A holiday fic baked and covered with those spiffy colored sugars by The Queen of Blueberry Toast (TheKWOBT@hotmail.com).
Despite the fact this story is somewhat hidden in my archives, I’d just like to remind everyone that I don’t own these people, or the word Gundam, or anything relating to the word Gundam. Well, Camilla and Mrs. Patterson are mine I guess, but in the spirit of the holidays; Bandai, can’t I borrow the boys for just a little while?
Note on where this story fits in to the rest of my messes- This goes with my second fanfic timeline, meaning Duo and Heero ran off together as friends and later fell in love (after a rather long time but that’s not important). They’ve been at college for a while now, dating for a few months. But not getting kinky on cold winter nights. It’s an old fashioned courtship… sorta.
Now if only this was an old-fashioned Christmas Story…
/Duo, you’re beautiful but please don’t talk right now. Please./ The words were so clear in his mind he almost thought he had spoken them.
“I don’t care what the dorm code says, I’m going to have a tree this year, even if I have to build one myself!”
“You just might have to do that,” Camilla chuckled, leaning over and rubbing Hilde’s back as she bent over to tune to radio, causing her beret to roll to the floor with a slight flop. As she retrieved it, she adjusted the small sprig of silk holly attached to it, a girlish smile playing on her lips.
“I think I’m going to have to buy someone some more bobby pins.” Duo more or less informed his danish.
“You mean you haven’t gone shopping yet?” It was a tease with a hint of seriousness born out of sheer disbelief.
“Don’t be absurd. I had my shopping done months ago.”
“But what about the tree? It’s the day before Christmas Eve! There’s no way you’ll find a one at this time!”
“At least not a nice one.” Camilla chimed in.
“They’ve all been snatched up by the people who DIDN’T procrastinate.”
“It’s all part of my plan,” he answered them both with a wink before leaning over closer to Heero and feigning a whisper that was intentionally loud enough for everyone to hear. “I gottcha something really sweet. Yeah,” and one of his famous exaggerated shurgs, “Even though you told me not to. I mean, how would it... Ten-chan…? Heero…? Heero, are you OK?”
“Hmm?” Two unfocused cobalt eyes strayed over him at last as the boy beside him seemed almost to cringe in pain though nothing had changed in the cheery little kitchen, strewn as it was with tinsel and garlands and ribbons of every sort.
“Are you feeling alright? You look a little pale.”
“I’m…” /Freezing cold. I hate winter and God, the air is stinging my lungs; it’s wet and it’s cold and there’s almost that hint of metal to it…/ “I’m just a little tired.”
“Aw! Poor baby. Why didn’t you sleep later? It’s our vacation after all. No one would have minded. You can still go back to bed if you want.”
“I think I will.” At this the ex-Wing pilot rose rigidly from his chair, eyes clinging to the floor as he moved. His lover only caught his hands a moment, squeezed it fondly before letting him slip into their room.
As soon as he was safely out of earshot, Duo leaned across the coffee table and whispered in earnest this time. “I think he must have some old wound that aches him when it’s chilly like this and that’s why he wanted to go to a colony with a mild climate. I wish he’d be straight with me, y’know? I’m still afraid to try acting suspicious or calling his bluff. B’sides, he doesn’t take well to being comforted at all.” A slight sigh as he shook his head. “Well, I’m headed out. Nothing like crowds to gettcha in the holiday spirit, is there?”
“But it’s so COLD out!” Hilde protested. “You’ll freeze your ears off.”
“I’ve lived through worse.” He rooted around in the pile of boots and loafers and sneakers and other peripherals lying under the coats in more disarray than a box of last year’s icicle lights. Somehow he managed to unearth a pair of fuzzy red earmuffs which he pulled on at once.
“Tres chic,” Camilla giggled.
Miss Schbeiker straightened her bangs and capitulated. “Alright, but take care of yourself now.”
As he yanked on he good black bomber jacket, “Oh, I will, Mommy. Don’t you worry about… hey! I should probably put my heavy boots on. It smells so much like winter today. You think it’ll snow?”
“Goodness no! It’s not SUPPOSED to snow here.”
“Well, I’m going to keep my hopes up anyway. Bye everyone! I don’t know when I’ll be back.”
Slam, the slieghbells on the door sang.
And in the other room, Heero felt a shudder rip through him.
It was nearly noon by the time Heero opened his eyes again, though he had lain still under the polar fleece covers for a long time pretending to rest even though he could sense the room was empty. And heard no one about outside so he must have been pretending to himself. The air cuddled up against him seemed warm, but he was numb and stiff as though he hadn’t moved in days. At last, he had managed to half-lift his eyelids and peer out through the slight haze of his lashes.
He pitched onto his back, wide awake.
A strange, hazy light slipped past the slats of the bedroom window- one of pure, unadulterated white that chilled not only the atmosphere but every other hue it grazed about the room. And there was the scent of it then- like a champagne bucket full of half-melted slush.
This seeping through the stillness. He rose to see now that behind the threading of the blinds the sky was a mute whitewash, blank and… he lifted one of the slats. The bare and ravished branches of the trees nodded, the brown earth looked upwards to… the colorless shards which now and again were tumbling lifelessly out of the distance of the invisible colony ceiling.
/How could I hear snow falling?/
Because it seemed there was nothing else that could have awakened him.
The breath of the ice wound all around him, writhing and possessing of a soft, threatening voice. Silently, as if afraid not to perceive of what sinister things it spoke of for him he slipped out of his room and into the main one where with all the windows open, the light was blinding.
It was a long time ago now but something in him started to surface with the quickening of his heart and with it came a rush of clinging phantoms- degraded images, half sounds.
Only half real, but still sinking through him.
The wind screaming in his ears but still he could hear… Trowa who was kneeling, wrapped in holly green, speaking coldly, cradling his wrist. Crystals of frozen water bit at his cheeks like little wasps but he himself was still and grim and watched Noin run to… Trowa.
How long had it been since he’d heard that name?
He was sure of it.
But for some reason now it didn’t sound right… whenever now had come to him.
Trowa. And he, Heero was just standing there, patching the scene together with another that didn’t fit. No feeling… wasn’t that right?
The air smelled of burnt neo-titanium and singed fuel. The white and crimson frost giant of Heavyarms kneeled as if stabbed in the back, and so did it’s pilot really. Trowa, and that had to be his name, faded into a gust of powder.
No, what really cam after that? It wasn’t right. The recollection seemed blank though as coal or glass walls.
There was a man with white hair who looked as if he was made of ice and the ice flew up in torrents around him as he fought and some little voice in Heero wondered but he couldn’t hear it. And there was a girl with pink earmuffs and the air was so viscous and so heavy with dripping fuel it…
“What did I forget?” he asked the ceiling.
It was just cinnamon.
He stood now under the spotlight skylights of one of the ceilings in the English Department of Constantine University, watching the fog on it pixillate and shred the afternoon, the edges of its vault fraught with crimson velvet swangs.
He knew why this was coming to him though.
The news report ran like and old song in his ears, just above the melody which also struck him as familiar.
/”In other news today…”/
Hark how the bells,
Sweet silver bells,
/“…war criminal Milliardo Peacecraft…”/
All seem to say,
Throw cares away
/“… a/k/a Zechs Merquise…”/
Oh how they pound,
raising the sound,
o'er hill and dale,
telling their tale,
/ “… has official been declared…”/
Gaily they ring
while people sing
songs of good cheer,
Christmas is here,
Merry, merry, merry, merry Christmas,
Merry, merry, merry, merry Christma-
/“…missing by the tribunal at…”/
“Heero? Is that you?”
The wing pilot pun on his heels the ice screeching under him, just in time to…
The college boy jumped and the sudden tensing of his muscles made his left arm ache so…
“Oh! I’m sorry.” She cried softly, her words slightly muffled by the echoing of the hall. “I didn’t mean to startle you.”
“Mrs. Patterson?” His lips carved out the words perfectly but the actual breath behind them caught in his throat somewhat. He found himself rubbing his eyes, trying to coax the burned brightness out of them.
“What ever are you doing here today?”
“I just wanted something to do I… I was just wandering.”
“Are you alright? You look a little dazed?”
“No, just lost in thought.” He answered with a bit of a nod that ended up leaving his eyes against the floor. “Where’s the music coming from?”
“My room. I had one exam I left behind and I came in quick to grade it. While I was working I thought I saw you walk past.”
“And so I did. It was nice to see you again, especially since you and Duo aren’t taking any of my courses this semester. I’ve missed you both dearly, it’s just not the same without you. Just don’t tell any of the freshmen I said that.” At this she winked. “Well, I’m in a bit of a hurry so I must be rude and cut this short. Merry Christmas.”
And she was gone.
Heero sat down on the floor with his back against the wall and tried to make it come back to him, whatever it was.
Slung over the linoleum for awhile, he listened for even the slightest footsteps on the floor, not wanting to be caught. Mrs. Patterson left through the far door and didn’t see him Her heels clacked like combat boots in the corridor.
Holding his forehead as if it was bleeding, Heero slipped out after a few minutes more.
“Knock knock!” Called Duo, finding Camilla and Hilde’s room door wide open.
“There you are!” his old friend called, leaping to her feet as jovially as if she hadn’t seen him in months, though such actions were not unusual for her of course. It was cute really. What he’d always loved about her. He threw his arms around her waist and swung her up in the air a moment.
“Yes, Mommy! I was bad. I stayed out waaaaaaay too long. BRRRR!” He held onto her for sometime longer then, patting her shoulders and trying to warm himself up before finally starting to peel of his things, starting with the scarf which he tied in a bow about one of her coat rack pegs. “It’s frickin’ frozen out there. I still got all my toes, right?” he then playfully pulled one of his feet out of his boots and wiggled the digits in question. “But you saw it, didn’t you? Please tell me you saw!”
“You need to cut your toenails,” Camilla dryly suggested.
“No, didn’t you see?”
“See what then?” Miss Schbeiker asked, resting her hands on her hips.
“It was snowing!”
“Really! I swear it was for a little while. It’s all slush by now, but it snowed! It really did!”
“You were right after all then! I still doubt we’ll have a while Christmas, but, oh well… that would be pretty nice I guess.”
“Then I’d really, REALLLLLLY get my wish!” For every Christmas he could remember since he’d known what Christmas was, it had rained- rained as if his presence invited the inclement weather.
“But did you get your TREE?”
“Well, the funny thing about that is…”
“No, no! It’s not for sure yet. One of the guys I stopped by said he always gets one last shipment Christmas Eve day since a lot of people around here like to wait until the last minute so they can decorate with their families or something like that. It’s strictly by special order but he always has at least one person who doesn’t pick theirs up and he says I got dibs on it.”
“So is that why you’re smirking?”
“Nah. Its because right after that he tried to set me up with his daughter.”
But Duo actually didn’t as he began his boisterous impression of the Christmas Tree Man. “ ‘Oh, I know a nice boy like you mustn’t want for dates but if you ever think you might want to settle down I think my Diane’s just the kinda girl you’d like…’.”
“That blatant, huh?”
“Well, if you’da heard him it was that blatant.”
“And what did you tell him?”
“ ‘My boyfriend’ll kill me.’ He went red as the poinsettia he was wrapping up for the little old lady he was waiting on while he was talkin’ to me. She of course high-tailed it outta there. And you know? Little Diane was just walking into the room and it seemed to me he must try to set her up a LOT because she just started LAUGHhhhing and saying ‘Oh, Dad! Not another one!’. He apologized like fifty times and then insisted on giving me these.” At which Duo produced from his shopping bag a box of Christmas balls- sapphire blue except for one that the glaze has failed on which was more of an aqua.
“He said it was the least he could do since he’d made such a fool of me and didn’t have a tree.”
“So he gave you the ones he couldn’t sell?”
“Hell no! I picked this box, thanked him and went on my way singing.”
“How many people did you wish merry Christmas?”
“Oh, everyone I bumped into while I was walking down the street trying to catch the snow on my tongue.”
“So you has a nice little adventure today?”
“I sure did! Though, I seem to have adventures everywhere I go, don’t I?”
Camilla put down her cookbook and peered into the fridge as she chuckled again. “Of course, you wouldn’t be Duo if you didn’t have adventures.”
He smiled a bit and straightened his braid which was a bit askew from having been crammed in his coat for a bit. “So, what did you two do?”
“Oh,” his former roommate began cheerily, “We went over the menus for tomorrow and Christmas again, started divvying up the work. Is slicing detail OK for tomorrow?”
“Ooh! Knives! Sure thing.”
“Just onions and parsley I think. We bought creamer potatoes to go with the parmesan sauce so they didn’t have to be sliced.”
“Mmm! What kinda cookies did we decide on again?”
“Well, since we’ve already got all those rolled sugar you made in your ‘desserts around the world’ class, just chocolate chip pecan and gingerbread. I’ll make you a bunch with no heads, just the way you like them."”
“Aw shucks,” he found himself blushing. Headless gingerbread men just seemed so against the holiday spirit to most people. He hardly ever got any.
“But then, Christmas day you and Heero are dressing the turkey.”
“You’re… not?” /Goodness! What’s he up to this time?/
“It’s a goose. And we even got a frozen plum pudding to go with it!”
At this they all found themselves chuckling. “Jolly good! Jolly good!” Hilde’s girlfriend chirped in her best English accent.
“Oh! But whatever does Mr. Scrooge think of the whole affair?” Hilde herself questioned with similar intonation.
“The good sah loves plums!” Duo replied but suddenly frowned and scratched his head. “You haven’t heard a peep from him, have you?”
“No, hasn’t been down here at all. I think I heard your room door open and close at least twice though.”
“Oh, so he’s probably up then. Well, I’m going to go check on him. See if he feels better. Okay, ladies?”
And at this he walked out, shaking the chains of glitter hung on the door frame, letting a few stray threads catch in his hair, cling to the textured parts of his coat.
The hallways was silent and white as the sky outside, almost everyone else having flown off into the stars or the streets for the holidays. He knew at least one other pair besides his companions and his lover remained somewhere about in the seclusion of the dorms, the spaces of which now echoes softly and as solemnly as an old abbey as he slunk back to his own door. He found himself questioning if anyone was left at all, even Hilde whose sudden memories could well have been misplaced from another day, another yultide. It was just that quiet.
“Tadaima,” he called softly wanting more to hear his own voice than anything.
Peering off to his side, the familiar blank silhouette of Heero against the flickering pale blue of his monitor appeared. A few stray strands of his hair distorted the sharp outline with their inconsistent motion. The otherwise inert air tingled with the clicking of his fingers on the keyboard.
“How was your nap?”
Duo wondered in the back of his mind if it was the chilly day making it seem so or if his roommate’s voice really was frozen solid. “Whattacha up to now?”
“Writing my physics paper.”
“But it’s vacation.”
“I want to get a head start on it so I can relax.”
“Oh, OK. Well, that makes sense. I think I’ll put a dent in my book then. Y’know, I think I may get a minor in American Lit. And we might have a tree tomorrow.” Rearranging his heap of battered volumes, he eventually managed to produce the one he was looking for and so tossed himself carelessly on the sofa, half bunched in a corner as he pulled the sage throw out from under the skirts and tucked it around his lap. As he flipped to the prologue though. “hey Ten-chan?”
“You doin’ alright?”
“Yes, why wouldn’t I be?”
A little achy wing spread though his whole body then despite the softness of the cushions and the blanket. He wasn’t even sure really why the sudden dolor took him, but he just wanted to creep away from everything- to forget for awhile. He hated Heero for a second but it passed and he rubbed his eyes and tried to pretend he was alone so no one would catch him this way.
Heero himself finally tore his gaze away from the form of his lover huddled on the couch, made himself go back to the pages and pages about harmonics which were proving somehow difficult to write in the dead quititude of the dorm. The screen glared oddly in the filtered afternoon light, almost seemed greyish, washed out.
/I know I forgot something… I know it… I know it…/
By the couch there was a clatter of tin containers as Duo leaned over the armrest in a most awkward manner and grappled for a sugar cookie. At last he managed to snitch a tiny angel which he crammed half way into his mouth as he continued reading, not to mention knocking snibbles of the powdered sugar coating onto the pine blanket with his lips.
Heero’s fingers were tight on the keys as if plunged into ice water.
It was a caconophy of images that took him next, shattering each other, encroaching on the optic nervous input of his eyes as frost sometimes encroaches on windows just before the dawn.
There was a girl and she was as white as sugar in the cool morning light. And the air smelled like soaking steel or fingered screws even though the grass was so green by then.
He couldn’t really tell if he was cold.
He couldn’t feel anything except the trigger device digging into this thigh. Not then at least. Looking back as he had never intended to, there was so much that was screaming in him, fighting inside him to drive away the blackness in his chest where he was supposed to be warm. But the memory was crucified in his thoughts just the way it was- cold, white porcelain world caught in the oblivious morning light. Later, but not too much later.
Everything between missions he’d been made to forget. So there were missions…
A soft, dead weight fell in his arms. They always insisted to him blood didn’t have a scent, but he could almost feel it on his tongue, as some pungent scents are wont to leave the lungs. It was almost like coughing the stuff up. Now he felt like he might or at least that his gums had split.
The hoards of voices around him. The suggestions. The metal bits so cold on his bare skin. But the missions was ended by then so he had to forget. Just before the recollection clocked out… his thigh ached, his ribs were soar, maybe his head hurt.
The little spun sugar girl melted away into a puddle of slush. His hand, stretched out was smacked by Dr. J. Inside and outside… just so very chill. And he couldn’t even hear himself thinking…
/“The human vice of sympathy is unnecessary for our weapon.”/
… and missions until…
“Hey Heero?” A voice called from the couch.
He found himself wearily pulling himself from the chair, glancing as he did so not five new lines of his report. His hands reached out for something in the pitifully clear light of the day, though he found himself only motioning that he would be right back.
And the idea lingered that he never had gone back… sometime before this.
He went into the bathroom and laved his hands a few times before finally spitting into the sink. His lips really were split on the inside but all he could really do about it was make himself try swallowing the coppery slickness catching on his tongue as he stood watching the bubbles about the drain pop slowly, tugging at his dry eyelids with his finger tips.
At last he stepped outside again and faced the heap of Duo on the couch.
“You sure you don’t wanna take a break?” You’ve been typing all afternoon.”
“Want some hot tea or something?”
“Not right now.”
Heero couldn’t help thinking he had just gone to bed. As always, his covers were straightened to make it appear as if no one has so much as touched them for weeks, but he stood there, hair still damply clinging to his ears as the last of his shower dripped off of him onto the sheets he couldn’t make himself crawl under. The recollection of having lain there was too fresh in him and gulped down by thoughts of what had occurred between then and now.
The day felt wasted, frittered away before an empty screen that used to always be his days he thought. The wondering… and still he just couldn’t do it. How worthless it had all been. Everything of the daylight hours. He just wanted them over, or wanted them back. Yet they had drug over him like as slight incision in his flesh ripping open with his steps. And yet he couldn’t… could recall no matter how long they seemed to take. The gaping nothingness was rising in him again, so he felt as if he was sliding down in thick slush to be pinned there in a box of not knowing, not helping and it was so white and so cold.
/I’m too tired to do anything else useful. I could be up for days. But now I’m tired. I give up./ So he fell into bed, his pajamas rolling upwards with the movement revealing his back to the tepid night air.
“AIEEEE! Heero! You used up all the hot water.”
And then there was quite a while so he rolled onto his back and let his eyes dart about the room, listening hard for his own breathing… he almost didn’t want to breathe and yet he ached so to hear something, anything else.
The wet, bedraggled Duo who appeared in their room in his usual flimsy bathrobe asked plaintively, “Don’t I get a goodnight kiss?”
He found himself only staring then, trying to shake off sleep, remember how to answer.
The other boys softly rested his hands on the edge of the mattress though it still sank a little under the weight that came as he leaned over and brushed his own warm lips against Heero’s, breathing softly onto them but no more. “Goodnight, Ten-chan,” As he climbed into his heap of comforters, having thrown his robe over his headboard as he usually did, he thought he heard a slight whisper, “Oyasumi, ore no akuma-kun.”
But the light was off by then and he was off into the darkness and his tangle of softness- out to seek dreams of sugar plums and ever green, filmy bows and songs and mulled cider.
Once his eyes adjusted, the room struck him as uncommonly bright; a slight, almost down incurring, greyness clung to the sky despite it being nearly eleven in the evening. The city lights were drifting tremulously among the clouds, dimmed and spun into a glinning gauze that seemed to creep into the room where Heero and the slight shadow of Duo lay.
And Heero thought for just one moment that he would not dream, and that he would be glad of it.
Peering about the dimness, he let his eyes stray onto the pane of glass thinking he had heard it clicking. But it seemed far too cold to rain, and would not rain now. Nothing would be lulling him to sleep. He was not that lucky. Sleep hovered about his eyes and claimed them at last. It was as he plunged into what should have been respite that the phantom cold caress of the water ran over him.
Now he was sure he was frozen to the bone. The puddles broke under him and their liquid slithered down his tiny, battered shoes. His pack laid heavy on his shoulders and with the chill and pungent air about him otherwise, he found it nearly welcoming something would be that close to his skin. There was a dead, towering weight plodding along after his small and rapid footsteps with an adult slowness.
There was this vague idea that he was hungry too.
As he walked it seemed to him the slick pavement began to glow inside... like the light of a fire, flickering and winking at him, scattering and warm but somehow closer to him then a fire. Bright and cheery yes but fragile as if he could have crushed it with his hands.
And in so many colors: strange liquid red and emerald green and crisp yellow; muted blues and hot magentas; fantastic purples and irridessing whites all ripping with the clopping of his footsteps and the spays of passing cars.
At last he found himself looking up to what there was besides the narrow sidewalk. All around him were these little lights in pine green chains, suspended everywhere, holding the spatters of color just everywhere, glowing and blinking and flashing, peering out from rings of pine needle, rolling up streetlights.
The people hardly seemed to notice as they passed- just kept on chatting and joking; rushing past and laughing so; dancing down the streets carrying packages of every shiny, sparkling hue, the bows of which trailed like cloaks of ribbon behind them in the cold air. Their steps so light, their words so airy, mixing with the clanging of bells and the muddle of strange, old music he could only just catch...
Christmas is here,
Bringing good cheer,
To young and old,
Meek and the bold,
Ding dong ding
That is their song
With joyful ring
He heard his little voice asking, "What's going on?"
"It's Christmas," Odin replied.
As long as he could remember, he'd been told not to question but... there were these two children, hardly his own age, standing under one of the arches of lights as some woman handed them a pair of golden boxes spangled with star garland that caught on their mittens so. "What's Christmas?"
"Something people do to make themselves sad."
"They don't look sad to me."
"If you were with them you would understand."
"Was I what?"
"Did you do Christmas?"
"Were you sad?"
"It's not important now. All a waste of time. Quiet now. People are staring."
Heero tried to pull his worn coat a little closer and jumped over a pane of silver, red and green. The pack came down hard on his back. Then the drizzle started to pick up.
"Turn in the next ally up ahead." He did then. There was the clanging of old chain link, the scaling of a few walls and sliding between suddenly dark trees in the slight haze of the rain. "Do you have your gun?"
"Go for the gate."
"But the gate (and it was of wrought iron) the gables, the lace-curtained windows, the frozen flower bushes... all dripping with white lights...
Then it was later, and Odin's next words finally registered, and maybe his hands tugging on his coat sleeves. There was broken glass, wet and slick with blood the curtains hadn't seeped up. and his own choking cries...
And folds upon fold of warm burgundy velvet twined around his arm where he had tried to catch them.
"It's alright... really. It's alright now."
He was awake. Flinging himself to his feet he tore out of the dark bedroom and into the kitchen where still upon the windows hung impressions of the liquid clouds... So it was no good. He kneeled by the table, the table cloth lolling against his cheek with his heavy breathing, the refracted streetlights, far away as they were from the icicle creeping down the sill still lit them, made them seem sepia on his eyes.
That’s Ludicrous! You’re suggesting that the use of a gundam as a tool for massacre…
It’s okay, really… just put it down…
I can’t kill you…
I’m not mad at you… why would I be mad at you? Don’t upset yourself, now… just drink.
This is war! There is no wrong when it comes to sacrificing the general public.
I said put it down and come on! You can’t do anything about it now.
I didn’t mean to…
It’s not like I’ve got anywhere else to go. And I wouldn’t leave you alone anyway as suicidal as you are.
/Did I ever…/
Are you lost?
I’ve been lost all my life…
It is exactly as it was…
/… thank you?/
Hey! Won’t you even tell me your name!
But by then it really was dawn and he found himself clinging to the table cloth as if it were a skirt and so perhaps he tugged on it a bit as he rose and crept back to bed.
I'm gonna get me a Christmas tree
I'm gonna get me a Christmas tree.
Heero stared dully at the heap of glitter and shiny chains of bocages that were thrown all over the table and shining there now like the first sight of a long lost treasure. The blue Christmas balls, the garlands of metallic beads. Random angels and scrap of old tinsel the flicked about with even the passing of his hand. And one box of ornaments still wrapped in bunches of tissue that poked out of the crate like bunches of snowdrops. One string of old-fashioned multicolored lights which he found himself toying with a bit- adjusting the pointed tubes hiding away the filaments. "Duo, where are we going to eat breakfast?"
"Hilde and Camilla's." came the caroling reply, somewhat muffled by the closet itself and whatever it was that fell out of the closet at that time. "OH SH-... wait, they wanted to 'sleep in' today, didn't they?"
"Well then, we'll just sit on the floor." Pause. "Oh C'mon! It's not like we haven’t eaten worse places, is it. Ten-chan?"
It occurred to him after another long silence that the words had come from beside him. He found himself about to say "Don't talk like that!" but suddenly the words had left him and sputtered on his breath. Sighing, and with a plaintive look he turned to Duo who was leaning on his shoulder though he quite batted his lashes and pulled himself upwards once sure of his companion's response, taking his chin in his hands as he nuzzled their noses together and kissed him.
"So, what do you want for breakfast today?"
"Hmm, you know your cheeks are all cold? You want some nice, hot oatmeal with syrup and brown sugar? Warm you up inside?"
"I'll put it on for you then. Want some toast too?"
"Not even a little one?"
Next think there was a sugared holly leave dangling before his face.
Today just felt so much like yesterday. Duo had just slipped out through the door again, it's bells were still knocking around, but no longer had the force to ring. The scent of his after shave tainted the maple aroma of breakfast. Alone, Heero sat down at the cluttered table and discovered at once a single loose thread in the table cloth which he pulled out at once.
/I don't mind being alone. I've been alone most of my life. Why should it bother me now?/
"Why?" Once again, he found himself wholly unsure of what had been spoken and what had only slid through his mind.
The silence was infused through the room, wholly charging the lifeless chill that hung as if shrouds had blown through the windows. He wanted to curl up and go hide in one of the cupboards. At the time, it seemed like the weirdest, most utterly pointless thing that had ever crossed his thoughts. He couldn't go back to bed and sulk... felt as if someone would be watching his lie down, not do anything though he was strangely weak. Lack of sleep had never affected him before, but it wasn't just that.
/I just want to give up. I've never just fallen in like that but... about what? I'm not fighting anymore./
/And there are a lot of things I've never done before./
"But I know I'm not fighting./
"What did I forget?"
Detachedly, he slipped his hand inside the box of blue orbs and pulled one out- one of the cobalt ones which he help for awhile by the wire, noticing after awhile the scent of his fingers on the metal- the cold, blank odor.
Skin on metal.
Snow on the earth.
It was almost the same.
The distortion of his own face caught him as strange then.. really... he was shocked by his own, somewhat glary image. It didn't look right. Not the least bit like a person, no matter how he help shiny ball in relation to the light waves bouncing off his face.
/I can't ell if I'm pretty at all. There's only ever been one person who was pretty to me./
/Not that it matters./
/But I.../ And he found the fingers of his other hand creeping up along his cheek and temple- onto the soft skin around his eyes which flinched imperceptibly as he touched it.
/My eyes are less blue in the glass./
/I look... older somehow to I... I can tell./ With an almost sterile sternness, he pawed over his features with nothing but the round glass to judge them in, his real eyes tracking their reflection; cool and clear and... The image of the window behind him began to break up then, ripped apart by thin traces of white bobbing down to earth. Some straining heat shook his stomach like a bullet. He wanted to throw himself to the floor and never get up.
But it didn't really show on his face and he saw that now.
Something biting gentle and yet acrid seeped through him as bits of years may seep through days and strings of days. He thrilled and yet shrank away with some inevitability as formless as death and just as irrevocable. It laid ahold of something in him that made him sting and quaver, something wholly removed from the love he felt for... that other boy. Something wet and quivering he had locked away. Something he couldn't put a name to even as he felt it. He was wet and quivering, he was withering away.
Moving for the first time, he replaced the Christmas ball and stiffly got to his feet. Of course there was no one about but the quiet wrenched him like hands could have.
"What did I forget?"
The open bedroom window threw a white void through the door and onto the tiles of the kitchen floor. He wanted to close the blinds but as they stood remained open the rags of the pallid light froze him and rose off the bells upon the door.
He could almost see the woman in the burgundy velvet dress, the one he remembered tangled in the lights of her own Christmas tree and the snow blown in by the broken window. When he was just five… and somehow as she stood utterly inert in her irrevocable state he watched her shrink down to a little girl in a white dress and wearing an Easter bonnet… looking at him as if he was only her age.
He didn’t feel much older now, just as helpless, as dumbly enthralled clarity of her after all these years while the earthen ashes of her body were entombed and true only in what flowers might have grown from her grave on whatever far-off colony he had chanced to meet her on.
Yet here he was, just so many years older.
“What is so wrong with the memory of you?” he asked.
Seconds fell around they two, the ghost and the boy. He wondered if any satellites could see them and with what vividness they so appeared or were snapped up to exist anywhere else. He knew she was no more real than such empty images and now at least he wondered if the same were true of him and he was just some sparking filament recorded wrong, melting away like the drippy flakes outside, only seen when the weather was just right. He did not feel more. She did not feel more.
/You’re just a little girl with the day. I don’t know your name. I don’t know anything about you. You were never anything…/
“… at all.”
“God! What’s wrong with me! There’s no one here.”
If he could have plunged his hands through the window and pulled away the blankness rent and stationary sky he would have. But for now; barefoot; in nothing but light jeans and T-shirt he ripped through the door and out into the snow. Rushing as if there was some certain speck of ice he had to catch wobbling slowly down to the colony floor.
Snow brushed over him like cold fingers, the layer of stiff slush cracked under his feet and stung them as he raced over it, and sent powder tossing about his ankles. He breath shimmered dully on the air.
But then there, in the desolate silence of one more winter day, with the sky a pale, sickly grey and all the earth so naked, glinting like steel in the white syrup cover of the snow, dead branches catching it, dead grass holding it, dead leaves wracked by it’s embrace; in the shadowless brightness he stood, half blinded by the frigid tears of the murky heavens, staring at their ghostly patterns above with an utterly enthralled fear, yet looking nearly as if he somehow expected to be taken home. The wind tried to kiss him, but he refused it and for the longest time, stood there in the snow, asking the clouds what he could not understand himself.
“Heero!” Duo shouted, though at once he found himself oddly captivated by the eerie, frigid spectacle before him. The sheer unreal picture of the withered trees nodding with their falling ice sheathes yet flanking the motionless and dull figure of his lover.
“Heero!” he called again. The word iced his tongue, his feet broke the snow as fast as he could drag them.
He’d come home to find the door yet ajar and he female friend unable to explain this of the emptiness of his room. Taking this with annoyance at first he had nearly brushed it off until by pure chance he had glanced out the bedroom window and felt his heart sink into convulsions as he beheld the eerie spectacle from such a distance.
He was standing at last beside the other boy, whose glassy eyes he found utterly transfixed to the indeterminate spaces above. Now for one moment he himself was hypnotized by the slipping whiteness and yet pain and desire tore him away. The nips of it upon his face would have turned him alone in time. His companion was still and bringing his sight into his frame instead, he noted the slight blue of his lips, the pearls of ice in his hair.
Blinking. He scrunched up his eyes as if he had finally gotten something in them, and so mopping at them with his hands he finally pulled away. The thing was he seemed now completely ashamed, though neither of them seemed to be able to say what of.
“Oh, Heero…” was all the braided boy could bring himself to say as he reached to pull off his coat with the same hands he had been uselessly wringing in despair. “Here, Ten-chan,” As he swung the bomber jacket over the shoulders of the other boy he felt the wind rip through him. And he couldn’t help asking, “What are you doing out here?”
Yuy just stared at him as if he hadn’t said anything at all.
“It’s… it’s… C-c’mon now.” And he pushed the other’s still frame away from the thrall. “Let’s go back inside before you freeze.”
His old friend moved as obediently as a small dog though even so Duo found himself dragging one of his arms about his neck and half- carrying him to the door. In doing so he watched their feet to mind neither would trip. “You don’t even have any shoes on I… oh, Heero… what have I done?” he breathed it softly to himself.
“You didn’t do anything,” came a wet and muffled voice at his side.
“I know… I… know and I’m…”
“No I meant… betsuni.”
“Don’t argue about it now. Gotta get you warmed up first.” Once inside, he pulled Heero into the kitchen and placed him on the floor in font of the oven, rearranging every one of his chilly limbs as if he were a mannequin, and indeed his skin felt like cold metal beneath his fingers. The oven he put on low and opened, unable to think of any faster way to heat the room. At last he fetched their thermometer out of the bathroom and gingerly took his companion’s temperature in both ears just to make sure he hadn’t suddenly come down with a fever and begun to hallucinate. The ice slowly shrank and melted away, clinging to the milky chocolate frizz that was his hair and the color came back to his thin, curt lips but the aura of him remained so removed, so frozen. Just out of reach and there was to be no telling where his blue eyes were looking anymore.
“Heero, I would have stayed if you would have told me…”
“I said it’s…” and the voice weakened even further becoming nearly a juvenile lilt. “Did you get your tree?”
“Yeah, but that’s…”
“Why don’t you decorate it then? I’m sure it would make you happy. I’m… I’m Okay now. I’ll just go to bed. I’m tired.”
Without another word, the former pilot of Wing 0 rose, dripping as he was, and hobbled into the bedroom where he laid down on his sheets and flung his arm across his eyes.
The winter lown lasted only a few more moments though, and really he was glad of it. Duo sighing, and stamping around in his boots, the door opening, but not closing for some time, some curses when it was discovered the oven was still on and cooking the floor and then some bristly rustling that seemed to grow more familiar as it grew louder.
“There you go,” the words were plainly directed at some inanimate object.
Heero chanced peeking at his roommate who was absolutely beaming despite the melancholy echo residing in his smile. He was really very pretty when that particular guise assumed him; somehow it made him feel a little better to see it, and yet called up in him an enveloping guilt at the same moments. Beside the braided boy was a tiny, netted douglass fir no more than four feet high.
“You could at least get under the covers, silly.”
“Duo? Why did you bring…?”
“I’m going to put the tree up in here so you have something pretty to look at.”
“But what about Hilde and Camilla?”
“They said it’s alright. I just asked.” A few seconds of silence. /So he doesn’t even feel like arguing? I won’t give him any more chance then./ So he left the little tree behind for a moment returning with the box of Christmas balls and the pine green throw from the couch which he tucked about his lover before finally closing the blinds. “So it won’t be glaring in your face if you try to sleep.” He explained before hauling the tree into it’s stand and fiddling with the screws for some time before convincing himself it was perfectly straight. The netting came off next, pulling the stray needles with it creating a faint patter and a few more curses regarding the be-needled floor. “I’m sorry, I’ll be more quiet.”
Heero shook his head and wandered backwards in his thoughts to recollections rather buried in the past few hours- things deliberately recalled and yet some so seemingly insignificant. The clanking and the chiming of his old friend’s movements; he humming or chatting or tapping for the sake only of tapping. Had it ever really bothered him? Or did the clinking of the ornaments against the lights, the rasping of the branches on his rough hands he was only just now hearing?
He didn’t feel anything in what he did remember. Nothing at all. There was a numbness in his heart and not even Duo’s gentle breathing drowned out the white noise of the snow fall. The pattering on the windows and the earth that no one seemed to hear except for him. Snow was supposed to be silent after all. He could still feel where it had grazed him and it made his very veins feel tight and shivered with frost. So he laid there and he shook inside where he wished to be so still.
“You really look good in red, you should wear it more often,” Camilla remarked as she did her very best to repress her urge to reach out and fumble with the crimson velvet shirt Heero was wearing.
Duo smirked despite his mouth being filled with potatoes. His lover responded to none of this with more than a vaguely gentle glance. The intense red of his clothing was making him seem rather pale and his lips thinner. They weren’t quite reflecting any joy, at least not with a normal forwardness such times invited. Close enough for him. Duo shook his head /At least I don’t think he’s really pale/ and has another sip of his cider.
“All he needs is some holly,” Chuckled Hilde.
“Oh not more with the holly!” the braided one found himself breaking in. “Y’know this fetish of yours is really beginning to disconcert me.”
Camilla then added, “Especially with Holly being so pointy and all. You’re… not going all sadistic on me, are you? Eeeeeeeeee!” And feigning mousey fear she skittered to the other room and stood there beside the doorway where she cowered now and again peering out into the kitchen.
And Miss Schbeiker, half playing along countered, “You’d like it and you know you would.”
“I dunno, old buddy. Maybe now would be a good time for us to make a conspicuous exit.”
“Tactical retreat,” the other boy answered his roommate with a solemn nod. The red tapers were otherwise fluttering with his companions laughter, the garland and the bells seeming to swing this way and that in the fluctuating light.
Duo reached a conclusion then, but not one having much to do with the conversation, “You spiked this, didn’t you?” As he pointed to the last splash remaining in his glass.
“Not at all!” his mommy chided him though she watched her girlfriend pattering stealthily back to her seat, watching until just the right opportunity arose to give her a quick smack on the bottom. “I mean really! It’s only that my mother used to pick the holly from the…”
“Back to the holly. Fetish all around…” he shook his head.
“YOU! Anyway, she always used to pick the holly from out in front of our house for Christmas. Used to let it grow all year and swallow up the walk, pointing just everywhere and looking pretty awful by September. The neighbors would always have such a fit about it. But I remember… like it’s a happy dream or something. All the branches hanging over the fireplace then.”
Everyone at this turned to the great festoon on patent leather green leaves hung over the stove, finally understanding the eccentric decoration.
She who had placed it though took the opportunity to exit the dining area herself and from whatever place she had fled to in the other rooms there came such a racket of dragging boxes and falling presents that no one at first could explain. She returned shortly though, carrying the remains of her garland, a sprig of which she slid behind Heero’s ear without any expected second thoughts it seemed and he quite continued to nibble the last of his shrimp. The rest she had tied in two circlets, one of which she pulled Camilla’s hair through and the other of which ended up on top of Duo’s head, smashing his bangs down into his face.
Lifting his now empty glass he flippantly remarked, “I, The Ghost of Christmas present, have come for you Ebaneezer Khusrenada. Put down that bloody snifter this instant! I’m going to take you… no, no I don’t care if she is your most trusted advisor, she can’t come along and…. Egads man! Button your trousers!”
Hilde’s girlfriend shook her head. “You are so weird.”
“No, a gut who could roast two cherry tomatoes on each eyebrow is wired. I’m just quirky.”
“OH! Enough with the sarcastic wit already!” Winging Duo’s Mommy perhaps suggesting she wished to be everyone’s. “Let’s get rid of our empty plates and have some dessert.”
“You just want some of that torte.”
“And I’m not even done!” the braided one fussed.
“You have one potato left.”
“I can’t help it I’m a tiny bite taker.”
“Exactly. If you took bigger bites you wouldn’t be able to talk with your mouth full.”
“I thought you just told us not to snipe at each other!”
“Well, I hadn’t gotten a turn.”
“And you got it. Now gimme back my potato!”
She complied of course, speaking the tuber and popping it into his mouth for him. “Does anyone want coffee then?”
Everyone’s hand went up, even Heero’s.
It was a purchased torte as few people find it practical to make ten thin layers of sponge cake, alternate them with creamy fudge and dip the whole thing in more gooey chocolate. The coffee though was homemade and so were the florets of whipped cream bobbing in it among the mint leaves and the chocolate straws. The scent of their dessert alone was satisfying and drowned out the warmth of the ubiquitous cinnamon odor.
It was late that night among sugary giggles that Duo kissed his girls good night, determined to put on his red, sheep spangled “Fleece Navida” and sit before the window watching the snow until he fell asleep. “Hey, Heero?” he called down the hallway finding his companion already gone though.
But the hallway had already returned to its overwhelming quiet atmosphere and he knew this. Finally locking himself in for the evening, the sticky scent of balsam filled him before anything else. The lights on the tree were still on, casting a mellow, multicolored aura about the bedroom and the air just outside it- a soothing, young beauty, pinkish and fresh, dancing and slitting and reflecting off of every decoration- the blue orbs, the tinsel…
But curled up in his bed already, was Heero. Still in his velvet shirt and with both arms pulled around his head.
Duo felt his heart sink. He didn’t know how else to put it. Sighing soundlessly, he slipped over to his old friend as slightly as a spirit and seeming just as faintly luminous in the tinted light. For a moment he wavered in what had seemed and obvious decisions and was still. /I… I don’t care if he gets angry with me anymore. I just can’t let him get away with this./ So he kneeled down beside him on the mattress and tugged him into his arms, causing a few faint mumbles of protest. “Why can’t you tell me what’s wrong?” he sounded as if he was asking why the stars weren’t shining that night.
“I’m tired. Leave me alone.”
“Not this time. You always say that! Well… it’s just been that way since we met at least. You know that. But it doesn’t work anymore. I know you need me, or at least someone or something. You’re just not gonna get ridda me that easy. I’m not gonna leave you alone. I know you want me to but… you’re deeper than that.”
“I don’t understand why you have this compulsion to make yourself feel bad for me.”
“You don’t have to. Not at all. But I can’t let your forget that I’m here, Heero. Right now. Even if you can’t tell me anything though you’d feel better if you did. Well, not all people would. And maybe not you.” And with a more earnest sigh he slowly shifted his limbs to keep his roommate out of any awkward positions he had fallen into while being unwillingly pulled, tossing the other boy’s pillow away and propping his head on his tightly crossed lags instead. It was still a silent, deathly grey winter’s night but somehow there, with the other boy slung halfway over his lap it seemed somehow less unsettled and spooky white as the end of the year tended to be. A gentle guise of serenity creep through his sadness and his fingers toyed with the tousled brown hair he’d hardly ever had occasion to touch before. Time seemed to stand still, well or not, and always before it had seemed to rip through them both.
Or had it he wondered? “Y’know, I saw you out there in the snow today and I… I really was scared but I started thinking about when I was little. I don’t know why, I guess because you really did look like a snow sprite or something. Not that that isn’t an awful thing to say and you probably don’t wanna hear it anyway. Even though… you do kinda make me feel like a kid again sometimes. It’s too far to go ahead wondering, but I don’t ever see myself feeling any older than I do now. And I feel about twelve when you’re with me… how old do you feel?”
“I don’t know, I have nothing to go on.”
/He actually… answered me./ “Do you think it’s supposed to be like this then? That lover’s make you feel little and that we’re kinda stuck like this?”
“For you I guess.”
“I don’t ever wanna grow up.”
“You mean you wouldn’t care or anything?”
“I love you, Duo.”
“I love you too.”
“If you wanna say it, go ahead.” /Figures. It wouldn’t be practical and all if I was always a brat so here comes the excuse…/
Duo stilled the shock that had coursed through him. One of his hands slid down Heero’s cheek instead and the other he found reaching about his hip for the sense of security that wasn’t there, and he knew wasn’t there anymore since he had given it up. “Don’t be ashamed.” He finally reassured, leaning his head against the wall. “I am too… even though the war’s over… has been for awhile now.”
“But I don’t know what I’m afraid of.”
“Doesn’t matter, does it?”
“But I can’t be afraid of everything… or you or…” /Loosing you? I don’t even know if that’s it… I just don’t know…/
“Everyone’s got their ghost they can feel watching them sometimes.”
“What else would you call it? Sometimes they just look so familiar and sometimes you just start to wonder why it has to be that one face that one… I’m not helping, am I? Damn, I just no good at this. I never was.”
Heero felt Duo’s hand clenching gently against his arm, shaking a bit perhaps. “The war’s really over? The why do I still feel this way?”
“It might not just be that… you feel guilty, dontcha?”
“I always will… I didn’t before. I didn’t feel anything at all. My memories… the further back I go the more blank they are and no matter who I look back on or how… or any Christmas, or snow…”
“You don’t remember feeling anything?”
“Something like that.”
“What about now.”
“I don’t want to. I don’t want to feel anything at all.”
“I never wanted anything but you. It hurts… to go back… but the snow today reminded me no matter what I did.”
“Remember the rose but not the thorns. Doesn’t work, does it?”
“How can you always be so happy?”
“Happy? Me? No I… I don’t… do I seem happy?”
“Well, I’m sad too sometimes. It doesn’t need a reason, but I know it’s Okay. And it is. Can’t just be happy like a little kid. I used to cry. I can’t do it anymore and that makes it worse sometimes. Thinking I’m not normal, that I can’t even grieve like a regular person. But that’s the way it goes sometimes.”
“Duo, how old am I?”
“I…” And he saw clearly then, with all the fresh pangs of a wholly different sort of guilt the soft focus image of Heero who one summer afternoon was curled up in the corner with his computer, face shimmering with faerie dust tear streaks even as he typed. “Younger than me in some ways… don’t gow up if you can help it. I like you just like this. You’ll feel better… I can do no more to help you than I could do to put a child to sleep.”
/But children fall asleep when they know they’re not alone. And they’re not ashamed of being this weak… or not knowing what they fear… or not fearing at all./ The little spun-sugar girl danced faintly on the lashes of his half closed eyes and part of him reached out to her. /Children aren’t really afraid of anything because they’re innocent. Not that that means much anymore, or that I ever was or that… maybe I should try? Go backwards. Some part of what I feel, and I do feel no matter what you did to me, Dr. J, is pure somehow… pure sadness but pure nonetheless. I’ll risk it. I’ll remember. I’ll find some place in between where I can hold onto grace and still be wise…/
“Duo, sing me to sleep.”
“I don’t know any lullabies.”
“Then just talk for awhile. I like the sound of your voice.”
Heero awoke the next morning quite by himself in bed but bound in so many blankets he thought at first he could still feel Duo’s warm body wound around him in a somewhat immodest fashion. But Duo he saw at last in his own bed and fast asleep under the holly wreath hanging on his headboard.
And he could see for there was a soft holiday blue dawn pouring through even the slats of the blinds though in it the gentle glow of the tree was fading, dulled to packages of color strung up in the branches but not downed.
He had actually managed to sleep through the night. Yet there was no hurry to rise. Especially not from where he was, watching his lover’s slightest breath stir his sheets and what little of his exposed skin there was turn fair as milk and the soft, white, early light.
Suddenly, he realized he was under both of Duo’s blankets- the other boy was draped with the comforter from the couch only. That and he himself was still in his velvet shirt, rumpled as it must have been by then. Not that it mattered. He got out of bed and took a quick shower, pulling on a clean pair of pajamas and fishing his slippers out of their drawer where they had sat unused for some time being bunny slippers and all. At last he put some coffee on to perk, adding a few string of vanilla at the last minute. He could have stayed to make sure it didn’t boil over, but instead he sat down by Duo’s bed for awhile.
He supposed to coffee was about halfway done when his companion suddenly let out a huge yawn and rubbed his eyes before opening them at last… as soon as they had fully revealed themselves, he quite rubbed them again.
“Mari Kurisumasu.” Heero said, articulating carefully.
Duo smiled and chuckled a bit, perhaps in slight disbelief. “It’s Christmas already? Well then, Merry Christmas to you too…” And another yawn as he rolled over and stretched under the covers. “What are you doing up so early?”
“I just woke up.”
“You look a lot better… would I mean that…” And running his hand over his boyfriend’s cheek. “How do you feel?”
“Like I just woke up.”
Chuckles. “Y’know if you don’t think you slept it off you can go back to bed and I’ll…”
“No, I’m up now.”
“Really? You sure?”
“Stop nagging me. I just wanted to have breakfast with you.”
“Oh…” Somberly then, “I’m sorry.
“Hmm…” Swinging himself out from under the covers he revealed he had showered the previous night himself not to mention turned up with the sheep infested pajamas. “How do you feel about Hilde and Camilla coming over for presents then? If you don’t want them here, just say so.”
“I made enough coffee for them too.”
“I’ll take that as a yes.” And staggering a bit, as he was still somewhat groggy, he snatched his robe out of the closet and went whistling down the hall.
Heero sat and jiggled the branches on the tree… watching the decorations dangle back and forth as he did so… it wasn’t really all that sudden but he found himself then seeing the tree in a wholly different light. Apparently, Duo had strung up a few of his own ornaments too, the ones he had worked on in spare moments of his art classes. The one’s he would have put up if it hadn’t been for the “No trees, they’re flammable” code being enforced for once.
A dragon coiled around a rose and sleeping now.
Two crosses wound with angel wings. One was silver and fluted with bits of crystal the other gold and ornamented with scrolling Latin.
A few twigs of imaginary amaranth painted electric purple and existing in a glass serum vial stripped of it’s label and somehow remaining unbroken despite the inclusion of the metal flowers.
Two crossed scimitars bound with Jericho rose, a violin placed carefully at their intersection.
A lion and a lamb wearing a clown’s outfit snuggled together.
And a pink metal princess crown resting on olive branches.
Some pattering outside and a slight slam. “They’ll be over in a minute. Had to get their packages out of their hiding places and so on…” Standing in the doorway then, he found himself leaning against the jamb and grinning with the pleasure of seeing his lover curled up before the tree.
“Duo, could you make me an ornament for next year?”
“Sure thing. What would you like?”
“A little yellow flower.”
“That’s no problem at all.”
“Even if it has to be a certain kind?”
“Not at all… hehe… here it is winter and our tree will be full of flowers then!”
The outside door came flying open then with a good deal of jostling and shaking of paper. “Merry Christmas!” called Hilde and Camilla as they came tearing in and placed their packages beneath the lowest bows. There was the usual hugging and kissing and laughing for no reason at all amid the constant intonations of “Whattcha get me?” and such coy replies. Camilla, in a bout of pity, quite cast her arms about Heero’s neck only to find his hands drifting onto her shoulder blades instead of shoving her away.
“I know you didn’t want me to get you anything,” she sighed sadly regretting her obedience to his wishes.
“This is fine.”
And blushing a bit then she found herself confronted with Duo’s gift to her, which turned out to be all four volumes of “Great lesbian Short Stories of the 22nd Century.”
“I took Heero’s revenge for him.” The braided one explained to her irritated flush.
“Well then, I’ll just have to put it to good use!” And flipping to a random page… “EWWWWW!” so she rather beat it’s presenter with it instead.
“But I don’t feel all that avenged!” Declared Hilde most likely referring to her having been in the same closet as her lover at the time of the embarrassing event that was suddenly once again of such interest.
With a smirk, he presented her with her gift and after much tape shredding… “Oh! A professional cherry pitter! I always wanted…. YOU!!!”
“Hey! OW! Don’t hit me with the box AND the book, ladies! It’s a joke! It’s a joke! I bought you each earrings and hats too! They’re in the funny shaped boxes right over there! Hey! Not the braid! Not the braid!”
After a little more disemboweling of packages Heero snatched up the camera and forever preserved the image of his lover, grinning evilly with a well-decorated sapphist smooching each of his cheeks. Hilde and Camilla raved for many minutes about everything before practically throwing their gifts to one another about.
Duo finished his chuckles and reached into his nightstand drawer, pulling out a small, silvery blue box which he held out to Heero with a shy smile. “You don’t have to take it if you don’t want to.”
Without a word, not that the slight wonderment of his expression was wont of any, the other boy took the present and tore the paper off in long, skinny ribbons which he wound about his fingers before letting them drift to the floor in curls. The black box inside he seemed near wary of, and held it for a some seconds, rubbing his fingers over it’s velvet before opening the hinges with a bit of a squeak.
Inside was a pillow of cobalt satin on which rested a pair of silver art-deco angel wings set with a bluish pearl at their center.
“Because you’re my Ten-chan,” Duo ventured in the allured silence.
Heero fumbled a second with the catch before neatly pulling the broach away and pinning it to the front of his pajamas. Then he smiled.
And was shortly buried in his roommate’s arms and nuzzles.
“Hmm?” He found himself murmuring, for his lover seemed rather melancholy if not a bit clingier than usual.
“Well, it’s just you don’t smile that often.”
“I… I… I have something for you too.” And most mysteriously, he dashed out of the room for a moment before returning with a shopping bag from one fancy department store or another. “It was for your birthday, so it isn’t wrapped. But I want you to have it now.
Duo couldn’t contain himself at all and went straight back into his giggles as he cast the obscuring tissue paper all about the room. Underneath it all was a small, floppy stuffed dog with curly tan fur and a black bow tied around its neck.
“I felt bad because it’s my fault you can’t have a real dog.”
“Oh he’s so cute!” Cried the other boy unabashedly cuddling his stuffy and laughing merrily. “Thank you so much! You’re too sweet! You’re just too sweet and I…”
/It may take some time, koi, but for now I’ll be alright. I’ll keep just you in my heart. And the rest can sleep for sometime, but not be pushed away. I can live with that. I can live with you./ Heero decided for once it may be better to silence Duo. He thought he understood how happy he was now, and maybe it was better to let that go unspoiled by words. So he silenced them both with a long, sticky Christmas kiss.
“Hey! Who wants breakfast! I’m hungry!”
“Me! I want cookies!”
“I haven’t opened all MY presents yet, silly.”
“I wish you wouldn’t call me that.”
Then there was that one reposeful moment… as he was the last one who had not gone out to the kitchen after something warm and cheery. He peered out the blinds at the white earth outside- the snow was dull under the clouds but pure still. And he shuddered but tore himself away. /I can wait. I don’t know why I’m so sure but… just let it go, Heero. Hold on and let it go./
A.C. 206, L3, Christmas Eve
“And we have LIGHTS! ………….. OUCH!”
“Duo, the tree isn’t even plugged in.”
“I know! I hit my head on the window sill.” And one rather needled and disheveled Duo crawled out from under the dark but spangled fraiser fir occupying his front room, particularly the space by the window which had previously been home to his cherry-wood racking chair. The curtains covering the window over looking the street were ripped with red garland, the sill once littered with bottled and some of his sculptures was all angels and ornaments there simply hadn’t been room for despite his tree being the absolutely envy of the neighborhood both in size and aesthetic value.
Heero sighed and pulled out the dust buster he’d kept handy for any and all messy incidents associated with the holidays, be they explosions of flour or appearances of previously missed dust.
They had been in their house for awhile now. Five years or so. It seemed longer.
At any rate, he vacuumed the needles off of Duo’s trench coat. The black silk one he was wearing most likely for nostalgic value as it no longer fit him very well.
“You always wait until the last minute and make such a mess!”
“It’s tradition. Will you do the honors?”
Heero nodded and bent beside the tree, plugging in the power strip. The bulbs about him were warm at once, clusters and ribbons of them imbuing the room with that comforting pinkish light he had finally grown accustomed too. The bits of glass hanging from their iridescent metal star jiggled as he pulled away and bumped the trunk. Neo-titanium alloy really made a fine addition to their holiday décor.
Duo was just proudly sliding his arm about his lover’s waist when the bassinet just across the rooms hook a bit and cooed softly. So instead, he scampered over the floor and bent over it, trying to hold his braid out of the way. “Hi, Dacey. Hello.” A squeaky little yawn. “Oh, are you still sleepy, huh? Not at all excited?’ Some gurgles. “But it’s Christmas tomorrow. Your very first one.” And a soft, welcoming smile as he reached into the bassinet and lifted a small, wriggling bundle until it was leaning close against his chest, cradled in the curve of his arm so he could sit up and see the room in all it’s splendor.
Dacey’s little cobalt eyes lit up at once as he beheld the glittering majesty of the tree and so his father walked him right up to him, trying to imagine himself how it must feel to see such things for the first time, larger then all the mundane world, so unfamiliar and yet so summoning of happy smiles as his son reached out and tapped his hands against the branches, marveling as only a baby could at the way the decorations would actually swing back and forth as he batted at them.
He felt his dear old friend’s warmth beside them both and watching him slip his fingers into the child’s baby-fine fuzz. “He has your hair.”
“You think so?”
“We’ll have to grow it long.”
“If you don’t mind braiding it for him until he’s seven or so.”
“I think I’d like that.”
At that moment about three timers all went off in the kitchen all buzzing at different but equally annoying frequencies. “My cookies!”
Heero quite suddenly found himself standing in the middle of the room, alone and holding a his whimpering son, who was apparently rather frightened by the sudden noise. So he cuddled him up against his shoulder and rocked him back and forth a bit. “It’s okay, sweetie. Papa’s here. It’s just loud. It can’t hurt you.” One of the little hands suddenly clamped down on his collar, hanging on for dear life it seemed and he couldn’t resist petting his child’s head a bit in response.
It occurred to him just then their neighbors ought to see their tree as well and so he drew black the blinds behind it letting the gentle periwinkle of the late evening trickle in, made blithe and sprightly by the profusion of colored windows outside, now looking into their own. It was cloudy he noticed. Very even, still clouds, wholly uninteresting so rather he leaned against the side of the window and watched the streetlights coming on instead. It was just the right time for that… and all the colored lights.
And first he thought he had only caught some slight glare in the corner of his eyes and brushed it off. Windows threw reflections oddly and there was just so much to catch oddly on the pane but… there it was again.
His grip on Dacey tightened.
“Aw, gosh darn it!” Duo was always very mindful about not cursing before his offspring. “Heero! The gingerbread icing tastes really freaky! I’m gonna have to call Hilde I think! It’s nothing like her’s! It’s all like… Heero?”
He froze. The room was empty, door slightly ajar and the brick wind seeping through it flicking the curtains about in a most phantasmal manner. The tree clicked like a host of bells and outside…
Stood Heero in the midst of a swirling flurry.
/Oh no! Oh no! I forgot! I completely forgot! Why tonight? Why of all night’s! It’s my little boy’s first Christmas and it’s… it was just supposed to be so… perfect. Just for once./ “Heero!”
He threw back a dry sob and snatched the comforter off the couch as he dashed outside and slammed the door behind him, at once blinded by the white speck coating all around him. “Come back inside this…”
And then he heard it. “Look Dacey, it’s snowing.” Two giggles. One hardly six months old and the other so musical and sweet it could not have been more than twelve years. But he thought he recognized it just the same, even when it had only warmed his heart on such rare occasions. “Oh don’t be such a stick in the mud,” Heero chuckled as he held his little boy aloft.
Duo gaped for a second or so and then in wonder crept up beside his lover in the light snow, running his fingers over his cheek as one of the snowflakes struck it and melted away. “Are you sure that you’re…”
“Why shouldn’t I be happy? It’s Christmas and it’s snowing.”
“And I ruined the gingerbread.”
“At least the icing.”
“I’ll get over it.” And then he did remember, at least why Duo had seemed so frightened. From that one night, all those years ago. They had laughed and they had wept silently together since then. But looking back, they were really just the same…
/“Hey! Won’t you even tell me your name! I saved your ass you know.”/
… If not two children learning to forget like children do. And yet to remember what time had since eased. He thought he felt a tear sliding down his cheek but it must have been the snow.
Life was too short to weep, but just
long enough to stand out in the flurries that evening and smile.
Cherry pitters are really expensive.
Heero is allergic to dogs in this timeline.
No, I don’t know why they have such a huge dorm.