Standing in the Eye
Duo's Friendship Arc 20
by Dyna Dee
It was now just the two of them left alone in the room. The television, nesting on a metal brace and bolted high onto the wall of the rec room, was currently showing an old and uninteresting movie that looked to be about the Mafia. The volume was tuned down so low that the voices coming over the speakers were barely audible, just low murmurs filling the silence.
The evening had been an unusually somber one that had left a definite sense of discord inside his chest and now, looking at the blond teen sitting on the sofa with his eyes staring unblinkingly at an absolutely spotless, nondescript wall, he could tell his friend most likely felt the same way.
Closing his eyes to gather his thoughts, he went over the gloomy evening in his mind. The five of them had been left alone in the rec room after their evening meal. Howard's crew was either repairing the battered gundams, readying them for the next battle or trying to sleep off some of their exhaustion, a condition that was evident in all the faces of the crew aboard the Peacemillion.
Tonight there had been no laughter, no boasting about the latest victory, nor a lively debate on who had the destroyed the largest number of mobile dolls that day. Instead, there seemed to be a dark pall that hung over the entire ship. The crew felt it and so did the pilots. It was a sense of something coming, perhaps a pivotal battle, or the war nearing its end. There came with it a lingering premonition, not spoken of or debated about, but something that told them that they all needed to persevere, suck it up a few more days, and give whatever little bit was left of their wrung out and weary bodies to meet the challenge that loomed unseen on the horizon, out of sight, but on the verge of jumping out in front of them.
Then there was something else. He felt it, was acutely aware of it, and guessed the others were too. It was the silent pulsing tick of the clock of life, counting down the seconds, minutes and hours, matching the beat of the anxious hearts of the people living and working on Peacemillion as the inevitable future event that was surely coming was poised, waiting for the moment when history would be written and irrevocably set. The proverbial writing was on the wall, they all knew it, sensed it, feared and embraced it all that the same time; the war was drawing to an end, and maybe, the next battle or possibly the one after that would be their last.
And It seemed that they weren't the only ones who felt that something big was about to happen. Fate seemed to have drawn in the players of this intricate game of war and all present in space and relatively close in proximity. Three distinct and diverse oppositions, Oz, White Fang, and the Gundam pilots, each readying themselves for the next few days, when all that they had fought and suffered for would finally be decided.
Would they live or die in the final battle? Who would be with them to see the end of the war when it came; when peace, defined by the winner of this war, was achieved at last?
It was sure to be the question asked, not only by the teenage pilots that evening, but by the rest of the crew on Howard's ship and quite possible the forces opposing them. For himself, he knew it was only one of the many questions he'd asked himself as his body neared the point of exhaustion. They were all questions with no certain answers. But just like any soldier, he didn't fight to lose. If he could manage it, pull the white rabbit out of the hat once more, he would help to win the final battles and live to see peace at the end of the war; and if he had anything to say or do about it, so would his friends.
The stilted and often forced conversation that evening had been reflective in nature. Quatre, as usual, had tried to draw everyone into a conversation, but the atmosphere seemed so...stifling. Quatre had gone quiet, as had the others.
He sat at the game table, idly shuffling cards, the clean, crisp sound of a new deck of cards falling into place as he expertly worked then in a constant series of shuffles, was the only sound in the room. Heero and Trowa sat at the table with them, but their minds were obviously elsewhere. Wufei stood apart from them, as was his way, leaning against the rec room wall with his arms folded over his chest and giving off the definite body-language message that he wanted to be left alone. That always seemed to signal Quatre to start gently probing, especially since the Chinese pilot had been withdrawn and morose since he re-joined them in order to fight Oz and White Fang as a united front.
"Wufei, " Quatre spoke up gently, looking at him with sympathy written on his face for what he was about to say. "I never got a chance to tell you how sorry I am for your loss." He meant it kindly, but Wufei's reaction seemed to indicate otherwise.
For a brief moment, the Chinese teen stiffened and his eyes shot towards the Arabian to judge his sincerity. Seeing that Quatre was as sincere as ever, he nodded in his direction, though his manner was still stiff and unfriendly. "And I for yours," he said in an emotionless voice, though his eyes showed a storm of emotions battling within him. He then stood away from the wall and quickly left the room without a word of goodnight to any of them.
The three remaining looked to Quatre to see his startled look. He hadn't expected to be reminded of his own painful past, his recent loss. He stood abruptly and went to the sofa, sitting squarely in front of the rec room television and, grabbing the remote, turned it on. The three at the table exchanged a worried look. Trowa's eyes moved with his friend; he wanted to help, but his friendship with Quatre had been awkward since the Arabian had attacked him in Wing Zero. The blond boy was still wracked with guilt over it.
Heero knew he was out of his territory when it came to emotions and helping others with theirs, so he looked to his best friend to sort out the situation. With a few whispered words, an agreement was reached and the two quiet young men stood and left the room.
After several moments of contemplation, the braided boy asked, "Are you okay, Quatre?" Not getting an answer, he then stood from the card table that hadn't seen any real use in several days, left his deck of cards on top of it, and went to the couch to sit next to the blond, worried-looking teen.
The boy's light blue eyes turned to him, displaying the feelings of guilt and revulsion the gentle soul felt inside himself. Duo studied his friend thinking that Quatre might have been the only empathic one with is poco loco thingy, or whatever he called his space-heart feelings, but his eyes always tell the truth of what his emotions are at the moment he turns them to you.
"How could I have gotten so... lost, Duo?" he asked, looking sad and confused. "How did things get so messed up?"
"What do you mean?" the long haired teen asked, feeling concern for this good friend.
"I'm sure you heard about the colony I blew up." Quatre answered and raised his head so his friend could see the pain mirrored from his soul through his expressive eyes.
"You were under Zero's influence," Duo said in a soft, consoling tone.
"That no excuse," Quatre spat out disgustedly. "We were sent out in our gundams to protect and defend the colonies, not to destroy them."
"But you overcame that system, Quatre." Duo replied softly, trying to comfort and calm his disturb his friend. "You gave that colony a warning and the civilians were evacuated."
"People still died," the blond answered despondently.
"Our original mission was to send a colony crashing into Earth. How many people did we save by not following that plan?"
Quatre shook his head, looking as miserable on the outside as he obviously felt on the inside. "I tried to kill my best friend and then Heero. Am I a monster Duo?"
The braided teen quickly put his arm around his friend's shoulder. "Of course not. You're one of the best people I know," he replied honestly. "You weren't in your right mind Quatre and Zero's influence was just too strong when you were at your most vulnerable. Just hold on," he continued when large, anguished blue eyes met his. "You could feel it tonight, couldn't you? We're on the edge of something, and I think it's an end to the war and a plunge into peace."
The blond head nodded. "I feel it," he whispered. "I was hoping it wasn't me just needing it so badly that I manufactured the feeling to comfort myself. I'm tired, Duo." he confessed, and the dark circles displayed his physical weariness, but the braided boy knew it was mental exhaustion that Quatre was probably referring to. "I...I don't want to fight anymore." His water-filled eyes were pleading with his friend to understand.
"I know Quat, me too." Duo pulled the other boy into a full hug, wrapping his arms around the other's slender shoulders, something Quatre had done often for him during the war, always sensing when he needed it.
They sat there on the sofa, in the otherwise deserted rec room, holding each other tightly. No words were needed for the comfort and strength the two gave one another in those few moments as time marched on towards the unknown that was coming.
Having sent Quatre to his room to rest, it wasn't until he was listening to the continuous click of his boots on the metal floor as he walked down the hollow sounding corridor ten minutes later that Duo reflected that this night and the strange feelings of foreboding felt similar to the time when he had ridden out the first strike of a hurricane. He'd learned through that experience that, midway though the tempest, the eye of the massive storm passed over the place he was sheltered in, and as they stepped outside, he looked in disbelief that the furious winds had calmed as well as the torrential rain. It seemed at that time as though nature was letting the abused shoreline to pause and brace itself before it was plunged into the second half of the hurricane that would hit full-force an hour later. Those experienced in the yearly watch for ocean storms were never fooled for a moment that the storm had abated. No, experience had taught them that there was still more on its way, the worst was yet to be seen.
Thinking of his friends and all they'd been through he remembered countless battles, injuries and anxious situations; and yet tonight, he and Quatre found these few moments to reconnect and take in a deep breath of resolve to face the next furious and desperate battles they both felt was inevitable, inescapable, and definitely on it's way. Tonight they had stood in their eye of the storm, and he was going to take advantage of the quite time while it lasted by sleeping, not fooled at all by the brief, eerie calm. He knew the final fight for peace was at the doorstep.
He walked into his room and the lights were already on, but down very low. He searched his room to see if Heero had come in with last minute updates, but he was never more surprised when his eyes lit on someone huddled into himself in the corner of his room. He instantly recognized the black hair and the clothing.
"Wufei? Are you alright man?" he asked as he moved cautiously towards his friend.
When the Wufei didn't move, he too crouched down and put a hand on his friend's shoulder to let him know he was near.
Sadness filled him when the Chinese boy raised his head and looked at him with eyes that were as tortured as Quatre's had been earlier
"Wufei, what's the matter?" Duo had never seen his strong, stubborn friend look so hurt and vulnerable, and seeing him this way was suddenly very frightening to the braided boy. Wufei had always been independent, competent, strong in his convictions that never wavered. His back was always straight and his head held high, a proud, sometimes arrogant teenager with a fierceness that made grown men quake.
Yet, sitting in the corner of Duo's room, hunched over his knees, Wufei's dark eyes shimmered with some inner torment and agony that was fighting to come out of him. But the teen from L-5 was too proud. He fought back what was hurting him in order to keep his sense of honor in tact. Duo could see the effort was eating him up inside.
"You can tell me, Wufei. I won't tell anyone. Let me help you," Duo said quietly as if they were about to share a secret.
"I..." Wufei began, then stopped. The battle inside him was still being waged. Some part of him must have desperately wanted to speak because a moment later, he began again. "I thought you might...understand." he whispered, lowering his eyes shamefully.
"Of course I'll understand." Duo assured him, giving his friend's shoulder a slight squeeze. "You can tell me whatever it is that's hurting you."
"My colony." The words came out of Wufei in a jagged, stifled sob, and he buried his face into his upraised knees.
Duo knew about L-5. He'd stayed current with all the news of Earth and the colonies. He knew that Wufei's colony had been destroyed, but from Oz news networks, they said the colony self destructed. No one in the colonies had believed that report because no one could bring themselves to believe that a colony would have a reason to actually self destruct? What would be the reasoning behind the mass suicide? It didn't make sense to anyone in the colonies and everyone had come to the consensus that the report had to be a public relations spin job for Oz soldiers, having botched a mission and destroying a whole colony and its ten's of thousands of innocents by some accident or trigger happy soldier.
"Oz will pay for what they did to them." Duo said vehemently, feeling the anger that he shared with all colonists regarding the incident and their increased hatred for Oz.
Wufei didn't look up, but his muffled voice still found it's way to Duo's ears. "They did it for me."
Duo blinked, what the...? "What do you mean?" he asked his friend, keeping his voice soft and encouraging.
Wufei raised his head, his eyes seemed a bit unfocused though his voice seemed a bit more steady. "I had been training with my sensei when Oz discovered where I was. I went out to meet them, to fight in space to spare my people." He began his explanation with some small amount of composure. "As usual, I was outnumbered but ready to take them on." His eyes lifted to meet the concerned ones that never strayed from his face. "They threatened my colony, that if I didn't surrender they would open fire on it." Suddenly, his face distorted in rage. "What kind of men fire on innocent people just to have one soldier in their custody?" he asked angrily. "What kind of government is it that promises to treat you as equals then turns on the very people it wants under its rule?"
There were no answers to his valid questions, so Duo didn't try to offer any. He watched as the fire in Wufei's eyes slowly died and he continued. "They knew," he whispered, his eyes straying off in another direction as he paused, and Duo waited patiently for him to go on. "Somehow, my colony knew what was being asked of me, and in order to keep from being used as a pawn by Oz to stop me from being the champion of our colony in the fight for freedom," he paused again and had difficulty swallowing as he prepared to say the words that needed to be said. His eyes looked haunted as they came up to meet the patient, but worried blue-violet orbs. "They blew up the colony."
Duo's eyes widened. Now, to some degree, he did understand. Wufei's people had sacrificed themselves so he could go on to fight. "Wufei." Duo said mournfully.
The Chinese pilot rushed to speak before Duo could continue. "I know you lost a lot before the war, everyone you held dear."
Now it was Duo's turn to swallow hard. It was still difficult for him to talk of his past without feeling hollow inside, and he didn't know if this was a good way to spend this lull before the next part of the storm hit.
"Can you help me?" Wufei's voice was pleading, his eyes begging for some relief from the guilt and sorrow he'd been carrying around since his colonies destruction.
"I don't know, Wufei." Duo answered. "I don't think you ever get over something like that, but you have to go on and find a way to cope with it."
"I can't sleep." The dark haired boy confessed and closed his dark circled eyes. "I keep seeing it over and over in my head. I can hear the screams of the women and children who had no idea that their lives were being snuffed out so that I could fight for a freedom they would never enjoy.
"It wasn't your fault." Duo said firmly. "There had to be a better way then giving up like that." He saw Wufei stiffen and realized he might have taken his statement as an insult. "That they were brave, there is no question there," he continued, knowing if Wufei struck out at him for an unintended insult, they would both be too injured to fight when the next, maybe last battle came. "They were definitely honorable to the cause of freedom. But," Wufei's eyes lit on him again. "I think they showed a lack of faith in you that you couldn't have found a way out of that situation. We would have come to your rescue Wufei, I don't think self-destructing is ever a good way out of a problem."
Wufei put his head back down to rest on his knees. "I know." he whispered. "They sacrificed everything for me, but the cost was too high. I lost everything and everyone I ever knew growing up: my family, my clan, my teachers and friends. What else is there to live for?"
Duo thought a moment, knowing his friend was looking for a reason to continue. He spoke before he was ready, sensing Wufei needed to hear his voice. "I felt the same way after losing the kids I'd grown up with on the streets to the...plague." A distasteful look on his face followed the last word spoken. "Then I was given a temporary home at the orphanage and I was told I would have a family one day, a hope of reprieve from my survivor's guilt. But no one wanted a street kid. I was too mouthy, unruly and uncouth." His eyes lit up with a look of wistful pleasure. "Even with that rejection, I did find love and a feeling of home in the orphanage with Father Maxwell and Sister Helen becoming my surrogate parents and the kids there were my pretend siblings. For a short time in my life I felt like my dreams were finally coming true." He closed his eyes as the painful memories resurfaced. "But I lost them too." he whispered. "And I felt like you, Wufei. I didn't know how I could go on. I just wanted to lie down in the charred remains of the church and die so that I could be with them."
Wufei looked up to see his own grief mirrored in Duo's eyes. He reached out and took his friend's hand resting on his thigh and squeezed it, telling him silently that they shared the same feelings and that he now understood what Duo had gone through at such a young age.
"But I didn't give up," Duo continued quietly. "I couldn't, it just isn't in my nature. I let my natural instinct for survival carry me while I was too numb to think about anything except for what I'd lost. Then G and I crossed paths and I found a way to let out my anger, to carry out my child-like threats against the Alliance for taking away all those I cared about." He eyes narrowed dangerously. "And that memory, of those I've lost, has been with me in every battle that I've fought. They are why I continue to fight. I don't give a damn about the politics of the war, I want the colonies treated right, not as slaves to Earth, to be killed because they posed a problem."
Wufei nodded. "I too let my instinct for battle carry me these long weeks since that terrible day, but I feel like...something is coming."
"Quatre and I feel it too," Duo told him. "I think the war is coming to an end, that the next few battles will decide it."
Wufei's eyes studied Duo's. "Yes, that's what I've been feeling," he confessed.
"I think everyone on Peacemillion does," the braided boy replied.
"How do you sleep Duo?" Wufei asked in earnest. "If it's time that dulls the memories and nightmares, I can't wait that long. I also cannot be drugged in case the final battle starts, but I desperately need to sleep."
Duo nodded, knowing he could help, but not knowing how Wufei would take his suggestion. "I think I can help, but I'm not sure you'll be comfortable with it." he replied.
The braided teen knew he would swallow his own pride to take that pleading tone out of his friend's voice. "I've been plagued for years by dreams, but both Heero and Quatre have figured out a way for me to deal with them."
"What way is that?"
"Remember on that mission where you and I were trapped in a lock-down city and you held me to keep me from moving around in the bed all night?" His cheeks blushed slightly at the question. Wufei nodded, indicating that he recalled the memory. "When I'm held, I don't have bad dreams," Duo said, and waited for a reaction.
"Anything else?" Wufei looked at if the solution was too simple to believe.
"Quatre kind of...dream walked with me. I had a really bad dream once on a mission with he and Trowa, and Quatre had me recount the dream and then, somehow, changed the repeating nightmare into a release. I don't think I could do it, but I think when we have some time, that you should ask him to help you. I don't have that nightmare anymore."
A glimmer of hope shown in the dark eyes.
"But Quatre is too tired and worn out tonight for that, so, if you want..." he paused to watch his friend's face for a reaction. "I could hold you while we both try to rest up for whatever is about to happen."
If Wufei hesitated at all, it was only for a brief moment. He slowly came to his feet and nodded his head. "I knew I could come to you, Duo, and that you would know how to help me."
If the boy from L-2 was a bird, he would have fluffed up his feathers, preening from the compliment. As it was, he just smiled warmly at his friend. "It's what friends are for, Wu." he replied, then motioned to the bed. "Why don't you get ready while I use the bathroom," he suggested.
Wufei wiped the moisture from his face and moved towards the bed and slipped off his shoes.
"I have some flannel pajama bottoms in the bottom drawer if you want to use them," Duo said just before disappearing into the small, private bathroom.
Fifteen minutes later, the two boys were in the same twin-sized bed, both feeling a bit awkward. "Okay," Duo sighed. "Do you want to hold or be held?"
"You say it works when you're held, right?" The much more composed Chinese pilot asked.
"Then you hold me," he answered but quickly added, "But I reserve the right to change it around if you pummel me to death in your tossing and turnings. I haven't forgotten that lesson since the last time we shared a bed."
Duo smiled at the memory.
Wufei turned his back to him and waited stiffly until the boy from L-2, who had known so little of comfort and kindness in his youth, now extended his own warmth towards his suffering friend.
Duo wrapped his arms around Wufei's body, drawing his stiff back to his chest just as Heero had done for him when either of them needed a little care and human warmth. Duo was surprised to feel with Wufei the same sense of security and shelter he'd felt when Heero, Quatre, or Trowa held him. It was good to have friends, he thought as his weary body and mind shut down.
Wufei lay silently in his friend's arms, listening to Duo's breathing as it slowed into sleep. He felt safe. Even though the boy who held him was no bigger, older, or stronger than he was, he managed to chase away some of the demons that had plagued him for weeks. He supposed Duo was right, the grief and sense of betrayal he'd felt when his colony destructed would probably never completely go away, but Duo had shown him that he could find a way to deal with it. And like Duo, he was going to take his anger and feelings of injustice into battle tomorrow. Treize Kushrenada, Oz, and anyone else who got in his way in the next battle, whenever it came, would rue the day they faced him.
But tonight, he would rest in his friend's arms, hoping the shared warmth and friendship would chase away the nightmares that had haunted him nightly. Then, when the battles were over, and he felt that time would come soon, he'd do as Duo suggested; he would ask Quatre to dream walk with him as he had done for Duo and turn his nightmares into acceptable memories.
He sighed, the yawned deeply. He wiggled a bit, trying to get comfortable in a position he was not use to, and smiled as Duo's arms instinctively held him closer. "It's okay, Wu. Just a dream." Duo's sleepy voice sounded in his ear. A small smile lit his face, the first one in a long while. He was indeed fortunate to have such companions, such friends. With them he knew he could make it through whatever they felt was about to happen. And with that thought, he drifted into a deep, dreamless sleep.