I’ve been in your grasp since birth, With not a bit of freedom.
You tell me what to do,
And what to not.
Why is this happening?
My life is in your hands now,
I have no say at all.
I feel like a puppet,
Without a mind.
I wanna cut the strings.
Let me live the way I want,
It’s my life, not yours.
I’m not your toy,
I’m not a thing.
Don’t tie me down,
With ropes or chains.
Let me spread my wings,
and soar to the ends of the universe.
Let me live the way I want.
I’m not a wild animal,
I don’t bite or bark.
You don’t have to cage me,
Or lock me up.
Stop all these nonsense now.
I have only one life,
But it’s as good as none.
I’ve lost everything,
Including my heart.
I can’t breathe anymore.
Let me live the way I want,
It’s my life, not yours.
I’m not your toy,
I’m not a thing.
Don’t tie me down,
With ropes or chains.
Let me spread my wings,
and soar to the ends of the universe.
Let me live the way I want.
Sorceress Fantasia @ June 2000
"Why the surprised face? Don’t wanna see me?"
The boy’s eyes widened in shock and amazement. He felt his legs go soft, and wobbled a few steps backwards. As the of his knees came in contact with his bed, he toppled over. He pointed a shaky finger at the girl sitting on his desk with her arms crossed, and muttered incoherently, "You… you…" Words clamored at his throat but refused to get out. He had seen her a hundred million times before, but this confrontation is one he would never forget. Because it was the one time when he had actually felt fear in meeting her.
"What’s the matter? Cat got your tongue?" The girl teased, as she leaned forward a little as though to taunt him. Chilling winds blew into the room through the opened window, causing the curtains to flutter up. The room was dark, and the only source of light was the moon. Bright beams of moonlight shone onto her back, and all that could be seen of her was her silhouette. Yet, it was enough to cause the boy’s jaws to slack and eyes pop. Her endless pools of violet shone through the darkness, and they revealed unspoken volumes between the two. She smirked slyly, as though enjoying his awkwardness. As she waited for some response, she toyed with her silky chestnut locks, which had been weaved into thin plaits that snaked along her slim, slender body.
Duo Maxwell had never believed that he could be this shocked. For the first time in his entire being, he found himself lost in the labyrinth of vocabulary.
She had found him.
Duo yawned loudly. He walked down the corridor of the current safehouse he was in as he stretched his back lazily. Shaking his head to gain full consciousness, he sighed, feeling a wave of weariness catch up with him. That was some night he got.
"Good morning, Duo-kun!"
He jumped at the friendly greeting. Immediately, he whizzed around to see who it was. It was the blonde Arabian pilot, with Trowa alongside. "O… Oh! Same to you, Quatre. And morning, Trowa." He greeted with as much manners he had.
Quatre seemed slightly surprised at Duo’s reaction. Even Trowa found it disturbing as he raised an eyebrow. "What’s the matter? Duo?" Quatre asked gently.
"What’s the matter? Cat got your tongue?" The words echoed in his mind. He took a sharp intake of breath in sheer horror. So long, that he forgot that his friends were in front of him. Trowa’s voice snapped him out of his trance.
Duo, noticing his own ‘bizarre’ behavior, forced a smile onto his face. "Yeah?"
"Is there anything wrong, Duo-kun? You can tell us, you know." Quatre asked worriedly. It wasn’t like the braided pilot to be this jumpy and he even looked a little haggard, something that had never happened in all the times he knew him.
In response, Duo smirked. "Nah, just thinking of some… personal stuff. Sorry, if you’ll excuse me." He winked playfully, then slipped away. Quatre and Trowa stood in silence, then shrugged. Duo would seek their help if he needs to. No use bothering him to talk. It wasn’t as if he would even if he was held up gun point.
‘Phew, that was close.’ Duo mused. He didn’t want anybody to know what had happened. It was more than just pure personal. It was a matter of life... and death. Then, his mind raced back to last night’s encounter, the only reason that was causing him to behave strangely.
As Duo sat on his bed dumbfounded, the girl continued her gaze on him. Duo found himself involuntarily cringe a little under her diamond hard stare. As though he had finally retrieved a net and caught the necessary words from running away from his jumbled mind, Duo finally spat out, "Vespera! Why… Why are you here?"
To his utmost surprise, she countered, "Why are *you* here?" She cocked her head slightly and waited patiently for her answer.
For the second time in the same hour, Duo was tongue-tied. He stammered, "Well, I…I…" He released a deep sigh, then looked down, as though he were lethargic. "You know exactly why. You’re asking the obvious."
The girl frowned, her eyebrows tightly knitted together. "Yes, I do know the reason. I just want to know if *you* know it. Whether you remember it." She chided, venom dripping from her voice. Gently, she tossed the plait she had been playing with behind her shoulders, then crossed her arms once more. Her stare became more focused this time, and she asked, "Well?"
Duo could feel the weight of the stare, and was seriously uneasy. He swallowed the huge lump in his throat, "For my own freedom." Then he added, "For love. And also for our future."
Vespera seemed satisfied. "I’m glad you know. Then, why aren’t you fighting for it?"
He looked away from her, then replied wistfully, "I haven’t found the person yet. The person I want for life. My soul mate… It’s so hard to."
"For over a decade?" She rolled her eyes in frustration. "I *know* you can do better than this."
Silence lingered. The air around them froze, so real and thick you could cut with a knife. Finally, she disturbed the cessation of sound. "Time’s almost up." She whispered softly, with a hint of wistfulness in her gentle voice. Her features softened, and the look on her face showed one of sympathy, not of indifference like it had been mere seconds ago.
The words struck Duo like a punch in his face. "I know…"
"You asked earlier why I was here. I can honestly tell you that it’s because of you. Time’s running fast… we don’t have much time left. If you don’t hurry, I…" She paused and released a depressed sigh. "I believe that I don’t have to spell it out. You know what will happen."
"Yes, I do." He answered dejectedly.
"Two more weeks. The end of this month is the limit. If you don’t find that piece of yourself by that time, you will have to go back." She spoke sadly, her eyes were clouded. "You understand the consequences, don’t you? We will lose control of our lives forever."
As much as he hated to admit that, Duo nodded.
"Two more weeks…"
*End of flashback*
Duo shook his head violently to clear himself of the thoughts. If anyone saw the expressions that passed through his face for the last few minutes, he would know that something was terribly wrong with the braided pilot. No way was he going to let anyone know what was going on! And hell, now wasn’t the time to think about such depressing things! He had more important things to worry about, like… "Boy! Am I hungry!"
With that, he sprinted off to the kitchen for breakfast. When he reached there, the other four pilots were all present and some toast and other foodstuff were spread out on the table. He sauntered in casually, "Ohayo!"
Quatre flashed a warm smile at him, then answered, "This scene looks familiar, eh?" He giggled a little, then added, "Right. Good morning." Trowa gave him a slight nod of his head, then turned back to eat his breakfast. Wufei grinned, "After all the alarms clocks we gave you, you’re still late!"
To which, Duo retorted, "Hey! What can I do if the clocks wasn’t loud enough?" Then he smirked evilly, "Why don’t you sleep in my room? I bet I can’t even fall asleep with your snoring! I’ll be early for breakfast tomorrow then!"
Quatre chuckled at Wufei’s embarrassment. The Chinese pilot hissed, "Shut up." To which, Duo made a face at.
Duo turned to look at his psychopath friend. Well, Heero was… just Heero. Not a response or a sound of acknowledgement. He pouted disappointedly, even though he had expected it. Sitting down at the table, he grabbed a plateful of food and quickly gobbled them down. Boy, was he hungry! After that late night encounter with Vespera, he felt extremely upset. And when Duo Maxwell gets upset, Duo Maxwell eats! He took eating as a form of entertainment, something that would get his thoughts off from all depressing problems. Just as he downed his second cup of coffee, Wufei suddenly looked thoughtful.
"Kisama! Almost forgot ‘bout it." He then turned to Duo, "Maxwell, a girl by the name of Hirde called you just now. She told you to call her back. (1) " He informed.
"Hirde, huh? It’s been a long time since I last met her." Duo grinned.
Unbeknownst to the pilots, Heero Yuy raised an eyebrow.
Duo smiled at the excited squeal of his friend. She seemed to be always happy when around him, or even just hear his voice. Like the situation now. "Right lady, that’s me! Duo, Duo Maxwell at your service!" He joked. Likewise, Duo felt at ease with her as well. "So, what’s up?"
"Hmm? Oh, nothing much. Just kinda missed you." Hirde smiled into the phone, then added. "Are you free today?"
Duo briefly considered his schedule. "Yep. Why?"
"Well, there’s this funfair around… and… erm… wanna go out? You know, just to relax and play around. I think you’ll need it." She beseeched.
He thought for a moment. ‘Well, why not? I should let myself relax a bit, especially after last night. I’ve got to take my mind off that for a while. After all, today’s just Tuesday.’ Then he swallowed the lump in his throat. "It’s *already* Tuesday.’ He corrected himself mentally. Shaking his head violently, he pushed the thought back again. For a while, at least. He knew he had important things to do, but what would become of Duo Maxwell if there were no fun in his life? Like they say, ‘All work and no play makes Duo dull.’ Straightening his thoughts, he replied. "Yeah, sure. Let’s go together."
After a ‘briefing’ from Hirde, he ran back to his room and prepared himself. Soon, he dashed out of the house to their rendezvous point.
Catching Hirde at the corner of his eyes, he waded through the large crowd in her direction. Silently, he cursed. ‘Why the heck are there so many people here? I feel like some canned sardine in the middle of other slimy, salty sardine.’ Gingerly, he elbowed his way over. Waving his hands wildly, he shouted, "Hirde! Over here!"
She looked over to him, and a wide grin broke onto her face. She waved back, "Duo!" She squeezed her way through the crowd, all the time saying, "Sorry! Excuse me!" Duo laughed a little. Trust her to still be polite now. Finally, after some pushing and shoving, they hugged. "How have you been?" They asked simultaneously. Surprised, they chuckled. After another round of hugs, they stepped into the funfair.
‘Bang!’ Another bull’s eye.
"Wow! Duo, it’s the tenth time you’re hit the target!" She clapped her hands together in sheer admiration. Then she leaned over and whispered gleefully, "How dare you use your special talents as a Gundam pilot against all these civilians!"
Duo stared at her, then laughed. "Why not? I’m fighting so hard, it’s part of my just rewards. I earned it through blood and sweat, ya know? C’mon, take one of those plush toys for yourself."
"No thanks. I’ve already taken nine! I should leave some for the civilians!" She giggled as she shook her hands as much as she could. Repositioning the nine fluffy stuff toys already in her bag and hands, she spoke. "Rather, I can’t accommodate anymore. Full house."
Duo shook his head helplessly and smiled. "Well then, in that case, I’ll take it. Hmm… I want that one." He pointed at the shelf full of soft toys. The one in question was actually a pair that was sewn together at their hands. One was an angel, and the other was a devil. They were positioned in such a way that they were hugging each other. The storeowner handed it carefully to Duo, who was grinning. ‘The devil reminds me of Heero. The same scowl on their faces.’
Thinking that they’d had enough of the games, they went in search of some food, much to the relief of the games’ stores owners. Not long after, they came across a store selling hotdogs. Duo greedily ate three, with a soda as well. Hirde merely watched him with an expression that spelled of happiness as she ate her own food slowly.
Finally, they two sat down in a wooden bench, whose location was more on the quiet side. Delightedly, they recalled the day’s events, which consisted of games more than anything. All in all, the day was one to not forget. It was joyful. However, all good things end. This was not an exception either. Duo kindly offered to walk Hirde home.
On the way back, Duo noticed that she was fidgeting. A lot. Her fingers kept locking and unlocking, and her brow was knitted. He shrugged. ‘She’ll tell me if she wants. No use hounding her for an answer.’
Soon, they were at her doorsteps. Duo was turning to leave, when she called him back. "Duo! Wait! I’ve… I’ve got something to tell you." The serious tone indicated that this was indeed something important. Duo whizzed around to face her again. "Nani? Want to see my face again? Can’t bear to see me go, eh?" He teased.
Suddenly, Hirde’s face blushed a scarlet red and she held her head low. It was as though Duo had spoken her thoughts out loud. The American pilot stopped his jokes, which apparently Hirde thought were lame, and asked, "Hirde, what’s wrong?"
She took in several deep breaths, trying to calm herself down. Clenching her fists tightly, she lifted her head to see Duo, eye to eye. With the illuminated brightness shining upon him, Hirde thought she was seeing the most beautiful creature to ever grace the world. Gathering up all her courage as though she was going to a difficult battle, she uttered.
"Taidama!" Duo marched in the house and slammed the door behind him. It creaked loudly in protest, and it looked as if it was ready to fall apart at the force exerted on it. Duo cringed and made a face. ‘Mental note to self. Never slam this particular door again or I’ll have to spend a hack of a day trying to fix it.’
"Okaeri, Duo." Quatre returned the greeting. "So, how was the day? Had your share of fun?" Trowa sat silently beside the blonde boy. He nodded his head in acknowledgement.
With a playful wink, the braided boy replied, "You can say that again!" Seeing Wufei in the kitchen, he cried, "Wu-chan!" who was unfortunate enough, to be drinking a glass of water. Hearing him call him in such an undignified way, he choked.
"Stop calling me that, Maxwell!" He rebutted, more to the joking side rather because of anger. No one had ever been able to stay angry with the braided boy for long. He was too cute for that. Smoothing his chest, he felt better.
Duo shrugged at Wufei’s supposedly antic. Then, he shifted the position of his sling bag over his shoulder and walked towards his room. But not before greeting the other pilots goodnight. "Oyasumi!" With a wicked grin, he added, "Especially to you, Wu-chan!" He heard Wufei shouting at him again as he walked down the corridor leading to his room.
Just as he was about to get to his door, the door in front of him suddenly creaked open. And Heero walked out from the dark room, lit up by only the luminous light from his laptop. Seeing him, Duo greeted, "Hiya, Heero."
Heero snorted and tried to brush pass the braided baka. However, Duo blocked his path and continued. He wasn’t about to let his supposedly best friend to walk away and not acknowledge his presence.
"I see that you’re still dating your laptop, eh? We both have our dates today, but I’m sure that mine was a hundred times better than yours." He gloated jokingly.
To his surprise, Heero replied. "Mine was productive."
Duo was a little surprised that he actually replied. Despite his amazement, he retorted, "So was mine. We had tons of fun together. So much that I’m aching all over! I’m so tired that I’m sure I can go into hibernation!" He said jokingly. Then he suddenly shrugged, as though at a loss of what to say. "Alright, I’m going off to sleep. Oyasumi!" With that, he walked pass the Japanese pilot and into the warmth of his room.
Heero stole a glance at Duo’s closed door, thinking ‘bout what was bothering the baka. He acted abnormal, and he didn’t blabber on like he usually does. Something was definitely out of place. ‘Productive?’ He wondered what did Duo mean.
Exhausted, Duo trudged over to the comforts of his bed and plopped headfirst into the pillow. Kicking his shoes off, he groaned at the memory of his conversation with Hirde earlier on.
‘I love you, Duo.’
‘She loves me? She actually loves me? I can’t believe it.’ He turned over and probed his head on his hands. Staring into emptiness, he wondered why and how did it happen. Utterly confused, he frowned and sighed. Suddenly, a soft, tenor voice spoke.
"Surprised at the way things are now?"
Duo sat up tiredly, "I wish you wouldn’t just barge into my room like this, Vespera." This girl was in dire needs for some lessons on manners. Besides, girls shouldn’t be inside a boy’s room at night.
She chuckled. "I didn’t know that you were the conservative type, Eden."
Duo made a face. "Ha ha ha. Very funny." He mocked laughed, then crossed his arms. "What makes you come here?"
Vespera shrugged. "Nothing. Just plain bored. Needed someone to talk to." She slid into a chair comfortably, facing Duo. "You’re asking the obvious. I came here to look for you, of course." After eyeing him for a moment, she asked, "Do you really have no idea that that Hirde girl likes you?" Seeing Duo raise an eyebrow, she quickly explained. "I wasn’t trailing you like some dog, for goodness sake. I just happened to have seen it. Besides, I’ve been watching over you for over a decade, ever since you arrived here. Few, or even nothing escape my eyes. I’ve seen the way she acts around you. I don’t have to be some professor to see it."
Knowing that she was speaking the truth, he reluctantly complied. "Yea. Never thought that she likes me. It just… never crossed my mind, I guess." Sighing again, he asked out aloud. "I don’t get it. Just what does she sees in me? She’s gentle, pretty, understanding… Now that I really think about it, she’s one heck of a lady."
"You sound like you’re in love with her." Vespera pouted. "She asked you to be her boyfriend, didn’t she? Are you going to accept it?"
For a moment, Duo’s usual bright irises were clouded over and dim. "I don’t know. I don’t want to hurt her though, that’s for sure." He had already hurt too many people, and wasn’t the least bit interested in hurting another innocent.
"So you’re accepting?"
Duo shook his head. "I… I don’t know. Maybe I will."
This time, it was Vespera’s turn to sigh. "You had better think it through carefully. Don’t make brash decisions just because of the deadline." She reminded. "Otherwise, it’s going to be painful for both of you."
"Yea, I know."
Silence ruled. Vespera looked sympathetically at him. She fathom what bothered him so, and was at a loss as to how to help. She felt the strains of the concession of sound, and saw the need to change their conversation topic. At the very least, not so straightforward. As much as she hated it, she knew it had to be done. Talking about the same matter in another perspective, in another way was to her, beating about the bush. And it certainly never was her style. She was like Duo, talking what they fancied in a sometimes tactless way. With that thought in mind, she sat off, first by breaking the tension. Suddenly, Vespera jerked her head in the direction of the newly acquired toy. "Hey! That’s so kawaii!" She bolted from the chair and picked it up from the floor where Duo had thrown it so carelessly, some time earlier. Sitting down on the cool floor, she fiddled with it playfully.
"Finally, you’re behaving like someone of your age." Duo teased. Then he corrected himself, when he noticed the pout forming on Vespera’s features. "No. I mean that you’re finally acting like some fourteen year old girl, who is still fascinated by dolls and such, whom someone may conclude from your appearance."
She made a face at the comment. "You don’t have the right to say that about me. *You’re* acting like some fifteen year old yourself too, Eden."
Duo grimaced. "Stop calling me that name. I’m Duo Maxwell now."
"Yes, yes, yes. Mr. Duo Maxwell." She snorted. "You sound like you don’t like your real name."
"Of course not!" He protested. "Why should I? I’m shinigami, the god of death and they gave me such a… such a…" He racked his mind for a suitable word.
"Opposing?" She offered.
"Something to that extent. It’s so corny, so contradicting." He sulked.
Vespera rolled her eyes in exasperation. "Nothing I can say about that…" She shrugged helplessly. Then she turned her attention back to the toy. "It’s so cute. They look as though they’re embracing each other with love. Hmm, guess what?"
"The angel looks kinda like you."
"Nani~!? Are you out of your mind? Me? An angel? Shucks, looks like I’ve been too well-behaved lately." He remarked sarcastically.
"I don’t mean that you’re an angel. I’m just saying that you *look* like this stuffed toy. ‘Sides, being shinigami doesn’t mean that you can’t be an angel. At least, you’re someone’s angel. You’re stilled loved by someone. To the world, you’re just another person. But to one person, you are the world, remember?"
Duo dropped back onto his bed and rolled over to one side. "Up to you. Up to you." He muttered sleepily as he yawned.
Vespera pouted. Then she ignored Duo’s crude answer and played with the toy again. "I wonder who will be this devil then?"
Duo didn’t answer. He was already snoring. Vespera rolled her eyes again. It was always the same when talking to the braided shinigami. He could talk for hours nonstop, but would fall asleep when someone else did the same to him. "Same old, same old. Kinda reminds me of those times when we were younger." She muttered softly under her breath amused, lest she woke Duo up. She rose up to her feet, and gently tugged at his blankets, pulling them over his body to keep him warm. Gingerly, she took off Duo’s cap and placed it on the small table beside his bed. As she gazed at his sleeping form, she sighed.
‘Time’s slipping away fast. If things don’t go faster, there might not be enough time. Time is a critical factor here now.’
Slowly, Duo turned over to the other side, facing Vespera. The moonlight highlighted his beautiful and distinctive features. His long, soft braid snaked along the contours of his body. She smiled. ‘Always so beautiful. No wonder you have so many admirers. Not to mention that two who truly loves you… You ask me why does Hirde like you. It’s because you are one of the most exquisite and attractive creatures to ever grace this war-torn universe. Your outgoing personality and exuberance lets you stand out and release your glory to the rest of the world. Besides, you have an attitude to match. You’re a rare gem, Eden. Oops, wrong again. I mean Duo Maxwell.’ She chortled at her mistake.
Looking at Duo, she sighed again. ‘How am I going to bail him out of this dilemma?’ As she pondered on, she pulled a chair up to beside the bed, and sat down. Vespera gazed lovingly, compassionately, tenderly at the sleeping boy. Thinking of what he had done to get himself into the trouble he was currently in now, her heart wrenched in pain.
‘That promise… why did you do that, Eden? Just look at how much you went through all these years? You’ve slimmed a lot. If you hadn’t been that stubborn as a mule, you wouldn’t have landed yourself in this problematic state. As was I.’ She mused, as she brushed the bangs out of his eyes gently. ‘But then again, you’ve matured a lot here. And there are many times when you’re happy here.’ Vespera wounded a lock of Duo’s bangs in her finger, then unwound it, then repeated the process. ‘I wonder if it was a mistake to let you come here in the first place. If I had been more forceful, then you never would have left me. If only I had been more forceful… If only…’
She blew her bangs in discontent. It was because of so many ‘ifs’ that landed both of them in their current state. Sighing, she got up and strolled over to the other side of the bed. Gently, she grabbed hold of the end of Duo’s braid. She quickly pulled the elastic band that held the rope of hair together. Slowly, she undid the braid with skilful fingers, as though she had done so a hundred thousand times before. Well, she had. It was just one of those things she always helped him do when they still lived together, all those years ago. Thinking back on how it was, Vespera felt a stinging sensation in her eyes. Softly, she allowed a hug and she held him in her arms, contented. She had missed him terribly.
Seconds passed which seemed like hours, Vespera found herself lost in the warmth and satisfaction. All of a sudden, she heard footsteps ringing outside. Someone was heading this way. ‘Hn, the world’s trying to stop me from spending some quality time with Ede...’ She smacked her head in frustration. ‘Shucks! I mean Duo.’ She shrugged. It didn’t matter. Nobody could see her, anyway. Unless she wanted them to, which of course, does not apply in this case. At the back of her mind, a little voice nagged at her for invading Duo’s privacy, but she bit it back. ‘Who’s talking about privacy here? There had never been any secrets between us.’ Besides, if her instincts were right, something big that involved Duo was coming up soon. And she would most certainly be needed to witness what happens if she wants to aid Duo. With that thought in mind, she quickly placed the chair back to its original position to avoid suspicion that someone had been in the room, and sat back on the table.
Soon, just as she had expected, the door creaked open loudly, as though in protest of the lack of oiling. A dark silhouette slipped into the darkness quietly. Vespera looked closely and tried to identify the figure. Judging from the unruly mop and messy hair, she concluded that it was Heero Yuy, pilot of Wing and Duo’s best friend. A happiness she felt for Duo swelled up in her heart as she knew what would happen next. It was on a nightly basis. A routine that the perfect soldier kept to since a few months ago.
Heero crossed the room gingerly, careful with his steps. One thing, he had to avoid the piles of obstacles on the ground, which had been scattered around ever so kindly by the American pilot. Another thing was that his footsteps would have to be soft, else the sleeping boy would wake up. Either way, he would be damned if he let himself be caught here. Finally, he was at Duo’s bedside. He gazed down at his friend, his eyes spelt of tenderness instead of indifference. He knelt down beside him, and finger combed his hair so gently. Hard to believe that the same hands could kill and destroy an entire OZ base.
He stroked Duo’s face tenderly, salvaging every moment of the touch. There weren’t many chances he could do this. Recalling the reason his presence here, he sighed. Ever since they met, Heero found himself encountering a set of new emotions and feelings he had never known. He was drawn to him deeply, by his actions and by his words. Although the braided baka can indeed be irritating sometimes, Heero found that he was in fact insecure many a time. And talking endlessly and behaving like a joker, a jester was Duo’s way to crush down his fear and negative thinking. It was a mask he hid behind, very much like the one he was hiding behind. And was everyone else. Although they proved themselves to be worthy warriors, Heero understood that they all had their own share of pain and guilt. And everyone had their own way of dealing with it. Somehow, Heero felt that Duo had to be protected. He didn’t belong to a world like this. He deserved better things in life.
Ever since he felt this way, Heero found himself staring at the braided pilot more often than not. He tried to stop this… morbid hobby of his, but soon he discovered something. To stop looking at his friend was like taking a fish out of water. Impossible. Even so, he fathomed that he shouldn’t be so obvious. So, he figured out a way to counter that problem. And the results were here. To look at him only at night, when nobody’s watching. Then, he could do this to his heart’s content.
At first, he had been opposed to the fascinating idea. Or more precisely, the perfect soldier. Then, he finally came to the conclusion that seeing a little wouldn’t hurt. Just a few nights would do. However, as time went by, he found himself addicted, hooked to the routine. It was as though Duo were some type of drug. After months of this, he decided that it didn’t matter anymore. He just wanted to catch a glimpse of the boy.
‘He’s so enticing tonight.’ Heero thought to himself. ‘Not that he’s not enticing any other day…’ He added mentally. As he was lost in his thoughts, he suddenly lost control. Forgetting for a moment who he was, and what he wasn’t supposed to do, he bent down and covered Duo’s savouring lips with his own. All reasons and logic fled his mind. He didn’t care. All he wanted to do now was to hold the violet-eyed boy in his arms. Seconds passed which seemed like hours. Suddenly, he tensed as he realized what he was doing. Quickly, he fled the scene of the crime.
Vespera released the breath she had unconsciousness held when she saw Heero kissing Duo. She found herself blushing involuntarily, not because of the act, but rather at the passion Heero had shown in that one split of a second of their kiss. Covering her mouth in pure shock, she walked over to Duo. ‘Oh my Lucifer. I always knew that Heero had a soft spot for Duo, but I never expected him to act on those feelings. I thought that he would just… just… just what? He has already acted. Now what sort of trouble have you gotten yourself into this time, Duo?’ Shaking her head in worry, she mused. ‘Looks like I’ve got to do something about this now. Otherwise, Lucifer knows what will happen.’
As she turned to leave, she suddenly remembered something. Walking back to Duo, she reached into a small sack and dug out a handful of the contents. The dust glittered beautifully in her hands, as though they were crystals that had been pounded into soft powder. Vespera held it to her chest, eyes closed in concentration. Her eyes soon fluttered open, and she threw the dust onto the sleeping boy. The evenly spread dust continued to shine for a moment, then faded into nothing. Vespera smiled.
‘Sweet dreams, Duo.’ Then, she turned away and walked towards the window, where she had came from earlier on. Her figure started to fade with each step she took, until she disappeared completely.
Duo- or rather, Eden, dexterously jumped aside, just as a young girl fell flat on her nose. She winced, "No fair, Eden! How did you know I was gonna pounce on you?"
Eden grinned proudly, hands akimbo and stated, "Cause I’m Death! And no one plays around with Death!"
The girl scoffed. "Yeah sure." She grudgingly got back to her feet, wiping the dirt off her clothes. Cherry pink lips forming into a pout, she eyed Eden’s cap like a predator at a potential prey. Eden did not seem to have notice, for he was too busy chattering about how good he was. Suddenly, with one swift and fluid movement, she dashed over to him and snatched it from his head. Once she got hold of it, her feet left the ground and she floated up into the sky.
"Hey! Gimme back, Vespera!" Eden cried playfully, not taking offense at all. Then he took after her, and they ended up playing catch.
Eden looked at his companion. They were akin in so many aspects. For instance, their superb taste for black clothing. Both loved to wear black turtlenecks. Since Vespera is a girl, she wore a short black skirt that was above her knees and a pair of black stockings to go. On the other hand, Eden wore plain black pants. They both had a soft spot for black leather boots and that was exactly what they always wore. In addition, they each wore a golden earring on one side of their side. Eden on his left, and Vespera on her right. It made them look even more alike.
On top of their clothes and taste, they also had the same hair and eye colour. Their chestnut brown, silky tresses were woven skillfully into braids or plaits. Eden had his in one thick braid, while Vespera opted for something more complicated. She wove hers into tiny, cute plaits that hung down from one ponytail. Their eyes shined of wisdom, far surpassing their age. The purple irises moved around actively, as though they had the ability to talk. Anyone who gazed into those endless pools of violet would find themselves trapped, forever mesmerized by the two.
Character wise, both proved to have double personalities. One on hand, they could appear to be extremely optimistic and cheerful. They never stopped laughing or smiling, or even talking. They could chatter on for hours! They seemed like two angels, with an inexhaustible to bring joy into everyone’s days. On the other hand, however, they appeared to be the scariest of all, with impassive faces and venomous words that struck fear into everyone. Fortunately, the latter appeared only very occasionally, and many were grateful for that.
Suddenly, he was snapped out of his trance by a gleeful cry.
"Gotcha!" He fell to the ground with Vespera over him. She had caught him off guard and had thrown him back onto the ground. She grinned from ear to ear. Eden smiled at the expression. As long as she was happy, he felt satisfied. Never mind that he lost the game.
"Silly girl." He whispered, as he leaned forward and hugged her gently. As he pulled back, his eyes widened at realisation of who he had been hugging.
*End dream sequence*
Duo bolted from his bed. Surveying his room, he found nothing out of place. Which meant that it was just a dream.
‘Dream? Oh shucks!’ He slapped his forehead in frustration. It suddenly occurred to him that it was more than just a dream. It is a trait that ran in his family. Each one has a special ability and ‘dreams’ is just part of Vespera’s inventory. She didn’t conjure dreams for anyone, but merely let the person dream what he wanted. The thing that the person had been thinking about in the day before he went to sleep. It was like delving into the deepest recess of someone’s heart, his subconscious.
It wasn’t surprising to see his childhood days with Vespera. He had been thinking about her ever since they reunited again that night. As for the psychopath, he had no idea why he was messing in his dreams.
‘Why did I dream of him? He’s just a friend, nothing more.’ He assured himself. "Just a friend… just a friend…" He repeated the sentence over and over again as though they were some kind of mantra. Slowly, he went back into blissful oblivion.
It was morning. Heero woke up extra early. Or rather, Heero didn’t really even sleep at all. The thoughts of Duo and Hirde enjoying themselves at the funfair were enough to make his stomach wrench in disgust, and the comment from Duo didn’t help much.
‘So was mine.’
And on top of that, there had been the strange dream of Duo and Hirde together at the funfair, and even Hirde’s proposal of a boy-girl relationship between them. Duo had been shocked to say the least. ‘Must have been because of that kiss last night that caused it.’ Then, he blushed a little, just a little, as he recalled last night’s events. He had sneaked into the American pilot’s room, and watched him sleep again. But then, this time, he had initiated a kiss with the boy! With shocked realisation, he quickly wiped off the blush and walked out for breakfast.
‘I’m the perfect soldier. I’m not supposed to feel.’ He reminded himself.
As he marched off, a pair of glowing violet orbs shone from above the bed. Slowly, a black clad figure materialized, hovering over the bed. She swept her bangs. ‘Well, it didn’t really stir that much feelings from him… yet. Things will certainly get better these few nights.’ She thought. Vespera sighed, as she pictured what the braided boy will response to Hirde. She only hoped that she was wrong for this once, even though she knew that she had *never* been wrong about Duo’s line of thoughts.
The first thing that greeted Heero as he arrived at the kitchen was the shrill cries of the phone. Immediately, he walked over and grabbed it from its stand. Before he could say anything, the voice at the other end of the line spoke.
"Hello? Is Duo Maxwell over there?" As much as he hated it, he called for the braided pilot. And to his disgust, Duo kept laughing and smiling throughout the phone call. The person at the other end of the line kept giggling at Duo’s wisecracks. Heero was almost certain that there was a monster with tentacles inside his stomach that made him want to puke. The monster grabbed his heart and gave it a good wrench.
Suddenly, he heard Duo saying ‘goodbye’. He felt relief wash over him. He almost banged his head against the wall when Duo quickly grabbed his breakfast and ran out of the safehouse, saying that he was going out with Hirde again.
Duo scanned the place with utmost care, as though he was on a mission. He thought to himself, ‘I can’t afford to make any mistakes. One wrong step and I can just die right on the spot.’ Then, something caught his eye. Excitedly, he pointed to his right.
"This one!" He ran towards the commercial board and hogged it. The sign read ‘Afterlife’, a new movie that was currently being screened.
Hirde chuckled. She teased, "You’re acting like this is a mission!"
Duo sallied, "Well, I could die if a chose a boring movie! I can die of boredom! You know it, Hirde!"
Hirde laughed at his antics, then pulled her companion along for the tickets and snacks.
"AHHHHH!" Hirde screamed and buried her head in Duo’s comforting arms. ‘My gosh, this is scary. Really scary. If I had known about this, I never would have let Duo choose the movie!’
Duo, amused, patted her to calm her down. ‘Never thought that she’d be afraid of such things. Guess she’s a girl after all.’
"Gomen, Duo…" Her voice trembled slightly. The horror movie was really realistic.
Duo smiled warmly. "It’s ok. Let’s watch the movie."
Hirde nodded, then turned back and focused her attention on the screen in front of her. Suddenly, a decapitated zombie jumped at the screen. That was enough to draw shrieks from the females again. And Hirde seek comfort again from the braided pilot.
Duo smiled down at her. ‘Girls.’ He patted her head. Suddenly, he felt protective of the girl. Then he remembered Hirde’s question.
‘Will you be my boyfriend?’
He looked at the shivering girl in his arms. Torrents of feelings washed over him as he slowly placed a light kiss on her forehead.
Meanwhile, Heero Yuy, the perfect soldier was pondering over his bizarre reactions towards Duo’s phone calls this morning. Surely that had nothing wrong with it? His friend going out with a girl, possibly a girlfriend. Nothing was wrong.
But he had acted as though it had something wrong. What was wrong with him? Maybe, just maybe, he was jealous. If they really got hitched, then Duo would most probably spend a lot of time with her, her being his girlfriend. And he would neglect him. That’s right! He was afraid of losing Duo’s company! Sure, there were times when he just wanted to throttle the American pilot for his endless stream of chattering, he still liked him for company. That was all… right?
Heero blew a lock of bang up with a huff. He knew it wasn’t all, but just couldn’t put his finger on what else was there.
Dinner without Duo’s blabbering to fill in those awkward moments of silence was intolerable. Heero excused himself quickly, after he ate enough.
He returned to his room, mind full of thoughts. His mind was still in debate of the feelings he felt this morning. When suddenly, a cheerful voice rang through the house. Duo. That was for sure.
Before he was response, Duo bounced into his room.
"Tada! Shinigami’s back!" Then he leaned in with a playful grin, "Missed me?"
Even though Heero wanted to very much say ‘Yes’, he only managed a ‘Hn’.
"Always Heero Yuy, eh? Man of few words." Then he entered and jumped onto the bed. "Phew! I so tired."
Heero ignored him, on the surface, and typed into his laptop with precise accuracy. He was in fact, using the laptop’s screen to see every move of his friend. And of course, every gesture and feeling that ran across his face. He was surprised, to say the least, when he was quiet. Very quiet.
He was about to ask whether he was sick from fatigue, when the braided boy spoke. "Hey, Heero, guess what? I’m an item with Hirde now."
Those words struck fear into Heero’s heart.
"Are you sure she’s the one?"
"I’m not that sure yet, but it’ll work. Trust me. When was I ever wrong?" Duo asked cheekily.
Vespera countered, "The time when you said you wouldn’t get yourself dirty and ended up in a pool of mud. And the time when you said that you were going to succeed in that stupid spell that was supposed to hit Zera, our neighbour, when you hit Mina, her sister, and turned her into a frog instead. And the spell was supposed to have changed the victim into a rat!" She continued with a whole list of Duo’s childhood antics.
Duo burst out, whining, "Aww, c’mon! I was young back then!"
"So, you’re not young now?" She chided.
The boy pouted. Then he shrugged, "So you win. But trust me, I’ll make this work. I like Hirde a lot to begin with. And I’m sure those feelings will increase with time!"
"Fine. You’re the one who made the decision, and you’ll also be the one living with it!" Vespera crossed her arms. "Don’t you come running back to me later for help!"
Seeing her anger, he decided to assure her that all would be fine in due time. "Ok. Don’t get so worked up. You’ll get wrinkles, ya know?" Rather sure that her anger had subsided, a little to say the least, he added, "Why not we make a wager?"
"Of what nature?"
"That the relationship between Hirde and I will work out."
Vespera considered for a moment, then replied, "If I win, you will have to do one thing for me. I’ll tell you what is it when I think of one."
Duo nodded. "And if I win, you’ll bless both me and Hirde with sweet dreams forever."
"Deal. I’ve got nothing to lose but my life, and I got that for free." They chuckled, then slapped their hands together to seal the bet.
"…" Heero grimaced again. How… irritating. This seemed to be a sequel for last night’s dreams. Duo and Hirde are in the theatre, watching some gross horror film that he thought was absolutely stupid. ‘Why did they choose such a movie?’ He wondered briefly, but dismissed it. Suddenly, a shrieking Hirde practically jumping into Duo’s arms made him understand why.
For reasons unknown, he started gritting his teeth roughly. He wasn’t happy with the way things were turning out. It angered him further when he saw Duo comforting the girl.
Finally, the movie was over. Heero felt relief. At least he could get out of the damn cinema now and perhaps leave the ‘couple’ alone. Seeing them hug and behave intimately didn’t make him feel very good. He had tried to leave several times, however, there seemed to be an invisible force that tied him to his seat. No matter how hard he tried, it wasn’t enough to overcome that incredible force. It was as though someone was making him see all these on purpose.
As the audiences filed out of the door, Heero followed suit. Once out, he tried to walk away somewhere else, not seeing the purpose of stalking his friend like some idiot. *Tried*. Not being able to, he was forced to go after Duo, who was holding Hirde’s hand right at that second. Somehow, Heero felt uneasy with that.
It wasn’t long before they reached Hirde’s house. After opening the door, she stood at the threshold and asked politely. "Do you want to come in for a cup of coffee, Duo?" Then, she moved aside, waiting for him to move in.
However, Duo shook his head. "No, but thanks anyway." He replied with a warm and sincere smile. Then, to his and Hirde’s surprise, he started blushing a bright shade of red. He stuttered, "Well, you know that you asked me ‘bout bein’ ya boyfriend yesterday? I…"
Hirde cut in quickly, "No no no." She shook her head to emphasize her words. "You don’t have to give me an answer now. Take some time and think carefully over it. I don’t you to have any regrets. I love you too much for that."
Despite her words, Duo started again. "Well, I’ve thought about it the last night, and I just…" He tried again. "I just…" Unable to find the words to express himself, he pounded himself on his head. "I’ve got my answer." He finally said.
Hirde took a sharp intake of breath, as shock and anticipation wash over her like a tsunami that could not be avoided. Her breathing became ragged and short with each passing moment. In the uncomfortable cessation of sound, she silently prayed to every single god she could think of. ‘Please let him feel the same. Please…’ Fingers locking and unlocking. Body fidgeting. Her mind was turning into mash. All thoughts fled her. She felt as though she was standing on a thin layer of ice, in danger of falling into the icy waters any time.
The braided pilot scratched the back of his head, face red. Finally, the words that had clamoured at his throat crawled out slowly. "I… I’ll be your boyfriend, Hirde. I’ll be your boyfriend."
Hirde couldn’t believe what she heard. Neither could Heero. As she and Duo were engaged in a teddy bear sort of hug, the really cuddly one, the perfect soldier found himself scowling and shooting daggers at the girl, the object of his friend’s affections. If looks could kill, he was sure Hirde would have died a thousand times.
Suddenly, the vision before Heero’s eyes blurred. Before he could comprehend what was going on, he found himself far away from Duo and Hirde. Or so he thought. He didn’t even know where he was. Black mist surrounded him like a blanket. He shuddered in the frosty and soulless atmosphere. ‘Where am I?’ He mused.
"In my realm."
Heero spun around immediately and found the source of the tenor voice. A teenage girl, around his age or perhaps even younger, stepped out of the darkness. With a wave of her hand, the darkness wavered for a moment, then brightened up as rolls of pure white candles lit up, one by one down as though a wave. They were surrounding by the flickers of light, which glowed silently with power. Heero found himself to be standing on solid ground, although one could not differentiate between the ground and the sky. There were no limits. Everything seems to be one.
Heero took a closer look at the figure in front of him. To his amazement, her feet were not touching the ground. She was levitating effortlessly, as though it was normal for her, if it wasn’t. Her clothes were a shade of black, from head to toe. Even her shawl that hangs loosely from her arms was black. Knots of thread spread themselves at the edges of the somewhat magical piece of cloth. Chestnut brown locks were tied together in one ponytail, with small plaits hanging down her shoulders. Violet orbs glowed brightly, shining with intelligence and a hint of mischief. ‘She resembles Duo…’ He mused, then shook his head violently to clear the thoughts. ‘I must be thinking about the baka too much…’
To his surprise, the girl spoke again. "No, it’s not you. I do look like Duo Maxwell." She answered Heero’s unspoken question. "As I’ve said, this is my realm. I am the queen here. No one can win against me here. I gain access to your mind too, you know. In this world…"
The Japanese pilot remained calm to the best of his extent. He asked, "Who are you? Why am I here?"
The girl smiled wistfully. "Who am I? How can you know, when you don’t even know who you are?"
"I’m Heero Yuy, a gundam pilot."
She chuckled bitterly. "So is Duo. But why can he live his life in such a different way? Your lives are poles apart!" Descending onto the terra firma slowly with absolute grace and elegance, she continued. "Shinigami is actually more lively and optimistic than you! Oh, the irony of it all!"
Heero kept mum, listening to the girl blabber on. The way she spoke and her wild gestures, everything about her reminded him so much of Duo.
"Really, why do you keep on committing suicide?"
"Self-destruct." Heero corrected. He didn’t like the idea of him dying in a blaze of glory being referred to killing himself like some idiot. It is different, after all.
"No, it’s not. It’s the same. You are afraid to live on, to handle all those past failures and heartaches. You don’t have to remember." She sighed as she crossed her arms. "Listen to me, Heero. Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently. And besides, your brightest future will always be based on your past; you can’t achieve anything without letting go of those unnerving experiences and heartaches. Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards. And… Life has infinite possibilities. I don’t believe it one bit. Life never gave you many paths to choose. And sometimes, there was only one. Every crossroad was a difficult decision to make. From the limited possibilities you faced, the choices you have made have brought you this far. That’s why you should value the path you chose. Hold true to the path that HAD to be taken. It’s not like you’re here by drifting on the tides of fate. You are here because you chose to be. Don’t regret your life. By regretting, you are proving that you did things without considering the consequences."
Heero refused to give up. "The grave follows the brave."
Well, neither did the girl. She countered, "But the brave dares the grave!" Seeing him at a loss for words, she added, "You don’t have to kill yourself you know. You have friends, even though you refuse to admit to that. People like Quatre, Trowa, Wufei, Sally, Noin and even Relena, they’re all your friends." She left out Duo’s name purposefully, hoping to stir up something inside the wing pilot.
"Why do I need friends? Nothing lasts in this world. It feels great to have friends who believe in you, and adults you can rely on. That’s why it’s so dangerous, especially if you become used to it. Someday you’re bound to lose something. Everybody around you will be gone. Then what are you left with? Nothing. Nobody… It’s so miserable. And it’s inevitable. It’s so hard to recover from something like that. I never ever want to deal with it again. I can’t. Even if it means being alone… … for the rest of my life." Odin’s face flash by his eyes as though his death had just occurred yesterday.
"Just think. This might be the only time you’ll all be together. So, as long as you’re together, you might as well enjoy each other’s company and… just talk." She advised.
"…Just for now, huh? Forget it. I don’t friends who won’t be around tomorrow."
"Gosh, you’re such a pessimist. There are no guarantees in the future. That’s why TODAY, the time we have now, is important. There is no such thing as a self-made man. You will reach your goals only with the help of others. We are members of a vast cosmic orchestra in which each living instrument is essential to the complementary and harmonious playing of the whole. You are right to say that we’ll get hurt when your loved ones die. But with them, you find happiness. You can find another side of you that you never thought existed. And these rewards are surely enough to cover up for your losses, if that is what you call it. And death is not such a bad thing sometimes. It is a great teacher, but few of us elect to learn from him, about life. That is the essence of death’s teaching, life. Death is not an elective. One day we all will take the class. The wise students audit the class in early years and find enlightenment. They are prepared when graduation day comes. And then you will join them one day too. It doesn’t matter if you are of a different realm from your loved ones, because your hearts will always be linked together."
"What are friends like, then?" Heero asked, bemused.
She allowed herself a little smile. "Friends are angels who lift us to our feet when our wings have trouble remembering how to fly."
"There’s no way to tell whether they’re true to you, or will betray you at the slightest trouble." Heero was not convinced.
The young girl answered effortlessly with a grin. "A real friend is not one who only entertains you, but one who cares about you, one who will be there when you cry. They are the ones who walk in, when the rest of the world walks out." Then, she looked at the Japanese pilot, into his eyes, and saw his unspoken question. "The best kind of friend is the kind you can sit on a porch and swing with, never say a word, and then walk away feeling like it was the best conversation you've ever had."
‘What about Duo? Is he also my… friend?’ He mused. The cheeky American pilot had fit into all the categories the girl had spoken of, and even more. So much more that it… scared him. He recalled the many times they had been together, all were happy and heart-warming. Heero enjoyed being around his braided companion, even though he never admitted that, because he made him feel free. With Duo, Heero could easily wade past the red tape that Dr. J had created for him. He could *feel* when he was around.
She sensed his line of thoughts. "Tell me, Heero. What’s the most important thing in life?" She paused momentarily, waiting for an answer. Getting none, she continued. "To be free of obligations. It is your life, not anybody else’s. Live your life the way you want. No one has the right to stop you." She flashed Heero an assuring smile.
Then she asked. "Do you know who is Duo to you? A friend? Or…" She gestured for him to complete the sentence. Seeing no reaction, she pouted. "Oh c’mon. Think."
Heero’s mind went in great jumbles. He didn’t know what was Duo to him. All he knew is that Duo is a very important part of his entire existence. "I… don’t know."
The girl sighed. This is going to be longer than she expected. "Let me give you a few hints. Lately, you’ve been watching Duo’s dates with Hirde, his current girlfriend. I’ll remind you. *Girlfriend.* Not just a female friend, but a girl he loves. How do you feel about that?"
Heero could feel his stomach churn. Somehow, for reasons unknown, he didn’t like the idea of Duo getting associated with that girl. Not that he likes the idea of Duo getting associated with other girls. "Bad."
"That’s so general. Be more specific."
"I feel like I’m being tied down by some chains. I can’t breathe anymore. And Duo is spreading his wings, leaving me behind. Anger too, but I don’t comprehend why." He answered truthfully.
"You’re jealous." She concluded. "You don’t like to see them together."
Heero merely nodded when he heard the second sentence. He wasn’t so sure of the jealousy part yet.
"Well, I can’t help you with that. Only you can help yourself. You’re on the right track. Think about it a little more and you’ll get an answer to your relationship with Duo. Recall the times you spent with him, and his dates with Hirde, those I showed you. There’ll be more to come. Just remember. Open your heart." She said with a light smile. The results were satisfying. As she turned to walk away, Heero called out after her.
"Will I see you again?" Somehow, Heero found that he could tell her *everything*. ‘Her resemblance to Duo, I suppose…’ And besides, she provided him with answers that he might now have discovered without her help. He found that he actually like having someone to talk to and this girl was just the right person to help.
She whirled around. Standing with arms akimbo, she smirked gleefully. "Tomorrow. I’ll come back to you tomorrow night, in your dreams." Then, she turned back and proceeded to run again.
Heero called once more, "What’s your name?" She didn’t answer, but instead kept onto her pace and soon, she disappeared out of sight.
However, from a distance, the answer echoed. "Vespera!"
With that, Heero felt his eyes flutter open. Holding up one hand to block out the blinding glare from the beams of sunlight that strayed into his room through the windows, he shook his head to wake himself up further. Getting out of bed, he stretched his body full length. His mind trailed back to his dream last night.
"Vespera, eh?" He spoke out aloud, with a slight hint of a smile. "See you tonight."
Somewhere in the darkness of the room, a slight chuckle could be heard.
Duo woke up groggy. Without the usual sweet dreams Vespera blessed him with, as she had for the past few nights, he felt strange. A little out of place. As he yawned, he briefly recalled last night’s event’s. He had made a bet with Vespera. And the smug expression she later had on her looking somewhat sly face… it made him shudder. Hell knows what she was up to.
Usually, he was able to delve into her thoughts, as she could into his. They could always guess the other’s reactions and line of thoughts. But last night, honestly speaking, Duo had not the slightest idea of what she was thinking of. ‘Probably some ploy to make me lose the bet.’ He thought sourly. ‘Never mind her, I won’t lose that easily.’
The bet. It made him remember Heero. Somehow, he didn’t know why, he felt that the bet had something, or will have something to do with the withdrawn Japanese pilot. He just wondered what was it…
Then, his eyes widened as realization finally hit him like a tsunami. It was way past nine. Which meant that he was late for his date! "Oh my god! By my shinigami, I’m late!!!"
By the time Duo arrived at their rendezvous point, after much rushing and dashing throughout the whole journey, it was already ten-thirty, one and a half hours late. Slapping his forehead in frustration, he scanned the area for his date. Finally, he found her sitting alone on a bench. She was almost dozing off. ‘Great job, Duo Maxwell. First date with your girlfriend, and you’re late already.’ He reprimanded himself mentally.
He crossed the area towards Hirde. With a gentle shake, she woke up, startled. "Duo?"
Duo immediately apologized, "I sorry! I guess I slept too late last night! I’m really very sorry!"
Hirde smiled. "It’s okay. I just arrived too. Late for forty-five minutes."
Her boyfriend asked, "Why? The television had a good program on?"
To his surprise, she replied. "No. I was too excited to fall asleep. I still can’t believe that you’re my boyfriend now! I want the whole world to know!" She squealed, as she slung her arm over his. "C’mon, let’s start playing!"
Duo felt bad. Really very bad. He now understood that Hirde seemed to love him more than he loved her. And despite his promise to Vespera, he wasn’t sure whether he would grow to love the woman in front of him. Like and love were two completely different matter. Perhaps she was right, that he had made a brash decision because of the deadline… …Did he?
"How was your date today?"
Duo felt his eyes pop out of his socket, and he was pretty sure his jaws had fallen onto the ground. Heero Yuy? The perfect soldier? Asking him about his date? Out of reflex, he held a hand over his and Heero’s forehead. "Hmm? You’re not having a fever…"
Irritably, Heero swipe his hand away. He acted this nicely as he had remembered Vespera’s conversation with him last night. She gave him the criteria of a friend, and Duo and fit into those categories and even more. So, he had decided to treat the American pilot more like a friend. However, the reaction he received from him was rather disheartening. Had he really been that cold and callous towards Duo? So much that he would think that he was sick to be nice? "Baka." He uttered angrily, then stalked off in the opposite direction to his room.
Behind him, he felt the twitch on Duo’s lips. A forceful jesters’ laugh that he had grown to hate. It wasn’t real.
Duo felt perplexed at Heero’s sudden concern. Although he didn’t admit it, it was really comforting to see him initiate a conversation. At least his efforts to get Heero to open up was getting paid off. Usually, he enjoyed raising Heero’s ire with his incessant chatting and teasing, mainly because of his reactions. It was only a snort, but Duo felt delighted that there was just a reaction coming from the perfect soldier. Even if it spoke of irritation. Somehow, Duo felt that he *had* to help him open up his heart. As a friend, he assumed. A good friend.
Seeing Heero snap at him and stalk off caused him to break out of his trance. Perhaps he had gone too far this time? Even though he expected this sort of response, he still felt uneasy. He didn’t like to get a scolding from his supposedly best friend. Ahh, it hurt.
But that was only for him to know. Determined to keep up his jester mask, he smirked forcefully.
"Have I indeed been that insensitive and unfeeling?"
"Well, I don’t know about that. But I do know that Duo has had better conversations with a brick wall." Vespera answered as-a-matter-of-factly.
Heero wanted to slam his head in frustration. "Shucks. Now what do I do? I try to be nice and caring for once, and he doesn’t appreciate it. Forget it! I’ll act like myself again tomorrow."
Vespera snickered. "Like yourself? Heero, I suppose you don’t exactly know what’s beneath your lukewarm surface, do you?"
What an eloquent cryptic answer. Uneasiness so profound that Heero could feel it in his veins. "What do you mean by that?" He asked, eyeing the girl suspiciously.
She merely smiled. Vespera closed her bright violet orbs and chanted softly, raising an arm over her head. Suddenly, they were at another place.
A myriad of colours greeted them. The endless waltz of beautiful flowers swayed lovingly towards each other as the smoothing breeze blew across the land. The enchanting petals acted as stages, as various butterflies danced and fluttered around them. The sun shone gently on them and its rays reached every corner of the place. Fluffy white clouds drifted across the skies lazily, shielding the land from the sometimes hot ball of fire. Heero would be lying if he said he didn’t like the gigantic garden.
"This place is captivating."
"Sure it is. Do you know where we are now?" With another amused smile, she supplied the answer herself. "We are inside of you. This is your subconscious. The place where dreams becomes reality." Seeing Heero’s dumbfounded expression, she explained further. "Everything you see here, is what you want. Like these flowers, for instance." She held up a red rose and inhaled its romantic aromatize. "You like flowers a lot, don’t you? That’s why they’re here. This is your Promised Land. A land that promises boundless happiness. It is where you want to be in, with your loved ones."
"My Promised Land." Heero echoed.
"One and only. Yours exclusively." Vespera assured him. Then, she pointed somewhere faraway. "See? Those are the people you treasure a lot in your life, but perhaps you don’t even know."
Heero followed her line of direction. There he saw, were several children engaged in a game of tag. Vespera held his arm and pulled him along to them. However, they stayed up in the air, and see the kids play with gleeful smiles and wide grins plastered onto their faces. Slowly, Heero identified them one by one.
"That’s Relena… and that is Trowa, Wufei and Quatre." The names rolled off his tongue slowly, in disbelief. The four children were laughing and playing happily. Heero never knew that they could be that happy. At least, not in the real life.
Then, a sonorous laugh attracted his attention. He saw, to his right, were two children sitting together in a conversation. One had an extraordinarily long chestnut braid and was rolling on the ground, clutching his stomach. He was panting and still laughing. The other kid was… himself. He had a smile on his face, and his eyes were warm. Before his braided companion could get up, he pounced and tackled him.
All of a sudden, Heero found himself back in the place he was in before. Vespera smiled as she spoke, "How was it? You see? That piece of beauty still lies in you. Deep, but it still exists. You’re not as cold as you may think. That younger version of you is the real you. It’s just that, after so many years of training and bloodshed, you’ve learnt to hide yourself behind your perfect soldier mask."
Heero shook his head in disbelief. "Why are all of them children? I only got to know them when they were fifteen…"
Vespera replied, "That’s because you believe that they are pure in their hearts. You really like them a lot. Especially Duo." She noted with satisfaction. "Tell me. Why are they inside your subconscious? You should know. Let’s start with Relena. I thought you’ve always wanted to kill her?"
"She… made a difference in me. Because of her, I started to feel, if only a little. And after all, she is an important person in this war-torn world. The world needs her."
"And the others?"
"Quatre is innocent at heart. I used to resent that, but now I realise that it’s his innocence that preserves his heart. It is what lets him able to go through this war and not lose his soul. And besides, he is a nice person. And for Trowa… I got to know him in that one month of recuperation after my self-destruct attempt. He may be cold and impassive. But he has a heart. For time and time again, he has saved us. And Wufei makes our group whole with his shouts of ‘justice’. He makes our little group whole in his own special way."
"And Duo?" Vespera prompted eagerly.
"He… gave me back my soul and made me whole. All my life, I’ve felt alone and detached to the rest of the world. All I knew was to follow orders and live my life blindly. But he… somehow wove through the defenses I erected all these years as the perfect soldier and brought me out of my shell. I… like him… a lot…" He ended, happiness dripping from his voice. "Now that I know about all these, what should I do?"
"You know what, Heero? Kindness is a language the dumb can speak and the deaf can hear and understand. Express yourself the way you like, but do try to voice out your feelings a little more obvious. You want to be pleasant to Duo, right? Then stop giving him all those snorts and crude answers, and when you talk, don’t snap or bark. If God had intended for you to bark, He would have given you roots and leaves." She smirked at her joke. "Talk to him more often. It’s not as if you’ll die if you talk more." She replied. Then she added, "And remember Heero. A careless word may kindle strife; a cruel word may wreck a life; a timely word may level stress; a loving word may heal and bless."
"Vespera!" She snapped her head up. "Uh oh, someone’s calling me. Gotta go. See you again tonight, ok?"
Heero nodded. "Ok."
Before she disappeared, she reminded, "Remember to act more humane towards Duo. And I hope that you’ll get your answer real soon. Tell me when you find it, ok?"
Then, Heero woke up.
Duo paced around impatiently. "Vespera, where the hell are you?" He mumbled under his breath.
As if on cue, a head popped out in front of him. "What’s up?" Vespera was hanging upside down in front of Duo, body floating in midair.
The American pilot was almost on the verge of jumping out of his skin. "Ahh!" He managed a little jump onto his bed in shock.
Vespera stood akimbo, lips forming a pout. "Perfect timing, Duo. I was talking to a friend of mine and you just had to call me. What’s with you now?"
Regaining his composure, Duo retorted. "I just had something to ask you."
"And what is it?"
Duo stretched the back of his head, and asked sheepishly. "Well, I wanna ask you about Hirde. I’m having a little problem." Looking up again, he continued. "What do couples do when they’re on a date?"
"I… I’m running out of things to do with her!" He groaned, rolling his eyes in boredom. "It’s like, we’ve gone to the movies, we’ve gone to the disco, the restaurants, the parks, funfairs… Where else can we go?"
"I don’t think I’m in the position to comment on your boring schedule with her. But, don’t couples have a lot to do together?"
"Basking in each other’s presence. A kiss. A hug. Anything. When you are with someone you love, you just enjoy being with that person. It’s the feelings, the passion that you get. You feel like you’re on the top of the world just being with her. Not what you are doing. Get my drift?"
At this, Duo sighed exaggeratedly. "I know, I know. But I just don’t seem to feel that way."
"Because you’re not in love with her." She stated flatly.
"Yes, I am!" He snapped irately.
Vespera pouted disapprovingly. Eden had never snapped or bark at her ever since she can remember, until now. "You sound like you’re trying to assure yourself instead of me." Then, she turned around to leave. As she walk away, she offered. "Try out the beach today."
Duo snapped his fingers. "Now why didn’t I think of that?"
Somewhere in the distance, he heard Vespera’s reply. "Cause you’re dumb!"
The next few days passed by swiftly. Everyday, Duo would go out with Hirde, then arrive back at the safehouse and talk to Vespera for more ideas. He found that their relationship was getting a little strained as both didn’t know what to do. They had practically gone to every ideal place for couples in the entire town. And they had nothing to fill up those unnerving moments of reticence. After several days, both were getting tired.
As for Heero, he spoke with Vespera nightly, who supplied him with helpful answers and also, encouraged him to open up. However, even with her around, Heero was still befuddled about his feelings towards the noisy braided pilot. He was sure that Duo was more than just a friend, but what was he to him then? He had no idea, and even though Vespera seemed to have been able to guess it, she refused to let the cat out of the bag and insisted that Heero should find out himself.
To him, Duo and Hirde’s dates were like a TV serial. He watched them nightly, with Vespera’s aid. He noticed the trend that ran through them, eventually. The dates were superficial. They had their share of fun, sure, but they lacked the emotions of a pair of lovers. They do converse, but they never *talked*. As in, they didn’t let the other know what they were thinking.
And Heero had managed to talk with Duo on several occasions, and both enjoyed themselves thoroughly. They jogged together in the mornings, and sometimes, and afternoon tea as well. All in all, they started to spend a lot more time together then they had. And it wasn’t only a monologue by Duo only, Heero spoke up a lot too. Whenever they met each other in the corridors, they greeted each other with a tiny smile.
The other pilots saw the gradual change in Heero and silently cheered him on. It was healthier for everyone. And somehow, they all knew that the change was for a certain braided baka who didn’t have the slightest idea about it.
"Race you to the other end!" Duo shouted.
Heero looked at his companion. He was radiant even though he was covered in sweat and dirt. Gathering up what was left of his stamina, he sped after the cheeky American pilot. He hadn’t been trained as a perfect soldier for nothing. Within a minute, he had overtaken the braided boy with a lot of distance between.
Duo cried playfully, "Don’t assume that you can win death this easily!" Immediately, he took off after him. With a bit of effort, he caught up with Heero.
Eyeing the braided pilot gingerly, he suddenly felt the burning desire to hold him in his arms. And also some rascality. Mischievously, he pounced on Duo, who was totally caught off guard by this surprise attack. They tumbled down onto the ground in a tangled web of arms and legs.
Duo, shocked out of his mind, yelled, "What are you doing? Are you out of your mind?" Prudently, he untangled himself from the comfortable warmth of Heero’s body, although he refused to confess the fact. Then the two lay on the green, green grass for a short rest. Duo gazed above him. He leaned back, resting his tired soul in the velvety silence.
The Japanese pilot chuckled a little. "Nothing. My playful nerve just got the better of me."
Duo raised an eyebrow at the answer. "Who are you and what have you done to Heero?" He asked cheekily. Somehow, Heero was changing a lot these few days. Not that he minded. In fact, he found that he actually preferred this new Heero who was a lot more amiable. Not to mention loquacious. They took a jog together every morning, and it actually helped him to release some stress he was having with Hirde.
‘Heero makes a really excellent friend.’
Sometimes, his mind would counter. ‘Is he only a friend?’ And that always rendered Duo speechless. He had always taken Heero to be his best friend, and never thought that he could be anything more than just a friend. But deep in his heart, he fathomed that it was possible. He enjoyed taking the liberty and go out of his way to try to initiate a conversation with the Japanese pilot, or to make him smile. And he was sure that it was most certainly enough to get Heero to shove a gun down his nose. But it never occurred. He always got away with it for reasons unknown. Suddenly, he felt the urge to ask him something rather private.
"Heero, do you like Relena?"
Heero was shocked for a moment, but still managed an eloquent answer. "What makes you think so?" And he turned around to face Duo, face spelling of bitterness.
Duo was positively spooked. ‘Uh-oh. I think I just hit a soft spot.’ He quickly chirped, "Nah, just curious!" ‘And curiosity is gonna kill the cat here!’ He screamed mentally.
To his relief, Heero spoke, "Yes, I do like her… a lot…"
Duo didn’t know what happened or why was it happening. He just felt a stinging sensation in his eyes, and icy needles were pricking his heart. The sun may be shining, the flowers may be blooming, the breeze may be blowing, but to him, everything wasn’t there. He was in the deepest chasm, all alone.
Then, Heero added, "But I don’t love her. I never did, and I never will."
Again, Duo didn’t know what happened or why was it happening. But the stinging sensation was gone, and the needles were transforming into passionate rays of light. The sun was definitely glorious than ever before, so was the beautiful and attractive flowers and also the cooling and comforting breeze. To him, everything was magnificent. He was on seventh heaven.
A truthful smile broke onto his heart shaped face.
Heero almost melted when he saw him smile that way. He wished for some absurd reason he could make this moment freeze in time, or frame it up so that he could savour it everyday. It was unquestionably the most beautiful sight he had ever seen. Sensing that this was a premium opportunity to talk with the braided pilot, he requested, "Duo, talk to me. About anything. I feel like some talking would do me good."
‘He wants to talk?’ Duo almost laughed out loud, but opted against it after deciding that it was crude and impolite. After getting pass the initial shock, he flopped over and lay on his stomach, facing his Japanese friend. He started the ball rolling with a few unimportant issues that didn’t really invade Heero’s privacy. Yet, even so, Duo still saw that he was reluctant to talk much about himself. "C’mon Heero buddy! You wanna talk, so open up!" He saw Heero waver a little, then added. "Ok, I asked you something really private just now, about Relena. So you get to ask me one too. Take your pick."
Heero eyed him for a moment, then asked, "Duo, why do you always wear black? Is there a reason?"
Duo’s eyes widened a little as he took in a sharp intake of air, his face a pure look of sadness. "It’s…" He paused, as he thought carefully of how to answer. "It’s because I’ve seen too much red. Black contrasts with red, doesn’t it? Too much bloodshed has taken place in front of my very eyes, Heero. Besides, black is fitting for death. After all, I am shinigami, the god of death."
Heero almost snorted. "You always claim to be shinigami when you’re not."
"You’ll be surprised…" Duo muttered under his breath. "You’ll really be surprised…"
"What was that?"
The braided one merely smirked.
Heero sat down on the terra firma, gaping at the young girl in front of him. She sat opposite of him, still hovering in midair cross-legged. He was having a little problem and needed to ask her for any hints.
"What is love, Vespera?"
She smiled with satisfaction. He is getting ahead now. Finally. "Love is seeing yourself through someone’s eyes and finding yourself in somebody’s heart." She answered effortlessly, as though she had came prepared.
"But what if it’s friendship?"
Vespera gazed at Heero lovingly, then replied. "Do you stay because a blinding, incomprehensible mix of pain and elation pulls you close and holds you? Then it's love. Do you accept their faults because they're a part of who they are? Then it's love. Would you give them your heart, your life, your death? Then it's love. Does your heart ache and break when they're sad? Then it's love. Do you cry for their pain, even when they're strong? Then it's love. Do their eyes see your true heart, and touch your soul so deeply it hurts? Then it's love.
"If love is painful, and tortures us so, why do we love? Why is it all we search for in life?
This pain, this agony? Why is it all we long for? This torture, this powerful death of self? Why?" Heero shot back. He needed an answer right now.
"Because it's...love. Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, it is not puffed up; love does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bear all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails."
"How am I supposed to feel love? After all those training that told me that I shouldn’t feel?"
"Heero, I’ve showed you what’s inside your heart. You too, like others, were once innocent and naïve. Once you have loved, you will always love. For what’s in your mind may escape but what’s in your heart will remain forever. Lands diminish, Heero, but not our hearts." She placed a gentle hand over her heart.
"But love’s… like a barren place; it’s like a journey I just don't have a map for. It cripples you. It’s a weakness."
"Once you accept someone for who and what they really are, they will surprise you by being better than you ever expected. Love is accepting a person with all of his or her strength and weaknesses. Because of you, they will become stronger. Not to protect him or herself, but rather to protect you. And Heero, love is not a weakness. It is a strength that lets you carry on when you find yourself in your darkest hours."
Heero lowered his head in deep contemplation. Is she right? She does, at least in theory.
"Find time to realize that there is one person who mean so much to you, for you might wake up one morning losing the person whom you thought meant nothing to you." She added.
He nodded. ‘It is time.’ Then he wavered for a moment, then asked again. "How do I know who I love then?"
"If you like to get out from a noisy party and walk together outside only with her, you are in love with her. When you are together with her, you pretend to ignore her. But when she is not around you, you might look around to find her. At that moment, you are in love. You keep telling yourself, "She is just a friend," but you realize that you can not help avoiding the special attraction from her. At that moment, you are in love with her."
Heero recalled the truth of her words. Whenever he attends functions, especially those hosted by Relena, he always takes a stroll outside along with Duo only. When they were together, he tends to ignore him as though he wasn’t there. But when he is away, Heero will sometimes search for his trail. He persuaded himself that Duo was just a mere friend, but then his mind would counter ‘Only?’ He can’t ignore the attraction he feels for him. ‘Am I in love… with Duo?’ He mused.
"You will have to think for yourself. I can’t help you with this." Vespera stated.
Heero nodded mutely, his mind still in deep contemplation.
"Duo, I hope that you are working well with Hirde. There’s only three days left." Vespera reminded, as she crossed her fingers behind her. She wanted him to be with Hirde? Jeesh, that was a lame joke.
Duo plopped down onto his bed, zonked. Kicking off his shoes, he found a comfortable spot and position to lay in. "I know that. We will work out, eventually."
"Eventually?" She echoed, as if tauntingly. "Duo, it’s three days, not three months. It’s a difference of around eighty over days." Vespera sat down on Duo’s desk as she continued. "I hope that you didn’t forget about the test."
Duo sprang up from his bed. "Test? What test?"
Vespera slapped her forehead in frustration. "So you *did* forget. You scatterbrain." She pouted. "You know? The one whereby your love is tested?"
Duo’s eyes widen as he remembered. "You mean *that*?"
"Glad you remember. Well, I’ll fill you in anyway." She cleared her throat. "Ok, so they were afraid that you might just get yourself some whore or bitch to pass off as your lover, so that you can stay here. Hence the test. It will weigh your love for each other. And your lover’s love for you must be at least as much as you love her, or even more. But of course, you must love her too, enough for her to be your lover and not just a mere friend."
"Oh my shinigami!" He groaned. "I’m dead meat!"
"Why?" Vespera asked in all sweetness.
"I… don’t know! I just don’t feel that way towards her yet! Or rather, I like her a lot. But I’m not sure if that is enough!"
"So make it enough." She replied innocently.
Duo slumped. He stared at her as he pouted. "You know, Vespera? Sometimes, I really do hate you."
Vespera laughed heartily.
Duo and Hirde walked down the street with disinterest. After another round of movies, they found themselves with nothing to do again. This was the third time on the same day. Suddenly, as they rounded a corner, Hirde bumped into someone.
‘A gangster, of all people.’ Duo noted with distaste.
Hirde quickly got back to her feet and apologized. "Gomen nasai!" However, those creeps refused to let the matter rest this easily. After all, they were after some easy money. "You bitch! Look at my clothes! They’re all dirtied! Pay up for the laundry bills!" His gang whistled. "Yea!"
He grabbed Hirde by her shoulder.
"Let go of Hirde, you bastard!" Duo shouted irately, and pulled her towards himself. Those tugs were getting on his nerves.
"Tsk tsk. What temper." The man laughed, amused. "She soiled my clothes. Unless you pay the laundry bills, otherwise…" He snapped his fingers. "A big fat ‘NO’!" His gang of friends laughed merrily and yelled, "Precisely!"
"Pay you? I would rather give my money to some beggars than to you!" Duo spat, disgustedly.
"Oh yeah? Then we show you who’s boss!" He shouted, as he lunged forward to deliver a heavy blow to Duo’s face. Duo jumped aside dexterously, and retaliated. With a powerful kick on his bum, the bloody idiot flew to the heap of rubbish.
Duo remarked mirthfully. "Aren’t you going to thank me? I sent you back to where you belong, you trash."
His friends wavered for a moment, then one stood out and yelled. "C’mon guys! Let’s teach this kid a lesson! Someone pull off his braid!"
"Yeah!" His gang of crooks answered in unison. Then all of them ran up and proceeded to try and bash Duo into a pulp. However, unlucky for them, Duo was no ordinary person. He was after all, a gundam pilot.
Within minutes, Duo got away with some minor bruises and scrapes. On the other hand, the gangsters were all lying on the ground (or in the rubbish heap), some clutching at their stomachs and groaning while others were already unconscious. They looked as if a tornado had just passed through.
The last of them was scared out of his wits. Out of fear, he held a knife to Hirde’s neck, holding her hostage. "Stay back! Or she’ll get it!" He backed away carefully, all the time dragging her along.
Duo clenched his fists tightly. Anger washed over him. He just wanted to tear the idiot apart. "Let go of Ves-" He stopped dead in his sentence. What had he just said? Vespera? But why? Was he taking Hirde to be another Vespera?
A sharp shriek brought him out of his trance. The gangster pushed Hirde onto the ground with force, then made his getaway. Duo immediately ran over to his girlfriend. "Are you alright, Hirde?"
She, although shocked, nodded palely. "Yea, I’m alright."
Later, he sent her to a doctor to check up on her and himself, then proceeded to take her home. After all that were done with, he returned home alone.
‘Why did I call out Vespera’s name when Hirde was held hostage? Why?’ Duo pondered over the question for the tenth time in that night.
"Because you love her like a sister."
Duo whirled around, and came face to face with Vespera.
"Admit it. You took her for me, a sister. You don’t love her at all. The feelings you haboured for her, which you assumed was love, was actually brotherly love!" She noted smugly.
Duo was dumbfounded, as realization struck him. Finally, when he broke out of his trance, he plopped down onto his bed and groaned. "Ahh! Now what do I do?"
"Tell her. Break up with her. She has her match, and it’s not you. Someone else will step into her life, and walk up the red aisle and towards the road of happiness with her. But that person is definitely not *you*."
"How do I do it? You don’t expect me to go up to her, and say, ‘Hey Hirde. Let’s break up cuz’ I took you for a sister.’ That is soooo uncouth." Duo replied with wild gestures.
"Interesting question. I suppose you’ll have to figure that out yourself."
"Ahhhh…" Duo prayed for help.
"What if I told you that Duo is breaking up with Hirde?"
"Nani?" Heero asked with skepticism.
"It’s true." She stated flatly. "Duo, just somehow, realised that he loves Hirde only as a sister. So? What are you gonna do ‘bout this?"
"Do what is right, do it because it’s right, then do it right. Follow your feelings." She encouraged.
She felt like pulling out her hair. After a bout with Duo, her patience was wearing thin. "You are pushing me to ‘Shinigami mode’! Just tell me what are you going to do! Fate exists but it can only take you so far, because once you're there, it's up to you to make it happen!" She growled. ‘I’m surrounded by idiots!’
"And Heero, life is a coin. You can spend it any way you wish, but you can only spend it once. You won’t get a second chance after this!"
"Honestly, Vespera. I know that Duo means a lot to me now, with your help. And I also know that I want to be with him. But I’m not sure of what I want from him. Give me some more time."
Vespera rolled her eyes. "Yeah, I get your point. The thing is, we don’t have that much time now! The day after tomorrow is the limit! If you still can’t figure that out by then, then you’ll be left with a big fat zero! Back to square one!"
She hesitated, then frowned. "Because his time is up, unless he finds love successfully."
Duo kicked at a small pebble on the concrete pavement. Hirde walked silently beside him. Gradually, they found themselves at Hirde’s doorstep. She was about to close her doors, when Duo stopped her. "Hirde, wait. I’ve got something to tell you." Hirde opened her door wider and waited patiently. The braided pilot frowned at the silence between them. It was so thick that he was positive that he could cut it with a knife. Finally, he broke the silence with his husky voice.
"Hirde, I… I…" He struggled to get the words out of his throat but found that it was a real difficulty. He could fly into death’s waiting arms, but telling Hirde how he felt was one of the bravest things he had ever done. Finally, he forced out. "Gomen, Hirde. But I don’t feel that way for you. I thought I did, I really did. But then, after so many days, I find that it’s wrong. I’ve been loving you for a sister. I really sorry." He bowed, and eyes downcast. He couldn’t face Hirde now.
She bit her lips. Words struggled up her throat and clamored to get out...reasons, both sensible and ridiculous...anything to keep him here. But she swallowed them back down, realizing the truth of his words. It wasn't truly love, and it wouldn't bring them true happiness. Finally, she nodded sadly. "I understand. I’ve known this from the beginning, since we started dating. Even when we were together, your heart wasn’t always with me. I knew that you loved me like a sister, but even so, I didn’t want to let you go. I was selfish and greedy; I wanted to keep you with me, even if I couldn’t have your heart. But now, after being your girlfriend for even just a few days, I can let go. Thanks for all you’ve given me." She felt her heart wrench, and her eyes brim with tears, but she felt that she had a tremendous weight taken off from her shoulders. "I sincerely hope that you will find true happiness with the one you love." She said with heartfelt gratitude.
Duo took her hands in his and gave them a tight squeeze. "Thank you, Hirde. Thank you. Trust me that I will be your friend forever. And lastly, I earnestly hope that you will find your own true love. A man who truly deserves you." With a gentle peck on her cheek, Duo turned and ran off.
Hirde stood at her door, watching Duo disappear into the darkness. With a strangled sob, she finally let the tears fall freely.
"Can you really let him go?" A voice asked.
Hirde glanced at her side, then replied wistfully. "I have to. I’ll hurt him if I keep him here."
"How can you bear the pain? I understand what it's like to fall in love with someone... to wonder if he's the one for you; to be swept away by the emotions that wash over you whenever you see him. How can all these be let go so easily?"
"Because I love him, silly," smiled Hirde wearily. "You still don't get it. I'm not going to hide and try to stop loving him. That would be impossible. I'll love him until the day I die; that's how much he's a part of me. I'm going to keep on living and loving, but without making him the center of my life. I'm not going to waste my whole life and heart on someone who won't return that gift. I deserve better than that. And… It breaks your heart to see the one you love is happy with someone else… but it’s more painful to know that the one you love is unhappy with you. " She sighed. "Vespera, what do you think?"
The girl flashed her a smile. "You’re really something Hirde." Then she added. "A sad thing in life is when you meet someone who means a lot to you, only to find out in the end that it was never meant to be and you just have to let go. But don’t cry too much, just be glad that your paths crossed and somehow he made you happy, even for a while. And my friend, there are so many stars in the sky, but only some are radiant enough to be noticed. Among those who you choose to ignore is the one which is willing to shine for you forever even if your glance remained elsewhere. I’m sure you’ll find your own match someday."
"Do you really love him that much?" Vespera asked.
"I'm in love with him. My heart beats faster when he's near, I love gazing into his eyes, and I dream about holding him and being held back. But I also love him. Even when he makes me mad, I know deep in my heart the bond I have to him will never break. Even if there were absolutely no chance of him ever returning my feelings or even then my friendship, I wouldn't be able to stop loving him. What I feel for Duo isn't just the passions of the heart; it's a passion of the soul. People get married because they're in love. And those same people get divorced because they didn't actually love each other; they were just 'in love.' Being in love isn't a constant. People fight, people have bad days, and people fall in and out of love all the time. But loving someone; that can't die."
Vespera gave her a thumbs-up in admiration. "You’re really noble, Hirde. Really." Then her mind fell into deep concentration. ‘Now that Duo’s broken up with Hirde, what is he gonna do? There’s only one more day.’
"Beep!" That sound was unmistakably the signal of incoming mail. Heero walked over to his laptop and checked his mailbox. It was a mission that required all five pilots, and they were to blow up an OZ base that was almost a hundred kilometers away from their current safehouse. At last, a mission. After being cooped up in this damn safehouse for three whole weeks, they finally had a mission.
After notifying the other pilots, they planned their strategy. Quatre and Trowa would invade from the East, take care of the soldier’s barracks and the arsenal. Wufei would attack from the West, and destroy the warehouses. Meanwhile, Heero would sneak into the base, along with Duo, and download the information they needed. Then, they are supposed to return to their respective gundams and help the rest to obliterate the entire base.
With all the commotion Quatre, Trowa and Wufei were providing, Heero and Duo sneaked in effortlessly. Expertly, they downloaded the files they needed with ease.
DOWNLOAD IN PROGRESS: FIVE MINUTES LEFT
Duo noted with satisfaction that the mission was going well. Then, he suddenly remembered the deadline. It was tonight. ‘Looks like I’ve lost the bet. I’ll have to go home tonight. This will be my last mission. After tonight, nobody will remember me anymore. It’ll be like I never existed.’ He thought bitterly. Staring at Heero, he sighed. ‘Good bye, my friend. I’ll miss him a lot. There aren’t really a lot of cool guys like him in the world.’ Then, a set of words brought him back to the mission.
Heero called out. "Move out!" Duo gave a nod, then sprinted off for the exit. Heero quickly followed suit and filed out. They encountered no enemies, and they assumed that most of the soldiers were out there, busily fighting against their fellow gundam pilots.
As they rounded a corner, they came face to face with an OZ soldier, who was holding a gun and aiming for them. Duo, who had been sprinting, found it hard to stop running and duck. The soldier fired immediately, as soon as he saw Duo. The bullet headed straight for his chest. He saw a blur, as he felt someone push him down onto the ground and heard a loud ‘bang!’ Two, actually.
‘He shot me twice? Never thought I’ll leave this way…’
However, the cloud over his eyes cleared soon and he felt his breath leave him. "Heero?!" His Japanese companion was lying on top of him, and blood was seeping through his green tank top. The OZ soldier was already lying dead on the ground, with a shot in his head.
Duo pushed Heero to his side carefully, then took a closer look at his injury. It shocked him immensely when he discovered that the shot had been aimed at his heart, and it was rather close, or had already punctured his heart. Blood gushed out mercilessly like a stream of running water.
Duo cried, "Heero! Hang on there! I’ll take you to the hospital right away!" He felt his eyes tear, and his heart wrench. It was painful. So painful that he would rather had been the one who was shot. It hurt to see Heero going through this.
Heero felt his vision blur. He couldn’t see clearly anymore. All he could see was the braided boy. Seeing that he was fine, he couldn’t help but heave a sigh of relief. At least he was alright, the rest didn’t matter. Even if he were to die, he felt contented to just see that Duo was still alive. "I… I’m… so glad you’re… fine…" He spoke, voice hardly a whisper.
"Why? Why Heero? What you did was stupid!" Duo reprimanded, as he began to cry. Even though he tried to be optimistic, but he knew that there wasn’t much chance that the perfect soldier would pull through this ordeal. Suddenly, he felt lost. Like a ship in the middle of a vast ocean which had lost its direction. And Heero was the guiding light that would bring him back to safety. But now, the light was dying out.
Heero lifted an arm to cup Duo’s face, and tried to wipe away those tears that were eating away in his heart. It made him upset to see him cry. "Don’t… cry… I don’t… regret…saving you… as long… as you’re fine… I’m glad…"
"Heero…" Duo felt that he was going to die, of feelings that were engulfing him. Feelings that he always knew, but never admitted. "You… can’t die… I’ve still got so much to tell you… Don’t leave me alone!" He brushed Heero’s bang away from his cobalt blue eyes. Eyes that he had drowned in. Eyes that caught his breath every time he saw them. Souls were the windows to one’s souls, and he was gazing into the most beautiful soul he ever beheld. What would he do if those very eyes would never open again? He didn’t know. All he knew was that if Heero were to leave him, he would follow immediately. He finally understood that he couldn’t live without his somewhat psychotic friend anymore.
As Duo was musing his feelings for his dying friend, Heero did the same. When he saw Duo in danger, he immediately jumped in front of him and willingly took the blow for him. He had lost control then; he didn’t know what he was doing. The things he did were based merely on his instincts. Instincts that told him that he *needed* to do this. Instincts that told him that he *had* to protect Duo. Forever, if that were possible. Finally, everything seemed to have fallen into place. The last piece of the puzzle was fit into its previously empty slot. All those jealously he felt, those feelings. All those times Duo managed to keep him sane. All those times where Duo brought sparks and laughter into his otherwise dull life. Why Vespera’s words made so much sense. He knew what they were at last.
"Ai shiteru, Duo…" He uttered, then his body went limp, eyes shut for eternal.
Duo felt his world shatter. "Why? Why did we discover our feelings only until now? Vespera, you were right. Hirde’s not the one. He is. I can’t keep up our bet anymore, because…" He swallowed the lump in his throat. "I love you too, Heero… But it’s too late." Slowly, he withdrew his pistol and pointed it at his temples. "Wait for me, Heero. I’m coming too…"
He pulled the trigger, and fell into oblivion.
‘Li…ght. A light. Is this light heaven?’
Duo heard someone call him. Opening his eyes slowly, his vision began to focus again. "Heero?"
Heero looked down at him as he held him close to his chest. Duo pinched himself. "Oww!" It hurts. He wasn’t dreaming. Heero was with him! Eyes tearing again, he threw himself into Heero’s comforting and warm arms. Sobbing, he snuggled against the Japanese pilot lovingly. "Oh my god. You’re really here. You’re really here…"
Heero stroked his back tenderly. "Duo, did you hear what I said earlier on? About my… feelings for you?" Then, he took in a sharp intake of air at how he had let those words slip out of his lips so easily. Too easily. What would Duo’s reply be?
Duo nodded vigorously. "Yes. Thank you, Heero. Me too you." He answered sincerely, his usual sense of humour and habit of teasing lost.
His eyes widen a little, then he tightened his embrace on Duo and cradled him a little. "Ai shiteru, Duo." They felt contented to just bask in each other’s company for that moment. It was something they both dreamed of, deep down inside of them. However, they crushed it down for fear of the other pushing himself away and losing his friendship. Now, there would be no more fear. Heero hugged the violet-eyed boy tightly in his arms, as though afraid that he would disappear it he were to let go. Tenderly, he stroked Duo’s long fall of chestnut waves. Duo purred. Then Duo broke the magic by asking, "Where are we now?"
At his mention, they noticed that they were in the middle of nowhere. Darkness enveloped them completely, and silence ruled. However, tiny shimmering lights appeared suddenly and glittered beautifully. Some fell out of place and crashed down, as though a shooting star. They felt that they were in a vast cosmic ocean of beauty. Duo could only stare in awe and sheer amazement at the enchanting sight. Heero’s embrace only enhanced the perfect feeling he was getting.
"If we can stay here forever, I don’t mind dying, you know." Heero whispered softly against Duo’s nape as he held him from behind. "At least we’re safe from the war.
The braided pilot smiled into their embrace, purring contentedly. Then he pulled away suddenly to look at Heero in his eyes. "Do you think there’s any shopping centers here? You know that I really like to shop." Duo asked innocently.
Heero looked stunned, then replied in all playfulness. "Better not. I didn’t bring any money here." That provoked a chuckle from his lover.
Then, the two kept silent as they admired the panoramic sight that spelled of only natural splendour. Magic was in the air. Their hearts were linked, and words were no longer needed, only emotions. However, that was only after Duo can undo the last knot in his heart.
"Heero, why do you love me? Doesn’t your perfect soldier training forbid you to have relationships? Why?" He asked with a slight frown.
Heero ignored the question for a while, then kissed him softly on his nape. "Duo, you have made me colour blind. I can no longer see the red lights that prevent me from wandering into the sea of emotions. The perfect soldier is dead. He never stood a chance against you."
Duo turned abruptly to face the boy he loved, suspicious of the truth of his words. When he saw the tender and loving expression on his face, he no longer doubted Heero. Duo’s lips twitched at the sides, then transformed to a full-blown wide smile in only mere seconds. His tears that were already glistening at his eyes threatened to stream down his cheeks as he felt a warm sensation travel down his body and spread everywhere. Finally, he gave into the impulse and threw himself into Heero’s welcoming arms.
"Oh my god… thank you, koi." He whispered as tears cascaded down his heart-shaped face.
Heero pressed a gentle kiss to his forehead, and replied, voice just as soft, "Me too you."
Duo pulled away gingerly, and looked straight into Heero’s endless pools of blue. Affectionate violet met passionate blue. Suddenly, everything snapped into place as they leaned in. Eyes fluttered close. Their lips touched, shyly at first, then slowly gained in confidence. Duo opened his mouth a little, granting access. Heero took the opportunity and carefully slid his tongue into the warm cavern, exploring everywhere. Duo’s own tongue came up, and sparred playfully with Heero’s. Both groaned into each others’ mouths as thrilling bolts of pleasure ran through their body. They had imagined how it’d be, but neither was prepared for the feelings and passion that surfaced. It was like a thousand stars burning wildly in their hearts, and their bodies were melting at the burning desire. They had finally found where they belonged.
They broke off reluctantly, both missing the warmth immediately. Heero cupped his lover’s face in his hands, thumb caressing the smooth skin. Heero eyed the magnificent creature in front of him. Duo’s eyes were still closed, panting a little from his experience. He lay his own hand over Heero’s fondly, message it gently. His face was a shade of light scarlet. Then, Heero pulled him in gently and hugged him tightly, enough to cut off his circulation. But Duo didn’t mind. As long as they were together, everything else didn’t matter. All he craved for now was to let Heero be the last thing he sees every night, and his smirking face the first thing in the mornings.
Then, a round of clear and crisp clapping broke them out of their hypnotic state. Suddenly, a dark silhouette appeared in a faraway corner. However before they know it, the figure was right in front of their eyes. A young teenager who had a jaw-splitting wide grin plastered onto her face.
"Vespera!" They cried in unison. Then turned to look at the other in shock.
"You know her!?"
"You know Vespera!?"
As their jaws hung in surprise, Vespera giggled. She broke the tranquility. "I know both of you."
At this, Duo fumed a little. If possible. He was still very ecstatic about Heero’s kiss. "Vespera, tell me honestly. What did you do?"
She smirked. "Well, I guess it’s time to spill the beans."
"You’re damn right." Duo chided, though not much anger was present in his voice.
With a frown, she asked, "Do you really wanna let Heero know the truth? The full story?"
Duo’s face darkened significantly as he realised the problem that lay beneath the truth. It might scare his new lover and cause him to back away from him forever.
"What… do you mean?" Heero asked, bemused.
"I… I’ll say this myself, Ves." Duo lifted his head to face Heero. With a squeeze of his hands, he started. "Heero, I’m going to tell you how I came to be Duo Maxwell. Listen carefully, and you have to believe my every word. I know it’s hard to, but…" He sighed.
Heero, understanding the importance and seriousness of the issue, nodded grimly.
Swallowing the lump in his throat, he started. "Ever since the dawn of time, people have spread the legend that another world, besides the one we live in, exist. The world where gods and goddesses reside, or rather, people with extraordinary powers. Yet, no one has ever been able to prove its existence, and now, in a world where high technology reigns, few believe in it anymore. But what if I were to tell you such a place do exist?" He paused momentarily, waiting for Heero’s response.
"Duo…?" Heero frowned at the tone of his lover. It was… unnerving, even for him. The jester, the joker was no longer present. Here, sitting in front of him, in his arms, is the true Duo Maxwell. Shinigami.
The American pilot interrupted. "The place is called Utopia. Life there is simple. There are no wars being waged, no hatred, no pain or suffering. It is what you call heaven. The people who lives there are indeed blessed with exceptional powers, and with those powers, they ruled your world. They are what humans call gods and goddesses."
He shifted into a more comfortable position, and Vespera settled down beside him. She patted his back, encouraging him to go on. "Then, around a century ago, a pair of twins were born into that world. A boy and a girl. Their names were Eden and Vespera."
"Vespera?" Heero echoed.
She nodded. "Right, it’s me." Then she picked up from Duo. "We were always together. Whatever we did or wherever we went, we were never seen apart. It was like we were each other’s shadow. We loved each other… a lot. Even when time passed and we both grew up, our relation never deteriorated. And our relationship was supposed to last forever."
Wistfully, she nodded again. "Right. Because something cropped up when we were twenty." Sighing, she recalled the past. "Twenty, that is the appropriate age to get married. Our parents betrothed us both to another pair of siblings. Well, we didn’t despise them. It’s just that we don’t love them. And we didn’t want to be tied down, so soon. We once heard an elder say that love is when you take away the feeling, the passion, and the romance in a relationship- and find out you still care for that person. We wanted to feel it, and marry the person who made us feel that way. Because of this, we quarreled endlessly with our parents and by the time we thought of a plan, it was a full year later."
"They finally came to a compromise. Eden would be reincarnated into this world, and search for his one true love, within a time span of around fifteen years. Within that time frame, he would have to find his soul mate to show his parents. If they win, that is if Eden do find the love of his life, both of them will be set free; meaning that they can choose their own partner and can choose to stay in Utopia or in your world. Otherwise, both he and Vespera would have to marry the two siblings. Perhaps it is worth to be mentioned that fifteen years in your world, Heero, is equivalent to merely one year in Utopia." Duo added.
Vespera nodded. "So, Eden reincarnated into your world. For the first seven years, he had to get use to a human body. It wasn’t easy right from the start. There were so many things he could no longer do with the weak body. And the fact that his powers were stripped away from him made the task even harder. He was so fragile and vulnerable, that there were several occasions where he almost died. In the end, he spent those seven years with me on Earth and learned all the methods of survival. In the meantime, I took care of him as his guardian. We lived in a small cottage in America, in the countryside. However, I was soon forced to leave as my father wanted me to stop offering my help. But before I left, I sent Eden to L2, where I thought would be a good place to start. And during the next few years, I could only watch him from my world and help him in some small things. You know the plague in L2 around eight or nine years ago? I couldn’t stop the virus from spreading as it was unmei, but I was able to save Eden."
"And by that time, Eden had acquired a new name: Duo." The braided boy added.
By this time, Heero had his eyes wide open. "Duo? You’re a god?"
He shook his head. "I was, but not anymore."
Vespera smiled wistfully. "He is shinigami, the god of death. He’s not lying when he said he is shinigami, because he really is. Like he always says, ‘I run, I hide, but I never lie.’ And I am Yume, the goddess of dreams. He is my twin brother."
Duo snapped his head up at her. "It’s been a long time since we’ve told anyone that we’re siblings, eh?" He smirked.
"One year for me, and fifteen years for you." She replied with a slight smile on her face. "Now, I’ll tell you guys what happened these two weeks. As I’ve mentioned earlier, I’ve been watching over Duo ever since he first arrived. And throughout the years, I was always on the lookout for the perfect partner for my brother. Within the span of fifteen years, I found three possible candidates. The first one was a boy called Solo. However, the plague in L2 claimed his life before anything could happen. The other one was Hirde. It was easy to tell that she loved Duo. When Duo was around her, she glowed with happiness and was willing to lay her life down for him. However, the problem lay with Duo this time. He didn’t love her as a woman, but instead as a sister. And the last one…" She gazed at the two in front of her with a tiny smile. "…is you, Heero."
"I witnessed the torrents of emotions that were so overwhelming; those which you suppressed as the perfect soldier. After observing you for a long time, I figured out that you loved Duo, but didn’t admit it as a result of your training. And it was so deep in your heart that you would never find out unless you can let go of your training. I thought that you would be able to do that once the war ended, but I had to interfere because the fifteen years deadline was running out. So I let you see Duo’s dates with Hirde through your dreams, which was a piece of cake. I am the goddess of dreams, after all. And I have to tell you that I didn’t conjure up anything. Everything you saw was indeed what happened."
At this, Duo hissed venomously. "Vespera~! Do you have any idea what is privacy?"
She shrugged. "Says the person who read my diary." She rolled her eyes. "You should be thanking me. Just listen to me and let me explain it." She turned to face Heero again, "At first, I wanted to just let you see the different dates, and hope that you would act on your jealousy. However, after the first night, I saw that things weren’t going to be that easy. You did feel uneasy and jealous, but you didn’t know what to do. So you simply let it be a mere dream and not care about it. So I entered your dreams personally and tried to persuade you into feeling. My first step was to let you accept Duo as a friend, a very good friend. And the rest is, well, history."
She grinned, as though satisfied with the results of her efforts. "On the other hand, I also entered Hirde’s dreams. There, we talked about a lot of things, all revolving around love. Likewise, I let her see those occasions where you two were together, like your jogs and such. And sometimes, I let her relive her dates with Duo. She compared the two different occasions and saw that Duo felt a lot more at ease and friendlier with you. After some thinking by herself, she understood that Duo treated her only like a sister. But I told her to hold on first, because I thought that it was better for her. At least she could indulge in the dates a little while more. It’s like some compensation for the break up. That’s why she was prepared when you sort of dumped her."
Duo nodded thoughtfully. "Go on." He prodded.
"After the break up, I wanted to speed things up for you because there isn’t exactly a lot of time left over. So I made use of my powers again and conjured up a dream."
Heero almost choked. "The mission?"
"Yep. That’s the one. I added Trowa, Quatre and Wufei to make it seem more realistic. Then I arranged for Heero to ‘die’, because Duo has a chance of seeing through my tricks if he were to be the one to die. I aimed the gun at Duo instead of at Heero, because I knew that Heero would take the bullet for Duo. And if I just went ahead and shot Heero, Duo would have been the one to die. So there. After you two ‘died’, I brought you two here and created a romantic atmosphere. Clever of me, eh?" She smirked knowingly at her brother, who was blushing again. "So I guess Heero’s the devil? You know, the soft toy you have in your room?" Duo blushed harder.
"Arigatou, Vespera- ojusama." Heero said, abruptly.
She smirked. "Why the politeness all of a sudden?"
"Because I owe you a lot. So much that I will never be able to repay the debt. You have given me the greatest treasure I can ever have. The ability to love and be loved."
Vespera nudged him gently. "Don’t be silly. You don’t owe me anything. I did this also for my own sake, you know. Just promise me that you’ll be good to my oniisan."
She smiled. Always the perfect soldier. Perhaps it’s better this way; at least he would take Duo’s life as a mission and when has the perfect soldier not try his best in one? "Ok, I think it’s time for you two to wake up from your dreams. Remember Duo, the test is at midnight."
"Test?" Heero asked.
Duo and Vespera nodded. "Right. A test has to be carried out before Duo can stay. They were afraid that he might just get some whore or bitch to pass off as his lover. Hence a test will be conducted. To put it simply, it will weigh your love for each other. I sincerely wish that you two will pass it, although I’m pretty sure you two will pull through it. But… I’m worried about Father."
"You mean…" Duo prompted.
"He may not like the idea of you involved with another boy." Noticing Duo’s dejected look, she quickly consoled. "Trust me that I will do my best to talk him around. Okay?" She flashed her brother a confident grin, and a victory sign.
Duo did the same as a response.
"Alright, I’ll see you guys tonight."
Heero’s eyes flew open. Bolting up, he quickly scanned the area. He was in his room, on his bed. The sun shone through the window. Taking a quick look at the clock, he noticed that it was already eleven in the morning.
‘Duo…’ Swiftly, he slipped into his usual set of clothing of a green tank top and spandex and rush out of his room. He ran into Duo’s room immediately.
Duo was in his usual clothing as well: a black shirt and pants. He was poised at the door, ready to run out. "Heero? I was about to go find you." Then he walked up to his koi and hugged him tightly, snuggling up to him. Heero hugged him in return. "Remember the soft toy Vespera was talking about. It’s on my table. I think we look like them right now."
Heero took a glance at it. "Hmm. Maybe." He replied. Then he pulled away a little, staring straight into Duo’s endless pools of violet that oh so captured his full attention. In a surprisingly soft voice, he asked. "Duo? That wasn’t a dream, was it? You really *are* shinigami?"
Nodding, Duo smiled wistfully. "That wasn’t a dream. It was real. I *am* shinigami. Vespera is indeed my blood sister." Then he looked down at his feet. "Honestly, I didn’t want to let you or the others know. I was… am afraid that you guys will push me away. All these years, I’ve yearned for friendship here, with humans. I wanted to prove that even shinigami, the god of death can make friends. But more importantly, shinigami can *love*." With a strangled sob, he sat down on his bed. "I’ll understand if you don’t wanna be with me anymore. I’ll understand. After all, no one has ever wanted to associate with death…"
Then, to his surprise, he felt Heero sit down beside him. Titling Duo’s chin with a finger, he pressed a gentle kiss on the braided boy’s cheek. "Listen to me, Duo. I’m not afraid of death. I never was. I was always ready to fly into death’s waiting arms. No way I’m going to be scared of you." Then he reached out to Duo’s desk and grabbed the soft toy. Placing it in between them, he continued. "See? Even an angel can love a devil, so why can’t a human love death? Trust me, my feelings for you are real. I don’t care if you are death. I will want to be with you even if you are Lucifer."
Duo, utterly touched, leaned in for another embrace. "Thanks, Heero."
Feeling the braided boy in his arms, he felt so at ease. "Duo, shall we spend the day together? I want to be with you now."
Duo kissed him lightly on his cheek. "Ok. Hee- chan, I wanna spend the day like a normal couple."
Heero nodded. "Let’s go."
Duo snuggled up closer, and felt Heero’s arm tighten around him. He purred contentedly.
The cooling sea breeze blew across their faces, and the sound of the lapping waves lulled them.
"Duo, are you bored? We’ve been sitting at the beach since lunch. I mean, you’re always so active."
"No, not at all. Vespera is right about this."
Duo offered him a smile. "She said that couples have a lot to do together. Like basking in each other’s presence. You just enjoy being with that person you love, even if you aren’t doing much. It’s the feelings, the passion that you get. You feel like you’re on the top of the world just being with him. Not what you are doing. I get her point now. I don’t feel like ever going back now. Just wanna be with you always. Right here."
Heero stroked his back, and pulled him closer. "I… feel that way too."
They watched as the sun sink down under the horizon. Faintly, golden hues touched the violet skies, sending streaks of deep scarlet and ice blue into the heavens.
11. 45 P.M.
Duo stared at his watch worriedly. ‘Can this be my last fifteen minutes here?’ He wondered.
Heero seemed to have sensed his line of thoughts and placed an assuring hand on his shoulders. Gently, he pressed his lips against Duo’s. Duo playfully slid his tongue into Heero’s mouth and caressed him tenderly. What was supposed to have been just a light peck became a sparring bout of tongues. After a while, they broke off. Duo leaned again almost immediately and their lips touched. This went on for several rounds.
They just sat on the beach for the past few hours, contented with a few hugs and kisses every now and then. Heero had felt the titanic urge to do something more, but decided against it. Now wasn’t the time. He was confident that they would have plenty of time together after tonight. Hopefully confident…
"Oh my god, it’s time." Duo shuddered a little. Heero pulled him in and tried to calm him down.
A ray of light shone itself onto the sand in front of them, then it widened slowly. Soon, a figure became visible. Vespera emerged from the pillar of light, which disappeared once she stepped out.
She grinned cheekily. "Yep, that’s me! The one and only!"
"How was it?" Duo asked and almost slurred his words as a result of speaking too fast, fluster clearly shown on his pale face.
She pouted and looked down sadly. "Well…erm…" She began in a dejected tone, locking and unlocking her fingers.
Heero and Duo felt their hearts stop. They hadn’t allowed themselves to think of what will happen to them if they were to be separated. And it seems to them that the worse was coming.
However, Vespera broke into laughter uncontrollably. "Would ya just take a look in the mirror and see your faces? Oh my gosh! You guys look like a fish out of water!" She laughed even more.
Heero and Duo almost felt like strangling her for building her happiness over their misery. Then they suddenly remembered that she wasn’t such a bitch.
After some time, her laughter finally subsided. "I was just kidding you two! It’s ok! Father didn’t really look very happy initially. But then he saw you two sitting together here at the beach and he sensed the passion you two held for the other. And of course, with a bit of persuasion coming from me, who could say ‘no’?" She joked. Then she held out a hand. "Congratulations. You made it. You can stay here with Heero."
Duo felt his eyes tearing as he held out a trembling hand. Slowly, he grasped his sister’s hand and squeezed it hard. "Thank you…" He whispered.
"Don’t you be too happy yet! I’m not through with you! Remember our bet, bro? Well, I won. And I’ve thought of what I want now."
"Name it. I’ll do anything you ask for, as long as it’s not impossible." Duo said. ‘She had better not come up with something funny like asking me to stay away from Heero for a week.’
"I don’t think so." She grinned gleefully. Then her expression turned serious. "I want you to treasure your happiness with Heero forever. I’ll be glad then. It’s enough for me."
Tears flowed. "Thanks, Ves. You’re the best sister one can ask for." He pulled her in and hugged her tight.
She smiled sincerely. "You’re the best brother one can ask for too."
Breaking off the hug, Heero pulled her in and embraced her as well. "Arigatou, Vespera."
"So I guess you finally found love, eh Heero?" She teased.
Heero withdrew himself from the friendly embrace and shook his head. "No, I did not find love. I never had to, because love was always around me, in Duo. It’s just that I never noticed… until now. I finally understand the true meaning of love."
Duo threw himself into Heero. "I love you, koibito."
"Ai shiteru, Eden."
Duo snapped his head up. "Don’t call me that, I’m not Eden anymore."
To his amazement, Heero replied. "But you are my Eden."
The American pilot had to blush at that.
Vespera smiled at them. What a cute and loving couple. She was quite certain that it would be very difficult to find another pair of lovers with a love so deep. ‘Maybe except that blonde Quatre and Trowa. They are very loving as well.’ Briefly, she wondered if she would be able to find a romance like this. The fire, the desire, the passion that burnt in their eyes. The overwhelming love. ‘Not possible. Not very possible at all.’ She thought sourly. But then, she also felt her heart welling with blissfulness, for her brother, and for herself. At least they were both free of the obligations and sometimes unreasonable demands from their parents. And perhaps she would be free to do whatever her heart desires. Quickly, she dismissed the thoughts and focused on the couple in front of her.
"Happily ever after for us?" Duo sobbed happily, burying his head in the crook of Heero’s neck. He couldn’t remember another occasion when he had been this happy.
"Happily ever after for us." Heero answered, tightening his embrace. Feelings flowed out effortlessly, as though the floodgates that blocked his heart had just broke.
Then, Vespera cut in. "You’re both wrong! There won’t be a ‘happily ever after’ type of ending for you two." She corrected.
"Why?" They asked in chorus.
She grinned. "True love doesn’t have a happy ending, because true love doesn’t have an ending."
The two smiled at each other after realising the truth of Vespera’s words. Their love will never end. Even death will not do them part, because they will be together still. Always and forever. In life and death.
Never ending story…
Duo woke up, his eyes fluttering open slowly. Stifling a yawn, he looked up at his lover. Heero was still asleep, his hands wrapped possessively around Duo. Smiling, Duo recalled that night’s events.
They had returned home, after receiving the results from his sister. Once they arrived back at their current safehouse, they had marched right into Duo’s room. With one playful kiss from himself, Heero gave in to his burning desire and pinned Duo down to the bed. And well… the rest just happened. Clothes were strewn everywhere, and the two tangled together. He stared at the tube of lubricant on the little table beside his bed. It was almost empty. ‘I can’t believe we used so much already… it feels so right…’
Then suddenly, his thoughts returned to the only reason that enabled he and Heero got together. ‘Vespera. Where are you now?’
"Where are you going? Back to Utopia?" Duo questioned his sister.
She grinned. "Of course… not! Why should I? After all, we won the bet. I’m free to go."
"So, where are you going?"
Vespera shrugged. "No idea. I think I’ll just roam the world for a while, then settle down with someone I’ll meet in my travels, hopefully."
Heero offered. "Why don’t you stay with us? You’re Duo’s sister, and my good friend. We’ll love to have you with us."
"And butt into your quality time?" She teased. "Nah, you guys will be better off alone. I don’t wanna play gooseberry." Looking again at the blushing couple, she smirked. "Alright, I guess it’s time to say goodbye. For now. I’ll look you guys up when I can. And besides, I can always enter your dreams. I’m still a goddess, remember?"
They nodded thoughtfully. Then Duo started. "I’ll miss you a lot. We’ve never really been separated since birth."
"C’mon, you spent eight years alone already."
"But even through those eight years, you were always there for me. You always saved my butt at the most critical moments. And-"
She motioned for him to stop. "Enough of it. You’re getting my waterworks working." Then, she leaned in and hugged him firmly. "You will always be my doting oniisan. I promise I’ll visit often."
"Hmm." Duo finally nodded. "Be careful out there. Don’t get yourself into danger. If you need help, just call me and Heero. We’ll do our best to aid you in whatever you do. And Ves…" He paused, sobbing. "You will always be my adorable imouto."
Then, she pulled herself out from Duo’s embrace, and crossed her arms, facing Heero. "Heero Yuy! I’m handing my dear oniisan to you. You had better watch out if you do bully him! Cuz’ I’m most certain to come after you and give you nightmares forever!" She stopped, and her features turned soft. "Of course, I know it won’t happen. I’m just warning you, although the possibility of Duo bullying you is higher!" She grinned at her brother who pouted.
Vespera leaned in closer to Heero and gave him a hug as well. "You’re a nice person. I know that Duo will be very happy with you. I have no worries."
"Arigatou, Vespera." Heero answered, voice full of gratitude.
She sniggered, then whispered. "I hid a tube of lubricant in Duo’s drawer, the one beside his bed. He doesn’t know anything about it. It’s my wedding gift to you two, for now."
Giggling at the Japanese pilot who was blushing furiously, she pulled away. "Promise me you two will send a wedding invitation to me when you two get hitched, ok?"
Duo nodded violently. "Of course! You’re my only sister! Of course we’ll invite you!"
She smiled. "Well then, adios!" And turned to walk away. Within a couple of seconds, she was gone.
Looking at the direction she disappeared in, Duo uttered as he waved goodbye. "Adieu."
"Sayonara…" Heero muttered softly.
*End of flashback*
"Thinking about Ves?"
Duo looked up to his koi. "Did I wake you up?"
"No. I woke up myself." Heero replied. "Thinking of Ves?"
The American pilot nodded a little. "I can’t believe that it’s already been a month since she left. Really, I can’t bear to leave her alone out there. I wonder if she’ll be alright by herself."
Heero pressed a light kiss to his forehead. "Don’t worry about her. She said so herself. She’s a goddess; she’ll be able to take care of herself."
"I can only hope so…" Then his expression turned playful. "I think we should get ourselves ready for breakfast. It’s already nine." He pointed to the clock. "If we don’t get to the kitchen soon, Quatre will be barging in here to look for us."
Heero smiled. Then he walked into the bathroom, but not before showering Duo with a rain of fiery kisses. Duo soon followed suit.
A few moments later, they were ready.
When they reached the kitchen, they saw Quatre and Trowa already there.
"Ohayo gozaimasu, Duo! Morning to you too, Heero." Quatre chirped. Trowa greeted as well. "Morning."
Duo replied gleefully. "Ohayo to you, lovebirds!" Then he slid into a comfortable seat beside Heero.
Trowa skillfully replied. "I supposed we can say the same for you and Heero."
Duo grinned as Heero grabbed his waist possessively. He hadn’t expected Heero to be open about their relationship, but whatever Vespera had said to him seems to have changed him a great deal. "Where’s Wufei?" He asked suddenly, noticing the Chinese boy’s absence.
"He was on a mission, remember? He just mailed us last night saying that he will be returning today."
Duo slapped his head. "How could I forget?"
Just then, a familiar voice rang out as the door flew open. "Taidama!" Wufei called out.
"Okaeri." Duo and Quatre answered. Then, Duo and Heero’s eyes almost popped out when they saw who was trailing behind their Chinese friend.
She winked playfully at them and grinned. Wufei looked at them questionably, "You two know her?"
Vespera answered. "Of course we do! I met them while they were on mission together a few months ago!" Perplexed, they silently decided to interrogate her later. Meeting their puzzled expression, she shook her head. ‘There’s no need to let them know the truth.’ She mouthed.
"Vespera here is going to be our assistant. Doctor G recommended her to me."
Then, she took that as a cue to introduce herself. "Konnichiwa! Watashiwa Vespera desu. You guys can know me as just Ves. As Wufei just mentioned, I’ll be helping all of you with the missions from now on, more of the desk jobs though."
Quatre smiled warmly at her. "Welcome you to our little team." Trowa nodded. "Nice to meet you."
"Nice to meet you too." She replied.
"What the heck is going on!?" Duo whispered harshly once the others were out of hearing range of his room. He couldn’t bear the thoughts of his dear sister fighting in the war with the high chance of dying.
She replied tactfully. "I’ve decided to help you two. That’s why I went to Doctor G and sought his help. After I proved myself worthy, he let me join you guys. Of course, I did a *little* something to his mind to let him accept me this easily…"
"Are you crazy!? Fighting in this war!? It’s dangerous!"
"Precisely why I’m helping. It’s too dangerous for you two. I wanna help. And Duo, don’t you trust my ability? You know I can fight well. Plus I still have my powers. I’ll use them as a last resort when the situation really calls for it, enough so that I won’t get caught, and not enough to be identified as a sorceress. And besides, I’ve not lost my status as a goddess. I won’t die that easily."
"But you’ll still die! Even gods and goddesses die! We *don’t* live forever! And don’t you know the consequences of a god or goddess dying in the human world?!! It’s total havoc and chaos, I tell you!" He hissed angrily. If he were sure the others wouldn’t catch a bit of their conversation, he would be screaming his head off.
"C’mon, oniisan. I’m not that easy to kill."
Duo was about to give her another round of tongue lashing when Heero stopped him. "It’s enough, Duo. Let her help. You wanted to see her anyway."
"Not this way!" He whined.
"Hush. It’s alright. We’ll both look into her safety. It’s kind of good, actually. At the very least, we can be together."
Huffing, Duo submitted. "Ok, you win. But promise me you’ll take real good care of yourself. I don’t wanna have to haul your sorry ass out of a ditch, ok?" He announced vehemently.
Chuckling, she nodded.
Then, Duo grinned back, face beaming with joy. "Now, we have three of the best soldiers gathered here. Shinigami, Yume, and the perfect soldier!"
"And a dragon." Vespera added. She giggled uncontrollably. "I think that dragon is kinda cute…"
Duo almost choked. "Wu-chan?" She nodded.
"I think I’m going after him. What do you say?"
Duo and Heero sweatdropped. "Kidding…?" They managed to utter, almost incoherently, once they managed to find their voices, that is. Of all people, she had to choose the justice-spouting, onna-calling, Nataku-worshipping, supposedly manly solitary dragon.
Vespera laughed heartily, then sprang up to the door. "I’m going to look for him now!" Then she dashed out immediately. Her voice rang out. "Wufei~!"
After a moment, Duo finally spoke, in an uncertain voice. "Wufei’s a nice person. Ves should be fine with him. Right?" Seeing no response from Heero, he gulped. "I take that as a ‘no’? Ahh! I’m going to talk to Wufei and make sure he treats my sis well!"
Before Heero could stop him, he was already out of the room. Looking at the two people he knows he will treasure for life, he smiled contentedly.
After living for fifteen years as the unfeeling, cool perfect soldier, he felt that he was finally free with the two along his side. Duo showed him to a tender side of himself he never knew existed until now; and Vespera helped him to accept the feelings he felt for Duo by encouraging him to open his heart. Heero no longer felt lonely. Duo had driven the loneliness away, and Vespera’s presence only intensified the feeling. One a lover, and the other a best friend. With them around, Heero was sure that the rest of his life will be bustling with love, friendship and humor. A new life awaited the three of them, and Heero couldn’t wait to embrace it.
Shaking his head in amusement, he ran after the two hyper-active twins.
~ Owari ~
Author’s notes: Yea! I’ve finally finished ‘Liberation’! Ok, I know this fanfic is a little confusing, so I’m clarifying some points with you. Firstly, Vespera is an original character I created. She belongs to me. In this fanfic, she stars as Duo’s twin sister in his previous life. She appears to remind Duo of the bet he made with their parents. And seeing that he was on the losing end, she decided to help out by talking with Heero and Hirde. And the thing goes on and on…
While I'm on the 'original list', I might as well go all the way. Yes, the poem at the beginning is written by me. It wasn't written for 'Liberation' actually, but then I thought the themes were pretty much the same, so I put it in. It is, in actual fact, a poem I wrote for FF7. So it's trademarked! ^_^ And please, keep in mind that it is my very, very first poem. I apologize for the bad language.
Return to Reiko-chan's Dirty Books