Best Christmas Ever
It was going to be the best
Christmas ever. I had decided on that sometime just after Thanksgiving.
I had spent that holiday as I had all my holidays since the end of the
war. Alone, doing my best to just pretend it was any other day. I had
resolved that I would not spend any more holidays like that. Any more
days of any kind, like that. It was time I did something besides sit around
feeling sorry for myself. Time I stopped missing the company of people
who obviously didn't miss mine. The day after Thanksgiving, the official
first shopping day of the season, I had found something to do with myself.
So here it was, Christmas Eve
and I was hovering just outside the doors of the third church I had visited
tonight. All of them within a mile of the site of the old Maxwell church;
the closest I could come.
I hovered by the door for selfish
reasons. Father Maxwell would have scolded me, but still... I could
almost see the twinkle in his eye as he hovered at my shoulder, waiting
for the exclamations from within. We weren't disappointed.
"Holy Mary, Mother of... !"
The voice rang through the church at my back, and then, "Sister Elisabeth!
Sister... come quick!"
I had heard enough; my gift
had been found. I smothered a chuckle, almost turned to grin at a non-existent
Father Maxwell and made my way back to the street. Third stop, but best
reaction. That was the last of the money I had earmarked for the churches.
I had considered using part of it to have a memorial built at the site
of the old church; the site of the Maxwell church massacre. But the voice
of Sister Helen had admonished me for thinking of the dead, when there
were living orphans and homeless that could use the help.
As I walked down the darkening
street, my steps were light. Yes; this was going to be the best Christmas
ever. This was so much more rewarding than sitting around drinking myself
into a stupor until I couldn't think straight enough to remember
how damn lonely I was.
I had decided on dinner out
this Christmas Eve, at the local diner just up the street from my apartment.
A place I ate almost all my meals if truth be told. I find cooking for
one to be a depressing occupation. Besides; the cook at the 'Riverside
Inn' was much better at it than I was. It wasn't much to look
at, the Riverside; there was no river and it wasn't much of an Inn,
but the people were good folk.
I splurged a little and bought
a steak, flirted with Agnes the waitress like I always did. She called
me 'Sugar', I called her 'Angel' and we pretended
that she wasn't old enough to be my Mother. I left the money for
my meal on the table while she was otherwise occupied and ducked out before
she had a chance to notice that I had left a hundred dollar bill to pay
for a ten dollar steak dinner.
I stopped to listen to some
carolers on my way home, even though I knew it would only remind me of
the choir singers when I was a kid. Some of them had been in the church
that night all those years ago, and to this day I can't hear choir
music without remembering that. I tossed a twenty in their little brass
pot and made my way home.
Just as I reached the steps
of my building, it began to snow. I stopped for a few minutes and just
stood in the street with my head thrown back staring up into it. If you
look straight into the snow as it comes down, you can almost lose the
ground; can almost imagine yourself out between the stars again. Snow.
It really was going to be perfect.
I made my way upstairs and
went into my empty apartment, locking the door behind me and wandering
the empty rooms out of long, old habit. Securing the area. I had to laugh
at myself out loud. It had been two years but I still had to do this.
No electric lights tonight;
Christmas Eve is a night made for candlelight. I moved through and lit
several, placing them about the place on large glass plates, so that even
if they did fall over, they couldn't ignite anything. I still had
a little problem with fires.
The electricity bill had been
paid to the end of the month, so I still had the power to turn on the
radio and tune it to a station that was playing Christmas music. I listened
to the Carol of the Bells as I unbound my hair and prepared for my shower.
I think I had known that coming
back to L2 was a mistake when I had first done it. Getting rid of the
furniture and making my other preparations to leave hadn't taken
all that long. I had never really moved in; had never set down roots here.
Never bothered with a lot of possessions. I think I had known all along
that I wouldn't be staying.
I took my shower, taking great
pains to wash and condition my hair. I stood by the bare window in the
living room and combed it out afterward, watching the snowfall. It had
snowed that night as well.
I combed my hair until it was
almost dry and then braided it tight, imagining the voice of Sister Helen
singing softly at my back; imagined her hands were the ones weaving my
hair into it's perfect plait. I tied it off and checked the clock;
I still had an hour.
I found myself singing along
softly with the radio, and was amazed; I had not sung since that night.
Sister Helen used to tell me I had a voice sent from Heaven by God just
to brighten her day. I had sung in the choir and my occasional solo performances
had never failed to make Father Maxwell smile. I had not sung since the
night it had all gone to Hell. I shook my head ruefully and went to get
dressed, finding the old clothes still in the back of the closet after
all these years. I dressed in the white shirt and black priests outfit,
feeling oddly self-conscious. It was hard to remember a day when I had
dressed like this all the time. I had to chuckle at my own audacity. It
seemed right for tonight though.
When there was a half an hour
left, I poured myself a glass of wine and washed down a couple of aspirin.
The radio was playing 'Silent Night' and I stood by the window
watching the snow, sipping my wine until the song was over.
I had time for one more walk
through the apartment, double-checking my preparations one last time.
I found myself smiling; my heart felt unburdened for the first time in... forever.
It truly was going to be the
perfect Christmas; the best Christmas ever... it was going to be my
The thing they don't tell
you in the history books? The Maxwell church massacre... was on Christmas
Eve. The choir had been in practicing for the service that would never
happen. The rebels broke in. A small boy made a decision that seemed the
right one at the time he made it. He was wrong... and the world ended.
Fifteen minutes before Christmas day, the church had gone up in flames,
but most of the people inside were already dead. It snowed.
I checked the envelopes in
their place on the kitchen counter, each carefully labeled and addressed;
Quatre Winner, Trowa Barton, Chang Wufei... and Heero Yuy. My final
goodbyes to those I had grown to care for. I had agonized over those letters
since the day after Thanksgiving. I wasn't even sure they would care,
but I could not just go without saying something. Those letters were carefully
worded to hopefully bring them a certain understanding of why I had done
what I was about to do, without bringing the slightest reproach on any
of them. Without assuming a relationship with them that I had no right
to lay claim to. They lay together, bound with a red ribbon next to the
envelope containing the detailed instructions for the things I had not
been able to dispense with myself. The rent was paid until the end of
the month, as was the electric and water. All the furniture and most of
my other possessions had been sold off to supply part of the money that
had gone to the churches today. All the food was gone, so that nothing
would spoil if it took time before they found my body. I put the keys
to the front door in that envelope now, one of the last things that needed
doing and finished my walk through.
I had settled on slitting my
wrists. Drugs are too unreliable. A gunshot would have drawn attention.
I wanted to make damn sure that no one had a reason to investigate until
there was no doubt I would be long cold. No one who knew me here on L2
knew me well enough to know where I lived, except my landlord. He would
have no reason to come here until the next rent payment was due.
At eleven forty-five tonight,
I meant to step into the bathtub and slice both my arms from wrist to
elbow. It would have been nice to believe that I would go to join Father
Maxwell and Sister Helen. But I knew, if all that Heaven and Hell crap
really existed, just where little ol' Duo Maxwell would end up.
I posted my note to the landlord
on the bathroom door, warning him what he was going to find if he opened
that door and suggested that he just walk away and call the authorities.
Then I set my wine glass on the side of the tub along side my razor blades
and went to watch the snow fall for the last fifteen minutes of my life.
It was starting to pile up
outside, covering everything in a pristine blanket that hid all the ugliness
of L2 from sight. It was the best Christmas ever; everything was turning
out just as I had planned.
Until the knock sounded on
my front door. I froze, trying to think who it might be. My landlord?
He never came here unless something needed to be fixed or I was late with
the rent. Could Agnes from the Riverside have traced me here? I doubted
it; she didn't even know my name. One of my neighbors? Possibly;
maybe old Mrs. Masters from upstairs with one of her fruitcakes?
I remembered at the last minute
to remove the note from the bathroom door, and went to answer it. I had
no intention of letting the woman in. I would accept the damn fruitcake
or cookies or whatever she had to offer and I would send her on her way.
I hadn't been planning this night for the last month only to have
it interrupted by my busybody neighbor.
All my pre-thought out lines
were to deal with little old ladies and I was caught completely flatfooted
when I opened the door only to find my ex partner in crime standing there.
"Heero... ?" I
managed to sputter, my mind running in panicked little circles trying
to figure out what in the hell he was doing in my doorway after all this
"Hello Duo." He said
in that voice that never fails to send goose bumps chasing up my arms.
All I could do was stand there
with my damn fool mouth hanging open. He smiled at me, a little amused,
I think. I could see his eyes flick around; taking in every detail of
what he could see passed me.
"Going to invite me in?"
He asked softly when I didn't speak and I really didn't have
a choice but to step aside and let him enter.
"I... I wasn't
expecting... company." I sputtered out and was shocked when he
He moved into the living room
and his eyes continued to roam about the place. I tried to kick my brain
into gear and think what might be lying out in the open. Shit; this was
"You should hire yourself
an interior decorator, Duo. This place could use some work." A joke?
From Mr. Stoic-stick-up-the-ass? My God; people really can change.
"I... I'm moving."
I lied, and cringed. I'm really not all that good at lying. That's
why I don't do it all that often.
"I guess I'm lucky
I caught you." He said, standing in the middle of the room and turning
around slowly, looking the whole room over. There was absolutely nothing
to see but a handful of candles sitting on the floor and the windowsill.
"Last night here."
I told him, sounding a little better, since it wasn't really a lie.
He stopped turning and just
stood looking at me.
"I thought you gave that
outfit up." He observed, cocking his head a little as he regarded
Damn. I had forgotten what
I was wearing. I reached up to touch the collar self-consciously, "Uhmmm... for
the occasion." I temporized.
He gave me a strange look and
turned as though he was going to go look through the rest of the apartment.
I panicked, thinking of the envelopes lying on the kitchen counter.
"Let me get you something
to drink." I blurted, rushing passed him and through the kitchen
door. I shoved the envelopes into a drawer as fast as I could and went
fishing for a glass, remembering suddenly that the only one I had kept
was sitting on the side of the bathtub.
I turned away from the empty
cupboards to find that he had followed me into the kitchen and was doing
that same, slow look around thing in here that he had done in the living
room. I knew I was looking flustered and tried to quit.
"I... uhhhh, forgot.
I didn't keep any other glasses. All I have is a bottle of wine."
He gave me that same, searching,
quizzical look again and just shook his head, "No thanks; I'm
My eyes found the clock and
I realized that my time had come and gone. The best laid plans, and all
that. I sighed and decided that it didn't really matter what time
it was; death had waited for me this long... it could wait a little
Some of my nervousness faded
with that almost unconscious decision and I hopped up onto the counter
and gave him a grin, "Can't even offer you a place to sit, man;
sorry. All my stuff's on the way to the new place."
He smiled back at me and just
folded his arms across his chest, "Doesn't matter."
With most of the evidence stuffed
in a drawer under my butt, I felt a little safer, and my mind actually
started to function.
"Heero... as nice as
it is to see you; it's been two years. What are you doing here?"
He moved a step closer, "It's
Christmas." He said with a shrug, "I came to see you."
He just stood looking at me
for a bit, and I was the one who broke eye contact first. Damn; he made
me feel like my thoughts were printed across my forehead in bloody red
I knew I was blushing, and
I tried hard to quit. When I glanced up again, I swear he was closer than
he had been when I looked away. God; I had forgotten how much being in
a room with him effected me. I didn't know how to answer what he
had said, so I changed the subject all together.
"So... what have you
been up to?" I asked, looking down at his feet so that I didn't
have to stare into those deep blue eyes of his.
"Just... just figuring
out what the hell I am without a war to fight." He said softly, his
voice full of wry amusement.
My eyes came up to meet his
without my meaning to do it. He caught me with those eyes and I found
I couldn't look away. I shivered.
"And... and just what
are you?" I stuttered, not half believing I was having this conversation.
He chuckled, "Almost human."
I blinked at him stupidly and
I suddenly wanted some of that wine.
He cocked his head at me again,
"And what have you been up to?" He asked, voice little more
than a whisper.
I shivered so hard it was more
of a shudder, "Not... not much. Working. Getting by."
"Salvage business not
all that good?" He asked, his eyes pinning me to the spot and damned
if, somehow, he wasn't a little closer than he had been a second
ago. I swear I hadn't seen him move.
"How... how did you
know I got into salvage?" I asked, leaning back against the cupboard
and trying to look nonchalant.
He smiled gently, "Oh,
I've kept up with what everyone has been doing."
My throat suddenly felt dry
and I wasn't even sure why, "Hang on a second." I blurted,
"I'll be right back." And I fled to the bathroom.
My hands were shaking so bad
I dropped the stupid razor blades twice before I got them stuck in the
medicine cabinet. I found the note I had laid on the sink when I had answered
the door and folded it up tightly, hiding it in the cabinet as well. I
took a couple of deep breaths and a big gulp of wine. What in the hell
was my problem?
I came out with the wine glass
in hand and a grin plastered on my face, "Hey, Heero! It's officially
Christmas; how about a drink?"
I fetched the wine and refilled
my glass before handing him the bottle. I started to raise the glass to
my lips, but he stopped me with a gesture and smiled, raising the bottle
"Here's to friends
when you need them." He said in that soft voice again and I felt
the goose bumps run up my spine. He clinked the bottle gently against
my glass and we drank. I resisted the urge to down the whole thing.
"Your turn." He said
with a smile and I blinked at him for a minute.
"Peace." I finally
said, my voice as soft as his had been, "Here's to peace."
He nodded faintly and brought
the bottle and glass to meet again with a quiet chime.
"To peace." He repeated
and drank with me.
He was somehow too close to
me again, and I moved uneasily away, wandering back into the living room.
God, I wish I had furniture, something to sit on and try to maintain something
akin to a normal conversation.
Now was not the time for this;
being around Heero flustered me at the best of times, tonight... tonight
I could barely contain my nerves.
He followed me and I went to
stand by the window again. It was still snowing. I saw his reflection
come up to stand behind me and we watched the snow fall for a small space
"Reminds me of outer space."
He said with a melancholy note in his voice and I sighed.
"You miss it too?"
I asked before I could stop myself.
"Oh yes." He said,
and I could see the tiny smile on the face of his reflection, "In
those days, when we weren't fighting there... it was the closest
thing to peace I ever felt."
I leaned my head against the
window frame and took a sip of my wine, "Yeah." I sighed, "It
was cold and quiet... there weren't any voices there... "
His face in the glass turned
sad and I felt him move closer. I had let myself get trapped. His hand
came to rest on my shoulder and his voice came in a mere breath.
I shivered and closed my eyes,
"It's cold here by the window." I lied.
He whispered and he was so close I could feel the heat from his body,
"Why are you lying to me?"
"Heero... " I sighed
and tried not to let his name on my lips make me shiver again, "Why
are you here?"
"I came to see you."
He told me again and I heard the sound of the wine bottle being set on
"Why?" I asked again
and both his hands were on me now, holding me gently by the shoulders.
I couldn't open my eyes; couldn't bear to see his face reflected
next to mine in the candlelit window.
"I think... " He
said so close I could feel the stirring of his breath, "I think you
I couldn't answer him;
I couldn't find my voice. He moved his hand long enough to take the
wine glass from my numb fingers and set it aside and then he was turning
me to face him.
"Duo... tell me you
need me." He whispered and his voice was gentle and there was something
in it I would have sold my soul to hear even a year ago.
"Heero... " I moaned
and couldn't stop the shiver, "I... I... "
I was suddenly awash with horror
over what I had been about to do; what I had almost done. My knees felt
weak under me, but his hands on my shoulders kept me from sagging to the
"Tell me you need me."
He said again, his voice insistent and firm.
"I need you." I whimpered
and felt the truth of it echoing up through me.
"Open your eyes."
He sighed and I realized that his hands weren't just on my shoulders
any more, but were wrapped around me, tight and warm and I started to
shake in earnest, "Open your eyes and tell me you need me."
I blinked my eyes open and
found myself just inches from him, his bottomless blue eyes staring into
mine, "Heero... Heero... help me." I had not meant to say
that. Had not meant to let that slip out. I was horrified and tried to
push away, but his arms were as strong as ever and he wouldn't let
"Let me help you, Duo."
He told me, his voice tender and soft, "I want to be here for you."
I searched his face and was
afraid to believe in what I thought I saw there. This was something I
had dreamed about until I had lost my ability to dream.
"Why?" I asked him
again, not able to say more.
"I need you too."
He told me, arms tightening around me, "We need each other. I... I'm
just sorry it took me so long to figure it out."
I wondered at the changes in
him. Wondered at his ability to be so open with his feelings; his ability
to embrace the emotions he had so long denied.
"Help me... help me
figure things out too." I told him; suddenly desperate to not be
in the dark place I had found myself in.
His arms around me loosened,
and he slipped his hand into his pocket, pulling out a familiar gold chain
with a small gold cross dangling from it. My heart thumped painfully in
my chest. I had put that cross in the envelope that bore Heero's
name, the one in the kitchen where I had left Heero alone while I ran
off to the bathroom to hide the razors. Damn. He knew.
I couldn't meet his eyes
as he reached to fasten it back around my neck. It felt oddly better having
it back in its place.
He tilted my chin up and forced
me to meet his gaze. His eyes were sad as they searched mine.
"Duo... I'm sorry
I wasn't here. Sorry it took me so damn long... " It was his
turn to shiver.
It made me bold and I slid
my arms around him, "You... cut it pretty damn close, Yuy."
I told him and his arms came around me in a convulsive embrace that threatened
to cut off my air.
"I know." He sighed
and his voice shook, "I know."
"How... how did you
come to be here... tonight?" I asked him then.
It took him a long moment to
answer, "I've been... watching you. Monitoring... I saw
the sudden liquidation of all your funds... saw you... I... I got
With reason, I didn't
say out loud. I rested my head on his shoulder and somehow the burdens
didn't seem so heavy any more.
"Come back with me."
He said suddenly, his voice apprehensive; losing some of the steady confidence
he had held since he had walked through my door, "Come home with
"Home... " I whispered
against his shoulder, "I... I've never had a home before."
"Let me be that for you."
He whispered, voice thick.
I drew back and looked at him,
"What are you offering me?" I asked, suddenly unsure of the
ground. Doubting the reality of the dream in my arms.
breathed, "Anything you want. Me. A life together... "
I still couldn't quite
trust it, "Love?"
He took my face in his hands
and held my gaze, letting me see what was in his eyes, "God... yes."
He told me fiercely and finally kissed me and all my doubts washed away.
"Yes." I panted when
I could and almost wept from thinking about how close I had come to losing
this. A half an hour... just another half an hour...
He seemed to understand where
my thoughts had flown and we held each other tight for a while, just holding
on. Outside the window, the snow fell thick and white, covering over the
past in its clean, cold mantel.
Inside, in Heero's arms,
it was warm and safe.
It had turned into the perfect
Christmas after all.
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