Another Version of Events
by Karan Seraph
Heero laughed gleefully. He rolled with laughter. He had felt such joy too few times in his life, and those times the joy of a beautifully contrived day spent outside his training facilities or surviving an enemy attack could be dashed by a pathetic human miscalculation that killed a child or the arrival of more enemies. This time, Heero was not afraid the source of his joy would be lost, and that caused joy in itself.
Of course, there were all manner of hormones and natural stimulants yet coursing through his bloodstream and affecting his brain, but that was just the result of having sex. Heero was beyond simply being buzzed. He was completely happy. This happiness could not be contained; he had to laugh.
He heard Duo speaking to him in that sweet low voice, "You sound insane when you do that but I know... I just know..."
Heero sighed deeply, feeling like his body was filled with happiness near to bursting. He turned and drew Duo toward him all over again. "With full system access." Heero smiled and then whispered, "You are in me." Heero kissed him then, softly on his swollen lips.
Heero could feel Duo's happiness without trying. He could feel his love. If it were physical, it would have been a fire that raged around him, yet never consumed.
Seconds passed and then Duo drew his lips from Heero and laughed again. He looked Heero in his eyes and Heero laughed again with him.
Heero had felt happiness with Duo before, and even though they had gone through bad times in between, here he was happy again. It made him hope that there would always be happiness in the future. It made fear leave him.
Duo smiled, lips closed over his teeth. His eyes shut momentarily and then he looked at Heero again. "Aishiteru."
Heero liked what it meant that Duo would say that to him. He laughed loudly again and then shouted into the room, "I love you!"
Duo grinned. He kissed Heero's cheek and then whispered in his ear, "I truly... deeply... love you."
"I feel like I should do something to show you what I feel for you... but I am just so completely satisfied... and I think we did everything."
Duo laughed softly and then caught his breath quickly. "Well, we didn't actually do everything, Heero... but I do not feel like moving." Emphasis was on 'everything' and 'not.' "God, I feel like I'm melting into the bed now."
"Aa." Heero knew the feeling. The stimulants were ebbing from the bloodstream and he was feeling a bit drowsy. "We were... at it... for two hours, I estimate, everything included." There had been breaks.
"There is something you could do for me," Duo said.
"Anything for you, Duo-chan."
"Get me some water?"
"Some water," Heero said, committing the request to memory. He pushed himself into a sitting position, feeling a wave of dizziness nearly overcome him.
"And maybe some food? I guess I could wait if you want to go out again. I couldn't eat very much just yet, but I feel starving!"
"We still have one bottle of water. I'll give us fifteen minutes to rest and then we can both clean up and get dressed. We can get food then, and start our shopping as we planned."
Heero stood and then staggered, catching himself from falling by gripping the nightstand. He growled with annoyance at himself.
"Legs don't work yet?" Duo asked, evidently amused.
Heero felt the annoyance leave him. Duo was right; it was funny. Only Duo had seen, and Duo was probably in worse shape than Heero, considering all they had done.
Heero took a good look at Duo then, having distance enough to take in the full length of his body at once. Heero smirked at what he saw, forced himself up, and then turned toward the mirror, on the wall opposite the bed. "Shit."
Duo seemed to catch on then; he began examining his own body. The both of them had numerous bruises, scratches and bites. Nothing serious enough to need medical attention, but all obviously the marks of a lover.
"Ya know what?" Duo said, "I don't even care."
Heero walked to the knapsack left near the closet and retrieved the water. He returned to the bed. Duo was still wearing his entire costume, but it had never covered much. There had been nothing beneath the loincloth. If he wore a shirt and shorts only the bruise where Heero had sucked particularly hard at his neck might be visible, but in a bathing suit, it would be obvious that someone had had their lips and teeth on his stomach and thighs.
"If it bothers people, I won't care what they think," Duo announced. "I'll wear 'em like a badge of courage."
Heero thought Duo was mostly trying to convince himself. He handed Duo the water. Duo did not drink. He just held the bottle as he went on talking about how there were kids who would date people and purposely try to give them hickies as if to show how kewl they were or to keep their intended from getting other dates, and in Duo's opinion that was just tacky, but it had to be different with people who had some commitment. It was not like Duo had set out to make it hard for Heero to wear his bathing suit without everyone knowing his sexual habits.
Heero lay down on the bed. "Save some water for me."
"Oh, right," Duo said. He opened the bottle and then gulped down water.
"It probably is a little tacky. Now it has happened, we will know in the future that we should control our passion if we plan to wear revealing clothing the next day."
"I like uncontrolled passion..." Duo paused then laughed. "That didn't come out exactly right. I mean, uncontrolled passion is good, so long as your partner also has uncontrolled passion for you."
"Do you know some cosmetics that would cover it up?"
"Oh, yeah, I know how to cover bruises and shit. How do you think I attended school while I was piloting Deathscythe?"
Heero laughed. That just seemed so funny to him: imagining Duo sneaking back into dorm rooms and applying make-up to his wounds before going to class. Duo trying to stay awake in class when he'd been blowing up military bases the night before.
Now and then Heero had taken stimulants, but generally, he had been able to skip sleep for several days without it affecting his performance. The endurance had been trained into him. If he had not been able to cover a wound with clothing, then no one had ever asked about it. Boys just got into fights sometimes.
"But make-up won't do if you want to sunbathe. Actually, I'm not sure how being bruised effects the reaction of sunlight with pigmentation."
"I am telling myself not to worry until I see how I look in the morning."
Duo offered the bottle of water and then lay down. He smiled at Heero.
"Fifteen minutes." Heero took a few sips of water and then set the bottle on the nightstand.
When their naptime was over, they washed up without going as far as getting another shower. They dressed, Heero in shorts and a tee, Duo in a black kilt and tee. They repacked Duo's knapsack, planning ahead for when they might have more things to carry back to the hotel room.
"What food do you feel like?" Heero asked.
"I picked noodles. You decide."
"Fair. We can go to the bazaar. They have several inexpensive restaurants there. Would you like to go for a nice dinner while we are here?"
"I'm not really feeling it right now, but I think I could get in the mood for a nice dinner somewhere tomorrow. Chinese?"
"Seems the best choice given the options locally."
They came to the bazaar and looked around at the various restaurants. They had three different establishments serving Japanese food. There was a Mexican place. The rest were generally American in nature, some being more full service restaurants and others more cafes.
"Smart drinks!" Duo cried out.
Heero knew the phrase, and then he noticed the advertisements in the café window: coffee drinks, smoothies and smart drinks. "Well, we could probably use some sort of rehydrating energy drink."
"Yeah, we could get really spiked-up smoothies!"
So much for Heero deciding. He smiled to himself. The smoothies were a good idea. He usually ate a light lunch if he did not miss it completely. This way they could walk around while they had lunch.
Duo took Heero's hand and led him inside the café to look at the menu board. Heero looked up at the glowing display and ever-changing ads. There were so many options, stock menu items and lists of additives to customize basic drinks. Just the various types of coffee beans that could base coffee drinks was impressive, and then they had various herbal extracts, vitamins and minerals, every kind of fruit juice, numerous milk or milk-like options, many flavored syrups, and ice cream.
"Check it out, there's one called the Afterglow. Or should I get the Kinky Lemon?"
"Kinky you've already had."
Duo leaned his arm on Heero's shoulder and grinned at him. "Girls didn't tell you about 'lemon?'"
"I think I'm still in afterglow if there is such a thing. May as well go with that. I'm in Hawaii; I should have something that's got pineapple in it!"
"My turn to pay?"
"I'll order if you give me a card. What do you want?"
"I like the additives in Afterglow, but I would rather have a strawberry smoothie."
"That's like, your favorite flavor."
"I just like it." Heero felt nearly embarrassed, he was not sure why, only that he felt it. Maybe, in his mind, he was not sure if one's favorite flavor said something about them and whether he wanted anyone to have that information about him. "I sometimes like vanilla or chocolate or tea. Cola. Mango."
"They have mango."
"Maybe tomorrow." Heero opened his pocket and handed a cash card to Duo.
The line moved forward and Duo skipped up to the counter. Heero heard him speak as he moved to join him. "Aloha. I'd really enjoy some afterglow. I'll take two, actually, but, can I please get one with strawberry instead of the orange and pineapple."
Heero frowned at the flirtatious tone Duo used.
The girl at the counter stared at Duo helplessly before regaining her sense. "Um, I have to charge that as a Strawberry smoothie with extras."
"That costs more, and it's less ingredients."
"Yeah, um, the special menu items are priced below normal price, as a value for customers. So, um, you are not actually paying extra. You just pay less if you get the specials."
"Yeah, but you could just make me one. I bet you do it for friends."
The girl stared rather dreamily at Duo. "I, umo..." She clearly gave in from the price she quoted next. Duo smiled at her, leaned over the counter too.
When the girl walked away to get their drinks Heero stepped behind Duo and put his arms around his waist. "You really want me to have to punish you?"
Duo chuckled. "No one said 'no flirting.' I saved us money."
When the girl returned with the smoothies, Heero looked at her over Duo's shoulder. He did not glare, but he did gaze steadily as he held Duo possessively. Heero did not like to make others uncomfortable with public displays of affection, but he also did not like the idea of someone hitting on Duo.
Duo handed Heero his smoothie.
"You're..." the girl said.
"Aloha," Duo said. He, apparently, waved a victory sign and then drew Heero from the café.
"They recognize us more when we are together."
"I bet a lot of people just think you look like Heero Yuy until they see me. Your face was everywhere, even for months after you disappeared. 'The boy who saved the world.'"
Heero felt his face go hot. He shook his head. He did not like to be thought of... well... only as that.
Heero tasted the smoothie. It was good, cold and seemingly including some parts pureed strawberries. "I like it."
"Wanna taste mine?" Duo offered the beverage, putting the tip of the straw near Heero's lips.
Heero bowed his head and tasted. "Tart," he said. "I would have expected Afterglow to be more mellow."
"I think this is more what you need after sex."
"What is so funny."
"That store is called ABC Store."
"And...?" Heero prompted, not seeing the humor.
"Never mind. Let's go in. Looks like we can find the basic souvenir and gift items."
Heero agreed with a nod and walked alongside Duo as they entered the store. It was rather like a convenience store that also had gift items advertising the local attractions or Hawaii itself. They had actual postcards. Likely, they were made of a recycled fiber. In the Colonies they usually printed on a plastic paper-alternative, often foil-like in nature, but no one sent mail except to ship items from one colony to another.
Postcards with pictures of Hawaiian landscapes. They did not seem very expensive. Heero decided he would buy one of each to distribute among his friends. He would write personal messages on them and then deliver them in person.
When Heero had picked out the cards, he looked for Duo. He was looking at shelves of beach gear, such as chairs, umbrellas, pails and coolers that were for sale. "It works out that renting the chair is more than buying one, but it's not bad, considering I don't want to ship a chair home. I was thinking I might get one of these little coolers. It collapses, and I could use it at home, too."
"If you would use it, then it seems a logical idea," Heero assured him.
"I noticed that it is cheaper to buy drinks here than to get them one at a time from the bar. We could buy a pack of water bottles. They have a lot of snacks here also."
"Then perhaps we could eat lunch on the beach, or at least have snacks."
"Yeah." Duo took a red and white cooler from the display. He straightened and leaned close to Heero. "I was looking at the room service menu before." He smiled at Heero. "We can have a picnic basket delivered to our room, for us to take out to the beach one day."
"A picnic," Heero mused.
"You know what else you can order delivered to your room?"
"What?" Heero asked, smiling at Duo's intent gaze.
"Strawberries and champagne. Tomorrow night, after dinner?"
"I do like strawberries." Heero lifted his smoothie and sipped from the straw.
"I kinda like romantic things," Duo whispered confessionally.
Heero smiled up at him. He still felt good about finding Duo in that costume and making love to him. It had very much been 'making love' that time. He thought he was not going to be able to stop smiling, and then he felt the coldness.
"What is it?" Duo whispered, evidently noticing the dramatic shift in Heero's expression.
Heero knew enough to recognize that the feeling came from outside. He was sensing emotions from another person without seeking. Duo seemed only concerned for Heero, it was a reaction to Heero, not the cause of what Heero sensed.
Heero shifted his gaze away from Duo, slowly. He turned his head. Then he saw her, a woman, watching him for one instant before she turned her head. Heero felt so sick he bent forward and clutched his stomach with one hand.
"Heero?" Duo whispered.
"I do not want to feel these things."
"What? Heero?" Duo asked, still whispering, his hand on Heero's shoulder. "Was it that woman? Did you sense something?"
Heero tried to make the feeling go away. He had practiced tuning in, but he had not practiced shutting foreign feelings out. Shut down, he told himself. It is not your own feeling.
Even, finally, forcing the feeling away, Heero still hurt. He had felt disgust for himself and Duo through her. "She was offended that we were so close," Heero said coldly.
Duo laughed. "Well, you don't like PDAs too much yourself. I guess it does make some people uncomfortable to see others together, especially if they are alone."
Heero closed his eyes. "We were not even touching, Duo," Heero said flatly, "and she was disgusted, because we are both male." Heero glared at the back of the woman's head as she looked at a rack of souvenir t-shirts. "She thought we should not be allowed."
Duo was silent for several seconds and then said in a serious tone. "You should consider yourself fortunate."
Heero turned his glare on Duo. "Fortunate?"
Duo continued in a very serious tone, "It is rare one encounters an endangered species like that these days, and even rarer when one has not lifted a rock to find them in their natural habitat."
Heero stared mutely, blinked once, stared Duo again and then slowly began to laugh. It was a soft chuckle at first, then it rolled, and finally Heero lifted his head and laughed madly.
"Yeah... sometimes it takes me a while, when you get all deadpan, too."
Abruptly, Heero stopped laughing. He took a deep breath and smiled slightly for Duo. "It was a good joke," He said. Duo had felt no more fortunate than Heero, but still he had maintained his sense of humor and diffused Heero's anger. He really was a good boyfriend. "It just took me a while to understand your variation on 'living under a rock.'"
Duo reached to the shelves behind for a pack of water bottles. "Want anything else from this store?"
Heero shook his head once.
"OK. Want to maybe check out a few more stores then walk around on the beach?"
Heero nodded agreement.
They paid for the things they had found in the store and then moved into the open area of the Bazaar. "What do you think I should get for Hilde?" Duo asked as they walked slowly along the shop windows. "I thought I should get her something that is very impractical and feminine. Do you know what I mean?"
"Like uncomfortable lingerie?" Heero asked.
Duo laughed. "No! She's got enough of that, anyway. I mean, she'd probably expect me to do something like that. I suppose I want something that more beautiful or decorative then functional. Something girlie. She is a mobile suit pilot and a mechanical designer, but she's also a girl." Duo grinned. "Wouldn't know it from the way she acts and dresses most of the time. I wear skirts more than she does. I don't guess she qualifies as a lady, but she is feminine."
"Flowers die and candy will make her fixate on weight issues, especially as she is pregnant, I think."
"Yeah!" Duo groaned.
"I think you will have to go with jewelry. It seems the... safe bet."
Duo stopped to look into the window of the store they were closest to. "Yeah, safe bet," he said. The name of the shop was The Black Pearl.
Heero went into the jewelry store with Duo. They looked over the cases quickly and then Duo spotted a salesperson and approached him. He was an elderly Japanese-American man dressed in lightweight but conservative attire. He bowed to them from behind a display case. "May I help you?"
Duo glanced to Heero and then back to the salesman. "I think, no, I am pretty sure that I want to buy a ring for someone." He looked back to Heero. "Do you think a ring would be OK?"
Heero almost agreed immediately and then he understood that Duo was asking if Heero believed that Duo should give someone else a ring, possibly a ring that would be more expensive than the class ring Heero wore on a chain. "There are different kinds of rings," Heero said, "Rings, more than other jewelry, do seem to symbolize commitment. There are different levels of commitment, ne? Friendship rings. Engagement rings."
Duo laughed nervously and then addressed the salesman. "You probably know; if you work here. Would there be a kind of ring that could be a commitment ring but not like an engagement ring? As long as it's not diamond, it would be OK, right? I mean, she wouldn't get the wrong message and yell at me?"
The salesman almost smiled but kept his expression overall neutral. "You wish to purchase a ring for a woman who is special to you, but do not wish for her, or others, to assume you intend marriage?"
"Yeah, basically. So, do you think black pearl would be too special, or not special enough?"
"Black pearls are very nice. We specialize in them. We could find you a ring that would be more casual or more formal, depending on the setting of the pearl. May I show you some rings?"
"Do you know her size?"
"No. Maybe I could find out. I could have it sized somewhere else, I mean, after I showed her the ring."
"Yes. We could size a ring for you here, but it is better to have it done when you are sure of the correct size." The salesman moved several steps along the counter and then brought some trays up onto the glass top. "These are ladies rings with black pearl."
"Do you ever have them in silver? Um, I know it's less expensive, but it has more symbolic value for me."
"Yes. These here. Usually the more casual rings are in silver. If you are visiting with us much longer, we could make a custom ring."
"Really?" Duo asked. He looked at the rings. "What do you think?" He was clearly asking Heero.
"A solitaire would be appropriate, I think. I would guess that a more elaborate ring on someone like Hilde would look out of place, or like an engagement ring."
"Yeah... I need to find a place that does custom rings, like from a drawing."
"We have a jewelry designer here that does most exquisite work."
"I, uh, meant for in the future... was thinking out loud. I kinda just need the one ring now. Heero's right, it should be simple. Not cheap looking... like, elegant."
"I understand," The salesman said. He produced a small paper card from a rear pocket. "Consider us in the future. We can ship anywhere."
Duo smiled politely and took the card.
"Perhaps this?" The salesman suggested. He lifted a silver ring set with a single black pearl, the band was molded into wave forms.
"That's pretty nice," Duo said.
Heero looked at the rings. He lifted one to look at it. The band either side of the ring was open to form two ovals where the finger might be seen through the band. There was a little bar crossing the band beneath each oval and further down a line carved into the band. The pearl was beautiful, dark but at the same time luminescent. Heero thought black pearl was a good choice for something given to Hilde by Duo.
"Oh, let me see that," Duo said.
Heero handed Duo the ring.
"Ankhs. A black pearl with silver ankhs. It's perfect!" He smiled at the ring. "It would really be like mourning jewelry if it was set with jet... but then that would disturb me. No, this is better. How much is it?"
The salesman told Duo the price.
"Yeah, I can afford that," Duo said, "You think that is about right? I want her to think that it is a nice gift, but not to think I spent too much on her."
"For a ring of this sort, our price is reasonable."
Duo looked to Heero.
"It is more important that the symbols mean something to you."
Duo grinned. "That's true. Yes. I will buy this. Thank you for helping us."
"You are most welcome."
Duo paid for the ring and they left the store. They stopped once more, for Heero to buy yet another bathing suit. He told Duo that he would wear the other one for sunbathing, but that Duo should not expect him to swim or get wet in it. The board shorts were good for the beach, but Heero thought that a racing style swimsuit was best for the pool.
Duo agreed with shrugs while Heero chose his bathing suit and purchased it.
They decided to go to the beach then, planning to go down to the water just to say they had been in the ocean that day. If they stayed long, they did have the sunscreen in Duo's knapsack.
As they were coming to the point where the Village's landscaping gave way to the beach, they noticed a gathering of people seated on mats over the sand listening to a speaker. Duo seemed curious and changed course slightly to come within distance of being able to read the sign posted alongside the walkway.
Heero saw the words repeated in several languages on the sign as Duo did. It was a meeting of Heiwa Church and the day's topic of discussion was The Message of Jesus. The service had started a few minutes before.
"We could stay and see what it is like, if you want," Heero said.
Duo turned to look over his shoulder at Heero. "Do you want to stay?" he asked quietly.
He did. At least, Heero was not more certain that he wanted to leave. "Yes."
"I want to see what it is like."
"It's OK. I don't mind if we stay," Duo said. "It looks like we can sit there." He pointed out a space on the mats.
They walked over the sand to the area of the woven mat that was furthest from the speaker. There were shoes there. Heero stepped out of his shoes, shook sand from his feet and then moved onto the mat. He glanced to see that Duo was following and then sat down behind the other people.
The group seemed to be in some sort of prayer or meditation. Heero knew enough about religion to recognize that. The speaker seemed to be in street clothes and so Heero was not sure if he was a priest or like a priest. He continued in whatever he had been saying before Heero arrived. "And now that we have given others time to find their way to us and have prepared ourselves to be meet in peace, I would like to welcome you all to this service of Heiwa Church Waikiki. I am Brother Kalino. Iwa-Sensei will be conducting out discussion today, but first I would like to address those of you who are visiting. I know a lot of you come to us from out of town. We have meetings at this time on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, here on the beach. You may also join us for meditations at 8 in the morning every day in our chapel in Rainbow Tower. We keep things casual here. If you have a question or a thought to share during the discussion, you may stand, but here we only ask that you raise your arm to be recognized." Brother Kalino continued with his directions, informing them that his church was glad to have Iwa-Sensei as their Priest for the summer and that he had come from Los Angeles. Brief private discussion was allowed, as everyone was encouraged to help others understand the discussion and their teachings, but such talk should be kept at a low volume. The group should all wait to be recognized before speaking and everyone would be given a chance to speak, if they wished. If their scheduled time to finish was near the Priest might ask that others hold questions while he completed his main points for those who had work, travel or other activities that could not be rescheduled. After the Priest had presented main points, he would not leave until everyone who had questions was satisfied.
Heero felt assured that the meetings of Heiwa church were peaceful in nature and conducted civilly. He wondered if discussion ever got heated and what happened if it did. Even in well-organized committees, arguments could take place.
"I wonder if the discussion ever turns into argument," Heero whispered, meaning for Duo to hear.
Duo shrugged, but a teenaged girl on Heero's other side touched his arm lightly and then whispered to him, "The Priest tells those that are becoming upset by the discussion that he loves them, and then he gives them a hug."
"And then what happens?" Heero asked.
"They usually feel much better and are able to share their thoughts more peacefully."
"What about when it does not go as usual?" Heero whispered.
"I have never seen violence, if that is what you mean. The Priests always know what to say or do to encourage people to share their thoughts constructively."
"Thank you for helping me," Heero said.
"You are welcome."
Heero glanced to Duo; he looked like he might be bored.
The Priest rose from his seat among the others on the mats. He thanked Brother Kalino and then introduced himself again. Brother Kalino sat down where Iwa-Sensei had sat before him.
Iwa-Sensei was dressed in an orange robe and stood at ease, feet slightly spread on the sand and hands clasped behind his back. He began presenting his points for discussion by defining what he termed the 'Historical Jesus' and the 'Christian Jesus.' Heero had not heard those terms used before, so he was interested to learn what the Priest meant.
He was saying that 'Historical' was what archaeology and history could prove with physical evidence and corroborated historical accounts and ancient public records. 'Christian' was everything else that followers of Jesus might believe about him that could not be proven.
It was conceivable that the same man was all these things, the religious figure and the historical figure, but for the purpose of their discussion Iwa-Sensei wanted people to understand the difference between what all of human society accepted as fact and what was accepted only on faith.
Heero did not really know a lot about Jesus either way. He looked to gauge Duo's reaction, because he knew that Duo had at least lived among Catholics and thus probably knew a lot about Jesus, in general. Duo had actually admitted to having had faith in God at one time, and so far as Heero understood, for Catholics, believing in God was just the same as believing in Jesus.
Duo was watching the Priest attentively, but he frowned, as if concerned. Often in public Duo had a happy face, even if it was sometimes faked. Even in school, where one was supposed to look serious, Duo had often seemed to be grinning as if always amused by something only he knew.
Iwa-Sensei asked if anyone had questions about his terms before he continued. No one indicated that they had a question, so he went on with his points.
Iwa-Sensei then began explaining what facts were part of 'Historical Jesus' such as the time period in which he was born, the land in which he lived, the governments controlling that area then, the common beliefs of that time, the technology available, the political unrest in Palestine, and the probably method and date of Jesus' death.
Once Iwa-Sensei had presented those points, he scanned the people gathered on the mats. He saw some arms raised and one by one called on those people. Someone asked about the date of the 'star.' Iwa-Sensei then moved forward to take a digital pad from one of the people sitting in the front. He said that followers of Jesus wrote that at the time of his birth a 'star' had appeared. He said that in the time in which Jesus lived astrology was important to daily life. And that Pisces had been associated with Israel and that Jupiter was associated with Kings. He then read from his pad some proven astronomical data about conjunctions of planets in the constellation Pisces.
Sister Santha then stood and shared some information about the observed effects of Precession and the shifting of the rising of Sol on the Vernal Equinox against the Zodiac and how at the time of Jesus the rising had shifted into Pisces. It had then become the Age of Pisces, as it was in their time the Age of Aquarius. Early followers of Jesus had used the sign of the fish as their symbol.
It was all a lot to assimilate. Heero understood astronomy very well. He also had a basic understanding of what astrology was and knew that many people believed that events observed in the sky influenced the course of things on Earth.
Iwa-Sensei then said that he had been pleased to answer a question but that there would be other days when they discussed the topic of comparative mythology or the relevance of astrology. Today he wished mainly to discuss the message of jesus.
That said, Iwa-Sensei began to explain what Jesus' followers believed about him, or, the 'Christian Jesus.' They agreed with the information that was historical but added to that information with beliefs that could not be or had not been proven as fact. Heero knew some of these beliefs, but not very many. Jesus' mother had been a virgin, they believed, and before Heero dismissed that as not very strange, it was explained that they actually believed she remained a virgin after giving birth.
Heero decided he was just not going to believe that, but he kept listening. Iwa-Sensei continued and Heero understood that he was not saying that people at Heiwa Church were expected to believe in these same Christian beliefs. He was only presenting the beliefs that Christians had, to establish a basis for his further points.
There were some questions from the group about which beliefs were shared by particular Christian churches and Iwa-Sensei answered these questions with apparently well-informed understanding.
"Now," The Priest said, "I wish for you to understand, that many people have fought over acceptance of either the 'Historical' or 'Christian' Jesus as more truthful. As I said in answering the last question, members of various Christian churches have fought wars over acceptance of their version of Jesus' teachings or his nature as more correct. I wish for you to understand that neither those who accept Jesus as a historical figure that performed no miracles and was deifies by his disciples, nor those who believe that he performed many wonders and rose from the dead ever claim that Jesus taught those who listened to fight."
Iwa-Sensei paused. There was a feeling of agreement in the group, but no one raised their arm.
"They agree that Jesus' message was not one of argument or violence or war. As I described earlier, there was political and civil unrest in their time, and there are some accounts that tell us that some people Jesus associated with were militants, but no reliable account claims that Jesus was militant himself. Yes, when he was offended, he became angered and made his opinion known, but even by Christian accounts, he was human. We can all be tempted at times to anger. Jesus associated with terrorists of his time and soldiers as he did with the infirm, the poor, or the outcasts... as he did with all people. He treated them with respect. Perhaps you have heard other Priests discuss the importance of respecting all veterans, regardless of whom they fought for. I see some young people here, but most of you remember the war well. Those who were soldiers did at times cause pain, but they were human too. They did what they believed was best given their own circumstances. They all fought so that today we can live and value peace. Jesus had respect for those who believed they should fight to defend themselves and their people, but he was not himself militant any more than he was a leper. He simply treated all people, lepers or terrorists, with respect."
Duo was fidgeting. He was stroking his braid and looking at the mat.
Heero frowned. Duo did not like something he was hearing. Heero did not know what in particular might upset him.
Heero thought it sounded rather logical, what the Priest was saying: that the message Jesus taught was more important than his own nature. That was what Heero understood him to mean. It was pointless for people to argue and war over whether a woman was a virgin or whether someone was completely human or of some other nature when neither fact, however established as true, had no bearing on what Jesus had taught. Even if his mother had been a whore, Jesus was the son of a whore who taught people to love each other. That was what Iwa-Sensei was explaining as he continued to speak. If Jesus had never risen from the dead, then he was still a man succeeded by his teachings that one should have love for their enemies.
Heero thought he understood 'love your enemy.' It did not mean going over to the other side. It meant being able to find common ground. It meant forgiving Lady Une for the immensely cruel and manipulative things she had done in the past, just because she showed an interest in changing and trusting her to maintain peace. It meant understanding that in Treize's heart he had truly believed that staging a war was the best way to encourage people to make peace and that he never really sought to become anything like the leader of the world.
Heero sat listening to Iwa-Sensei, not entirely believing everything that he said about Jesus or agreeing with every point, but respecting the overall point the Priest was trying to make: that it was better and more peaceful to concede an irrelevant point in order to accept a common ground, only if it meant agreeing to peacefully disagree some of the time.
And then, Heero realized he had a question. He hesitated, but then he decided he wanted to find out how the question would be answered here, so he raised his arm over his head.
Shortly Iwa-Sensei moved along the sandy space between the two sections of mat and made eye contact with Heero. "You may speak."
"I have a question, or rather, a series of questions."
"Yes, please, go on. I will answer as best I can."
Heero stood up. He had seen some of the others stand when they spoke, so he did it. "I do not know very much about Jesus, but a friend of mine told me that there was a king that had many young boys killed because he believed Jesus was a threat, but did not know which boy he might be, is that true?"
"It is true that the Gospels tell that story."
"Jesus escaped because he ran away, or his family did. He lived and those other boys died. That seems out of character for someone who taught self sacrifice, but, Jesus was very young then and not old enough to make decisions for himself. Was there ever a time when he was adult that anyone threatened to kill others again by way of swaying Jesus? Did Jesus ever have to deal with someone saying that they would burn Nazareth to the ground if he did not stop his teachings or renounce his claims?"
"No," Iwa-Sensei said, "Jesus never had to deal with that type of situation."
Heero nodded. "What do you think he would have done? You said that Jesus was never militant. But... well... is there no point at which he would fight? Was he truly and ideally pacifist then? It is a beautiful concept, I believe that, but what if they had threatened to kill his mother instead of having him killed? What if they said they would kill the friends who followed him if he did not stop teaching? Would he expect them all to go to their deaths?"
"Why?" Heero asked.
"Because the message was more important than his life, or any life. If one does believe Jesus' message, then spreading his message of love and peace is more important than his life, or any live. Those who believe in this message will gladly die, so that the message may continue and others may see by their example how powerful the message is."
"But," Heero said, "is there nowhere to draw the line? If everyone sacrificed themselves for the message then... what if someone threatened to drop all the Colonies onto Earth? What good would it do for everyone to die? There would be no one left to appreciate the message."
Iwa-Sensei smiled. "If everyone believed this message, then no one would drop Colonies on Earth. But they would have to destroy Mars as well to wipe us all out now, ne?"
"Then you are really saying that Jesus would let a Colony fall on Earth and kill millions or even billions of people?"
Iwa-Sensei stepped through the people and put his hands on Heero's shoulders. "Jesus never had to deal with the precise threats that people today have dealt with. He surely understood that you kill a part of yourself when you take life and that was why he preached peace and wished his people to stay out of war. But, if he were alive today, I suspect Jesus would find a way to get past the defenses, disable the guards and stop the Colony from falling toward Earth. That is what good people today would do, is it not?"
Yes, that was what Heero had done, with Duo, Sally, and Trowa. He had done that. And when he had fired on Libra it had already been evacuated; it had been defended by Dolls. But before Libra...
It was the days leading up to the Eve wars that were worst. Days on Earth, and In Epyon...
Blowing up manned bases and mobile suits.
"If the destructive actions of those who are evil or misguided can be stopped short of killing, then we must each do what we can to stop them, including sacrificing ourselves. Killing is always wrong."
"Oh," Heero said, but he had known that. In his heart, he had already learned, but the idea of total pacifism bothered him, when he thought that some people could not be stopped short of killing. In those cases, many had to die, so that people in the future could understand how wrong those who were responsible for the death had been. "Thinking that you can stop death, with death, is wrong."
Iwa-Sensei put his arms around Heero and hugged him. "I believe that you are a good man, Heero," he whispered. "You deserve his name."
The Priest then stepped back through the crowd and went on talking.
Heero sat down.
Duo glanced at him but then looked downward again.
"What is it?" Heero asked very quietly.
Duo answered without looking up. "I'd already heard the message. You were just misguided, but I knew it was wrong and did it anyway." He shrugged. "I don't really believe in it anymore. I mean, not only did Jesus not have to deal with threats against his home, but he didn't really ever have to grieve. Hell, when his friend died he just brought him back to life. And finding himself apparently immortal, he never had to deal with watching his friends age and die. He just ascended after so many days and left them to age, be tortured for their faith in him, and die. I'd kinda like to see Jesus try walking in my shoes and keep up that total pacifism shit."
A man seated in front of them turned around. He had heard Duo, but he did not seem offended. Rather, he offered a plastic sleeve. "Rice cake?" he asked.
Duo lifted his head and smiled. "Sorry. I like people very much, I'm just not big into Jesus these days." Duo took a cake from the bag. "Thanks."
The sleeve was offered to Heero. "Arigato," he said then took a rice cake.
"Hey," Duo said to the young man in front of them, "you want some water?" Duo took a bottle from his new cooler and offered it. "It's not actually cooled, but I do know from experience that when all you've got to eat is rice cakes, water tastes as good as wine... warm or cold." He smiled and winked.
"Thanks. My name's Todd."
"Hey. Duo. That's Heero."
Todd opened the water. Heero noticed other people were also trading food. "Ya know, they don't talk about Jesus at every service. I know Friday they are going to discuss Malcolm X, but I am leaving early that morning."
"Malcolm X I can respect," Duo said, smiling.
Heero took a bottle from the cooler and asked the girl beside him if she was thirsty. She accepted the water and offered Heero a homemade chocolate chip cookie. Heero smiled tightly and then examined the cookie.
"No glass or poison in the recipe. I do put some cinnamon in mine, but the rest of the stuff is pretty usual."
She did not display any tells of lying. Even without empathy, Heero had learned the physical clues to look for in determining whether a person told the truth. She was eating the cookie. Heero thanked her for the cookie and then ate it. It tasted good. "The cinnamon is a nice touch," he whispered.
Iwa-Sensei was still speaking, but now he was going over actual lessons Jesus had taught in slightly more detail than before.
Duo was still chatting in whispers with Todd. "Stanford? Are you kidding?"
"No," Todd said.
"That's... a good school."
"Yeah," Duo agreed. "I'm not sure what I'm going to do just yet. I'm thinking about it. Do you think I could mail you or something?"
Todd agreed quickly and told Duo his address at the school's mail server.
"Kewl, I'll remember that," Duo said.
It hit Heero then that his boyfriend was arranging further correspondence with a fairly cute Stanford student. It must be professional, Heero told himself, or just friendly. Flirting is one thing, but Duo would not try to pick up guys right in front of me.
Heero still did not like it very much.
When the service was ended and final meditations finished Heero and Duo both collected their shoes, as did the others. As soon as they had their shoes, Duo led Heero away by the hand, while others stayed to talk socially.
"You liked it?" Duo asked when they were out of earshot. He slowed his pace and continued toward the water. The sun was setting but would not be down for some hours; many people were still on the beach. Many were eating food they had packed in coolers, purchased at the nearby restaurants, or cooked in designated barbeque areas.
I did not like every moment of their service, but it was interesting. I think the people were nice."
"Yeah," Duo said, but he did not sound like he was agreeing. "I don't know if I could be into it. You don't think it feels sorta... culty?"
"In what way?" Heero asked.
"They are just all New-agey and touchy-feely and what they say is just overall easy."
"Easy?" Heero asked. He really had to disagree. It was not easy to interact in public on religious matters. It was a personal subject. It was not easy to understand why people had religion or faith, exactly.
"Yeah, I mean, all that stuff about the details not mattering. It's like the easy answer. Just saying 'It doesn't matter if Jesus was God or not, since that makes people fight,' doesn't mean it's true."
"I do not understand."
"They are saying that the message is important, and I get that, but to those people who are Catholic, for example, believing that Jesus was God or rose from the dead or was born to a virgin is important stuff."
"Why? Why is it important? Do you think it is a good idea that people fight over those details?"
"No, but that's why their way is too easy. See? It's like, if you believed that the sky was absolutely blue, and I told you I did not believe it was, then you would get frustrated that I could not see what you knew was true. If we just agreed to drop the matter, then you would be your truth was only worth as much as my misconception. What would it be like if we never argued truths?"
"Duo," Heero scolded, "The sky has no pigment. It simply appears blue to most people at many times and in many places because of the manner in which the Earth's atmosphere filters sunlight. I would be correct in believing that the sky appeared blue to me and you would also be correct in believing that the sky lacked blue pigmentation. The truth remains the same, though we both perceive it differently."
Duo wailed and waved his arms. "I'm not saying I even believe in this now, but for Catholics, you have to really believe that Jesus is the true God, or else you don't go to Heaven. That's just what they believe. To them, it is absolute. The religion is very much about things being the way they say they are. It's like a test. If you can believe all the improbable stuff, then you are worthy."
"I do not find that very logical," Heero said. "Perhaps if you tried organizing your thoughts and writing it down..."
Duo sighed and stopped near the high tide line. "I just feel like it's too easy. I can't explain how, because it puts me in the position of defending a faith I don't really have. I just know that people have that faith and to them the details are important."
"I do not think the members of Heiwa Church are saying we should avoid all confrontation. They are simply saying that it is not worth killing a person over ideology. If they think differently than you do, then just allow them their thoughts while you defend your right to have your own thoughts, short of acting in opposition to said thoughts. But this is all very philosophical. Scientists understand that knowledge progresses through the ages, so long as exchange of information is not disrupted by some other process. What is considered fact in the present can be updated, revised or completely rewritten in the future, but that does not mean the previous 'fact' was worthless. It was merely a step to a more refined understanding of the truth. It would be arrogant to think that we can know everything, to think that we know the truth about anything. Experience teaches that we continue to learn, and thus were in the past misinformed. To claim to know the truth about everything, absolutely, would be to claim to be God, and Catholics are supposed to believe in only one God. If there is only that one God, then humans can never really know the truth. They must always be willing to admit they have things wrong."
Duo laughed, shaking his head. "You're so scary and logical and brilliant."
Heero put a hand to Duo's shoulder. "Duo, I just said that it was interesting and that the people were nice. You can trust me not to fall into anything that is a cult. First time they ask me to recruit new members, sacrifice a virgin, or have sex with followers of their choosing, I will leave."
"Man, religion is so fucked up!"
"Then, do not worry about having that kind of faith right now, Duo. Just be scientific and modest and you will do well in understanding the world, even if you never gain perfect understanding. I supposed faith just comes to you. It is likely not logical. Though, I have faith in you, and a good part of that is based on information accumulated through experience. It is logical to believe in you."
"Yeah, but maybe once you trusted me without being sure."
"Once or twice," Heero admitted, smiling.
They walked down to the water, leaving their shoes and things on the sand, out of the water's reach, but close enough that they could keep an eye on them while wading.
The water was cooler than the warm air, but not nearly as cold as that of other shores Heero had been to. He had put his Gundam in the water, purposely, or by accident, on more than one occasion. "I have never been in an ocean without shoes," Heero said.
The motion of the waves sent seawater flowing over sand feet and then as the wave ebbed it drew Heero's feet into hollows. Bits of shell and the occasional human artifact washed up with the tide and if not dragged back with the water were stranded on the beach.
They moved back and forth along the shore, collecting souvenirs and playing around in the water. Their feet made two sets of prints in the wet sand, except where Heero had carried Duo on his back; there followed only one deeper set of prints. And then the water came in again and washed evidence of their passing away, until they passed back again.
They stayed on the beach until the sun set. When it was dark, they gathered their things and walked back to their tower in the Village as the resort staff were lighting torches along the walks. They grabbed some slices of pizza to eat as they walked and when they got to their room, both Heero and Duo stripped of their clothes and collapsed into bed. Heero felt like his day had been very active and full. He did not even have to try to put himself to sleep.