Book 2: New Life, Old Life

Part 11

19.46 HPN Day5 PT AC 4061

Trowa woke with the dawn as always, groaning as his neck creaked painfully. Blinking to full consciousness he remembered why he had slept sitting up: the boy had been ill, and he had wanted to stay close. Turning slowly while feeling every one of his vertebra pop, he was alarmed to find the pallet along with the rest of the pod, empty. Trowa sprang to his feet, soreness forgotten, and lurched out the door. If the boy had vanished in the night, gone back into the hiding place from which he had appeared . . . well, his research may not be over, but Earth's best chance for survival would certainly have vanished with him.

Trowa stumbled down into the cool morning sand and paused, listening. A soft lyric sound was drifting gently on the breeze, circling the campsite and teasing his senses. By standing perfectly still and focusing all his attention on the elusive sound he could just make out the rhythm of words, and followed them over the nearest dune to the east. There the boy sat, folded neatly atop a dune, singing into the sunrise. Here the scientist paused again, mesmerized by the simple beauty before him. The sun was just clearing the horizon, blazing white against a pale gold sky. The first of its fiery rays leapt from crest to crest, just threatening the dawn's blue shadows. Lumination trickled through the boy's glowing hair, running along his entire form to pool as a radiant halo around his dark silhouette. A voice as light as the pale sunshine danced on his ears, and though the words made no sense, Trowa found himself caught in their dance.

"Raindrops on Roses and whiskers on kittens

Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens

Silver-white winters that melt into springs

These are a few of my favorite things

Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes

Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes

Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings

These are a few of my favorite things."

The last note trailed with a sigh, before another tune picked up as softly as the first.

Through Trowa hadn't spoken, the boy must have finally noticed his presence, because the singing ended mid-verse, leaving the tall brunette full of unreleased tension and a prickling need for resolution. The boy turned slightly, revealing a dark profile against the sunrise, and gestured for Trowa to join him in the sand. With an appraising blue eye the boy glanced quickly over his tan skin, then raised a hand to press gently against Trowa's forehead and cheek. The gesture reminded Trowa of his own mother, and how she checked for fever when he was ill. This brought his analytical mind around to another observation, that his skin was no longer burnt of sore. He gazed at his forearm and found the skin smooth and tan, darker than before, but healed, as though the burning had been repaired overnight. Glancing back to the boy beside him revealed marble-white skin, un-scorched and pale, not even retaining the brown shading his own had so recently adopted.

"What happened yesterday?" The gentle voice was urgent, needing an answer, and Trowa tried to respond as clearly as possible.

"We worked too hard and the heat made you ill. Do you remember?" He thought for a moment, squinting into the sun.

"Yes. The sun burned your skin and you kept its heat. I woke during the night. You were unwell and . . ." He paused and Trowa's mind was filled with likely scenarios, but whatever revelation may have been forthcoming was reconsidered and concealed, leaving Trowa with nothing but his speculation. "Do you know any songs?"

Though frustrated by the non-sequiter, Trowa thought back to his childhood. His own part of the station had not been particularly rife with the arts, but a simple lullaby soon came to mind.

"I know one."

"Will you sing it for me?" Light eyes glittered with innocent pleasure despite the uncertainly of his voice. Unaccustomed as it was to following a melody, the velvety tone surprised Trowa himself as it folded richly over the dunes.

"Hush my babe, don't you cry

Go to sleep my little baby.

When you wake you shall have

All the pretty little horses.

Browns and bays, dapples and grays,

All the pretty little horses."

The boy's eyes had closed, and he smiled happily in the sunlight as the lullaby ended, swaying gently with the breeze. Finally he looked up, eyes bright with grateful tears.

"Thank you, Trowa."

The scientist smiled, touched as he had never before known. When the moment had grown beyond silence he spoke.

"You know my name, but I still don't know yours. What should I call you?" The boy thought for a moment, staring at the sand, eyebrows furrowing as he invoked beloved memories, painful in their absence. Looking up he was troubled.

"I don't remember. I've been alone so long . . ."

Trowa frowned. "I've got to call you something." The boy nodded, willing but unable to help. "How about Quatre?" He blinked, not comprehending, so Trowa explained. "You appeared during my fourth day here, and that's an old Earth word for the number four." Saying it aloud suddenly made the suggestion seem very silly, but when the boy smiled brightly and began to nod, Trowa felt his stomach flutter. "Good. It's nice to meet you, Quatre."