"Heero!" A familiar voice greets us from the open doorway. Well, greets him anyway. I look up in disgust as she stares fawningly at him, worship and helplessness blended together artistically in an attempt to get him to notice her. I snort, pretending to bury my head in my magazine, peering over the cover to see his reaction.
Or non-reaction as it turns out. He doesn't even blink an eye as he continues to scan the information provided by the computer. Figures. Mr Perfect Soldier might as well be a chunk of stone when it comes to her. I suppress a twisted smirk.
"Heero?" Her voice is far more tentative this time, her smile faltering just a touch in the face of his apathy. I can't help it. I simply have to jump in and rescue her from her 'hero'.
"Good evening, Miss Relena!" I toss the magazine onto the low table, bouncing to my feet with a bright grin plastered across my face as I bow formally to her. "Welcome to our humble abode!"
Humble is not the word for it. 'Dump' is more like it; nothing like the mansions and palaces which are normally graced by the presence of Relena Peacecraft. "Will you be staying long?" I prompt her.
"Oh, Duo." She glances at me briefly, in a dismissive manner, before returning her starry-eyed gaze towards Heero. I firmly squash my body's traitorous attempt to flush. Not that either one of them would notice. Why should they? They each only have eyes for the loves of their lives.
"I - I won't stay long," she says in that sweet, condescending tone of hers. "I just wanted to make sure that you were all safe and well."
With great difficulty I swallow the hysterical laughter that wells up from my belly, while her adoring eyes never leave his figure. He sits with his back to her, still ignoring her: ignoring the golden hair and gentle face, ignoring those determined eyes. Heero's a firm believer ignoring anything that doesn't involve a mission.
I can't help but wonder what would happen if ever that stone mask of his cracked under her constant onslaught. What would he do? Would he tell her that he loved her? Would he snap and kill her as he has threatened to do? He is the key to my happiness, the key to my future; my entire life hinges upon whether or not he will open the door.
"Ah, we're all fine," I inform her in a loud voice. I wonder if she actually hears me. Her eyeballs are practically glued to him. I grit my teeth.
What is it that she sees in him? Is she so in love with Death that she must court it until she is lost to his embrace? No - that can't be the case; but for someone who is so in love with life and peace, this lust for Heero seems to be quite perverted. She reminds me of myself in a way; I call myself the god of Death, but I always fight so hard to live. I'm such a hypocrite; but then, so is she. Why else would she fall in love with someone whose very nature contradicts her own?
Opposites attract, they say - and those two are about as different as people can get! One loving life, the other simply enduring it as a necessary inconvenience; one seeking peace, the other living only to fight. For crying out loud, he's been trying to kill her since the day they met! Does she get off on that, or what?
He's probably the only person to ever have treated her with such disdain. Poor thing was probably bored with all those socialites she hangs around, desperate for a challenge- although trying to be the salvation of Heero Yuy seems to have been more of a trial than she ever expected. I have to admire her persistence, though. Even if I hate it.
"I'll be going now," she says, looking around at the room, only now realizing what a mess the place was. Well, if I'd known we would be having company I would have cleaned up! A little, anyway.
"So soon? You only just got here!" I protest. "Sure you don't want to stay a bit? I could make us all some coffee. . ."
We both blink at the single word that escapes from his mouth. It must have pried its way out with a crowbar.
"Uh, that's alright, Duo." Her face is a little flushed, her eyes disappointed. I had managed to get a reaction out of him; she had not. Idiot. I bite my lip against saying it aloud.
I watch as she turns dispiritedly and walks out the door.
She'll be back. She's not one to admit defeat that easily, although I wish she would. It tears me apart to see her like this, over him. Perhaps one day she will be able to bear his rejection, be able to live without his presence in her life - and on that day. . .
I laugh softly. Heero turns to glare at me, and I smile impishly back.
The first day I met them he was trying to kill her. I tried to save her from him then, but she defended him from me, my bullets only wounding, not killing.
The day she stops defending him will be the day he dies.
Omae o korosu, Heero!
I log off from the computer, pushing my chair back and standing up slowly.
"Finally!" I hear Duo's exasperated comment, from where he lies on the couch. He has spent the evening since the bitch left alternating between glaring at me, thumbing idly through a magazine, glaring at me, humming away to his music - which I could hear quite distinctly even from the headphones - generally fidgeting all over the room, and glaring at me some more.
He thinks I haven't noticed his attention. I snort at the thought. How could I not notice him? His very presence fills the room with his vitality; somewhat ironic for someone who considers himself to be Death. The name ill-suits him, except when on the battlefield; but then, I suppose that it takes one who truly knows the value of life to be able to reap it for all that it's worth.
I have seen him living his life to the fullest. I have watched him for far longer than he has watched me.
"You didn't have to stay," I tell him emotionlessly as I stretch my muscles after sitting still for so long. He didn't have to; but he did. . .
He snorts derisively, dropping the magazine and swinging his legs off of the couch and onto the floor. His body swiftly follows.
"Ow," he says, blinking owlishly up at me. I narrow my eyes as I look down upon him.
"How much have you had to drink?"
"Obviously not enough."
I raise my eyebrows questioningly.
"I'm still co- cohe- " he frowned, his brow furrowing as he concentrated. "I can still talk sense, can't I?"
"Pure coincidence," I inform him as I grab him by his collar, careful not to touch his skin, and dump him back on the couch. "You're staying there tonight." I start to leave the room, but he has my arm firmly in his grasp. I could break the grip, but not without hurting him.
"Nani?" I demand, a little harshly, a little hoarsely. He has no idea of just how much a simple touch of his hand can affect me. Anyone else who dared to touch me would most probably end up dead.
"Why do you do that to her?"
The question startles me. 'Her'? It had to be that bitch he was talking about - but why would he concern himself with her?
"What are you talking about?" I snap at him. He blinks a couple of times before scowling at me.
"Why do you always hurt her like that?" He clarifies. "You could at least have looked at her!"
"Why would I want to do that?" I ask tonelessly, confused, but unwilling to show it. Why should I give her any sign of encouragement? She already follows me around like a dog - I should have shot her like one when we first met. Now, however, she lives as a reminder of how I met Duo. In a strange way she almost brought us together.
"Do you have to be so blind, Heero?" He cries out, pulling me towards him until I am on my knees next to the couch, our faces almost touching. "Can't you see how much she loves you?!"
My heart almost skips a beat as he breathes his words across my lips, his violet eyes gazing almost desperately into mine.
Is he really talking about her? Or dare I hope? Dare I believe that he hasseen what I have tried to conceal - what I long for and what I fear.
Fear. I tremble before him, incapable of so much as saying a single word, lost in those deep eyes, that are showing signs of pain.
Pain? No. . .
I open my mouth, uncertain what I will say, only aware that I must say something! This one moment would decide my fate. . .
"I love you."
He stares at me. I stare back, unable to believe that I have actually just said -
"You what?" He repeats blankly.
I can do no more than stare, openmouthed at my own audacity. My mindless mouth had accepted the mission proclaimed by my battered heart.
What will he do? What will he say? What will he think of me now?
Does he - can he - return my feelings?
He starts to laugh hysterically, eyes glistening, overflowing with salty tears. It is obvious that he hadn't considered the possibility that I could actually care for him. Does he really think that I truly am the heartless monster that Dr J tried to make of me? I had hoped that he would be able to see past that, past the mountainous walls that he alone has managed to undermine. Convincing him of the truth will not be so bad a task - indeed it could be very pleasurable, for both of us. . .
I reach out with both hands to stroke his cheeks, brushing away the tear trails. They quiver beneath my touch as his fit of giggling continues, his eyes dancing wildly. He starts to turn his head, but my hold firms and I lean forward to capture his laughing lips with my own.
To kiss Death.
He is frozen against me for a moment before jerking back violently. My mouth tingles, my chest aches at the sudden separation. Did I do it wrong? I haven't exactly had a chance to practice. . . Only he has ever wormed his way through my defenses and into my heart - no, into my very soul. He is half of me in a way that makes me want to die so that I may purge my stain from his purity.
He looks at me, his face for once an unreadable mask, completely serious - not at all the Duo I know, and love. . . I turn away; it rocks me to my core as I realize that I know the expression he now wears. I have seen it in the mirror for too many years, now.
Has my angel, too, been lost to the madness of this war? I can only pray that he is still there, that my admission this night will have meaning to him, somehow, some way. . .
I look up to face the future of my life with Duo - to find it staring at me down the barrel of a gun.
Bang, bang - you're dead - fifty bullets in your head!
"I'm sorry, but I don't have the time to convince you not to fight!"
The words sound childishly naïve, I know that, but they are words I must say. If I did not say them, they would burden my mind and heart, knowing I had let the opportunity to speak slip away from me.
What significance would those words carry with them? Those who die by my hands, my Sandrock's hands, would they care? My words must surely mean little to them. What consolation could they possibly be for taking from them that essence of vitality that permits them their very existence? What reparation for their grieving families and loved ones?
This war has done nothing but take, condemning the innocent along with the guilty, until all have given what they can, and more besides. The fine line between the two has been thinned and broken in so many places, allowing what innocence there is left to be consumed by bitter understanding - which so often twists to hatred and darkness.
I see it every day in the eyes of my fellow Gundam pilots. All of them; even Duo, despite his carefree mask. They have all lost so much of themselves that now they seek to drive away what little bonds of friendship they may still have left. They think that by pretending that they don't care, they won't be hurt, as they were before. . .
They're wrong. So very wrong. They hurt themselves, and those who care for them, far more by denying what scraps of affection are offered to them.
Strange, how love hurts so much; strange, how in seeking peace we are forced to kill, to destroy.
Even my father.
He all but disowned me for wanting to fight with my Sandrock. Yet, when the time came, he, too, became a destroyer, and his words became as meaningless as my own.
No. I don't believe that. I can't believe that - not and keep my will strong, my purpose fixed. All words have meaning; different meanings for different people. . .
To my opponents in battle, my words must bring bitterness. They must surely wonder at first how such a foolish child could even step out onto a battlefield - until they see themselves and their companions falling beneath my Sandrock's blades. Who is it that is foolish then?
No, I do not say those words for them. Their fate is harsh enough in this grim, grey world. It is not my intention to make their departure from life any worse than it must be. Nor do I say them for myself. It would be pitifully naïve of me indeed to believe in the innocence those words seem to convey. I know myself better than that, even if no-one else does.
What is it that the others see in me? An innocent angel?
So strange, so very strange. . . and yet, above all other reasons, that is why I spoke those words. Not for me, not for my opponents, but for them.
They are the people who believe in an angel of mercy, one who has only reluctantly taken up the sword to defend the innocent population against tyranny and dictatorship, no matter that the very people he seeks to protect revile him as a war-monger rather than an advocate of peace. That is what they see - and that is what I am, what I must be, for them.
They need to have something they can believe in, something full of purity and goodness. It doesn't matter if I'm not the angel they think I am inside. They say that all you need to be a god is someone who truly believes that you are. If the belief is strong enough, anything is possible.
They believe that I am an angel, so I say those words as an angel would say them, regretful of the sacrifice of life he must make. It is for them alone I persist in my ways, living up to the image of their expectations as much as I can; it is for them that I fight, to win for them the peace they so desperately crave. I will do it for them, even convince the people of earth and of the colonies we fight for to unite in peace and harmony. Those that I cannot convince. . .
My Sandrock and I will bring eternal peace to the universe, as an angel should -
- one way, or another.
Quatre. My angel; my angel of beauty and peace - his only flaw is his perfection in this hopelessly imperfect world. He doesn't belong here. How can such as he possibly bear to even exist in this universe, fouled and corrupted as it is by the pride and greed of humanity? He is too pure by far; indeed, it is something of a miracle that he has not already fallen victim to humanity's treacherous ways
He came close, yes, driven by the thought of his father - but not close enough to scar him. . . He fights now with all his heart behind the good intentions which for most people are simply for show. He is everything others pretend to be: innocent. . . but he is also naïve.
This war will break him, my delicate angel, eventually. He is strong - but that strength has begun to fade. I see his resolve weakening, twisting away from its rightful path, leading him down the road to destruction.
No. I won't let his spirit be destroyed. If his soul burns itself out so soon, his brilliant light will be lost forever. Better it find a different fuel, burn with a different coloured flame, than be extinguished altogether.
With this resolve, I open the door and slip into his room, where he lies sleeping, unaware. . . The moonlight filters through the glass pane of the window, caressing his bare skin. It surrounds him with a soft, ethereal glow, befitting the angel that he is.
I reach out my hand, but stop short of actually daring to touch him, lest he melt away like a ghost, an intangible illusion. . .
Yet he is real. I can hear his soft, steady breathing even above my own. My hand moves as though of its own accord to hover just above his mouth. His gentle exhalations warm my fingers. I blink in surprise as they start to tremble, and quickly withdraw them lest they accidentally touch his cherubic face, and dispel the enchantment of the moment.
He sighs in his sleep, turning slightly beneath my gaze. His left hand rests on the sheet above his chest, his fingers flexing each in turn as he plays a silent tune. My own fingers twitch in response, yearning for my flute that I might lull him further into sleep with my melodies. It is perhaps the only touch of beauty I have to offer this world; it is only he who can make my music take on life and joy.
With his goodness of heart, he has given me the gift of knowing such purity of purpose. What gift could I possibly give him in return, to be its match? Only one thing. . .
I ease the bed-linen from his loose grip, sliding it down the contours of his body. He stirs as the cool night air chills his skin. I wait until he settles, imagining my hands warming him up and down. . .
Entranced, I kneel slowly on the side of the bed, careful not to disturb my sleeping angel. I lean across him, placing my hands on either side of his head. I bend my neck, lowering my own head, letting my breath mingle with his.
I pause, hesitating for one last precious moment, savoring the sense of his closeness to me. Will he understand why I do this? I can only hope that he will come to see. . .
I allow my lips to touch his, ever so lightly. He does not wake. I pull back slowly, gazing down at him one last time, removing my knife from its sheath.
Steel slices flesh, severing blood vessels. Dark liquid streams across his body, its warmth temporarily shielding him from the cold night air, dripping down to stain the sheets with shadows under the pale moonlight.
Quatre, may your soul burn with a new light, a new passion, that may burn the evil from this world.
Fare thee well, my one true love, until we meet again in a better place than this.
I wake with a start, my heart pounding. Was that gunshot I heard only in my dream? Or was it from this nightmare I'm living?
Two more shots ring out in rapid succession. Obviously not just a dream.
I leap out of my bed, wrenching the door open and sprinting down the corridor, glancing quickly into each open doorway looking for signs of trouble. That is something we most definitely do not need right now.
I slide to a halt at the door to the common room, where Heero had set up his computer. Its screen is darkened, shut down for the night. As is Heero. For good.
I stare numbly at the sight before me. Duo is half-sitting, half-lying on the couch, arms outstretched, hands clasping his gun. It's still aimed at Heero. Or rather, what's left of Heero. His body is no more than an empty shell, now, incapable of surviving the single shot to the head, let alone the two through his chest. Its chest. Heero is gone.
"What happened?" I demand of the only other living person in the room. He shifts his blank gaze, directing it towards me. The rest of his body remains frozen. His face is an expressionless mask. He does not answer.
I step around Heero's corpse, kneeling before him. He stares at me, unblinking eyes wide with shock. I raise one hand and slap him across the face. Startled, he almost drops the gun. I wrestle it out of his grip with one hand, resting the other lightly on his shoulder.
"What happened?" I repeat my question. "Why?"
The first is blatantly obvious; but the second. . .
"He. . . Heero. . ." He falters, voice and hands trembling. "Relena. . . I. . ."
I close my eyes, turning my head away slightly. So that was it. Relena. I should have known. I had been aware of her visit earlier this afternoon, but dismissed it from my mind, thinking it just another attempt by her to seduce the perfect soldier Heero Yuy. A futile waste of effort. Heero was perfect for his role in this war; no amount of persuasion on her part could ever have had success. He was pure of spirit, following his heart into battle, and winning, despite all the odds.
He was perfect. Was. How ironic that it was his heart that killed him - but I guess that's the price of loving death. I would that he could have followed another path. . . one that could have kept him alive.
I open my eyes to gaze down on his still body, his blue eyes frozen forever unseeing.
"Oh," I hear a soft voice from the doorway. "Heero's dead, too?"
I take a deep breath to steady myself, then raise my gaze to the figure standing in the open doorway.
Quatre. Half wrapped in a robe, hair ruffled from sleep, drying blood dripping down his chest, and tarnishing his golden hair. Quatre. And blood. Lots of blood.
"Trowa?" I manage to ask.
"He's dead," Quatre replies simply, his words and tone that of a child. A tear escapes from one eye, streaking down his cheek. He lifts bloody fingers to wipe it away, leaving behind a smear of red, staining his flesh with its guilt. He stares at his moist finger, mesmerized.
Two of them. Two of them. Quatre and Duo. Trowa and Heero.
I always knew that there would come a day when one of us would no longer be able to maintain our duties in this bitter conflict; it was simply a matter of time before one of us snapped under the strain. I had always thought that I would be that one. I have always been weak, cowardly, where the others have always been strong. Quatre's optimism, Trowa's apathy; Duo's enthusiasm for life, Heero's for death. . . The four of them complemented each other, giving each other strength - while I was the useless fifth wheel.
Two of the wheels are broken, now, and past repair. A cart may travel on three wheels - but the strain would be all the greater. Why should it travel at all? Has it not come far enough? To press on would surely mean to become stuck in a rut. . . Such, after all, is life.
I stand up, leaning forward, reaching behind Duo to grasp the end of his braid. I loop it round his neck and pull it tight, bracing him against the wall behind the couch with my shoulder. He struggles, gasping for breath, fingers clutching at his braid.
"Wufei! No!" Quatre is behind me, trying to pull me off Duo. Unsuccessfully.
I still hold Duo's gun in my left hand, caught between my stomach and his. I twist my body slightly, turning my arm - and pull the trigger.
I hear a moan behind me as Quatre falls to the floor, soft in comparison with the sound of the gunshot. I ignore it in favour of concentrating on Duo's flushed face. His eyes are bulging, his face distorted as his open mouth yearns for breath.
Slowly, every so slowly, his struggles cease - dying, as he himself is. I wait until the gleam of life has left his eyes before relaxing my grip, lowering him back down to the couch and closing his unseeing eyes.
"Wufei. . ." I turn my attention to Quatre, lying dazed on the floor in an ever-growing pool of blood. He clutches at his stomach, his eyes pained. "You. . . killed. . . Trowa. . .?"
His gasped question freezes my blood, as I realize. . .
I kneel swiftly at his side and try to stem the flow of life from his body, knowing that it's already too late; he's lost too much blood. . .
"I'm sorry," I tell him, uncertain whether he can hear me or not. His eyes are closed now, his pulse fading fast.
My hands are as bloody as his, now. More so. I have done something that I swore I would never do.
Justice was all I wanted to give to this world, and now I have taken it away; just a piece of it - but so much, too much.
I lift the gun once more, aiming it at my own head. It will give me a swifter death than Quatre's. . .
I place the gun down beside Quatre's stilled body, and walk out of the room, out of the building. I will not permit myself such a quick and easy solution.
There are worse things in life, than death.
Find more of Rhionae at r i v u l e t l e t h e.