The Gift

by Ravensilver


Fanfic to Sunhawk’s Fanfic “Acceptance”

„... had given his life in service, sacrificing himself so that others could live.“ The words of the minister washed over the assembly of black-clad mourners, not really offering comfort as they bid a friend and colleague a final good-bye. Right in front of the open grave stood four men, their expressions serious and grim, their heads bowed, black and blond, brown and chocolate, their eyes fixed on the unadorned coffin before them. The people around them knew who they were – the partners, colleagues and friends of he, whose body would be lowered into the dark earth soon. Friends? Perhaps.

When the service was over and the crowd began to disperse, a woman pushed through the mourners towards the four men who had remained faithful and vigilant next to their fallen comrade’s grave. The woman’s husband and children stayed back, waiting for her to finish her mission.

She strode up to the four, fixing them with a hard glare from beneath her dark bangs, her bloodshot eyes still filled with tears.

“So you finally succeeded. Finally put him in his grave. I hope you’re happy now!” she accused them.

“Hilde… I don’t know what…” Quatre answered, shock evident in the widening of his aquamarine eyes. The others also registered shock and lack of understanding, which quickly settled into a resigned expression: just a grieving woman, not understanding of the dangers of their duty, her words a venting of unspoken grievances.

“No. You don’t know. That’s why Duo gave me this,” and she handed Quatre a thick envelope of cream-colored satiny paper, “to give to you once he was dead. You see, he always knew that this… this job was going to kill him.” She stopped for a moment, trying to gather herself, to force herself to continue without starting to cry again. She did not brush away the tears that flowed freely across her cheeks. “There are four boxes waiting for you at the funeral parlour. Duo asked me to see that you got them after his service. It’s his last will and testament.” She turned away, then stopped and looked back at them with the most pitying expression that those four men had ever seen on her face, “I hope you live very long, and very cold lives. You destroyed something very, very beautiful. May you have much joy of it.” Then she moved away, back to her family, never looking back.

The four silent men met in the back room of the funeral parlour, taking their places in heavy, bordeaux upholstered armchairs, placed around the dark, polished oaken table. In front of each man lay a box, each of different sizes and material, each bound with a black ribbon.

“There were so many people,” Quatre said quietly. “I never knew that Duo had so many friends.”

“Yes, there were a lot more civilians than Preventers, strange,” Trowa replied quietly. “Seems we didn’t know Duo as well as we thought.”

“Should I… should I open the letter?” the former pilot of the Gundam Sandrock asked his partners.

“Go ahead. We don’t want to stay here that much longer. It’ll probably just be some last prank of Duo’s. You know how he was,” Wufei answered.

Quatre slid the envelope open and took out several sheets of crisp paper. Duo’s scrawling script was unmistakable. Taking the top sheet and tilting it slightly towards the light from the window – the room being only fitfully lit by small glass lamps – Quatre began to read.

To my colleagues and partners.

This is my last will and testament. You were probably expecting some kind of joke. Sorry, have to disappoint you. No jokes here. None left.

I always knew that you’d be sitting here one day. That I would be the first to go. Because what else is there but to go when life no longer has a purpose? Ah, but we had a purpose, I can hear you say. Yes, you did – I did not. At least not with the Preventers. But that never interested you, did it. All that was important was your ideals, your visions, not the individual.

So here you sit, reading my last words, wondering why I’ve left you gifts even though I could not have known the date of my death. It was just something that I felt deep inside. That my path, the path that I had not taken, the path that I had abandoned, would end in my losing my path altogether.

Here are my gifts to you. To keep or to discard, as you see fit. Each one was made by my hand, meant to be a legacy to you.

Heero first. It’s always easier to go by the numbers, eh? Open your package.

Quatre paused in his reading and looked at Heero. The former Wing pilot pulled his box towards him, carefully undoing the ribbon and lifting the cover, almost as if he thought that its contents would bite him. Whatever was inside was hidden within layers of white silk paper. There was a small card at the top. Heero lifted it out and turned it over. In small golden letters was written:

“When you threw away my heart, I sealed it in ice. Now it will never thaw again.”

With trembling fingers, Heero pulled away the silk-paper wrapping and lifted out a glass heart. He placed it on the table top so that the others could see it, too. It was about palm-sized, the broken shards held together by criss-crossing filaments of black and silver metal. Inside the heart was a blue crystal, carved to resemble a piece of ice. Held fast within the ice was a black, cast-metal figure of a child, curled up in an embryonic posture, arms wrapped around knees tightly drawn up against the chest. Long hair spilled around the figure and wrapped it around like a cloak.

“Oh Gods!” Heero breathed. A single tear escaped his eyes and fell onto the heart.

Quatre clenched his hands as he felt Heero’s pain, the other man’s heart shattering suddenly,
just like Duo’s had shattered all those years ago. He looked towards Trowa and only when he received a tiny nod from his partner and lover, he continued to read.

Trowa next. I always thought that maybe you understood me best, but in the end it didn’t really change anything, did it?

Trowa undid the ribbon and lifted the cover away. There was another note and more white silk-paper wrapping. From the nest of rustling paper, Trowa lifted something small and silver. A heavy chain uncurled and fell from his hand, attached to whatever he was still holding. He pushed the small box aside and put the gift on the table, as Heero had.

It was a silver clown’s mask, but it had no eyes and mouth, only a blank face. It had been cast in heavy silver and attached to a finely linked silver chain. The note said:

“We all wear masks. But they don’t always allow us to see what is behind them. And sometimes they make us blind.”

Trowa closed his eyes, his fingers curling around the chain, making it tinkle in the silence of the room.

Quatre looked at the huge box in front of him. Then he resumed reading.

Quatre. I had hoped that you would know what it is like to be forced into a life that you didn’t want. But I guess I’d always put too much faith into others. Here is my life’s work. Do with it what you will.

“What could it be?” Quatre whispered as he, too, undid the ribbon and lifted the cover. Underneath were sheets of paper and a CD. He put the CD aside on the table and lifted out the first stack of sheets. There were musical notations all over them. Quatre skimmed the titels, thumbing through the stack: “Dance with Death” by Duo Maxwell; “Ode to the Sea” by Duo Maxwell; “Sweeper’s Ballad” by Duo Maxwell; “L2 Waltz” by Duo Maxwell. And on it went, sheet after sheet, stack after stack. There had to be hundreds of pieces of original music in that box! Quatre skimmed across the notations, turning the notes into music in his head. It was beautiful, it was stirring, it was heartrending and sad, it did all the things great music should do. And there would be no more.

“Oh Allah! Duo wrote music! Such beautiful music! And we never knew…” he slumped forward, his grief finally overtaking him. Trowa reached out and gently pulled him into his embrace.

Wufei took the letter from Quatre’s loose grasp. With a slight tremor in his voice, he read the next paragraph.

Hey Wufei. Bet you thought I was just making fun of you all. Well, the fun’s all over, I guess. No more jokes, no more laughs, no more glue in your shampoo and old cheese underneath your car seat. Your life should be so much quieter and easier from now on.

Honor and justice was always so important to you. So I combined them both. But remember, that justice is a double edged sword. It always cuts both ways. I give my honor to you because you never believed I had any. Now it lies in your keeping.

Wufei put the letter down and opened his long and flat box. From it he lifted a sword, made in the medieval style, sharpened to perfection on both edges. But when he turned the sword into the light, he saw that it had not been cast from a single piece of metal but rather hammered from many different ones. Holding the weapon close, he recognized writing and figures in the metal. Then it suddenly became clear to him! Duo had forged the sword from the medals he had received over the many years of service. Medals of honour, of bravery, of excellent service, of extraordinary duty. And all of them gathered in a weapon.

The Chinese Preventer put the sword back into its box, lifting Duo’s last letter and reading the final paragraph.

There you have it. A distillation of my path not taken. My monies and my assets all go to charities and orphanages on L2. Hilde manages that, we’ve talked about it many times. She knows what to do.

Well, I hope you’re all happy. You got what you wanted. You got a colleague, a partner, a Preventer, a man who followed your ideals because you could not accept that he could have others. What you hold in your hands is all that is left. The rest is gone. As am I. I guess the loss won’t be too great, it certainly wasn’t before. Not for you.

So I leave you. Not with my best wishes or words of comfort. Because there were none for me. Death was always my name, my shadow and my destiny. I’ve gone on my final journey.

Duo Maxwell
Pilot 02, Deathscythe
Preventer Agent
Human Being

The room was very quiet, and very cold.

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