Trowa angst by the bucket.  Also, a shower :)  But a lonesome one.  Lonesome Shower...that would be a great band name...

by: Shoori

I Know Who I Want... + Part 3

I turn the knob slowly, wincing slightly as the hotter water begins to pulse through the shower head. I close my eyes as the steam begins to rise around me, letting the hot water run down over my head and course in cleansing rivulets down my body.

I don't want to be here. I didn't want to come back to Sanc. The moment we got the message from Quatre asking if we could return I wanted to throw it away, deny it, pretend it had never come.

That reaction both alarmed and embarrassed me, and I pushed it away immediately, quietly making plans for the move, packing our few possessions, preparing for the trip. Nothing lasts forever, and the time that we could hide, away from everyone else, was over.

But I didn't want it to be. I'd been…happy…on the island.

I know that Heero and Duo were never quite sure that I was happy. They both treat me a little gingerly, still - like if they're not careful, I'll break.

I can't say I don't know why.

It really bothered me at the beginning. It even made me angry, for awhile, until I realized what prompted it. It wasn't that they thought I was embarrassing, or freakish, or anything like that. They were - and are - worried about me. They are careful with me because they're trying to protect me.

That would have pissed me off a year ago. I've never needed anyone to protect me - I've survived on my own my entire life, without help from anybody.

But now…it seems kind of stupid to be angry because people care about me. I'm still not sure but that all of that thoughtful concern is misplaced on me, but I'm not going to question it.

The island was…warm. L3 was often pretty cold - it was more efficient and less costly that way - and space is very, very cold. It was nice to be somewhere where it was always summer. Always warm. It was warm with Heero and Duo, too - even when I didn't want to be in the bed with them, when I stayed on the edge, as far away from them as I could possibly get - I could still feel the warmth, over on the other side of the mattress. It was always there, waiting for me.

I liked that. And on that island, surrounded on all sides by that warmth…It wasn't so hard to accept what they were offering, somehow. It seemed natural to be with them - and then it seemed natural to "be with" them.

Not that it was that much of a stretch to be with Duo. We'd been together for three years, after all. And sex with him had always been…well, indescribable. Wonderfully, amazingly indescribable. But I'd thought that the addition of Heero would change that. That Duo would be…not as much mine, somehow.

And I was right, in a way. It's definitely different. But there's more, not less. I'd thought I would be on the outside, accepting whatever scraps were thrown my way.

I couldn't have been more wrong.

It seems like, logistically, unless something very physically contorted were going on, the action should take place in pairs. That one person should, inevitably, be left out.

It doesn't seem to work that way. Personally, at least, I never feel left out.

And that's good.

So, in the year that we were all together on the island, I'd gotten used to them, to being with them. In our little perpetual time warp, it got to feel very natural for the three of us to be together.

Reality did intrude of course, in the form of Duo's damned daily confessional. But even that became part of the routine - the little dash of Hell that reminded me of the preciousness of our tropical paradise.

When we got here, though, it wasn't warm anymore. We left our island in its usual state of perpetual summer. Here in Sanc it's autumn.

I've always liked autumn. I like the colors of the leaves, the crispness of the air. But when we got off the plane yesterday, and stepped full into fall, I hated it. I wanted to be back on the beach, the hot sun beating down, Duo nagging me to remember my sunscreen. It was cold and I didn't like it.

When I woke up this morning, the room was chilly. Heero had left the window cracked open - he has this mania for fresh air. It was the first time in a year I'd woken up cold, and I needed - really needed - to try to find the warmth again. Then Heero woke up, and…well, I found it.

I stretch slightly, letting the water pour over my shoulder as my body tightens at the memory. That was important to discover. The warmth of the island may be far away, but Duo and Heero haven't grown cold too.

Not yet.

Why did I have to drag up that stupid story, today of all days? I scowl at myself as I open my eyes, and pour a handful of the expensive shampoo Quatre supplied for us into my hand. I roughly begin to lather it through my hair, silently berating myself for my own stupidity.

Why did I tell them that? There are other things I could have discussed, things that would have satisfied Duo's need for meaningful dialogue and yet aren't so…much.

But it was in my mind. It had been for a couple of days. I dreamed about it the other night, the first time in a long, long time I'd had that particular dream. It used to be a frequent performer on my regular cast of nightmares. But the dreams have faded away over the years, becoming much less frequent as time moved me further and further away from the events that caused them. Many of them had resurfaced after…after the last war, but the dream of the captain wasn't one of them, and even they have faded away over the last months.

So why am I thinking about it again? And why did I have to tell them about it? I force myself to stop the obsessive working in of the shampoo and step back under the stream of too-hot water, closing my eyes as the soap washes down over my face. When I close my eyes, the pictures flash across my mind without warning, clear as when they happened…

"Move back a little, Nanashi. We don't want them seeing us."

"Roger, captain." Carefully I pull back, manipulating my mobile suit so that it's crouching down, behind a light covering of trees, waiting for the Federation forces to show up.

A gleeful chuckle comes over the comm, and I glance at the vid, seeing the captain's face creased in a grin of anticipatory triumph. "This surprise attack is going to work! I can just picture the faces of the feds!"

I don't bother to reply. I run a last check on my systems, just to make sure that everything is in order before the battle, barely listening to the boasts of the other mercenaries as they reply to the captain's gleeful remark.

Thus, I'm completely unprepared when the bursts of gunfire begin. Abruptly, the laughing comments of my comrades turn to shouts of surprise, and shock. Some are cut off in mid-syllable as the suits explode, the men inside them dying with a shocking suddenness.

The captain's below of rage dominates the channel. "What?? They knew? That can't be!"

This battle was lost before it began. Since the element of surprise has been taken from us, we have no advantage. We're hopelessly outnumbered. We'd be best off getting away while we can - after getting caught with our pants down like this we aren't going to get paid for this one anyway.

"Let's withdraw, captain," I suggest crisply. I flick on the exterior scope, and see three large suits lumbering toward the captain. Immediately, I disregard my own suggestion and maneuver my suit out of its hiding place, intent on going to his aid.

"No!" he barks sharply. "You withdraw! I'll stop them here the best I can."

"But, captain…" He'll die. He'll be killed if someone doesn't rescue him. A quick look shows me that noone else is in a position to help him - they're all fighting battles of their own.

"Follow your orders, Nanashi! Get out!"

My orders. I'm a paid soldier. The one rule in the lawless life I've been brought up in is always follow orders.

"Roger," I say reluctantly. I turn the suit around, and start to lumber into the covering of the forest. I move a switch, turning on the exterior cameras…

…just in time to see several shots hit the captain's suit. I still have the comm on, and I hear him shout as I see the suit fall to its knees.

I stop. My orders said to leave, to abandon the battle. But I can't…I can't just walk away and leave the captain to die…

One of the Federation suits stands over him. A familiar voice breaks into our channel.

"Sorry, captain. We have our livelihood to think of."

That voice. He's one of ours. That is, he was one of ours - he disappeared over a month ago. He was one of the group that believed we should switch alliances - take the bigger check offered us by the Federation. The captain had refused the offer, maintaining that without the rebel army there would be noone to fight, and therefore no war, and we'd all be out of a job. He left, and we'd figured he'd gone to the Federation. But he'd left well before we conceived of this attack plan.

Someone had to tell him.

There are others. Vermin within our own ranks.

"Our contract is to kill all resistance fighters!" he shouts at the captain.

I clench my fists. The bastard. His contract. He had a contract with us, too. With the captain.

"Too bad you won't be able to fulfill your end of the contract!" the captain shouts, sighting his gun on the suit looming over him. He fires, but after a bare round, it peters away to nothing. He's run out of artillery.

He's going to kill the captain. That rotten traitor is going to kill the captain - aided by who knows how many of his confederates, hidden within our own unit.

A derisive laugh sounds over the signal waves. The enemy suit carefully lifts its much-larger, more powerful weapon and carefully sights on the captain.

"I told you, you fool! You can't rely on those pathetic weapons the resistance loans you!"

Maybe not. But there are other things to rely on. Before I'm consciously aware of making the decision to move I'm back, back in the center of the battle. My suit is still fully armed and loaded. I'm moving as fast as I can, to the center of the field, to the captain. I'm taking out every suit I pass on the way - rebel and federation. Some of the men in the unit hail me as they see me approach, but their words of greeting turn into screams of shock as I hit their suits along with those of the men they're fighting.

Someone - some of them - sold us out. I am administering justice; I don't have time to be discriminate.

I reach the center of the battle an instant too late - that smirking bastard fires, and the captain's suit is knocked to the ground. The enemy doesn't have long to gloat - I hit him in the back and he's dead.

The battle is over. My suit and a couple of disabled federation suits are the only ones left standing.

I jump out of my suit, and run to the captain. The front of the suit has been blown away, exposing the cockpit. I quickly pick my way through the ruin of the suit, to my captain.

"Come on, captain, let's withdraw together."

He opens his eyes slowly and looks up at me, staring at me as though he doesn't recognize me, doesn't know who I am. He moves one arm, and I gasp. He's not withdrawing with me. He's dying.

"They…they were the ones who raised you."

I shake my head at him. "But they betrayed us," I explain. Doesn't he realize? Someone sold us out!

"Are you thinking they sold information?" His voice is disbelieving. He doesn't think they did it. He doesn't want to think they did it.

But they did! They sold us out! They betrayed us!

"Didn't they?" I flinch at the doubt in my own voice. Of course they did! How else would the Federation have known that we were coming?

"Fool!" the captain gasps, choking and coughing on the words. A trickle of blood runs out the side of his mouth. "They wouldn't do that!"

He really believes it. He is positive that they didn't. And I killed them. I destroyed his unit. He blames…he blames me for our loss.

"I have no regrets," I tell him slowly. He has to believe me - he has to see the truth! "I kill the enemy I see before me. I'm only practicing what they taught me."

What you taught me, captain. Our way.

The captain stares up at me. There's horror in his eyes. Horror. In the eyes of a mercenary. Directed at me.

"You're not…human…, are you?"

He said it so flatly. To me. I am not human. I'm…a monster.

A feel a sudden pain flashes across my chest, so fierce that I can't breathe for a moment. Something hardens inside me.

"No," I answer coldly. And suddenly I know that I'm speaking the truth - a truth I have long denied, but which can be concealed no longer. "No, I'm not. I've always been a soldier."

The captain stares up at me for a long moment. He opens his mouth as if to speak, pauses, sighs…and he's dead.

The captain is dead.

I reach down and rest my hand lightly on his shoulder for a moment.

The captain is dead.

And I am a solider.

I move my hand down his arm and carefully unbuckle the watch from around his wrist. I reach into his pocket and remove the small bundle of credits, and take the weapon from his belt.

I have always been a soldier.

I move away from the body, back into my suit, back away into the forest.

The captain is dead.

I am not human.

But I will always be a soldier.

I force my eyes open, swaying as I jerk myself forcibly back into the present. I have to throw out a hand and brace it against the shower wall to keep myself from falling. I am off balance, in more ways that one.

The captain died, and the last thing he saw was me destroy his unit. I was the traitor, and he knew it before I did.

I step out of the stream of water, gasping for cooler air. I fumble blindly on the wall, turning on more of the cold water, no longer able to bear the sting of the scorching liquid over my skin.

"They were the ones who raised you."

I have never forgotten that day. Especially in the years after the war, it haunted me.

But why? Why did I have to bring it up? Why now? Why today?

I rest my head on the misted tile of the shower.

We're back at the beginning now, the place where it all fell apart over a year ago. There's Relena to be faced, and the Preventers mess to deal with…and God knows what all is going to come out of it. We aren't safe and alone on our island anymore.

And before they fight to stay with me, they had to know what they're fighting for.

They had to know I killed my comrades.

I've let them spend a year…taking care of me. Protecting me. Even feeling sorry for me.

They deserve to know my transgression, that first great wrong that I committed that I have considered everything else in my life to be penance for.

I only hope…that it doesn't drive them away. I hope that I am not punished anew for that by losing them.

I scowl at my own melodrama. They're hardly going to shock that easily. Duo carries similar guilt over the destruction of the Maxwell Church, Heero over the deaths of the civilians in that apartment complex.

But…though they believe themselves responsible for the deaths of all those people, their part in those deaths was indirect.

Mine wasn't. It was my hand, my weapon, that blew into and destroyed the mercenary unit. I killed them.

And it took years for it to matter. I didn't tell them that - surely that would sicken them. I mourned the captain, but even after I discovered that I was the leak, I took the deaths of the rest of the unit in stride. I regretted the mistake, even felt that I should be punished for it. When the next unit I joined up with turned out to be such a nightmare, I accepted that as my due. But it had been a tactical error. A pity, but there it was.

It wasn't until the Gundam wars, until I saw Heero after New Edwards, that I even gave any thought to the men that had died that day on L3. It took Heero to even show me that I should care.

I can't tell them that. I feel kind of stupid - blurting out the story, then running away to hide in the bathroom. But I just can't…explain what it means.

I can't even explain it to myself.

If I didn't know how much she'd freak out, I'd tell it to Catherine. She'd be able to vocalize what I'm trying to say.

But I doubt she'd be able to deal with it.

I smile humorlessly at the thought of telling Catherine that little tale. ‘Freak out' is definitely an understatement of her probable reaction.

The smile mellows into something more genuine and my mood lightens as little as I continue to think of my "sister." I have missed her. I could have used her in the last year to translate for me. At least, if I have to be back here, I'll get to see her again.

I carefully rinse the rest of the soap from my body and turn off the shower. I pull the curtain aside, and shiver in the cooler air.

On the island, if you took a hot shower the bathroom turned into a mini-sauna. It wasn't cold, even after stepping out of hot water.

It's cold here.

I can't get warm on my own. I don't have it inside me, like other people do. I need them to help.

I just hope my revelation hasn't driven the warmth away, permanently.

[part 2] [part 4] [back to Shoori's fic]