"I'm walking Mary," the little girl says. The puppy is fat and yellow and quivering from nose to tail-tip. It's a weird name, he thinks. (It's not her name.)
The park next to the base smells like a hot summer city wind just rushed through the grass, bringing in car exhaust and hot pavement and melting ice cream. (He wonders briefly if that would taste nice. The melting ice cream, not the rest.)
It's the middle of spring anyway. He must be smelling something else. He lets the puppy sniff his fingers. (Such downy fur. Golden Labrador? German shepherd cross? He likes dogs, from afar, abstractly; never had one, never will. Underground resistance cells don't encourage saddling yourself with unnecessary dependents. They'd take up time he could use for training and what would happen to them when he dies? Breed names are info he doesn't need but in the back of his head he wonders anyway. There's something in her short muzzle that doesn't fit the color of the pelt.)
"Mary says you're happy."
He is. Mission complete. By the time he thinks to flick her a little smile the girl has gone, chasing Mary who chases a butterfly. The traces of cordite and nitroglycerin on his fingers aren't all that interesting.
Later he stands in still-burning ruins and he looks around breathless and stunned stupid. His training says leave, don't get caught here, stupid rookie mistake to be seen, but all he can think is I failed, I failed. The mission was to destroy the hangar, the machines, not... not. He miscalculated, mishandled, messed up. He sees charred-black things that he knows are human limbs even if they look nothing like, ash floating down like snow on broken furniture, souvenirs, an empty birdcage twisted into knots.
A golden dog, burned raw and burned black, a dog big enough for a lion.
He smells ice-cream again, so sickly-sweet he gags on it. He smells cordite and nitroglycerin and blood, old and fresh both. The fresh blood might be his own hands, right now, he's tearing them open digging through broken masonry and twisted metal he cannot even start to guess at.
Military base, military housing. Military bondwolves.
Mary is calling to him. Cordite and nitroglycerin and blood. He chokes on it.
He sets his shoulder against a slab of wood and heaves it up. Reaches his hands down in the hollow underneath. Cloth basket. Three puppies, one red, one white, both dead. One soot-stained gold. She's hurt.
She's hurt and she's alone and she's scared. Everyone she knows is dead. He braces himself (sorry, so sorry). He picks her up. He thinks of when Odin died, and how he had a mission to complete and how he locked it all up, down and down below.
Maybe he can show her. Maybe he'll have to show her. Being lonely doesn't matter, it's feeling it that kills.
He hopes he'll have enough time, before J finds someone who'll take her.
Cordite and nitroglycerin and blood, and grief-sweaty hands. It's really literal, as far as scent-names go, a puppy-name. It doesn't stop fitting, so Heero just keeps it.