The Meaning of Blue
I would like to begin by saying that this fic may not entirely make sense at some parts. I started this as a writing exercise in order to explore character, and as a self-reflection sort of thing and, well...it developed from there. However, I would like to continue on with this as much as possible, although if anyone has suggestions, they would be welcome!
For once, it was silent. No noise came from the Common room or bedrooms of Core-Tech – not that they were there, except for one, and he was the one that you wouldn't expect to be alone. Chase stared up at his ceiling, feeling oddly sick. He should have just gone home – he promised Jinja that he would still be here after the social gathering, as it had been labelled, but now he wished he hadn't. Chase hadn't gone – he wanted to but…
Oh, they hadn't said it out loud, but there was the way they had idly mentioned "I don't think you'd like it" or averted their eyes and said "You have to be really formal" or "They don't tolerate rowdiness" or "Well, we don't want the place to burn down" made him feel as if they were discouraging him from going. He bit his lip, still feeling a stab in the gut as he remember how relieved Jon and his dad had looked when he said he wasn't going.
That had hurt.
Chase knew he could be a bit much. He knew he was too loud, too outgoing, to obnoxious and overzealous and destructive – he swallowed harshly and turned over roughly, burying his face into his pillow and rubbing away sudden angry tears.
…was he really that destructive?
Did they really thing he was going to end up destroying everything there?
Chase hoped not. He didn't like being violent, or rough, or loud – but it seemed everyone thought that way. The only times he had ever been destructive were times where it was necessary, or when he began to get carried away with a battle, but he'd learned from then; in fact he hadn't accidentally destroyed anything in two months! He'd been so careful, and yet he was treated like a bomb ready to explode! He drew in a deep breath and sat up.
There was no use in sitting here moping and making himself miserable. But as he went to decide what to do, his mind drew a blank. What was there to do? The only things he'd ever done was battling, and honestly, even the thought of battling made him feel queasy. He didn't really have any talents, not like the others, and he'd given up on all his hobby's years ago, before he had gone on that long journey that brought him here…
Chase let out a strangled noise of frustration and threw himself out of bed, stalking out of his darkened room and into the Common room that he and the rest of his team shared, hoping that leaving his room would help relieve his heavy thoughts.
He walked aimlessly around the circular room, barely paying attention to the white walls that hid cold, relentless steel beneath them, or the almost too bright light, or the couches that were obnoxiously colourful. He passed his friends rooms, each of them filled with things that each individual loved or liked enough to keep – posters, knick knacks, books, plants, even a wind chime – all in stark contrast to his own bare walls.
Chase had been encouraged to decorate how he liked, but there was nothing he liked. Nothing he felt represented who he was, or his hobbies or…anything, really. He had nothing. It had taken him barely three days here to realize that – to realize that without his friends there to shine and give him the fake look of a person, he really wasn't much of a person and more of a blank shell.
He wondered if they noticed. He wondered if they really cared. Maybe just being good at battling was good enough for them – it was helpful, and he really knew nothing else, so what else would they expect from him?
Slowly making his way to the couch, Chase lowered himself onto it, feeling numb inside. The room was eerily silent. He couldn't hear any wind, or footsteps, or any noises at all. It reminded him of the days before his adventure, when his father rarely came home and Chase was left to just sit around at home, slowly falling into a depression and becoming disinterested in everything he loved.
Did I really play basketball, once? He thought hollowly. I'm sure I did – I broke my leg once while playing. And I did drama too – I wonder how Maria's doing without me there to be her acting partner? – and oh god how I loved it. It was hard to remember back that far, to what he had enjoyed, but there was a gap in him that ached for that break in monotony. He wanted it all back, but that old life was gone now, and replaced by battles, violence, missions, constant exhaustion and never ending metal all around him.
Worst of all, he was beginning to be discouraged from ever doing anything here either.
He was deterred from going to a social gathering, from going to see his mother at the monastery, from going out to the city, from doing anything. Jon didn't tell the rest of his team this. Did they think he was too dangerous to be able to go places without hurting people? Did they really think he was a monster or something?
A sick feeling arose in him and he pushed that thought away, hugging a pillow tightly and desperately trying to think of something, anything, else. His mind wandered to Strike Squad, remembering how far they had come with them. It had been awkward and rocky, befriending Strike Squad, but they were all beginning to get along well, and it had been surprising to get to know each member of the Strike Squad as individuals rather than the single unit they had been in his mind.
They were all such varied people witch such different interests and yet they functioned so well together. Bravo had a love of the sea and was a talented surfer, although he did it for entertainment rather than sport. He collected seashells and crafted pendants or journals from them, and owned a small turtle named Peg, which Chase had had the pleasure of meeting a few weeks back.
Kilo loved animal and plant life, and his room was cluttered with small plants in pots and hanging from the ceiling, a few animal figurines placed cheerfully in the pots with them. He was meticulous with his plant keeping and each of his plants had names, such as Susan, his singular tulip. His bed contained three animal plush toys – a cow named Cheery, a bear named Clifford and a duck called Grape, and if anyone laid a harmful finger on them then you could be sure that he would toss you from the window.
Tango was a mixed sort – she loved everything, even if she wasn't particularly good at it. She didn't care if she was terrible at it though, judging by the rather muddy looking canvases on the walls and sloppily made clay figures, or wonkily made stuffed toys whose patterns were made from scraps of old clothing, or rather cluttered looking scrapbooks. She loved everything she had created, and was so proud of them that they may have been masterpieces – and Chase believed they were.
X-Ray was just as nerdy as he appeared, although it was less of video games (although Bren was attempting to fix that) and more of dinosaurs. X-Ray knew everything there was to know about the large, and apparently loveable, reptiles, and could talk for hours about the prehistoric beasts if he was allowed. He owned several cartoony plushies of t-rex's and raptors and plesiosaurs and liopleurodon's – Chase honestly couldn't tell the difference – and his walls were decorated in every sort of reptilian poster available.
Alpha – here Chase's cheeks heated up slightly – was a bit of a mystery in the fact that he kept to himself as much as he could. He never answered questions about himself, never talked about what he liked or his goals or his hobbies or interests. Chase only knew a few things about him – he had been specially groomed by Charlemagne, was really good at painting and had a strong love of dogs. Chase was always curious about Alpha, and he noticed how often the red head had to cover his mouth when he smiled or laughed to hide it, or would stop talking after a good thirty seconds and look away uncomfortably, or always looked so tired and bitter when he thought no one was looking…it made Chase so sad to see it.
Maybe Alpha knew how he felt, in some ways, about feeling like the shell of a person – but at the same time, Alpha would never talk to him so openly, and Chase knew that no matter what, Jon wouldn't keep Alpha or any of Strike Squad contained, or hint that they were too dangerous and –
Back to square one. Chase groaned into his pillow. This was stupid, and he knew it. He shouldn't be this goddamn miserable – he wasn't running for his life any more, he wasn't starving, he wasn't watching his friends suffer – but the emptiness was to vast to ignore. Back when he was running and searching, he had a sense of purpose; he had something to do, something to protect, something to work towards. Now, all he had was this stupid pillow, crying and a feeling that he wasn't really there. A feeling that it had all been for nothing and he was still being trapped by everything.
Maybe he just needed a snack to fill that empty hole.
He hoisted himself from the couch, fully prepared to just spend the rest of the night in the kitchens and most of the morning too, when he looked up at the doorway and almost jumped out of his skin.
Alpha stared at him awkwardly, dressed in loose pyjamas with faded dogs on them, standing in the doorway to the common room as if he wasn't quite sure how he got there. They stared at each other for a few moments before Chase found his voice.
"I – I – what are you doing here?" Chase stammered, and hastily continued as Alpha raised an eyebrow. "Not that I'm not happy to see you but – but – weren't you going to that social gathering thing?"
"Obviously not," he replied with ease, making Chase feel even stupider than he already felt. "I've been to too many to want to go to this one, and I was stopping by to see if I left my jumper in here when I saw – well – " he gestured to the couch and the pillow, and Chase averted his eyes.
"Yeah…" he trailed off uncomfortably. "I was – uh – yeah…"
They stood in silence for a few moments, and just when Chase didn't think he could bear it any longer, Alpha began talking again.
"So…why aren't you at the gathering?" he ventured, and Chase's deflated.
"They didn't want me there," he said bitterly, and a look of surprise crossed Alpha's face. "I dunno, thy kept hinting that they didn't need rowdiness and that I wouldn't like it and I got the hint."
"That's…strange," Alpha frowned, giving Chase a considerate look before shrugging and making his way into the Common room, flopping down onto the couch and getting comfortable. "Sit down – there's no point in us both going off and being lonely."
Chase slowly lowered himself back into his position, hardly daring to believe it. He suddenly wasn't alone, and now that he finally had company, he didn't know what to say. Instead, he decided to continue their previous conversation.
"So…how is me not being invited strange?" he asked quietly, and Alpha frowned again. "I mean, I get it – I'm a destructive loudmouth –"
"But that's the thing – you're not," Alpha cut in, and Chase looked stunned. "Really, you're one of the least destructive people I know. All those incidents were accidents and your whole team was involved, and it's not right to single just you out." The red head shrugged, looking away. "You're not even loud, you're just…overenthusiastic and helpful, and that's not a bad thing."
Chase swallowed and looked away. Hearing that should have made himself better – and it did, in a way – but it didn't change the fact that his own friends seemed to think he was too much to handle. Maybe he was too much to handle.
"I suppose," he mumbled, and hurriedly went on to change the subject. "You said you left your jumper here? What does it look like, maybe I have it?"
Alpha gave him a look but went along with the subject change, if grudgingly. The conversation from there went on rather awkwardly from there, with Alpha clutching his found jumper and Chase accidentally muffling his words into his pillow, but it wasn't entirely unpleasant, despite the fact he could feel himself getting sleepy. It was only when Alpha mentioned something rather odd that Chase woke up fully, paying rapt attention to the other teen.
" – I heard the Commandant talking about these old experiments a good decade ago that STORM used to do, which was weird for him to be bringing up suddenly but it was pretty significant. I mean, it was the first time a Commandant had been arrested for it – "
"But STORM still experiments," Chase said cut in. "What sort of experiments where they that the Commandant was arrested?"
Alpha fidgeted and lowered his voice, looking around nervously. "Well, I wasn't supposed to hear anything, and they don't know that I know, so don't tell anyone," he said so nervously that even Chase felt a sense of foreboding. "But apparently they were experimenting with Monsuno essence on humans –"
"Shhh!" Alpha hissed. "Keep your voice down! I –"
They both froze as loud, raucous laughter came from down the hall and suddenly Core-Tech burst in, chattering loudly and happily, unaware of the two sitting frozen on the seat. Alpha gave Chase a quick look and muttering "I'll tell you later" before leaving the room, leaving Chase with a deep sense of suspense and apprehension, not to mention an odd loneliness.
"Chase!" Jinja cried, flopping down on the couch beside him with an easy grin, her dress crinkling as she did so, with Bren throwing himself into an arm chair and Dax and Beyal taking the last sofa. "I wish you could have come, you would have loved it!"
Chase blinked at her. "I thought you said I wouldn't like it –" he was cut off and she continued, seemingly not hearing him.
"It was hilarious! Oh man, Trey tried acting all formal in front of this one old guy and tripped over his own feet –"
"And spilled wine down his short," Bren snickered, and Dax burst into roaring laughter and Beyal laughed in a more restrained way.
"That sounds great, really, but –"
"And there was this one guy –"
"No wait tell him about the –"
"Remember when Bravo –"
"Guys, please!" Chase burst out, standing up, and his team fell silent, staring up at him in slight shock. "I – I'm tired, I have a lot to think about and – and I'm just going to bed." He snatched the couch cushion from the sofa, hurriedly making his way to his room, mind whirring with experiments, betrayal, sickness and the vague sense of vertigo as his friend's eyes staring into his back.
When he closed the door, the chatter slowly started up again, back into its happy swing, but by then Chase had collapsed onto his bed and fallen into uneasy sleep.