Intentions of Time: The Past (cont)

The hot tea steamed and fogged the air with pleasant aromas. The smell was reminiscent of oranges and spices, a soothing and loving kind of smell. Lovely, even. But it did nothing for the thrumming tension in the tiny cubicle of a waiting room. In this prison like room filled with tiny chairs and tea sat two figures. Both wore identical frowns of worry and discomfort overlaid with frustration. Both sipped the tea at a slow pace, blowing the steam and the heat away with soft breaths. Neither wanted to speak first, but finally, the silence was breached.

"It has been a week since Duo returned from the past and he still hasn't told us what happened."

Relena nodded at Quatre's huffy comment but had nothing to add. When Duo had returned from his mission into the past, they had assumed everything had gone great. After all, the world was still here and the Mission was still extinct. From those evidences, they had guessed that Duo had killed that errant Mission agent and history had not been subverted for the good of the Mission. Yet, the look on Duo's face had been haunting and extraordinarily broken. It had not been the look of a victorious man. Ever since then, both Relena and Quatre had been anxiously waiting for Duo to tell them what had happened twenty years ago. More specifically, they wanted Duo to tell them of Heero, if anything had happened between the two of them.

"It's clear from our memories and history that whatever Duo did in the past, Heero was not saved."

"I know," Quatre replied in a concerned tone, "and that bothers me. Don't you think Duo would have done everything in his power to save Heero?"

Relena considered for a moment.

"I believe that, Quatre. But think about it. If he didn't save Heero from his death, why not? What happened that Duo did not save the one person he would have given his life for? What if.. what if Duo had to.. I mean, he knew Heero was going to die, so what if.."

"If he just stood by?" Quatre said, not wanting Relena to suffer by voicing the rest of her thought. All he received was a timid nod and a pair of teary blue eyes filled with pain.

"If Duo did not want to do anything to jeopardize the present, he just may have had to let Heero die."

The silence fell over the two of them again and their teas cooled to drinkable temperatures. However, in the back of their minds, they both had to pity Duo for the hard choice he must have made.

The Mission chick who looks like Hilde has been talking non stop for the past few hours. Doesn't she run out of spit or whatever equivalent they have? At least she's rambling about stuff that I've been curious about for a while. She started talking when I tried to destroy her arm control panel, the one with all the funky buttons. I figured it out, you see, being the clever man that I am, that the arm panel was the thing responsible for somehow phasing the agent out. So I tried to fry it with my Talent when she started having this fit. God, I honestly had no idea that it would be such a bad thing! But she screamed and yelled, saying that if I destroyed that, I'd be killing her too. I wasn't too adverse to the idea, killing off the Mission chick, but I guess her looking like Hilde got to me more than I let it show. When I stopped firing at her with my Talent, she started talking. And boy am I getting an insight. According to her, the Mission is a fusion of machine and biological cells. Imagine that, being a part of a machine. Or the other way around. I mean, she is not a cyborg or anything, the fusion is too complete. They are born like that! She tells me that she was born as a machine with very little biological parts. And that Hilde shape was something she chose when her circuitry evolved enough for her to have a form. What a load of strange shit, don't you think? Anyway, I'm stuck in some odd sci-fi story, I think. Machines and cell stuff and all. I think the scientists would have found it more interesting than I do since I don't quite understand everything she's talking about. She keeps rambling about the exact matrices alignment and stuff. Like I know. So she tells me all these things only to get to a very simple point. Kill the control panel, kill her. I guess that control panel is like her heart or something. I told her that the phasing thing she did the day before did not sit well with me and that was why I was about to blow her circuits, and she promised up and down that she would not try it again. Apparently, it's rather risky anyway. A not so perfect technological advancement. I don't know if I take her promise seriously, but hey, if she does get away, I can find her easily enough. Now that I know finding Mission technology is basically finding the person. While I ponder my hunting tactics, she tells me something that makes me nauseous. I remember all those tens of thousands of ships I wiped out with my thought. I supposed that some of them had pilots in them, but mostly I thought that those ships were like mobile dolls, machines without humanity. But she says I'm wrong. She says, every ship was a being like her, sentient, intelligent, emotional. Yes, she is telling me that every one of those ships was alive. I don't know why I'm nauseous, but I am. Tens of thousands. Or more. Who was counting? And the entire fortress. So far, I considered how to save humanity. I don't think I ever considered what I was doing as a massive act of genocide. But you know, as I think of it, hear it from her, it was. Nevermind that the Mission would have killed every last human had they the chance. One act of genocide to subvert another act of genocide.. that does not seem right at all. I have to face the ugliness. The Mission, they had personalities, friends, hell, even family as twisted as their concept of family is. And I killed every single one of them off, except for this one that looks like Hilde. Except for this one chick who is talking to me, gesturing with her arms and crying oily tears. Can I feel any worse? Possibly. I believe I will feel worse if I can't think of some way to save Heero and the earth at the same time. I can't stand to watch him die. I can't let the earth be obliterated. What will I choose? I don't know yet. I already committed one horrendous act to save humanity. Can I commit another one, one closer to the heart? Can I really watch my lover die and not lift a finger? I have no answers, but I do have one thing to say. Life, as it has been so far, fucking sucks.

The tea had run dry long ago, but Quatre and Relena could not find it in themselves to intrude into Duo's private office. They had knocked many times, pleading with him to open the door and talk to them, but all the efforts had not borne fruit. Duo was still silent and unseen behind the door and the only reason that they knew he was still alive in there was due to the monitoring of his life systems done by the Six constantly. It was not just them and the Six who were worried about Duo's sudden lack of liveliness and responses. It seemed that the whole compound was aware of his depression.

"He still won't talk. If he wants to relieve the pain, he should at least talk about it."

Quatre understood Relena's frustration. They were hurting for Duo, knowing that something awful had happened in the past. Both could guess that it was Heero's death that bothered him. For a time before the Mission came and after Heero's death, Duo had been driven nearly insane by his lover's death. But twenty years later, after the passing of time and the busy war with the Mission, they had figured that Duo was finally somewhat over the death of Heero. But when he went back into the past, he must have encountered Heero and not been able to save him. The thought made them want to break into tears in anguish, but they could not do so, yet. First, they had to heal Duo, somehow get him to open up the festering wound in his heart and purge the darkness.

"Duo," began Quatre, speaking through the thick wood door, "I know something happened that made you hurt. Please, please talk to me. Oh hell, talk to anyone. Just don't shut us all out and suffer alone. Please. Duo?"

As usual, there was no response. They did hear a slight shuffle indicating that he had moved, but the door did not open.

"How long can he do this to himself?"

"I don't know, Relena. I don't know. But if he doesn't let go of the pain soon.."

There was nothing more to say after that.

I finally figured it out. The circle of time, the history, whatever it is called, I have figured it out. And I don't like the newfound knowledge at all. In fact, I hate it. I don't think I can fully face it just yet. The revelation hit me like a ton of bricks a couple of hours ago while I sat and watched the moon rise over the city. The Mission chick and I are in the city where Heero used to work and I have two days left until Heero dies. So I was pondering my plan, about what the hell she meant when she told me saving Heero meant saving the Mission and all that crap. Thinking brings about answers and truths. Usually, they are supposed to be good for you, but this time, they are just impediments to what I want. Why? Because I finally figured it out. Why I can't destroy the mission and save Heero. I know now. See, I searched the space around earth as far as my Talent would go and found no traces of the Mission. The chick was right, they were nowhere near here at this time. So I had this grandiose plan to save Heero and wait around for the Mission to come so that I could kill them off before they could blow up the colonies and everything else. But now that I know what I know, that plan isn't possible. What do I know? What did all my thinking reveal? What is my great revelation? That Heero was my trigger. He was the reason I developed the Talent. His death was the release of the power. I'm a fool. The answer had been there all along, but I never put it together. Neither did anyone else, but that's no consolation to me. I remembered how sick I was after Heero died, the fevers, the painful wracking of my body. I remembered that goddamned water that mysteriously moved to me. I finally put it all together. Heero's death gave me the Talent. And if Heero does not die, then I will never have the Talent. And so I will cease to have my powers when the Mission finally did come. And my past self would not be able to fend them off either. It's a terrible dilemma, don't you see? Heero's death is necessary to save the world. He needs to be the sacrifice so that others can live. I finally figured it out and I hate it. Why did it have to be this way? Why are my only choices between my love and my world? Is it too much to ask that I have both? Must I sacrifice one to have the other? I know the answer, I do. No wonder the Mission wanted to save Heero. They wanted me powerless. They wanted to take me out of the equation. And they gambled that I would sacrifice the world to save Heero. And you know, I think it was a good bet. I want to save Heero. I want him to live. I don't want to walk into the house and see walls flowing with his blood. I don't want to cry. I don't want to smell the blood anymore. I don't want to feel that clutching in my heart. I don't want Heero to die. I want to be selfish for once. But I know Heero would hate me for it. My Heero would have sacrificed himself for the world. He would choose death. I know what he would say, what he would do. But I'm not him! I'm not noble, I'm not heroic. I'm just Duo Maxwell who wants to save his lover. Sacrifice the world for him. Let everything become nothing. I want to. But I won't. I can't. Heero still directs me and he tells me that I can't let my selfish heart destroy the earth. He asks me to sacrifice him for the greater good. My Heero, my perfect soldier. And me, the god of death. Didn't I tell you I finally figured it out? I know my two choices. I know which one I want to choose. But in the end, I know which one I must choose. Can you forgive me Heero? Can you forgive me for standing by? Can I forgive me for letting you die again?

The door finally opened and a figure stepped out. Suppressing a sigh of relief, Relena walked over to Duo who stood still by the door frame with his head hung low. He looked terrible – his braid was unkempt, his clothes were wrinkled and he smelled as if he had not taken a shower for months. But none of that mattered because he had finally released himself from his seclusion.

"Duo! Are you alright? Can I do anything?"

The worry and concern came through clearly in Relena's rushed greeting, but Duo did not take notice. His eyes vacantly stared at the carpet, not responding to anyone around him. He let Relena take him by his hand and lead him to sit on a small chair. He did not do anything as she paged Quatre and mumbled a relieved yet worried message. He said nothing to Relena when she plied him with questions. He did not look up when Quatre entered the small space, anxiety written all over his haggard face.

"Quatre! Thank god you're here. He came out, but he's not here. Look at him! His eyes.. they are empty. Do something, Quatre!"

On the verge of tears, Relena launched herself into Quatre's arms, seeking solace that Duo could not provide. Arms tightened around her, pouring reassurance and support into her shaking frame. She buried her head deeper into Quatre's chest and missed the glistening tears in his aqua eyes.

"Don't worry, Relena. It's going to be okay. I promise, so pull yourself together."

Relena noticed the tremor in Quatre's voice and felt immediately guilty. She was not the only one who needed support.

"I'm sorry, Quatre. It's just that.. only if he would say something. I just want him to look at us."

"He will when he is ready. He came out of the room, so it's only bound to get better."

Untangling herself from Quatre, Relena walked over to Duo and kneeled before him. She put her head on his knees and held onto his legs tightly, almost as if she was afraid that he would disappear.

"Come back to us, Duo."

There was no response.

I'm all alone. There is no one here but me. In a fit of logic, I killed the Mission agent not a minute ago. Where she stood before me is nothing but a smoldering heap of dust. I have extinguished the last of the Mission, my genocide is complete. Stupidly, I feel immeasurably guilty. Part of it is because she looked like Hilde. It's irrational since I know the story behind her appearance and all, but I still feel like I killed my friend. More than that, I got to know the Mission chick. She talked to me and I talked to her. I found out about her and god help me, even got to like her a little. She was spunky, gutsy and kind of reckless. I mean, knowing who I was and what my mission was, she still managed to keep her cool and her life for two days longer than she should have. And she showed me a side to the enemy that I could empathize with. I saw that she loved her machine linked family, that she cared about those around her. She felt the pain of loss as sharply as I do and she just wanted to save her world, just like me. But in this game of war, there could only be one survivor. And I had to make sure that it was me. Just before I blasted her with my Talent, I think she saw in my eyes what I was going to do. In that split second, I think she saw what my decision was. I hope she understood why I had to choose the way I did. She would have done anything, even save a lowly human being who had nothing to offer her, to save her world. I'm offering Heero at the altar to save my world. We weren't that different, the Hilde look-alike and I. But there is no time to worry about her. She's dead. I just killed her. I killed her so that she would not hinder my awful plan to watch Heero die. I know that if I had kept her alive, I would have been tempted beyond measure to try to save Heero with her. My heart would have made the choice that my brain could not. So I killed her to save the world. What's one more dead next to all the others? What is she to me when I have to watch Heero die? Nothing, right? Not a goddamned thing! God, is there only one and a half more days before.. yeah. I know exactly when I will arrive at the house to find the body. All I have to do is let it happen. I just have to go home now. My mission to kill her is done. I should go home. I can't though. I can't. I never got to say goodbye to Heero. I never told him one last time how much I love him. I can't save him, but I can say goodbye to him. One last time, I can see him.

Duo sat sandwiched between Relena and Quatre. His hands were taken by his worried friends, squeezed gently and rubbed softly. He could hear them speak to him, saying words that were meant to be supportive and caring, but he could not respond. His body and soul were still in deep shock, unable to process what had occurred in the past. He could still see everything that happened in his mind's eye, like a slow moving picture show. It hurt unbearably, but he played the scene over and over in his mind, punishing himself for his choice.

"I can't win."

It was whispered, almost too softly said to be heard, but Quatre and Relena's attentive ears picked up the smothered sound. Grasping onto Duo harder, both leaned in and searched his face. His eyes were still blank, but they were filled with tears. He was not back to them yet, but he was coming around.

"Duo, what do you mean?"

The quiet question spoken by Relena penetrated the deep haze of Duo's mind. He heard his friend clearly for the first time since his return.

"It always wins, don't you see? Always. I can't fight it. I can't do anything against it. It won. I never had a chance."

"What is 'it' that you're talking about?" Quatre asked.

"History. Time. Fate."

My past self will arrive at the house in less than three hours. In fact, I will be opening that door to find Heero dead in two hours, forty three minutes and eighteen seconds. Seventeen seconds. So on. I'm cloaked in my Talent, invisible to the eye and to the mind, standing by the lamp in our living room. This is our house, my and Heero's house. The lamp beside me was a gift from Wufei, a housewarming present. The curtains that I chose are still up, minus the blood stains. Yellow and peach, so feminine but somehow fitting. The couches are immaculate, recently vacuumed and the pillows fluffed to the fluffiest. I stand here, invisible, as I watch Heero putter around the house. My lover came home early as he had promised me all those years ago to wait my arrival. My mind is overwhelmed as I watch him clean little specks of dust off the coffee table, as he lights a few candles to fill the house with the vanilla scent I always loved. His tie is loosened around his neck, hanging haphazardly from his white collar. His sleeves are rolled up to his elbows, showing off his forearms. His hair is mussed as usual, the dark brown mess falling into his cobalt blue eyes. I can't take my eyes off of him. Twenty years. Twenty years of not seeing him and finally, here I am. I can smell the scent that is uniquely Heero, something that I had forgotten because of the blood. I don't smell his blood here, just him, alive and well, smiling a little and humming a tune. My lover is waiting for me to come home and I'm on the road waiting to see him. I know how it will end, how it must end, but for the small remaining time, I want to see my lover. And the killer. I don't know how I will control myself when Heero is getting murdered before my eyes, but I have to. I have to let him die. But I will see who the killer is and wreak my vengeance upon him, the kind of terror that the Mission could only have had nightmares about. But more than the vengeance, more than saving the world, I want to say goodbye. But how will I do that? Do I just appear before Heero and tell him that I'm from the future and I came to say goodbye and watch him die? I don't know. I'm at a loss. I have to act soon! I don't have much time left. Two hours, thirty two minutes and thirty three seconds. Tick tock tick tock.

"I could not defy history. I could not let Heero down."

The look on Heero's face was a mix of surprise and terror. I can't blame him since I just materialized before him without warning. He stares at me with those wonderful eyes, the eyes that hold the light to my universe. Somehow, the terror recedes and he recognizes me. Twenty years older in body, centuries older in spirit, but my lover knows me. His lips move uttering my name and I'm lost. I kneel before him and wrap my arms around his waist, hugging his body close to mine. I missed him so. Underneath my cheek, I can feel his stomach muscles clench and relax. His fingers run through my hair and he whispers to me gently. I don't know what he says, it doesn't matter. Finally, he's once again with me and I am holding him. One last time to tell him good bye. But I don't say goodbye. Instead of telling my lover of his death, I spill out the story of me. I tell him what happens in the future, what I become, what I did to save the earth. I tell him that and so much more, about my feelings, how much I miss him. How much I love him. Time is running out. My past self will come home in fifty one minutes and twelve seconds. The killer should arrive in about forty minutes or so. I have forty minutes to tell him everything, but even my Talent cannot expand time. I can't possibly tell him about the depth of my loss, the true nature of the future that awaits me. And I wonder, how can I tell him that he will be dead in less than an hour while I watch? I can't do that. I can't be that cruel. So I will hold him as I am now, with his fingers running through my hair and his voice telling me that everything will be okay. Nothing will be okay, but only I know that. He doesn't need to know what will happen momentarily.

"I did my duty. I completed my mission. So it has been written."

/Only a few more minutes before I have to let go. I speak quickly and ask his forgiveness and during that rambling attempt at achieving my redemption, I blurt out his death. His eyes widen slightly as he processes the information and I know I blew it. With him looking at me like that, how can I possibly let him die? I won't and I tell him. I tell him that I will save him from the killer who will arrive soon. I don't give a damn what happens to the earth, not while he's looking at me with those eyes. Not when I have his tangible body beneath my fingers, alive and warm. Maybe it was a mistake to see him again. So what. Despite my choice, I can't let him go. Not even for the world. Then I hear his words and they penetrate my desperate thoughts. He is telling me that it is fine. That I will be fine, that the world will be fine. In his quiet voice filled with strength and determination, my lover tells me that he will gladly die if it means the earth will live. No matter how horrible the death, he says, he will sacrifice himself. I try to convince him that there are other ways to do this, that we can change history for the better. I try to convince him of things that I could not convince myself of only a few hours ago. If Heero believes, maybe I will believe and maybe.. Just maybe, we could find another way. I hold onto my thin line of hope and wait for him to agree with me. I wait for him to tell me that he wants to live. And so Heero says to my waiting face that he would give anything to live with me into the long, quiet future. But we can't. He knows this and I know this. We both know he has to die now. I'm unwilling to let him go while he is readying himself for the inevitable slash of fate. As always, it is Heero who is stronger in conviction than I am. I can't go against Heero no matter what, not when he is like this. I cannot even deny him death. The choice I made is the choice he made. We're of one mind. I hold onto him tighter, wanting to get closer to him. One last time. I open up my Talent and envelop the two of us in a tight shell, melding our minds together for our last communion. Words are not needed now. At this moment, I can feel Heero's love for me, his great sorrow at leaving me, his determination to save the earth, his forgiveness. I am redeemed in his eyes already. All I have to do is leave and let the killer come.

"What fate commanded, I did. What time intended, I was. It's over."

I hug my lover for the last time and bundle him tighter within the folds of my Talent. I spare a little bit of my Talent to stretch out beyond us, to search for the killer. I will know what he looks like for he will not live long after he destroys my heart. Vengeance will have to be my consolation for not saving Heero. But I sense nothing. I feel nothing. Only me and Heero, holding onto each other, waiting for the end. And then.. I reel. A realization. An epiphany. A truth. I stand and look into Heero's eyes directly. I can see it all, the swirling emotions and feelings that were the center of my universe. My cobalt blue universe. And wrapped in my Talent, I can see who the killer is. I can see the reflection of the vicious bastard who killed my Heero. I see me.

"One more thing."

I can still recall the precise pattern of the blood on the walls. How little of Heero was left. How everything was so.. horrifying in its completeness. And now I know why, I know how. I know who. Time and history, they don't really cut me much slack, do they? At first, they give me hope by hinting that I can save my lover. Then they make me choose between him and the world. Then they force me to wait for him to die while I hold him in my arms. Then, as the final clincher, time and history have conspired to make sure that the one who kills Heero Yuy is Duo Maxwell. How do I know? It's a feeling in my gut. It's the truth illuminated by my foresight. It is the event that my Talent shows me in its infinite wisdom and cruelty. Wrapped in my Talent and Heero, my Talent finally gives way to look into the momentary future and I see me. I see the killer. I see me. The Killer. Me. It was always me. And Heero knows. He is still connected with me by my Talent. He can see my thoughts, feel my emotions. How can I kill him? It was enough that I had to decide to watch Heero die, but to kill him with my own two hands? Who am I kidding? NO! I WON'T DO THIS!

"One more thing, then I'm done with this world."

Heero must have heard me denying history in the making because he touches my face gently. I can feel his thoughts swimming in my head and I already know what he will say to me. He is telling me to do it. To kill him. For the good of humanity. I can feel how calm he is, but at the same time, how ultimately sad he is to make me do this. There is no choice but to set the future on its course. If Heero lives, the Mission will win. And if that happens, we all die. Even Heero. He tells me there is nothing to forgive for this will hurt me more than him. He tells me he loves me. He tells me goodbye. So I hold on tight and immerse my body into his, feeling his heart beat next to mine. I fold my molecules around his, letting my Talent surround our bodies as we literally become one. For a small amount of time, for a split second, his body and mine are one, melded perfectly together, his cells and mine sharing the same space and time. We are one. Then I coalesce and Heero.. Heero.. Blood. Everywhere. On the walls, on the floor, on the pretty curtains. I stand numb, not realizing the full import of what I have done. I stand until I hear the car come up the driveway and I see myself stalk quietly towards the door. My past self is looking forward to seeing our lover. My past self is thinking about our lover and smiling. My past self will not know what he will do until now. There is nothing I can do to prevent anything. All I have done is repeat the past with my own hands. I created the world that I so cursed. I created the world without Heero. I have nothing left here in the past now. I phase out of the past as the doorknob turns, leaving behind my crime and my eventual future.

"One more thing and I will die."

Quatre and Relena looked at Duo with horror written in their eyes. Their best friend, the First Talent, the backbone of their society , was talking about his own death.

"No, Duo! You can't.. Suicide is not an option!"

"It's not suicide, Relena. Fate will take me when I'm done with my one last duty."

"And that is?"

"To live. To fulfill Heero's dreams of a peaceful world."

History repeats itself, despite our best intentions and efforts. It rolls over us like a tidal wave, unerring and inexplicable, forever repeating, forever looping. I could not escape it, I could not defy it. All I can do is live with it and suffer. Smell the blood forever. Find no solace. I will live. This is my vengeance to the killer. This is my repentance to Heero. May I live forever.

finé

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