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Posted as [ profile] serenissima, December 25, 2005, for the [ profile] yuletide challenge.

Title: Brothers In Arms
Author: serenissima
Recipient: lilacsigil
Fandom: Top Ten (Comic)
Rating: G, Steve/Wulf, Frank/Leni
Summary: Spoliers for the first two seasons and the prequel to Top Ten.
"What is believable after war, in siren's silence when we hear our hearts again except nothing. Except everything.” - Top Ten:The Forty-Niners
Four friends, two couples, and six decades in Neopolis.
Assume all standard disclaimers.
Written For: Yuletide 2005

1949 - Family (Leni)

It took a while for things to settle down again after the bust at Neopolis Central. The Ungeheuer and their illegal operations had been crippled, but there was still a lot for the force to do, helping to repair the damage to Little Transylvania and Tintown, and despite the raise, policing was still hard work for little pay. She kept her room at the boarding house, and thought about trying for a promotion.

Following the air raid, the Skysharks were disbanded and Wulf found work as a commercial pilot. Steve, meanwhile, discovered he was eligible for the GI Bill, and decided to get an education at the newly opened Neopolis University. He still needed to save on rent, though, and the sensible thing to do was for him to get a place with Wulf.

"But it's just down the road from here, so we won't be far from you. And I mean, I'll still see you, won't I? I hear they're going to open up Scowling Joe's again. We could get together for drinks every week." He had such an earnest and hopeful expression as he said it, and despite the war, the aftermath, and everything, it was sometimes hard to forget that Steve was really just a kid.

Leni smiled. "Yes, and there is also the diner that Sloppy Sullivan is planning to start. Mrs. Doesgood says he will need the customers." Gently, she laid a hand on his arm. "Of course we'll see each other, Steve. We're family."

1969 - Career (Steve)

"Congratulations, Sergeant Traynor." Frank was smiling, or at least his eyes were smiling within the mask of his armour, and his handshake was firm and reassuring.

"Thank you, sir." In retrospect, it wasn't too surprising that he ended up in the police force. It might have even been his destiny. Following his graduation from college, he'd been at a bit of a loose end. Opportunities for pilots were few and far between, and although he'd enjoyed engineering, he was no scientist. When the Neopolis Police Academy opened, it seemed like the most logical course.

"Not at all. The force needs leaders like you, Steve. Officers who aren't afraid to step up and speak out."

And there had been Frank and Leni, of course. After Doctor Omega left, Steelgauntlet had become Captain, and Leni had moved to the Major Crimes Division. She had been on the force over five years when he joined. Having friends and mentors had made all the difference.

"Well, seeing as you value plain speaking, sir - isn't it time you asked Leni out on a date?" For years he'd watched them dance around each other, and it was high time someone did something about it. These days he felt enough of an equal with Frank to ask.

"Now, Sergeant." Frank looked distinctly uncomfortable. "Considering my injuries, I don't think I can rightly ask Leni..."

"Not afraid to step up and speak out, you said." He reached across and clasped Frank's shoulder. "Hadn't you better let her decide?"

1989 - Marriage (Wulf)

Seeing the bride come into the anteroom, he stood up. "Well, Fraulein, it certainly took you long enough to find your Prince!" She came over, and he embraced her. "You look beautiful. I think Steve will not want to actually give you away."

"Well, he'd better - it took me long enough to convince Frank it was a good idea to get married." Leni looked radiant in her wedding dress, with a crown of snowdrops in her hair. She kissed him on the cheek. "But I'm grateful to you both for all the help. I only wish that I could go to your wedding."

"Sometimes it is hard, seeing prejudice from the very people you fought to protect - especially here in Neopolis, where we were building a new world, away from all that." Forty years, they had been together. He was a retired pilot, Steve was a police captain. They observed the law, paid their taxes, and owned a house together. And still, they could not marry each other. "But it seems there are some things the world is not yet ready for."

Leni had looked solemn as he spoke, but now it seemed as if she was on the verge of tears. "Believe me, Wulf, I understand. But I promise you, things will change. We live in hope, and hope is what our lives, and this city, were built on. And someday you'll find that the world is finally ready to let you take a chance on the future."

2009 - Death (Frank)

He had never thought that the hardest thing about passing as human would be the emotions, but those were his undoing in the end. As Captain Frank Chambers, (formerly Steelgauntlet), he had left the Neopolis Police Department in the capable hands of his protégé, Steve Traynor, (formerly Jetlad) and gone to enjoy his retirement.

Still, while the years marked his wife and friends with their passing, he changed not at all. Instead he watched as, seemingly overnight, Steve and Wulf became old men, jokingly complaining of arthritis and rheumatism, while Leni grew progressively weaker, though her eyes still shone bright and her smile was as beautiful as it had been the day he had met her in 1949. And he'd always known that one day she would leave him.

"But I never would have wanted it any other way, Leni," he whispered, as he left a fresh bunch of snowdrops on her grave. He still talked to her; came to the cemetery almost every day.

"Come on, Frank, stop being so sentimental." Wulf emerged from around the corner.

"You should talk, with those letters you write to Steve. I think you even write him poetry." Looking over, Frank could see how frail his friend had become. Soon he would be the only one of them left.

"It's funny." Wulf sighed. "When we first got together, I gave it six months - the city, the relationship, everything. I never thought we would have six decades."

"No. But sometimes, you just get lucky."
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