Author: Anria Lalumin
Disclaimer: if I can get Trowa to babble and Heero to dress up in drag and do the cancan in front of Relena, will you admit they're mine?
Warnings: um . . . angst? Maybe? Sap -- again maybe? Relena-bashing? I really don't know what to put here. . . . OH, SPOILERS!!!
Pairings: this fic wasn't really meant to have much of a Duo pairing in mind, although certain people might find hints of 2+1, 2+3, 2+4, or 2+5. There's also a surprise pairing at the end, which WAS NOT SUPPOSED TO BE IN THIS FIC THANK YOU VERY MUCH EVIL CHIBI MUSE!
ECM: Who, me?
A little note: I have a friend whose personality is almost identical to Duo's. When I asked her why she joked around so much, I based this fic on her answer.

True Smile

People have come up with hundreds of different theories for why I joke around all the time. They've said I'm covering up for depression, that I'm a moronic baka, that I believe in 'the Maxwell curse' and don't want anyone to get close to me again.

They're all wrong.

You want to know why I joke around so much? It's a very simple reason.

I like to see people smile.

One smile can usually lighten an entire situation. In some cases, this isn't true, but mainly it is. And I mean a true smile. Even I, who grins all the time, can see the difference on my face between the usual grin and my true smile.

I am proud to say that I have managed to get a smile out of every single on of the other pilots. I'm serious. Oh, I know they smile as well, but I mean the smile you get when -- how to explain this? Okay. You know when someone tells a joke that someone else finds really, really funny, so they're almost doubled over laughing? It doesn't last, I know. But after they've stopped laughing, often they'll wear a smile for a long time. That smile is the remnants of the laughter, and if you look at it, it is one of the most lovely things in this world. It exposes that part of a person's soul where they're still a tiny child with no concept of all the wrongs in this world, even if that time was so long ago they cannot remember it. Let me tell you, it was the hardest mission I was ever assigned when I swore to myself that I would get that genuine smile out of all the pilots. I ranked them all in order of the difficulty it would take to get that smile, and it went like this, from easiest to hardest: Quatre, Wufei, Heero, Trowa. You may wonder why I put Trowa at the bottom and not Heero; well, it's like this. Heero has emotions. Well, duh. He knows he has them. He acknowledges them, and then shoves them aside, which is the easiest way to deal with them. That doesn't work if you don't acknowledge them. But the point is, Heero has emotions and he knows it. Trowa, on the other hand, has emotions -- and he pretends he doesn't. He's lied to himself so much that when I appointed myself this mission, he had convinced himself that he did not have emotions at all. It was a neat way of dealing with a troubled past, but it was undoubtedly the wrong one.

Never mind. Let me explain first how I got Quatre to smile.

And now you're sitting there looking at me going, 'What? Quatre smiles almost all the time!' and you could not be more wrong. Sure, Quatre smiles a lot -- that simple, innocent, angelic smile that puts everyone off guard. At that, my friends, is why he does it! Quatre himself is nowhere near angelic. But imagine this: you're an OZ officer sent to gently interrogate the Winner heir who is under suspicion of helping the rebels. You're not sure, because he has too many ways of covering his tracks, but the higher ups have an inkling of doubt about his innocence. You go into the questioning room, and there, sitting at the desk, is a fifteen-year-old blond boy who barely tops five foot, with the most open face anyone could imagine. Even though he's obviously nervous (the hands clasped tightly together in his lap, the faint hint of it in his expression) he smiles at you as you come in, being as courteous as he was brought up to be. And his smile looks like a small child's, making you at least half convinced right there and then that he was completely innocent of all charges. And a few simple questions answered with the just right amount of guilelessness and subservient politeness, and you're convinced.

And yes, Quatre did use this technique. He demonstrated it to me once, and within five minutes I was almost convinced he could have had nothing to do with the rebels.

But despite this, Quatre never really learned to smile. According to Rashid, he was somewhat of a spoilt brat when they first met, but from what he gathered, Quatre felt neglected by his family. Not just neglected, but made to feel as though they could make a replacement of him at any time. This wasn't true -- Quatre is the only Quatre -- and while it isn't as drastic as the lives the others of us have had, it was just as brutal in its own way. Yes, it is the spoilt little rich kid syndrome. Except in Quatre's case, a little more pronounced, since he is not a subservient person by any means.

When I finally got Quatre to truly smile -- and I had to break down years of training to be accepted in polite society which state that you do not open up that much around anyone to do so -- it was one of the most rewarding moments of my life. Quatre's true smile has an impish look about it, that makes you expect at any moment someone (most likely you) to be the victim of some ingenious prank that he has been building up to all day. His eyes sparkle -- and I'm not kidding, folks, they get this shine in them -- and his mouth looks like he's suppressing a full-blown belly laugh, kind of twisted up and compressed but still smiling and looking so happy. When he's really happy, I kinda find myself expecting him to sprout horns and a tail at any moment, and start persuading me to sign my soul over to him.

Okay, enough of Quatre. On to Wufei!

Wufei, in his own way, was easier to crack than Quatre, and at the same time harder. It's kinda confusing when I think about it, but. . . . Oh, never mind, I'm not making any sense. Anyway, Wufei already had a kind of smile when I started on him -- you've probably seen it. He has this little smirk he's cultivated so it's somewhere between endearing, annoying, and insufferable -- and can travel all shades of the spectrum between. Much like Quatre, Wufei practiced that smile for a specific reason, and once again it had to do with OZ. Unlike Quatre, Wufei did not have the resources or the remaining (and powerful) family to cover his tracks for him, and he was positively identified as a Gundam pilot by OZ, so he had no other recourse against 'questioning' (aka torture) than to hold out. He once told me once that he did not take physical pain well -- yeah, coulda fooled me too -- and knew he would give in after a while if he did not find some way to make the questioning end sooner. And you know what he did?

He smirked at them.

Now, that doesn't sound like much, does it? But let me put you in OZ's shoes for a moment again: imagine you are questioning someone who is a known Gundam pilot. He has undoubtedly killed people you know, whether close friends, family, or merely passing acquaintances you knew in MS school. But at any rate, he has almost certainly hurt people you know, and stretched this war out longer so you cannot go home to those of your family who remained. You have been instructed to question him for information. You are beginning to get frustrated that he does not break easily, but sense he is beginning to weaken. He throws insults at you all the time, and not just at you, but at those closest to you. And when you think you're so close to getting him to break, after all the time it has taken you, that his body language tells you he can't take much more -- what does he do? He sits up, acting as relaxed as though he was out for a stroll, and smirks at you, as though telling you you've been duped. The results of this are always the same. The questioner doesn't just lose his temper -- he goes ballistic. He doesn't ask Wufei any more questions while he hits -- he just hits. Wufei doesn't even have the opportunity to answer, so he doesn't.

Now if you ask me, this is a damned stupid and self-destructive way to go about avoiding breaking in questioning, and according to Wufei he has more scars on his body from that than from fighting in battles. But still, he found it useful, and he knows how to take a hit, and according to him he knew how to stop it before it got too far, so. . . . Who am I to complain? It's his life.

You may find it odd that a smirk could cause someone to lose control so drastically. Yes, I used a big word. Big whoop. Anyway, if you've ever had that smirk directed at you with the intention of pissing you off, you'll understand precisely why. Even when I'm in the most congenial mood of all time, one smirk from Wufei can have me wringing his neck. Even when he hasn't done/said anything. It's . . . really remarkable.

All I can say is, I'm glad he can do it the other way round as well. When I'm in the pissiest mood imaginable (say a mission has gone wrong or something) the others send Wufei in and ten minutes later I'm fine. And all he does is make sure my eyes meet his, and then smirk at me in a way I can't help but burst out laughing at.

So of course, I had to find a way to repay all of that. First of all, though, I had to prove to Wufei that I wasn't a brainless baka, so guess what I did? Every time I saw him, I would say everything I had to say to him specifically in Chinese, and continue in English with the rest of the pilots. Everyone seems to overlook this little talent I have for languages. I'm fluent in two dialects of Chinese, Japanese, English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, and after meeting Quatre I started learning Arabian. I'm sure there's something I've forgotten there. . . . Oh, never mind. The point is that I startled Wufei enough that he began to actually talk to me, and afterwards began to respect me. It took me a long time to build up to getting a true smile out of Wufei, and when I did I almost wished I hadn't. You see, Wufei's smile is . . . sad. His face is beautiful when he smiles -- and yes, I know how corny that sounds -- but his eyes are sad. Gah! That's even worse! Okay, I'm not explaining this well, am I? My point is that when Wufei smiles, it brings back all the memories of when he was last happy in his life, which is his childhood. Wufei might have been the only one of us who was happy as a kid. And, of course, after that his thoughts continue on to the end of it all -- Meiran, and after her the destruction of the colony, and even the death of Treize. So even when Wufei is happy, he is sad. I don't think anything will ever cure that.

So, on to Heero!

Heero's weird. There is no other word to describe him. And I love a challenge -- which is the entire reason I followed him around for a while at the schools. I was trying to figure him out. And before you say it, no, I was not 'doing a Relena'. For one thing, I didn't ask Heero to kill me (apart from one time in an OZ base, and that wasn't really a question) and I didn't go around yelling his name at the top of my lungs after driving around the place in, of all things, a PINK limo.

But anyway, enough red herrings. I think I'll start off like I have with the others, describing what sort of smile -- if you can call it that -- Heero had before I got my grubby little mitts on him.

No, not like that. Hentai.

So, Heero! Hm . . . how to describe this. . . .

I've already said Heero's weird. Well, he is. I was working on him long before any of the others, and he still took longer than Wufei and Quatre to crack, and I even enlisted the others to help in their own way -- some without even knowing what they were agreeing to. I think you should know I'm grinning right now. Anyway, Heero's only joy in life was in the battlefield. He once told me that the only time he truly felt alive was when piloting Wing, because that was the only freedom he had. Dr J had essentially made sure he would only feel that way in Wing, because it would mean Heero would always follow his orders as J could disable the Gundam at any moment with an override system. There were a few times when he fought in Wing that I heard him laugh -- and damn, but that is a scary sound. He sounded completely psychotic, and it was that that convinced me that he did not truly have any happiness in this life. He attributed the feeling he got when flying to happiness only because he had nothing better to measure it up against.

Besides the psychotic laugh, Heero also had this funny little smirk that would show up every now and again. It wasn't like Wufei's smirk -- most of the time when he wore this one, I wasn't sure he was actually aware of it at all. And unlike Wufei's, it didn't look endearing, or irritating, or downright infuriating, or anywhere in between. Heero's little smirk looked . . . sexy.

And the scariest thing was, he wasn't even aware he was doing it.

Heero's smirk served no purpose whatsoever other than to tell me there was still a human with emotions under all the training. Whenever I felt like there was no way I would ever get beneath that shield of his and drag him, kicking and screaming, out of the hole where he followed orders and killed mercilessly and never questioned anything, it always seemed like that smirk would make an appearance. Sometimes I wonder if it was Heero's way of telling me not to give up on him, that somewhere deep inside he was fighting this just as hard, but he couldn't break free without help. It was a long and exhausting process, but I finally got a true smile out of him.

And what a smile it was.

I've already mentioned that with his smirk, Heero looked sexy. When he wasn't smirking, he had this cold, doll-like beauty that made me think of a statue -- no, not a Greek one, since I always felt they overdid the muscles (and under-did the genitalia) -- but as perfect as he could get when made out of human flesh, which left him looking not-so-human at that. Hmph. I blame J. How the hell are you supposed to be friends with a guy when you either go green with jealousy or get a hard on whenever he walks in the room? Okay, so it wasn't as bad as that, but still! I'm getting sidetracked again. So imagine all that -- the incredible beauty of him (which still managed to be masculine) and that sexiness -- and then add the happiness of a contented child, strip it of any kind of guile, maliciousness or even the hint of a 'bad' emotion, roll it all up in one, and you'd get what Heero's smile looks like. It's not just drool-worthy, it's slobber-worthy. Except that would make a mess on the carpet.

More than that, though, it made me happy to see Heero happy. I worked so damn hard at it, and then he goes and gives me that gift in return for my efforts. I hope he knows he couldn't have done better if he'd tried.

Trowa, on the other hand . . . was incredibly difficult to deal with. I had no idea how to start, I had no idea how to continue, I even had no idea when I would see him for more than five minutes at a time. In the very beginning, I wasn't aware of how totally messed up Trowa was until Quatre started telling me about how he worried over the tall boy. Well, Trowa wasn't exactly tall, but hell, anyone taller than me is tall in my opinion.

Now, you may wonder why Trowa, out of all of us, is the most emotionally retarded. No, that was the wrong way to say it. I think saying that he has no idea how to even want to be happy would be more accurate. All of us have our problems. I've got my own demons haunting me, but you've heard about all of those already, and to be honest . . . I have the sort of personality that takes things as they come, and has a tendency to sort through emotional problems fairly quickly and get down the bare facts. Trowa, on the other hand, gets so tangled up in thinking about what he did do, what he didn't do, why he did this, why others did that, how it all fitted together and -- most importantly -- what the outcome was that in the end he might as well just slap a sign on his forehead saying 'Guilty!' and wander around in that state of mind for the rest of his days.

All of us blame ourselves for things that weren't our fault. Quatre is the prime example, but if you can't figure out what he blames himself for then you've never sat down and had a conversation with him. Wufei blames himself for the colony, and for Meiran. Meiran especially. Heero blames himself -- or he used to blame himself before I ranted at him and he gave in -- for the entire damn war. There's something else he blames himself for that eats him up inside, but he's not ready to talk about it yet, so I don't push. I have a feeling it has to do with an innocent that died. As for me, I worked my way out of blaming myself for Solo and the Maxwell Church years ago.

And then there's Trowa. Ah, dear Trowa. He blames himself for the deaths of all the mercenaries he grew up with. And I hear you saying, 'What's so different from the rest of you?' Well, the difference is, it's obvious to anyone with half an eye and a grain of common sense that the rest of us weren't actually to blame for what we blame ourselves for. Trowa, on the other hand, was directly linked to the deaths of just about all of the mercenaries -- being as he killed them, thinking they were traitors -- only to find out he had been the traitor, after all. True, he had unwittingly betrayed the only family he had, but do you think that matters to him?

And what sort of thing do you think that is gonna do to your psyche?

Trowa went through life after that thinking that he was made to be a soldier. That only an emotionless bastard could have done what he did, a person who was barely a person at all and not worth any kindness of any sort. Subsequent actions taken against him before he became a Gundam pilot were, to him, his own brand of personal punishment.

That is a hell of a lot of baggage to throw out. Let's list them, shall we? Guilt over events no one can say was not truly your fault, physical abuse, mental torture of the worst kind -- since it comes from yourself, and betrayal. Betrayal of those people who cared about you and who you cared about most in the world. Pretty darn heavy, ne?

Heero only learned to smile when the wars were over. Trowa only learned to smile in twice the length of time it took Heero. And do you know what did it in the end?

A piano.

Don't look at me like that. I'm serious! Music was the only form of real enjoyment Trowa had ever allowed himself, since it was a punishment as well, in a way -- one of the mercenaries Trowa had killed had been the one to teach him how to play the flute. When I -- with the help of Quatre, who hovered ever-present on the edges -- got him to open up a bit more, there was one time when I asked him if he knew how to play the piano. He said no, but some walls had been let down enough for him to admit he'd always wanted to. I can play the piano. And don't you dare ask where I got the time to learn! Sister Helen taught me -- well, actually she taught me to play the organ in the church, but it was close enough to a piano that after a few tuitions from Quatre I was able to pick it up. Ah, the joys of being a fast learner.

Anyway, I taught Trowa to play a couple of simple melodies, and after that he just sat there listening to me play. I was moving through the fast tune of one of the pre-colony pop songs that got into your blood and rode you [1], hoping Trowa would like it. When I finished, I looked at him and saw he had his eyes shut, with the same look of bliss on his face that he only usually got when playing the flute.

Then he opened his eyes, and smiled at me. I will tell you right now that nothing in this whole damn world could hold a candle to that smile. Not even Heero's. Maybe it was because I had worked so long and so hard for it. Maybe it was because it was a relief to see Trowa enjoying something. Maybe it was pride in my work. Maybe it was the fact that he never usually showed any expression of any kind. Maybe likely it was a combination of all of them.

Maybe it was because I have never seen something so beautiful in all my life.

Trowa's face is made for smiling. While I can describe all the others' happy smiles as though they intimate something else, the only way I can describe Trowa's smile is . . . happiness. Simply that. I was so overjoyed I gave Trowa one of my equally rare true smiles as well.

I've been told that when I smile like that I look like an angel. Quatre told me that, of course. The little blond imp is the only one of us who could ever say something like that and not either stop halfway through, turn bright red and splutter, or never consider saying it out loud in the first place, if it was even thought of. I've never been able to see that smile as anything more than a quick glimpse in the mirror, but . . . oh, hell, everyone deserves a bit of vanity. I agree with Quatre. I see a glow in my smile. I see a little bit of all of them in me.

Whenever I smile my true smile, I picture Trowa's face, on that afternoon by the piano.

I said at the beginning of this that I like to see people smile. I never said why. I like to see them smile because it makes me happy. That sounds so corny, that other peoples' happiness is my happiness. But corny or not, it's true. The two smiles that gave me the most happiness out of any I have seen were Heero's and Trowa's.

It makes me wonder why, when the smiled at each other like that as they told the rest of us they were together, it made me feel so damn sad.

~owari

Um . . . I didn't mean to end it like that. This was supposed to be a completely happy fic. . . . Okay, yeah, this is me, I guess. And sorry if it seemed like I rambled when writing it.

[1] The music I imagined as I wrote this was the piano solo in Tori Amos' "Cornflake Girl". Simply beautiful. ^_^
[2] I have been wanting to put that little smiley face all the way through this fic! Argh! I've been spending too much time on the internet. <whistles and waits for feedback>

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