Author: Asuka Kureru

Visiting Old Friends + Part 1

I'm such a self-centered bastard sometimes. I was so immersed into being happy I had my husband with me and my life back on track that I only noticed Heero didn't feel okay when he failed to be as enthusiastic as me about that invitation from Wufei.

He's visible more often, now, and when I see him turn away and then, like an afterthought, go invisible, then I understand that we have a problem. But like the ass that I am, I still stick my whole leg into my mouth.

"What's wrong? You don't want to see the guys?"

Yeah. Sometimes my stupidity astounds me too.

I look around, trying to feel him, to know where he's gone, but it isn't easy. "Oh, love, I'm sorry." Of course he wants to see the guys. But it isn't as if they could see him too.

'... It's okay, Duo. Of course I'll come with you.'

That's the tone he takes when he's avoiding the real issue. And I understand what he's not telling, and why he's not talking about it.

It will suck a lot to be around them and see them ignore him, because he's dead to them. Has been dead for seven years. And while they still miss him, they've moved on... except that he's not really dead. Well technically, he is, but... He misses them, and as protective of his time out as he was before, he was never THAT enthusiastic in shutting people out. And I don't think anyone can like to see his friends talk around him as if he didn't exist.

In his place I'd be mad as hell or mortally depressed. I know which route he'll take. He internalizes everything.

"Hey... Maybe... do you think... Maybe other people could see you, under the right circumstances?"

Reappearing, kind of blurred, sitting on the windowsill, Heero sighs melancholically. 'I don't think so. When Wufei came in, I was as visible as I knew how to be. I was standing just behind you and he didn't glance at me once. He didn't even feel my presence like you do.'

"... oh."

'I can try today, when you go and see Quatre-- he's a newtype, he might feel me.'

He's grasping at straws. He sounds so depressed... I reach out automatically, before I remember that I can't touch him anyway. My hand stays frozen between us, an aborted gesture of tenderness.

I don't like going through him. And he doesn't like it either. It's like running my hand through nearly frozen water when he's visible, or cold air when he's not; for him it's like a low-intensity electrical current that numbs his flesh, and in a quite unpleasant way. Anyway it isn't a good sensation, and the sight of it... Let's say it isn't the best way to keep on imagining that things are back just the way they were, when things were still perfect. What we have is a whole hell of a lot better than nothing. It's better not to remind ourselves of how much we lost that we took for granted before.

+

I feel Heero hovering as I prepare for the trip, but he stays invisible. He's behind me when I walk out of the apartment, and if the neighbors see me hold the door open for no one, I don't care. Right now I couldn't stand to close the door on him as if he didn't exist. Same for the car. I find a way to open the passenger door as if putting something away, and it's only when I see his shadow pass by me and take place that I close it and walk to the other side. I see the old Mrs Morgeinsen looking at me funny, but she always thought I was all sorts of freaky since I came to live with Heero here, nine years ago. She's of the opinion that guys can only be gay if they're on the feminine side, and of course since I have long hair... Add that to my other antics and now she can see me open the door to a ghost with barely a disdainful sniff.

He stays a mere shadow as I turn the car on; neither one of us can utter a word right now, there are too many thoughts in our heads.

I rest my hand on the wheel, and finally find my voice.

"... You can stay here if you want. At home I mean. It probably would be less pai-- boring not to have to ... You know. I'll be fine."

'... It's okay. I don't want to stay. I want to see the guys, even if... I'm going to be bored.'

See? Guys, both of us. 'Che.

I start the car and leave the parking, the silence stretching between us once again. I drive fast. It's hurtful and confusing for both of us, the bittersweet desire to see our friends again.

Surprisingly, Heero breaks the silence first. '...I don't think I can anyway. Stay at home, I mean.'

I don't commit the mistake of believing his casual tone.

"What the hell does THAT mean?" I ask, bewildered. "Of course if you want to, you can stay at home... I could tell you what happened and--"

He's visible again--and shaking his head. 'I mean that I can't, Duo. When you're in the office, I can barely reach the kitchen door. I can't go inside.'

I don't care if I'm not supposed to park there, especially without warning, but fuck the other people.

"What?! Why didn't you tell me before? And what do you mean, you can't go farther?!"

He sighs and looks around, frowning. Passerby are staring at me and whispering. I make a rude gesture at them and ignore their stares; Heero's the only one I care about.

'Duo, you're going to get arrested...!'

'"I don't give a fuck! What do you mean?"

He growls at me. 'Drive, dammit! That woman just made a call on her cell phone! Do you want the guys to have to learn that you've been arrested because you were having an argument with a voice in your head?!'

"You're NOT--!!" Whoa. Whoa, cold! I grit my teeth and drive the car away from that place in a hurry. "Okay, I'm driving. Can you take your hand out of my thigh now? I feel like my blood's freezing."

He does, scowling. 'I know I'm not a voice in your head, but will they?'

"... at least if I was put away in a madhouse, I wouldn't have to pretend not to hear and see you," I grouse, just to have the last word. His hand rises threateningly, and I wince. "Okay, I was kidding. Now explain to me what you meant."

He sighs and his eyes go from intensely serious to melancholic again, and he begins to talk, softly, reluctantly. 'I just can't go any farther. I didn't notice for the longest time, because I didn't want to leave your side even a second, but in the last week, I've tried to go to another room when you were working in the office, and I had to stop at the kitchen door. It was just... a very deep reluctance. Then I tried to push past that, and I started to feel... faint. As if I was going to pass out. And I noticed that I was going see-through, but it wasn't under my control. It felt that way when I pushed myself too much, when you were resting, the first week. As if I was going to fade out because I was using up the very energy that keeps me together... Duo, watch the road!'

I jump and realize that I've been glancing at him more and more often during his explanation, and that I didn't see the other car. I slow down in time, but it was too close for comfort.

"... Damn."

He growls at me again. 'That's it, I'm not explaining more.'

"Like hell you're not. Just let me find a parking lot."

'Duo, we're going to be late... They're going to worry!' he protests as I turn away from the main road and search for a secluded parking space.

"They can wait. You're more important."

There, we're parked. Nice, shady, secluded place. I undo my seatbelt and turn to face him. He's still facing the windshield, head low, his hands clenched on his pants at the knee. I notice absently that it's his Preventers pants; he's never been clear enough for me to see that detail before.

"... Husband-mine? Babe, talk to me... "

'... I just... can't be farther than a certain distance from you. It's logical in a way. You're my anchor in this world; it makes sense that I have to stay close. But it's okay, I don't mind. I want to stay by you anyway.'

I slump against the seat, overwhelmed, choking on my guilt. I've leashed him to me like some dog. I've stolen everything from him. The right to go on to whatever was waiting for him in the afterlife, and now his freedom to go where he pleases. He can't even leave and come back later if I piss him off, which I know will happen as soon as we get used to the new situation. How long before he hates me?

A cool breeze brushes my face and I look up, surprised. He's leaning toward me, looking at me earnestly.

'What's wrong?'

I open my mouth to tell him "nothing" and the second after, I find myself spilling my guilt out, unable to stop. He gives me a pained look, then a little smile that's supposed to reassure me.

'Duo... It's okay. I've missed you so much, I don't mind being around you. I WANT to be around you. If we have an argument, we'll find another way to cool off before making up. Another rule. We can do that. '

"... yeah... I guess."

'I don't feel chained by you at all. Don't be silly,' he assures me.

"But you can't do anything!! You..."

'I already can't do much,' he reminds me with a sad smile. 'I'm a ghost. It's already a lot that I'm allowed to interact with you and that I can make small things move. Maybe with time I'll become stronger and be able to do more...'

His eyes look so depressed... How does he want me to believe him? "... A lot? How can you say that? It's my fault that you're so limited. I'm so selfish. I shouldn't have bound you to me, maybe you'd be in heaven..."

He jumps and punches the dashboard. The air freshener begins to swing. 'NO! I want to stay with you! Don't you ever doubt this. I want to stay with you. Wherever we go, we'll go together. I forbid you to feel guilty for making sure of that.'

"Then why are you so depressed? And don't tell me you're not."

He slumps back in the seat and sighs, his eyes avoiding mine. '...Because... I was so selfish... How could you ever forgive me?'

... Huh?

A few seconds of silence, and then the words tumble out of his mouth, hurried, anguished. 'I left you behind. I abandoned you. I chose to die in your place, because I couldn't bear to go on living without you. And I made you go through the very thing I knew I couldn't bear. In your place I would be mad as hell that you dared to die for me. I wanted you to live as much as I didn't want to live without you. I was so selfish. So hypocritical. If I really loved you as much as I tell myself that I do, I should have thought about what you'd live with instead of myself.'

The silence is thick between us, a third presence in the car. My words have deserted me. I didn't have a clue he felt this way. What can I answer to that?

Nothing but the truth.

"... You're right... For a long while, I was furious. It was hell without you. But with time... I realized that it had been a decision that you had taken in under a second. If you'd had time to think about it, you would have ended up deciding the same thing I did. For you, I would endure it all again. ... And think about this my way, love. Would you ever have imagined using rituals?"

'... Probably not,' he concedes softly. 'I would have killed myself right away. And I don't-- Well, I didn't believe in that supernatural stuff anyway.'

"And then we'd both be dead. And I have no clue what would have happened. But the way it happened, we still got to end up together again. It was a good thing that you saved my life. Even though I didn't notice it for a while," I add with a little grimace.

He thinks about it, and I see a little of his anguish disappear. Just a little, though.

"... Tell me that with the time to think about it, you wouldn't have ended up deciding to bear my death so that I wouldn't be alone. Believe me, love, I know that you didn't mean to hurt me. You meant to save me. How can I not forgive you?"

He thinks for a few minutes, then smiles at me. '... Okay. Okay, you forgive me. Then, by your own argument, you can't feel bad for having kept me from moving on, because it ended up with us being together again, and you can't feel bad for me having to stay in range, because it sure as hell beats not being there at all.'

I blink, then burst out laughing. He's right. It resulted by us together and that's the only important thing. Sure it's not as perfect as both being alive, but it's better than the other alternative. It's what we both want, and if we have to end up in Hell for this--if we didn't already for the mass destruction and the killings and the having sex with another man thing and a thousand other offenses-- well, at least we will sill be together, because the link the spell forged between our souls is unbreakable, and getting stronger every day.

His hand brushes the end of the lock of hair I cut for him, pushes it behind my ear gently, and he leans close to me. His eyes are soft, gentle, and even more vividly blue that I remembered.

'Ai shiteru...'

I lean forward to meet him, and for a glorious second, our lips meet. His are cold as ice, of course, but still as gently yielding to mine, still fitting so perfectly.

"Love you, Heero. 'Till death and beyond."

[part 2] [back to Asuka Kureru's fic]