Faraway from the sounds of the milling throng, a lone figure lingered over a smoldering fire. His thick, brown bangs fell away from his face as he looked up at the starry net overhead. As he watched the celestial display, an unbidden image sprang to mind--one of a blonde boy painted red and gold by the dying light of a desert sunset, his eager face turned towards the darkening sky as thousands of stars winked brightly above him.
A hint of a frown crossed Trowa Barton's face as he turned his attention to the fading flames before him. Why was he thinking about him so much lately? That part of his life had ended so long ago, and he was a different person now.
After the war, Trowa had drifted around for a long while, not really knowing what to do with his life. In truth, he hadn't considered the prospect of surviving, and had never thought about the future. It quickly became obvious that the world he and his comrades had fought to preserve no longer had any use for them. The former Heavyarms pilot had slipped easily into a downward spiral from that point, drifting from one colony to the next, never staying in one place too long. The reality of his grim situation had hit him hard when he'd found himself living in a shack on some forsaken outpost of the L3 colony, the scant money he'd earned doing odd jobs being the only thing between him and starvation. Lacking the optimism of some, he'd sunk further and further into depression.
Then he'd seen an old, tattered flyer for Catherine's circus.
As much as he loved her, Trowa couldn't bring himself to go to her after the war was over. She had her own life to live, and Trowa wasn't going to burden his sister with the care of a burned-out, disillusioned soldier. At that time, he'd thought she was better off without him. After he had seen the half-shredded ad, he'd realized he wasn't better off without her. The flyer proved to be the lifeline that saved Trowa from the oblivion to which he was headed.
Three years had passed since then, and Trowa's life was certainly more pleasant than it was. He had a job which he enjoyed, and a far steadier income than before. He had a solid roof over his head, food to eat, and best of all, he had Catherine and her young sons. For all intents and purposes, Trowa had dropped out of society, concerning himself only with life in the circus. He didn't really know what was going on in the world outside of it, and he didn't care. After all he'd went through, he felt he was entitled to such an unencumbered existence.
Sighing, Trowa poured the last of the coffee onto the fire and walked to the trailer he called home. It was small and sparsely furnished, but he was comfortable in it. He washed his face and slipped into a clean t-shirt and boxers before sliding his lean, leggy frame under the covers. After he switched off the tiny lamp next to his bed, the insipid moonlight splattered over the bed and the floor. The silvery light seemingly triggered some long forgotten memory deep in his subconscious, because Trowa was suddenly overwhelmed by a bitter pang of loneliness. He turned to the wall, trying desperately to quell the inexplicable ache. It was a long time before sleep claimed him.
The muted clink of dishes woke him. He blinked sleepily in the glaring sunlight pouring from the window over his bed and sat up reluctantly. Catherine was just putting the finishing touches on the breakfast table, and she smiled when she saw he was awake. "I thought you were going to sleep all day," she teased. He shot her a sour look and she laughed. "Breakfast will be ready soon," she called out as she walked back outside. Groaning softly, Trowa wearily crawled out of the narrow bed and shuffled off to the cramped bathroom to clean up.
Catherine was sitting at the table pouring herself a cup of coffee when he emerged, freshly shaven and dressed. Her face lit up when she saw him, causing a faint smile to touch his lips. "You are in good spirits this morning," he muttered.
"It's afternoon, lazybones," she gently scolded. "And yes, I am happy. I have good reason to be." She pushed a letter across the table. "The circus had been invited to participate in a fundraiser for a children's hospital. It's being held on the estate of some wealthy businessman. I hear he used to be a cabinet minister of Relena Peacecraft's."
Peacecraft. His green eyes dulled as he picked up the sheet of fine paper and read it. "Why us?"
Catherine looked at him in exasperation. "Why not us?"
Trowa fixed her with his penetrating stare. "I just don't like it."
Catherine continued, unfazed. "You're just being stubborn," she countered as she passed him a plate of bacon and eggs. "Oh, come on Trowa! It'll be good publicity and it's for a good cause. It'll be fun. You'll see."
The young man silently picked at the food before him. He didn't care to associate with any government official, whether former or current, but it didn't matter. It was Catherine's circus and therefore her decision overruled any misgivings he might have had. Again, as it was in the past, he felt there was nothing to do but let fate have its way with him.
The two weeks prior to the fundraiser passed in a blur of activity, and soon the troupe found themselves on the estate's beautiful grounds. Catherine was met by a small group of people involved in the fundraiser's planning when they arrived, and they whisked her away to discuss the finer details of the event. While she was gone, Trowa found himself in the company of his 4-year-old nephews. Babysitting was the one chore he loved to perform. Their own dad had died when they were two, and Trowa had more or less become a surrogate father to them. He was tearing after the boys in a game of tag a little piece away from the trailers, and he wasn't aware of the jeep at the edge of the camp until he heard his sister call him.
"Trowa! There's someone here to meet you!"
He beckoned to the boys to follow him and made his way over to where Catherine stood. As he approached, he noticed she had the oddest grin on her face, as if she knew something he didn't. Trowa looked toward the jeep in time to see the driver emerge.
Sunlight softly gleamed on dark hair and glimmered in a pair of intense, dark-blue eyes.