Street of Dreams
by Lasha Lee

So do you want to know my opinion on what happened that night? I was there and I can tell you. If I wasn't old enough to understand all of it at the time, I understood enough. I saw enough. People never seem to realize how much small children pick up from the world around them.

I was excited that night, in my new dress and white shoes, in my father's arms. The conversation earlier had comforted me in a way that I didn't quite understand, but I could look at my mother now without that feeling of horrible dread overwhelming me. Maybe because my father had been honest with me about it; he hadn't lied to me and tried to sugar-coat it. Yes, my mother could die when the baby was born, but she probably would not, and that probably meant more to me than flat-out denial ever could. I could even think now about what it would be like to have a baby brother around the house.

Mostly, I was excited that I was going to get to stay up late, and eat lots of cake, and that Gage had promised to dance with me. I felt like a princess as we stepped out of the transporter and into the dimly lit club. Now if it had all just stopped there, the night would have been perfect.

A girl can dream, can't she?

Joey had spared no expense on the party for Meishel's friend's and family, and Duo felt guilty about that. Clearly this kid was willing to do anything to impress Wufei's young daughter and here they were taking advantage of it. The feeling lasted right up until the point where he actually met Joey himself. In spite of his timidness, Duo immediately sensed the quite strength within the boy and didn't think anyone would be able to take advantage of him easily.

Joey greeted them all as they filed into his apartment, and Duo watched in amusement as the elder Changs met their daughter's new friend for the first time. Denea was her normal, easy-going self during the introductions, while Wufei was so stiff and formal he could have doubled as a diving board.

Duo thought maybe he should feel flattered; it was clear that Wufei, while having nothing against Joey, would consider no one but Luke a suitable match for Meishel. His body language was making that quite clear. He'd spent the last few years expecting the youngest Maxwell to become his son-in-law and wasn't giving up on that dream as easily as Meishel and Luke apparently had.

Nadia's eyes were huge as she took in all the computers, and she had charmed Joey by asking him a dozen questions about their use and function. He answered her seriously, never once even giving the indication that he simply thought her an amusing child, and in doing so had earned himself an instant friend. He'd also won over her parents in the process, who were pleased to meet someone who recognized what a genius their young daughter was.

But Joey stayed behind in the room as they all filed downstairs to eat and dance and enjoy themselves. He had insisted they do so, and it meant so much to him that they'd finally agreed to have a good time even if he could not be a part of it.

Joey and Meishel sat side by side, watching her family on the monitors, laughing now and then. "Come on, go down there." Joey pleaded. "I feel bad about you missing it all. They're having a blast."

"So am I. Do you know how rarely I get a chance to spy on these knuckleheads? Ewww, did my dad just pick his nose???"

"No, he was scratching it. I promise." Joey winked at her. "But your Mom...?"

"My mother does not pick her nose. She will however break someone else's if they make her mad enough."

"Ah, so you get your violent nature from her, do you? I wondered about that."

She pushed him a little bit, and then fell forward against him as he moved backward. "See?" He grinned. "Beating up on your poor host. Aren't you ashamed of yourself?"

She felt her heart skip a beat as she looked up into his odd, golden eyes. "You promised to dance with me, Mercer. I can get even more violent when I don't get what I want."

He examined her for a minute, and then stood up and held out his arms. "Come and get your dance then, Chinagirl. Never let it be said I can't keep a promise."

She moved into his embrace, and they began swaying in time with the music. She could hear his steady breathing, and the rustle of her dress against the stiff fabric of his shirt.

"You're pretty good for a rookie." She said after a minute, tilting her head back. "Have you been practicing behind my back?"

"No, just watching you. Letting my imagination run wild. This is the best VR I've ever experienced."

She snorted and he swung her around slightly to the left. "Sorry to disappoint you, but I'm the real deal."

The music changed.

They barely noticed.

She moved close and closer against him, until his lips were barely brushing against hers, and then suddenly he pulled back, his eyes on the monitor behind him. "What the hell is going on down there?"

"I'm going upstairs to get her."

"No, you are not. Meishel is a grown woman. Let her spend time with her friend if she wants to."

"It's not right. She and Luke...?"

"Are over, Wufei." Duo popped a piece of cake into his mouth. "Luke, for whatever reason, ended their relationship and you know it. I'm not happy about it either, but it's the truth and Meishel is apparently moving on with her life."

"If we could just sit them down together and talk to them, I know we could convince them to work it out." Wufei was refusing to give up as he stared moodily out into the dance floor. "They're supposed to be together."

"Wow, since when do you believe in star-crossed lovers, Wufei? You know, not every childhood romance works out once childhood ends. People do grow up and change. You're just afraid to risk her on someone you don't know."

"That isn't true. I want her to be happy."

"Then ask yourself this, did Luke make her happy? And be honest. You know I'm biased where my own kid is concerned, but was she really happy with him, Wufei?"

"She could have been." He sounded defeated. "Maybe I was the only happy one. I loved the idea of my daughter marrying your son."

"Me too." Duo raised up his glass. "Here's to kids who insist on thinking for themselves and spoiling all our plans."

Wufei clinked his own glass against Duo's. "Here's to being able to say 'I told you so' when they realize what a mistake they've made."

"Here here."

Duo looked up at the dance floor again. "Ahem, is that your wife dancing with my husband?"

Wufei took a glance himself. "It appears to be. We should definitely do something about that."

"Agreed. Care to dance?"

"I meant we should go cut in!"

"Another dream up in smoke."

It was good to see her girls relaxing, Lucrezia decided. They weren't exactly cutting it up in the middle of the room, but they were smiling and laughing. It was good to see them eating, too. Meg was perhaps drinking a little bit more than her mother would have liked, but it was a party, she was old enough, and there was no reason she should having a little fun. She'd been worried about their health taking a nose-dive along with their father's. She'd tried to nag them as much as possible, but they were both adults and there was only so much a mother's nagging could accomplish now.

She looked over at Gage, who was busy making a cake tower, his forth one of the night. She wasn't sure exactly where he managed to put it all, but the sugar had definitely started to affect him. He was all over the place like a jackrabbit, talking to Heero and Duo, dancing with Shan, teasing Amy. He did not speak to Meg, but she noticed he wasn't trying to torment his sister either. In fact, behind her back he'd even given Meg a few hopeful glances, as if he wanted to approach her and wasn't sure how.

She made her way over to him, and waited until he'd swallowed the mountain of cake. He glanced down at her, and for just a second time ran backwards and it was Milliardo's eyes she was looking into. Then he spoke and the illusion vanished.

"What's on your mind, Stepmommy Dearest?" It wasn't said in a mean way, and she chose not to take it in a mean way. She was beginning to at last understand that much of what Gage said was meant to tease and not antagonize, and that many times he truly did not seem to understand the difference. At his side, Shan watched her carefully, the warrior in his eyes alert but not at arms.


"Go talk to Meg." She urged him. "I know you want to."

He frowned. "I don't want to fight with her tonight." He looked over at Relena and Gerry who were now talking to Heero about something or other. "I'm trying to mend some fences here, not tear them all down."

"I know. She doesn't want to fight with you either. I caught the tail- end of a conversation between her and Amy. She's willing to try, but she doesn't know how."

"Fine, I'll try. But I am in no way, shape, or form promising you any positive glowing results, unlike toothpaste, politicians, and your last weight-loss program."

"I beg your pardon?" She put her hands on her hips, but he just gave her that infuriating wink and strolled off toward Meg.

"He really is trying." Shan spoke up, startling her. "Thank you for trying to meet him halfway. I know that's not easy for you, but it means a lot to him."

"You know, if Milliardo had just told me the truth from the beginning...? I think I really could have learned to love that boy."

"It's not too late." Shan squeezed her arm. "It's never too late for that."

Immediately Gage noticed the smell of alcohol on Meg's breath, and later on he knew that should have warned him away. She wasn't staggering, falling-down drunk, but left alone with her own thoughts she'd managed to put more than few drinks away this evening.

"Everyone seems to think...?" He began after a moment "That you and I could be the best of friends if we just sit down and talk."

"Everyone should mind their own business."

"Agreed, but I think we are their business." He gave her a half- smile. "So how about it? Would you care to dance with your brother?"

"I would if I had one."

"Now, now, don't be like that. I'm not thrilled about it either but we are what we are. Come, dance with me." And let's get you away from the liquor, he thought privately, as he tried to take her arm.

"Don't ever touch me!" She shouted, jerking her arm back. "Don't you ever touch me."

"Okay, okay, no touching." Gage held out both of his hands in surrender, noticing that the music had stopped and his family was quickly approaching them. "I can respect that. But at least go get some food. I think you've had enough of the happy fun stuff." He pointed at a cup in her hand. "You don't need to drink any more of that."

"You're right, I don't." Meg glanced at her drink and then flung the contents at her brother's chest. "Much better."

Shan jumped forward, but Gage held up his hand, and Shan noticed his mate was actually laughing at the red stains on his clothing. "Agreed. Infinitely better. Better on me than in you, Meggy. Your liver will thank both of us. See? Having a brother can be very useful at times."

Everyone around Gage began to laugh then, and Meg gave them a furious glare. They were all mocking her; her aunt and uncle, her sister. Even her mother was snickering behind her hand. The alcohol was making it hard to think clearly, but she knew that once again they were choosing Gage over her. She could even hear Nadia's high- pitched giggles in with everyone else's.

"Shall I pour you another one?" Gage offered sweetly. "I think you may have missed a spot." He pointed at his pants. Everyone laughed again, and Amy took Meg's arm. "Come on, let's go outside."

Meg shook her away.

"Yeah, Gage, everyone thinks you're really funny. Did Chester think you were funny too?"

Gage stopped laughing, and the room grew silent. "What did you just say?"

Seeing her mark had hit home, Meg pushed forward. "I said, did Chester think you were funny too? Did you tell him jokes while he was doing it to you? Did he think his little whore was good for a laugh?" She looked out at the people around them. "He used to let this guy screw him for comics and stuff. Did he ever tell you about that? That he was a whore? I heard Aunt Relena talking about it earlier tonight."

"MEGAN!" Relena yelled. "That's ENOUGH!"

Gage was as pale as his hair as he whipped around to face his foster mother, who was staring at him in pity. "You...? you KNEW?" His voice cracked. "You fucking KNEW?

"Gage...?" She was shaking her head. "I didn't know until afterward, honey, after he was dead."

"Who told you?" He spat out. He didn't even notice as Shan jumped forward, grabbing his mate as he stumbled forward and holding on tightly.

"Milliardo. He found out. I don't know how he found out, but he did."

"All these years...?" Gage turned around in a slow circle, and Shan moved with him. "All these years...? all these years I bit my lip and I swallowed my pride and I did everything I could think of to make sure you never found out and you fucking knew the entire time? Who else did you tell?"

"No one. Gage, we never talked about, ever."

"MAYBE I WANTED TO TALK ABOUT IT!" Gage screamed, his face red now. "Maybe I needed to talk about it! Maybe I ended up a fucking junkie because I couldn't talk about it!"


He ignored her, glaring at the rest of them. "Who else knew?" His voice was lethal. "Did you all know?"

Duo and Heero were shaking their heads in bewilderment, and Duo was reaching for him, but he jerked back, his eyes on Wufei, who did not look away.

"I found out while you and Shan were missing." The man's voice was quiet, broken. "Your mother didn't tell me, so don't blame her for it. More people knew about Chester than you realized."

"I'm beginning to see that." He was trembling, and Shan's arms were locked tightly around him.

"Who is Chester?" Duo asked. "Gage...?"

"Ask them!" He pointed at Relena and Gerry. "They can tell you. They can tell you all about my good buddy Chester! So, which one of you killed the SOB?"

"You don't need to know that." Gerry spoke for the first time. "Let it go, Gage."

"Let it go...? I've been trying to let it go for years now. You let me think it was all my fault! You let me die inside every day because YOU were ashamed of what he'd done to me! You were embarrassed!"

"That's not true!" Gerry was furious. "We were trying to protect you. We were trying to protect...?"

"Who? My real father? He killed him, didn't he? Dear old dad to the rescue. I thought if he ever knew he'd never even look at me again! Do you know what it's like to live with that? No, you don't. It didn't affect your lives, did it? Everything for you went on like it always had!"

"That is not fair, Gage." Lucrezia cut in.

"You knew too, huh? So you knew, my father knew, my fake parents knew, my sisters knew, hell, even my father-in-law knew. Well, fuck all of you! You can all go to hell! That's what I know!"

"Shan...?" Wufei started, but his son held up his hand. "No, Baba. Not now. Come on, Gage. I'll take you home. Let's get out of here. And you...?" he turned around and gave Meg a glare so full of venom the young woman took a step backward. "If you ever come anywhere near him again, I'll tear you to shreds!"

With Gage leaning heavily against his shoulder, Shan half-carried him toward the transporter. When he was almost there, he was aware suddenly of Meishel appearing at Gage's other side. She put her own arm around him, and the three of them vanished into the small box.

On to part thirty-four. Back to part thirty-two.