see chap. 1 for warnings, notes, disclaimer
+ Chapter 13
I dressed for the party quickly despite my aching head. I felt as if I
was being torn in two. I still loved Max - but the training that I now
remembered was screaming caution. Reminding me that I had no knowledge
of my present situation except what he had told me. That I had no way
of verifying that he had indeed been a Gundam pilot as well. That we were
friends and partners.
No way of verifying that I should trust him at all. He had hidden things
from me previously, after all. Perhaps with good reason - or perhaps not.
There was no way to know for certain.
The conflict between my heart and my head was nearly crippling. I wasn't
sure how I was going to manage to function.
The training answered that question immediately. Meditation and control.
I could not function efficiently in my current condition therefore I would
have to use meditation techniques to bring my emotions under control.
'Soldiers have no need of emotions...' A half-remembered lecture drifted
through my mind. I suppressed a shudder at the memory. I was *not* liking
the things that were coming back to me. How could I have believed such
nonsense? How could a soldier fight without having something to fight
*for*? Wouldn't fighting to protect those you cared for make you fight
But then, I was only a child in these memories. A child, then a teenager.
A youth being moulded to fit someone else's ideals. Questions were not
encouraged; instant obedience was.
"Odin? Are you sure you're up to this? I can just go put in a brief appearance
on my own if you're not..."
Max's query brought me out of my reflections with a jolt. I realized abruptly
that I'd been standing in the middle of the room, one shoe on and the
other held in my hands, for an unknown length of time. Probably a considerable
length, judging by the worried look in Max's eyes.
"I'm fine," I stated flatly as I donned the other shoe. This was *not*
an acceptable state of affairs. I could not go into a potentially dangerous
situation in such a distracted state. Nor could I allow Max to go alone.
If his story was true, he could be in danger. If it wasn't... I would
need to accompany him in order to avoid being trapped or tricked myself.
Ruthlessly, I suppressed the heartache that thought caused. I could not
afford to ignore the possibility that Max might be lying to me. That he
might betray me. 'A good soldier trusts no one but his superior officer.
Betrayal can come from anywhere else; a superior never betrays a soldier
in his command because anything that happens to the soldier is part of
the superior's overall plan. A superior always has the right to send his
subordinates to their death for the greater good.'
Another damn lecture that I'd rather not have remembered. But it was true;
I couldn't trust anyone at the moment. Hell, I couldn't even trust my
"superior officer" because I had no idea who the hell that might be. J?
His superior? Someone else? Maybe whoever it was who headed the "Preventers",
if Max had been telling the truth?
If. Such a small word to cause so much pain.
'What the hell am I going to do?'
I stood beside Max along the edge of the dance floor. We'd danced only
a single dance so far and it had been an unmitigated disaster. The entire
time that we'd been dancing, I'd been tense and anxious. I'd stepped on
Max's feet repeatedly and bumped into other couples more than once. The
crowd of people around us left my fingers twitching, yearning for the
gun I was not carrying. Waltzing around the dance floor had made me feel
as if I had a giant target painted on my back. It had been nothing like
those magical moments dancing with Max in our suite. Those moments before
I began to remember. Before I realized that I could not have faith in
that instinctive urge to trust Max. That paranoia was a soldier's watchword.
Just standing here I felt conspicuous and out of place. Soldiers did not
belong on or even near dance floors. They did not belong in social settings,
period. I wanted to leave but we had not been here long enough yet. Max
had suggested that we stay for at least an hour. We hadn't even been here
half of that time. It felt like an eternity. The only thing keeping me
together was the meditation technique that I was using more-or-less continuously.
"Ah, my dear Mr. Wells, how nice to see you again. And this must be your
husband, Odin, I presume?"
I stiffened as the man spoke. I wasn't sure who he was but something about
him put me on my guard even before I noticed the bodyguards hovering discreetly
"Mr. Mattis! Jules - I can call you that, right? I'm so happy to see you
again! I thought you might be too busy keeping this lovely party running
smoothly to mingle but I'm delighted that you aren't! Yes, this is Odin;
Odin say hello to Jules. He owns the resort and he's the one who gave
us the wonderful invitations for this lovely party! Isn't that nice?!"
Max bubbled enthusiastically.
I gave him a cautious look, wondering why the hell he was acting like
such an idiot. This was *nothing* like the Max I knew. Or at least, *thought*
I knew. Gingerly, I allowed Mr. Mattis to shake my hand. "How are you
doing?" he inquired solicitously. "Is the amnesia clearing up at all?"
Knowing that I was acting differently than I had been, I realized that
I couldn't claim that I still hadn't remembered anything. It would be
too suspicious. "A bit," I admitted cautiously. "Though the memories are
very confusing and patchy. Just childhood ones so far." I hoped that would
be enough to satisfy his curiosity yet not give away too much about my
current condition. Knowledge was power and something told me that this
man was not someone I wanted to give that to. Max had filled me in on
just enough details that I knew Mattis, the resort owner, was dangerous
- if Max was telling the truth, that is. If he wasn't... I didn't know
what to think.
All the mental circles that I was spinning through were beginning to make
me feel dizzy. This amnesia business was easier when I didn't remember
anything. Knowing bits and pieces was even more upsetting and confusing
than knowing nothing at all.
Mattis shook his head and clucked his tongue sympathetically. "I'm sure
you'll remember more soon," he assured me.
I made a noncommittal sound that he apparently took for an affirmative.
Mattis made a few more inane remarks then strolled off, his burly bodyguards
in tow. I was relieved to see him go. Going back to our room would make
me even more relieved but we still had at least a little more time to
put in here.
"Odin? You sure you're okay?" Max asked.
His question and concerned look made me realize that I was unconsciously
rubbing my forehead again. I lowered my hand. "Yes," I replied abruptly,
wishing that we could get out of here. I was confused and tired and stressed
and my head hurt and my heart ached with the uncertainty over Max's true
role in all this... 'And J would schedule you for retraining if he could
hear your whining, Yuy. Get your act together, soldier.'
"Listen, we *could* leave earlier if you need to..." Max began.
"I said, I'm *fine*," I snapped. Part of me regretted the sharp retort
immediately as a hurt look crossed Max's face for an instant. The trained
soldier in me pointed out that if he really was 02, he was a soldier too
and he shouldn't let himself be so damn sensitive. Or at least he shouldn't
show it. It was a weakness, a vulnerability, and could be turned against
Or so my training said anyway. My heart said differently and it ached
even more as Max's expression changed, closing off and becoming more distant.
"Fine," he said in a very calm, cool tone. "We'll stay another half hour
then. Might as well mingle. I'll meet you back here in half an hour."
He avoided my eyes as he moved off into the crowd.
I bit off the instinctive apology and let him go, dropping my half-raised
hand back to my side. Maybe it was just as well that we split up. Maybe
a little time to myself would give me the chance to reconcile the conflict
between my heart and my training. Maybe I could reach some sort of conclusion
about whether to trust Max or not.
But I doubted it. I needed to remember more before that could happen.
Needed to know whether he was telling me the truth - that we were friends,
partners - or not. Loving him wasn't enough anymore.
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