Notes and Disclaimers: The characters mentioned below are not mine but belong to Sotsu Agency, Sunrise and Fuji TV. All rights reserved to them.
The fire was loud, the air snapping with heat. Sally’s arms were bound and although she struggled, there was no way she could break free. Torn between defiance and despair, she spoke words of encouragement out loud, if only to free her mind from the turmoil within.
Glass shards exploded into the room, as a lithe figure broke through the window and stood, an angel of death demanding immediate payment in information, in lieu of a sentence already long overdue. The fire erupted….
Sally gasped as her eyes opened. She sat awkwardly, leaning against the shack’s wooden walls, while overhead artillery fire screamed its rage. Her head sank back onto the splintered wood. This latest barrage must have cracked the window above her head. She could hear the incendiaries whining, hear the flames where they had found purchase. Her broken arm ached, and the other was trapped by…
A small noise came from the floor to her right and she looked down at the wounded figure below her. Lucrezia Noin’s eyelids fluttered, then settled. She leaned her head against Sally’s leg, another soft moan passing her lips.
My arm’s no good, she’s been shot in the leg. We barely make a whole person between us, Sally thought.Pretty sad for two combat veterans. Sally shivered a little in a sudden draft. Her eyes strayed to the other wall that was held erect, the roof having caved in just past its edge. Well, at least the roof acts as a kind of wall…Sally pulled the jacket across her chest, and turned to the unconscious Noin at her side. The smaller woman looked pale, but no fever seemed to have gripped her, which was a relief. They had no medical supplies and only sidearms should they be attacked. Noin was suffering more from loss of blood and shock than the wound itself, but neither of them were going anywhere for the moment. If they could make it through until morning, they had some hope of living to see another battle.
Sally closed her eyes and thought again about how they had met, how they had almost immediately placed their trust in one another. She had not expected to meet Noin again so soon, but it seemed that fate had brought her ever closer to the Cinq kingdom. And where Cinq’s interests were, there was Noin. It didn’t take Sally long to realize for just whom Noin was fighting…or why.
The dark-haired woman stirred, then her eyes opened, staring unseeing into the dusty shelter.
“Zechs?” her voice was weakened and rough.
Sally smiled down at her comrade-in-arms.
“Not last time I looked.” She said in response to the question.
Noin looked confused, then slowly focusing, saw the rebel. Understanding suffused her face. She passed a hand across her brow then smiled sheepishly.
Sally waved the hand that held Noin vaguely. “Don’t worry about it.”
Noin sat up, drawing her leg in with a little grunt of pain. She shivered, pulling her jacket closer to her. “How long was I asleep?”
“I’m not sure – I seemed to have dozed off myself.”
“Man, it’s cold. Thanks for letting me share the blanket.” Noin gestured in the direction of the wool shawl they shared.
Sally shrugged. “It makes good sense – it’s going to be cold tonight, and neither of us has enough energy, or body parts to make it off this battle field alive right now. Better we wait it out and see what the morning brings us.”
Noin nodded and leaned back against the wall, her shoulder against Sally’s. They sat in silence, listening to the ebb and flow of the battle.
Noin had closed her eyes once more. “Sally, do you ever get lonely?”
Sally turned in some surprise to the mobile suit pilot. “Why do you ask?”
Noin took her time in answering. “I know why I’m fighting – I’m fighting for peace, if such a thing is possible. I’m fighting so Princess Relena doesn’t have to lose her ideals. And I’m fighting for…” she sighed, opened her eyes and looked off to her right, into the darkening interior of the structure. “And I’m fighting for the man I love, because it’s his destiny…and mine.” Her voice softened, then failed. She turned back towards Sally, her dark eyes burning in the gloom. “But sometimes I’m not sure anymore that it’s worth it – and I’m the one who has to be strong.”
Sally didn’t answer, but took the other woman’s hand in her own. Silence fell again between them, while outside the battle moved away from the ruined town.
At last Sally spoke. “When I was part of Earth Sphere Alliance, I had a…a lover. The last time I saw him was when he fought OZ during the schism. He kissed me goodbye and that was it. He never returned.
“Since then, I’ve met a lot of people – all working for something important. For peace. We come together in groups, we learn more in a day or a week about each other’s hopes and fears than we might have in years, but we’re afraid to ever get too close, because we know that tomorrow we may not make the next night’s rendezvous.”
Noin watched as the details in Sally’s face were obscured by the growing darkness. Her outline was visible, silhouetted in the dull glare from the battle outside.
“I’ve taken a few lovers since then – sometimes it’s the only way to stop death from consuming you – but I’ve been lonely nearly every day since he died.” Sally’s voice was almost inaudible over the din outside.
Noin squeezed the rebel captain’s hand and nodded. The battle was moving closer again. Noin could hear the mobile suits approaching and wondered if it was her fate to be ignominiously crushed underfoot.
“I always assumed I’d die in the cockpit of a mobile suit.” The sound of her own voice grated in her ears.
“I always assumed I’d die of old age, in a pensioner’s hotel in a little seaside town.”
“Really?” Noin was incredulous.
Sally laughed. “No. I just keep telling myself that.”
Noin laughed at that, then shivered.
Sally looked sharply in her direction. “You’ve got to be careful. Shock can kill you. Here…”
Sally drew Noin closer, wrapping the wool blanket closer around the smaller woman and then wrapping her own arms around her. She could feel Noin, stiff and unsure, search for a comfortable position.
“Relax,” Sally said with a laugh. “I don’t bite and you have to stay warm.”
Noin spent a brief moment fighting embarrassment, then relaxed into the other woman’s arms. Her head rested against Sally’s good shoulder, her arms found the Major’s waist. Unconsciously, almost despite herself, Noin sighed, as their shared warmth filled her. Sally chuckled a little at the reaction.
The battle was moving ever closer. Noin listened for the footsteps of the enemy Mobile Dolls, or her own forces…the last sounds she might ever hear. But blood loss was taking its toll, she had trouble keeping her eyes open…
“Lucrezia?” Sally’s voice was soft, murmured into her ear. Noin grunted acknowledgement sleepily.
A hand brushed the hair out of Noin’s eyes for a brief moment. Noin felt the motion, felt the hair swing back into place. She lifted her head to look at the other soldier and was surprised to see a look of incredible tenderness in the other woman’s face.
“Why do you fight, Sally?” Noin was filled with curiosity. “How do you know what path to choose?”
The rebel was silent for a moment, her head once again leaning on the broken wall. “I told you once that I thought if I followed those boys, I’d always be on a righteous path.” Noin nodded, but said nothing. “Now, I don’t believe that anymore. Not that I believe they are less righteous than before. In fact, with every day that passes, I feel that their rage becomes more pure, more, well, sacred.” She paused and stared into the burning darkness.
“What a terrible burden they must carry…to be the hands of the gods like that….” Sally’s voice was lost in the rumble of machinery and blast of loud fire immediately outside. The ground shook as a Mobile Suit stepped down very close to where they sat.
Noin found her arms unconsciously tightening around the Major’s waist. Dammit! I can’t die like this, unable to fight!
The ground settled down once again as the Mobile Suits stepped over the ridge to continue the fight. Noin released the breath she had been holding and shivered with the relaxation of her muscles.
Sally’s voice, cold and tired, spoke from the renewed darkness. “Now? Now I fight for what matters to me. My comrades, my friends, those boys, your Princess…”
The earth erupted in a maelstrom of light and noise. An armored foot came crashing through the wreckage of the roof, forcing the wooden boards downwards, crushing them to the ground. Sally gripped Noin’s shoulders with her good arm, and threw herself atop the other woman, protecting her with her body. A silent prayer flew through her mind, as the building caved in about them.
The weight of the collapsed roof pressed down upon the two women, burying them in an avalanche of wreckage. Noin was pinned beneath the larger woman, barely capable of breathing. Her ears were filled with the horrible noise of war…far removed from her normal exalted point of view. In the cockpit of a Mobile Suit, war was an individual thing, a palpable presence. But to die like this, without the enemy even aware of you… Her eyes squeezed shut and she prayed that the Mobile Suit above them would crush them quickly and get it over with.
The cacophony was terrible, so deafening that her mind simply shut down until she could no longer hear it. Painful light penetrated her closed eyes, then there was nothing.
So this is death, she thought, as the moment dragged on. Like being deaf and blind, but aware…
Then renewed percussion pierced the silence and she knew without joy that she was still alive.
For what seemed like an exceptionally long time, Noin lay without moving. She could not tell if Sally was wounded, or indeed whether she were alive at all. Her own heart beat so loudly that she was deafened by it – her own breath filled her ears. The darkness was complete. The destruction of the Mobile Suit above them had been bright enough to damage her eyes without a suit of her own to filter the energy – she had no idea if the darkness was real, or she was blind. Noin’s leg throbbed, her head pounded with her own pulse…death might very well be a relief.
At last Noin could feel the woman above her stir. Sally was alive, thank the gods.
Noin closed her eyes and tried to relax. Slowly she tested every limb, wiggling extremities, flexing joints slightly to determine if she were wounded. A preliminary check indicated that she was unhurt. Now if only she could move….
A grunt of pain came from the woman above her as Sally came to full consciousness, cursing.
“Damn, that hurts,” the rebel hissed as she tried to lever herself up with her good arm, and failing, placed her weight onto her broken one. Noin huffed as the other woman’s weight settled on her, but she lifted a hand to steady Sally.
“Looks like we’re staying here for a bit. I can’t move.” Sally let her head drop down to rest on Noin’s shoulder.
“Are you hurt?” Noin asked, wondering what she could do about it, if she were.
“No, I don’t think so…just…” Sally shrugged with her good shoulder. “I came down on the broken one when we landed.”
Noin thought about that for a moment.
“Why’d you do it?” She asked simply.
Sally was quiet, her breath warm on Noin’s cheek.
“Why?” Noin repeated more urgently.
Sally shifted, her voice soft in Noin’s ear. “Because…because along with those boys, and your Princess’s dream of peace…you’re why I’m still fighting.”
Noin held her breath as the woman continued to speak. “When you crashed through that window, I never thought of you as a rescuer. You were so intent, so focused.
“At that moment I knew that you had something that I lacked…you had faith. You believed that there was a way through this. And I wanted to be a part of that, to have that faith. And so I kept fighting.”
Sally’s voice died away, and was replaced by ragged breathing. The pain and stress had taken its toll, Sally had passed out.
Noin lay there, unable to move, unwilling to try. She stared hard at the dark shape above her, trying to fathom the heart of this woman who had just saved her life. Leaning forward slightly, she was just able to graze her lips across Sally’s cheek and whisper in her ear. “Thank you.”
She relaxed back, until she too slipped from conscious thought, into a grey daze of fear and pain, and from there into an uneasy slumber.
Morning, when it came, was hazy with smoke and fumes. There were no living things to greet the sun as it dawned over a broken landscape.
Had anyone been there to hear it, they might very well have been shocked to hear cursing coming from the ruins of what had been a small shelter, perhaps a storage shed.
The cursing grew louder, accompanied by small noises, of breaking wood, of settling earth. At last, in a rain of debris and the noise of a small avalanche, two small figures dragged themselves painfully and wearily from those ruins.
Standing at the edge of hell, panting and groaning, leaning on one another for support, Sally and Noin stood and greeted the new day.