By Shannon, the Twisted Link Worshiper
Author's Note Hehe, so I'm just a little obsessed. This will be the first of five stories, each one centering around one of the Gundam pilots. Heero's up first, 'cause he's my favourite and 'cause it was some random thoughts about him that coughed this whole idea up in the first place. Besides, he's pilot .01, for God's sake! It's virtually his show! Yeah, yeah, it's 1x2 (that's the part I'm obsessed with). All the usual Gundam disclaimers apply. Chill out and read on, hehe!
For a devil, he laughs an awful lot. When he does, his large eyes twinkle with an almost sinister light, somehow making those beautiful amethyst irises shine even brighter than usual, even should his face be shadowed by his long wispy bangs. And then there's the way his mouth twists into that practically sadistic shape when he grins. Yeah, I know, it's funny to imagine a demon laughing, but he's more than just a demon. He's the God of Death, and if Death wants to laugh, then he can go ahead and roar his lungs out. Ha, Death with a sense of humour… I don't know if I should be frightened or amused by the notion.
Hn, and then there's me. I still pretend like I'm the perfect soldier. It always seemed as if I wasn't afraid to die, and I must say, for most of my life, that was probably true. I could feel no pain, no emotions, and could see nothing beyond the narrow scope of battle. I didn't even think that I would live long enough to see the end of the war, not that I even wanted to stay alive beyond that anyway. I was a soldier, trained to fight, trained to die. I felt no meaning in my life except in the heat of battle. Perfect? Was throwing away my compassion for the sake of a meaningless war what I would have to sacrifice for perfection? Maybe at the time, I didn't give it any thought, and maybe then, I had really wanted to die in the middle of space, disappearing in a fierce blast of glory and flame, and perhaps then, I really had not been afraid of death. Imagine, by ten years, I could fire a gun and watch a person die without so much as a trace of remorse, and then by age fifteen, I was a killing machine, ace pilot, computer genius: the perfect soldier. Fifteen years, not very long to be alive, and I was ready to die. It didn't matter. I had nothing to live for.
But then again, that was before I actually met Death face-to-face.
He was the same as me, the same and yet wildly different. Yes, we were both soldiers fighting for the same cause, but when I was callous and distant, he was warm, friendly and bubbling with cheer, full of hopefulness and dreams, even in the darkest situations, and even if it really was all just a mask to disguise a much more morbid person. Admittedly, his obsession with death rivaled even mine, though not in the same way. Only he could pull off talking about suicide with such a lively grin on his face. Me? I just didn't care. Death, life, it was all the same.
Death was also a very enigmatic spirit, quite bent on revenge it seemed. Whereas I fought because it was my programming to obey orders, he seemed to fight because it suited him. He treated the war as if it were some kind of large-scale game, one that he could care less about losing. Told me once that peace would be a nice outcome for the war, though he also said that he didn't plan on living that long. "As long as I can avenge the people the war took away from me," he had laughed, "I don't care what happens to me."
I knew how important memories were to him, more so than anything, fueling him onwards in battle. The better I got to know him, his past began to wander into the light, explaining so much that had been naught but a mystery before. He refused to cut his long hair because it reminded him of where he had come from, his life on the streets as a petty thief and all other manner of unmentionable lifestyles to help him survive. "It may not have been very glamorous, I know," he explained, fingering that gold cross he kept wound around his neck, another oddity about him being as the self-proclaimed God of Death did not believe in any god other than himself. "But it's who I am, and I can't forget that. I want to be proud of what I become, no matter what." Hn, so we had both lost our innocence young, another thing that bound us together. Then again, he had it worse than I did. I never had anything, never had anyone to love me. He had friends, he was loved, only to have it all stolen away.
At first, I let even the smallest details about him bother me, everything from the outrageous torrent of chestnut coloured hair, messily braided in a long hip-length plait down his narrow back to mindless incessant chatter, his friendliness, his laugh. I tried to protect myself from him, telling myself that friendship was meaningless in a war, that it was nothing more than a mere distraction. I pretended not to care, acting as if I didn't notice it when he said my name, drawing it out long and rolling the word over his tongue carelessly, or worse yet, when he would attack me with a barrage of fierce hugs and cuddles. I think what scared me most was how affectionate he was. After all, having someone worry so much about my feelings and well being was not a thing I was exactly used to, and it took me quite some time before I could even begin to consider whether or not I liked his attention. But you know, I always felt so safe in his arms, even when my blood was surging and my vision clouded red.
He probably knew better than I did. I'm pretty sure he understood me more than anyone ever had, probably better than I understood myself. He seemed carefree and immature, but he was one of those who could drink up all that was around him without a soul being any wiser. Everything about me, my habits and idiosyncrasies, my strengths… my weaknesses… seemed to never slip his ever-watchful eyes and his acute ears. Maybe he was able to see past my stoic façade onto something more compassionate and loving. It was a self that I most certainly denied, if it was even there at all. Surely denying that self was also to deny any endearment for the absurd American that had come to be the best friend I could ever hope to have. And when I would ask him about it, my unwavering voice demanding and almost threatening, he would just flash that shrewd grin of his, without a word, just watching me.
You know, when we first met, he had shot me twice, one bullet in the arm and the other in the leg. And then the damn fool decided to nurse me back to health. So maybe I should probably feel guilty about slipping off in the middle of the night with a bunch of stolen parts without so much as even telling him a name to remember me by, even after he had tended to my wounds and made sure my self-set bones were healing right. It was quite some time before I ever did inform him of my name. When he had introduced himself, he said he ran, he hid, he did everything... except lie. He's never lied to me about anything. So when he said that he loved me, even if he only did murmur it in his sleep, as he lay curled in my arms, I had no idea what to think. Death, in love, the thought seemed ridiculous to me. What could Death need in an empty soldier that could barely register sentiment? And what was I to do, lie to him about him?
Perhaps I'm wrong about that. Let's say this: At the beginning of the war, before I met him, I couldn't convey emotion. As our time together progressed, in and out, meeting and parting, I think I started to change. Between missions, while waiting for orders, we boarded often at the same school (there have been so many, even I can't even keep them straight anymore), always the two mysterious new transfers who would come in, decimate in the classroom and on the basketball court, before disappearing without a single trace. I knew this friendship was beginning to get dangerous when I started enrolling under his name as a cover when I was alone. Maybe it was just my way of keeping him nearby, even when he was out amongst the stars, far from my reach.
But when we were together, boarding with one another in the same dorm, living in such close proximity to one another, I couldn't help but notice that darker side to him. Death may have liked to laugh during the day, but Death also lived a grim world of his own when the sun had fled behind the sea. Watching him sleep was almost torturous, the way his face became slick with sweat as he dreamed, round purple orbs darting around madly behind his darkened closed eyelids, clawing madly at his sheets. But what disturbed me most was when he would cry out loud in his nightmares, his deep guttural voice ringing out in pained screams as he tossed and turned beneath the blankets. But all I could do was just lie there, staring at the dim outline of his flailing shape from the other side of the room with frightened cobalt eyes in the darkness. The sound of gunfire and explosions was less disturbing to me than the sound of those screams. I was more afraid for him than I was for myself. About then was when I realized that I had a heart after all.
Soon those cries haunted me as much as his nightmares plagued him. Hearing him scream my name into the warped shadows around us was enough to make my skin crawl. I could hardly bear that sound, making me fear the worst for him. Soon I found myself making a nightly routine of crawling into his bed to hold him, to wrap my arms around his slender form and stroke his long unbound chocolate hued hair dripping over the pillows and sheets. It soothed my own tormented heart to feel him calm at my touch, the way it seemed when I pressed my fingers into his back, that sense of fear would drain from him, his tense muscles relaxing, his face softening into the peaceful expression of just a regular teenaged boy enjoying a quiet sleep. Then I would brush the tears from his eyes and rest my chin on top of his head as I fell back to sleep. Of course, I was too much of a coward to admit to him that I liked to comfort him at night, since I retreated quickly to my side of the room before the sun came up the next day. Ironic again, isn't it, that the perfect soldier was afraid of love?
He would laugh at something like that, I think, though I have to say, he was a rather confusing paradox in his own. The kid thought God was nonexistent, yet he wore a clerical shirt almost all the time and that damned crucifix was just about always dangling from the thick brown cord draped over his chest. Doesn't say grace before meals, or fall to his knees in prayer, but he always dragged an old tattered Bible around with him everywhere. I've never seen him read it, so I'm guessing he keeps it because of something more than religion. And yet, he was almost fanatical about hell, dark and almost ominous with his words and actions and on top of all that, he loved me. Me, a killer, and he wanted nothing more than to be with me always. I suppose there are things that probably should upset me more, but this outlandish friendship was really the only thing that kept either of us alive, not that life was much for us anyway.
I guess I just couldn't even begin to imagine life without him after a while. His company had become so familiar, so natural, that it seemed as though death would probably be akin to my God of Death leaving my side. I didn't want to be lonely anymore, and he knew it. I knew he did, since I really don't think he wanted to be left alone either. That feeling of emptiness and abandon was sometimes worse than the knowledge that you might die before you ever saw the age of sixteen. I told myself that it would be okay to die… so long as I died in Death's arms, knowing that sentiment of comfort to the end. The soldier within myself screamed out that I had been mortally crippled by these urges to be held and consoled by the grim stranger with the broad grin scrawled on his face that had just paraded into my life and turned my world upside down, but I knew that no matter how hard my inner conscience protested, I could never go back to the way I was, not now that I knew what it felt like to be loved. I was determined to make sure that he would feel loved as well, hard as it might have been… still is for me. But I was trying, and the way he smiled at me no matter how hard and unyielding my outer appearance seemed told me that he understood. And just knowing that made me want to love him all the more.
Despite that, I still knew how important the success of my missions was to the outcome of the war. When he was careless enough to fall into enemy hands, I knew he had to be eliminated, no matter what he meant to me. He was no more than a hindrance to our cause, just dead weight that had to be disposed of. So when I broke into the enemy's base with every intent to kill him, I found myself reaping the harsh reality of a soldier who let someone get too close. As I stood there in the doorway of his cell, wreathed in the bright corona of artificial light that seeped in from the metallic corridor behind me, my gun held forward, shaking almost uncontrollably as I tried to aim it at his drooping head, I was forced to make one of the hardest decisions of my pitiful existence. "I guess I was always destined to be killed by you," he murmured forlornly between suppressed whimpers of regret and misery, almost like he might burst into tears right there. The stinging in the corners of my own eyes and the unfamiliar dampness clouding my vision was enough to say that I just couldn't bring myself to do it. Only if he truly wanted it, would I pull that trigger. Despite a childhood of intense forced training, I just could not allow myself to destroy the best friend I had ever known… the only friend I had ever known. For the first time in my life, I damned all mission requirements and orders, deciding that all that mattered was him, and I was willing to die in order to let Death, my dear melancholy demon live on.
Strange enough, "Boys never ever cry," was one of his maxims. He had a lot of sayings, and that was one of his favourites, though I noticed he always seemed to choke it out when his eyes were cloudy and wet, like he might burst into tears right then. He liked to say it, but I knew that he cried a lot. He never knew I was watching him while he sobbed, crouched in gloomy corners; I had this way of making myself fade into nothingness, which was probably why I felt so desperate to cling to him being as he was the only person who really saw me for who I was, beyond the soldier, knowing all along that I was never perfect. I had never really cried before in my life. I'd never seen cause to, nothing ever moving enough to stir my rusted heart. But if he could see me now, with these tears dripping over my eyelashes and floating in tiny crystalline spheres around my face up here in space, I have no idea what he would think. Soldiers don't cry and neither do devils. Boys never cry, but here I was, crying, nevermind who I was, perfect soldier, boy, human, whatever.
Would he… still love me, even if I were crying? Would he remember me the same way, even if my cheeks were stained with salty tears? But even if my heart hurts, I'll be there to soothe him in his hours of darkness and to wipe his eyes. I'll go anywhere for him, and I know he understands that. He taught me what it meant to be a dreamer, and I can't help but dream that we'll meet again. I think I can even still hear him singing. Ai shiteru, Duo. I'm sorry I was too proud to ever say the words, but I hope that wherever you are, you know that when I'm with you, I'm perfect.
And I'm thinking about the only road,
The one I've never known,
And where it goes.
And I'm thinking about a brand new hope,
The one I've never known.
'Cause now I know,
It's all that I wanted.
~ Green Day; "Macy's Day Parade"