"James Camden went down
with his ship in order to free up space on an escape pod for one of your
crewmates," I hissed at him, knowing that my voice was laced with
bitter anger. "You left your crew short, sixteen berths." And
then in a rather cold, calculated voice, I gave him, from memory, the
names of his sixteen shipmates who had died because of what he had done.
I could see the floating corpses in my mind's eye and I felt like I was
laying each one of them to rest as I did it.
When I shut up, there was a ringing, icy silence. He just sat and stared
at me for the longest time. Then he threw himself to his feet and stalked
across the room, turning his back to me and leaning against the mantle.
"Oh dear God," I thought I heard him mutter.
Camden was being very damn quiet inside my head. I suddenly didn't feel
Was this real? Had he truly not known? Could I believe his reaction, or
was he just a damn good actor? I wasn't sure what in the hell to think.
I had to stop my fingers from picking at the curl of paper at the corner
of my notebook. Wouldn't do to leave a pile of shredded confetti on Anna's
Williams didn't speak, just stood at the mantle and toyed with a picture
that was sitting there. In the kitchen, the teakettle suddenly gave out
with a long whistle. Williams and I both jumped.
It seemed to signal to Williams that our time was almost up and without
turning, he suddenly blurted, "I met Annie at a memorial service...
I never meant to get involved. But... she had her children with her, and
there were these reporters. I only meant to intervene, to rescue them
from that... that circus. But we started talking and the next thing I
knew..." he trailed off, reaching to run his hand over his hair again.
He was fiddling and fiddling with that picture and I finally rose and
walked closer, where I could see it over his shoulder and almost gasped
out loud when I realized I was looking at a whole, hale and happy James
Camden, sitting with his arm around his wife, his children clustered around
them. His damn eyes really were brown. I shuddered violently and had to
rub a hand up and down my arm. Williams turned to look at me.
"I didn't know," he breathed. "I know that doesn't excuse
anything... but I didn't know." He truly did look... stricken.
I was... angry. I wanted to hate this man. I wanted him to be evil incarnate
so that I could just fucking hate him and he could be responsible for
all my damn problems. I wanted black and white. I wanted right and wrong.
I didn't need this damn gray. Didn't need this... uncertainty. What in
the hell was I going to do? Captain James Lyle Camden was fucking dead.
He had been dead for quite some damn time. His widow had managed to move
on with her life. Did I really have the right to come in here and blow
it all to hell in the name of justice? I didn't know what to do.
And I didn't want to be here, all alone, trying to figure it out.
I heard the clink of china, the only warning we had before Anna came back
into the room. Williams and I just stood staring at each other as she
came in with the tea tray. She walked in smiling, saying something I didn't
catch about Jasmine, but then she seemed to notice the tension in the
air and hesitated. She looked from one of us to the other, her smile fading
just a little. I didn't know what in the hell to do. God, I had dug myself
a nice little pit here and the edges were starting to crumble, I couldn't
see any way out of this. And you want to know the really weird thing?
I was suddenly so mad at Wufei I could have punched him. We started this
together... he was supposed to be here with me. He was supposed to be
my level head. He was supposed to have my back in this nightmare, to be
here to support me. He was supposed to be my friend. I was suddenly cold
as ice, goose bumps running up my spine, and I was glad I'd not taken
my coat off or I'd probably be shivering where I stood.
"Do you mind if I use your rest room?" I found myself asking
Anna, and my voice, though a little tight, didn't tremble near as much
as I had expected it to.
"Of course not," she assured me, seeming happy to have the tense
silence broken, and she pointed the way. I didn't run, ok? Almost... but
I was shaking so bad by the time I got myself shut into that room that
the knob rattled like castanets in my hand. I just folded up and sat my
ass down on the floor of the Williams' bathroom, trying to remember to
breathe, trying to get my heart to stop pounding so hard that my throat
hurt. I knew when I walked out of that room I had to know what in the
hell I was going to do. I had to make up my stinking mind just what I
was going to say to Anna Camden Williams and I couldn't stay in the bathroom
for the next three hours thinking about it.
My fingers fumbled with the button on my coat pocket and I pulled the
journal out of its sanctuary. I let it fall open in my lap and looked
at the pages without really seeing them. Well... wasn't this a nifty little
catch-22? I felt the prickly chill of Camden's presence in my mind and
glanced into the nearest reflective surface to see him behind my shoulder,
not looking very happy.
"You brought us here, damn it," I hissed at nobody. "What
the fuck do you want me to do now?"
But he didn't answer. He never answers. He wasn't one of 'my' ghosts...
exactly. I hadn't known him in life, so he didn't really speak to me in
death. Not like Solo... not like Sister Helen every now and again. Camden
only haunted my dreams and my conscience and only seemed to have the one
thing to say.
I flipped through the pages of the journal some more and found it opening
to the part at the end... the part that I needed to get to Anna... the
part that the good, dead Captain wanted me to get to Anna.
"I had planned on coming home after the war and spending forever
with you, just like we promised..."
That's where Wufei and I had left off reading that night. Neither of us
able to read those personal, personal messages out loud. I let my eyes
drift over the page, hoping perhaps to find some answer in the words I
hadn't yet read. A message across all these years from a man whose ghost
I knew intimately well... whom I had never met. A man I might very well
have had a hand in killing, in a roundabout way.
"I think I am sorry the most for the children. I'm afraid for you,
the three of you, facing an uncertain future without me there to protect
you. I don't know what more this war will bring and I can only hope that
it will be over soon. I pray that it will end before our children are
old enough that they might be pulled into it. Don't let Jimmy try to follow
in my footsteps. Don't let him romanticize the war... my death. Tell him
that I hated this; I hated the fighting and the death... that I found
nothing noble in it. It was circumstances and timing that brought me to
this place... just a man in the wrong places at all the wrong times.
I am sorry I broke my promises to you, my dearest Anna. I wanted so much
to be there to see our children grow up, to grow old with you. I can't
tell you not to mourn for me, I know how I would feel in your place, but
don't let this damn war take your life from you. I want you to go on,
I want you to be happy again..."
I closed the book and looked into the glass shower door, into the sad,
single eye of James Camden. I thought about his forays into my nightmares
and I thought about the only message he had ever given me. And I figured
out what I had to do.
When I came out of the bathroom I heard the murmur of soft voices coming
from the living room as I made my quiet way down the hall.
"I know... me too..."
I squared my shoulders and came through the doorway, finding them on the
sofa together. I went straight over to them and perched myself on the
edge of the coffee table right in front of Anna and ignored Williams as
though he weren't there.
As Captain Camden had reminded me... this was about Anna.
"Mrs. Williams," I murmured, turning the journal in my hands,
not able to meet her eyes. "I've lied to you. I am not Chang Wufie's
partner... though I do work with him." I saw them both stiffen and
Williams reached to take Anna's hand. I didn't pay any attention, just
bulled forward. "I'm the man who went on that salvage job to the
There was a gasp and a grumble of surprise, I glanced up then, seeing
confusion in Anna's eyes and sudden recognition in Williams. I looked
"I'm truly sorry to have deceived you," I told her, "but
I wanted to be... sure of a few things before I... before I gave you something."
"Mr. Maxwell," she murmured. "I don't think I understand..."
"Anna," Williams interjected, and I wasn't sure what he had
intended to say, but I cut him off.
"Your husb... Captain Camden kept a journal," I informed her
and found my fingers tightening around the damn thing. "I was able
to retrieve it..." I looked up then, very pointedly at Williams.
"I'm afraid it was... damaged during the accident. It's mostly intact,
but there's a few pages that were torn."
There was a tiny little "oh" from Anna and I could see out of
the corner of my eye that her gaze had dropped to the book in my hands,
understanding suddenly what it was. I didn't take my eyes off of Williams.
His _expression was somewhere between shocked and... hopeful. A strange
mixture of guilty and grateful.
"This is it?" Anna breathed and reached a finger to touch the
spine, then withdrawing her hand again as though burned. I knew then that
she realized just what a... two-edged sword it was. It made me feel better
about giving it to her, knowing that she understood what a bittersweet
gift it was. I forced my fingers to open and it took her a long, long
moment to take it from me. She held it on the palms of her hands for a
moment, wearing an _expression like I'd just handed her the key to Pandora's
box. For the moment, Williams was simply a non-presence.
"I'd... recommend... not reading it... alone," I whispered and
suddenly had a Captain's widow wrapped around my neck.
"Oh God," she whispered in my ear. "You're that young man
who almost died... Oh my God. Thank you... thank you so much. I can't
believe this! After all these years... I just can't believe this..."
I let my arms close gently around her and I felt... for a moment, as though
they weren't my arms at all. Somewhere in the back of my head I heard
the voice of James Camden whisper, "Anna, my Anna..." One of
us shivered, I'm not even sure which of us it was, but when she drew away,
her eyes were shining brightly and she had to excuse herself, muttering
something about a tissue.
I turned my attention to Williams and he looked like he was trying to
speak, but couldn't figure out just what he ought to be saying. I didn't
give him the chance, but slipped my hand into my pocket and pulled out
the torn pages of the journal, folded into a neat little packet of truth,
and handed them to him.
"You take damn good care of James Camden's family," I told him,
a little surprised that my voice held steady and a little disappointed
that I couldn't make it any more... fierce. It had been a threat, after
He grunted and I rose, gathering my things and heading for the door. My
job here was as done as I could make it, and I couldn't stand to be in
this place any longer. I paused by the mantle to take a closer look at
the novelty of Captain Camden with a whole face and then I walked out.
I thought I heard a quiet, "thank you." But I couldn't have
told you which of the three of them said it. Or maybe I didn't hear it
Guilt beast was waiting for me in the car, wearing his over-worked _expression
and I almost wished for a second that he were real. Ugly as he was, I
would have hugged him tight anyway.
I wanted... I wanted... I'm not sure what. I just wanted, I guess.
I pulled away from the curb sedately and carefully, and as fast as I could
manage. I didn't want Anna calling me back. I didn't want to talk to her
anymore. I didn't want to sit under Williams' uneasy gaze anymore. I didn't
want to look around and wonder if Camden had handled any of the things
I saw sitting there. Had he ever sat in that chair I had sat in? Had he
ever napped on that sofa? Drunk tea from those china cups? If I looked
in the rearview mirror... would he still be with me, or was he gone now
that my duty was dispatched? Would he haunt Emery Williams' nights now,
instead of mine?
I was concentrating so hard on just getting away from that house, that
I managed to get myself lost. I just drove aimlessly through the neighborhoods
for a while, looking at the neat little houses with their neat little
yards. I finally came across a neat little park, abandoned and empty in
the chill weather, and I pulled in.
Leaving the car run for the heat, I let my eyes settle on a flock of little
sparrows, looking for seeds under a tall pine tree, and tried very hard
not to think. Tried not to feel. Just watched the fluttering things as
they danced about, lifting and lighting, pecking at the ragged looking
I was terrified of looking up into the mirror and seeing my half-visaged
buddy staring back at me. Terrified that he was angry with me at how that
whole damn thing had ended. Angry with me over the decision I had made
to 'edit' his journal.
What had been the right choice? What was the important thing here? Justice?
Love? Simple closure? God... I just didn't know. I thought I'd done the
right thing... but I just wasn't sure. What if I had been wrong in reading
Williams, and he was sitting back there in that house right now, laughing
at me behind his wife's back? What if that journal only brought Anna and
her children more pain? Maybe so much time had passed that I should have
just let it go. Should have just let the past stay dead.
Not for the first time, and certainly not for the last, I wished to an
uncaring God that I'd never taken that damn Londonderry job.
I couldn't seem to get the car warm enough no matter how high I ran the
heater and I snorted ruefully, wondering which was defective; me or the
car. I wanted very damn much for somebody to come and hold me. I was very
cold... and very tired.
"Would if'n I could, kid," Solo's voice echoed through my head,
a welcome presence, despite its not really being there.
I sighed softly. "I know rat-boy."
"Come on," he murmured to me in a voice more gentle than he
had ever used with me in life. "Ya need to get home, baby-rat."
"Do I have one, Solo?" I whispered, letting my head fall back
against the headrest, and my eyes fall closed. "I don't know... I
just don't know..."
"Sure ya do, asshole!" he chuckled at me. "You're bein'
a putz... now let's get goin'."
"I dunno..." I said, long past worrying about what anybody would
think if they saw me sitting here talking to myself. "I think I'm
just too tired... too tired to deal with what's waiting..." And surprised
myself when I choked on a sob.
Solo rolled eyes he didn't really have, and sighed heavily. "Oh fer
God's sake... yer not startin' that shit again, are ya?"
"No," I told him, struggling to push it down. "No... tell
"Boys don't cry," he told me firmly and faded away, just in
case I couldn't contain it.
But I managed it, and then I put the car in gear and drove until I found
my way out of suburbia. Oriented again, I hunted up the highway and turned
my ugly little red car towards the only home I had left. My brain couldn't
quite deal with the whole quandary of 'I want Heero' and 'I'm mad at Heero',
so I just didn't think about it. I drove. I just... drove.
I made better time coming back, or perhaps it was an earlier start, I
hadn't paid much attention. It was before eleven at night when I pulled
into the parking lot of the apartment building. I felt... totally disoriented.
I was having a hard time getting my head around the fact that it was Tuesday
night. That I had just, effectively, spent twenty-four hours on the road.
That I had just put over sixteen hundred miles on my car. I was deep down
in the bones weary, and only wanted to drag myself upstairs and go the
hell to sleep. I sat for long minutes staring at my accumulated junk;
my duffle bag and my new briefcase, and found that I couldn't care enough
to gather it up to take with me. I'd be lucky if I could get myself up
I'd been gone thirty-five hours. It felt like it had been a blink. It
felt like it had been a million years.
I got out and walked stiffly across the dark lot, feeling like my feet
were made out of lead and my head was full of cotton. The stairs seemed
to spiral upward without end and I trudged up them, half dragging myself
with the rail. I wondered if I could manage a shower when I finally finished
my thousand-mile climb. I wondered if I should just go the hell to bed
on the couch with the stereo and television keeping me company again,
or if I wanted to risk the experiment of trying to sleep alone in the
dark. I'd already decided I was sleeping in my sweats... I was still so
damn cold I was almost shivering.
Then I reached the third floor, started down the hall and stopped dead
when I heard voices coming from the apartment. Upset voices. Several upset
"...the hell down, Yuy!"
"Fuck you, Chang! I don't want to calm down! I want some damn answers!"
"Heero... Wufei... please, arguing with each other isn't going to
"I never should have listened to you about this whole damn situation!"
"Damn it! I told you I was sorry... And you fucking agreed with me
about it, anyway!"
I might very well have moaned out loud. If I did, I did it very quietly,
and the snapping snarling voices coming from down the hall never faltered.
"Oh dear God," I whispered to my poor little self. No way in
hell was I going to be able to make myself go in there. Nope. No way.
That whole Daniel and the lion's den thing? Not my style. I took a step
backward... and then another... and ran up against something rather unyielding,
but somewhat warm. I flinched, and gasped, and whirled around to come
face to... collarbone with Trowa. Busted. I thought I would weep.
I opened my mouth to launch into some sort of explanation, but he gave
me an odd little grin and touched his finger to his lips, taking my arm
to draw me back down the stairs. I went, quite happily, thank you very
He led me all the way back down to the ground floor, and for a moment
I was afraid he was going to take me back outside into the cold, but we
stopped on the landing. I looked up at him expectantly, waiting to see
what he had to say.
"Are you all right?" was the first thing out of his mouth. I
blinked up at him and almost told him 'no'. But my head nodded for me,
even while my body informed me we were going to go sit on the steps.
"Mostly," I told him when he sat down beside me.
He looked at me very hard and grunted softly. "You don't look all
that great. How'd it go?"
I heaved a sigh that felt like it came up all the way from the bottom
of my soul, and the best I could manage was, "Kinda rough."
He just sat and looked at me, and I knew he was waiting for some elaboration
but I just didn't know where to start. Was too tired to think about it.
There was really only one thing on my mind at that point and it involved
the two irritated men two floors over our heads.
I dropped my face into my hands and whispered, "Why in the name of
God is my life a damn spectator sport?"
There was the sound of a rueful chuckle and a weight settled across my
shoulders. "I guess because you just make everything so damn interesting,"
he told me, with a touch of amusement in his voice.
There was that word again, interesting. May you live in interesting times.
I wondered idly what Chinese deity I'd managed to piss off enough to curse
"Do you know what they did?" I asked him then, and there was
a feeling of movement, like a nod. I frowned, thinking about that and
dropped my hands to look up at him. "When did you know?"
He quirked me that sardonic little smile of his. "Not until after
the panic ensued." I looked him in the eye, long and hard, and the
amusement slipped away. "I swear to you, Duo... they didn't tell
us. If I'd known... I'd have ripped them both a new one."
I blinked for a second, caught by surprise by an upwelling of pain. I
looked away, drawing my knees up and wrapping my arms around them. There
was cold air seeping in under the front door, I was still very cold. "I'm...
right? To be mad?" I whispered, appalled that the words had slipped
He gave me a surprised little grunt and then shifted to truly put his
arms around me. "Yes little brother," he murmured against my
hair. "You have every right to go charging up these stairs and kick
the crap out of both of them."
I leaned into his warmth and closed my eyes. "I just don't understand
why they did it. Why did they keep it from me? I thought... I thought
they understood how important it was..."
There was a bit of silence before he told me, "I think that's something
you need to discuss with Heero."
I shivered, understanding that it was information that he didn't want
to give me himself. Well... great. Just great.
"I don't want to fight this out tonight, Trowa," I told him
and my voice wasn't very steady in my own ears. "I'm just too tired...
His arms tightened and I shivered again, feeling the clash of the cold
air with his warmth.
"Come on," he said gently. "I'll back you up."
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