Genard Alouette went into his infant son's bedroom and closed the door behind him. He leaned against the door and shut his eyes with a sigh. He shook his head and tried to figure out just where his brain went because he sure as hell couldn't find it. Five words kept repeating themselves over in his mind as he stood there, and he didn't know what to do about it.
'I am such an idiot!'
He opened his eyes and went over to his son's crib. He smiled lovingly at the six-month-old baby and reached in to run a gentle finger over the soft blond fuzz on the tiny head. Jean-Pierre stirred in his sleep at the touch, but didn't awaken. Genard marveled, for the millionth time since Jean-Pierre was born, just how much the boy looked like his mother. He looked absently at the picture of CJ hanging above the crib and sighed again. He was doing his best to raise their son on his own, but at times like this he really missed her. Really wished she hadn't died.
A light tap on the door pushed the thoughts out of Genard's mind. He went across the room and opened the door to find his good friend Claude Potier standing on the other side.
"Wanna talk 'bout it?" Claude asked.
Genard sighed. Claude had always been more of a big brother to him than just a friend, and it wasn't often they kept secrets from each other, but Genard tried to brush it off anyway, even though he knew it wouldn't work. "Talk 'bout what?"
"Don' gimme dat, G. You know exactly what I'm talkin' 'bout. You took off real quick after de countdown...what were you an' Zoe doin' on de balcony anyway?"
"You're not gon' leave me alone until I tell you..." Genard commented. Claude nodded. "Okay fine. Jus'...let's go to my room. I don' wan' wake him."
The two friends walked down the silent hallway to Genard's bedroom. Once there, Claude turned the desk chair around and straddled it, leaning on the back and facing Genard, who sat down on his bed and started tracing the maroon and cream pattern with his fingers. They sat there in a slightly uncomfortable silence until Genard asked a question.
"Ever feel like you ain' in control of anythin' in your life?"
Claude blinked and then laughed. "Of course. None of us has any control over de t'ings dat happen, G. If we did, d'you t'ink any of what's happened in our lifetimes would have happened?"
"I s'pose not. But right now I feel like such an idiot...b'cause I honestly don' t'ink I'm even in control of what comes out of my mouth!"
"What do you mean? Of course you're in control of what you say. Dat's one of de few t'ings we actually have control over. I t'ink dat's why Emil keeps gettin' in trouble wit' Gris. He knows de t'ings he says make Gris angry, but he chooses to say dem anyway. It's a choice."
Genard raised an eyebrow. He lay back on his bed, pillowing his head in his hands and staring at the ceiling. "Control over what I say. Yeah. Right."
"Okay why don' you start at de beginnin' an' den tell me why you feel like an idiot. I might be able to help you." Claude suggested.
Genard sat back up and looked at his friend squarely. His brown eyes met Claude's green ones and neither one looked away. "Level wit' me first."
"Do you have any idea what goes on in de minds of de women who live in dis household wit' us?"
Claude laughed and shook his head. "Not a clue, mon ami. I gave up tryin' to understand 'em once de assassins moved in. I t'ink I can honestly say if you were to ask all de guys here, none of us would have de slightest idea. Why?"
Genard got up and went over to his window, pulling the curtains back and looking out at the night sky. His voice was quiet and serious when he spoke again. "Zoe tol' me tonight dat she loves me. Judgin' from de way she's been actin', I t'ink she has for a long time, she jus' didn' tell anyone. It took a lot for her to tell me tonight, I t'ink she's been workin' up to it for awhile. In fact I know she has. So I kissed her. I had to do somethin', I couldn' jus' leave it hangin' dere like dat...but I couldn' say it back..."
"Whoa..." Claude breathed. This was much bigger than anything he imagined it to be. "Well...how do you feel?"
"Like de world's biggest idiot who don' know his own mind." Genard laughed sadly, moving back over and sitting down again, tears springing to his dark eyes. "An' de truth is, I don'."
"What did Zoe say...?"
"She said she'd wait. For me to take it one day at a time. But who am I to make her wait for somethin' dat might not even come?" Genard demanded, a helpless tone in his voice. "I mean...dieu...Claude she said dose words...she said I love you. What if I can' ever say it back to her? How could I put her through dat?"
Claude shook his head and sighed in exasperation. "Genard. Two words, okay? Shut. Up. You're lookin' at de negative side of all dis. What if you can say dose three little words back to Zoe? Do you actually t'ink CJ wants you to spend de rest of you life hangin' on to her memory? I know as well as you do dat some part of you is always gon' love CJ. Dat's inevitable, seein' as dat little boy down de hall is gon' remind you of her every single day of your life. But G, dat doesn' mean CJ's de only woman you can ever love. You have to figure out what you want an' if you decide dat what you want is to try a relationship wit' Zoe, den dat's what you gotta do."
Genard thought about what Claude said to him as he lay in his dark bedroom late that night and tried to sleep. He was failing miserably and was still at a total loss for what to do. He turned on the light on the end-table beside his bed and shoved back the covers. He pulled on his tan bathrobe and walked across the room to the window. He absently shoved his glasses up on his nose, an act that was as automatic and natural to him as breathing, and sighed as he looked out at the stars.
"He's right. I have to figure out exactly what de hell's goin' on inside my head an' heart b'fore I do somethin'...or don' do somethin'...I'll regret." He muttered to the moon. He ran one hand through his wavy blond hair and turned away from the window again. He sat back down on his bed and sighed again.
Down the hallway, Zoe Ishihara was standing by her own bedroom window, her body clothed in loose fitting pink silk pants and a matching kimono with an intricate design. She was unable to sleep as well, and went over the night's events again and again in her mind. The more she thought about it, the more she wished she hadn't told Genard the truth. She stared at the moon and blinked back unwanted tears. She had not expected Genard to reciprocate the feelings, given how little time had passed since CJ had died. However, she also had not expected him to kiss her, or for it to feel as good as it did. She was confused by her own feelings and by his actions.
'If you wan' get to de bottom of dis, talk to him.'
The voice appeared in Zoe's mind very suddenly, but she wasn't overly surprised by it. Bella Donna was a telepath and made it a habit of keeping tabs on the Guild members, especially if something seemed to be amiss. She wouldn't speak to Genard without his knowing she'd been listening to his thoughts, but it was different with the female members. They were like sisters and didn't often keep things from each other.
Zoe nodded and sighed. 'I'm scared, Bel...'
A gentle laugh. 'So's he. An' he's awake too, so why not at least start to try an' figure dis out so maybe you can bot' get some sleep?'
'You're right, as always. Thanks.'
Zoe closed her curtains and crossed her bedroom. She paused at the door with her hand on the doorknob. She was having second thoughts about speaking with Genard again so soon, but then she remembered Bella Donna's words and resigned herself. She opened the door and walked out into the hallway, softly closing the door behind her so she wouldn't wake anyone else up. Letting out a deep breath, she started walking down the hall towards Genard's bedroom.
Genard was still sitting on his bed when he sensed Zoe coming down the hall. The thieves were very in tune to each other's presence and could feel when one of the others was close by. He wasn't surprised when the light knock came on his door moments later.
"C'min." Genard said in reply to the knock. Zoe entered the room and smiled shyly at him. Genard gestured at the same chair Claude had sat in less than two hours before. "Have a seat."
Zoe sat and looked at him. "I'm sorry..."
Genard shook his head. "Don' be...if anythin' I'm de one who should be sorry...I s'pose you're confused..."
"Well...you could say that."
"I didn' mean for dat to happen...I was talkin' to Claude 'bout dis...he said I had to figure out what I want an' act accordin'ly. T'ing is, I feel like I'm bein' torn in half an' quite frankly it scares me."
Zoe sighed quietly. "Is that why you did one thing and said the exact opposite?"
Genard got up and went over to his window again. "I want you to understand...but dat's crazy b'cause I don' understand myself." There was frustration in his voice.
Zoe moved from her seat and stood by him, resting her hand lightly on his shoulder. "None of this would have happened if I hadn't told you..." She said, her voice barely above a whisper. She could feel his body tremble and realized he was trying to keep control over the sobs that were threatening to escape. She closed her eyes briefly and wrapped her arms around him. "Hey...it's okay..."
Genard sighed deeply and swallowed his sobs. "No it ain', Zoe!" He exclaimed. "It's so complicated dat it can' be okay...not right off de bat..."
He turned around and looked at her, the intensity of everything he was feeling showing plainly in his brown eyes. "B'fore CJ came into my life, I never knew what it was like to love someone...to feel dat way. I know t'ings are diff'rent in Tokyo, but here...most of us ever really saw or experienced dat kinda relationship b'fore...t'ings jus' started changin' recently for us all, you know dat, you've been here."
"I know how much you love her, Genard." Zoe interjected quietly.
"I know." He nodded. "But she was taken from me, Zoe...in de end it didn' matter how much we loved each other, nothin' could stop her from dyin'. I watched her die an' it broke my heart. I really t'ink part of me died wit' her. I know she's never gon' really be gone, b'cause she'll always be alive in our son, but I can' help bein' scared...afraid to open up an' let myself feel dat way 'bout anyone 'gain...I know it sounds crazy..."
Zoe laughed gently. "No it doesn't. If you ask me, it makes sense. But that only takes care of part of it. If you feel that way, why did you kiss me?"
It was Genard's turn to laugh. "B'cause somethin' else Claude said to me earlier is true too. I know CJ wouldn' want me to let de rest of my life pass me by jus' for de sake of her memory. It's strange, but we've all witnessed so much heartache an' so many relationships get destroyed over de years by one t'ing or another, an' yet it never seems to stop any of us if de chance presents itself. Why is dat?"
"We may be criminals, but we're still human." Zoe explained. "When I first came here seeking asylum from The Pig, I was just an excommunicated thief from a foreign country. I didn't fit in here. While some might have felt bad about that, I used it as an opportunity to watch the rest of you. And you know what I saw?"
"I saw a group of people living a hard life. People who'd lost more than their fair share of everything good in this world. People who, in spite of all the bad stuff, never forgot that they still had each other. You cherish, love and respect each other more than any other group of people I've ever known in my life. What you guys have, nothing can ever take away from you." Zoe said. "I've always felt honored to be considered part of your family now. What I'm saying is, love is something everybody needs, no matter what form it comes in. Nobody can live without it."
"How is it you always manage to be right, chere?" Genard asked, savoring the feel of the silk fabric of her kimono under his fingers.
She smiled up at him, her dark eyes shining. "It's a gift. But I'm not confused anymore. Are you?"
Genard surprised them both by leaning over and catching her lips with his in a slow, gentle kiss that soon grew deeper and more intense. Zoe moaned softly as she returned the kiss, losing herself in the moment. They remained in the embrace for what seemed like a very long time, until Genard finally broke it and looked at her. "What happened to one day at a time...?"
"Still applies, doesn't it?"
"Oh yeah. Of course. Always does." He smiled. "But wit' one diff'rence den when we talked 'bout it b'fore."
Zoe raised her eyebrows questioningly at him, unsure exactly what he was getting at. "A difference?"
"Oui. I love you."
Zoe blinked, astonished by what she'd just heard. "But...but Genard...you...couldn't say that just a few hours ago...what changed?"
Genard shrugged and chuckled. "I talked to Claude, did some t'inkin', an' talked to you. CJ would want me to stop hangin' on to de past an' move on wit' my life. She'd want me to be happy. An' as far as I can figure at dis point, bein' wit' you makes me happy."
The next morning, Claude knocked on Genard's bedroom door and wasn't surprised when he opened it to find Genard playing peek-a-boo with his son. Jean-Pierre got no end of joy out of the game, much to his father's amusement. Claude was glad to notice the peaceful, content look on his friend's face and wanted to know what had brought it on.
"You certainly seem happier dis mornin'." He observed with a smile.
Genard smiled back, ending the game and picking Jean-Pierre up. "I am." He agreed, following Claude out of the room and down the hallway towards the large staircase.
"Didja figure anythin' out?" Claude asked as they walked down the stairs and headed for the kitchen, where Mercy was preparing breakfast.
"Actually yeah. Didn' get any sleep until 'bout four a.m. so I had plenty of time to t'ink an' stuff. Talked to Zoe for awhile too." Genard admitted, putting the baby in his high-chair. He laughed when Claude tried to steal a piece of bacon out of the frying pan and only succeeded in getting his hand slapped by Mercy, who glared at him before turning her attention to Genard.
"An'? What's de verdict?" She asked, tossing her long blonde ponytail and pointedly ignoring Claude, except to repeatedly slap his hand away from the bacon.
"I'm gon' stop livin' in de past. Gon' do what makes me happy. An' right now, bein' wit' Zoe makes me happy, so dat's what I'm gon' do. 'Sides, Jean-Pierre here adores her, so I can' go wrong. Mercy for cryin' out loud, if you'd let him have a piece of dat bacon, he'd leave you alone."
Mercy smiled. "I'm very proud of you, Genard. An' I know he would, but dat's not de point."
Claude pouted. "Why'm I bein' talked 'bout like I ain' in de room?"
"B'cause you're tryin' to steal Mercy's bacon, dat's why." Genard laughed.
"Well I'm hungry..."
"You're always hungry!" Mercy and Genard retorted in unison.
"Oh yeah..." Claude blinked, leaving Mercy and the bacon alone and setting the table while Genard got Jean-Pierre's breakfast ready. "Well for what it's worth, I'm proud of you too. It wasn' dat hard, was it."
"No, it wasn'. Go figure. I jus' had to open my heart, I guess." Genard said, his voice thoughtful. "It's still a scary t'ing, but if we take it one day at a time, we should be okay."