Behind the Dark Curtain
It was four oíclock on Wednesday when I heard; the phone rang while I was in the kitchen. I had taken the afternoon off from work "just because," and decided to whip up something special for dinner for the two of us. Though Iím not the culinary master of the pair of us, there are a few dishes that I can prepare well, and whenever the spirit kicks me in the ass to do it, I do. I was dicing Roma tomatoes on the cutting board to add to the sauce for Greek Pasta with Shrimp when the phone rang, and somehow I knew before picking it up that it wasnít going to be good news.
Wiping my hands on the sides of my jeans, I warily make my way around the counter to where the video phone is on the wall. The caller ID is a Preventers number. I notice myself sucking in a deep breath before pressing the button to switch on the screen. Itís Sally. She looks awful, like sheís been crying. My stomach sinks immediately, and my heart starts to race.
I donít say anything at first, and neither does she. "Sal?" She breaks down into tears. Oh hell, this is bad, whatever it is. "Sal, youíre making me nervous, Sal. You wanna tell me whatís going on?" My eyes are glued to hers, which are now streaming fresh tears.
"There was an accident, Duo. Heero..." Heero.
Thereís a lump forming in my throat and itís trying to choke me as I struggle to keep my composure, but I canít keep my face from contorting. "W-hat happened, Sal?" Oh God.
She wipes the tears away from her eyes and collects herself enough to explain to me what happened. She knows how hard this will be for me, I have to give her that. "He was investigating a customs shipment at Brussels Interspace," Thatís the shuttleport, the largest on the earth, and the closest to the colonies; just about every shipment to and from the colonies lays over there at some point, either coming or going. "It was a stupid, stupid accident..."
I grab onto the kitchen counter behind me, because if I donít, Iím going to fainted right here on the kitchen floor; my vision is starting to dim and my hearing is beginning to sound like Iím in a tunnel. Thatís what it feels like to me when I pass out Ė falling down into a dark tunnel, into nothingness Ė and Iím halfway down that tunnel before she even finishes telling me what happened.
"He was inspecting the cargo, out on the tarmac, and one of the arriving flights lost control and crashed right into parked shuttle. Right into it, Duo." Sally looked away.
Oh God, Heero.
"Heís... heís at Brussels General. Go, Duo. Go now. They donít know how long..." she stops mid sentence.
For a few long seconds all I can do is stare at her, unbelieving. I grip the countertop behind me harder, consciously feeling what I know is reality, but my mind isnít ready to comprehend the gravity of what Iíve just been told. Itís was the stove timer going off, the one that Iíd set for the pasta thatís boiling away in the stock pot, that eventually brings me to. The pasta is done. I snap back into the present, turning to look at the pot on the stove, then back to Sally. My expression never changes from its blank stare. What is that funny smell? Youíre going to pass out, Duo, thatís what.
"Oohkay," I say finally to Sally, and as she looks at me sheís probably wondering if Iím going to collapse as soon as I disconnected the call.
"Do you need someone to drive you? I could ask Wufei to pick you up."
"N-no, no, Iíll... Iíll be alright. Iíll..." I hang up, stunned. Thereís no other word to describe my condition.
I must really look whacked out when I hung up, because when I get to the hospital half an hour later, Wufei is there, waiting for me outside. I donít even remember turning off the stove and locking up the condo, but apparently I did, because the place didnít erupt into flames while I was gone. Not that it would have mattered at that point anyway. Driving to the hospital was a blur, and I may have run red lights or sped at a hundred miles an hour, but I have no recollection of anything from the time of Sallyís call to the time I pull up in front of the hospital valet parking stand. The only thing that Iím aware of is the sucking, suffocating hurt that took up residence in my soul after I heard Sallyís words. Everything else just seems to fade into oblivion.
"Duo," I hear Wufei call to me in a low voice as he walks forward.
"Where is he?" My eyes wonít connect with Wuís. If they did, I donít think I could control the torrents that are threatening to flood out.
Wufei leads me through hospital corridors and halls. We take the elevator to some floor, I donít know which, and then we pass through more hallways. At the main desk to whatever-the-hell department we end up in, he flashes his Preventerís badge, and the attending nurse sits back down and lets us go through. We walk further down the hallway to one of the rooms and Wufei stops.
"Iíll wait out here," he whispers, signaling for me to go inside. The door is open, but the room is dim, except for some medical equipment I can see, the LED displays lit up to show numbers and glowing red dots. My gut twists with the anticipation of what Iím going to find on the other side of the door. I look up at Wufei, our eyes connecting for the first time since Iíd met up with him, and he nods in the direction of the door, then walks away. He goes to sit on a chair in the hallway, a little ways away from Heeroís room. I donít want to see whatís in there. I just want it to go away. I want to go back to this morning, so I can convince Heero to play hooky with me and take the day off. I step into the hospital room like Iím stepping into another world.
Moving slowly to the side of the bed, I just stare for a few moments before I slide a chair over close so I can sit. My heart is in my throat now as I look at Heero lying there. Thatís not Heero. The man Iíve happily shared the past four years of my life with. Thatís NOT Heero! The man who committed himself to our relationship, as did I, when we married two years ago. No! Please... The man who has already been through so much, and needs me as much as I need him. Oh God. Heero. No. Iím so unprepared for this, I have no reaction at first, until everything starts to settle in with me. Thereís been an accident, and Heero is hurt. Badly hurt.
"Heero?" My voice is barely audible by the naked ear. Burning tears began to roll down my face, and my nose gets runny. I snuff loudly. Heero doesnít answer.
Large portions of his body are wrapped carefully in loose, damp gauze dressings, assumably to protect his burned skin, which covers a lot of his arms and legs and face. Wherever there arenít burns, there are bruises, deep purple and black ones; I canít see any skin thatís Heeroís normal color anywhere. There are thick, piled gauze bandages taped onto other parts Ė one on his chest, another on the side of his head covering his one ear Ė that I can only guess are protecting deep flesh wounds, and there are lines of black nylon suture all over his face and upper body, wherever there isnít already a bandage or dressing. Cracked, swollen lips hold lines of dark dried blood and bruised eyelids remain closed over the beautiful blue irises that I know are under there somewhere. As the extent of Heeroís injuries begin to register with me, I have to look away. I feel as though Iím going to be sick now.
There are tubes and wires running to and from every opening and orifice and pulse point of Heeroís body, and I turn to look at the barrage of machinery thatís controlling his vital functions. Oxygen, respirator, intravenous drip, every kind of catheter imaginable, slow blood transfusion. Itís all here. Itís not going to do a damn thing though. Sally had started to say it, that they didnít expect him to live long. The heroics were probably performed all in an effort to keep him alive long enough for me to see him still alive, but I donít know what would be worse now? Seeing him like this, or having to ID the body. Both. Neither. I sigh and turn back to Heero, and the tears well up again.
"Oh God, Heero," I tell him, and my hand finds its way to his, where I softly take it in mine. Itís warm and soft, the way it has always been, but itís empty. It doesnít move. Dropping my head down to the mattress as I lean forward toward the edge of the bed, I stay like that for a while, holding his hand, crying as my insides are slowly torn out. The crisp hospital whites of his bed soak up my tears as they fall.
I donít ask why anymore. There isnít an answer. "Just because," I tell myself, and that will have to suffice, because there is no other answer. After everything weíve been through, both before we met and after, after everything I went through to get him out of his shell. After all the happy times we shared, thinking that weíd finally found nirvana in each other, able to finally put our pasts behind us. Iím tired of asking why and then having to search for the answer. There isnít one. I figured that out a long time ago. Some people are just going to experience more pain in their lives than others, and thatís the only answer I can come up with. For Heero, most of that pain has been physical, though heís had his share of mental trauma too. Life has been the exact opposite for me. Thatís all there is to it, or at least all I can make of it.
For nearly four hours I stay by Heeroís bed, mostly unmoving, contemplating the whys and wonders of life. Every now and then one of the nurses comes in to check on the machines attached to him, or pump some drug into the IV line, but for the most part theyíve left me alone with him. I know visiting hours have probably long since ended, but Iím not leaving. I donít know when I think Iíll go home, but it certainly isnít going to be tonight. Wufei has gone. He peeked in the room once to see if I wanted anything to eat, which I politely denied, and mentioned going to check on Sally. He told me I should come out for a while and at least take a walk to the cafeteria. I said I would, but Iím not going anywhere. I canít pull myself away. Deep inside myself I know that Heero isnít going to make it, and I donít want to lose one second with him while I still have him. If they try to make me leave, Iíll fight, but I donít think theyíre going to make me leave. They know. Thatís how I know. They know heís going to die, as well as I do.
Oh Heero. My Heero. Youíve made me so happy over the past few years. I hope you realize thatÖ how happy youíve made me. I hope youíve been just as happy as well, and the past four years have been worth it to you. All this thought makes me even more distraught, and once more I begin to sob.
"I love you, Heero," I whisper, and Iím answered only by the swish and hiss of the respirator behind me. If only I could see your blue eyes again. The most beautiful blue eyes that ever existed. "More than life itself."
Thursday, August 20, AC 203
Yesterday afternoon, my greatest fears came true. The one person that I live my life for, the one person that makes this existence worthwhile for me these days, was taken from me. It was an accident. Heero was simply in the wrong place at the right time, and was fatally injured. He died a few hours later in the hospital, with me by his side. I never got to say goodbye. I never got to tell him how much he means to me, although I know he already knew this. But even when people know it, itís nice to be able to tell them. Especially if they are going to die.
My mind is swimming and there is so much pain swirling around in me right now, but Iím finding it difficult to write it all down here. Strange, me being at a loss for words like this, but I think it might just be too exhausting for me to experience it all, and then write it down as well. Really, I suppose I donít even need to, because every time I visit this page in the future, all the hurt and pain will probably come running back by itself, and thatís all there is to this. Hurt and pain. I donít need to write it down to be able to express it here. The memory, I know, will be everlasting.
Everyone is being really nice to me and going out of their way to help me. I really appreciate that, especially since right about now Iím not sure if Iím even capable of dressing myself right, but in spite of all the caring, I wish theyíd all leave me alone for a while, so I can just sit and think about all of this. OK, so I can sit and get depressed over it. No, better yet Ė so I can sit and BE depressed over it, since I already AM depressed, but Iím trying to hold it back. Heero is the only one who has ever seen the true depressive me Ė I donít think the others could handle it. They wouldnít know what they were looking at, truthfully. Either that, or theyíd want to institutionalize me. I know there have been a couple of occasions where that could have been a viable option, and Iím betting this one is going to rank pretty high as well. After all, itís not every day that your husband, lover, and most trusted person in the world is killed, leaving you by yourself. Yes, I say this deserves a good week or two of absolute hysteria and insanity, but Iím getting ahead of myself, since it hasnít all sunk in yet. Give me the weekend. Iíll be ready then.
Why do I say that? Simple. Because Iím putting on a show for these people, and I want to just have the time to fall to pieces and miss Heero. I know. Iíll have plenty of time for that once the formalities are over with and life goes back to normal. Heh. Normal. Not that my life ever was normal, but this will guarantee that it never is again for me. "Their" lives will go back to normal. Mine just stepped into the Twilight Zone.
Ah well, itís time for bed, or so the clock telling me that itís after 2 am says. Iím not tired, but I guess I should try to get some sleep. The funeral is Saturday and thereís a lot to plan for in the meantime, even if Quatre is here to help. Iím going to owe him a big one after this. Heís a great guy to be best friends with. I need to make sure I tell him that.
The first thing I notice when I wake up is seeing white light everywhere, and feeling like Iím traveling. No, not quite traveling, but rather landing somewhere, being grounded, as my feeling of weightlessness is replaced by myself settling back into my body. I open my eyes to find...nothing. Nothing but white. Startled, I look around, turning 360 degrees, and I feel a twinge in my stomach. Whatís going on? Where is...everything? Where am I? I canít remember anything before this... this... nothing. I start to worry.
"Are you confused, Heero?"
Whipping around, I turn toward the voice. I know that voice. The surprise is all mine when I find the speaker standing there with me, in all the nothing.
Trieze smiles. "Hello, Heero." Heís dressed the same as I remember seeing him last, in his Romafeller uniform.
"Confused?" He asked. Then Trieze starts to walk closer, until he is standing right next to me. I reach a shaky hand out to touch him but then stop. "Go ahead. Itís alright, Heero. Touch me if you need to."
I touch him. Heís real. At least he feels real. I look up, more confused now than before. Trieze is dead.
"Do you remember what happened, Heero?"
Treize puts his hand up to his chin, covering his mouth momentarily while he thinks.
"You of course remember that Iím..."
"Youíre dead," I answer, finishing his statement.
"Ah, yes, indeed. Iím deceased. Casualty of war, I guess youíd call me then, wouldnít you?"
"We all knew the risks," I say, eyeing him.
"So we did, Heero. Yes, we knew the risks." He smiles at me again, and I become uncomfortable. "So... Iím deceased, and youíre here with me, but yet you donít remember what happened?" I canít tell if this is an honest question or a test.
"Am I... dead too?"
Treizeís face becomes sympathetic. "Iím afraid so, friend."
"Look for yourself," he tells me, and before I can figure out whatís going on, Iím back home, only Iím not. Weíre observing home, where I belong, only...weíre not part of it. Itís like life is going on without me. Without us. Everything is happening around us, unaware that weíre even there.
"Look there." Treize points, and as if by magic we zoom quickly to see a scene happening at the shuttleport. As we walk amidst emergency workers and shuttleport personnel, I remember that this is the shuttle I was inspecting. Itís in a ball of blazing fire in the process of being put out, and thereís another cargo shuttle on top of it, also burning. Black smoke fills the air from the inferno as the two crafts are disintegrating as we watch. We walk through people and flames and burning debris, but none of it affects us.
"I donít..." Then I see. My stomach dives as I see. "Oh God."
"Iím sorry, Heero.
I donít answer for a while, and just watch, mesmerized and sickened at the same time. I can even smell the jet fuel and plastic fumes, but yet none of this can touch me. I watch in awe as I see my own body being lifted out of the wreckage to be loaded into a waiting emergency vehicle, along with some others. When the ambulance leaves I turn to Treize again.
"You didnít die right there. You did survive for a few hours before coming here."
"Does Duo know?"
"Would you like to see?"
My emotion boiled up inside me as I thought about Duo finding out about me and I had to force myself not to fall apart. Oh, Duo! Iím so sorry for leaving you. We promised...we promised each other that weíd never leave one another, and now this! I didnít want to see it, really, because of the pain I was already experiencing, but I needed to see him.
Colors and lights went rushing past in a blur, and the next thing I realize, we are in the hospital, inside a darkened room. Iím lying in the bed, and the look of myself causes me to gasp.
"You were gravely injured, Heero," Treize says, noting my surprise.
Sitting leaned over beside the bed, his head resting on the mattress beside my hand, is Duo. Even in this light his body glows, but itís a dark aura that surrounds him this time, and I can feel the sorrow that is sunk deep into him by now. Heís holding my hand, gently caressing it, and staring off to the far wall. His normally vibrant, oddly-colored eyes are dull and lifeless now, as is his body, and he just sits there, numb. Streaked with red marks and old tears, his face is emotionless, though I know the torment heís feeling inside. I can feel it myself. Tears well in the corners of my eyes.
In my haste and inability to understand exactly the state of myself, I rush over to him. "Duo! Duo, itís me! Iím here!" I call out, reaching out to touch him, but my hand passes right through his form. He responds only by lifting his head and turning momentarily to the me that is in the bed, and then laying it down again to resume his near-comatose vigil.
"He canít see you, Heero," Treize says as I walk back to him. I should have assumed that, but I was completely overtaken by my emotion in seeing Duo so upset. "This is the past. This has already happened."
"When did I go?"
"About an hour later. He was with you."
Once more speech eludes me as I again try to fathom what I now know to be the truth. Iím dead. Duo is now alone. I can see him but he canít see me, or so he canít now, because this is the past. Then a thought occurs to me. What about the present? Where is the Duo of the present, and how is he handling everything? I need to know.
"What happens now?" I ask Treize, not knowing what happened to people in my state.
The man smiles comfortingly. "Thatís up to you. You can come with me, and begin your afterlife, or you can stay here, but I assure you, staying here will not make anything better, Heero."
I contemplate for a few moments. "I need some time."
"I... I need to see him a little while longer, before I go."
"Take all the time you need, Heero, but I urge you to keep one thing in mind." His eyes are locked hard on mine, in his seriousness. "Interfering with the living will make things worse for those weíve left behind. I realize what a shock all of this always is to the newly departed, but it is the truth. Say your good-byes, Heero, but please leave it at that, for the sake of your loved ones."
"I will," I say in response, then follow the instinct buried deep within myself that will take me to Duo, wherever he is.