Warnings : Yaoi, angsty-fluff, OOC, Heero POV, butchering
Yes, I know this has nothing to do with ‘Ascension Day’,
but I was thinking about the holiday when the song '99 Luftballoons' came
on the radio and this is what happened. And congratulations are in order
to Lev’s Lair! Three years? Where does the time go?
Feed-back is generally well received. You know; I like it.
I still don’t own them.
It’s odd. I am only here today because Duo didn’t
ask me to come. I don’t care for these strange holidays and ‘group’
events; they seem a terrible waste of time to me. When I do attend, it’s
only because my colleague has cajoled me into going. Not that I’d
ever let him know that. God forbid Duo Maxwell ever figure out that I can’t
say no to him.
And this holiday, a mutant mixture of old Earth and new colony
traditions seems to be one of the worst. I truly hate it, and usually manage
to avoid the subject with Duo until it’s too late, just so I don’t
have to come.
But… Duo had not asked me this year. Had not brought
it up at all, and when I thought about it, I had to admit that it had been
some weeks since Duo had asked me for much of anything.
I found I didn’t much care for the feeling that realization
had given me, and had made a point of coming out today. Despite the ludicrousness
of the holiday. Despite the uncomfortable heat. Despite the yammering of
‘Uncle Heero,’ the youngest one tugs on my shirt
tail, looking up at me with wide eyes and I have to sigh. Damn Duo sometimes;
I’d had them all cowed to the point that they left me alone, until
he’d told this one that I was only so ‘grumpy’ because
I didn’t get ‘hugged enough’.
‘What?’ I growl, glaring down at her, but Duo’s
reassurances had made her immune to my looks.
‘Where’s your balloon?’ she asks, all innocence,
her own stupid ‘dream balloon’ clutched in her grubby little
I grunt and glare some more, trying to win back my distance,
but apparently what Duo tells his ‘little ducklings’ is to be
trusted more than the rebuffs they get from me.
‘Leave Uncle Heero alone, sweetie,’ Sally calls,
but only with half her attention on the child hanging on my shirt. She has
the twins to contend with, after all, and there has been more than one joke
in our circle that those two act more like Duo’s children than Wufei’s.
‘Ok Mommy,’ Sally is told, but I can tell just
from the way she says it that it’s only meant to gain herself a reprieve
from ‘Mommy’s’ attention. She has no plans of leaving
‘So… where’s your balloon?’ she says
again and I sigh, folding my arms across my chest before she thinks to grab
at my hand. But then, suddenly she is swept up, giggling the way the little
monsters do, and her interest finally leaves me.
‘Uncle Duo!’ she squeals, and I watch as he juggles
the child, her balloon, and one of his own without even having to look.
He seems to truly love all of Wufei’s children and is very good with
them; they all adore him. But he tends to spoil them rotten.
‘Hey short-cake,’ he greets the squirming bundle
of enthusiasm as she plants a kiss on his cheek. ‘Are you making mischief
She giggles rather predictably, but I find it doesn’t
bother me so much when she is laughing at Duo and not me. ‘Uncle Heero
doesn’t have his balloon!’ she stage whispers to him and I see
his eyes sweep my way, but I don’t get the wink I am expecting, his
regard slips away again and he is laughing at the child in his arms.
‘Now you know Uncle Heero never brings a dream balloon,’
he tells her and pretends to pull her nose off, peeking into his hand and
looking theatrically disgusted for a moment.
The child… God, what is her name? Laughs with delight
but doesn’t relinquish the topic. ‘Why not?’ She scrabbles
after his hand and pretends to find her nose, slapping it back on her face.
‘Maybe he has everything he wants,’ Duo tells
her, smile firmly in place, but voice… oddly wistful. He reaches up
and pretends to turn her nose right-side up with an exasperated sigh and
roll of his eyes.
She giggles some more. I find that I am smiling faintly.
‘But you never had a balloon before either, Uncle Duo,’
she says then, and looking right at them, I see that it catches him by surprise.
For a moment there is an odd little pain in his eyes, but it is quickly
gone, pushed behind his smile.
‘Did you know, you little monster,’ he tells her,
completely ignoring her observation, ‘that the original Ascension
Day wasn’t about making dreams come true at all?’
She squirms until he sets her back on her feet, looking up
at him as though he is crazy. ‘Everybody knows you put your dreams
in the balloon and send it up to God to make them come true!’ she
scoffs at him and he only smiles indulgently.
‘Ah,’ he grins and taps her nose, ‘that’s
what the holiday is all about now, but a thousand million years ago, people
on Earth used to put their childhood dreams in the balloon and send them
away, asking God to keep them, since they’d outgrown them.’
She blinks up at him, looking skeptical. ‘You makin’
that up, Uncle Duo?’
‘Nope,’ he tells her, his face getting that odd
look for a second again. ‘And you only got to do it once, when you
reached your sixteenth birthday and were all grown up.’ His voice
grows a little wistful again, and his eyes leave the little girl in front
of him for a second, his gaze and his fingers brushing across the balloon
in his own hand. ‘When you grow up… and finally learn to stop
There is something in his voice that tears at my heart and
I wish, not for the first time, that I understood these things better. That
I knew how to reach out.
There is a quiet moment, while the child regards him with
solemn eyes that could tell anyone who looked, that she was Chang Wufei’s
daughter. Then she blows out a noisy breath and sticks out her tongue at
him. ‘Yuck, Uncle Duo… that’s a creepy story!’
The look is gone from his face in a heartbeat and he laughs
down at her, reaching for her nose again, but she darts away. She looses
her grip on her balloon in her haste, and for a moment there is a look on
her face of utter dismay, but Duo deftly catches the string and hands it
back to her. Her smile is back so quickly, she might never have doubted
‘Where in the world did you manage to find a black balloon?’
a voice asks, sounding almost impressed. I turn to see Wufei making his
way towards us, his eldest at his side.
‘It wasn’t easy, buddy,’ Duo tells him easily,
reaching out to tweak the nose of the boy standing with his father. His
move is neatly countered and the boy and Duo share a small grin.
‘Papa,’ the little girl is whining. ‘Uncle
Duo says that the dream balloons aren’t real!’
Wufei looks to Duo, eyebrow raised, waiting for an explanation.
Duo bops the kid on the head with his own balloon and gives her a mock glare.
‘What’cha doing, monster? Trying to get me in trouble? I never
said it didn’t work, I just said that it used to be for something
‘Oh,’ she says and seems to accept that explanation
with ease, forgetting her near disappointment as quickly as she got over
the near loss of her bright red balloon. ‘Is it time to let them go
‘Almost,’ Wufei smiles down at her, his eyes warm.
‘That’s why we came to get you, if you can tear yourself away
from your favorite Uncle long enough to join the rest of the family.’
She giggles at him and takes his hand. ‘You coming,
Uncle Duo… Uncle Heero?’ she calls over her shoulder as they
start to walk away, but Duo gives her a little wave.
‘You go ahead,’ he says, and there is a quality
to his voice that pulls at me, I walk over to stand next to him.
‘A dream balloon?’ I tease him and he looks a
little sheepish, color rising to his cheeks.
‘Nah,’ he says softly. ‘More like…
a letting go balloon.’
I glance at him, askance, finding that his fingers don’t
want to stop caressing the surface of the black sphere in his hands.
I want to ask him just what he is letting go of, that makes
his eyes look so haunted, but I don’t know how. ‘A historically
accurate balloon?’ I ask lightly and it makes him smile for a moment.
‘Something like that,’ he says, but then is quiet.
He is acting so strangely today, I want to shake him and wake
him up. I want him to smile at me and touch my shoulder. I want him to be…
Duo, again. Not this sad, quiet person.
Before I can say anything more, the trumpet sounds that announces
the count down to the balloon launch. I turn my eyes to Wufei’s family,
clustered together, red and blue and yellow balloons clutched in their little
hands, smiling and giggling at each other. I see Wufei and Sally exchange
a look that I have to turn away from. Out of the corner of my eye, I see
Duo watching them, and he turns away too, but not before I see that pain
in his eyes again.
He steps away from me as the count reaches five and I see
him bring the balloon to his face, nuzzling delicately against it, whispering
‘Please God… take it away… it’s too
heavy for me… just take it away.’
Then he opens his fingers and lets the thing slip away. He
stands and watches it as it rises up with all the other hundreds of balloons,
a dark black blot on the sky among all those bright, cheerful colors. He
keeps his eyes tilted skyward for a very long time and I find that my heart
is aching and I’m not at all sure just why.
When the cheering has faded a bit, and the balloons are high
in the sky, I am taken by surprise when he turns to walk away.
He’s always loved the next part, the picnicking and
the playing with the kids, I can’t help but call after him. ‘Duo…
where are you going?’
‘I… can’t stay,’ he says, not elaborating,
not telling me anything, really. Just… I can’t stay.
I watch him walk away, confused and disturbed, and suddenly
I want to know just what message he sent to God. I want to know what dream
he thinks he’s outgrown. Because the pain in his eyes tells me he
hasn’t so much outgrown it, as given up on it.
I don’t like that look on his face. I won’t have
that look on his face.
I turn away from the sight of his retreating back and my eyes
seek the flock of balloons in the sky.
We’re on a colony. All airborne things end up in one
place. I cast a last glance at Wufei and his family, they have not yet noticed
Duo’s absence and I mean to leave before they notice mine.
It would take hours for those wayward dreams to come to rest…
but I knew just where they would light, and it wasn’t in the hands
I would know what message Duo had placed in his raven dark
bubble. I would know what hope he has given up on. And if it was within
my power, I would make things right.
I don’t like this ache in my chest, and nothing would
make it go away until the smile was back on Duo’s face.
I would know.
I am a little bit ashamed to admit that I break into his apartment
when he doesn’t answer the bell. His car is there and under the…
odd circumstances, I am concerned.
When I do not find him there, I realize that he must be out
walking. I know this is something he does when he feels he needs to think.
He walks and he watches people and, I suppose, he thinks. I’ve seen
him do it many times. So I walk. Without much thought, I head toward the
beach, he’s always been fond of the water and I think the proximity
of the ocean is part of what made him choose his apartment.
The beach is not completely deserted, despite the chill weather
and the late hour, but I quickly ascertain that he is not there. I turn
my steps toward the business district, thinking that he might have come
out for dinner, though it is getting fairly late for that.
It takes me almost two hours of wandering somewhat less than
aimlessly, before I spot him. There are more people up here on Broad Street;
going in and out of the clubs and restaurants, and it is his lack of motion
as much as anything that draws my eye.
He is standing outside a tavern door, looking like he might
be preparing to enter, but just standing. It is another patron, politely
brushing past him that seems to jar him into motion again, but instead of
going in… he retreats and moves off down the street.
The behavior is… strange. It gives me pause, and makes
me follow in his wake, at a careful, descript distance.
After a few paces, he jams his hands into his jacket pockets.
I tail him for almost an hour, and he never seems to notice. That alone
is a thing I find disturbing. Even while I am making up my mind whether
to approach him out here or wait until he returns home, I find I can’t
leave him alone. Not so obviously off-balance that he doesn’t note
a follower, no matter that that follower is me.
I watch him approach another establishment; a restaurant,
but he merely stands in the shadows and watches the customers through the
front window for a while before moving on. His steps do eventually lead
him to the beach and for a moment I think I will need to fall even further
back, but he doesn’t seem to be noticing much of anything and I dare
close in a little.
It is almost full dark now, the hour very late. The beach
is quite chill and we are completely alone on it. He, at the water’s
edge and I at the sand’s. He has only to turn around to see me, but
he doesn’t, simply standing and watching the wind drive the water
to shore. After a moment, he leans over and sifts his fingers through the
sand. When he straightens, there is the faint rattle of stone against stone.
Another moment and one of the stones flies through the dark and there is
the distant sound of a splash. His next toss is a little harder and the
splash takes a bit longer to reach my ears.
I squat down and find my own rock, and when he lets fly with
his third toss, I toss as well. Out on the water there is the sound of twin
splashes. Duo stiffens and holds very still, as though listening. The fourth
stone arcs out, almost in an experimental manner. This time, when the two
stones plunk down together, he whirls around and finally sees me.
It is difficult in the dim light from the few street lights,
too really see his expression. I think there is a moment of… happiness,
when he first sees me, but then that clouded, wistful look is back.
I find I seriously do not like that look.
I expect him to speak; to walk up the beach toward me, but
he just stands with his head cocked slightly to the side. As though making
up his mind if I’m real or not.
So I walk down to join him. ‘You’re terribly distracted,’
I tell him, somewhat unnecessarily.
I think he blushes, but I’m not sure. ‘I thought
I was hearing things,’ he mumbles, ducking his head.
‘Damn good thing I wasn’t an assassin,’
I say, trying to tease, but I quickly see it was a mistake.
He frowns; turning away to toss the rest of his handful of
stones into the water, then dusts his hands off and jams them back in his
pockets. ‘So assassinate me already,’ he growls and begins to
I hadn’t taken into consideration how upset he was,
though I suppose I should have. It takes me a second of watching him climb
to the sidewalk before I follow and fall into step beside him.
‘Want to tell me what’s bothering you?’
I ask softly and get a surprised little grunt.
He looks… chagrined. Pulling a hand out of his pocket,
he rubs it absently over his face. ‘I’m sorry, Heero,’
he tells me wearily.
I grunt in reply and wait, but he doesn’t say any more.
I note that we seem to be heading back toward his apartment
and wonder if I should wait until we get there to try and talk to him further.
But there is the very real possibility that he won’t invite me up,
so after a block of walking in silence I say, ‘you’ve been walking
a long time. Something on your mind?’
He looks across at me rather sharply. ‘Just how long
have you been following me?’
I decide to hedge the truth just a bit; he doesn’t seem
to be in the mood to hear that I’d been tailing him for hours. ‘A
little while,’ I say.
He snorts, looking away. ‘That’s… vague.’
I should have known he wouldn’t be so easily misled.
‘I was… concerned,’ I tell him.
‘Concerned?’ he repeats, making it a question.
‘You seemed… unhappy, this morning,’ I say,
and in my own pocket, my hand closes around a small scrap of paper.
We pass a restaurant with tables on the sidewalk, that requires
we walk single file, and he uses it as an excuse not to reply. When we are
walking abreast again, it is as though I never spoke. I can’t help
but sigh and he looks across at me, something almost pained seeming to come
into his eyes for a moment. ‘I’m sorry Heero; it’s nothing.
Just a bad day, I guess.’
We are very nearly to his apartment and there is something
in the air, something in his mood that tells me this conversation needs
to be finished tonight. I won’t have the nerve, or he’ll manage
to put it aside, the way he wants to. Things… just won’t come
together again, like they are tonight. Like they almost are tonight.
Maybe God will answer his prayer and grant him the forgetfulness
he craves. Thinks he craves.
‘You know,’ I tell him, my voice soft so the words
shouldn’t sting overly much. ‘I’m kind of mad at you.’
He turns sharply to look at me, his expression almost stricken.
That helps, somehow, to see how strongly it affects him. To see how much
he doesn’t want to lose my regard.
‘What?’ he stammers out, and completely stops
walking, standing in the middle of the sidewalk to stare at me. ‘But…
I stop walking too, and turn to look back at him. ‘I
thought we were partners?’ I say, cocking my head and studying him
‘We… we are,’ he affirms, and it hurts a
little, to see him so off-balance and unsure of himself. He’s so…
I take a step back toward him, until we’re standing
nose to nose, and then I reach out to turn him around. Out of my pocket,
I pull the bright blue ribbon that had adorned a certain black balloon,
and I carefully wrap it around the end of his braid, tying it off while
I tell him, ‘The next time you have a message for God that involves
me… how about asking me first. I might not be able to intercept it
in time.’ And I toss his braid over his shoulder.
His hand reaches to clutch at it and I hear his breath catch
on a gasp, but he just stands there still as a stone, staring at his braid.
I wait a moment more before reaching to turn him around again. It’s
like moving a rag doll.
His eyes are very wide, almost luminous in the moonlight.
He looks terrified. I’ve seen him in a lot of situations; I’ve
seen him face down everything from rats to mobile suits. Seen him under
fire and seen him go under the knife. Seen him handle everything from hysterical
hostages to OZ interrogation. But I’ve never seen him look like he
I don’t like it.
He closes his eyes when I reach out to touch his cheek. ‘Heero…’
is all he can manage, and it is shaky and strained, no more than a whisper.
‘What are your emotions telling you?’ I ask him,
harking back to a piece of advice I’d been given once, a long time
‘More… more things than I can understand,’
he whispers, but he is unconsciously pressing into my hand and I know he
isn’t listening to the right thing.
‘Those are your thoughts, Duo,’ I tell him. ‘I
asked about your emotions; your feelings. What are they telling you?’
‘I… I…’ is all he manages, but I can
see from the tension around his eyes that he is hearing that part of himself,
but is still fighting it.
‘Follow your emotions,’ I whisper, and his eyes
snap open when he hears how close my voice is. When he realizes how close
‘Heero… please,’ he pleads, but can’t
tell me any more than that.
I hadn’t anticipated the depth of his fears. Hadn’t
anticipated how much it would cut at me to see him standing on the edge
of a thing he was so afraid to reach for. I had thought to force him to
take what he wanted. I had thought… that this would be a simple thing;
a misunderstanding set to rights. I had not understood that he was wounded…
wounded and hurting.
What I do understand, quite suddenly, is that somewhere inside
I am a little afraid too… or I wouldn’t be trying so hard to
make him reach first. Wouldn’t be trying so hard to make him say to
me what the scrap of paper in my pocket has already told me.
I embrace that understanding… and I embrace him. ‘This
is what my feelings are telling me,’ I whisper into his hair and suddenly
find that I’m all but holding him up. His arms are around me, his
hands fisted in my shirt and he is trembling like a new born foal in my
‘Oh God, Heero…’ he sighs, and I wonder
how one heals this kind of wound. I have no idea how to soothe this kind
of hurt. But he feels good in my arms, and he’s not pulling away,
and I think that perhaps the healing has started already.
‘May I come up with you?’ I ask, unsure of what
should come next, but knowing that talking has to happen in here somewhere.
‘Yeah,’ he stammers, and draws away. There is
something in his eyes that speaks to me of doubt and I reach out to take
his hand as we walk the last half block, it wins me a tentative little smile
from him, the tiniest sign of hope in his eyes.
We reach his apartment and must climb the outside stairs,
he leads me as I guide him, and it very much seems to me to define our relationship;
I can’t help smiling at the notion. The first thing I do when we get
inside is pull him into the kitchen, where I light the burner on the stove
and destroy that little scrap of paper I’ve been carrying all afternoon.
‘Don’t want it to fall into the hands of God,’
I tell him with the quirk of a smile and I see in his eyes when the voice
of his feelings finally overpowers the voice of his doubts.
He still trembles when he comes into my arms, but it doesn’t
seem to be from fear. Not from fear at all.
And I was right; the ache in my heart fades away to a memory
when the smile comes back to his face.
Fiction : GW :