I’ll be home for Christmas... you can count on me
The five pilots are sitting together in a diner, crammed in around a too-small table. They aren’t sure where they are exactly, but it doesn’t really matter. Food is food, and the coffee is hot, if not a bit too acidic. Over the radio, Christmas music is playing, lyrics making promises of arrivals to a place that none of these boys have. A heavy cloud of resentment settles over the table as they listen, eyes downcast, frowns hidden behind coffee mugs, behind slowly chewing mouths, behind napkins.
The lyrics are, appropriately, written from the perspective of a war solider, either to family or a significant other. It rubs them the wrong way because the title of solider still sits heavy on their shoulders, and though the war is over, none of them have homes to return to - some of them never had homes to begin with. It seems odd that a song written generations before still holds relevance so many years later.
Having seen so much death and destruction, it’s difficult to understand how anyone could make such a promise to a loved one. The nature of war is that it is unpredictable. Even the greatest military strategists can’t always estimate every move of the enemy, and suddenly a battle won is a battle lost. Each of the five boys at the table knows that better than they should, saddled with the knowledge that there is a finite number of lives they are responsible for.
The tension seems to seep away as the song comes to an end, but conversation is limited, at best. Duo asks for another cup of coffee, even though he’s pretty sure that it’s giving him an ulcer. Quatre asks for a new pot of hot water for his tea. Heero orders a piece of the bumbleberry pie that’s sitting in the display case on the counter. Trowa is drawing designs in the cold coffee spilled on the table in front of him, the tepid liquid a faint beige from the addition of too much cream. Wufei sits with his arms crossed over his chest, observing the other diners as they lean close across tables and talk quietly - and in some cases non-too-quietly - amongst themselves.
It’s unusual to be sitting amongst so much normality. These people act as though their lives were never in jeopardy from a falling colony; as though their cities and towns were never occupied by soldiers and manufacturing plants that churned out massive machines of death and destruction.
The waitress stops by, drops off a plate of pie and a pot of hot water, and slops some fresh coffee into Duo’s cup before heading off to check on her other tables.
Life goes on.
Her next trip past, Wufei indicates for the check, and a moment later she’s deposited the folded paper on the table without a word, a hastily scrawled thanks for your business on the back. Without a word they all pull out their wallets, tossing down a few bills to cover the tab and the tip.
Wherever they are, it’s cold enough for snow, and they all pull their jackets tight as they slide out of the booth and head into the street. They huddle together briefly a few steps away from the door before breaking off one by one in different directions. No one knows if they’ll see each other again; it seems like an important thing to know, but they don’t.
The snow is falling hard, and the jingling of bells filters through the din of noise on the street.