I didn't know until Duo mentioned
it on that particular night, that it was Christmas Eve. I had long since
lost the need to know the date, to know the season. It made very little
difference to what I had become. I think, when I bother to dwell on it,
that I went just a little bit insane in those long months of fighting
after I lost my Gundam, before returning to space. Parts of it, to this
day, are not altogether clear. There was just a drive to continue fighting.
A need to not give up.
I think, sometimes, that I almost frighten Duo with that focus, not that
he'd ever admit it, but he has a look that he gives me on occasion, that
seems almost... haunted.
I don't really know how it came about that we ended up on so many missions
together. Not like we were partners... none of us were. But we seemed
to work well together, and I didn't question it. Didn't question that
sometimes it felt nice having him beside me, knowing that he would watch
my back when I'd lost the ability to care. Knowing that he would reach
out and bring me back when the soldier J had made of me would have leapt
right off a cliff in pursuit of the goal.
Somehow, over the months, Duo had become something of a safety net for
me, and I wasn't sure how that had happened. Wasn't even sure if he understood
how important he had become to me. How much of an anchor he was. He was
just there, and I had found myself trusting him despite myself. Sometimes
it was a relief... and sometimes it was just scary.
Like that night. That Christmas Eve.
We were in Kaunas, trying to stop the invasion of the Sanq kingdom. Romefeller
was moving north, getting closer and closer to the border, keeping to
the populated areas and making it impossible for us to meet them with
Mobile Suits without ensuring that the civilian casualties would be...
unacceptably high. They were high enough as it was.
Fighting as we were, on the ground, among the rebels... was something
new for us. It was war on an entirely different level. It was somehow
not as easy to ignore things when fighting on foot. In a Gundam, you never
noticed the broken ruins of people's lives. Never smelled that metallic
tang of blood mixed with smoke. Never heard the cries of the people as
they searched for loved ones in the confusion.
Duo said it made him think of the stories told by the bomber pilots in
the old wars. The pre-colony wars. Men who never had to set foot on the
ground they destroyed. When Duo spoke of it, he looked... troubled. I
didn't like to think of us as being like those men, and I don't think
he did either. We didn't speak of that part, even though... I think we
both felt it.
Duo and I had started out moving down what had once been the main street
of town, with a squad of local rebels. Our goal had been to reach the
city center where the enemy command post had been set up, and attempt
to take out the commanding officers and break the communications net.
We hoped the lack of direction would throw the occupying forces into enough
confusion that Noin and her regulars could manage the job of pushing them
back. Not that a victory at Kaunas would do more than delay the inevitable,
but we were mostly buying time for Relena to hopefully win her own battle.
A conquest on the floor of the council chambers, at the moment, was far
more likely to help the cause than a win on the battlefield.
Somewhere between the river crossing and the downtown... we'd lost the
other rebels. I don't know if they were killed in the fighting, or if
we had just become separated. Or, perhaps, the men who had volunteered
had decided that living to fight another day was the better part of valor,
and had simply abandoned us. I'm not really sure, but by the time we passed
what had been the public library five blocks out... it was down to just
me and Duo.
I had taken the north side of the street, and Duo the south. We tried
to keep each other in sight, but the debris and the abandoned cars made
it difficult. Sometimes, as I looked across for him, he seemed almost
part of the smoke and shadows. Our advance was slow as we tagged forward,
laying down cover-fire for each other. I dropped down behind a pile of
bricks that had once been part of a balcony, checked my load and took
over firing at likely spots ahead of us. I distantly heard Duo grunt as
he turned the firing over to me and made his run. He darted and dodged,
running low in a way I hadn't mastered... managing to keep himself down
while still exhibiting impressive speed. He passed my position, ducking
into the shadow of an over-turned car. I knew he was in position when
he unlimbered his rifle and began to fire.
I shouldered mine and followed, running parallel and seeking shelter in
the shattered front of what had once been a pleasant looking café.
We progressed that way a mere quarter-block at a time. From car to tree
to pile of stone to stoop. Whatever offered us cover in which to shelter.
I was kneeling in the dust and dirt, firing methodically down our path,
when I heard a sound from Duo that I had not heard before. I couldn't
spare the attention to look his way, but I heard the cadence of his steps
falter and his gait change. Some part of me knew that something was seriously
wrong, but the rest was consumed with refusing to consider it. I put all
my focus into my firing, doing my best to drive the enemy under cover,
making sure Duo had the distraction he needed. He didn't move into the
position I'd expected him to, but almost fell behind what had once been
a raised planting bed, almost directly across from me.
When I realized he was under-cover, I dared to duck down to look his way.
I could just make him out, sitting on the ground and leaning against that
wall, all detail lost to the dark. Sitting. Facing the wrong direction.
Just sitting. His rifle in his lap and not his hands. Just...
I ignored it when my hands began to shake.
'Duo?' I hissed and he responded with an odd little cough.
'Shit,' he muttered, almost as much to himself as to me. 'Ah... ooops?'
'Report!' I snapped, the anger coming easily to cover the fear. I hate
it when he jokes to hide the truth. Hate it because it's always a truth
that shouldn't be hidden.
'I... I...' he stammered, voice almost lost to the thirty feet or so of
distance. It was very... unsettling to hear the thread of fear in his
voice. Duo knew no fear.
'Are you hit?' I demanded, falling back on rote. I found myself leaning
dangerously in his direction and had to force myself back under cover.
'I'm... evaluating,' he told me gruffly, so I waited and watched movement
from him that I couldn't really make out. He seemed to be hunched in on
himself and I feared what he would report.
'Gut shot,' he finally told me. 'I think I might be done with this running
thing.' I growled my frustration, low enough that I didn't think he could
hear, but there was a quiet little, 'sorry,' a moment later.
Is it totally insane that something happening to Duo had never entered
my mind? I... can't really explain it; the logical part of me always knew
that we were soldiers and soldiers sometimes died. But... not Duo. It
was like watching the rock of Gibraltar crack.
I dared a glance over my pile of debris and fired off a couple of shots,
just to keep the enemy cautious. 'Are you mobile?' I asked tersely and
could hear the soles of his boots as they scraped against broken concrete.
'Not to speak of,' he replied after a long few moments, trying to sound
as though he wasn't the least bit bothered by the fact.
'Shit,' I muttered to myself and ran a hand through my hair.
'I believe I already said that,' he returned, but then ruined the affect
with a cough that ended in a pained little wheeze.
A bullet came just a little bit too close to where my ass was parked and
I quickly returned fire, shifting right after, so they couldn't home in
on the muzzle flash. I wondered how long before staying stationary was
going to get us very dead.
'You need to haul it on out of there, Yuy,' Duo said then, his thoughts
mirroring my own. I shook my head, though I doubted he could see it.
'I'll never get the rest of the way alone,' I told him and was pretty
sure I heard him sigh.
'I meant retreat,' he clarified. 'Reconnect with the rebel...'
'Shut up,' I cut him off, not able to hear him say it. 'I'm thinking.'
'Don't be an ass,' he said, managing a faint chuckle that almost sounded
genuine. I didn't respond, and after a few minutes I heard him shifting
around and then the sound of tearing cloth. I imagined him doing his best
to stop the bleeding, and shivered.
Funny how the prospect of losing something, makes you reevaluate your
I was suddenly very much unconcerned with reaching the city square, and
very much more concerned with reaching Duo.
'Do you think you can get in a position where you can give me some cover
fire?' I asked. 'I need to get over there.'
There was an exasperated sigh. 'I'll give you the damn cover, but you
need to get the fuck out of here. I doubt I can even stand up, much less
walk. You're only going to get yourself killed along with...'
I snarled and fired off several rounds at distant shadows down the street,
unable to hear him finish the sentence.
Bullets immediately pocked the ground around me, and I knew they were
homing in. There was a long bit of silence before Duo dared, 'Heero...'
in a gentle tone.
I didn't respond to it though, and he didn't seem to know what he wanted
to say anyway. We were quiet for a moment, and I could hear the pained
pant of his breath. 'You get ready,' I finally told him, not able to bear
that sound. 'I'm moving.'
I think he growled outright. 'For God's sake, Yuy...' he began, but he
didn't finish it, whatever the thought was, because we were both brought
up short by the sound of distant bells. Not bells of alarm, not klaxons
of warning, but church bells. They sounded very... surreal. After a moment,
they were echoed from another part of the city.
Everything else just... went still.
'What the hell?' I muttered, and Duo let out with an odd little sound.
'It's... Christmas,' he told me, voice wistful and something else I couldn't
identify. 'It's midnight... it's Christmas day.'
I blinked across where I could just see Duo's form, and for a moment,
thought I might have met his gaze.
'Merry Christmas, Heero,' he said so softly I almost didn't hear it. I
couldn't help it... I laughed.
It won me a spark of surprised laughter in return and then he was quiet
for a bit. The whole town seemed to be silent for that moment, while we
all listened to the sounds of the bells. They sounded eerie, echoing in
a quiet that hadn't existed just moments before. I suddenly felt the cold
I hadn't had time to notice before. I turned and sat down, mirroring Duo's
position with my back to the enemy. I was just... very tired.
'You know,' Duo told me conversationally. 'There's an old legend that
during one of the Earth wars, the soldiers on the two sides lay down their
guns on Christmas Eve and sang Christmas carols together. They supposedly
came out of the trenches, shared a few drinks and declared a truce for
I snorted. 'That sounds like an urban legend.'
'It does, doesn't it?' he said softly, and I suddenly wondered if he were
fading on me. 'But I like to believe.'
I shook my head, not really able to disabuse him of his faith, and who
knew? Maybe it was true. It didn't seem likely to me, but then... no one
was shooting at me at the moment either.
Duo chuckled softly, almost to himself, and then I heard his rifle scrape
gently against concrete. I turned sharply his way, sure that he'd just
laid his weapon aside, but I couldn't see well enough to tell. I opened
my mouth to admonish him, but then closed it again... thinking better
of it. Somehow, it just didn't seem to matter. I wondered at myself, but
wasn't quite sure where the soldier had gone.
'Look Heero,' Duo called out, and his voice held a spark of some childish
awe. 'It's snowing.'
I looked up and found the flakes just beginning to come down, falling
fat and wet, and so utterly silent. The bells still sounded, ringing merrily
and I shivered.
'I love the snow,' Duo said with an air of serenity about him, 'Sister
Helen used to tell us about snow, but I didn't believe her until I came
to Earth and saw it with my own eyes.' There was something in his voice
that was very calm, and I don't know why... but it frightened me. 'Have
you ever been to midnight mass, Heero? The choir is so beautiful. Somehow...
on Christmas Eve, it was like hearing angels sing.'
I didn't reply, but he didn't seem to need me to. There was a moment of
the oddest silence, full of a strange... anticipation, and suddenly...
Duo began to sing.
I had never heard him sing before, and I doubt I was hearing him at his
best, sitting in a ruined city with a bullet in him. But... I thought
his voice was as beautiful as any choir he might ever have known. Surprisingly
deep, somehow mellow, and strong despite the obvious pain behind it. It
should have seemed a foolish thing, but it didn't. It just felt right
'Silent night, holy night...' he sang, while I sat and listened like we
were sitting in a church somewhere and not in the middle of a broken city.
In the middle of a battlefield.
The bells still tolled behind Duo's voice and it flitted through my mind
that perhaps the city wasn't so broken after all. I knew the bells had
sounded first, but it seemed as though they rang only to accompany Duo.
'All is calm, all is bright...' and then somewhere ahead of us, somewhere
in the dark, another voice joined in. Something in my chest felt... odd.
Later, I would remember looking up and watching Duo's snow fall out of
the dark, but I wouldn't remember the exactly moment I laid my rifle aside.
I wouldn't remember standing up and starting the walk across the wide,
Duo didn't falter, perhaps he didn't see me coming, and I'm just as glad
because some part of me fully believed that he sang me across that street.
That his voice protected me until I reached his side. A silly notion,
I suppose, but that's how it felt... as though his voice were wrapped
around me, and guided me across that open expanse.
I should have been afraid, but I wasn't.
I'd had the med-kit with me and Duo's voice faltered as I bent to packing
his wound, finally stopping all together with a pained gasp. The shadow
voice hesitated as well, seeming to stumble on the lyrics, and a third
voice picked up the second verse.
'Shepherds quake at the sight...' and the bells still rang their silver
thread behind the words. I picked Duo up in my arms, and I walked away
from that place, our weapons left lying in the dust, slowly being covered
by the snow.
Duo's head was heavy against my shoulder, but I could hear the bemused
smile in his voice as he said, 'I think... maybe I believe.'
'You believe in your spirit of Christmas,' I whispered against the top
of his head. 'And I'll... believe in you.'
to Sunhawk's fic]