Behind the Dark Curtain
When I find him, he’s in the living room, in the big TV chair, curled into the tightest ball that he can manage, and my heart practically rips in two at the sight. The condo, our home, is destroyed nearly beyond recognition, and sharp winds blow through the broken panes of the patio door glass, chilling the room. Debris and broken things litter the place, and there is an eerie feeling of emptiness and loss hovering in the air; I can already feel it trying to suck the life out of me. Forcing my emotion away, I approach him slowly, though I want to just rush right up to him and hug him as tight as I can. Treize said that he probably wouldn’t recognize me, and that I shouldn’t act as though he will have any idea who I am, so I force myself to hold back, as much as it hurts me to.
Creeping up to the soiled and ripped chair, I bring myself close, then kneel before him. He’s rocking himself, arms wrapped around his head, face hidden from his world, and I can’t see him.
My heart leaps just to say his name, and I have to noticeably push my straining affection away again. Oh God, please…please let me be strong enough. He doesn’t respond to my call, and I reach out with a shaky hand to touch him, fingers brushing lightly on his shoulder. He immediately flinches wildly like some animal that expects to be beaten, and when he looks up, his eyes…his haunted and tortured eyes…they frighten me down to my very soul.
He stares at me, unrecognizing, and I immediately feel a wave of raw emotion threatening to burst out of me. Hold yourself together. You have to hold yourself together for HIM!
"Duo, it’s me. It’s Heero."
His dark, empty eyes search mine, and still no indication that he sees me, or recognizes my voice. The look on his face is distraught, twisting my gut even more, and for a few moments I have to look away. I have to compose myself before I just hand myself over to this despair that is threatening to invade me.
Turning back, I find him still looking at me. It’s almost as if his entire personality, his entire soul, has been stolen from him.
"Duo, do you remember who I am?" The words barely choke out.
"Duo, I’m Heero. Remember? We’re married. Remember?" I reach out wanting to touch his hair, which is now stringy and greasy and limp at the sides of his head, and he shrinks away.
"Heero’s dead," he responds in monotone, then looks away from me to gaze out the broken glass doors that lead out to the patio. "Heero’s not here anymore."
My eyes begin welling when he says this, and I force back a sob. Don’t do it! Don’t let it get to you! After spending so much of my life forcing away emotion I should surely have enough willpower to withstand the sorrow of this place, but I’m beginning to realize that I don’t know if I honestly can, it’s so strong. There is sadness trying to invade every pore of my body and soul, picking away at what sanity I have, and I don’t know if I am going to be able to hold it off. It’s the sadness of millions of fallen souls, all converging on my free spirit at once. The sadness…it’s overwhelming.
"Duo, I came to take you away from here. I came to take you home."
He’s still looking out to the dark sky through the broken panes, and he says "This is home."
"No, Duo." I touch him lightly on the arm, and thankfully this time he doesn’t pull away. He is still entranced with whatever it is that he is looking at. "I’m here to take you to our real home, where it’s beautiful and nice. Remember the cottage that we loved so much? Remember the woods, when we went camping together? It’s all there, waiting for you. You have to come with me."
Duo turns his head to look at me, and there is anger in his eyes this time. "Come with you?"
"Yes, come with me. Away from here." I let my hand close around his one wrist and pull slightly, encouraging him to get up, but he yanks his arm away from me violently.
"I’m not going anywhere. This is home. This is where Heero used to be. I’m staying here."
Still kneeling beside him, I lean to bring myself closer to him. He is missing the warmth that I have always associated with being this close to his form. "But Duo, please…I want to take you away from all this sadness…I want to…"
"I already told you!" He yells at me. "I don’t know who you are, and I’m not leaving here! I’m not leaving HEERO!"
Stopped in my tracks as if he had slapped me, I’m speechless. What now? What do I do now? He doesn’t recognize me. He doesn’t want to come with me because he has no idea who I am, or where he is. He probably doesn’t even know who he is.
"Duo, please?" My voice is low, almost a whisper, and the first tears drip down my cheeks. "Please let me help you. Please. Don’t make me leave here without you, Duo."
My words annoy him, and he brings his face close to mine. "Leave me alone! Just leave me the Hell alone," he says almost screaming, and then wraps his arms tighter around himself. He closes his eyes and looks away from me again, but I can see the tears leaking out from between clamped lids. Before long, we are both crying and sobbing, and I feel the despair creeping ever closer in its preparation to claim me to keep me here, along with Duo.
Sniffling back my runny nose, I remember something that Treize told me. You have to try to make him remember…remind him of happy memories, and good times. Try to break through to him any way you can. I position myself closer to him, as close as he will bear to let me be, close enough to speak quietly toward his ear, and try my best to think of some of the fond memories that we had together.
"Duo, remember when… when we went to the movies that night, and got caught in that rain on the way home? Remember how we were completely soaked once we got inside, and we stripped right inside the front door? Then you dragged me upstairs and we made love. Remember that night? How we laid in bed, our hair all messed up from being rained on, and just listened to the sound of the rain on the windows and on the roof?" As if my story needed more atmosphere, a loud crash of lightening and thunder sounded outside. I flinch, surprised by it. The air takes on an electrical and wet smell, and I can tell that it’s preparing to storm. Duo doesn’t budge, his eyes still blindly staring out the broken patio doors, the torn and tattered curtains blowing wildly inward at us.
"And remember the time we spent the weekend at Quatre’s desert estate, swimming in his beautiful pool, and riding his horses? R-remember when we rode out to that oasis, and how beautiful it was, with just the two of us there?"
"And remember…" I pause. What else is there? There has to be more – we’ve been together for years. I know there’s more. "Remember how…" A heavy weight settles in my chest as I realize that my ability to recall my own pleasant memories is being destroyed, and I begin to panic. A far cry from the former Gundam Pilot I used to be. Panic was not in my vocabulary then.
I force myself to concentrate hard for any memory of someone with a smile on their face. "Duo, remember when we celebrated after winning the colony war? We all went to visit Quatre in the hospital, and Trowa poured a glass of champagne over his head, because he wouldn’t drink it? Remember…" I search deep into my mind, looking for something…anything…that I can call up, but my visions of my own past are quickly disappearing. Checking my watch, I see that I have already been pleading with Duo for over ten minutes. Treize will be getting impatient soon. He’ll be needing to leave. I can’t expect him to endanger himself over this. As my deadline approaches, I become fidgety.
"Oh God, Duo, please… uh…" More tears run down my cheeks. Duo closes his eyes and listens to me fumble my way through our past together, but still makes no indication that he recognizes anything that I’m saying to him. "Camping…you took me camping, to surprise me. Uh…we stayed in the woods and the trees…there were so many trees… Duo, I can’t remember, but I… uh… I think we decorated the trees. Duo, please…"
I move my hand to hold his arm gently, and he turns to face me at my touch. With shallow and empty eyes, he says "Beltane."
"Beltane! Yes, Beltane! We decorated the trees and celebrated Beltane! Duo! Do you remember?" My hopes rise momentarily, and I wipe tears from my face. "Do you remember it?"
He shakes his head. "I-I’m sorry. I don’t remember." The hollowness in his expression is replaced by sadness now, almost as if he feels pity for me, kneeling over him like I am some crazy person that he does not know, who is remembering all sorts of events that never actually happened and is desperately believing that they did. He sighs and another tear rolls down his face, past his nose, until it disappears into the crease of his mouth.
My hopes are beginning to fade as time is running out, and I am fast losing my ability to fight the darkness that is encroaching on me. I look at Duo and say, "I’m not going to leave you here by yourself, Duo."
Holding back more emotion, emotion that I will probably have ample time to experience for now to eternity, I lean in close to him and cautiously wrap my arms around his chilled body. It is then that I realize that I’m about to give up. You’ve failed. He stiffens at my contact, feeling nothing like the Duo that I knew before, who used to literally melt in my embrace, and I remind myself that this Duo doesn’t remember any of that. You’ve failed. This Duo only remembers the pain of me leaving him. You’ve failed, Heero. When it really counted, more than it ever did before, you’ve failed. A breath hitches in my chest and I squeeze him tight, my promise to never leave him again. I’ve failed him. I’ve failed myself. So I will stay, and at least share in this misery that I caused in the first place, even though it was nothing I could have helped. I will stay, and let the sorrow consume me, and hope that sometime, somehow, we are at least able to remember each other in our misery together, and comfort each other, even if the pain never goes away.
"I’m going to stay here with you forever, Duo. I didn’t mean to leave you. I didn’t want to leave you. God, it hurts me so badly to see you like this, Duo. I wish there was something I could do. I wish…" My voice fades out and I close my eyes, leaning over his shoulder as I resign myself to a fate worse than death. An ironic fate at that, for a man who spent so much of his life being forced to ignore his true emotions.
For many moments we stay there like that, me holding Duo in my arms, my chin propped over his shoulder and he remaining stone still beneath me. Then I felt him move slightly, just a nudge, and then two trembling arms creep slowly up until the are positioned loosely around my waist. I clamp my eyes closed, feeling him hold me back, feeling the blackness of the room and the heaviness of the sorrow that is filling me, and then suddenly I burst into sad laughter.
"H-heero?" Duo says, his shaky voice only a mere whisper, and laced with question, but the tone of recognition, it’s there. It’s there , and from the sound of his voice, I burst into a fit of relieved, stressed-induced laughter mixed with the torrents of tears that I never knew I had.