A Moment of Perfection
I enrolled in school again for a while, then bounced from job to
job, trying to find an occupation that didn't render me bored,
irritable, angry, exhausted or any combination thereof.
In other words, I did little but wander around for two years, never
settling anywhere for much more than a few months. I sent a lot of
postcards during that time and did my best to reassure the people who
cared about me that I was still breathing. I could've sent email if I
had kept my laptop with me, but it had been part of the problem. I hid
behind that half-inch screen for a quarter of my life.
Sally and Wufei tracked me down at one point and offered me a job
with the Preventers. Maybe they thought my self-imposed exile meant that
I was depressed or had fallen onto hard times. I had been tempted, and
the offer still stands. Maybe one of these days I'll take them up on it.
Initially, Trowa had been the hardest to keep in touch with; the
circus moved around as often as I did. That problem solved itself when I
was working as a demolitionist for a construction company. Rasid had
come to inspect a site where the Winner Corporation was planning to
erect a new building and spotted me coming back from setting charges. We
talked for a while and during the course of the conversation, he told me
that even if current circumstances kept them apart, Quatre and Trowa
managed to arrange their schedules to see each other regularly. From
then on, I started sending a single postcard to Quatre addressed to the
both of them.
Last but not least, there was Duo.
He was in business with Hilde and was the easiest to send postcards
to. His required no personal codes written on the edges to make sure the
card would get through various levels of secretarial screening.
I really didn't have an idea of what he was up to. Unlike the
others, he was never in the news. There were times when I wanted to call
and catch up, but I just wasn't ever quite prepared for it. I hope that
he understood from my letters that although I appreciated how he had
always tried to get me out of my shell, I wanted to break out of it
entirely on my own.
Last winter, I met a girl on a small colony in L3 and it was there
that I stayed in one spot for the longest during this pilgrimage of
mine. In the evenings she taught me how to cook and at night she taught
me how to make love. She had kicked me out of her bed and her apartment
after three months. Standing on the sidewalk with my meagre belongings
scattered around me like mobile suit debris after a battle, I had asked
her why. She said that it wasn't fair to her. I was tearing her
apart; she could tell that it wasn't her that I was in love with.
It took me six months to realize what she'd meant and another four
to get over feeling guilty about using her.
And now? Now I found myself wandering through the exhibits of an art
gallery; admiring the sometimes crude, and sometimes elegantly curving,
welded metal sculptures. I had planned to attend the show's opening, but
the timing hadn't been right.
Of course, if I hadn't received an excuse by way of an invitation to
Relena's twenty-first birthday party and coinciding engagement ball, I
don't know if I would've ever thought the timing was right.
'Sometimes, you gotta stop waiting for the perfect moment and just
make the moment perfect,' Duo told me once.
It was good advice, but it would have been more profound if, at the
time, he hadn't been trying to give me tips on playing a video game.
A week had gone by since I walked through the pristine white of the
art galleryıs halls. The air around me was cool without being cold and
the trees had already begun to shed their crowns. The colony's winter
cycle was fast approaching and I was wearing a brand new windbreaker;
the material of it rustled at my elbows as I walked, but I could barely
hear it over the sound of the wind through the branches above.
"In the back," I'd been told and so to 'the back' I went, crunching
my way through the fallen leaves. I could hear music that was cranked up
too loud for my liking as I neared the door of an old gray warehouse. I
stood there on the cracked asphalt for a few minutes, staring at the
reflection of the clouds as they moved sluggishly across the
windowpanes. I couldn't make out a single word of the song blasting from
the inside of the building and it only got louder and more incoherent as
I pulled open the heavy corrugated steel door.
Completely absorbed in his work, he didn't even notice. He was
crouched down about fifteen meters in front of me, at the base of a huge
piece of cylindrical scrap half covered by a canvas tarp. He had on a
pair of faded light blue overalls, the top unzipped and peeled down,
with the arms tied around his waist. Sweat gleamed on his shoulders and
darkened the thin white undershirt pulled tight across his back. Around
him, sparks were flying everywhere and skittering across the concrete
floor, some of them lasting long enough to reach my feet.
"Duo!" I yelled, but the music drowned me out. I spotted the
solution quickly enough. To my left, his stereo was perched on top of a
pile of old mobile suit parts and junk. I don't bother looking for the
off switch and just unplugged the thing from its extension cord.
"You piece of crap! If I have to fix you one more time," Duo turned
off the feed to his torch and stood slowly, pushing the faceplate of his
welding mask up as he straightened, and wiped his forehead with the back
of his arm. His braid dangled down his spine, only it was shorter than I
remembered it being and ended just at the small of his back.
"It's not broken, I just turned it off," I said. Even though I had
spoken quietly, my words echoed and filled the space that had been so
abruptly vacated by Duo's music.
"Heero?!" Duo spun around and dropped his torch to rush over and
give me a hug.
"Duo!" I gasped out. He was very enthusiastic and his enthusiasm
threatened to prevent me from ever breathing again.
He pulled away almost reluctantly and stepped back; still keeping
his hands on my shoulders as he surveyed me head to foot. I'd grown a
fair amount, but so had he and somewhere along the way, he managed to
gain several inches on me. Maybe it wasn't that his braid was shorter,
maybe it was just that he had gotten so much taller.
"Heero, you look great," he said.
"You don't look so bad yourself," I replied and was rewarded by a
dazzling smile. Had he always smiled like this? In such a way that his
entire face positively glowed?
"So what brings you here?" he asked, finally releasing my shoulders.
He pulled his welding mask the rest of the way off and tossed it
casually onto a nearby table. "Last I heard, you were at L1 again,
working in spaceport security."
"Relena's getting married," I said and he nodded. Of course he knew
that, he would have received an invitation too. There was a hint of
something in his expression that I couldn't quite pinpoint, sympathy
"I didn't want to go back there alone. I need someone to stand
around with so I'm not the only one refusing to dance," I added rather
lamely. I couldn't say what I wanted to say, what I had come here to
Call it a fear of rejection or just plain idiocy, but I couldn't
think of a single way to go about telling my best friend that I thought
I might be in love with him. I wasn't really sure if I could even term
him as my best friend, for all our former closeness, after Mariemaia we
really hadn't talked more than a dozen times and had only seen each
other over vidfeeds. And yet, just being in his presence felt
comfortable and familiar like slipping into my favorite jacket.
"This is perfect," he said and hooked his thumbs into the belt loops
on his overalls. His fingers were dark with grease and dirt. It reminded
me strongly of the way he used to look after a day of tinkering with
this or that on Deathscythe. He even smelled the same. "Perfect?"
"Yeah, Hilde couldn't go and I sure as hell didn't want to face a
crowd of boring aristocrats without backup," he grinned and nodded over
his shoulder at where he'd been working when I first showed up. "Care to
see what I'm mangling?"
"I saw your exhibit," I admitted as he led me over to stand at the
base of a huge twenty-foot sculpture.
"Like it?" he asked. He pulled a rag from his pocket and wiped metal
dust off the small plaque at the bottom of what I recognized as the
maintenance access panel of an old mobile suit's forearm.
"Some of it," I replied. I'd considered saying a simple yes, but Duo
was always truthful to me; it was only fair to return the favor. "This a
new piece? It's huge."
"This one's a little different," he said and pointed to the plaque.
// In memorandum of the pilot.
Death took him before his time.
May his sacrifice and the sacrifice of others
Be remembered with honor in this era of Peace. //
"Relena commissioned this,' Duo said quietly and rested a hand on
the smooth metal. "It's to be a peace memorial."
I reached out my own hand and ran my knuckles along the smoothed
edge of the open panel. I could see that the entire thing had been
"Showed up in the yard one day. Thing was cut in two, right through
the cockpit," his voice trailed off. I understood what he meant, just as
I had understood the inscription on the plaque. He cleared his throat
and smiled over at me, "I disconnected the arm and as you've probably
noticed, removed all the mechanics.
"You can even walk inside it," he said, stepping into the arm. I
followed him inside. I was struck with the compulsion to hunch over,
even though the curving 'ceiling' of the structure was a good half meter
above my head.
"Took me a long time to do, but I managed to smooth the interior,"
Duo raised his arms up and traced the puckering scar of a welded seam. I
follow the line of his arm, distracted for a moment by the muscles that
shifted beneath the amber of his tan. I could pick out tiny white lines
scarring the flesh of his forearm beneath the short bristling hairs and
a trailing line of tattooed ink that peeked out from beneath the rolled
sleeve of his shirt.
He then proceeded to show me how he had lined and polished the vents
and the empty sockets where hydraulic and weapons systems used to be
installed. They acted like little skylights and Duo ended up standing
directly beneath one. As he was illuminated by a hazy column, I wanted
to tell him he looks like the statue of a saint ...beautiful
....radiant... The words almost rolled off my tongue, but I came to my
senses when he moved in deeper, and beckoned for me to look.
"I also opened each fingertip," he explained and squatted down as
the interior of the metal arm narrowed towards the wrist. It was darker
in that section, the vents above were blocked by the tarp on the
outside. "You can't see it really well from here, but the fingers are
spread and point downwards like slides. When this baby is out on
display, kids are gonna have a blast playing in it."
I smiled. I was proud of Duo, so much so that my chest felt tight
and the corners of my eyes burned. I took a deep breath and managed a
I was only partially referring to the sculpture.
Duo insisted that I stay with him and there wasn't anything I could
say to get out of it. Not that I wanted to. We walked the block and a
half to the machine shop he lived above. As he unlocked the door and
gallantly held it open with a mock bow, he explained how he didn't even
have to pay rent for the place since he gave them a discount on choice
parts from his and Hilde's salvage yard.
The place was larger than it had looked on the outside and was
fairly neat except for the occasional castoff bits of clothing that Duo
picked up as he gave me a tour.
"I made most of this stuff," he said, kicking the wrought iron leg
of his coffee table as he tossed his keys on its glass surface.
"Very stylish," I said and Duo chuckled as he led me up a spiraling
set of stairs to a small loft.
"Where the magic happens," he said and spread his arms wide to
proudly display his bed. It was covered in a huge downy white comforter
in stark contrast to the four twisting posters of blackened steel rebar
that rose towards the ceiling like the tentacles of some monstrous
creature. "Made this old thing too. Extra sturdy!
"Wanna test it out?" he asked with a fiendish grin.
Before I could respond, Duo grabbed my waist and spun me around,
effectively throwing us both onto his bed.
We rolled over a few times and Duo ended up on his hands and knees
straddling one of my legs and hovering above me. He was grinning like a
madman and bounced a few times. I couldn't breathe. Hell, I could
barely think, all the blood had rushed from my brain to somewhere far
"What'd I tell ya?" he said, bouncing one more time before standing
up and offering me his hand. I pushed myself up on one elbow and waited
a moment until I was certain I wouldn't faint before putting my hand in
his and letting him haul me to my feet.
"Anyway, bathroom's up here," he swung around one of the posters and
indicated a small door with a nod of his head. "I'd leave a light on,
but you don't need one right?"
"Right," I said. I had already memorized the layout of the place.
The tour ended in his small kitchen area and my stomach reminded me
I hadn't eaten all day.
"I'll make dinner," I offered and Duo gave me a look that said, 'I
still remember the time you tried making mashed potatoes and realized
they were too firm...then put them back, half mashed, into the boiling
water to cook more.'
"Uh. You sure you don't want to eat out?"
"I'm sure," I said and let a smile play at the corners of my mouth.
"Oooookkkaay," he said as he reached behind his back and worked the
elastic off the end of his braid. "Well, I'm going to take a shower.
Promise me you won't burn the place down."
Duo didn't look too convinced, but left me to my own devices. I
began by checking all the cabinets and drawers to learn where everything
was, then pulled open the door to his refrigerator. I was surprised. I
had expected to see bare shelves with the odd jar or ramen package, but
both his fridge and cabinets were well stocked. I wondered if Hilde
bought his groceries.
Vapor escaped from the fridge and curled around my legs as I
mentally ran through a checklist of the things I knew how to cook and
compared that to the inventory of Duo's kitchen.
'Something simple,' I thought and considered the bowl of tomatoes
sitting on the edge of the narrow, stainless steel counter.
By the time I had fresh sauce bubbling on the stove and a bowl of
fettuccini straining in the sink, Duo was approaching the kitchen
"You know, Heero, that almost smells good. What's wrong with this
picture," he said cheekily, squeezing past a pair of chairs I had moved
to give myself more breathing room.
I ignored him and stirred the sauce. He hovered over my shoulder as
I scooped a bit on the spoon and blew on it to cool it. I tasted it
carefully so as to not burn my tongue and found it satisfactory. Turning
off the burner, I twisted around and offered the spoon for him to taste.
Duo leaned in and kept his eyes on mine as he sucked sauce off the
edge of the spoon. My knees went weak and my hand twitched violently,
leaving him with a line of red curving up his cheek. My mouth salivated
with the thought of licking it clean, but he was already laughing and
wiping it away.
"Did you make that?" he asked.
"Yes, and you missed a spot," I said, reaching out and scooping the
glob of sauce off his face with my finger. I held my hand up as I craned
my neck around, looking for the dishtowel I had been using just a moment
Something warm and wet enveloped my finger and I jerked my hand away
reflexively. Duo laughed throatily, licked his lips and apologized with
I asked him to get out a pair of plates as I turned back to the
stove and willed away the warmth spreading on my cheeks and in my groin.
Hours later, as we sat on the floor in front of his TV drinking
cheap beer and trying to fill one another in on what we'd been doing the
past three years, I began to wonder if my finger would ever stop