Street of Dreams
by Lasha Lee

What is that Earth phrase? You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink?

With enough pressure from outside sources, I could make Luke come to Shadows with me. It wasn't an easy task, but with Luke not much is. The point is that it could be done.

However, once I managed to get him through the door, all bets were off. He was usually so ticked at me that he refused to budge from his seat the entire night, just glancing at his watch every few minutes pointedly, to let me know what a complete waste of time he considered the entire thing.

So tonight, the night of Heero's hypnosis, I didn't even bother trying. I was exhausted emotionally from the excitement of seeing Rosie and Rylan again, from worrying about Heero, from studying at school, from my life in general. And if my so-called boyfriend couldn't even be bothered to voluntarily take an hour away from his computer to spend with me, I had no energy to force the issue. I needed some release, some excitement, some fun.

I was just bored with everything, I realized that night, as I nursed my drink and watched my brother and Gage slow-dancing in the middle of the floor. Bored with Luke's blasé attitude most of all. I looked at Gage and Shan again, jealous. Not just of their relationship, but of the fact that at least to get to this point they'd had some fun along the way, some adventure. I tried to image Luke agreeing to leave the planet for me, and couldn't. I tried to imagine Luke leaving his room for me. I couldn't.

I drained the rest of my drink, swallowing a few ice cubes and some self-pity with it, and sighed.

"Ennui." Gage pronounced, parking himself at my side, and reaching into my glass for the remaining ice cubes, which he began to crunch loudly.

"Humm?" I asked, not really paying him that much attention.

"Ennui. A profound lack of enthusiasm about life in general, a feeling of complete and total boredom with anything and everything."

"I thought that was called apathy."

"No, no, apathy is not caring about anything. Apathy would be not caring if your parents were suddenly eaten by polar bears. Ennui is caring but not being shocked if it happens."

"How much have you had to drink?" I asked suspiciously.

"Nothing yet." He shrugged, grinning. "But the night is young, after all."

"Where's Shan?" I scanned the crowed. As much as I might love Gage, right now I just wanted to be alone to brood.

"I hate to tell you this." He whispered in my ear "But I think he's seeing another twin sister on the side. Either that or he had to go potty."

"Surprised you're not there helping."

"I offered, he declined." He gave me his most devastated look, and I couldn't help it, I laughed.

We sat in silence for a while, watching the other dancers. Shadows was kept dark, but safe. According to Gage security was everywhere, making sure that those who came here were both over the age of 18, and not harassed in any way by the other patrons. "Some rich old coot owns the place." He explained. "They say he lives in the basement and eats people who cause trouble."

"What a crock." I gave him a sweet smile. "He hasn't eaten you yet."

He huffed. "You think I'm joking, don't you?"

"I think if you believe something that silly, then you are definitely not the Gage I know."

"Okay, next rumor. He lives on the second floor, and he never leaves his apartment for anything. He has everything computerized and he can control this entire place if he wants to, but he usually lets his employees handle it."

"If he never leaves, how do you know this?" I challenged.

"Guy I go to school with worked here for a while. He said they got emails from this Mercer guy all the time telling them what to do, but they never saw him. Anything they had for him, they had to leave outside of his door, and he'd only take it after they were gone. Pete says he never saw the dude even once."

"Poor guy. If he hates being around people so much, why on Dera did he start a nightclub?"

"I have no idea. Maybe... maybe he feels better knowing there are people around him, even if he doesn't want to talk to them." Gage reasoned. "Or maybe it's that whole cannibalism thing. He's not eager to meet the meat."

"Stop that. What if he can hear you? What if he does have this entire place bugged and he can hear everything we say right now? You'll hurt his feelings."

"My dear pseudo-sister, we're dealing with a man who seems to have a severe Luke complex going on. I doubt that my comments are going to do much to damage him emotionally."

"That's mean! Just for that I hope he does eat you."

"Now really, what has this man ever done to you? Why would you wish such a horrible fate on him? I taste terrible smothered in gravy, ask anyone. Well, except for Shan. He didn't mind... "

"Enough! I really don't need to hear about that."

"Geesh. You're as uptight as your father." He said with a deep sigh of regret. "Come on. Dance with me until Shan gets back."

"I don't know. I'm not... "

"Please?" He asked, making his eyes as big as possible. "Pretty please?"

I laughed again and took his hand, forgetting about weird old men for a moment and losing myself in the music.

Above the noise, unseen and smiling, Joey Mercer pretended that he was Phantom of the Opera. That his little club was really the Paris Opera house, that his apartment was really a dark, clammy chamber below the Earth. Maybe it wasn't real, but for now he allowed himself the fantasy, a harmless one. He stood in front of the monitor, moving the camera to follow one young woman in particular. God she was beautiful. Twenty feet below him and a thousand miles outside of his reach. He'd watched her before. This was his guilty pleasure, one of the few frivolous things he allowed himself. He could think about her, pretend he had the courage to introduce himself, pretend that he was her Angel of Music and that she'd only be waiting for him her entire life, but in the end, he only did what he always did.

He watched her dance.

Last night I dreamed about Moonboy

I hadn't thought about him in years, at least I've tried not to. Not that the memory of him is painful, far from it. But to remember him is to remember what my life was like back then, and that is what still hurts even after all this time. That loss.

I remember only vaguely when he came to live with us, not long after my sister was born and my beloved old Nana, who had been Nana to my father and even his father, finally passed away. I remember my father introducing me to a young Japanese woman, and telling me that she would be my new Nana. But I was far more interested, I think, in the baby she held in her arms. The birth of my sister had given me an interest in them. He was older than my sister, whom right from the start my father called Sungirl. Old enough to sit up straight in his mother's arms and stare back at me from very deep blue eyes. It was almost unnerving until he smiled, and I knew that when he was big enough to play, we would become friends.

I loved my mother deeply, but she wasn't much for games. That was Nana's job, and we simply took it for granted that that was the way life was. It wasn't long before I adored her as much as I had my first Nana.

Sungirl grew rapidly, as did Nana's son Kato, who was always Moonboy to us. I remember the hardwood floor in our playroom, watching him wobbling around with his diaper falling off of his rear-end, while Nana cheered him on and Sungirl crawled behind as fast as she could make her fat little body move. She was always scooting along after him, wherever he went, just as he was always tagging along behind me.

Kato's father was dead, at least that's what my own father told me when I asked. Maybe that was why he made an extra effort to include Moonboy in whatever he did with his own children. He was a busy man, my father, but we saw more of him than we did our mother, and I remember being much more confident in his love than I was of hers.

Moonboy shared his mother with us, and we in turn shared our father with him, and he was as much my brother as Sungirl was my sister. He loved us as much as we loved him, and he was always asking me questions, wanting to know everything. Like Nana, he had a sweet, gentle heart of gold.

Our little Kato...

He clung to me so tightly, crying for his mother, and on the other side of me was Sungirl, crying for our father, and I would have given anything to have been able to bring them back to us. I was older than they were, though, old enough to know in my heart that those we loved were gone forever. Old enough to know that the three of us were all we had left in the world.

Then even that was shattered. They took them away from me. Pried my arms off of my Sungirl and my Moonboy, and carried them off in separate directions. I was screaming them as much as they were, screaming, crying for my little brother and sister. Above Sungirl's wails I heard Moonboy yelling "Starboy! Don't leave me, Starboy!"

What did they do with you, Moonboy? Where did they take you? Have you had a happy life?

I like to believe that, like Sungirl, you were adopted by kind and loving parents. That you grew up surrounded by brothers and sisters and friends, and that you don't remember that horrible day when they shattered our world.

I try and imagine the man you grew up to be. Strong and proud, raising a family of your own. I have tried to find out, but I never had any luck. You were, to them, only a servant's child. They never bothered to keep any kind of detailed record of where they put you. I don't even know where they buried your sweet mother. I'm sorry.

I think it's normal, in the end, to want to go back to the beginning. Someone once told me that Heaven was tailor-made to everyone. Whatever your idea of paradise was, that was what your eternity would reflect.

So if that's true, then my Heaven is going to be a big field with a creek running along the back. It's going to be summers spent chasing crickets and winters spent building snowforts. Maybe, Kato, you're already there, waiting for me. If not, I promise to wait for you. Someday, you and I and Sungirl and your mother and my father, we'll all be together again. I need to believe that. Sungirl doesn't remember you; I asked her once. But don't be hurt; she doesn't remember me from those days either. She will though. I know it's in her heart just as I know it must still be in your own.

But I do wish I could have seen you again, just once more in this lifetime. I wish I could have introduced you to my daughters and my son. In a morbid moment, I made a list of final regrets, and that's on my list. Starboy still loves you, little brother, little Kato, and I always will.

On to part seven. Back to part five.