The Gundam Beauty Pageant|
42. Male Bonding
Zero held Aneko's shoulders as she, he, and Hoshiko made the trek to the break room. “Charon's sure to let you go see Baku, don't be so nervous.”
Hoshiko's eyes were habitually staring at the floor in front of her, her body politely scrunched as small as she could get it. She followed the hallway up, watching for a wall-
It couldn't be! She screamed at the top of her lungs. “COBRAMARU!”
Cobramaru jumped, making eye contact with Hoshiko only after she had him “lip”-locked. She kissed him as hard as she could… but then he kissed back. And something was wrong.
Her eyes flew open. This wasn't Cobramaru!
Another clawed hand grabbed her arm and pulled her away from Cobramaru Red, and Hoshiko found herself staring at Cobramaru Yellow. “Pass her around.”
Zero and Aneko jumped in front of Hoshiko and brandished their swords, pushing away the four offending Cobramaru brothers. Hoshiko faltered for a moment, mind running at full gear trying to figure out what had happened…
She leaned back on him, breathing in his strong, masculine smell. "It can't be helped, sometimes. I bet you're nothing like any of your siblings."
Cobra sighed, not opening his eyes. "I'm a quintuplet."
Hoshiko's face went deathly green, and she scrambled for a bathroom.
Zero's sword was still at the ready; the brothers eyed him stoically, sizing him and Aneko up. “What are you hooligans doing here?”
Charon raised her hand, alerting the Winged Knight to her presence. “I called them. They're the only people I could think of that could find Cobramaru faster than we could.”
“Speaking…” Cobramaru Blue said in a deep, eloquent tone. “Of our dear little baby brother Purple… where is he, anyway?”
Cobramaru had just recovered from his sobbing fit, and was now sitting alongside Captain at the cliff above the ocean. He was trying to calm himself down, breathing in time with the waves. Captain hadn't said a word the entire time he had been there. The Gundam had simply been staring out into the sea, watching the waves come in and out.
“I…” Cobramaru began to say. “I don't understand it… how does this keep happening to me? I'm not a bad man… so why does fate keep punishing me?”
The snake Gundam kicked up his knee and folded his hands over it. “It didn't start out bad… I actually had a decent life for a while. Invasion after invasion… plenty of work from both sides, a permanent master after a while, and the women-”
He shivered a bit, making a choking noise. “I can't believe it… a few days ago, I would have been proud of that.” He put his leg back down (it was falling asleep). “I can't get her off my mind. I was so sure… I guess that's karma. I broke womens' hearts before, and one finally breaks mine…”
“She loves you,” Captain stated in monotone. “She's afraid to admit it.”
The wind kicked a few leaves up from the forest floor, striking Captain and Cobramaru in the back. Cobramaru scoffed, “Because of that idiot brother of hers, I know.”
“She's not afraid of him, she's afraid of herself. She's afraid of getting attached to someone, then having him abandon her. She's trying to convince herself she doesn't love you, thinking she's saving herself from hurt…
“Really, all she's doing is destroying two lives, hers and yours…”
The silence was cold, wet, and uncomfortable. Cobramaru adjusted his seat again. After a few tense seconds he sighed.
“I just don't know what happened to me.”
“Your life went downhill once you met me.”
“Oh, you're one to talk!” Cobra snapped, eyes flashing. “Mister High-and-mighty, Life-is-perfect Captain Gundam-”
It was like Cobra had punched him. Captain immediately flinched at the word “Gundam”, clutching his chest in pain. Reflexively, Cobramaru's hand shot out to catch him. “Woah! What happened?”
Captain uncurled himself with difficulty, trying to avoid eye contact with Cobramaru. “D-don't call me that.”
“What, Captain Gu-”
Suddenly, the world was on fire. Captain pushed to his feet, moving like a falling meteor over Cobramaru. His fists were clenched, and his eyes were burning. He roared in fury, “YES, THAT!”
Cobra's breathing stopped. All he could concentrate was Captain's massive form looming over him, the surge of pure power that came with Captain's anger.
The rain kept falling, slowly melting the rage away from Captain. He shook his head uncomfortably and sat back down, staring at the ocean until all emotion left his body again. The void did not stay with Captain, though; soon his previous depression had claimed him again. His once-imposing figure faded into nothing. The gleam was from his eyes was gone, the strength of his body was sapped. Even the air around him felt cold. A great Gundam that had lost his dignity; he was a fallen god.
Cobramaru tried to sit back up. Only then did he notice that during Captain's outburst like he had cowered like a beaten animal. Shocked and afraid of being found in this undignified position, he stumbled to a sitting position once again and stared into the ocean, ignoring Captain.
The rain fell. The sea breathed. The trees rustled.
Movement. Cobramaru looked out of the corner of his eye; Captain was nervously rubbing his wrist.
A wave broke.
He couldn't resist.
Captain was deathly quiet, if only for a moment. But that silence said more than words ever could; it told Cobramaru Captain's anguish and sorrow, his shame, his guilt.
Cobramaru looked around. “No I'm n-”
“You're unique,” Captain said more forcefully. “A totally one-of-a-kind individual. That's what you've been told all your life.”
“No it-” He stopped. “Oh.”
“It's everything you know about yourself,” Captain continued. “It's all you know about yourself. You live your entire life, knowing the only thing about you is the fact that there is no one like you in your entire world. You go through every day wondering, but no one will tell you anything. You know better than to ask because you already know the answer. You are alone.
“But then you find someone.”
The winds blew a flower off of one of the trees. It fluttered over Captain's shoulder; he caught it before the rain could strike it down.
Captain lifted his eyes, looking sadly towards the clouds. “Suddenly you're introduced to a whole new world with a single glance.” He closed his eyes, and seemed to take comfort in his own words. “You don't understand what's happening then, but soon you learn that you're not alone. You do belong somewhere…”
A bolt of lightning raced across the sky. Captain eyes snapped open, surprised… and he slowly lowered them again, holding the flower to his chest.
“And just like that, it's gone again.
“You don't know how it happened, you don't know when. The world you thought you belonged to is nothing. You try and try to reason it out, but you can't, and you're left even worse than you were before-”
“You're alone,” Cobramaru finished.
“No.” Captain took a breath. “You learn the real meaning of alone. Alone is solitude, something that people strive for. You can belong somewhere and be alone. You can fix alone.
Captain crushed the flower.
“You're a freak.”
He cast the broken petals into the wind with a violent lash of his arm, holding it out as the wind carried the remnants away.
Cobramaru's eyes snapped to Captain's wrist; it was scarred.
His eyes shrunk in fear. “Captain, no…”
The once-great Captain didn't meet Cobra's eyes; he put his arm down slowly. “I can't even give myself the solace of suicide. What monster is so invulnerable it can't die?”
“N-no- C-C-Captain, not you!”
“Why not?” Captain spoke sternly, finally turning his head to look at Cobramaru. “I'll be like a great artist; no one will miss me until I'm gone.”
“Damn it, man!” Cobra snapped. “What has put this in your he-”
Lightning cracked. Captain opened his face. Cobramaru's words stopped mid-syllable, and the Gundam paused.
“Is that it?”
“I should have warned you before I even said anything,” the half-Gundam half-cried. “I'm not worth listening to. I'm not even a real Gundam.”
Then Captain felt two hands on his shoulders. Cobramaru lifted him to his feet, turning Captain's head to face him. Cobramaru held him comfortably at arms length.
Next thing he knew, Captain was face-first into an oak tree. Fell to the ground stunned; he recovered in an instant, drawing his beam-pole and readying himself for battle.
“Why did you do that?!” he screamed, body still screeching in pain.
Cobramaru was still facing the ocean. Captain didn't move. “Answer me!”
“Go ahead!” Cobra answered. “Strike me down!”
Cobra pulled out his own sword and attacked Captain! The half-Gundam blocked every attack, careful not to lead either of them back to the cliff's edge.
Cobramaru pushed himself closer to Captain's face in one attack; Captain cried, “Why are you attacking me?”
“Answer my questions and I'll answer yours!” Cobramaru hissed.
Captain scowled. “That's not fair!”
Cobra tossed his head. “Tough titty!”
The ninja moved back, signaling it was okay to attack him again. Captain blocked more of Cobramaru's expert blows, and the two exchanged one strong slash before jumping away from each other.
“Why didn't you attack me when I told you to?” Cobramaru hissed.
“Your back was turned!” Captain answered.
“Why didn't you attack me when I was talking to you?”
Captain squirmed uncomfortably. “You're not answering me!”
“You weren't ready!” Captain's eyes screwed shut as he yelled. “PLEASE, just answer me!”
Cobramaru lost his battle stance, standing coolly before Captain. The unashamed show of bravado just made Captain grip his staff tighter, but he didn't move.
“Why do you protect that little human boy?”
Captain lost it; he was directly in front of Cobramaru in less than a second. But he still wouldn't hit him.
“You leave Shute out of this!”
“He's annoying isn't he?”
“He's just young!”
Cobramaru stepped forward, forcing Captain back another two steps. “Why don't you kill him? Get him out of your hair?”
Another step, and Captain fumbled back even farther. His eyes were quivering, and he was beginning to shake. “That wouldn't be right!”
Cobramaru smiled evilly. “Abandon him during a mission? Let him be killed?”
The very thought of it made Captain's Soul Drive radiate pure pain into his chest. Captain winced. Tears fell from his eyes. “NO!”
Cobramaru could feel it. He was close. He stepped forward one more time. “Why not?!”
He got him. Captain jumped back, rising over Cobramaru while he screamed, “Because he needs me!”
“BECAUSE I AM A GUNDAM!”
Cobramaru stepped back. Captain stood there breathing, the words still fresh on his lips.
The rain fell. And so did Captain. He fell to his knees, steadying his body with one hand and covering his eyes with the other, sobbing into the mud.
“You are a Gundam,” said Cobramaru. “A Gundam is made by honor and selflessness, not physicality. You refused to strike me when I couldn't fight back. You honored my right to speak without interruption, and you defended your little human friend even though he wasn't here.”
Captain stopped crying and looked up from the ground. He couldn't believe what he was hearing… that… couldn't be true… but…
“Who cares about that face?” Cobramaru asked him. “Probably the only one who does is that racist slut Maxine. Hell, Captain, I know Gundams who would've given their right arms to be even one-half of the Gundam you are…”
He stopped… and blushed. “Myself included.”
Cobra waited… and finally heard the gentle symphony of Gundam gears. Captain stood up, letting the rain wash the filth off of his body. “So… my face doesn't matter?”
Cobramaru punched Captain again, albeit much softer this time. “COURSE IT DOESN'T FUCKING MATTER, HAVEN'T YOU BEEN PAYING ATTENTION?!”
The ninja grabbed Captain's cheeks; in a panic, Captain closed his faceguard again. This was exactly the reaction Cobramaru was looking for. “Not even this face matters! In case you haven't noticed…”
Cobramaru tapped his mouth… his pointed mouth. Captain gasped, opening his face again. “I didn't notice!”
“Not every Gundam has a flat face, Captain!” Cobramaru pointed out. His face twitched as if he was being reminded of something, and the twitch morphed into a smile. “Some women prefer the pointed mouth.”
“They do?” Captain felt a spark of hope in his chest- until it came crashing down on him again. “Oh god, Maxine…”
“Forget about her,” Cobra explained. “She's a gutless, spineless, racist coward. If there's anyone hear who isn't a Gundam, it's her.”
Captain Gundam nodded dumbly, the wave of emotions finally taking a toll on his systems. He rubbed his head lightly, covering his eyes to protect them from the rain. It was all too much… and too soon. His head was spinning. He felt tired all of the sudden; he needed to sleep, and then everything would be fine-
Captain pushed Cobramaru into the forest; Cobra looked up just in time to see a HUGE form, something with four legs and one eye, grab Captain by the neck and hold him above its head! “CAPTAIN, NO!”
The lightning cracked! ON CAPTAIN!
All Cobramaru saw was the lightning make contact with Captain's v-fin. The rest was a bright white flash of light that physically threw Cobramaru back five feet. He slammed lengthwise against a tree, then fell to the ground.
Everything else was black…
And the rain fell.