Behind the Dark Curtain
The funeral is today, Saturday. Itís a grand event for sure. Even Iím surprised at the number of people who showed for it, but then again, he was one of the Preventerís elite. All of the agents and officers, those that could leave their field assignments included, are present, as well as Relena and a host of Presidents and royalty from all over the world. Itís inspiring to see that many people here to pay their respects to a guy who just a few years before considered himself worthless and used up. Here the whole world is mourning his loss. If only Heero could see this.
Iím sitting in the front row of seats at the large auditorium that the funeral is being held at, since it was expected that there would be a lot of people showing up to pay their respects. The place is a sea of black and white. The area is respectfully decorated with bouquets of flowers and white ribbons, and there is a draping bouquet of white lilies set atop Heeroís casket. Wufei is seated on my left, Sally next to him, and sheís wiping tears out of the corner of her eyes with a handkerchief. Wufei is comforting his wife, but he occasionally looks over to see how Iím hanging in. He hasnít said much all day. Then again, neither have I.
Une is next to Sally, and she looks like a stone. I never realized until today just how alike she and Heero could be in the way they expressed their emotions. Though Heero had done a lot of opening up and growing during the last five years of his life, he would still clam up and go cold when he was overly stressed, and that is exactly what Une is doing here today. I think this funeral hits close to home for her. I think she still misses Treize greatly, although none of us ever really had any kind of confirmation that they had anything going. I just know that she loved the man. She still mentions him every now and the, and you can see it in her eyes when she talks about him.
Next to Une is Relena, and she looks terrible. Understandable, since I think out of everybody else, only she could really fathom the love that Heero and I had for each other. I know how much she loved him as well, even though she did manage to remove from herself from any thoughts of being anything other than his friend. She still loved him very deeply, and is in a lot of pain right now, just as I am.
On my right Quatre is seated, and Trowa next to him. They flew in as soon as they heard the news, and have been staying at the condo with me. Quatre was too concerned to leave me by myself at first, so I gave them my queen-sized bed while I have been using the spare single bed in the other bedroom. I had to insist though, because Quatre kept saying something about not wanting to disrupt my life, so theyíd get an air mattress and sleep on the living room floor or something. Then I reminded them that the disruption in my life had very little to do with the sleeping arrangements. At that point, and rather than argue with me I think, Trowa just agreed for the two of them that they would take my bed, and that was that.
I havenít been paying much attention to what the director is saying, up at the podium beside the casket. Heís making the usual speech about life and death and about this being a happy occasion rather than a sad one. Then Quatre is prodding me. Itís my turn. I have to go up there first, the best friend and husband, the significant other, and say something. I have no idea what Iíll say. I probably should have thought of this sooner, but I couldnít bear to. It really bothers me to speak about Heero in the past tense, as if heís not here anymore. But heís not here anymore. I know heís gone... I just have a problem hearing myself admit it.
Reaching the podium, I adjust the microphone, then just stand there, looking out to the crowd gathered to share in this most unfortunate of occasions. Theyíre all watching me, waiting for me to tell them what a great person Heero was, and how the world will be a sadder place without him. But none of them have a clue, really. None of them know just how special he was, in all his innocence and shyness. None of them have a clue just what Heero Yuy was willing to do for the people he cared about, or the risk he was constantly willing to subject himself to, just to make sure something was completed the right way, or people were kept safe. None of them know how loved and important he made you feel every time he told you that he loved you more than anything, or that he couldnít live without you, or that he was so lost until you helped him find his way through his past to find himself. Nobody. They didnít know, wouldnít know, just what it was like to feel his unassuming touch, or his sensual caress, or his consuming kiss. As all these thoughts flood through my head, my eyes well up while Iím standing at the podium, and I still havenít said anything. All Iíve done is taken a few deep breaths and looked out blankly into the mass of faces that are looking back.
"I...," I begin, but no words form in my mind or on my lips. I canít do this. My heart begins pounding in my chest. "T-thank you all for coming today. H-heero would have appreciated it. Iím sorry. I guess I should be more prepared to say something here butÖ" Itís all I can muster, and I leave the podium, my head drooping and my eyes leaking fresh tears as I go. My face is reddened and contorted as I rush back to the safety of my seat. When I get there, Quatre puts an arm over my shoulder and hugs me close. I weep into my hands and into his suit collar as he looks over my shoulder to Wufei, his face writ with despair. People around us are whispering, probably because itís pretty damn disturbing to see a grown man cry like a baby, but I donít care that they see me like this. I want the world to see me like thisÖ to feel this all-consuming pain that Iím feeling. I shouldnít have to feel this all alone, but I know thatís just the way it goes.
Itís then that I notice a change in the air, and I stop my sobbing abruptly. Wiping my face with my hands, I sit up straight and look around myself, feeling something odd over me, but not knowing what it is. Itís probably just my mind playing tricks on me. Itís Heero. Maybe heís here with me? Do I believe that he could be here with me? Heero? Is it you?
"Duo?" Quatre asks, wondering what has attracted my attention so suddenly, but I push a hand out toward him to silence him while I try to experience whatever the feeling is thatís flowing around and through me. Itís warm, the feeling, and itís flooding me with emotion as I search the room, and then myself. Heero. Youíre here. I know itís you. Itís him. It has to be. I can feel him... I can feel him. The way he always feels. Itís the same as that feeling I always get when I know heís in the room with me even though I havenít heard him enter, or when heís about to walk in the front door after working late. Oh God, itís you, Heero! They say that at one time every human being possessed the ability to communicate with each other on a more spiritual level, but that weíve lost that ability as weíve evolved, or deteriorated, as the case may be. If that is the truth, then couldnít I be feeling him now? If I were especially "in tune" today? Couldnít I?
Quatre knows this. He knows it well, after all, he has a very developed sense of telepathy, and a very unique empathic ability. Leaning over, I ask him "Heís here, Quatre. Heeroís here with us. Do you feel him too?" Quatre shakes his head Ďno,í but I insist. He IS here! I can feel him, damnit! He wouldnít leave me altogether! We had a promise to each other.
"Duo," Quatre says, looking at me sympathetically. "I know you want to believe that heís here, but..."
Of all things, to be told that Heero could not be among us, even in his spiritual form, and by an empath, no less? "No, Iím sure of it, Quatre. I can feel it." Quatre nods politely but says nothing more. He leans over to whisper in Trowaís ear, and then I notice Trowa leaning forward just enough to peek at me, his eyes craning over the top of Quatreís head. Then he goes back to his position looking straight forward, listening to the other speakers that are still moving up to the podium one by one to say something nice about Heero. Iím probably supposed to be listening to it all, but the words donít sink in. They think Iím nuts.
"Iím not crazy, Quatre."
"I never said that, Duo." He looks at me with that "poor Duo" look again.
"No, but youíre looking at me like I am, and Iím telling you I can feel him here."
"I donít think youíre crazy, Duo, but I think maybe youíre under a lot of stress right now, thatís all."
They think Iím losing it. Maybe I am losing it?
Iím brought abruptly away from my conversation then by the eerie sensation of something brushing against my cheek, and I gasp out loud, startling all the people around me. Oh God. Heero? Turning to Quatre, my face white and my eyes wide, I must look as though Iíve seen a ghost, because I think I have certainly just felt one. Emotion races through me from the sensation; itís that same feel that Iíve felt before, and I know it has to be him. It has to be. I know that touch. I donít realize it immediately, but tears are once more streaming down my face, and Iím starting to become a little unglued.
"Heís here, Quatre! Iím telling you, he is!" I try to keep it to a whisper, but the excitement in my voice makes me loud enough that people are starting to look over at me. Quatre responds by trying to comfort and quiet me, but the more he does, the more excitable I become, until before long Iíve become somewhat hysterical in the front row at Heeroís wake. I feel the sensation on my skin again, this time on my hand, as if heís trying to prove to me that he really is there with us, and startled, I yell out loudly. The next think I know, Quatre, Wufei and Trowa are escorting me out of the auditorium to get some air outside, me trying all the while to convince them that Heeroís spirit was there in the auditorium with us. I wasnít ready to leave, to leave him in there while I was outside, so I fought, making a huge scene that got more than just a few people wiping their eyes with their handkerchiefs, but they outnumbered me and practically dragged me out of the room and outside to cool off.
Saturday, August 22, AC 203.
Heeroís funeral was today. It was magnificent, as it should have been for him. Iím at home now, finally able to relax after the stress of the day. Quatre and Trowa are still here. Theyíre going to stay for a few days. Quatre is worried about me. Said heís "vibing" something really dark in me, and he wants to just be sure that Iím doing alright before they go back. Heh. Canít fool him, I guess.
Yesterday it all started to hit me; the emptiness that I feel now, and the reality of what has happened. Iíve been going around in a bit of a daze, very unusual for me (except when Iím depressed as both I and Heero know), and I seem to be losing track of things like time, meals and car keys more. Yep, I threw the car keys out with the morning paper, the one that I read last night and had no idea of what it said other than Heeroís obituary that was listed in it. If it hadnít been for Trowa, who saw me do it, Iíd be down at the dealership this week paying to have the locks changed on the TT. Heeroís baby. God forbid I screw up that car. I have to live up to his standards when I take care of it now. I donít know if Iíll be able to drive it, really, but I certainly wont sell it. No reason too. I can just look at it in the garage every once in a while and remember the fun times we had with it. Or maybe I can drive it. Weíll see.
Something very odd happened today during the memorial service, and it has me a little bitÖI donít know what. It was scary and encouraging, all at the same time, so I donít know what to think, but I would swear that Heeroís spirit attended the service. I know that sounds ridiculous, but I have no other explanation for what happened. Well, no other explanation other than just plain old stress, but I really donít think thatís what it was. Yes, easy for me to say Ė Iím only a couple of days away from a nervous breakdown, butÖit wasnít the stress. I know it. It felt too real to be just stress. It felt like he was reaching out to me, touching me. Oh God, Iím tearing up now just writing this, remembering. It was at the burial too, that sensation of being watched over, but it wasnít as close. It didnít come right up and touch me, but I knew it was there all the same.
Lots of people believe in the supernatural, right? They believe that the spirit goes on, and exists in another form. I never really gave it much thought myself, but I suppose I believe in that too. I believe in God. I believe there is a place that we all go to when we die. Not us in the physical sense, of course, but in the spiritual sense. A place where everything is right, and the sick are healthy, and the old are young again. If that place really does exist, then why couldnít he have been at the service? Who says he wasnít? How can people say that its impossible when nobody knows for sure?
The strange thing about it though, is that while it felt like him Ė like "his" touch Ė it didnít feel loving. It feltÖ I dunno, it felt "dead," for lack of a better term. Yes, OK, I realize that Heero IS dead, but it wasnít a feeling that I expected to feel if that was a spirit. Maybe Quatre is right, and its nothing more than the stress. My mind playing tricks on me. If it is, I wish I could tell my mind to knock it off, and that its in poor taste. After all, Heero just died. No time to be playing jokes on anybody.
I need to go. Time to get a shower and try to get the red streaks off my face. Grown men look pretty silly crying like schoolgirls, no matter what the excuse. Itís not like I can walk around with a sign up saying "spouse, lifemate, soulmate and best friend in the world was just killed by a drunken shuttle pilot" now, is it? Would be pretty interesting though, to see whatís on some peopleís minds when they are looking their worst. Scary.
Q & T are taking me out for something to eat. Heís already mentioned a few times that I havenít been eating much the past couple of days, and he wants to make sure I get something substantial in me. Telling him that I have no desire to do anything, let alone eat, just doesnít work.
Iím not sure that doing what I did at the funeral was the right thing. I was trying to let him know that I was there, that I hadnít abandoned him, but as I watched in horror, it seems all I did was make him more upset. God, Duo, Iím so sorry. For everything. For today, and for dying on you. All I want, more than anything, is to go back to when you rolled over in bed, asking me to call out for the day. I should have listened to you telling me that I work too hard. That I need to learn to relax and have more fun. I should have listened. They, Quatre, Trowa and Wufei, wound up taking him out of the ceremony because Iíd touched him, and he felt it.
I forced myself to stay away during the burial, just far enough to not interfere with what was going on. He knew I was there anyway, but he held his composure. I think he knew that the others would have removed him from there as well if heíd started up again. I could feel the fight in him to hold himself together as the first clods of dirt were thrown on top of my casket. Watching from the other side of the procession, I cringed just to see his pained face when he ceremoniously tossed the first handful of dirt, his eyes distant and his heart breaking. He threw the handful of soil accompanied by Quatre and Trowa, one on either side of him, throwing handfuls after his, and then the three of them turned and walked away from the scene.
"I did tell you." Itís Treize who has appeared before me again.
"Yes, I know you did." He had told me that interacting with the living was not the best thing to do, because it created confusion, but I couldnít keep myself from doing it. Although I believe Treize completely in what he says has occurred, I still canít make myself believe that IímÖ I sigh dejectedly. But he felt my presence, didnít he? So, maybe thereís a way? If only there were a way to just let him know that despite everything, Iím still there with him. I could go happily knowing that Ė that I could return to spend time, and heíd know it was really me with him. I just had to get him to realize that I was still here, if only in a different plain.
I watch for a while as the funeral procession begins to break up, and make my way over to where Duo is standing, looking out into nothing, and my heart gets heavy. The red streaks are nearly ingrained in his fair skin from all the crying heís been doing, and his beautiful violet eyes look red today, reflecting how bloodshot they are. Quatre coaxes him into the back seat of the car, making sure heís in securely before shutting the door like a valet would do, and then gets in himself, into the front seat. I see Duo sitting motionlessly, thoughtlessly, through the passenger side back window for a moment before Trowa drives the car away from the memorial grounds. Then turning back to Treize, I frown.
"Death is never easy, Heero. For either side." He tries to comfort me with his words, but nothing can make me feel better just now.
"Why did you come to show me all of this?" I ask him. "Why you?"
He chuckles. "I was wondering that myself."
"What do you mean?"
"Heero, Iím here because you brought me here."
"Alright, let me explain a little, since youíre new here," Treize begins to speak and the next thing I know, weíre seated in deep, cushiony easy chairs as he relaxes before telling me all he has to say. The cemetery has disappeared and we are back in the white nothing from before, other than the two plush chairs.
Startled, I look around us. "How did you do that?"
"I thought it."
My puzzled look must have been amusing to him, because he laughed some more. "Here, where we are, presence is all in the mind. This is your presence, Heero. What is in your mind right now. You brought me here because... well, I donít really know, but I am the one that your subconscious summonsed to be your guide."
"Every newly departed requires a guide. Someone to show them about beingÖhere. Someone to convince them that it really is alright on this side, and warn of the potential problems of making too much contact with the other side. A person selects their guide in their subconscious, as they are awakening again. They usually chose someone whom they have admired, or at least have had some respect for. A mentor, if you will."
I had always held a deep respect for Treize, even though we had been on opposite sides of the war before his death. Really, he was a good and fair man, and in the end, I was beginning to think that he would turn sides, what with the way Romefellar was acting, but it was not meant to be. I suppose that accounted for his sudden appearance in my afterlife now, since honestly, out of everyone that I knew that was dead, he is likely the one that I continue to have the most respect for.
"And where, exactly, is here, " I ask him, still amazed at the chairs in spite of the fact that everything else was still stark and white.
Canít be. "Heaven," I ask him, just to double check. People like me donít go to heaven. For that matter, people like Treize donít go to heaven.
"This is really Heaven, Heero. I know what youíre thinking, that people like us, soldiers and killers donít go to heaven, but I assure you, in each of us, there is a reason for our being here. Very few people actually donít come here. You have to be terribly, awfully...bad, to not come here. Or take your own life. Neither of which represent you, though you may differ in that opinion."
I sit and digest everything Treize is telling me, but still donít completely understand it all. "Why is everything so... white? And where did these chairs come from?"
"I wanted to sit down to talk to you, so I thought up these chairs," Treize says in a chuckle. "And the reason why there is nothing else here is because this is your afterlife. You have to decorate it yourself."
"Well, not really "decorate," as opposed to "fill it in." This place can look like anything you want it to. Whatever is in your mind or your heart, it can be here. The reason behind that is to provide a level of comfort and familiarity while we are here, waiting to meet up with our loved ones once more. SoÖwhat would you like your heaven to look like, Heero?"
"IÖ" I think for a moment.
"Whatís in your heart? Where is a place that you consider to be like no otherÖwhere youíd want to spend the rest of yourÖafterlife?" Treize crosses his one leg up over his other knee and folds his hands together, waiting for me to decide.
"We once went on vacation. A weekend trip that Duo planned for us."
"Tell me about it, please?"
"It was May first. May Day. He surprised me by taking me someplace deep in the woods, deep into protected lands, to a clearing of beautiful trees. We celebrated the medieval holiday of Beltane that weekend, decorating the trees with streamers and ribbons andÖ" I blush, remembering the details of what else we did under the trees that weekend, and even though I cut myself off, I suspect Treize has caught on by the bright look of amusement on his face.
"So you really enjoyed this place, this clearing of trees deep in the wood?"
"I was never so relaxed and comfortable as I was that weekend. I felt like I belonged thereÖ like it was my reward for everything Iíd been through, for Duo and I to remain within the calm beauty of the grove, with all its decorated trees. We didnít want to leave to get back to real life."
"Picture it. Every detail, every color, every scent. Bring it to life in your mind, Heero. Close your eyes and recount it all for me. Put yourself in that place again."
Doing what he tells me, I rest my head back against the softness of the chair, close my eyes, and remember that weekend, specifically the entrancing beauty of nature that had affected me so back then. Each leaf, glistening in the low sunlight, each colorful ribbon, twisting and twirling in the soft breeze. There was a faint scent of floral that wafted through the boughs from the dogwoods, and a light fluttering of tiny white petals that landed everywhere, covering the ground with natural confetti. As I start to allow my body to be consumed in the memory of that ethereal place, that serene presence, I hear Treize speaking softly.
"Open your eyes, Heero."
I do. What I see shocks me.
"Surprised?," he asks. I am. Very.
Everything in my mind, all the memories of the wood and the trees and the atmosphere Ė itís all right here, right now. The colors, the sounds, the smells. They are all here. As we sit in the chairs, everything from my mental vision is nowÖwhere we are. Though this had once become the place of my dreams of a quiet future together with Duo, itís here, now, as my reality.
"Do you like it?" Trieze asks, with a slight smile on his thin lips. "Actually, Heero, its rather nice, if I do say so myself."
I donít answer, instead standing to walk amidst the reality of my mindís vision, testing it out to see if it was truly real. Iím still having trouble believing everything, I suppose. Then walking away from the two easy chairs and out between the trees I touch them, one by one, feeling their solidity and their hard, scratchy trunks. I grab a streamer off the bough of a young maple tree, a draping yellow ribbon that I still recall tossing up there in the first place when Duo and I decorated the trees, and run it through my hands. It feels exactly as I remember it feeling. Turning back, I look again at Treize, my expression filled with wonder