Chapter: 1/11: The Dirt in Your Eye
Pairing: Past Treize/Zechs
Spoliers: Series, EW
Warnings: Death themes, intoxication, male/male sexual situations (none terribly explicit), swears, grief, angst, debatable sap, and flashbacks throughout. I'll rate it M, mostly for the cursing. And the sex.
Archive: Fanfiction.net under the name KhalaniK
Disclaimer: I don't own any part of GW. No monies have been or will be made off of this thing.
Notes: This story is inspired stylistically, thematically - really, in
every way - by the beautiful and brilliant Lightening Arc by
LoveyouHateyou, archived at Fanfiction.net. I love his stories so
much, and Limbo is, in a small and humble way, a sort of tribute to
them. Limbo takes place in the same story line as my first fic,
"Traitor (Breaking Up is Hard to Do)," though it's not a direct
continuation. Every chapter is from Zechs's POV; most of the story
takes place between the end of the series and Endless Waltz.
Also, on a technical note, GW officer ranks are insane to me, so I'm
using the standard Army ranks closely shared by the US, Canada,
Britain, and Australia. I also don't believe that somebody like
Milliardo Peacecraft could stay dead forever. People are too nosey,
especially the press. That's one of the biggest departures I make from
I hope you enjoy.
Limbo 1: The Dirt in Your Eye
There was seething, my blood boiling, my attention utter... data and images integrated seamlessly with my body... the gritting of teeth, the cruel bite of defeat, one last desperate gesture, a brief relapse of sanity... A fireball, deafening, white light and heat... I'm burning, crumbling, screaming...
The sound died in my throat, eaten up by a nothing, or a vacuum, or a
tube... I clawed at it, but only feebly. I felt a warm hand that harshly
grabbed, making me stop. A ripping sound and then I couldn't move. My
mouth opened in a soundless cry that would have been pitiful if heard.
I was blind. Bound. I swore I heard a voice. A blackness swallowed me
It was hot in my nightmare -- stiflingly so. It wasn't like the soaking
damp heat of Africa or the arid parch of the Gobi. It was more unreal
than that. It was a caricature of heat, an obscene exaggeration from
the mind of a lunatic. It was a blistering hotness in waves and waves,
like an infernal ocean washing over me. I was trapped in the cramped
confines of an oven, a crush of metal and glass. I pushed against it
with my hands and my insides twisted. Panic. Every breath agony. My
head was wrenched at an angle, held inextricably by a smashed helmet.
I pushed until I screamed, a wet and wretched sound. I tasted metal.
It was dark. So dark... .
And then very suddenly, like some divine explosion, there was a light.
It was a yellow light, a yellow reflection off of yellowed squares
with wavy rings of amber and black mottles. Speckles. Flecks. Dots.
Spots. Dapples. Words, descriptive, trolled around in my brain. This
wasn't an apparition from my psyche. There was a real smell, musty and
dull, like an old mop head. My eyes were receiving real light, for
they burned from lack of use. I could hear a rush of successive beeps
marking a rhythm that quickened by increments as my alertness returned
to me. No, this was no dream. It was wisdom out of madness. Something
out of Nothing. My nightmare, it seemed, was over.
My head lolled to the left, where I saw a man seated in a chair
against a white wall. He was looking at a folder, scanning it
diligently. And then, sensing that I was watching him, his eyes met
mine. They were brown, like dirt. He stood and walked to my bedside,
toting his reading. Out of his pocket he pulled a pen which lit up
when he clicked it. He held that intensely bright light up to each of
my eyes, and a pleased look crept onto his face as I tried to turn my
head to avoid it. His heavy hand came down on my forehead to keep me
still. I had felt this hand before.
"Blink twice if you can understand me."
He was probably in his mid-thirties, with light brown hair and a
five-o-clock shadow. He wore an un-tucked polo shirt and a pair of
wrinkled slacks. He looked average. Not ugly, even with dirt eyes.
From him emitted a faint waft of cologne that had gone stale.
"Blink twice if you can understand me."
I blinked once, which took an inordinate amount of concentration. I
blinked again and he nodded.
"Good. Fine." Then with the pen again. "Follow the light with your eyes."
My performance appeared to please him, which he indicated with a small
sound -- a tiny "hm." He opened his folder and wrote in it. I watched
his thick eyebrows furrow, two caterpillars edging closer, maybe for a
fight, maybe for love. What did it matter? He checked the flow of the
two IVs next to me and glanced at the monitor that displayed my
temperature (101 degrees Fahrenheit/38 degrees Celsius) and heart rate
(68 beats per minute). The date was January 21st, 196. More writing.
"How do you feel?"
How. Did. I. Feel. Question mark. Was I on fire? Was I writhing in
agony? No, and that was progress. I felt like... what? High? Yep, that. I
was high as a bloody kite, like I was floating in a warm bath, my body
heavy but somehow still buoyant on a sea of... white sheets.
"Fine" is what I tried to say, but what came forth instead of a voice
was a crackling whisper, like the crinkling of a paper bag. I tried
again with no better result.
"Oh," the man said, "hold your hand below your Adam's apple -- like
this." He demonstrated on himself.
I lifted my unreasonably heavy hand to my neck and pressed down on a
gauze bandage. This time, a deep, staticky rumble approximated the
words "I'm fine." The man smiled softly.
"So, you're not in too much pain? Good. I was a little worried. I
can't guarantee that you'll continue feeling fine, though... ."
He turned around and rummaged in a drawer. He pulled out a cord and
attached it to a machine on the table next to me. I could see that one
of the IV cords ran through the unit. He then gave me one end to hold
in my left hand, a large, red button comfortably within thumb's reach.
"This is for your morphine. You can press the button when you feel
pain. It'll only give you a dose every two hours, so keep that in
mind. I can't give you any more than that. One click, though, and you
should feel better almost instantly."
Morphine. I wondered why I needed morphine. I played a game of Guess
the Injury. I gazed down and to my sides to find all of my limbs in
place. My arms were scraped up, but I didn't appear to have stitches.
I bent my legs enough to judge that I wasn't in a cast.
'Great,' I thought, because that left internal injury, the kind I was
always best at inflicting on myself, the kind that loves bleeding
without symptom and throwing blood clots into brains and lungs.
The man picked up his folder and scribbled more notes in it. I do mean
scribbled. His pen wagged furiously, like that notebook was an outlet
for intense and explosive creativity. "You were hurt badly. You
primary injuries were internal, which I corrected to the best of my
abilities with surgery."
Neat, I won, though the 'to the best of my abilities' part seemed like
a strange conversational insertion. Was this guy a doctor? Maybe a
physician's assistant? A nurse? An aide? A humanoid robotics mechanic
with a very good sense of anatomical analogy?
"Unfortunately, you suffered from a massive infection after the
surgery. You had a fever of 104, so I gave you a large dose of
pantezomycin, not knowing that the resulting allergic reaction was
going to be worse than the infection itself."
That allergy was on my dog tags. Ah, but I'd stopped wearing those
some time ago, hadn't I? He closed his folder again and began fiddling
with the morphine machine. His shoulders tensed and released, and he
shifted his weight from one leg to the other as he stood there,
pressing buttons. Squirmy -- that's what he was, like he was
uncomfortable in his own skin.
"Your throat closed up and I had to give you a tracheotomy. That's why
you're having trouble talking. Don't worry, though. It'll heal and
your voice will return to normal."
He was pushing the up-down button that controlled the dose level. Up,
up, up, down, down, down. Beep, beep, beep, squirm, squirm, squirm.
Those thickish fingers of his were working hard on what appeared to be
nothing at all significant, like he was just pressing the buttons for
the sake of making noise. Medical Guy's Morphine Drip Symphony in Beep
"You sustained what now seems to be only a mild head injury. I was
afraid that it was serious and that your brain would swell, so I put
you in a barbiturate coma. Not long ago I pulled that IV, hopeful that
you would awaken on your own." A pause. "And you did."
He didn't sound especially pleased anymore.
The hurried button-pushing stopped and he turned back to look at me.
There was a glimmer in his dirty eye that I couldn't place. He wore a
tiny gold cross around his neck that nested comfortably on a bed of
thick chest hair. He was quiet for a few moments, staring at me
frankly, assessing me.
"Do you know who you are?"
I thought about it; focused my mind completely on the task. My brain
felt full of sludge and garbage, and I waded through it, grabbing at
the shiny things that seemed valuable. I got flashes, pieces, faces,
names. It was on the tip of my tongue. The crux of this puzzle, the
piece that would pull the scattered bits to it like iron shavings to a
magnet, was just out of reach. I pressed my hand to my throat.
"I think I do, but not exactly... ." I trailed off.
"Not exactly? Maybe I can help jog your memory. Do you recognize the
name White Fang?"
White Fang. I could see the White Fang in my mind. Dorothy, so
enthusiastic, talented, and deluded. Quinze with his puffy vest and
coffee breath. What a bunch of misfits we were. I could smell the
bridge on my commandeered space station. From a kingly vantage point,
a chair like a throne, I could see everything -- my mother, Earth, who
gave life to me, the bastard son who said he hated her... . But it was
only a fight, wasn't it? Don't teenage boys do that sometimes with
their mothers... ?
"How about the Gundams? Ring any bells?"
Five bells, to be exact. Five suits, five children. I had near
encyclopedic knowledge of Gundam 01. And the Gundam Epyon, the devil
itself. The mobile insane asylum. I remembered the explosion, my head
in a vise, the crushing sensation. I touched my face. Beneath my
fingers, my skin was full, lumpy in places, and completely smooth,
like a balloon filled with liquid. The sharp contours I remembered
were now dully rounded curves. I was wearing a bloated mask of blood
Yes, I remembered who I was -- even if this face betrayed my memories.
It was a slow, sickening realization that the man must have picked up
in my body language. He nodded and made that "hm" sound again.
"I helped you figure it out, didn't I? No need to thank me. I live to serve."
Whatever glint had been in his eye was now dripping from his words. I
could practically taste the sweet reek of spite in the air.
"You have a few slight maxillofacial fractures - nothing that will
permanently affect your facial structure. I wish I'd taken a picture
of you two weeks ago. You barely looked human."
He leaned over to make sure I clearly heard what he was about to say.
"But don't worry, you'll be back to your beautiful self just in time
to be taken into custody. I'm sure you'll make some big, burly inmate
a very happy man."
His mouth curved into a crooked smile.
"I bet you'd actually get off on something like that. Am I right?"
Without sedation, I might have told him to eat shit, but as my current
situation stood, I wasn't lucid enough to be really offended. I was
more interested in the way his strange actions were suddenly explained
-- the violent scribbling, the ceaseless squirming, the little
performance at the morphine machine. This man had been waiting for me
to wake up, and not because he was rooting for me.
"As you might be able to tell, this isn't a hospital."
One glance around the room supported his words. From that nasty,
water-stained ceiling to the cracks in the walls, the place looked
like a well-used fallout shelter.
"This is a resource satellite. My associate found you in the Libra's
wreckage and thought it would be a good idea to save your life."
I put my hand to my neck. "And you didn't."
The man sighed and ran his hand through his thinning hair. He wore a
silver wedding band. I wagered that he had one, no, two children. Why,
oh, why, was their daddy with me instead of them? I wondered if he was
going to smother me with a pillow and go back to them with a huge bag
of Balthazar's takeout, an apology for being away for so long, so
sorry, kids, but daddy had important work to do, justice to serve,
revenge to exact, and so on... .
"I'm an idiot who would screw his strongest convictions for his
Hippocratic Oath. Personally, I think you're a vile piece of rubbish."
He snorted and shook his head. "You have no idea how close I came to
not giving you a trache when you had that allergic reaction."
When our eyes met, I didn't look away. I couldn't, because this man
was a wonder to me. His candor was remarkable, something too often
withheld from me when I commanded the White Fang and before when I was
in OZ. I wanted to hear more.
I wanted to know exactly what about me made him tick like a bomb. Was
it my swollen face? My sandpaper voice? The creepy way my ice-blue
irises looked surrounded by a red sea of burst blood vessels? Or
perhaps it was all of the incomprehensibly atrocious deeds I committed
before I lit myself up in the ballistic firestorm that got me here in
the first place? He answered quickly and forcefully, as though he had
been waiting an eternity for me to ask.
"You are a miserable cretin who takes his personal problems out on
every person in the Earth Sphere. You can't decide whether you want to
be a soldier or a prince or a diplomat or a terrorist. Why are you so
goddamn special? Everybody else manages their own problems in a
sensible and private way. Instead, you drag your trash out in the
street so that everybody can smell it."
He balled his hands into fists and his face flushed with rage. A vein
on his temple rose, protruding like a twisted worm beneath his skin.
"And do you have any idea how many people died because of your little
identity crisis? They haven't even been able to get a final count!
They keep finding people here and there, floating, mangled, frozen in
space. All because of you, Milliardo Peacecraft or Zechs Merquise or
whatever the hell you want to call yourself. Not that it matters -- I
doubt anybody who cares about you is alive to give a shit."
It was the most unselfconscious rant I'd ever heard. What a perverse
sort of honor, I thought, to have this display directed at me.
I did something unexpected then -- I laughed. I let my hand drop to the
bed and just let the air pass through my tracheotomy hole with a raspy
wheeze. It was a pathetic sound, one that was obviously disturbing the
man. His eyes pinched into two narrow slits.
"Why the hell are you laughing? What's so damn funny?"
I was laughing because I was wrong about that dream I had earlier.
Like a blissfully ignorant fool, I thought that the worst of it was
over. What I realized just then, in the middle of his speech, was that
the real nightmare would be my waking life from that point until Hell
finally accepted me.
I pressed down on the red button in my hand. The whitewash of euphoric
warmth quieted me, lulled me, and vanquished the fearsome beast
looming just beyond this bout of mania. It was so lovely that even Dr.
Dirt looked pleasant as I faded into black.
[part 2] [back to Singles a-k]