1-15-2001

No Warnings. This is an AU fic. It will be 1x2, 3x4.

 

Is This Real?

***Journal Entry***
June 8

I don't know why I'm writing this. I've never kept record of my life and never had reason too. With the things that have happened in the last four days, however, I've decided that I might be going crazy. If that is the case, then I want to leave record for Trowa. We've been friends since we were ten, I owe him this. It was my idea to move to a remote location. This island was my choice. How was I to know it would drive me crazy? I thought it would do us good to be away from the chaos of others. I thought this would help our souls to heal. I guess I was wrong.

At first, things went as I'd thought they would. We built a cabin, shipping in parts with the money we got when we sold our souls to the war. It was hard work. It was invigorating nonetheless. Finally, after a month of sleeping in tents, the cabin, or house as the case may be, was finished. It was then, when I had nothing to occupy my time, that I started to explore this island that was our home.

It was uninhabited. This much was assured by the man who sold it to us. No one had lived here for a century or more. The island is small, relatively circular. I could walk across it in half a day. It was while I was exploring the beach that I first started to doubt my sanity. I've always been a cold, methodical person. I know this. I don't take things at face value, I find out how they work and use them to my advantage. I'm good at this. Yet the things I've seen in the last four days make me wonder if I've lost my grip on reality. I guess I should get to the point. If I'm not quick, Trowa will stop reading. If he has to turn to this journal. If I am going insane. Then he will read. I can only hope I'm wrong and that what I have seen and continue to see is real. If that is the case, however, then reality is not what I've been taught. Either way, I'm likely to go crazy.

Four days ago, while I was exploring the beach two miles north of the house, I saw something. Trowa was not with me, he doesn't do much anymore. I often wonder if he's gone insane as well. He simply sits all day, playing his music and reading. Maybe he is finally at peace. As for me, I was excercising. Since giving up my beloved laptop at the end of the war, I've turned to physical exhertion to keep me occupied. For this reason, I was walking down the beach when I saw it. When I saw him.

At first, I wondered if it wasn't some animal. There are forests in the center of the island. I still don't know what kind of animals may live there. Thinking it was an animal, I froze and moved with the stealth I used to excell at. There are large rocks, or boulders, on the beach. They provided cover for me as I approached the dark thing that perched on the top of a simliar boulder, far enough down the beach for the sun to prevent me from telling it's shape. It was once I'd drawn closer that I had my first moment of self-doubt.

The sun was still bright, and it sparkled on the person's long, golden-brown hair. Yes, I saw a person on the beach. On the beach of this island. An island that has been bare of people for over a century. Being an extremely logical person, I soon came to the conclusion that our realtor had lied to us. Either that, or someone had come to the island without his knowledge. It was then, as I made up my mind to confront the person, that it started to get dark, the sun hidden behind clouds. So ingrosed in my thoughts, I hadn't noticed. It started to rain, and I looked from the sky and falling drops to the person.

There was no one there.

This may not seem strange if one hasn't seen the island. The beach is yards from the nearest forest. The boulders not high enough to hide a standing person. Yet the beach was empty except for myself. I had not looked away for more than a few short seconds. So set was I in the belief that I had no imagination to play tricks on me, that I even scanned the ocean. But tide was out. Even if some one was quick enough to reach the water before I looked back, there was no one that I could see. This was when I first began to suspect the deterioration of my mind.

I said nothing to Trowa when I returned, dripping water onto the hard wooden floor of our house. He'd made dinner, and I ate as if nothing had happened. Which, unless I saw a vanishing person, is true. Nothing did happen. Nothing except my seeing something impossible. I said nothing to Trowa. And I said nothing to him the next day when I returned at sunrise to the same spot on the beach.

I was careful in my approach. If I was sane, if the person was real and there again, I had no intention of looking away. Even for a second. I had to know. If I was crazy, I had to know. As is said, I had begun to doubt myself even then.

I approached carefully, silently, and I was not disappointed. The figure was there again, reclining on the same boulder, in almost the same position as the day before. I watched for a few minutes, but the person didn't move. Certain that I wasn't crazy after all, I decided to force a confrontation. After all, the island belonged to Trowa and me. It was ours. Our home.

I made no effort to hide my approach. I stood up abruptly, waiting. Sure enough, the person turned to face me. My first thought was that he was out of a dream. The long hair had led me to believe it was a girl. It wasn't. He had large, violet eyes that seeme to fill his heart-shaped face as he stared at me in surprise. Then his statement dropped, and he turned his back to me again. I didn't know how to react. He was ignoring me. I wasn't going to take it. I got angry, and when I get angry, I get dangerous.

I approached him rapidly, hands clenched into fists. I wasn't planning on violence. I was just angry at.....I don't know why I was so angry. But I was. I stalked to the boulder, not stopping until I stood in front of him. His eyes, his wide eyes widened more as he saw me, but he looked away again. As if I was of no consequence to him. I yelled at him. I demanded he tell me who he was and how he'd gotten on the island. I waited for his answers while his face turned a shocking shade of white. I was unprepared when he abruptly leapt off the rock, running toward the forest.

I have lightening reflexes. I was trained well for my part in the war, and I hadn't lost those skills. I was after him immediately. I gained on him. I was confident of catching him. Then he reached the edge of the forest and disappeared.

Yes, I think I am going crazy.

I searched the forest. I searched it carefully, it wasn't a large forest. I didn't find anything. No person, no signs of any people. Nothing.

Once again, I returned home to hide my experiences from Trowa. I was filled with self-doubt now. Still fighting it, I was uncertain. I still don't know how to handle such emotions. I said nothing to Trowa. I barely slept that night. If I hadn't been determined to keep Trowa from suspecting anything, I wouldn't have eaten. As it was, I acted normal. Normal for me, anyway. And as soon as the sun started to rise, I made my way down the beach again.

I am unable to describe the mixed feelings that went blazing through me when I saw him again. In the same spot. I didn't want a repeat performance of the previous day, so I stayed hidden. I spent hours hidden by a boulder yards from where he sat, reclining on his own boulder, staring at the ocean. During the long hours of that day, I saw him move twice. Once, he placed a hand on his forehead and bent over, drawing his knees to his chest. He stayed like this for a minute at most, then he was back in his previous position. The second time he moved was when it had started to get dark. The sun almost to the horizon. This time, he jerked abruptly, looking over his shoulder at the forest I'd chased him into the day before. Smiling, he nodded his head and hopped, yes hopped, off the boulder. Walking quickly, he moved to the edge of the forest. The moment he stepped beneath the trees, he disappeared.

Seeing this in writing is....frightening? No, I'm not afraid. I don't think I've ever been afraid. Rather, it makes me realize that the chances of my not being crazy are very slim. Then, on the next day, yesterday, I went back.

Again, I watched. For hours, I watched him sitting. Then, as I made up my mind to confront him again, a new element entered what I now call my madness. Another figure appeared at the edge of that forest. As it neared the boy on the rock, I saw that it was another boy. One with pale, short blonde hair. He approached the one on the rock, smiling slightly as the other boy turned to look at him. From where I crouched, I heard nothing. Yet I saw. I saw the long-haired boy nodd his head. I saw the other boy gesture toward the ocean. I saw them having a conversation without moving their lips. Then I saw them turn and walk into the forest together. I saw them both disappear.

I've forced myself to stay home today. Writing this. I am going back tomorrow. I am going to try talking to him again. If he disappears, I don't know what I'll do. I think I'm going crazy. If he disappears, I'll probably stay there and wait for him to show up again. That's why I'm writing this. Because if he disappears and doesn't show up the next morning, I may not come back. I feel pulled to that spot. An obsession, maybe. I want to leave an explanation for Trowa if I don't come back. I owe him that much and more. I can only hope that there's some explanation for this. Otherwise, I am insane. Otherwise I've lost my mind.

***end of entry***

 

***Journal entry***
June 10

I didn't think I would write in this again. Trowa is very worried about me, but I told him that I wasn't able to explain why I've been gone for the last two days. I told him that after I write this entry, I'll let him read the entire story for himself. Because it won't matter. Nothing matters. Because whether I'm crazy now or not, I soon will be. Because I can't go back. And just the knowledge that I can't go back is tearing me apart. The urge, whatever it is that pulls me to go back, it is painfull to resist. But I can't go back. Because somehow, somehow I hurt him. I made him cry. I made him cry and he asked me not to come back.

I still don't know what it was that I did. I was there before dawn. I was watching when he came out of the forest with the rising sun and took up his spot on the rock. I wasted no time standing and going to him. Again, I tried to talk to him. Again, he ran and disappeared into the forest. As I'd said I would, I sat myself on his rock, facing the forest. All night I waited. I am used to going without sleep. I did it often enough in the war. I was wide awake the next morning when he appeared at the edge of the forest. He didn't look up until he was half-way to me. Then his mouth dropped open, his eyes widening in what I think must have been shock.

If I'd known what would happen next, I would never have stayed there until morning. His eyes, he has beautiful eyes, they shimmered and I didn't know what was wrong until I saw the tears trailing down his cheeks. I've never cared about other people's emotions, but the sight of his tears hurt. It hurt alot. I jumped off the rock, taking a couple of slow steps toward him. I don't know what I thought I was going to do, but I stopped so he wouldn't run. I needn't have bothered. He looked at me, tears still streaming from his eyes. Then his lips moved. I can read lips, another skill I picked up in the war. I guess the war had benefits after all. I read what he said, although he didn't make a sound.

'Please, leave me alone. Don't do this. Don't come here. Please. Don't come back.'

That's what I read on his lips. If there was anything I could have done to keep his lips from forming those words, I would have done it and gladly. But that's what he said. I felt as if I'd been struck. I don't know how I did it, but I nodded once and turned away. It was the hardest thing I've ever done, but I walked back to the house. I didn't look back. I just kept walking. I think I cracked. I don't know. All I do know is that I couldn't keep up the fasade any longer. I couldn't pretend nothing was wrong. I didn't care if Trowa found out.

Now, as I write this, Trowa is in the kitchen of our house. He's probably brewing coffee or tea. I know he will read this when I'm finished, but I still don't care. I don't care about anything except that I made him cry. And I don't know why it hurt so much. I've gone crazy, but I don't care. I'm sorry I have to hurt Trowa with the bitter truth of my insanity, but I....I don't care.

***end of entry***

 

***Trowa's Journal***
June 11

I've read Heero's journal, so I know why he wrote it. I'm writing this for a similar reason, only it isn't for Heero but for whoever happens to read this. When I first heard Heero's story, I thought he might be as crazy as he thought. But I don't make hasty decisions and after thinking over what he wrote I came to a different conclusion. It seems to me that this person he saw on the beach might not be a figment of his imagination. In fact, if this were a plot to drive him insane, it would have worked perfectly. Due to this type of thinking, I retraced Heero's path down the beach.

I didn't tell him I was going since I knew it would affect him badly. I drugged him instead, a good thing since he needed his sleep. I planned to find out who the boy was, not believing Heero's accounts of the way he disappeared. I'm quite the skeptic, always doubting what I've been told until I've found my own proof. And I did, although it wasn't what I was expecting. Yes, I had an encounter of my own on that part of the beach. That's why I'm following Heero's example with this journal.

The last thing I was expecting when I spotted a rock and forest that matched Heero's descriptions was to be met with open arms. After all, according to Heero, the boy he spoke to ran from him and wanted nothing to do with him. There was no reason for me to expect the greeting I received when I walked to the edge of the forest. I'd looked to the rock, but the boy Heero'd spoken of was either somewhere else or didn't exist. I still lacked proof one way or the other, so my next step was to investigate the forest. Heero is an excellent soldier, perfect in many ways, but I happen to be good at noticing details. I know Heero wrote in his journal that he'd explored that forest, inch by inch, but I also knew that a second opinion couldn't hurt anything. But it was on my way to the forest that I had my encounter.

I was about five feet from the edge of the first line of trees when I heard a gasp. Since I'd been prepared to be met by someone, I wasn't too startled when a small blonde boy stepped out of the forest. On that note, I have to say that, like Heero, I couldn't see where the boy came from. It really was as if he stepped out of thin air. I know it wasn't the boy on the rock, I remembered Heero's descriptions accurately. No, it was the blonde boy that Heero'd watched having a 'silent conversation' with the boy from the rock. If he had run as with Heero's encounters, I might not be writing this right now. I'd most likely be packing our things and preparing an immediate departure before Heero could further infect me with his psychosis.

The boy didn't run, though, instead he stood, his lips forming a word over and over. Unlike Heero, I wasn't trained at reading lips and I didn't know what he was saying. I was confused, wondering if the boys were mute or if their behavior was an act. I couldn't let go of the feeling that it was a trick, an elaborate and effective trick, but a trick nonetheless. Then the boy's blue-green eyes widened and he gave a choked cry, blowing away any thought of his being mute. What happened next confuses me to no end. This boy who I've never seen before, screamed my name and ran to me. If I'd been anyone else, except Heero when he isn't convinced he's going crazy, I probably would have been worried that he was going to attack me. I knew he couldn't harm me, though, he simply wasn't strong enough.

That's when he threw himself on me and wrapped his arms around my waist. Now, this is why I'm writing this. Not only did a strange boy scream my name and throw himself into my arms, but I liked it. Somehow, it remains a mystery to me, it felt right to have his arms around me, and that was when I realized he was real. No matter what Heero said about seeing the boys disappear, I could feel the boy when he put his arms around me, I could feel his hands on my back. And I take that as my proof that he wasn't a figment of Heero's or my imagination. Unlike him, I do have an imagination and I know that you can't actually feel a daydream or a nightmare. It just doesn't work that way.

No, I had a real boy in my arms and I had no intention of letting him disappear before I got answers. Unfortunately, it was hard to think with him in my arms, I couldn't help but wrap my arms around him. Especially with the way he had his cheek pressed to my chest. It was difficult to think, but I know I'm not crazy. Unlike Heero, I have complete confidence in myself. I think that if I were to go crazy, I would be the first to admit it. No, I am not crazy, but that meant there was at least one person on the island besides Heero and me. Logically, if this boy was real and the same as the description Heero gave, then the boy Heero saw was most likely real as well.

These thoughts moved quickly through my mind, but when I started to ask, my throat closed up on me. I think my body betrayed me, knowing the boy felt right where he was and unwilling to do anything that would cause him to flee. Heero once told me that the only way to lead a good life was to act on my emotions. I guess my body listened even if my mind rebelled, because it was acting without my permission. I don't want to give the impression that I was being controlled. I could have broken away if I'd tried to. Once I realized how determined my body was, I decided there was no reason not to let it have it's way while I thought out what I would say to the boy.

The short blonde boy didn't seem to mind my silence, he was reciprocating it. By this time, I was re-reviewuating my theory of someone, most likely an enemy made during the war, purposely trying to drive Heero crazy. The look of pure, unadulterated joy that had spread across the boy's face when he saw me was too convincing. The desperate way he screamed my name too heartfelt to have been faked. I'm not easily fooled by people, I have a way of telling when someone is lying to me, and all I felt from this boy was honest joy. I was preparing to ask him my questions, not the one's I'd originally planned to ask, when I heard his hoarse whisper. 'I waited so long. But I knew you'd come back. I knew you'd keep your promise.'

His words were like lightening through my body, electricity flowing through my veins. For some reason, they had meaning to me. It was then that I told him I had to leave. I've never seen a more pain-filled statement than the one he gave me at that moment. Speaking carefully, stepping away from him, I said that I had to return to Heero. He agreed to see me again tomorrow. I'll go back tomorrow and get to the bottom of what is happening on this island. Until then, I have to figure out what to tell Heero. That's part of the reason I'm writing this. It was easier for Heero to give me his journal than to tell the story to me himself. I think that it would be easier for me to do the same thing. I'll find out.

***end of entry***

 

***Trowa's Journal***
June 12

I know Heero can be stubborn. I've known since we were children, but for some reason, I thought this time would be different. It wasn't. His eyes got so wide when I told him what I'd seen and what had happened. Then he got that sullen, stubborn look of determination he used to get right before he did some suicidal, kamikaze act during the war. He's now convinced that we are both going crazy and I'm starting to worry that if he doesn't start to believe soon, he may really go crazy. I tried talking to him, offered to let him read what I'd written in this journal, but he wasn't interested. Now he won't even talk to me.

The blonde boy, his name is Quatre, was surprised when I told him about Heero's encounter with the long-haired boy. But not nearly as surprised as he was when I asked him his name. Actually, surprise isn't the right word, more like stricken and betrayed. Because I didn't remember him. But that was nothing compared to the pain and confusion that filled his blue-green eyes when I told him we'd never met. It was then that I understood why Heero had been so hurt by the other boy's tears. When Quatre's eyes filled and he turned and bolted for the forest, it felt as if my heart had been ripped from my chest.

***end of entry***

 

Violet eyes blinked blearily at the sobbing boy who sat beside him, golden head hidden in his arms. "Quatre?"

Tear-filled blue eyes met his and Quatre threw himself into his arms. "Duo," the pale boy whispered, face hidden against Duo's shoulder. "Trowa doesn't remember me! Oh God, why doesn't he remember me?"

Pushing the other boy back so he met his eyes, Duo shook his head sadly. "Him too....."

Quatre's eyes narrowed suddenly. "Why didn't you tell me you'd seen Heero? Why would you keep that from me?"

"Because I realized he didn't remember. I knew it was him as soon as I saw him, but....he didn't know me."

"Trowa said he thinks he's crazy. He thinks he just imagined you."

"It's just as well," Duo said cynically, looking away. "He has a different life, now. A life without me. Maybe," Duo stopped, stepping out of the forest to stand on the dark beach, looking up at the stars. "Maybe it's time for me to move on. We've been waiting for so long, Quatre. I'm tired."

Exiting the forest as well, Quatre moved to stand beside him. "Maybe...maybe it doesn't matter if they remember us. Maybe the important thing is that we're together again. We have a chance to start over."

With a growl, Duo stalked to his rock. Boosting himself up, he crossed his legs and looked up at the moon. "What if I don't want to start over?! Do you have any idea how long it took for him to tell me he loved me?" Duo's voice dropped to a whisper and Quatre moved closer to hear him.

"Maybe they'll remember eventually. On some level, they do feel a connection to us. Trowa told me that Heero was very hurt that he'd made you cry," Quatre put a hand on Duo's shoulder when the long-haired boy turned to pin him with a questioning gaze. "And that Heero said there was...something...pulling him to come back." Duo's violet eyes lit with hope and Quatre felt his own grounded hope begin to blossom again. "The only reason he hasn't been back is because you asked him not to."

Duo looked down, his long lashes hiding his eyes from Quatre's view. A grin slowly spread across his face, then he looked up, eyes sparkling. "Do you remember when Heero and I first dated? How stubborn he was?" At Quatre's nod, Duo's grin widened. "If my request actually made him not do somehting, then he still cares, whether he remembers or not."

"So what do we do now?"

"Let's go remind them."

* * *

"Heero, is there any chance we could have forgotten a part of our life? That we might have met them somewhere and then forgotten about it completely?" Trowa looked up from where he sat at the small table. Turning, he gazed at Heero and sighed.

The Japanese boy sat in a chair in front of one of the two windows in the front of the house. But he sat with his back to the window, eyes glued to the floor. He acted as if he hadn't heard Trowa at all, statement blank as he stared at a crack in the wooden floor as if it were a mission report. Trowa was making up his mind to repeat the questions when Heero suddenly looked up, meeting his eyes, anger flashing in his cobalt ones.

"Impossible. When could we have met them? I can repeat everything that has happened since I was five. I can list everyone who's name I ever knew and neither of them are on that list. Trowa, there is no way. And that isn't even taking into account the disappearing. Or the fact that there is no place they could be disappearing to. Trowa. You know as well as I do that this...whatever this is...is impossible."

"What do we do..." Trowa shook his head slowly, unable to ague with Heero who was still the voice of reasonableness even when he thought he was crazy. "Maybe we should leave. I...I just can't help thinking of this as a mystery that must be solved. Not including our attractions to these boys, who they are and where they go...shouldn't we try to explain it? As former soldiers, shouldn't we go forward and solve this puzzle," he raised his hands when Heero opened his mouth, "crazy or not. To run away without even trying, without doing anything. Heero, wouldn't that be the coward's way out?"

Heero stiffened as if shot, fury blazing in his eyes as he stared at Trowa. Then he suddenly looked down, eyes widening. "I may go crazy..." he said slowly, voice cold and precise, "but I will not become a coward. Yes," he looked up again suddenly, determination written over his face. "We could consider it a mission. And a mission must not be distracted from, especially by a weakness of mine."

"Does that mean you'll stop...moping...and help me understand this?" Trowa took Heero's anger in stride, seeing it as a good thing since it meant the boy was no longer obsessing with his supposed insanity. "Good. Now, what should we do first? Obviously talking to them does little good if they keep running for that forest everytime they get upset."

"Block them off." Heero nodded sharply when Trowa looked at him questioningly. "Block their escape. They disappear, escape, into that forest. So one of us blocks their escape while the other catches them. You said the boy--"

"Quatre."

Heero raised an eyebrow at Trowa, but accepted the correction. "You said Quatre was real. That means we could treat them as people to be questioned, using physical force if necessary. After that, if I am insane, we will at least have our answers."

"Yes. So when should we do this? You said...the other boy...only came out during the daytime? Well, it was daylight when I saw Quatre, so we should probably try this during the day. It would be easier to make a night move, but they may not come out at night."

"Gods, Quatre, they talk as if we're animals."

Trowa and Heero lept out of their chairs, whirling to face the two boys who stood just inside the closed door. Heero stared, frozen, at the long haired boy, then his eyes flicked to the door, resting on the lock that was still in place. Following his look, Duo turned his head, a small smile crossing his lips.

"An interesting side effect of spending a century on a different plane is that the rules no longer apply to us. And Trowa, we can come out at night."

"It's just harder to keep watch at night," Quatre said softly.

Swallowing at the sudden dryness in his throat, Trowa forced himself to move. "Watch?"

"You haven't changed," Duo said, glancing at him for a second before turning back to stare at Heero. "Let's sit down. It seems you two have forgotten a lot over the years." Not waiting, he moved to the table, pulling back a chair and sitting in it, his back to the others. With a look of pure longing, Quatre tore his gaze away from Trowa to join the long-haired boy at the table.

Heero and Trowa exchanged a long look, then fury suddenly blazed in Heero's eyes as he turned to glare at the back of Duo's head. "Who are you?!"

Duo flinched and started to get up, but Quatre grabbed his hand, glancing at Heero. "Sit down? We came here to explain. That's what you were just talking about, right? Finding out what was going on? We're here to tell you."

Still feeling as if he was the butt of a joke, Heero sat down at the table, waiting until Trowa sat down before leaning forward, glaring at the violet eyed boy across from him. "Who are you?"

"Duo," he answered immediately, eyes moving over Heero. "Duo Maxwell. I may run and hide but I never tell a lie." Glancing at Quatre who was watching Trowa with just as much eagerness, he smirked. "And my sweet friend here is Quatre Reberba Winner. We remember your names."

"Wait," Trowa said, "Stop there. You keep saying you remember us. Are you saying we've met before? Where? When? Why don't we remember?"

"I don't know why you don't remember," Quatre answered softly. "We remember everything very well."

"I got a guess," Duo put in, looking at Trowa for a minute before moving his eyes to include Heero. "I think you might have forgotten because you've died since then."

"What?!" Heero cried, standing up and leaning toward the boy in fury. "Are you saying we're dead?! Fuck this! I don't need you to make me even crazier."

"Woah! I'm not saying you're dead Heero." Eyes pleading with Heero not to go, Duo leaned forward too. "And you're not crazy either. What I meant was that you'd died in your past lives since the four of us were together. It's been so long, you must have lived a couple of lifetimes since you left. And considering how suicidal you were back then," Duo saw Trowa's smirk and smiled widely, "you may have gone through three or four." When Heero's anger didn't diminish much, Duo gave an exasperated sigh. "I'm talking about reincarnation, Heero. You know, you die and then are reborn? Does any of this ring a bell?"

Glaring at the long-haired boy, Heero slowly sat down. "I know what reincarnation is," he said, glancing at Trowa. "Do you buy this? That we met them in a different life?"

"No." At Quatre's gasp, Trowa gave him an appologetic look. "It doesn't add up. How could we have gone through so many lives that we don't remember you, yet you remember us perfectly? Besides, that doesn't explain how you walked through that door. Or how you disappear. Even if we were reincarnated, there has to be more to this."

"Yeah," Duo said slowly, dropping his eyes from Heero to look at the table. "There's more."

"Trowa, Heero, have you ever felt that your life has no real meaning to it? That it doesn't matter if you live or die?" Ignoring Duo's snort, Quatre continued. "Have you ever wondered why you don't fear death? Why you repeatedly risk your lives with no thought to the consequences? Or why, as many times as the two of you have died and been reborn, you are still together each time?"

"I didn't say I agreed with the reincarnation," Heero reminded the boy, despite the fact that he had wondered about his own lack of fear towards death. "But assuming I did, how does that explain our suicidal tendencies?" Looking at Duo who'd started to laugh, Heero glared.

"Actually, you were always like that." Smiling, Duo shook his head. "Even before all of this started you were unafraid of death, at least your own. But I think what Quatre's trying to get at is that you treat life as if it's cheap, and for you it is. You just don't realize why it is. You see, the two of you have been given unlimited lives." At their confusion, Duo explained. "Most people only get reincarnated two times before their spirits are sent on to be judged. With the two of you, you made a deal with a very excentric deity and he gave you a free pass." Looking at the two boys, Duo quickly realized he wasn't helping things. "Maybe you should talk to him...he could show you what happened. You'd be able to understand better..."

"Who?" Trowa asked, noting the way Quatre's eyes widened at the long-haired boy's suggestion. "I don't care what I have to do. I want to know what's happening."

"Would you go with us?" Quatre said slowly, chewing on his lip. "Into the forest...to the temple?"

At the last word, both Trowa and Heero stiffened. It was as if they'd been given an electrical shock at the word `temple', yet neither could remember why the word should affect them. Looking at each other, they calculated the risks involved quickly coming to the same decision. Answers must be found, regardless of the means. Nodding once, they turned back to the boys.

"We will go," Heero said, glaring at Duo when he grinned widely. "But if we do, you will explain everything."

"Of course," Quatre said, standing quickly and moving around the table to take Trowa's hand. Smiling at the seated boy, he took a shaky breath and looked to Duo. "Let's go. There's no reason to wait."

* * *

The forest was a black shadow, looming over them as they crossed the moonlit beach. No one spoke until the four boys came to a halt at the edge of the dark forest. Although they'd searched it thoroughly, both Heero and Trowa felt the prescence of a dark and powerful force within. Looking to their two guides, they waited, half expecting to see some invisible door appear from thin air.

Heero flinched when Duo suddenly grabbed his hand, barely stopping himself from pulling away. Glancing to the other two, he gave a silent sigh of resignation as he spotted Quatre's grip on the tall boy. Turning his head, he looked down at his hand then up at Duo's happy statement. Glaring, he nodded his head toward the forest. "Let's go."

The mysterious boys exchanged a look, then, gripping the hands they held tightly, stepped forward into the forest. As the boy in front of him suddenly vanished, along with the hand he held, Trowa felt a sharp rush of panic. Then he felt a tug at his arm and took a step forward.

Heero halted abruptly as Trowa disappeared after the pale boy. Grinning at him, Duo shook his head in mock disappointment. "Scared?" With a growl, Heero pushed the long-haired boy ahead of him until they both broke the edge of the forest.

Nothing could have prepared them for the abrupt change in scenery. One second they were stepping beneath the canopy of a dark forest, the next they were standing at the foot of a tall hill, bright sunlight shining down on them. Smiling at Trowa's star-struck statement, Quatre glanced at Duo and laughed. The boy was practically dancing with joy at the way Heero clung to his hand, cobalt eyes wide in disbelief as he looked around at the flat, green fields that rolled out as far as the eye could see. Then he turned back, jaw tightening as he stared at the hill, not releasing his hold on Duo.

There were marble steps carved into the hill, leading straight upward to what, from where they stood, looked like a well. At the prodding of Quatre and Duo, the four of them began climbing the steps, not slowing although Trowa and Heero looked over their shoulders at the endless sea of grass. Finally, they were at the top of the hill and could see that it was a well...of sorts. It couldn't be considered an actual building although it did have a sloped marble roof, held up by four cylindrical pillars. The real attraction was the large pool of violet liquid that filled the space enclosed by the pillars. It was at the edge of this that Quatre and Duo knelt, releasing the other boys. The marble floor was flat, and the water was perfectly level with it.

Motioning for Trowa and Heero to kneel beside them, the two boys leaned toward the dark liquid and reached out to touch the surface with their fingertips. Kneeling, Heero jerked in surprise as the liquid went from bright bottomless violet, to cloudy, the surface waving slightly as if it were the ocean. Then, Trowa gripped Heero's shoulder, motioning for him to look down. The base of the hill was being rapidly swallowed by a dark grey fog which continued to climb until it was inches from reaching the boys, who were still kneeling.

Feeling wetness on his knees, Heero looked back to see the murky liquid bubbling furiously despite its cool temperature. Eyes widening, Heero glanced at Duo and paused, eyes narrowing as he took in the boy's irritated statement. As he watched, Duo stood up and folded his arms over his chest. Glaring down into the furious pool, he frowned.

"Are you finished?" he asked, not hiding his irritation. "This isn't necessary and you know it. Stop showing off!"

Trowa gave a surprised sound when the water went absolutely still, the fog disappearing as if it had never been there. Looking to the others, he was caught off guard by the voice that suddenly broke the silence.

"I was just being myself, try showing a little respect."

Smirking, Duo looked at the calculating and intense scrutiny the two ex-soldiers were giving the shadowy figure. "Sure thing, old buddy, just get me my Heero back and I'll respect you till the end of time."

Turning, the cloaked figure nodded to the two boys. "I am Shinigami," he said in a low voice, the suspense he created broken when Duo snorted. Making a disgruntled sound as he turned his head to the boy for a moment, he gave an audible sigh. "I can make you remember everything, but it's a long story."

Not intimidated in the least, Heero and Trowa exchanged a look, green eyes meeting cobalt for a moment before both nodded. "It doesn't matter how long it takes," Trowa said slowly. "Tell us."

Nodding his hood-covered head, Shinigami knelt over the water above which he floated. "Look here, and you will see the past. Look, and understand that I have not broken my promise to the four of you."

Scooting away from the pool, Duo and Quatre leaned against two of the pillars. They remembered, and they didn't need reminding. With identical feelings of foreboding and anticipation, Heero and Trowa leaned forward and looked into the pool.

--notes-
That is the end of Is This Real?. The sequel is already being plannedsist of the events that took place before Is This Real?, explaining what Heero and Trowa saw when they looked into the pool. The sequel, which I haven't actually started on yet and doesn't have a name, describes the last time the four boys were together and should illuminate a lot of what was not understood from this fic. Sorry to cut this one off with such a lousy ending, but I've decided that I'd much rather write a fic explaining what happened than I would simply having it told to the two boys as a part of this fic. The sequel is simply too long (long enough from what I'm imagining now) to be included in this fic. Enough explaining from me, it's already done. Coming soon: the sequel to Is This Real?