The Cross We Willingly Bear
by Dyna Dee
Sixteen day, seven hours, and..... he looked down at his watch to check the exact time, twenty-seven minutes. The limousine's passenger sighed as he counted the approximate time he'd been away from home. He raised his head and turned his eyes to look out the tinted window at the houses and businesses as they passed by. Damn, but he hated traveling, especially alone.
With each mile that passed, he became more and more anxious to reach his destination. Home. The word brought a warmth to his once battered, but now homesick soul. Instinctively now, he brought his hand up to clasp the cross hanging from his neck. It had become a habit since the war, replacing other old habits like nail bitting and pacing. No, he had no need for those annoying habits any longer. This new habit, touching his cross in gratitude, had evolved slowly after the war when he had begun to see how lucky he truly was. Every time he felt his good fortune, the feelings of being blessed with something good or seeing something beautiful, he made this simple gesture of touching his old battered cross in gratitude to a God he was beginning to have faith in again.
The long black car slowed as it approached familiar territory and came within the restrictions of the slower residential speed limit. His heart quickened as they approached the gate of the subdivision they'd settled in two years ago. During the six months after Heero had been released from the hospital after the Mariemaria Coup attempt, their long discussions on life and their futures found that both of them were secretly infatuated with the idea of living in suburbia, of fitting in with "normal" people.
After an extensive and thorough search, they settled for this upper class neighborhood, forty minutes from an international airport, two hours from the spaceport, and ten hours from L-2. It wasn't because of the lifestyle of the people that lived there or that the area was comprised of families, mostly from upper income bracket. In truth, both young men could have settled for a small, unobtrusive house almost anywhere, they just didn't find the right place to call home until they found the house on the hill.
Their real estate agent, one of Quatre's relatives several times removed, drove them through the security gate and up the steep incline dotted with well-spaced, architecturally designed homes on both sides of the road. There was not one house in the gated community that looked like another, each home was distinct, reflecting the personality of the owners. With the windows of their agent's luxury car rolled down, both nearly eighteen-year-old teens were instantly pleased with the surrounding greenery and well manicured yards and the clean, aromatic smell of flowers in bloom and freshly cut grass. Trees that had been planted long ago lined both sides of the wide street, looming high to arch over the roadway, giving the newcomers a feeling of welcome as they passed under them. It had seemed to him at the time that the ancient branches emitted a feeling of entering a new realm of existence along with a strong sense of stability that came from having stood so long watching generations of families grow. Both young men sensed a feeling of community and continuity under the ancient shading branches. Not unnoticed was the children's laughter that filled the air as they played securely in their yards in the bright sunshine, adding to the beauty of the hillside. Here and there they observed cats lounging lazily on fences or lower branches of the trees, and family dogs romped with the children or snoozed in the late morning sunshine. It was a picture of something that had been denied the two young, yet weary at heart soldiers: normalcy, security, and contentment.
Near the top of the hill, the car stopped in front of a modest-looking house. It wasn't showy, grand, or ostentatious, but a well-built and designed two-story home with a manicured yard surrounded by a short black rod-iron fence. White flowers bloomed around the borders and flowering hedges lined the front of the house. The realtor told them the five bedroom house was thirty-two hundred square feet, and had been newly remodeled. With their eye to detail, both observed the outside of the home painted light grey with a white trim around the windows and eves. A small strip of black paint edged the windows and door frame.
Teressa, their agent, led them to the front door and used a pass card to gain entrance to the key box. Within moments the front door was opened and they were ushered in. The hardwood floor and the large livingroom and spacious kitchen were great selling points, but as the two climbed the stairs to the upper level, and passed through the roomy master bedroom to step out on the balcony, they found themselves looking out over the lush backyard complete with a patio and built in barbeque. Beyond that, the hill below them tiered two more levels to accommodate a lap pool, and below that, a half basketball court. From there stretching out to the horizon was a vista of the city sprawled out below them. Both young men turned towards each other and smiled.
They told Teressa that this was the house they wanted. They'd pay the asking price, with a bonus if they owners could move out within thirty days. The smile on her face at making such a lucrative deal threatened to rival the brilliance of the sun.
Thirty days later, the moving truck carrying all their small apartment's belongings laboriously climbed the steep hill. It took a relatively short time to unload the entire contents from the back of it, as they had previously owned mostly those things considered necessities for their small apartment. It was painfully obvious their much larger home was going to take some work and major shopping to fill. When the last of their belongings were unloaded and the moving van moved down the hill, the door was closed. It was official, the house was now their home, cementing their relationship even more.
The memory of that first night was still fresh in his mind as the long, sleek car slowly made it's way up the hill they'd come to know so well over the past two years. They'd gone to bed early that night, making plans for the future as they lay on their re-constructed and just made bed, which now seemed dwarfed by the size of the large room. Their touches had been slow and lingering as they whispered in each other's ears, their bodies pressed close, unhindered by clothing, making promises of a future filled with each other in this house they were making into a home, their first real home.
It had been two years of good and some not so good time, he reflected. The home they had forged into a haven for themselves had, indeed, proved to be a place of physical and mental security as at times the world around them shuddered. His mind drifted back to six months after they'd moved in, when the call came from Wufei that there had been a kidnap attempt. Quatre had been the target. As he and Trowa had relaxed by the pool at his families estate on L-4, gunmen had somehow made it past the security perimeter and, with guns in their hands, shot both of Trowa's legs to keep him from attempting to rescue his lover. Quatre had been hit with a tranquilizer dart and fell onto the cement, hitting his head on the Adirondack-style lounger. The kidnapper approached the unconscious billionaire with a feeling of confidence that his plan was being successfully accomplished. That surge of confidence led him to underestimate Trowa's pain threshold and abilities. The perfect moment came as the masked man bent over and reached for the unconscious blond and, in an instant, the wounded, former gundam pilot propelled his body up and behind the man, grabbing hold of the hand holding the loaded gun while simultaneously locking his arm around his neck. In less than five seconds the man's neck was broken and his four accomplices lay on the cement deck of the pool dead or dying of gun shot wounds. He and Heero had immediately rushed to their friend's sides and days later brought them back to their home to stay for a month to recuperate and while improved security measures were overseen by Heero on all Winner estates.
A year after they'd live in their home, and normalcy set in, another call came to them. Lady Une, herself, called to report that Wufei had been in a helicopter crash, along with eight other Preventers. He alone had survived and was in critical condition at the hospital in New York. Quatre and Trowa met them there the next day, and they took turns sitting vigil with their former comrade. Wufei lay in a coma for two weeks, then recuperated from several surgeries in the hospital for another month. When he was released, he carried the heavy burden of being the only one to survive the crash in which he had been the pilot. Survivor's guilt was as hard to deal with as his major injuries, and both Heero and himself had insisted Wufei come stay with them until he was better. Many hours were spent relaxing and talking in the pool and in the newly set up Jacuzzi that was deemed beneficial for their Chinese friend's stiff and aching bones and muscles. After three months, Wufei returned to his life in New York, well on the way to healing physically and emotionally.
Now All the people he cared deeply about had survived Shinigami's attempt to take them away, and for that, Duo clutched his cross again and gave thanks.
As the car drew closer to their destination, he inched himself up to the edge of his seat, fighting the gravitational pull of the steep incline, Duo readied himself, his hand gripping the handle of the door, ready to jump out the moment the vehicle stopped. A smile spread on his face as the two-story home came into sight. Not soon enough, the car came to a full stop along the curbside, and the long-haired young man leapt from out of the back door, his face beaming as he raised his hand to wave hello to the dark haired figure watching him from out of the large living room window.
"Hurry Jason, my bags." He said impatiently, yet not unkindly to the driver he and Heero always asked for when they traveled with the limo service.
"Alright, alright." The black-suited chauffeur smiled indulgently as he moved to the back of the car and popped open the trunk. He quickly retrieved the two bags and set them on the sidewalk. "You want me to carry them in for you?" He asked even as the long braided man took them into his own hands.
"You know better than that, Jason. Heero's waiting for me." he answered with a wink, knowing Jason would understand. That's why they'd always asked for him when they ordered the limo service. The tolerant man in his late forties had been politely unobserving when he drove the two young men back and forth to the airport on many of their numerous trips in the big car. With the partitioned window up for privacy, he kept his eyes to the road and his ears tuned to the radio many a time as the sounds and movements in the back of the car could attest to only one thing. They appreciated his discretion and tipped him accordingly.
"Then you better get hopping." the black suited man said with a knowing smile to the fidgeting young man. "You were gone for over two weeks this time. He'll be anxious to..... see you." he smiled crookedly.
"Thanks man. See you next time." Duo replied with his own smile, and slapped a very large bill into the chauffeur's hand.
"Any time." was the pleased reply, but it was wasted as the young man with the long braid and two black bags was all but running to get to the front door.
As he quickly approached the front door, his heart beating wildly with anticipation, the door suddenly opened before him. He automatically slowed as he glimpsed the person holding it open, his own vision of perfection. A welcoming smile topped by searching blue eyes watched him as he stepped inside the threshold enough for the door to be quickly closed behind him.
No words were spoken as Heero reached out and took the two large duffel bags from his hands and set them to the side against the wall. Duo knew to stay in his spot, as this was a part of their ritual welcoming home routine that they'd developed over the last two years. His eyes quickly scanned the room and took in the fact that the house was as pristine and neat as usual, and in the air was the wonderful smell of barbequed meat coming from the general area of the kitchen. Unconsciously, he reached up and clasped hold of his cross, feeling overwhelmingly blessed. The words "Home sweet home." never felt more true. His lover turned back to him and stood several feet away, letting his eyes move slowly down from the heart-shaped face to examine his body, stopping for a moment to notice the hand holding onto the cross before scanning all the way down to his black boots. This was one of Heero's harmless compulsive traits from the war, his obsessive need to check for any injury his lover might have incurred on his travels. Seeing none, he bent down on his knees and began to lift the hem of the black jeans to reach for the zipper on the inside of the black, high-top boot. At a tap to his ankle, Duo relaxed his left leg and let Heero lift his foot back and slip off the boot. He then shifted and let the other foot be freed also. The boots were then set on a mat next to the front door.
With that task accomplished, the Japanese young man stood, only inches this time from his partner, eyes meeting eyes, and smiles on both faces. Heero's hands rose and gently touched the fair cheek in front of him, then let his hand move back to curl up underneath the braid and held his lover's head still as his own lips moved closer, until as last they touched the soft and welcoming lips before him.
Duo could stand no more, his hands raised to snake up his lover's strong back, pressing their bodies closer together as their kiss deepened. When at last they broke for air, their foreheads rested against each other as their warm breaths caressed each others lips.
"Missed you." Heero whispered.
"Missed you more." Duo replied, then with a deep sigh, he continued on in a more serious vein. "I don't want to go away any more, Heero. It's just too hard being away from you and from home. I wanna quit my job."
Heero brushed his lover's lips with his own, which, Duo noted, had a smile on them. "Baka, you can't quit your job." he chided with a slight chuckle.
Duo frowned and pouted slightly, "Why not?"
The former Wing pilot stepped back, his hands moving to cup the slender shoulders and then slowly let both is hands lower, simultaneously down the outside of the jacket encasing the slender but strong arms, all the way to the fine and nimble fingers of his lover's talented hands. He raised them both to his lips and kissed the top of each. "Because you own the company, that's why." he answered, looking up through his ragged bangs with a smirk.
The former Shinigami's lips inched upward on one side, giving the other man a crooked smile. "Oh yeah, good point." he replied with a smirk.
Heero let out a soft bark of laughter and turned, still holding onto one of Duo's hands to lead him into the dinning room where the table was set for two.
"You cooked for me?" Duo asked with feigned surprise. Heero did all the cooking for them as the American proved time and time again that the kitchen was a place for him to make disasters and create mayhem, not culinary delights. In time, though, he had learned to bake simple but important things like cookies, cakes, semi-mastered the microwave, and an occasional ready-to-bake pizza. "Smells good, whatever it is." he commented with his nose in the air, sniffing the sweet smell of teriyaki.
"Sit down." Heero said as they approached Duo's usual chair. "I'll bring it in."
Always one to try to please his lover, the braided American sat and sipped at the tall glass of Coke set above his plate. A few moments later, a plate filled with a serving of teriyaki marinated steak, steamed asparagus, a baked potato topped with butter and sour cream, and a green salad were put in front of him. His eyes widened at his favorite foods and his salivary glands went into overload. Heero, his own plate in hand, took his seat adjacent and close to his newly returned lover, and received Duo's joyful smile even as his hand reached up and clasped his cross.
"What are you thankful for now?" Heero asked slightly amused. At first, Duo's habit had bothered him, and it took a full explanation from the former Deathscythe pilot to explain his action and what it meant to him. The Japanese man didn't quite understand as religion was something he knew very little about, it's way of thinking was strange to him. But it meant something to Duo, so he tried to understand and be as non-judgmental as possible. He'd slowly gotten use to Duo touching his cross as some form of expression of gratitude, and it had spurred him to an idea of his own.
"You," Duo replied with a dreamy smile. "our home, this food, life, love, our friends, and happiness."
Impulsively, Heero reached over and put his hand over his love's, still holding his cross. "Me too." he added softly. Duo's eyes shone brightly at the gesture.
They ate their meal as Duo told him all about the factory, the workers, and how business was becoming almost too lucrative. After the war, the boy from L-2 had a deep desire to help those he'd left behind on the god forsaken colony. He came up with a business product, a plan, and with Quatre's financial backing and savy on business, he opened a factory. People of lower economic statue were hired to work at a union rate of pay to manufacture toys and models of the gundams. Duo had helped promote the toys by producing a popular comic book series of the adventures of he and his comrads during the war. They were an instant commercial success. It wasn't long before a script was written and a computer enhanced version of their lives as pilots was made into a movie. The toy's sold off the shelves in the first week. T-shirts, hats, backpacks, lunch boxes and more were produced with the figures of the gundams and drawings of the pilots on them. In several months time, Duo was a self-made millionaire who had provided many jobs for the unfortunate on L-2. He'd received many awards and accolades from the business and charitable community, which he gracefully accepted and humbly ignored. Heero couldn't have been more proud of the orphan boy he'd fallen in love with during the war.
As the meal finished, Heero looked up through his dark brown bangs. "I've got a surprise for you." he said in his deep bedroom voice.
Duo's head shot up, a smile grew on his face, threatening to split it in half. "What kind of a surprise?" He asked wiggling his eyebrows.
"Something I hope you'll like." Heero said simply, then picked up the empty plates and went to the kitchen.
Duo Maxwell loved surprises. Good surprises that is, and Heero always gave him those. He stood and moseyed into the kitchen to see if he could help with the dishes. He arrived to see Heero closing the dishwasher and drying his hands.
"Perfect timing I see." Heero grinned at the other's statement, knowing Duo hated doing dishes, but was always willing to help.
"Timing is everything." Duo chuckled and moved closer to fold his arms around his slightly taller lover. "Can I have my surprise now?" he asked, his voice low and husky.
"Hum, it's a little early yet." Heero glanced over the top of the reddish brown hair to see the clock.
"Please...." a little begging and nibble on the ear always seemed to get the braided man what he wanted or needed from his lover.
"Alright, come on." Heero took up his hand again and led him from the kitchen through the house and up the stairs to the second floor. As they entered the master bedroom, Duo noticed the arrangement of the bed covers. The white bedspread had been neatly folded back to rest at the bottom of the bed. The "special occasion" red satin sheets were exposed, and in the center of the bed was a small white triangle of satin with a black felt box in the center.
"So is my surprise the box or the bed?" the American snickered.
"Both." Heero replied and reaching up and placing his hands under the front of the bomber style leather jacket and slid his hands over Duo's shoulders, bringing the jacket up and off his shoulders and removing it after he'd successfully slid it down his arms. Turning for just a moment, Heero slung it over the back of the chair that stood by the door. "Let me make you a bit more comfortable." he said in a voice deep with growing passion.
Duo's hands were quick to mimic the path and skill of the Wing pilot's hands as they slowly began to unbutton the black, silk shirt he wore. His fingers, in turn, worked on the small white buttons of Heero's long-sleeved white oxford shirt. The buttoning undone, they worked the fabric of both shirts off of each others shoulders and dragged the material down and off. The same procedure followed in removing the rest of their clothing, and in moments, both stood facing each other with all their clothing removed their hands touching each others skin, memorizing and appreciating once again the varying contours of their lover's body.
"I'm pretty comfortable now." Duo grinned as Heero reached behind him for his braid and brought it forward. He unwound the black band at the end of it and slowly unraveled it. "Can I open my present?" he asked as he shook his head in order to free all the hair from the twisting pattern.
"Hai." Heero answered and reached for the small box. Picking it up from the square of material, he placed in his lover's hands.
Duo's eyes lit with excitement. He loved to get presents and Heero always got him something thoughtful. He slowly lifted the lid to the case and his eyes widened. With his fingertips, he lifted the object out and let it hang by its chain in front of him so he could get a good look at it. It was a cross, just slightly bigger than the cross he always wore and on a fine silver chain. It was two toned. One side of it was a pearlite white stone that was smooth and glossy. The other side was black onyx, and was also glossy enough to give off a reflection from the light. It was very unusual, and Duo was certain Heero had an explanation for it. He looked up into the cobalt blue eyes and smiled. "It's wonderful." he told him. "Is there a particular reason for it?"
Heero nodded and lifted the chain from Duo's hands, and with a motion, Duo complied and turned so that Heero could place it on him.
The chain allowed the cross to sit just below the other cross he wore. He tilted his head, letting his hair fall forward as Heero brought the two ends together behind his neck and fastened it. He then came forward to inspect it as sit lay on the smooth, pale skin of his lover.
Duo merely smiled like the Mona Liza, and lifted an eyebrow, waiting for his explanation.
Instead of using words, Heero gently eased the American back and after taking his lips with his own, lifted the slender body up and onto the bed, quickly removing the scarf in the process to use later for clean up. Duo's eyes stay rooted on the face above him as Heero began to arrange his body. He straightened the American's legs so that his ankles were close together. Duo's left eyebrow rose in question, wondering what in hell Heero was doing.
The darker haired young man slowly moved forward and lifted his right knee over his lover's body to straddle his hips. His hands then began to move slowly up the lithe body beneath him. Duo's skin was usually tan, but the two plus weeks spent on a colony had caused that normal, healthy shade gifted to him by the California sun, to fade. He ran his hands up the toned chest and shoulders, causing the man beneath him to arch up slightly to his touch. Then Heero leaned forward, bringing their lips together again in a fiery kiss, each fully expressing their need and passion for each other, feelings that hadn't diminished in the three years they'd been together.
Duo's heart speed up at Heero's tender ministrations. Being easily lost in Heero's kiss, he was only dimly aware of the strong, bronzed body above him stretching out on top of him. He moved to open his legs to make them both more comfortable, but with a word from Heero to stay still, he stopped, and put them back in the original position. He moaned as his arousal was encased between Heero's upper thighs, and felt his lover's sure sign of passion for him on his lower abdomen.
The kiss had been broken by Heero's words, and Duo looked up slightly confused at the face inches from his own. Heero arched up slightly and turned his head to follow the direction of his left hand. Duo felt Heero's hand slide up along his ribs to the underside of his arms, and let his right arm relax as it was pushed up slowly, raised up to stretch straight out from his shoulder to lay pale against the cool, red sheets. He turned his head to see Heero's bronze arm laying completely on top of his, their fingers clasping.
As he felt Heero's right hand slowly repeat the same process, he followed the line of sight of the blue eyes to his left arm, to see it put in the same position as the other arm before Heero clasped that hand also. That task completed, their eyes met again, and slowly closed as Heero lowered his head for another searing kiss. The former God of Death wanted nothing more than to have his hands free to hold Heero tighter to him, but his partner had other plans and held his arms and hands stretched out.
The kiss broke and, finding it hard to look at each other for long at such a close proximity, Heero let his head dip and settle next to Duo's cheek.
"The cross," he began in a quiet voice. "represents us. It is two tone to represent the many facets of our life together."
"How so?" Duo asked, wanting to know what Heero was thinking.
"Look at our skin." Heero instructed, and Duo turned his head once more to see the two-toned arms flush against each other, and then suddenly, he realized the pose Heero held him in also resembled the shape of the cross.
"It also represents Wing and Deathscythe, the soldier and death, war and peace, sin and forgiveness, despair and joy, loneliness and love. All of these things and more represent who we are and what we have."
Moisture laden eyes looked up as Heero raised his head to peer into them, looking for acceptance of his gift and it's meaning. "Emptiness and fulfillment, hunger and wealth," Duo continued. "Destruction and rebuilding."
Heero nodded. "And much more." he said as he kissed the tip of the pert nose just beneath him.
"It's beautiful, Heero. I'll always treasure it." was Duo's slightly breathless and sincere reply.
The head with the dark brown tousled hair nodded. "When you feel grateful for us, for our home and what we've manage to achieve from the ashes of war, I don't mind if you touch your own cross in giving thanks, but I would like you to also hold onto our cross, as it represents what we have, who we were and are now and, like the two colors on the one cross, we are bound together forever, inseparable. Our past and present is the cross we willingly bear."
"Damn but I love you." Duo sniffed, trying to gain his composure. To say he was touched by his lover's words and sentiments, would not adequately describe his feelings.
Heero let go of one hand to reach down between their bodies and pull the cross up and then thoughtfully closed his hands around it. "I'm grateful to have you in my life, for the love you showed me was possible, and for the home we have made together." he said with a slight trace of emotion in his voice and in his eyes.
Duo's hand came up to hook his thumb into the chain of his old cross, and then clasped Heero's cross held hand in his. "As am I." he added.
The evening shadows and sunset went unnoticed by the young lovers as they reaffirmed their love for each other throughout the night, grateful to know and reflect on the contrasts in their life; from the pain and sorrow of their pasts, to the present, and how their lives were so much better in almost every way, and was now remembered in the cross Duo gratefully swore an oath to himself to wear till the end of his days.