The body in his arms is shaking. She can't be cold; even if he won't admit it, sweat is dripping from his every pore. Why else would a woman shake like this then?
His mind flashes back to a girl he knew once upon a time - and specifically silver drops of liquid sliding down her face slowly from her eyes as he pushed her away from him to safety on Libra. Funny, how long has it been since Relena crossed his mind? She has been erased by a blonde angel - and that isn't necessarily a bad thing.
"Are you crying?" he hears himself ask. He didn't want to ask that, but he has no control of the words coming from his mouth. It's like he's a spectator in the mutiny his body is performing.
She nods, face still tilted down in her hands away from him. "Yes," she whispers softly.
"Why?" he asks. This time his body agrees with his mind and does the same.
Something inside him goes cold at the single whispered word. "Duo?"
What-? The word cuts through him like a knife of ice. The blonde girl shatters in his arms, and he looked up to see Duo Maxwell standing above him, looking down with something very much like concern clear on his face. That wasn't necessarily too distressing on its own, but when coupled with the fact he hadn't heard him or even realized he was in the room till he spoke, it became rather alarming. It was an effort, but he reined in his initial response - to punch the American in the face - and made himself ask, "What are you doing here?"
"Tracking you down, obviously." It was a bit of a relief that the concern had faded and been replaced with the more customary smirk he was used to seeing the other wear. "Do you have to pull a god damn Houdini every time you leave?"
That wasn't a question worth answering, since Duo asked it every time he managed to track him down again. Instead he slowly managed to drag himself out of bed, pretending to himself that he wasn't in the least bothered by the fact that it was actually difficult to do. In a different lifetime during the wars, he hadn't so much slept as he had catnapped to recharge the machine. Of course, he'd never dreamed back then either, so that might have made something of a difference. Now he couldn't seem to stop dreaming.
A quiet Duo wasn't necessarily a good thing either, but it happened, more frequently than most people who knew the American were willing to bet. It did mean he was thinking about something way too seriously though, so just about anything could come out of his mouth at any minute. He would get around to what he wanted to say in a moment, and in the meanwhile, Heero made his way into the tiny en suite bathroom his current hotel room provided; maybe a little water on his face might bring him out of his daze.
Maybe he was just tired, but the next words out of his sometimes friend's mouth just confused him. "Has anything... strange been happening to you lately?" A single raised eyebrow sent through the open doorway conveyed his question as well as if he'd spoken it aloud. "Seriously, Heero, anything?"
"Define 'strange'." He groped behind him for the hand towel he knew was back there. His fingertips brushed it, and it slid off the rack. The housekeeping staff seemed to love doing stuff like this to him, he thought sourly, starting to reach for the smaller cloth next to where it had hung.
Midway to the floor, though, the larger towel's path turned, coming back up to land in his hand. In shock, he turned to look at Duo, who was sitting down hard on his sweat-soaked bed, elbows on his knees to support his head like it was too heavy to hold up any longer without help. He looked like he'd been run over by an entire legion of Mobile Suits and then they'd backed up. After a moment, he took a deep breath and looked up. "You know, just strange?" He even sounded tired, and that was strange.
Well, there was no sense not using the towel after he went to all the trouble of retrieving it, so he dabbed the water off his face and tossed it at the other man. He was definitely out of his daze, that was for certain, but he didn't know whether to blame the water or the so-called God of Death's new trick, he mused to himself as he sat down at the small writing desk. "Nothing like that," he finally said.
Duo finished wiping the perspiration from his face and draped the small towel around his neck. "Like what then?"
He shook his head slightly, crossing his arms over his chest. The more he thought about all of this, the colder he felt. The whole thing was just too odd for his taste. He didn't like it, he didn't like to even think about it. But it looked like Duo was going to try to wait him out, sit there in silence till he said what was on his mind. "It's really nothing like... what you did," he finally stated quietly. "I've just... started dreaming."
There was quiet for a moment, then Duo prompted, "You haven't dreamed before?" He shook his head silently; he'd never had a dream that he could recall before a few months back. The human body couldn't function without dreaming, but he had never remembered one or had one so vivid before. "What have you been dreaming?"
At least Duo wasn't treating him like he was crazy or anything, not that he'd really been expecting it from the other man. "Mostly it's a girl, not Relena," he clarified quickly. "I've never seen her before. I'd definitely remember someone like her."
Duo nodded. "You said mostly. What else?"
This certainly felt more familiar: the American prying a conversation from him a bit at the time. "It's weird. It's so weird sometimes I don't think it's real, like I've finally gone crazy."
"You're not nuts, Heero." Well, that was a bit of a relief to hear, even coming from someone who still called himself the God of Death. "Tell me."
"I dream these things... then they happen." It was probably a good thing Duo could read lips as well he himself could, because he barely even heard himself talking.
There was silence, broken only by him shifting in his chair, for a long moment before the American man finally managed to speak again. "Holy shit." And that summed it up pretty well, but far be it from Duo to leave it there. "Heero, you're talking ESP here."
"More like clairvoyance." He raised an eyebrow again. "And what you just showed off is remarkably like psychokinesis."
"You did your research." And he didn't sound a bit surprised and much more impressed. Anyone who knew him should know he'd have started finding as much about what was going on as he could. "Then again, it is you we're talking about here. Of course you did your research. So what's your theory? Where did all this come from?"
"..." Sitting in silence was a fair bit better than admitting that he had no idea.
Thankfully Duo was every bit as good at reading his silences as he was at reading lips, and the American heaved a dark sigh and rubbed his head like it was killing him. He'd done that as long as Heero had known him, mostly when something was frustrating him. "What about these dreams of yours? Anything there?"
He shot the other what he hoped was the most irritated look in his arsenal, not that it mattered much to Duo; as always, he shrugged it right off and silently waited for his answer. He could try waiting the American out, but that might take years. The God of Death was an appropriate nom de guerre for his sometimes friend; he certainly could be as patient as his namesake. Finally with a sigh, he relented. "There is that... person." He bit his lip. "At least, I think she's a person. Something about her always seems to make me think 'angel', though."
He halfway expected Duo to make fun of him as he trailed off. He should have known better. "In the classical sense or more emotionally?" came the next prompt.
"There are two me's in the dreams she shows up in. The one that's interacting with her and the one that's observing everything, even if that me can still hear the other me's thoughts. The one that's with her thinks of her as an angel, but I'm not sure what he - I - he means by it."
"But you think she's important." It wasn't a question, but he still nodded his agreement. "Then we just have to find her. Shouldn't be too hard, even if all we have is a description."
"I've tried. It's like she doesn't exist. I've checked everywhere I can think of, even death records for the last hundred years."
"Is the search still set up on your laptop?" He nodded slightly, half glancing over his shoulder to where it was sitting on the table behind him. "Then I'll see what I can turn up. Go take a shower; you stink, man. OZ would have smelled you coming a mile away. Did you run a marathon in your sleep or what?"
If it were anyone but Duo, he thought to himself in wry amusement as he headed back into the bathroom, they would have lost their tongue for the cheek and their fingers for even thinking of touching his laptop. Of course, it was Duo. He was his first - and thus far, only - friend. He counted the other pilots as comrades; none of them had put the time into tracking him down repeatedly (nor did they likely have the time) and the work into befriending him, drawing him out of his shell. And if the downside of that was that he occasionally had to give up solitary possession of his laptop and put up with the American's overabundant attitude.
Showering was a quick and easy process that lasted precisely four minutes and thirty seconds, and it was only that long because he'd taken the time to clean his hair rather than listen to another Shinigami rant about him not taking care of himself. Of course now it would just be a much shorter rant about him using the low quality shampoo the hotel had provided. It was a novel experience, though, having someone worrying over his well-being. He certainly wasn't going to pass it up.
He found the largest towel he had (not that it was very big at all) and anchored it around his waist before stepping back into the main room. "Anything?"
Duo was staring at the screen like it had done a trick of some sort, but when he spoke, the American turned to look at him and quickly recovered his voice, in typical Duo abundance. "Shit, Heero, did you even wait for the water to get hot? This is why you need a keeper: you refuse to take care of yourself. Cold showers aren't that great," he paused to wink salaciously, "unless you really just needed one - and if that's the case, down, boy. I'm-"
"Did you find anything?" He tried to sound annoyed. It would encourage Duo way too much if he gave into the urge to laugh (or worse yet, agree) with one of his little flirtations. It wasn't like he meant it anyway; why would someone like Duo want someone like him? Why would anyone?
"I think so. Is this your mystery angel?" He moved so Heero could look also.
He leaned against the back of the chair, just short of resting his hand on Duo's shoulder but close enough that he could feel the other's warmth through the long-sleeved shirt he'd worn today. On the screen was a low-resolution photo of a blonde girl, her hair set in pigtails with bobs at the top. Blue eyes glittered happily even in the old image, and he had to wonder what she was looking at to amuse her so. She was in her mid-teens by his best guess, maybe fifteen or sixteen, yet there was an innocence about her. "That's her," he whispered. "Where'd you find her?"
Duo shrugged nonchalantly. "I just finished the search you had going." The American poked his side lightly, and he twitched as slender fingers unerringly found his ribs. "That's all you gave me time for. Have you been eating since you went and vanished on me?"
"Of course. So who is she?"
With a few clicks of the touchpad, Duo pulled up an abbreviated profile. "Usagi Tsukino, from Tokyo, Japan, here on Earth. Age sixteen, father, mother, younger brother, absolutely nothing interesting there."
"Then why were you looking at the screen like you were shocked?"
Duo let out a tired sigh, rubbing at his forehead briefly before clicking another button. "Because she's listed as a missing person, from way back when, well before we changed the dating system. Heero, she vanished in the late twentieth century. Your mystery angel would be at least fifteen hundred years old."
His knees suddenly felt like they were about to give out under his weight, and he sat down hard on the edge of the bed. "That's impossible. It's absolutely impossible." He scowled as he realized his voice was shaking ever so slightly.
Duo turned the chair so that it faced him and was closer to where he'd collapsed. "How is it impossible, Heero?" His voice was low and soothing. When he was quiet, his friend leaned forward to place a hand on his knee. "What is it?"
"In one of the dreams, I saw her talking to Relena."
First Draft: 03 June 2006
Revision: 12 January 2009
Thanks for sticking around! Sorry it took me so long to get finished with this chapter. I'll try to be swifter with the next one.
As for the revisions, I am in the process of converting all my stories with Gundam Wing characters over to traditional spellings. So that means all my "Hiiro"s will become "Heero"s and all my "Ririna"s will become "Relena"s. For clarity's sake.