Author: The Manwell
see chap. 1 for warnings, notes, disclaimers

Shinigami Sleeps + Chapter 9
The Horrors Await

Trowa rolls over to avoid the light.

It had been a very long, very hard night. Duo had indeed had nightmares. And Trowa had only allowed himself to drift, waiting for Duo to tense or make a sound. Every hour, it seemed, Trowa spent at least thirty minutes soothing Duo back to sleep. At sometime after five in the morning, he'd been too exhausted to keep at it. His last thought had been of Duo, that at least he'd gotten some rest tonight.

He gives up on sleep. Now that his subconscious is aware of the late hour, he can't get settled again. As one sense comes around, then another, Trowa notices one very important detail as he's lying in Duo's sleeping bag: he's alone.

With a frown, he opens his eyes and sits up. The room is empty.

He checks his watch. It's nearly noon.

Blinking, he crawls out of bed, wondering how Duo had managed to get up and leave without disturbing him. Of course he knows how Duo had managed it. Still, it bothers him that perhaps he might have slept through something important. Something like one of Duo's nightmares.

He heads to the bathroom and washes up, rinsing off the last bit of sleep. He doesn't bother to examine his reflection in the dusty, cracked mirror. He's well aware of the fact he looks like complete shit. He certainly feels like it.

Trowa shuffles back into the bedroom to get dressed when something catches his eye. He sits down on his own, unslept-in bed and picks up a handsome, leather-bound journal. He assumes it belongs to Duo. And Duo must have wanted him to see it; otherwise he wouldn't have left it on Trowa's sleeping bag.

He opens the cover and spies a note written in Duo's penmanship.

Trowa,

I realized last night that I have to be honest with you. I can't say that I'm not scared of what you'll think when you read this, but I think you need to know. And, maybe, I need to tell you.

I'll be back by 20:00 tonight.

See you then.

Duo.


Trowa sets the note aside and flips through the pages. The majority of the book is blank. He doubts it will take him eight hours to read this. But then something else flutters loose from the pages. A photograph.

His eyes widen slightly as he absorbs the image and a sick feeling comes over him. The happy family smile up at him from within the white boarders of the picture. Slowly, Trowa sets the image aside and takes a deep breath. His hand smoothes over the cover of the book before sliding beneath the leather. He takes another deep breath, indulges in another brief hesitation, and dreads what he's about to find.

...

Duo Maxwell stares out across the park. His fingers gently rub at the knitted sweater he'd borrowed from Trowa's duffle bag. He wonders if Cathy had made this for him, if it had been a Christmas present, or in the bargain bin in a low-end department store. If he closes his eyes he can almost pick out Trowa's scent, can almost imagine his lingering body heat, can build the illusion of his friend's presence.

He draws a deep breath and takes his time remembering, savoring. He takes out every moment he's spent with Trowa since bumping into him outside the store just two weeks ago and holds them up to the light. He doesn't want to forget these times, doesn't want to forget this miracle of friendship he'd been a part of. He'd told Father Maxwell and Sister Helen that he didn't believe in God because he'd never seen any miracles... [14] But back then, he hadn't known Trowa Barton.

The guy was—is—amazing.

Duo knows he's risking everything—the closest friend he's had in a really long time... the companionship his soul craves... his heart. But Trowa had told him the truth last night. He'd opened his soul and answered Duo's questions. And even though Trowa hasn't exactly asked, Duo realizes that he can't hide this from him.

God, I want him to know.

Duo has wanted to tell someone this for so long. To share this pain. To halve it. To be accepted despite what he's done. That had been why he'd gone to Heero. But, at the last possible moment, he hadn't confessed. He'd just made up some bullshit about not knowing what to do with himself without a war to fight. He hadn't lied. Not really. He'd just... omitted a hell of a lot.

And he's ashamed at how glad he is that he hadn't said anything. It would have completely broken him if he'd told Heero all of the dark secrets of his soul just to be sent away to face the ghosts alone.

No, he hadn't wanted to be alone. But it's more than that. He'd realized just after Trowa had asked to stay with him... he needs absolution.

I'll settle for him still being there when I get up the courage to go back.

He closes his eyes, pulls his feet up onto the bench, and wraps his arms around his shins. He's not sure what he'll do if he returns to an empty house tonight. Although he doubts he'll get around to telling the reverend about the first time Trowa tried his cooking.

Duo lowers his forehead to his knees. His lips move, but no sound emerges. He's not sure if it's a prayer or a plea. He's not sure if he deserves to have anyone answer it. But the words tumble from his heart and he can't not breathe them into the fine, February weather:

"Please don't leave me."

+

This journal is the property of Captain Kurt Franklin.

Trowa examines the inscription on the first page and feels the knot in his stomach shift and swell. Franklin. The name Duo has been using. Trowa pauses and forces his breathing to remain level and deep. With trepidation, he gently turns the page and beings to read.

A.C. 179: Sylvia, my beautiful, amazing Sylvia, is pregnant! I'm in shock. I was in shock when she told me and I still can't believe it now, hours later. Although I did somehow manage to convince her that I'm thrilled. I think it might have been my picking her up and twirling her around the room. Or perhaps it was my laughter. It's been so long since we've had something to celebrate. I wonder, now, if it's wise to bring a child into this world, this war. But perhaps this conflict will end soon. Perhaps things will settle. I can only hope my work with the Alliance will bring about peace. I can only hope this world will be a safe place for my Sylvia and our child...

A.C. 180: It's a boy! My Jesse! I never thought this day would come. I must have imagined looking down at my son millions of times, but the reality to so much more! I feel such love... And my need to keep him safe, to watch him grow up... I've never felt this strongly before. My son is a miracle. My Sylvia is a miracle. They are my reason for seeking peace. They are my reason for living. They are my everything. Oh, Jesse, there is so much out there for you to discover. I can barely contain my urge to show everything to you right now. Never before have I felt it: the incredible possibilities that the future holds. Someday, when you have a son or daughter of your own, you will know what I am talking about. But for now you're mine to protect and love and watch over. My son. My miracle.

A.C. 181: I don't think I'll ever forget today. I know I'll never want to. Your first birthday, Jesse! Your first presents and cake, although not your first mess. Sylvia's still in the shower trying to get the frosting out of her hair. All of her friends warned her not to keep her long hair after you were born, but she didn't listen. And I'm glad. You love that braid almost as much as she does! So now it's the end of the day and you're asleep in your crib. You probably won't remember this day, but I will. You give me so much, son. And I love you so very, very much.

A.C. 182: Well, you were definitely louder this year than last! "Mommy I want this" and "Daddy I want that"... Oh, God but you're a handful. I don't know how Sylvia does it. Just watching you wears me out! I feel so old next to you, but that light in your eyes—eyes just like my Sylvia's—makes me feel so young. You're going to do great things, Jesse. You're so special. I can't imagine how other people could possibly miss that sparkle of yours. Every day you amaze me. And sometimes you even downright startle me. You're so smart. I could tell you didn't believe me when I told you the stork brought you to Mommy and I. You just gave me that look you have. And then you laughed. And I couldn't stop myself from laughing with you.

A.C. 183: I can't believe you want your hair to look just like Sylvia's. My own son with long hair. I'd shake my head and mutter if not for the fact that I love you more with each passing day. Sylvia thinks you'll outgrow this, but I don't think so. You're a rebellious spirit, Jesse. Nothing could ever be boring and ordinary for you. I imagine that you'll be an artist or adventurer or something equally reckless and risky. You'll certainly never grow up to be a soldier like your old man! Not with long hair, anyway! Jesse, I hope you never have to know what it's like to live in this world I wade out into every day. I hope I can keep you safe. But you're so bright, so alive. I fear smothering you and forcing that light from your eyes. But how else can I protect you with this war going on? My son, I hope you don't live to hate me for bringing you into a place such as this.

A.C. 184: I look back over my previous entries and realize what a complete and utter fool I have been. I am only one man. An Alliance soldier. A target. That is why you both were taken from me. My Jesse. My Sylvia. You were just walking down the street to go to the bakery to find the perfect cake for the party tomorrow. Jesse, you would have been four years old. And you've paid for my inability to suppress the rebel groups. They tell me it was instantaneous, that you didn't feel any pain. I suppose I can be grateful for that much at least. But what am I to do now? Do I simply give up? End it all? Let those who triggered the bomb win? I wanted peace. I worked for it. I dreamed about it until I could taste it on my mouth. Now... now it doesn't matter anymore. My miracles are gone. And all that's left is an Alliance soldier. Not a man, just a machine of war.

A.C. 188: What have I done? We finally cornered the rebel group responsible for the deaths of my wife and son. Finally, I am allowed my vengeance. I barely read the report I was so eager to finish this, to finally know that Sylvia and Jesse's souls are at peace. I signed the papers. I ordered the strike. May God forgive me. Two-hundred and forty-five people are dead. Maxwell Church, the orphanage, the orphans... all gone. What have I done? I had not thought living could be any more hellish, but I was wrong. Hell cannot be worse than this. And there is no way I can redeem myself. But there is nowhere left for me to go. I am an Alliance soldier in a world that hates and despises us. I am no longer partially innocent in this conception as I have now done something so completely reprehensible. I deserve death. And, once, I would have welcomed it. Would have welcomed being with my Sylvia and my Jesse again. But now I know I'll not be joining them. They are far, far beyond my reach for all eternity.

A.C. 192: I... I can't believe it. I... Oh, dear God, don't fool with me like this! Please, please... Wait, I must get myself under control. Start from the beginning... The guards found an intruder. A young boy. I was off-duty so they just locked him up. They threw a child in a detention cell. How could I have ever thought the Alliance was a benign organization? How could I have been so blind? If they are willing to treat a boy like this...? As soon as I heard about the prisoner, I reprimanded the officers who confined him and then I went to visit him. I looked into the cell and saw him. Thin, lanky, and covered in black from head to toe. I tried to talk to him, but he only smirked at me. I asked for his name and all he would say is 'Shinigami'. And then he turned away from me and I saw it. The long rope of golden brown hair. I felt my heart begin to beat faster, felt the hope—that hated, irrepressible hope—begin to build inside of me. I said something derisive, I don't remember what. I just wanted to get him to look me in the eye. And he did. And I saw his eyes. Even from beneath the brim of his hat, I couldn't mistake those eyes. Sylvia's royal blue eyes. So dark they're nearly violet. So wide they mesmerize. Oh, God, tell me it's true. Tell me that's my Jesse! I have to order the DNA test in the morning. I have to make sure the guards treat him well. I can get him out of this. I must get him out of this. Oh, Jesse. You looked right through me. You don't remember me. You don't remember how much I loved you. But it's not too late. We can start over. Be a family again. Please, Jesse, just give me one chance to make it right. I love you so, so much.
[15]

Trowa turns the page, but it's blank. Of course it's blank. The explosion had happened just shortly after Kurt Franklin had written this last entry. Trowa carefully sets the journal aside and picks up the photograph. The man with golden brown hair and a neat, thick mustache is Kurt. The woman with blond hair in a loose braid hanging over her shoulder and down to her waist is Sylvia. The toddler they hold between them with shaggy brown hair and almost- violet eyes is Jesse.

And Jesse Franklin is Duo Maxwell.

Trowa tucks the photograph safely within the pages of the unfinished journal. He leans back against the wall and closes his eyes. Suddenly, his own nightmares seem ridiculously petty in comparison.

++

[14] From "Episode Zero."

[15] The timeline is taken from the events in "Episode Zero" although the events in Kurt Franklin's journal are, mostly, my own creation. The rebels at Maxwell Church and the Alliance's attack are from "Episode Zero." Duo's imprisonment in an Alliance cell is, I'm reasonably certain, something that is shown in "Episode Zero" even though there's no mention of why he got arrested. He's even wearing his priest's outfit, so I'm inferring he's already decided to get revenge for the deaths of Father Maxwell and Sister Helen.

[chap. 8] [chap. 10] [back to The Manwell's fic]