[the now] little star
‘–to your left flank, it’s–’
He wakes with a start, in a cold sweat because he already knows how this dream–no, nightmare, is going to end. Because it always ends the same way. At this point, it’s just a memory that refuses to die, to be buried in the depths of his mind; along with the countless tragedies that have happened before and after.
Because it has already happened.
“Tou-san, tou-san, daijoubu desu ka?” Eyes blinking, he realizes that she’s standing at the edge of his bed, from the looks of it not too long, those large, maroon orbs peering down worriedly, the bunny clutched tightly in her arms.
She looks so much like her… His chest aches and he tries not to let it show. But of course she would; after all, she is their daughter and she is no less inquisitive–perhaps even more so–than her mother.
“Yeh, ’m all right…” He sits up and pulls the covers aside and she clambers onto the bed, clutching his wrinkled shirt with her tiny hands before he hugs her tight. “Now, what’s wrong love?”
“I-I had a scary dream…I-I, I dreamed that I was…h-hurting p-people, and I had th-this giant, scary-looking knife…and then it started raining red rain…”
He doesn’t say anything, only holds her tighter because he knows exactly what she is talking about; to be plagued by the memories of your past life until you no longer have a grip on what is real and not real, who you even are anymore.
“I-I…does that mean that one day, I’m…gonna start hurting people too?”
It’s simply the innocence of a child, but it pierces his heart all the same. “No! No, of course not, it’s…’s only a nightmare; a dream, they’re not real…I swear, I’ll never let that happen…your fate, I promise it won’t be the same as mine…” She can only blink in wonder as he brushes her snow-like hair soothingly, rocking her in his arms. To think that even a child like her would suffer as he did, as they did…
This ‘gift’…it’s not a blessing, it’s a curse…
“Mmm…nee, tou-san, did you…were you having a nightmare, too?” What did he say about being inquisitive? Her eyes are enormous pools of maroon that are only slightly red from being woken abruptly.
“Yea…heh, even your tou-san gets those too… Say, is your brother–”
“–nii-chan was fast asleep; I didn’t wanna wake him again…"
"Ah. I see.” Once again he is struck at the similarities between mother and daughter and he is glad, even though right now it is causing him pain.
“…Were you dreaming about Mummy again?”
“…can we go visit her?”
“…actually, tha’s not a bad idea…”
“Ah, Mr. Jack, good…evening…” The guard on duty greets him with a surprised, but polite welcome as he casually flashes his pass, the gesture routine by now. Despite the clock flashing '01:00' as soon as they enter the main chamber, she does not seem sleepy at all; instead head turning every which way as he carries her in his arms.
“…Oh? What a surprise, little one…is it not past your bedtime?” There is no mistaking that mechanical tone; even now, without the roiling air bubbles that he was so accustomed to in his younger days. The joints creak, and a bit of dust drifts onto the steel-plated floor. Even now…that voice–though completely neutral and always dictated by logic–causes the anger that ever since that day has never stopped smoldering, to slowly fan into larger and larger flames.
She is not affected, however. Instead, her eyes grow wide and he sets her down, nearly tripping over her own feet–perhaps she’ll never grow out of her clumsiness–to go and say hi to the ancient figure, who casts what can only be described as genuine curiosity at the child.
“Mr. Bunnyman! Are you feeling bett'er today?” The plush version, or at least, the closest one they could find being held up for examination, as if to earn its approval.
“I seem to be doing all right; I appreciate your concern, little one.” Truth be told, they all know that it will not last much longer, not unless it can return to stasis. But that is no longer an option… “You are not tired?”
He is already standing in front of her, before she runs back up and the eerie glow casts a neon-hue on her face. “Mmm, a lil’…but tou-san said we could visit Mummy, just for a bit…”
“…I see…” The man and the figure, they do not address each other; not anymore, unless it is out of sheer necessity. Though he has long since learned to hold his tongue and temper, there is no guarantee that it will not surface again, late at night, and after reliving that memory…
‘–Shit! No, Sio, SIO–!!’
‘–it is the only way we have any chance of even–’
‘–don’t give me that bullshit, you can’t just–you can’t take her away!’
It seems to be particularly bad tonight, though there have not been any triggers for a while. And even then, it has been nearly five whole years since that day…
If it were not for the fact that there is still a sliver of hope, no matter how small that she will be revived, he would smash the cylinder in a heartbeat with his knife and steal her back. The only small victory he held that day was the demand that she not be exposed to whomever would be wandering around; much to his surprise, the Commander had relented without argument–one last shred of pity, perhaps? The dress will probably be rendered useless at some point, the white fabric already starting to tatter slightly at the edges–but for now at least, it seems like she is just taking a very, very long rest.
A sleep that has no wake up time, or even a guarantee of one.
“Nee, doesn’t Mummy’s hair seem a little longer than last time?” Face pressed against the glass, as if trying to see as much as she can, even though she’s seen her hundreds of times since. “She’s always so pretty…right, tou-san?”
“Hmm…yeh, like a princess, no?"
“Uh huh! Like Sleeping Beauty! Except…she won’t wake up with just a kiss…will she?”
“…A-are you…sure? M-maybe, if you tried now–”
It comes a shock, the urge to break but he can’t–not here, and not in front of her. Of course he’d tried…they’d all tried, every single option that was even possible had already been long thought of, but the end result is what is floating in front of them. “…No love, I, we’ve–” For some reason, he cannot bring himself to say those words tonight, even though she too, has heard it many, many times before.
“I am very sorry child, but I’m afraid it will take more than a kiss from Prince Charming to wake your mother,” and it is the interlocutor who comes up from the shadows, his immortality affording him the ability to function without much rest, if at all. “Hello, Jack.” He nods towards the two, the glow creating a glint along the glasses he always wears.
“Saint-Germain…” It is more of a mutter under the breath than a true greeting, but it would be rude to ignore someone that has directly made a greeting towards him. Patting her gently on the head, he scoops her back up into his embrace, his height now allowing her to be eye-level with the floating angel in stasis. “C’mon, it’s time to say good night now, we should be gettin’ back to sleep.” It isn’t that he has anything against the man personally, but it has become difficult to disassociate any member of command from this, this…cage, that she must remain in. The more they gather, the more his despair threatens to spill out.
She stares at him dolefully with those large, watery maroons of her, clearly upset at the hastily-shortened visit. “B-but…tou-san, can’t we stay just a little longer? Pleease? Just…five more minutes…” It doesn’t take much, just a slight wobble in her chin and an extra sheen in her gaze, and he relents without saying a word. He is never good at saying no to them…not then, and not now.
“Perhaps you’d like some hot chocolate, before retiring?” He swears the man must possess some secret ability other than immortality, for suddenly he is there, bearing a tray with two steaming mugs; the bittersweet scent giving rise to a wave of nostalgia so strong, he has to lean slightly against the glass, eyes closed.
Why now, of all times… That memory of him finding out the meaning of White Day for the first time…and the outcome a month later; from then on, they always chose to celebrate it a month later than everyone else–
‘Cause well, it’ll be more…special, that way…’, she’d blushed shyly as she handed him a small box.
“Tou-san, are you…okay?” Too late, he realizes that the mug has remained untouched for the last five minutes, while he has been reminiscing of a past that will never return. “You looked like you were…hurting…” A sensitive child, able to instinctively sense the feelings of others, even if she does not quite understand them yet.
He takes the mug with hands that are trembling just slightly, before either of them can question him any further. “I am…just, thinking…” She bites her lips like she’s about to say something, staring at him so intently that for a second he thinks it’s her, but then she blinks and puts the now-empty cup back onto the waiting tray.
“That’s right, Miss Nobunagun enjoyed hot chocolate quite often, didn’t she?” The finished mugs are collected and somehow they disappear when he turns around again; there must be something going on that he’s not aware of, and now the bundle in his arms is yawning, snuggling against his shoulder as her eyelids droop.
“I think someone’s sleepy…say good night?” His tone carries just a touch of teasing, for who was it that had asked for another five minutes?
“Mmmm mmm…oyasumi, Mr. Bunnyman, Saint-Germain…oyasumi, kaa-san…”
“Sleep well, little one…and you as well…Adam…”
I’ll be back…Sio…
The breezeway’s windows must have been cleaned recently, for they are so transparent that it almost seems like they are walking among the clouds themselves; the brilliant moon on display with the countless twinkling stars. Suddenly she pops up a with gasp, startling him.
“What’re you–aren’t you asleep?” Luckily his reflexes are still quick, and she is still small enough.
“It’s a shooting star! Nii-chan said, if you make a wish when you see one, it’ll come true! I’m going to wish real hard for Mummy to wake up soon…” She squeezes her eyes shut, brows furrowing in utmost concentration, despite the late hour. It takes her about ten seconds before she squints out a peek, and then another five seconds later she slowly opens her eyes again. “D’you think that…worked?”
How is that one moment she can exhibit a maturity and instinct far beyond her years, and the next revert to the blissful ignorance of a child? Then again, she was just like that as well… “…Well, ‘f it does, guess we’ll find out tomorrow, eh?” Though he hasn’t raised his voice, his tone carries that of no more questions–not tonight.
Then it’s all silence again until at last he reaches the room she shares with her brother, who is no doubt snoozing away without a care in the world–they always joke that nothing short of an all-out attack on the base would wake him, and even then only if it were close by enough. To his surprise, she does not let go.
“Ano…can I sleep with you tonight? A-and, uh…Mr. Bunny as well…” she quickly adds, not wanting her fluffy friend to feel left out.
Despite everything, he feels the corners of his mouth twitching upwards. “…Sure. But,” and he looks at her seriously, “you’ll have to make sure Mr. Bunny doesn’t end up jammed in my face. Deal?”
She nods solemnly. “Deal.”
He pats her on the head. “Good girl.”
As they walk back, he catches the tail end of another shooting star–this time too small to catch her attention, but he notices anyway. Even though it’s only a little star.
And yet, maybe it is the little ones that make your dreams come true.