Regret (part 7)
Not a sound was heard from the congregation, save Trowa's hushing whispers to calm the sobbing Arabian. This day had been expected but in reality, not one present had expected it to come so soon, all but the one lain in the coffin, clothed in his finest with hands clasped over chest and neatly plated braid. Trowa's thoughts wandered from the sermon to the day this eventuality was reviled to him. Heero had tracked him down to a small urban area on the Italian peninsula. He'd known immediately something was wrong. He couldn't remember what had given it away but the feeling had been strong.
"Heero? What brings you here?"
"You." Heero stared at him, prussian eyes narrow and stern, "You're coming with me."
Trowa shook his head, "What's going on?"
"Duo's dying. He told me he wanted to see all of us together again so I'm here to bring you to him."
The cold unfeeling voice startled him more than the words they spoke.
"I'll get my stuff." Trowa turned and walked away, his mind running but no sense coming from it. Duo? Dying? It didn't seem possible. During the years of battle, things had run according to a strict rule. Duo never died, Heero was always there to save him. Heero was too stubborn to die himself and while he was at it, Quatre was to innocent to die. Just considering killing the Arabian could be considered a sin. If anyone was to die, it would be he or Wufei, not the laughing jokester with the wide eyes smile. He sighed, We fought without a care for our lives, never anticipating to service beyond the war. But we won. We never expected to live, but now I never expected us to have to die. He didn't have much to take with him. Cathryn waited with Heero in the living room, offering him her condolences as Trowa packed. Heero, though always a wall of stone, seemed to bend under Cathryn's words of concern.
"I feel so sorry for you. He's you best friend, isn't he?"
Heero nodded, approving the statement Trowa had never even considered he would admit. You've changed…
"There's nothing the doctors can do for him?" Cathryn continued.
"It's nothing that can be cured." Heero slumped forward, "The L2 colonies were once plagued with a deadly disease. The cure was given to those who could afford it but at the time, Duo was a child of seven and living on the streets. The plague killed his best friend and threatened to kill every orphaned street kid on the colonies. Being the sneaky boy he was, Duo snuck into a government building and stool bottles of the cure to distribute to the children. He neglected to give himself the cure though, wishing to die with his best friend. It seemed at the time that he hadn't contracted the plague and he went on living a normal life. But over the years, the plague has been eating away at him. Duo's dying of a plague that was whipped out thirteen years ago because he wouldn't abandon his best friend, even in death."
Cathryn whipped at a tear and hugged Heero, "I'm so sorry."
Heero rested his head against he shoulder, weary and too damn tired to care. Trowa appeared from his room and cast a worried glance towards the Japanese boy, "You going to be okay?"
Heero nodded, pulling away from Cathryn, "Let's go."
Trowa kissed his sister on the cheek as he passed, "See ya, sis."
Cathryn smiled despite he tears, "Quatre's going to be there. You haven't seen him in two years. Are you excited?"
Trowa paused, one hand resting on the doorframe, "Under other circumstances, maybe I would be."
Trowa stroked the blonde hair and sighed. It was only when the preacher stepped down and he saw Heero standing to walk to the front of the church had Trowa been torn from thought and pulled back into the here and now. Oh Heero. Today you bury your best friend. As if it wasn't enough, you deliver his eulogy. Can you really do this? Are you that strong?
Heero carried with his a single red rose and lay it on the pulpit as he stood before it, eyes resting momentarily at the paper he'd brought with him. When his head raised, there were tears in his eyes but none to have spilled down his face. He held them back and shuffled his notes, only speaking when he knew his voice would not fail him. The soft words carried through the church easily, drawing on memory and hopes. Heero never took his eyes off the people before him, seeming to have forgotten about the prepared speech he'd brought with him.
"Duo Maxwell was human. He had a heart, a body and a soul. He was a hero as well, fighting for a peace that will, in time, be taken for granted. This never bothered him. The fact that his fighting meant other people didn't have to made that battle all the more important and gave him reason to fight. In this way, he was more than human. He was a god. The self-proclaimed god of death, Shinigami. He became the heart of a gundam, the embodiment of death and the soul of lost innocence. Despite the harsh lives we were all faced to live, his smile never faded from that heart shaped face, the twinkle never loosing it's spark in those wide violet eyes. He fought for a future we'd never known and an existence for mankind to share. Known for his cheerful chatter and devil-may-care personality, Duo Maxwell was perhaps the most irritatingly happy person I'd ever met. He never let anything get to him, or so I thought. Behind those eyes and smile was a torrent of raging emotions he never let go of and never exposed. I don't remember ever expressing my gratitude to him, but I'm glad he upheld that façade of his. His smile gave me hope in tomorrow and courage to face today. But he's gone now and his smile has faded. Those violet gems will never again open. Their spark has died with him. No amount of wars can win it back. For this, I cry. At times, I still can hear him laughing, see that tail of chestnut hair bounce and fly beyond a wall as if trailing behind it's owner. I know he's not there but I still listen, still look and follow. He's presence is everywhere. It's in the rain when the skies are blue, in the rainbow as it shines its promise, in my memories, in my dreams, and in my life. Duo Maxwell may be dead, but he will never be forgotten." Heero's hands reached to his breast, fingers clasping around the shiny cross that he now wore, "Life is short. We've been told so sense we were children, told to live it to the fullest and pass on with no regrets. This was all true of Duo. He'd unconditionally given his life and love all his life, and in the end, he'd found friends and found a family within them. I will live my life in his example. He taught me to laugh and enjoy the simple pleasures in life and I want to continue to enjoy living. In this way, we will never be apart. I will live for the both of us, day to day, searching for the rainbow in the gray skies. It is as much my promise to him, as it is to you, my friends. No matter what life throws us, we may never regret his passing. At least we had a chance to say good-bye. At least he knows he was loved." Heero lifted the rose from the pulpit and turned to the open coffin. His hands slipped the rose under the cold fingers and lingered there, unable to move. The preacher must have noticed this. The older man walked over and laid a hand on Heero's shoulder. Heero's lips moved in a whisper but no audible words were heard.
Trowa watched his lips, years of training allowing him to read what Heero had said. Ai shiteiru, Duo. Good-bye. His heart stopped, his breath held deep within his chest. Oh god… I can't… His resolve lost, tears fell freely from his eyes, splashing against the blonde hair at his chin. He really cared. I knew he had to but… he said it. I never thought I'd hear him say he loved anyone. Oh god, why did you have to take Duo now?
Quatre must have noticed the jerking shudders his body made for he turned his crystal eyes to him in concern, "Trowa?"
He shook his head, "I'm fine. Shhhh… I'm fine."
Quatre slipped his hands around the other man, patting his back in assurance, "I know. But there are just some things you need other people around for. Mourning is one of those. It's okay to cry, Trowa. It's okay to cry."
Trowa broke down in his arms, his head resting between his friend's neck and shoulder, tears pooling there like puddles. Quatre seemed calmed, Trowa noted. Indeed, Quatre even seemed stronger. The boy ran his hands down the back of his crying friend in soothing circles, whispering words of comfort as had been done for him. It's okay to cry, Trowa. I'll be your strength. I'll be here for you.
One year later.
Trowa fell down hard, landing on the firm body beneath him. Quatre shouted in protest, trying his best to free himself from the weight on the tall man, "Get off me!" he laughed.
Trowa snickered, "I can't. Not until you remove your leg from between mine."
Quatre blushed, "You want me to fall down too?"
"I just don't want to damage anything vital."
Quatre's blush deepened, "You got yourself in this mess you know. Maybe next time you'll keep your legs to yourself and your hands as well I might add." His wrists were beginning to feel the strain of the other boys body as he was being held up only by the balls of his feet and his hands, "I mean it Trowa, Get off me."
"Are you afraid?"
"No!" Quatre tried to make himself sound intimidating, "But it would be nice to-TROWA!"
Quatre fell down and smashed his face into the ground. That hurt. Trowa was immediately sorry and slid off the Arabian, gathering him into his arms, "I'm sorry."
Wufei shook his head and put down the spinner, "Another game of twister, another victory for Heero." He pointed to the only one left standing on the game board.
Heero stood and unknotted the knots that had formed in his shoulders, "I know you wanted to win, Quatre."
Quatre shrugged, "Best nine out of twelve them, ne?"
"Maybe later." Heero rubbed the back of his neck and sat down in the grass on the hill. It was a beautiful day. Not a rain cloud in sight. Damn he thought, nibbling on the chain which held the golden cross around his neck. I'd have loved it to have rained. The hill and the house were unchanged, a year of disuse not showing a bit. It was practically spit polished thanks to Quatre and Trowa's efforts. Quatre and Trowa. We always thought they would be the first, ne Duo? he smiled, Who's have thought it would have been us.
Wufei glanced over at Heero and concern overfell his features, "You okay?"
Heero nodded, "Just thinking, that's all. It's a beautiful day."
The book in his hands suddenly seemed all the less interesting, "Did you go to the church yard today?"
"Yeah. It looked very nice. I forgot to thank you."
"Don't mention it," Wufei sighed, "Nataku loved flowers. It's hard for me to picture a burial sight without them."
Quatre leaned into Trowa's embrace, "We made it back here. I'm glad we all remembered."
"As if we'd forget." Trowa kissed the top of his head, "We made our own promises last year. To come back here every year on this day was just one of them. Duo didn't like the fact that we all grew apart. In truth, I don't think any of us did. This way, we will always meet again, even if just once in the year. On this hill, in this house, on this day."
Quatre nodded, "In a way, I'm almost grateful things turned out like they did. Heero, despite his loss, seems happier. I don't think I've ever seen him laugh and smile this much. Wufei will always be Wufei, but he's with us again, and you and I have each other now."
Heero smirked, "As if anyone could forget. Stop groping each other and get a room."
This time, Trowa's face was not spared the crimson that splashed upon his cheeks.
Wufei shook his head, "Oh Nataku, please remind me why I bother myself with these fools."
"Because you love us."
Wufei was silent, his eyes large round orbs, "Heero?"
"We're family, whether we like it or not. You can't chose family, it chooses you. No mater how much you fight it, Wufei, you're a part of this."
Wufei starred at him, them the others. A unfamiliar smile crept upon his face, "Perhaps."
"Perhaps nothing!" Trowa grabbed the twister mat and threw it at him, the thin plastic falling neatly over the chinese boy. Heero, Trowa and Quatre proceeded to tackled and mock wrestle the confined friend till shouts of protest made them stop, "Alright, alright! I give in!"
Quatre threw off the mat and smiled winningly, "Great. Cause you know how persistent we are."
Wufei shook his head and picked his book back up, "Whatever. I'm going back inside. I'll see you all later."
"No way, Wufei! You're not getting away till you tell us you love us!"
Quatre smiled deviously, "And kiss us to show us you mean it."
Sensing his danger, Wufei took off in a full run up the hill, the others following in close pursuit.
Heero stayed back however and observed them wistfully. You brought us all together again, Duo. Thank you. He sighed and charged up the hill after the sounds of shouting and threats. Had he stayed but a moment more, perhaps he would have seen the delicate pure white feather that fell from the sky and danced about the hillside on winds of laughter.
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