as if he hadn’t been responsible for the deaths of about twelve thousand people. Yeah, I knew he was the rogue pilot who built Wing Zero. Not many people did, but I always did manage to be on the inner circle of everything. So I hated him then, because I saw him as a total mockery of everything Relena stood for, everything she was trying to do. He should have been as fucked up and miserable as me, but he wasn’t, he was all determined and righteous. So I wanted to kill him.
But compassion kept him reaching out to me, and morbid curiosity kept me responding. Besides, I was lonely. I’d never had friends, but I’d had bigger things on my mind. Now that the world was listening to Relena, not even she had time for me. Which, of course, is why Quatre invited me to Christmas in the first place.
Catherine was a performer with a traveling circus based in the L-3 cluster, so she didn’t really have a permanent home. This year they were on ML-3222 in the outer ring, one of the places that was hit pretty hard by the battles between Oz and White Fang. We stepped off the shuttle and it was /cold/. Quatre was shivering, holding his coat close around him; Trowa seemed to be pretty used to it.
“They haven’t had the money to fix the climate control,” he said apologetically, like it was his fault the place was broken. I buttoned up my coat, but tried to pretend I didn’t really feel it. Anything to make sure I look superior to Quatre, even if that’s a completely wasted effort with his lover as the only audience.
And I ended up getting distracted from Quatre pretty quickly. The colony was really a mess. It was a year after the war ended, and still there were cracked, charred places in the streets, and buildings where parts of the roof would be missing. This sounds bad, I know, but before that walk, I don’t think I’d ever really accepted the idea that the war had hurt real people. Everyone I knew was sheltered from it, even as they engineered it. Even when my grandfather was killed, it was at least a result of his own actions. These people didn’t have any say in the war, but they were the ones who suffered the fallout of it.
It occurred to me this was something I should have already known. I was ashamed that I had never quite realised it before.
It took us about twenty minutes to walk, in the cold, to the lot where the circus was set up. Trowa said it used to be an airfield or something. His sister lived in a beat-up blue trailer with a checkered awning with frayed ends and icicles clinging to it. He banged once on the door and then just walked in, pulling Quatre with him and holding the door open for me.
“Cathy! We’re here!”
Not that she would have missed us. She was in the kitchen, which was all of four feet from the door. She descended on him giddy and bubbling, her eyes shining and a smile that lit up her whole face, waving around a wooden spoon with spaghetti sauce dripping from it onto the linoleum floor. She threw her arms around Trowa, and kissed Quatre on the cheek, and smiled at me like I wasn’t a total stranger her brother’s boyfriend had invited to tag along.
“You’re Dorothy, right? It’s nice to meet you! I’m Cathy Bloom. Sorry the place is so small, I’m sure it’s not what you’re used to. Come in and sit down, all of you—Trowa can put the coats away, he knows where they go—dinner’ll be ready as soon as I make the noodles, I was just waiting til you got here!”
Then like a whirlwind she was back in the kitchen, and Trowa was taking my coat, and I sat down on the corner of a padded bench designed to do double duty as sofa and foldout bed. I snuck glances at Quatre when he wasn’t looking, because I knew that he, like me, was used to a lot more extravagance and luxury. But he really seemed happy here, in this tiny little trailer that barely had room for all of us to sit down.
I’d never had spaghetti for Christmas dinner before, and I admit I fully expected to be disappointed. I’m a spoiled rich girl, I’m used to food with names most people can’t even pronounce. But Cathy’s spaghetti was really, surprisingly good. I don’t even mean anything mushy, like “a meal eaten with friends tastes better than a banquet with strangers” or anything else that sounds like something Quatre or Relena would say, because not only is it stupid, but at the time they weren’t really my friends. They were just people that didn’t seem to object to my presence, which was rare in those days. Too many people remembered how close I’d been to Milliardo at the end of the war, and that I’d used the Zero system with the mobile dolls.
Sure, they’d forgive Quatre Winner, but not me. See why I spent so much time and energy hating him?
But back to Christmas dinner. It was good, in the most basic, fundamental sense of being food that tasted good and made me enjoy eating it. Conversation floated around me, mostly Cathy and Quatre, since I still didn’t know them well enough to have much to say, and Trowa’s never exactly been a great conversationalist. Quatre’s not actually so insufferable when he’s not being preachy; if you get him talking like a normal person he’s actually pretty nice. But then I think Cathy manages to bring out the best in people, anyway. I know she does in me.
We finished dinner, and she cleared the dishes while Trowa folded up the table and put it away somewhere so we could all sit down comfortably. (I mean it, this trailer was /small/.) He looked more comfortable than I remembered ever seeing him before, I guess because for a while this had been his home, too.
“I’m heating up eggnog,” Cathy said, leaning in the kitchen doorway. She was wearing faded jeans and a dark blue sweater, with some kind of pattern knitted in lighter blue. The sleeves were too long, and her fingers kept closing around the hem and playing with the frayed bits. “Then I think we should all open up one present before bed.”
How many presents did she think we were going to have? But all of a sudden it seemed quaint and homey. I could picture what I’d be doing on Christmas Eve if I’d stayed home. I’d be dressed up at some gala, dancing with people I can’t stand and who can’t stand me, and trying to pretend I didn’t hear them talking about me behind my back. All so that I could spend the evening watching Relena try to get Heero to dance with her, a situation which is just too painful for all of us.
This was definitely better. Cathy brought out hot eggnog with a bit of vanilla rum in, and while we were settling in to drink it, she passed us each a present. Even me.
“Sorry it’s nothing special,” she said as she handed it to me. “Quatre only told me yesterday morning that he wanted to bring you, so I didn’t have much time.” It was a jar of fudge and cookies, probably things she’d made herself—a courtesy present, just like I would have given a guest I didn’t know very well. I don’t know why it surprised me, I mean poor people are as likely to have manners as rich ones. I just hadn’t been exposed to any before this.
She had knitted Trowa and Quatre sweaters. Trowa’s was dark pine-green, which was basically perfect for him. Quatre’s was dark red, with a bit of pale gold around the collar and sleeves. He didn’t say anything at first, just held onto it, and she seemed to think that meant he didn’t like it.
“I know it’s not much,” she began awkwardly. “I mean, it’s really not close to what you’re used to, and you’re probably thinking ‘what the hell am I supposed to do with this, am I supposed to wear it when I see her,’ but—“
“Actually,” Quatre interrupted her, his voice subdued, “I’m thinking that nobody’s ever made anything especially for me in my entire life.”
“Oh,” she said, and turned a little pink, and fairly grabbed my mug out of my hand to go fill it up again.
And I, my stomach and spirit warmed by rum and eggnog, decided that I liked Cathy. By association, I liked Trowa. And I guess Quatre wasn’t really that bad either. Whatever it was that made him invite me along, I was glad of it.
Trowa slept in his old room that night, and Quatre stayed with him. Cathy gave me her room and folded out the couch, apologising again that it probably was far below the standards I was used to. Amasingly enough, I really didn’t mind. I just told her thank you, and curled up to sleep. I could tell she’d made the blankets herself, and I couldn’t help wondering how I would have turned out if I’d grown up somewhere like this, instead of where I did. Would I be able to knit and sew a quilt and make spaghetti sauce from scratch?
I couldn’t fall asleep though. The trailer walls were ridiculously thin, and I was hearing a bit more than I wanted to of the boys in the next room over. I think Quatre was just used to having more privacy than they were afforded here, because he was loud. Whatever Trowa was doing to him was apparently immensely pleasurable. I felt like banging on the wall and yelling to Trowa to put something in his mouth and make him shut up, but I wasn’t sure how well that’d go over, so I got up instead. I wrapped Cathy’s purple quilt around me and padded out of the bedroom.
The couch was abandoned, though it looked as if she’d made an effort to sleep as well. Maybe Trowa and Quatre were keeping her awake, too. I found her outside, sitting on the step, staring off into space and smoking a cigarette. She turned when she heard the door open and gave me an amused, knowing smile, patting the step next to her.
“Want one?” She held out her pack of cigarettes as I sat down, and in a moment of reckless rebellion, I took one. She twisted to face me so she could light it for me, and then settled back with her elbows resting on her knees.
“Thanks. The boys keeping you up too?” I asked.
She nodded. “I don’t mind though. I’m glad they found each other, it’s not that big a deal if I have to put up with a bit of noise once in a while.”
“It doesn’t seem fair,” I said. I don’t know whether it was the rum that made me suddenly willing to talk in plain words rather than riddles, and tell her things I wouldn’t have shared with anyone else, or if it was the darkness. Night does that to people, I think.
“What doesn’t?” She actually sounded curious.
So I answered. “That they get to be happy.”
Her head tilted, her mouth quirked at the corners, puzzled. “I think it’s fair. They’ve been through a lot...they sacrificed their childhoods to fight for the colonies. I hate war, and fighting, and I wish they’d never had to. There are a lot of things I wish had never happened, but they did, and there’s no changing them. So now yes, I think they deserve to have each other.”
“Lots of people didn’t have childhoods because of the war,” I reminded her. I was one of them, and so was she. “They’re not the only ones.”
A nod, and I felt like she was studying me for a long moment before she spoke again. “Can I ask you something?”
I shrugged. “Sure, why not?”
“Why are you here?” She nibbled nervously at her lower lip, as if she knew that was going to come out wrong no matter how she tried to say it. “Not that I mind, I’m glad of the company. But you don’t seem to care for either of my boys all that much, and I doubt you came for the luxury accommodations...isn’t there somewhere you’d rather be tonight?”
/Her/ boys...I remember a flash of jealousy at the implication, if only because I had never been anyone’s Dorothy. Treize seemed to have held a fondness for me once, but it had faded once I was no longer a child. I remembered....
“I got a bicycle for Christmas when I was seven, but nobody could spare the time to teach me how to ride it.” I wasn’t sure why I was telling Cathy this, but she just waited patiently for my story to finish. “So I was determined to learn anyway, even if I had to do it all on my own. I was a stubborn little brat,” I added, and she quirked a smile. “But I couldn’t do it all by myself, and I just ended up scraping up my knees and the palms of my hands. I got yelled at for getting dirty. Finally my older cousin came to visit once, and he saw me trying to balance on it, and he spent the rest of the afternoon pushing me around on it, til I got the hang of riding it. I must have owned the thing for three or four months already. Nobody really cared before that.”
She gave a little nod—I could see she understood, it was painted in her lavender-grey eyes. Incredible soft eyes. “Your cousin was a soldier? And died in the war?” She already knew that much of the answer, and only awaited confirmation.
I arched an eyebrow. “A bit of an understatement. He was Treize Khushrenada.”
A flash of—what? Surprise, followed by—sadness? “Ah.”
And at that moment I wanted nothing more in the world than to vindicate Treize, to explain his behaviour, even if it was to only one person. I wanted her to understand. “He sacrificed everything for peace,” I blurted, and it came out angrier and sadder than I’d meant for it to. “Nobody understands that, but it’s true. Even Relena still doesn’t see what he was doing for her—he understood people, and she doesn’t, she’s too determined to believe the best about them.” I dropped my head, resting my chin in my hands, letting my hair block my face from her view. “If you ask anybody in the world right now, they’ll say of course they want peace. But they all want it on their terms. And those terms are going to conflict. You can’t solve all the world’s problems by throwing weapons away, it’s not that simple!”
And then I felt her fingers pressing into my shoulders, kneading, easing the tension from them gently. “No,” Cathy said softly, “it’s not. But you have to start somewhere.”
I glanced up at her through strands of hair. She wasn’t looking at me, but staring off into the night, massaging my shoulders absently. “There has to be a point,” she continued after a moment, “when somebody is willing to take that reckless first step...to take a chance even if there’s a possibility things won’t work out the way they ought to. To be the one who says ‘we shouldn’t be fighting.’” She bent toward me then, parting the curtain of blonde hair that hid my face and winking at me. “Even if they’re pretty sure somebody’s going to run a sword through their belly directly afterward.”
I groaned. “Somebody always brings that up. Look, don’t tell Quatre this or anything, but I’m sorry about that.”
“I know,” she answered. I decided not to ask how. She sat up again, her hands leaving my shoulders, and I whined at her.
“That was nice.”
“I bet. You’re very tense.” She stared at me for a moment, still toying with the frayed strings hanging from her unfinished sleeves. It was a little disconcerting. “My family was killed when I was five,” she said finally, slowly, as if it had been a difficult decision to trust me with her story. “Not only my parents, but my toddler little brother, too. For as long as I live, I’ll never forget that day. That’s why I’m so possessive of Trowa, I guess. I feel like God’s given me another chance, and I love him just as hard as if he were my real brother. As far as I’m concerned, he /is/.”
“Oh....” I didn’t have much to say to that, except, “I thought he really was.”
She shook her head. “No. He came here looking for a place to hide his Gundam, and that was all. Because in life, things happen very strangely. I can’t tell you why or how any of us ended up where we did. If there’s some grand cosmic plan that involves a knife-thrower in the circus adopting an orphan Gundam pilot who ends up falling in love with the heir to the entire L-4 colony, I sure as hell don’t understand it. But there are a few things I’m pretty sure I’ve figured out.”
I was staring at while she said this. Her voice had dropped, low and earnest, and she had leaned toward me a little as if she were imparting a secret. “I really believe,” she continued, “that really crazy impossible things can work out, as long as somebody has the guts to go after them. So I /do/ think we can have peace. Even if it starts out small, by getting rid of weapons. That’s the first step to changing the hearts of people.” Her lips curved into a slow, sad smile that didn’t reach her eyes. “It’s not going to be a grand production, I’m afraid. It’s going to be hard work, and it’s going to take time.”
Changing the hearts of people. That was what Treize had said, and Milliardo too. They’d both failed at it. But maybe she was right, about it being a process. Maybe the way to change people wasn’t to cow them into submission with the fear of destroying the world—maybe that was just the first step of many.
I’m not saying I was convinced right away or anything. Just that it gave me something to think about.
Then she was rubbing my shoulders again. I think I might have purred. “You know,” she said thoughtfully after we’d both been silent for a moment, “if you get too lonely, you can always run away and join the circus.” I twisted around so I could see her face, and she shrugged a little. “The accommodations aren’t what you’re used to, but the food’s pretty good, and more importantly it’s good company.”
I think my heart stopped. Was she asking if I wanted to stay? “Wouldn’t I get in the way?”
That shrug again, just a ripple of her shoulder, flowing all the way down to the slender fingers kneading at the back of my neck. “I don’t think so. Actually I think it’d be kind of nice...Trowa doesn’t need me anymore, he’s got Quatre. I seem to have a thing for taking in strays.”
She said it so mildly, with a touch of self-deprecation, and I found I couldn’t be offended at being called a stray. “I—I’ll have to think about it. I might do that.”
We talked for a while longer after that. It had been a long time since I’d had anyone to talk to this way—someone who didn’t have an agenda or any ulterior motives except to find a pleasant way to pass a bit of time. I was sleepy, but also disappointed, when finally she stood up and motioned me back into the trailer.
She yawned, dragging her wrist hastily across her mouth to cover it. She was adorable. “I’m really tired. But it was nice, talking to you. Merry Christmas, Dorothy.”
“Merry Christmas.” I went back into her room, and curled up in her warm blankets, and wondered what it would be like to live in a trailer like this...if I’d be able to get used to it.
And after Christmas I went home. Back to Relena, who was still pining for Heero. This time I found it didn’t hurt to hear his name nearly as much as I remembered. Everyone else continued to ignore me unless it was absolutely imperative they say something polite, except for Quatre, who still kept trying to look out for me. That didn’t bother me as much anymore either. After all, he was just trying to take the first crazy, reckless step.
But lately I’ve been thinking it’s time for me to take a wild chance myself.
I think I want to run away and join the circus.