by Anria Chiou Lalumin

What Comes After Death + Part Three
Be Happy, My Friend

Duo was stuffing his face with a chocolate éclair when he remembered.

He had called Hildie and said he wanted to go out to lunch, would she mind joining him. She had been delighted, grinning like crazy when she appeared at his front door. She hadn't stopped grinning all afternoon.

Food had never tasted so good, he had decided. Now, as for that boy. . . . What had he said? I loved you almost since the first time we met, never mind that you shot me then. . . .

You shot me then. . . .

Duo's eyes went wide, and he sprayed a mouthful of cream and bun all over the table. Stammering an apology to a bewildered Hildie, he ran out of the shop as fast as his legs would take him.

Heero.

Heero had come back to him, and he hadn't recognized him. Heero had stood in front of him, and he hadn't known that face. Heero had told him he loved him. . . .

And he had told him to leave.

Duo bolted for his home, then skidded to a halt outside. If I was Heero, where would I go...? He ran for the nearest spaceport, praying with all his might that he wasn't too late.

+

"One ticket to Earth, please," Heero said in an expressionless monotone to the woman behind the desk. She grunted and began typing.

Heero put his bag on the conveyor belt and clenched his jaw. So this was hell. He nearly laughed, but choked the bitter sound back.

What he'd told Maria had been right. Hell would not be a world without Duo. Hell would be a world with Duo, but a Duo who didn't want him. And he was living it, now.

It felt like there was a troop of gleeful little demons seated inside him tearing him to pieces.

"Name?" the woman snapped.

Heero was just opening his mouth to say it, when someone said it for him.

"HEERO!"

Heero whipped around, eyes wide and staring. He knew that voice.

True to his expectations, Duo was sprinting up the outside of the queue, short brown hair whisking out to come back and slap his cheeks. Almost unconsciously Heero pulled his bag off the conveyor belt before the bad-tempered woman could whisk it away, and stepped out to meet him.

Duo crashed into him, nearly knocking him over backwards. "Heero," he gasped, breath coming in ragged spurts. "Heero . . . don't go . . . I remember. . . ."

"You do?" Heero demanded, hardly daring to hope.

Duo nodded violently, cobalt eyes tinted slightly with violet staring up at him in a face filled with desperate hope. God, it was the same look he'd given him that fateful day. . . .

"Heero . . . did you . . . mean it. . . ."

In response, Heero hooked his arms around Duo's waist and dragged him close, capturing the parted lips under his own in a kiss that was filled with every frustrated thought, every painful moment regretting, and was rewarded with Duo's equally enthusiastic kiss.

Neither cared that people were gawking at them.

Reluctantly, Heero, broke the kiss, one hand coming up to cup to flushed face, run through the remnants of Duo's braid. "Every word," he whispered.

Duo's face broke into a delighted grin that looked like it had been the first in a long time.

The room flickered around them.

"I take it you won't be wanting that ticket," the woman behind the counter said, a half-laugh in her voice.

Heero turned back to her, a tiny smile flickering across the usual impassive mask. "No," he said to her. "It looks like I'll be staying on L2."

He and Duo walked out of the spaceport together, arms still tight around each other.

+

It was barely over an hour later, and Duo was enjoying himself thoroughly.

He arched up against Heero, once again his lover, crying out his release even as Heero groaned and collapsed on him. Duo wrapped his arms around the Japanese boy, relishing the feel of skin-on-skin, the strong body held close to him that he had thought was lost forever.

"I love you," Heero gasped into his neck, and kissed the pulse. "Aishiteiru."

Duo just smiled and pulled him closer. "Don't ever leave again, you hear me?" he whispered, running his hand through Heero's hair.

"No fear," Heero murmured. His panting breaths were calming, slowing as he took control of himself again. "We'll have forever together."

"Forever. . . ." Duo repeated, smiling. "That has a nice ring to it."

"Doesn't it just?" Heero began kissing across Duo's collarbones, nuzzling the hollow of his throat and butting his chin affectionately in one amazing movement that combined all three.

"I love you. . . ." Came the whisper that slid through Heero's mind and over his skin with a feeling of wonderful joy.

There are many good feelings in life, Heero decided, but none so good as loving someone and knowing that you are loved in return. It was an achy feeling in his breastbone that made him want to kiss Duo again, and start up what they'd finished, just so that he could have another excuse to say it.

He never wanted this to end. This was simply heaven.

"I think I'm going to change my favorite song," Duo said in his usual 'lets-talk-about-something-that-has-absolutely-no-relevance-to-what's-going-on' way.

"Oh?" Heero made an encouraging sound. As long as Duo was talking, Heero was free to do other things with his mouth.

"I'm going to change it to 'Crash and Burn'."

Heero raised his head from Duo's chest, staring at his lover. "That sounds ominous," he said.

"You've heard it, koibito," Duo said grinning, then winced as Heero pinched his nipple in retaliation. "Okay, okay, calm down. I played it to you. You remember, 'Let me be the one you call/ If you jump I'll break your fall/ Lift you up and fly away with you into the night/ If you need to fall apart/ I can mend a broken heart/ If you need to crash then crash and burn/ You're not alone.' That one."

Heero lowered his head to Duo's chest again, rubbing his cheek over the smooth muscle and just listening to him babble. Even the nonsense Duo was likely to spout was better than silence, just to hear his lover's voice, his happy tone.

"It used to be 'Gunning Down Romance'," Duo continued, Heero concentrating on the fascinating feeling his chest made against Heero's cheek as his voice rumbled up. "My favorite song, I mean. Good song, but too pessimistic for how I feel now. I mean 'I'm gunning down romance/ It never did a thing for me/ But heartache and misery/ Ain't nothing but a tragedy' doesn't exactly sum up what I feel now."

"Since we're on the subject of Savage Garden, what about 'Truly Madly Deeply'?" Heero asked.

Duo frowned. "Don't remember that one," he said.

"You don't? You used to play it all the time."

"Sing it for me," Duo almost begged.

"Me? Sing?" Heero snorted, then relented somewhat. "I'll be your dream/ I'll be your wish I'll be your fantasy/ I'll be your hope I'll be your love/ Be everything that you need/ I'll love you more with every breath/ Truly, madly, deeply do/ I will be strong I will be faithful/ 'cause I'm counting on/ A new beginning/ A reason for living/ A deeper meaning'."

Duo took up the chant, putting a hint of tune into it as he threaded his fingers into Heero's hair. " 'I want to stand with you on/ a mountain/ I want to bathe with you in the sea/ I want to lay like this forever/ Until the sky falls down on me'. . . ."

Smiling at each other, the two former Gundam pilots began to sing softly together, interspersed with Heero's soft kisses on Duo's skin.

" 'And when the stars are shining/ brightly in the velvet sky/ I'll make a wish send it to heaven/ Then make you want to cry/ The tears of joy for all the/ pleasure in the certainty/ That we're surrounded by the/ comfort and protection of/ The highest powers/ In lonely hours/ The tears devour you'. . . ."

Heero moved up Duo's body and gently placed a kiss on his lips. Then he plopped himself on his elbows and began a minute examination of his lover's face, looking over the gaunt lines and tiny wrinkles. Duo stared up at him quizzically.

"Heero . . . what are you doing?"

Heero's only response was a slight smile as he bent to kiss Duo again, hands roaming.

Duo's response was instant and wanton, moving himself against Heero in such away that the Japanese boy knew exactly what he was after.

Well, neither had any objections.

+

The two boys were woken by a small, light, girlish giggle sounding from behind them as they lay curled up together on the bed. Heero stiffened, and let go of Duo, moving far enough away to sit up and scowl at the impishly grinning Maria who had decided to coalesce at the bottom of their bed, sitting comfortably on a chest of drawers, that, typical Duo-style, had various items of clothes and other unidentifiable objects strewn across it.

"What are you doing here?" he demanded grumpily, with overtones of 'omae o korosu'.

"Who . . . is . . . that?" Duo said, propping himself up on his arms to stare at the small girl. "And how the -- how did she get in here?"

"You made the transition, sillies," Maria told them. "Hell to heaven. I have to welcome you officially, but I thought I'd leave you some time to get -- " she paused. "Hmm. Is reacquainted the right word? Never mind. But I'm getting my butt singed with the boss telling me to get over here and officially welcome you into heaven, so I couldn't leave you for too long. Sorry." She pulled a face, then with a toss of blonde curls, gave them an impish grin.

"Hell to heaven?" Duo, in confusion looked at Heero.

"Ooh," Maria said, wide-eyed. "You didn't tell him. Bad boy."

"Go away, Maria," Heero growled, turning to face his lover. "Duo, what do you remember happening after our . . . argument?"

Duo frowned. "I came back about an hour later, and you were gone."

"That's . . . not actually what happened, Duo," Heero said. "You see. . . ."

Duo's eyes went wider and wider as Heero continued to explain. They soon began to take over his head.

"So . . . I'm dead," Duo said at the end of Heero's speech. He was partially stunned because that was the most words he'd heard Heero speak since he'd known him, but mainly because of what those words had been.

"Yes," Heero said, watching his face carefully.

"And . . . you're dead," Duo continued.

"Yes."

"And we were in hell, but now we're in heaven."

"Yes."

Duo looked at Maria. "Who's the boss?"

She looked at him like he was crazy. "God, of course," she said as though it was intrinsically obvious.

Duo looked fascinated. "What's he like?"

"She's black, a smartass, and a general all-round pain in the butt," Maria replied, making a wry face. "She's more liberal than you Catholics think, though. Gays don't bother her in the slightest." She gave a half-laugh. "If they bothered her, why would she have invented them?"

Duo looked shell-shocked.

Heero reached out and pulled his lover close against him, glaring at Maria for adding to Duo's already confused mind, and hugged the formerly-longhaired pilot, resting his chin on his bare shoulder.

Maria jumped off the chest of drawers onto the end of the bed, sitting cross-legged and beaming down its length at the two. "First things first," she said. "Number one: in heaven, you can do what you like, when you like, and where you like. This includes things like making hair grow a couple of meters overnight." She fluttered her eyelashes in Duo's direction.

"Number two," she continued after a moment. "You're allowed one trip down to Earth to clear up any loose ends you want to. It's a good idea to make this trip at night, since then people are generally asleep and don't run screaming, and it's also a good idea to avoid people unless a planned part of the trip is to speak to someone. There's no time limit on the visit. And number three, you are expected to work up here, but no one's going to force you to do something you can't stand, and you can take holidays when you want, for as long as you want."

Maria gave them an angelical smile, then started as though someone had poked her. She glared generally to her right. "I was just getting to that, okay?" she complained loudly to thin air, then turned back to the two pilots. "In hell, people make up their own scenarios. This can include making up people, or dragging replicas of people from the living world to this one. You can't do that here. So until Hildie dies, you won't be able to talk to her again."

"Is that the same with Relena?" Heero asked hopefully.

Maria nodded.

"And can you keep her away from me when she does die?"

"Sure thing. Looks like Relena's heading for hell, anyway."

"Huh?" Duo looked even more confused, if that was possible.

Maria wrinkled her nose up. "It's complicated and mostly classified," she said. "Can't say more than that. Have a nice forever together." Then she waved at them, grinned, and vanished.

Duo leaned back against Heero's comforting warmth, and felt the arms tighten satisfyingly about him. "I don't feel dead," he said.

Heero kissed his neck, then bit it gently. "Look on this as a second life," he said.

Duo snuggled backwards, tilting his head to give Heero access to more skin. "Mm," he agreed.

Heero smiled and once more began his onslaught on Duo's body.

+

Quatre started awake, staring at the ceiling of his and Trowa's bedroom, and wondering what it was that had woken him.

Then he felt it again, a slight tugging on the sense he couldn't define, but this was impossible, completely impossible. . . . There was no way. . . .

The slight tug pulled at his consciousness again.

Quatre rolled over and shook Trowa's shoulder, jolting the taller pilot awake. He put a finger over Trowa's lips to forestall his lover's surprised question.

"Come with me," he said, and squirmed out from under the covers.

Frowning slightly, Trowa pulled himself out of the bed and dressed quickly, then followed the blond Arabian as Quatre led him outside and walked along the street.

"Quatre, what are we doing?" he asked, breath misting in front of his face even as Quatre hugged himself against the cold.

"I'm not sure," Quatre said, frowning slightly. "I just have the strongest feeling. . . ."

It soon became apparent where Quatre was leading them.

The cemetery.

Once inside, Quatre frowned and began walking in a vague movement, first turning left, then stopping, frowning and moving right. Eventually he figured out roughly where he was going and began moving in a straight line for two of the newer graves.

Duo's and Heero's.

They were buried side by side at Quatre's request, knowing it was what the two of them would have wanted. His own personal touch stood in the center. A small plaque, barely visible if you didn't know what you were looking for, saying, 'No two people ever loved deeper or stronger. Rest in peace.'

As Quatre and Trowa rounded the corner and came in line of sight with the graves, they stopped in shock.

For standing in front of the two newly-carved headstones, each with an arm around the other's waist, and completely transparent, was Duo and Heero.

"How could you have dropped my cross, man?" Duo was complaining. "I mean, I'd think that of all the things of mine you might have kept, that would have been at the top of the list. Even if you aren't a Catholic. Or anything vaguely religious."

Heero grunted, then leaned down and a hand Quatre could see straight through swiped something glittering and golden out of the grass around Duo's grave. "There. Happy now?"

Duo tipped his head on side, his braid (with a seeming life of its own) wrapping around Heero's shoulders. "It'll have to do . . . for now."

"Duo . . . Heero. . . ." Quatre took a step forward, unable to hold still any longer. "Is it really you?"

The ghosts' heads whipped around to stare at the blond Arabian. The two set of lovers stared at each other for a charged minute.

Then Duo laughed, stepping away from his lover. "Go at night, she said. You won't meet people, she said." He laughed again.

"Yes, it is us," Heero said, shooting an annoyed look at Duo.

"How. . . ?" Trowa swallowed, then started again. "How is this possible?"

"Don't ask me. Apparently I was in hell until about a day ago." Duo folded his arms and grinned.

Quatre blinked at him.

"Are you . . . are you happy?" he asked hesitantly.

Heero smiled. That in itself was remarkable: it was the first time either Trowa or Quatre had seen the expression on the Japanese boy's face. He hooked an arm around Duo's waist and pulled him close again. "I have never been happier," Heero said quietly, and the American pilot leaned back against him, fitting his head into the curve of Heero's shoulder.

Quatre's sudden smile stretched his mouth to its widest points. "I'm glad," he said.

"We'd better be going," Heero said after a moment, kissing Duo's cheek. That affectionate gesture more than anything else satisfied Quatre that whatever had been wrong after Duo's death and before Heero's had been solved.

"Yeah," Duo agreed, then turned to Trowa and Quatre. "Now I've got the opportunity, I want to say something to the two of you."

"Yes?" Quatre asked.

"Be happy together. Don't hurt each other over stupid things, and don't assume the worst. I want to see the two of you upstairs later on."

With that parting comment, Duo latched an arm around Heero and waved as the two seemed to dissolve.

"Remember . . . be happy, my friend."

~Owari

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