Warning:This is not a happy fic.
Disclaimer: I don't own anything, so please don't sue me. Okay?
The smell of death is something I thought I knew. Burnt gunpowder and smoke; blood, vomit and feces. The salt stench of sweat and fear. Here, the smell is death too, but it's not the death-smell with which I am familiar. Here is is age, decay, the chemical scent of embalming fluid and ammonia, the sterile odor of medical facilities, and the dizzying smell of the passing of too much time.
I can see his slight form running ahead of me in the pale glow of the fluorescent emergency lights. Soft, tapping footsteps whisper above the hum of the lamps as the tables of trays and equipment give way to tables of other things. Duo pushes past a set of double doors and they swing on their silent hinges, back and forth until I reach out and still them. I pass through, following him into the room.
The bodies are neat, perfect, organized into rows. Nude and still, they lie unashamed and unembarrassed as we destroy their peace, wandering amongst the rows. White tags tied to rubbery toes, their names now all that is left to them.
I'm not dead yet, neither is Duo.The only two corpses in this whole place who can walk.
I walk slowly, but Duo doesn't. He runs ahead lightly, slipping himself through the lines of not-people. Toe tags flutter in his wake. I take one in my hand: Lilla Murray, died November 27 a.c. 197. Lilla Murray looks young for such a peaceful death, but maybe death erases your age when it takes everything else. Did Lilla think about the day when she would immodestly lie naked on a gurney bed, to be looked at by two teenagers? I let her tag drop and reach over to stroke her fading, brittle hair. Then I turn away from her and back to Duo.
Bodies seen in battle have an unnatural stillness, sickening in contrast to the noise and movement surrounding them. There is nothing unnatural-seeming about these bodies, though. The only movement here is ours, all else is still. Nothing suggests that these bodies were ever anything other than they are now.
Faces slide by as I follow him. He scampers ahead, away from me. There is a certain fragile grace to his movements that frightens me more than the smell or the sickly light green of the walls or the shells of people that surround us. His dark braid and clothing stand in stark contrast to the washed-out paleness of the room.
He moves among the bodies: touching this one, whispering to that one, kissing that one's forehead. As it has always been, I am behind him, trying to feel the change in the spaces where he has been, hoping he'll stay in one place so I can touch him.
But Duo never stays anything for long and he disappears through another
set of doors. I was always a fast runner but now I trip,
stumble, my feet failing me as I rush past the too old man and the too tiny baby to capture what is left of him.
When I pass through the doors, I see that this room is bigger, with more rows of beds on one side, and a wall of drawers on the other. A filing cabinet for a giant. Duo is not dancing now. He is searching intently for half of what we have come to find. I watch him as clammy fear crawls up my sides and into my nose.
He finds it.
"Heero..." He calls softly as he opens the drawer, the misting fog releasing itself from the cold inside and obscuring his face for a moment.
I move to his side and we are looking at a boy who is much younger than us here, but since he is Solo Doe March 12, a.c. 187 perhaps somewhere is is older than us now.
The cold rising from the drawer captures Duo's breath in little puffs.
"He looks like you, Heero."
"I guess so."
But he doesn't. He is silent and unmoving and smells of only the cloying scent of death, whereas my own nostrils can smell my animal fear sweat. He is not Solo anymore. And his face reflects the not-ness. I am still alive. Duo is almost not and this connects them. Jealousy at this connectedness and adoration rips at my insides and I say nothing. Stay with me.
But he has moved on already, leaving the drawer open, his eyes having drunk their fill of Solo Doe March 12. His footfalls puncture the quiet as he turns purposefully to the rows of bodies. Something in him already belongs to this place, to the quiet and to Solo's smooth white cheek, painted porcelain perfect by silence.
He is running now, faster and faster. I pump my legs hard and the gurneys whip by me, but I am breathless and not fast enough. I will never catch up to him, but he stops suddenly and looks at me with wide, shining eyes.
"Here." He says.
"What is it?" I have to strain through the fog that now clouds my vision. I need to see what he sees. Another Solo?
No. Not another Solo or another Lilla or anyone else. It is an empty bed, the sheets perfect white and stretched taut over the metal frame. It is waiting. Not much longer...
"I won't have to wait..."
The bed is patient and so is Duo. I watch as he slowly peels his clothing off, every movement deliberate and lingering. He is unlacing his boots and setting them aside. Socks and pants and a dark shirt and collar all slip to the floor. Boxer shorts join them and he is naked, perfect, pale, too thin, too small. His skin has begun already to take on the wan translucence that marks the still ones in the room. He meets my eyes as he tugs his hair free from the tight braid but I know better than to beg him. Maybe I am dead too because I can't move, not even to blink. My eyes might dry out like these others we have seen, but I can't care because I am being strangled by the quiet.
There is very little noise as he lies down on the gurney, his hair the only thing not pale.
"I'm ready" He says and then slips away into nothing, into Solo's not-ness. I stand for a moment before I realize that it's okay. That I am Solo and we will be forever with Duo in the still shadows at the edge of existence. I bend and gather up his clothing, holding it tight against my chest. Only then do I notice the tiny tag tied to his toe.
`Duo is gone now.'
On the way out, I stop to close Solo's drawer. I look at his face one last time as it slides shut.
"Take care of him" I say to his sealed eyelids but I know he will.
C&C please! Love it? Hate it? I need writing fuel, so talk back to me!