Stages of Love: Postcards from Africa
He heard the footsteps, and held up a hand without turning around. "Grab a seat. We can talk in a minute." He felt the familiar presence settle to his left. The tiny dot he watched sparkled; he held his breath, and then it was gone. Only then did he turn. "Trowa."
Trowa continued to eye the night's sky. "If you miss him that much, you should try to find him."
Duo shook his head. "Not going to happen." He pulled up a long blade of grass, stripped it, and put it in his mouth. "He walked out on me, remember?"
"It's been almost four months. Isn't that enough time to get over whatever happened?" Trowa's gaze fixed on him.
Anger flared. "It's not the time, Tro. Shit! Go bug him. He's the one who left." Duo turned back to look at the sky.
For several long breaths, the only sounds were the wind in the long grass, and a seagull heading back to the ocean. "Why?" The question as lonely as the gull.
He opened his mouth and closed it. Finally, he pointed upward. "You saw it - L1. It's just this side of the moon." Duo glanced back for Trowa's nod. "Just on the other side of the moon's arc is L2. From L1, you can't see L2. From L2, you can't see L1."
Trowa studied the sky a bit longer. "Do you even know where he is?"
Duo nodded, and leaned back on his elbows. "Somewhere in Africa."
He was out back raking when he heard the mail truck. Around the corner before the rake hit the ground, he didn't look back. He opened the mailbox; his hand trembled when he reached inside.
The first had arrived two months after his departure - a simple plain card, four words in printed, neat script and a postmark from Africa. He'd almost tossed it, the anger still burned. Instead of giving into the impulsive act, he put it away, believing one day he'd be rid of it.
The second came almost three weeks later. This one bore a scenic picture - tall, golden grasses of the savanna. Duo stared at it for a long time, and left it propped against the bedside lamp base. He could almost see Heero crouching in the tiny clearing, khakis blending smoothly with his surroundings. Its back held the same four words, and a postmark from a different African nation.
Others had come, sometimes three, sometimes four weeks apart. All contained pictures of local color, all contained an African postmark and four words. It had been over a month from the last.
Twice he sorted through the bills, a post circular, and an advertisement card to repair siding. The envelops crumpled in his fist and he slammed the mailbox shut.
"Duo?" His neighbor called. He met the old woman halfway, still clutching his mail. "I believe I got this by mistake." She was smiling, handing him a flash of color. "It's come all the way from Africa."
His fingers dug into the balustrade, slivers of wood and paint flaked up under his nails. He'd known the visit for a mistake, but had given in to the pleas. Watching the couple walk across the lawn, pause beneath a tree and exchange a kiss before settling under its shade, Duo was unable to look away. Trowa's insistence to return home with him had been tenacious, Quatre's calls that followed, even more so.
Two weeks, he'd been told. Within two days, he wanted his home, he wanted his life and he wanted to be away from these displays. Below, a head lay on the lap of one leaning up against a tree, legs stretched out on the cultivated lawn. A hand reached up and brushed at the blond strands partly covering a face.
Duo pulled his attention from the scene and turned his back to the rail. Bitter as bile, he swallowed. Time and distance hadn't done its job and drinking was not an option. On the other side of the world from what he'd come to know as familiar, even amongst friends, his thoughts remained in Monterey of six months ago.
He glanced over his shoulder; the couple was still in repose. They had shared times as such. At least he wanted to believe they had. They'd had more than the fights, more than the making up, more than half-formed plans for the future.
His fingers closed tightly over stiffened paper. Containing the same four words, it'd been waiting for his arrival.
Desk, cabinets, kitchen stash-alls, even the bedroom, his search hit a near frantic pace. The exoneration paperwork had to be somewhere; that detail Heero had always been meticulous. In a trunk in the closet, a shoe-box was found. For a moment, he wondered if he dared to look.
It contained nonsense stuff - string and sealing wax - a motel receipt, a souvenir picture from Seattle, a seashell, a hospital band, words on a scrap piece of paper and a marred photograph. It was the scuffed baseball that forced sound from his throat. From his kneeling position, he threw the ball, an incoherent yell ripping the quiet. Knocking against the far wall, a picture fell, landing on a precariously balanced statue that tumbled to the floor hitting a standing lamp. The window had to have had a flaw in it.
Jerking himself upright, Duo flung the box away from him and booted the trunk over. With another yell, and a string of curses, he dumped the bed on its side. The nightstand rocked and the lamp slid off crashing to the floor. Turning away from the destruction he'd wrecked, Duo pounded the wall.
"Why? Fucking why?" he shouted. He collapsed against it, forehead resting on his arm, breathing hard. He slid down to the floor. The baseball had rolled close and he picked it up. His hand closed around it and he squeezed his eyes shut. In a whisper louder than the screams from before, he asked, "Why, Heero?"