The L2 Box
Over the next few weeks (three months really, but it was going by so quickly that they felt like weeks), I met up with Duo for short little interviews. Sometimes, we'd go around town and have a small quiet one-on-one. And sometimes, the revelations were so detailed and depressing that we just sat there on the bench in silence. An "I'm sorry" didn't seem adequate, and I didn't know if he wanted my sympathy, it might make him feel even worse. And after we stared at the ground for a moment, thinking of something to say, he'd always grin at me and change the subject.
I learned that Duo was a very active person. Despite his life, he was very cheery all the time, hyperactive and very talkative, like he had caffeine injected into him. He was so different; it makes me wonder if it was all a facade. Was he just acting like a jester to hide his true nature? After all, no one's naturally that spunky were they?
Eventually, in the months that I'd become his close confidant, I got use to his scar; it was just a part of him that stopped vexing me. Whenever we went out to a public place, he always wore a scarf or something to cover it up, so I really didn't pay much attention to it. Besides, there were other things that distracted my attention, like his attire. Every time we met up, I was always surprised at the clothes he wore, a fashion statement of his own, giving everyone a taste of his personality. It's so bizarre that it's hard to describe. I don't even know where he finds neon-green pants with a snakeskin print on them.
"Damn, look'it all the trash here." Duo remarked disapprovingly, kicking empty soda cans away and brushing the trash off the bench before we took a seat.
We were on another interview session. Ready with my recorder, he was going to tell me about Maxwell Church this time. Before he started, he gave a sigh and tilted his head up to stare out of the colony, towards Earth, the big, blue planet looming over our heads. I had seen it plenty of times but it was just a big chunk of rock to me. "I've always wondered what it would be like on Earth. It'd sure be better than this dump. I'm so sick of this place." He wished.
"You want to go there? To Earth?"
He nodded. "I dream of going there. I've heard that it's beautiful. The air smells fresher. The light's real and
warmer. Well, I've never seen the ocean before. but I heard it's real nice. It's all real. 'Course, I can't really afford a ticket to get there." He wrinkled his nose. "I barely make enough money to support myself. Some days, y'know, I have to go hungry. So, there's no way in hell am I gonna waste money just to taste real salt water." He turned to look inquiringly at me. "Have you been to Earth?"
"Yea, but there's nothing special there." I gave a shrug, "It's almost the same as here, except cleaner...and
bigger" He smiled at me.
"You just don't know how to appreciate beauty, Heero." There was an innuendo in there, even if he hadn't meant it. He, of all people, appreciated beauty; him, the person that looked in the mirror and all he could see was the hideous, ugly scar.
I was such a pessimist and he played the role of the optimist. I guess it's true when they say opposites attract because we became good friends, like close drinking buddies, and spent more time with each other whenever he was free. Heck, gaining enough of my trust and friendship, he even introduced me to the little orphaned kids that hung onto him like little baby monkeys.
I liked being around Duo; He kept my mind occupied with his warm laughter and playful quirks. More importantly, he kept my mind off of Trowa. The way he kept me company and let me know that I was not alone, made feel less depressed over the whole issue and I was even growing to accept it, as hard as it was. There were other things in life for me. I decided to just let things flow. There wasn't enough time to mope over things. Time was something that I didn't have. It's been at least 4 months since I collapsed at Quatre's New Year party and was diagnosed with the disease. How much longer did I have? Another month? Five?
"Whatcha thinking about, Heero?" Duo asked, noticing that I had spaced out. I gave a small smile. It's funny; I smile so easily when I'm around him. I think it's because he smiles to damn much that it passes on to me like chicken pox.
"I was thinking about stuff." Of course, I didn't want to tell him I was thinking about when I was going to die. People just don't talk about that.
"Well, thank you so much, Mr. Vague." He mocked. "Well, I was thinking about something too."
"You wanna go on a field trip tomorrow? Another interview." That perked my attention. "I got something I wanna show ya."
"After I ran away from home, I was taken into an orphanage at Maxwell Church and I went to school here. And there was this boy named Solo." I held the tape recorder near him to catch his words. "I think we fell in love. At least I did. He was the kindest person I'd met in a long time." Duo explained. We stood under an archway entrance to a middle school. "That was 8 years ago or so."
"You don't have anything against gay's, do you?" He questioned me cautiously. I shook my head. Homosexuals had become "accepted" a long time ago, but there were still some ignorant people out there. I certainly didn't mind. I considered myself bi. But the only other man I'd fallen for was Trowa. Argh! That name again! Just forget about it and pay attention to Duo's story.
"Then what happened?" Duo looked up at my question and smiled sadly. "Well. Some people are still squeamish about homosexuals, even though it's been legalized for 20 some years already. Anyhow, his parents found us making out. Needless t'say, they weren't thrilled. They pulled him away and told him to never see me again." He had a pensive look as he stared at his shoes. "He went and saw me anyway..!... Oh yea, come on!" He said suddenly, lifting his head to show that he was smiling. "I'll show you something else." He almost took my hand to lead us to another section of the city, but he drew his hand back quickly and stuffed it in the pockets of his pants, jerking his head in the general direction.
A few blocks later, we came upon an old, white, town house. It was rare to find a big house with a front yard in the ghetto part of the colony.
"Oi, its still here!" Duo called, waving for me to come over. Duo was brushing a few dead leaves off a tin box. "This was where we used t'pass notes. He'd put notes in here and I'd get it and leave my own so he could get it later. That was the only way we could talk without his parents finding out. They'd go postal if they saw me near their son." The box was empty now and Duo's eyes got kind of misty and teary, I observed. He looked so sad and it doesn't fit him at all. I don't get it. If they were so in love, why did Duo look so sad? Had Solo done something wrong to Duo? Where was Solo now if they were in love? I suddenly felt a flare of protectiveness over Duo, like an older brother, and wanted to go confront this so called "love" of his.
"Well, let's go say 'Hi' to him." I said, trying to pull Duo towards the house.
"Wait! Stop! I don't know if he's there or not!" Duo grabbed my shirt to stop me. I raised an eyebrow in confusion. "His parents made him go to boarding school, to get rid of his "gay disease". They sent him to L3 and I haven't seen him since then!"
"And you're still waiting for him?" Duo bit his lip, nodding his head slightly, letting go of my sleeve.
"He said he'd come back." Duo tried to explain after seeing my disapproving frown. The desperate tone almost made me pity him. Someone who had not returned in 8 years was probably never bound to return. "I still have the letter where he promised me he'd come back."
"Duo, he isn't coming back." He needed to lose his illusions. They'd only hurt him further on. I know from experience.
"Don't say that!" Duo cried out defensively. "He'll come back and take me away from this hell hole, and he won't care about how I look. He PROMISED me he'd come back. I have to believe that." He hugged himself and stared longingly at the house. "It's the only reason why I wake up each day. He'll hold me, and apologize for taking so long-" Every second that Duo spoke about his love made my heart suddenly pulse more tightly.
"I HAVE to believe it. If I knew I was going to wake up each day suffering forever and ever until I die, I would have killed myself a long time ago! I need hope, Heero. If it's the only thing that motivates me, then I'm going to keep believing it."
Inside, I knew my chest was tightening with jealousy. Jealous of what, was another question. I was jealous that Duo could be so in love that he'd keep on loving without going sour as I had. I had handled my problems badly. How could Duo still hang on and continue loving? If I were him, I would have bitterly given up. I was jealous of Duo's ability to devote himself to a man who'd been gone for eight years. But. I think... I was jealous of Solo; the one Duo was so hopelessly devoted to. I was wishing that I was the one he cared about. I wanted someone to love me! Sure, I had friends, but no one actually LOVED me. It's a self-pitying moment, but I just want to know what being loved feels like!
I wasn't sure of what I was jealous of. Emotions are so fickle. Shaking my head, I forced myself to go on with the conversation, looking at Duo's forlorn expression; the guy better have a good excuse for leaving Duo behind like this.
"What happened after he left? What did you do?" Duo looked right at me, his eyes darkening into a serious mode.
"A few weeks after he left, the Maxwell Church burned down. I tried to save the people, y'know, but I couldn't. I was the only survivor. And the only thing I have left from then is my cross and my scar." Duo's hand came to caress his battle scar. "So, if you do the math, I've had it for at least 8 years. You'd think I'd have gotten used to it by now." He lowered his voice to almost a whisper. "But, it still hurts sometimes...when I walk on the streets and everyone stops to stare at me. That's why I cover up when I'm in public. At least no one'd care if they can't see me. I know not all of them hate me. sometimes they'd pity me. And that makes me feel so pathetic."
Oh Duo. Right then, I felt so sorry for someone else other than myself. I'd been living for months wallowing in self-pity, but right now, I understood that someone else was suffering as much, of not more, than I ever had. Without even thinking, I gave into whatever force that took my hand and brought it up to the other boys cheek, pushing aside the scarf to feel the scar against the tips of my fingers. Duo stared at me, eyes incredibly wide, shocked as he felt my calloused fingers trace his scar and the almost tender look on my face. We held our breaths for a moment, both knowing that this was a very intimate encounter. Duo's eyes closed, as if he were savoring the moment, tilting his head into my touch. I could feel the bumps and traced the yellow lines that rose from his cheek. I couldn't believe he was letting me touch his scar. He gave something like a content sigh, but hurt expression appeared on his face before turning his head away, breaking contact. I shouldn't have done that. I hate it when pity me. He must feel the same way. I almost wanted to kick myself.. And yet, I could also give a silly grin. He actually let me touch his scar; like I was the only person he trusted enough to give a dearly, personal secret.
"Well, I think that's all there's left to my story. 'Hope you're satisfied."
"Aa." My hand was back at my side, still tingling from the warmth of Duo's cheek. With nothing left to do or say, I looked up at the sky; the sun was already setting. I had spent the entire day with Duo and I didn't want to go back home yet. I wanted to be near Duo still because it felt as though we had a special bond because we were both suffering so much pain. You know the saying, misery loved company. It was a comfort to be with someone who really understood.
"Do you want some dinner?" The boy gave me an inquisitive look after my invitation. "I'm hungry.. And I just thought you might be too." I blurted out, blushing a bit. But Duo smiled, making his eyes a bright violet.
"Sure, Let's go, I'm starving. You're paying, right?"
Taking another bite from his meal, Duo complimented. "This first-class food is delicious!" They sat in an expensive restaurant and Duo chowed down on the dishes that kept coming. I glared at the other guest who were staring at Duo, a boy dressed in such a weird manner and acting like this was McDonalds, talking loudly and eating rudely, not bothering to take small bites. "Damn, you rich people have good taste... except for the snails and fish eggs"
"They're called escargots and caviar." I finally replied, a bit in amusement, watching as he took another spoonful of food. "And you don't have to eat so fast. The food isn't going to run away." Duo smiled, his full cheeks puffing out like a little squirrel. He tried to speak, but started a coughing fit. After gulping some water, he gave a sheepish look.
"Sorry, food went down the wrong tube. Don't you hate it when that happens?" I snorted at his clumsiness.
"Baka, that's why you shouldn't talk with your mouth full." After I insulted him by calling him a baka, he retaliated by opening his mouth, showing all the mashed up food.
"Duo, that is DISUGUSTING!" I looked away quickly.
Seeing my grossed-out face, he cracked up, "You're one in a million, Heero. Haven't you ever had kid do that to you before?" He asked. I had to smile after seeing Duo laugh so heartily; His amethyst eyes sparkling in the light of the room. Shaking my head, I replied, "Iie. I think kids are scared of me. My social skills aren't very good and all I can do is glare at them." Duo rested his head on one propped up hand, elbow on the table.
"Ah, well I'm always around kids. I want to. They're orphans to, like me. So, I know what it feels like to go on for days without a scrap of food. They need someone to look after them." //Such a Samaritan// I thought, finding another good quality about Duo. "And besides that. They treat me normally. They don't care if I'm gay or anything. And they don't run away from me because of my scar.." He paused, tilting his head, looking at me, studying, making me feel uneasy under his stare "Are YOU afraid of me, Heero?" He inquired.
Duo, the entire dinner, I haven't even thought about your scar. You're beautiful inside, and amazing outside. Your scar, it's just a part of you that I've gotten used to. Screw the people who can't see your beauty. You're one of the most amazing person I've ever known. I'm thinking about him in a more than friendly way than I should be, aren't I? It bothers me a bit, but I ignore my inner musings and shake my head to Duo's question.
"I'm not scared of you." I was rewarded with a bright smile from Duo.
"That's good. I'm glad, Heero."
And the rest of the dinner, Duo talked on about anything and everything, as though we had been best friends since childhood. I listened, nodding from time to time to show him I was paying attention. Maybe it was the wine, or maybe my illness, but something was giving me this light fluttering feeling as I listened and watched Duo. Even though I refused to believe it, I couldn't resist it. Duo was talking animatedly, his look always on me, making it seem as though I was the only one that mattered, that there was no one else but the two of us in the room. Solo was very lucky to have Duo's adulation. Watching Duo looking so happy and satisfied, I was determined to do anything to keep that expression on his face.
The things you've done to me, Duo Maxwell. Without even trying, you've broken through my barriers I had tried so hard to make. Because you've let me in your past and life, I'll repay you back by giving you the happiness you deserve.