Behind the Dark Curtain
His voice echoes in my head, and for a moment, I try to push the dream away. I stir, but donít open my eyes.
"Are you awake?"
This time I open my eyes. Iím greeted by gentle sunlight peeking in through partly opened drapes, and Duo, sitting beside me on our bed. As reality grips me, I blink once, then let my eyes wander slowly around the room. I take account of my surroundings before a look of confusion appears on my face.
He smiles, a warm, loving smile.
"Are weÖ at home?" I stare at him, and he looks just the way I remember him. He is clean and his skin looks pink and healthy. His hair is clean, loosely swaying as he tilts his head to the side, and the light coming into the room highlights a few bunched strands that give off the copper glow that Iím used to seeing. He is dressed in his favorite, most broken-in pair of faded Leviís and a crisp, white T-shirt. His favorite weekend-wear.
"Weíre here, where you brought me," he says, and there is a pride shining through his moist eyes that explains it all to me.
"We made it home," I say, then let my eyes look the room over one more time, before looking at Duo again. I smirk, forcing back the tears of relief that I want to shed right now, but figuring that Iíve already cried more than enough for one lifetime, or death, as the case may be, so I force a half-chuckle instead. "I canít believe we made it home." Iím exhausted, both physically and mentally, so I reach out and grab him by the forearm, pulling him back down to lie next to me, where Iím assuming he did throughout the night. I remember nothing of the end of my journey with Treize to rescue Duo, nor when we must have returned here, so I assume that my good nightís sleep was because Duo was right next to me the whole time.
Settling down onto his side, Duo rests his head on the pillow so that he is looking at me. Me on my back, I turn my head and look into his eyes, and for a long time all we do is look at each other, soaking in the reality that we are together once more. There is a serenity around us that I havenít felt in a long time, and it makes me happy, and I donít want to lose the moment, not ever.
"Do you remember anything," I ask him. He nods slowly.
"Some. Not a whole lot, but enough. But Treize says it will fade, those memories, after Iíve been here a while." His hand reaches up and strokes the side of my face, as if he needed to touch me to make sure I was really real, and he smiles again. In a whisper he says "Thank you, Heero. Thank you for coming for me." His eyes glisten when he says it.
I get a little teary-eyed myself when he says this. "I would have stayed with you, too, you know. IfÖ"
"But we got out, and thatís all thatís important."
"Yes." I search his eyes some more. I can feel the layers of pain in them, the new layers that have been added to the ones that were always there as long as Iíve known him, but they are also happy. Happy to finally be in a quiet place of rest. "We got each other out, I think." His fingers drift casually over my lips, and I kiss them. Duo closes his eyes and breathes a deep, content breath.
"Iím sorry, Heero."
He surprises me with his apology. "For what?"
"For doing what I did. I justÖ" His eyes open again, and they are turbulent this time. I know he is remembering all the heartache and pain he went through after my death. "I just couldnít keep going."
"I know," I tell him. "I was there. IÖ I saw it all. And Iím sorry, too."
"I knew you probably were. I wanted to think that you were, at least, but nothing was right after you died. Nothing. Out of everyone in my life that Iíve ever lost, I just couldnít take losing you."
"I didnít mean to leave you, Duo. Honest."
"I know you didnít."
"Next time youíll listen to me when I tell you to call out, to have some fun with me then?" There is a silly little smile spreading across his lips, one that causes me to smile as well.
"How could I ever refuse now?"
He leans over, putting his arms around my upper body, and snuggles in close, resting his head on me. I wrap myself around him too, holding tight, letting him know that I will never, ever again let him go, and we rest like that. Breathing in the scent of his breath, my body is filled with his essence, his warmth, and it does wonders to calm and relax the unrest that has been in me since Iíve journeyed to this plane of existence. Iíve been to Hell and back for him, literally. I will never let anything come between us again. There is nothing that can part us now. Nothing. Never.
Later, outside, Duo is amazed at the surroundings. When I lead him out into the shining light, he twirls around in front of the faÁade of the little beach cottage, and amidst a forest of green and gold leaves and twittering birds and blue skies and then stops to look at me, awed.
"Heero, itís so beautiful here! Just likeÖ"
"Just like when you took me away for the weekend."
He comes closer, close enough that I feel his body heat next to me. "I never realized our weekend made such an impression on you." Inside, before coming out, I had been explaining to him the "rules of the land," and the way things were in this place, this Heaven of whatever we make of it.
"We can change it if youíd rather live somewhere else," I say, but before the words are even out of my mouth Duo is shaking his head.
"No, this isÖ," he looks around him some more, smiling. "This is perfect, Heero. This is a perfect place for us to live."
Iím happy to hear that. Though I would change it, and let him put us smack in the middle of his own vision, Iím very glad to hear that he likes it the way it is. Iíve grown accustomed to the surroundings already, and in all the ups and downs of the past weeks, the beauty of this place is the only solace that I have had.
As we sit outside on a large, round, section of a fallen tree conveniently placed to be a seat in front of the cottage, Treize makes his appearance. I was waiting Ė I knew heíd show up sooner or later, as is usually the case with him. Today he is dressed casually in a white shirt and pale, cream-colored cotton pants, and Iím not sure whether this is his vision or mine. Either way, though, it seems as though the mood all over has turned to a more relaxed one. He is smiling, and walks over to us.
"Heero. Duo." He nods in our direction, and I smile.
"Hey, Treize," Duo says, nonchalantly. I have a vague memory of Duoís surprise in seeing Treize last night, as we brought him the rest of the way out of his trance and into the bounds of Heaven. One of us must have explained Treizeís presence. I donít think it was me, as I donít recall much from our treacherous journey home, after nearly losing myself to the darkness.
"I trust that everything is well?" Treize stands before us, seated on the section of the tree, his hands in his pockets.
I nod. "Everything is well, thank you."
His smile broadens.
"Treize, I have to thank you," I begin.
"For everything youíve done for me while Iíve been here."
"Well, you are quite welcome, Heero, but after all, it is my duty here to welcome those who summons me. Iím honored, as I have said before, that you would choose me for that task."
"No, Treize, you do deserve special thanks. For going above and beyond duty. For putting up with me, andÖ"
"For bringing him to find me," Duo ads, finding the words that I was looking for.
Treize blushes a little bit. "Iím very glad it all worked out in the end. Youíre becoming quite the celebrity here, you know, Heero. The first person who has ever gone and not only returned, but returned with a loved one. People are talking!"
"Yes, people, Heero. Youíve been so absorbed with your worry and your task, I didnít think you were ready to just go out and mingle, but there is a whole afterworld out there for you both to live in."
Turning to Duo I say, "Well, maybe Iím ready to explore that afterworld now." He smiles and nods.
"And I come bringing good news to you both."
"Good news?" Duo asks.
"Heero, it seems as though your service in rescuing Duo fromÖ there has been acknowledged, and you may apply for reincarnation."
My eyes go wide with surprise. "Reincarnation? Me?"
Nodding, Treize smiles. "Yes. Any time youíd like to. If youíd like to, that is. You donít have to if youíd rather stay here."
I look at Duo again, my expression going a little flat, and I ask, "What about Duo? Can he apply too?"
"Same requirements. Duo, you have to first perform your required duty, and once you have, you will be free to apply as well."
"So, my required duty was to rescue Duo from Hell?" After all the pain and anguish, if I had only knownÖ. but then the path would not have unfolded the way that it did, I suppose.
For a few moments weíre all silent, as the idea of going back flickers briefly in my mind, and Duo, Iím sure, is just trying to make sense of everything that he is being told. Then I turn again to Trieze, the smile returned to my face.
"I think Iíll stay here for a while and enjoy my afterlife for a while, with Duo." Squeezing Duoís hand, I face him and say "What do you think?"
"I think youíd better stay here, at least until I can go back with you, thatís what I think!" He is giddy and teasing me, knowing that I wouldnít dare do otherwise.
"I promised you, Duo. I will never leave you again, and I meant it."
I look to Treize again, but notice immediately that he has gone, leaving us to ourselves. When I turn back to Duo, his expression is one of pure love and warmth, and I once more experience the heat of him flowing through me, that feeling that Iíve missed for so long now. Leaning forward, his lips capture mine in a soft, tender kiss, a kiss that I deepen until it is a passionate, needy kiss. My heart is pounding with pure joy. Yes, I can stay here. I can stay here as long as we need to, or as long as we want to, or maybe forever. I have everything I need here now.
Afterlife is good.