The Blood of Peace
Second Movement, the Seventh Part: Fermata (a pause)
Relena read Dorothy's report once again. She kept reading it until she could believe it. Dorothy just sat across from her and idly tapped her fingers on the armrest. She knew the report was thorough even if it was filled with bad news. The Fourth Moon had come and gone last night, and this report had been completed when the sun rose. So Dorothy was tired from lack of sleep and her hand was cramped from her furiously paced writing. Despite all that, she showed no physical signs of fatigue. She looked more refreshed than Relena right now. Finally, Relena put down the report and looked at Dorothy with wide eyes.
The information she had just read seemed to be playing havoc with her mind because all of it was so unexpected. But she would question Dorothy carefully and thoroughly, as if the report had no significant effect on her. She would not show her fear or dread, not even to one of her closest advisors and friends.
"Dorothy, when do you suppose Treize will let my brother go?"
That had been one of the more disturbing parts of the report. Apparently, her brother had tried to leave Oz two nights before and had been stopped by the palace guards. Since then, he had been put under arrest by Treize himself and being held prisoner in the palace. Although the report had assured her that he was treated more like a welcome guest than prisoner, it did not sit well with Relena. Why would Treize hold Milliardo? Was he hoping to exchange him for something?
Dorothy had expected this question and had formulated an answer before she came. However, Relena looked distraught – so, instead of cold logic, she would employ some sympathy for her queen. But she would not sugarcoat her opinion with any unnecessary diplomacy.
"Relena, I don't think Treize will let your brother go. My informant in the palace said that Treize wanted Milliardo to understand something, and until that happened, he would not let Milli go. Since I don't see those two coming to any understanding, I can't tell you when Milli will come back. I'm sorry. I wish I could say something more encouraging."
"What about Noin and Hilde? Your report said nothing about them."
Dorothy considered whether or not to tell Relena. However, she was the queen and she should know everything so that she could make an informed decision.
"Noin chose to stay with Milli and Treize did not object. As for Hilde, I've been told that she disappeared the same night Milli was detained. The carrier hawks from Oz won't arrive until evening, so I won't know more until then."
Relena could not stand it. She had sent Milli into Oz only to become a prisoner. And for that matter, Noin too. And what of Hilde? What had happened to her? There were too many questions that she could not find answers to. Things were going more and more out of her control. Sure, Sanque was no longer facing an army. But Heero and Earthian were going into battle in maybe four or five days, when the marching Oz army reached the River of the Heroes. She had not heard anything from Heero since he had gone into Oz to spy, but she was sure that he was fine. If anything had happened to him, then there would have been news. Dorothy would have put it in the report. While she was thinking, a discreet knock came and a messenger stepped into the room. He was carrying a letter, probably from one of Dorothy's informants.
"Lady Dorothy, this just came for you by hawk. It is from Earthian."
After handing the letter over, the messenger left. Dorothy read it and then with relieved eyes, told Relena, "Heero and two of his Masters are back in Earthian. They are safe. Heero and Duo got to Earthian just hours before WuFei did. I told you Relena, don't worry about them."
Relena felt her heart leap at the mention of Heero's name. He was safe and back in his kingdom. Quickly, Relena made her decision.
"Dorothy, tell the chamberlain to pack my bags and yours. We're going to Earthian today, without delay."
Dorothy raised one of her unusual forked eyebrows. They were going to Earthian?
"Relena, I realize that you want to see Heero, but war time is not a very good time to renew a love affair."
"I know, Dorothy. I'm not going there just to see Heero. I'm going there because Earthian is going to war against an enemy that should have been ours. How can I sit by and watch them fight when I'm safe and sound here? I must go to them, show them our support."
It made sense. But if Relena and she left, there would be no one in Sanque to lead its people. Milli and Noin were in Oz and the Foreign Minister had yet to return.
"Who would watch over your kingdom while you go gallivanting off to Earthian, Relena? You have responsibilities here."
Relena knew that better than anyone. But her kingdom would be safe for a while. And if Earthian fell, she knew Sanque had no chance. Her choice was right.
"Dorothy, think about it. If Earthian loses, so do we. We have as much at stake as the Earthians. I need to let Heero know that I am there for him. And I need to be near him, not to hear his words of love, but to feel his strength. It's a war, Dorothy. I don't understand it and it makes me afraid. Heero will help me see and he will support me until I can stand on my own."
Dorothy nodded and went to fetch the chamberlain. She decided that she had underestimated her queen. Relena was ready to admit it when she needed help instead of standing around pretending to know everything. She was a great queen. And so Dorothy would make sure that nothing untoward happened to her.
Heero and Duo sat in Heero's room, just like they were when they had first left for that godforsaken mission. They had returned only three days ago, just before the Fourth Moon. They had ridden three stolen horses to death to make it to Earthian in time to warn Odin. As soon as they had arrived, Odin had heard their reports and then the preparations had begun. Soon after, WuFei had burst into the castle with a girl. After a lengthy discussion, the three of them had decided to let the girl remain in Earthian as long as WuFei kept a watch over her. WuFei had complained about being no one's baby sitter while the girl became extremely vocal about not needing a bodyguard. Duo had watched with great amusement at those two arguing – finally, there was someone else besides him who could annoy the hell out of WuFei.
With all that had happened, this quiet moment was the first Heero and Duo had since they returned. They were tired both in mind and body, exhausted from the trek across Oz into Earthian and sitting in strategy meetings with Odin and his counselors all night. Despite their efforts, it had been next to impossible to try to have a private moment each other before now, to sort out their personal feelings about the war to come and to explain what had occurred in Oz. So, they sat together, lightly touching. Neither had yet said anything, but the words were swimming in their minds, trying to find the correct way to flow out. As usual, Duo was the first to come up with something to say.
"You're thinking about this war again, aren't you, Heero."
It was more of a statement than a question, but it gave Heero an opportunity to say something.
"I'm thinking about lots of things. The war, Treize, you, me, Relena. Everything is confused again."
Duo grimaced. Heero was right, as always. Things had gotten out of hand. Before, it had seem so simple, to infiltrate Oz and use the information to protect a peaceful kingdom. It had been a straight forward mission for all, with a promise to return with the Fourth Moon. But the Fourth Moon had already come and there were only three of them so far. They had not heard from Quatre or Trowa and WuFei had brought that girl with him. Nothing was logical anymore, really. Duo estimated that the Oz army would be breathing down their neck in about three more days. The scouts had picked up the first vanguards near the River of the Heroes already. Although the scouts had tried to eliminate these few first comers, there were always more behind them, like a never ending wave. Heero and Duo knew better than anyone how large that army was. They would do some significant damage to them, even if they were untrained boys. They were nearly five times as large as their own army and Oz had more coming. It just looked grim all around.
And if that didn't make it bad enough, Duo had to worry about Heero constantly. As the prince, Heero took these turn of events very hard, like the war was his fault. Duo saw the strain around his eyes, the tension that was omnipresent in his body and the determination that radiated from his heart. Heero was changing everyday, from that boy who was a great warrior to something frightening, something flawless, something perfect. And Duo could not stop these changes.
"You're under too much stress, Heero. It would help out if you spoke to me about them. I swear, I won't even make a single comment until you're through."
Heero smiled at Duo and leaned back to look at his love's earnest face. He looked so sincere and encouraging that Heero almost believed him.
"Duo, the day you don't speak when I do is the day the sun won't rise."
"You're probably right, but I can always give it a good try. Come on, Heero, talk to me. I know I'm not exactly the confidante material, but Quatre isn't here yet."
Heero's smile grew wider, showing teeth and a bit of contentment. He could talk to Duo about anything. He would tell Duo everything.
"All right, I'll talk."
Duo waited expectantly for Heero's words. He sat with his hands crossed in front of him, his eyes looking directly into Heero's, urging him to say something. Moments passed by and Heero still had not said anything. Minutes ticked by and Duo wondered if Heero would actually say anything. Then with a small huff, Heero began to speak.
"Duo, I'm sorry to do this, but I have to ask you and you have to answer me. How do you keep your humanity after you kill someone?"
Utter silence. Duo was surprised. Somehow, he had forgotten that Heero had never killed anyone before their little skirmish with the idiot sergeant's men. Heero had been trained to kill, of course, that was part of the soldier training. But he had failed to notice that as a prince, he had never had the opportunity to kill anyone. Heero continued when Duo was silent.
"I realized that I can't kill without feeling remorse. And that is not something I can afford during a war. I know you see some changes in me. I have been changing so that I can survive the war with some semblance of me still left. The only way I can do that is to become a perfect soldier, someone who does not feel regret, sorrow, or any other kinds of emotions. I have to shut myself in so that I can't hear the screams of the dying. Is that wrong, Duo? Am I just helping my humanity disappear by doing this?"
Duo did not have an answer for him. How could he tell Heero anything when he had no idea himself? Duo stared at Heero. He looked very confused and frustrated, as if he should have had the answers himself and hating it that he had to ask Duo. But what kind of advice could an assassin have for such a genuine soul as Heero? Shaking his head, his braid swishing with the movement, Duo tried to answer Heero.
"Man, I wish I had an answer for you. I really do. All I can say is that everyone has a different way of preserving the humanity within them. What works for me probably won't work for you. But you're lucky, Heero. You knew consciously that you needed to protect yourself. Some of us aren't that lucky."
The two boys sat quietly for a while. The mood was gloomy, each boy too busy contemplating their own thoughts to try to cheer each other up. Soon, Duo could not take much more of it. Too soon, the war would tear them apart and in less than a month, a wedding would put more obstacles in their way. They could not afford to waste time being depressed around each other. Time was becoming more and more precious by the moment. Making up his mind, Duo dove towards Heero and by using his greater skills of mobility and speed, knocked them both down onto the bed. A pair of cobalt blue eyes stared up at him incredulously, but there was a certain sparkle that spoke of love and passion. Yep, thought Duo, this was definitely something they needed. A good old flying tackle. Looking down to Heero, Duo smirked and leaned down to kiss him on the tip of his nose. Unfortunately, Heero chose that exact moment to move and what was meant to be a playful, gentle kiss turned into a teeth knocking, painful collision with Heero's forehead.
Duo exclaimed loudly as he scrambled off Heero. His lips were bruised, he was sure. And Heero was rubbing his forehead with a small grimace on his face. Their eyes met and they simultaneously burst out into laughter. They had screwed up their first attempt at some form of physical intimacy after two months of abstinence because both had been too hasty. Maybe it wasn't exactly a laughing matter, but they couldn't help it.
"Gods, Heero. We're one sorry pair of guys. Can't even get it on without hurting each other."
Duo continued to laugh but Heero stopped. After all, he did have more self control than Duo most of the times. However, Duo's laughter was too contagious and soon, Heero was laughing again and they went on like so for a while. Then they ran out of breath and had to stop or lose consciousness. They opted for the former.
"Well, that felt good. I don't think we laughed like that since before the mission. You know, Heero, you should laugh more often. Sounds good."
Grinning, the two boys looked at each other. Duo was right, it had been a long time since the both of them had a good laugh. And soon, laughing would not be a big part of their lives, not with this war, not with the wedding. The wedding. It worried Heero more than he let on. How was he supposed to marry Relena with a clean conscience when he was in love with Duo? Duty, honor, family, all those things were important, but how could he reconcile them with love? Duo saw the smile fade from Heero's face and knew its source. The wedding was a mere month away.
"Hey, Heero. I'm sorry I couldn't answer your question before, you know, about humanity and all. But I think I have to ask you something. Try to answer me, but if you can't, no big loss, you know? Anyway, so I was wondering, well, have been wondering for some time, but not really too much because we had that mission and all, and uh, well-"
"Stop rambling and ask, Duo. You always do that when you get nervous."
Heero had to break into the senseless babbling before Duo got out of control. As much as he loved Duo, he had to admit that his love had a strange way of avoiding nervousness. To think, a trained assassin and warrior, nervous about a question. It was rather silly.
"Ok, ok. I'll ask the damn question. So, Heero, what are you going to tell Relena?"
Now it was Heero who was nervous. Of course, he didn't show it, but Duo picked out the minute movements of his facial muscles which signified that Heero was nervous about the question, as well as the answer. Some things in life, they just were not easy.
"I, I-" Heero swallowed and wet his suddenly dried lips. What could he say? He had avoided the issue so thoroughly that he had no real answer. Manfully, Heero tried to answer again.
"I don't know, Duo. What can I tell her? At first, I thought she'd be a liability to Earthian, an empty headed girl who would be annoying at best. Then I found out differently from her letters. I think that she is a great leader and she will become a great asset and queen to Earthian. I respect her, admire her skills, and I do feel a certain kinship with her. She has infinite compassion, an iron resolve, strength of character. She is a woman that I have dreamed that I would love, care for, and spend the rest of my life with."
Duo smiled sadly when Heero took a pause. Yes, Relena was a phenomenal girl, someone who deserved a man like Heero. Then Heero looked at Duo directly in the eyes, garnered some courage, and continued to speak.
"But dreams and realities always differ. I respect and admire you too. More than that, I love you. I love you more every day. I can feel you when you are not with me. I can remember the way you smell. I see your eyes everywhere, beckoning to me, loving me. I am comforted by your tender heart, aggravated by your endless chatter, awed by your beauty. Everything that you are, I love. Somehow, the gods made it so that my reality of love was better than my dreams of love."
For once, Duo was speechless. Heero's words rang in the vaults of his soul like a clarion bell, clear and pure. Heero loved him so much, and he loved him back with equal fervor. But love wasn't the problem. Politics was. When Duo did nothing but stare at him with wonder and sorrow in his eyes, Heero reached for him and dragged him into his arms. Cradling Duo's head between his head and shoulder, Heero hugged his love tight, whispering gently into his ear, hoping for understanding.
"Duo, I never thought it was possible to love someone like this. Never did I imagine something so beautiful, so painful. But you're here, I am here. Why can't this be enough? Why does the world have to separate us?"
With a soft and gentle voice, Duo responded.
"You know, Heero, I love you too. But love is never enough, not when we are the people we are. There are too many things to consider before we leap heedlessly and selfishly into the life we wish. What you and I want, it must be secondary to a greater cause."
Restraining his heart, Duo carefully disentangled himself from Heero and smoothed the messy brown hair away from his love's face. There were so many things he wanted to say but the words were too jumbled in his head to come out coherently. So many things, so little time. Then Heero broke the silence.
"For duty and honor, I would marry Relena Peacecraft. For love and happiness, I would marry you."
Wistful smile already in place, Duo pressed his lips to Heero's. Sure, there were always choices available, but only one was the righteous one. And Duo would make sure that Heero did the right thing, even if his heart was screaming against it.
"And so, you must marry Relena. Love makes the world go around, but it is duty and honor that keep it in one piece. You need an heir for Earthian, a strong queen for stability. I will always be your friend, your brother. Those are the only things I can offer to you after your marriage. Those are the only things you must accept."
Heero knew this very well. The precious love he had with Duo would last forever, he was certain, but not its physical expression. Honor demanded that they stop physical intimacies once he married Relena. Love also demanded it, for he would not degrade his love for Duo by turning him into something less pure by sleeping with him after his marriage. It was a double bind and not even Duo, the eternal escape artist, would be able to find a way out of this situation.
"Damn it Heero, we're back to being depressed!! And here I was thinking that we need to enjoy the time we got. Shit, let's forget about this until the time really comes. Until then, all I want to do is feel you."
Their minds aligned in the same sentiment, Duo and Heero moved closer to each other and tasted with their lips and tongues. Soon, hands roamed and bodies clashed. Every breath came faster, the kisses became desperate and the hands gripped with urgency. Pieces of clothing came flying off as if by magic and soon, half dressed boys were ravaging each other on the bed, nearly manic in their efforts to absorb each other's essence. They felt the desire, the passion and the lust so fully that they missed a slight noise that neither would have overlooked at other times. That was why a pair of startled violet eyes and a pair of annoyed cobalt eyes ended up staring at a pair of embarrassed aqua eyes and a pair of amused dark brown eyes. Then Duo squirmed out from underneath Heero and launched himself at the aqua eyes, still half dressed and extremely aroused.
"QUATRE! You're baaaaack!"