10-22-2001

Title: Innocence Faded 7/16 (revised)
Authors: Jenn & Kea (Dreamscape Studios)
Email: HeeroYuy1x2@aol.com and DuoMaxwell1x2@aol.com , respectively
Archive: Dreamscape Studios Ltd (www.dreamscapestudios.net) ; anyone else please email and permission will be gladly given
Feedback: Absolutely. ^_^
Rating: R throughout, pushing NC-17 in parts
Warnings: Angst, hurt, despair and heartache with spoonfuls of hope to make them go down smoother. Mild lemon and strong lime in some parts. This fic takes place following the events in Endless Waltz (movie version). This is a completed multipart fic.
Pairings:1x2/2x1, implied 3x4
Disclaimer: Gundam Wing is owned by a bunch of companies in Japan (Bandai, Sunrise, Sotsu Agency), and their sandbox is only on unsanctioned loan for us to play in. ^_^ The song "Innocence Faded" belongs to John Petrucci and Dream Theater, lyrics used without permission.

Authors' notes: Innocence Faded is written completely in alternating first-person perspective. The three asterisks usually denote a shift in POV, with thoughts or emphasis indicated by single asterisks. In-monologue flashbacks will be denoted by slashes, complete ones or scene changes with the asterisks.

This is also known as the fic that ate our lives. Or was it our lives that ate the fic? I believe we started this in June of 2000, and when Jenn moved out here in November, we got kind of distracted for several months. I'm certain there are a lot of people who have long ago given up this fic for dead; I'll admit to being one of them. ^^; But some stories simply won't go away until they're fully told.

Huge thanks and worshipful adoration go out to Moe-chan, the best beta reader anyone could ask for, and the constant motivating force behind the rest of this fic. When I sent her a pathetically rough draft of the monster known as IF6 (that became IF 10-15 after chapter breaks), asking her to read it and let me know if it should be finished or scrapped, I never knew what a friend I'd be gaining. Without her help, this very well might have lingered unfinished and certainly would have had lots of inconsistencies and stupid errors.

Background music, title and constant source of inspiration: Innocence Faded, by Dream Theater...from the "Awake" CD.

****************
Wearing apathetic displays
Sharing flesh like envy in cages
Condescending
Not intending to end
****************

I've never had a reason to believe in God. At best, God is a very abstract concept, the little I've learned of which has been gleaned from casual mention. Much of it was unfavorable, sometimes even indifferent. God, I think, is a word invoked by habit. My point is, if you don't believe in God, then the notion of heaven or paradise is irrelevant. Again, it becomes an abstract concept that holds little meaning aside from its most literal definition.

Today, on the other hand, I was almost willing to believe.

Heaven stood before me, gleaming gently in the afternoon sun. It wasn't as simple as that, but then it never is. I didn't know it for heaven at first glance. At first glance, all I could see was a nightmare waiting for a place to happen. Glass was everywhere, open, exposed, more vulnerable than any other building material. In my mind's eye, I could see bloody shards of it everywhere, shattered by a sniper's bullet.

Duo chose that moment to brush his hand with mine, and I reminded myself why I was here. For him. For us. Twining my fingers with his, I let him lead the way.

Everything beyond the door was flooded with diffused light. There was no place for shadows to hide, no mysterious corners where a nightmare could dare to lurk. Even as I warned myself that we were badly exposed, there was safety in the light.

I continued to follow quietly behind, giving way easily when Duo surged ahead. He was in love with this house, I could see it already. Strangely enough, part of me wanted to feel the same way.

***

The entryway yawned wide and inviting, the entire floorplan devoted to open, comfortable spaces, my mind hard at work categorizing them all. Heero's hand slipped from mine and after a brief glance his direction, I continued on in open-mouthed gawking fascination, mentally retracting any and every negative thought I might have had about Trowa. 'Perfect' seemed such an inadequate word for this house.

With some surprise, I noticed that the house was fully furnished. The living room area was sunken by one step, wood floors having more than a hint of cedar to their color and varnish. A huge, airy kitchen with a ceiling that went all the way to the next floor and appliances and countertops in that same pristine white beckoned invitingly. A casual dining table still large enough to accommodate every Gundam pilot sprawled through one set of French doors, completely set and bearing a crystal candelabra with black tapers aflame.

"This is actually the second floor," my mind registered Becky saying. "There are two...no, three bedrooms and two baths downstairs. The stairs go off between the utility room and the office, down that hallway."

Strangely dizzy, I tracked the movement of her hand with my eyes until they began swirling. Upwards. "What's upstairs?" I asked, pointing at the elegant spiral staircase.

Mona Lisa smiled back at me. "Go see."

***

My eyes followed him as he ascended the spiraling stairway, almost unconsciously caressing the slim lines of his body, imagining the smooth play of the muscles beneath his clothing. I didn't move immediately to follow him, but dropped my gaze to the main floor as he disappeared from sight. I thought I could sense a soldier's influence in the choice of furnishings. Clean, simple lines, with just enough color to appeal to Duo's more vibrant tastes. No mementos of the war, no reminders of what we had been. Save one. On the wall above the living room couch arced the elegant simplicity of two Japanese swords, their hilts a lacework of delicate carving.

I nodded, accepting the message. Here the swords belonged, and here they would stay. A reminder of what we would always be, a reminder of the choice we had made to lay them down.

"Heero?" Duo's voice was strained and urgent as he leaned over the upstairs railing, braid dangling next to his face. "Come up here."

Without thought, I moved instantly towards the sound of his voice, reacting to the urgent tone. Taking the stairs at a run, I reached for a gun that wasn't there. When I rounded the final turn and stepped off onto the floor, it was with the cool, focused mindset demanded of a mission... and a fear for the lover I'd allowed out of my sight. "Nani?" I demanded in a softly intense voice, my eyes raking across the bedroom. Once to ascertain the danger...and again because I could hardly believe what I saw.

***

He ran to me, taking the stairs two and three at a time with the ferocity of a dragon in his eyes. I didn't expect that, but it made my body and soul contract with an odd pleasure-pain. The realization hit me a bare instant later like a hammerbolt in the chest, spreading guilt throughout my being. I'd worried...ne, frightened him, from the wild look in those Prussian blues, and he'd been dealt far too many emotional shocks in the past few days. He alighted on the landing, not even breathing hard and jungle cat purpose in his stride as he closed the distance between us, soldier-eyes scanning for the threat to me and body tensing to eliminate it, one arm slightly extended as though holding a phantom pistol.

*Oh, Heero...*

My hand reached for him, settling like a butterfly on his chest and seeking the fierce pulse of his heart beneath his shirt and skin. "Daijoubu," I reassured him, confirming to him that I was all right. Experience had taught me that when Heero rode the killing edge, talking to him in only Japanese was the quickest way to reach him, and my sense of self-preservation automatically reared its head. I told you it wasn't to read manga.

I took his gun hand in my other one, bringing it up to my lips to breathe a kiss across the clenched knuckles. "Mitte," I said, nuzzling his cheek with my forehead to direct his eyes. [1]

Against me, the rock-hard body of the Perfect Solider stilled, frozen with the rigid immobility of a statue. His mouth opened and closed a few times, but no sound came out. Leaning closer against him, I smiled, immeasurably happy I wasn't the only one in thrall.

The uppermost floor was little more than a loft, a single spacious room and a doorway that led to a bathroom. Large French doors opened up to a small balcony, just the right size for two to comfortably sit in the elegant chairs placed there, or to stand between them and take in the peaceful tides of the ocean. The same elegant wood floors attired themselves smartly with a rectangular Oriental rug, deep green, blue, and gold swimming in a burgundy sea and resolving themselves into the proud, noble figures of a dragon and a phoenix. But they were all as nothing compared to the centerpiece of the room.

Rising up like a mythical being from the depths stretched four long, luxuriant fingers of dark cherry wood, united at the top with a loose, intricate lattice. From this wept diaphanous tendrils of white, falling as a sheltering shroud around the upthrust hand. More white layered the landscape like a thick fall of snow, fluffy and luxuriant and inviting.

Any other eye would have seen merely a breathtaking canopy bed, but in my eyes it was a place of redemption. A sacred altar upon which the sins and demons of our pasts could be sacrificed and together we could emerge clean and whole. The urge to wrestle Heero down into that sliver of holy paradise throbbed so strongly in me I found remembering any other motivation for our presence here nearly impossible.

***

That was the moment when I felt I could believe.

If there were truly a place of haven, of respite and shelter, then surely this was it. I was stunned by it, but in a way I couldn't explain. The style in which the loft was furnished was little different from the rest of the house. Simplicity was the rule. That wasn't what held me.

Scenes like this were meant for other people. Untouched, unburdened, with the innocence to deserve such a reward. Heaven wasn't meant for murderers.

I closed my eyes, turning my head so that I leaned as much against Duo as he did against me. I knew he wanted this house, I'd known it before we'd even crossed the threshold. I was glad that I had that excuse, that I could say I was doing this for him. I couldn't bring myself to admit that the murderer, hands washed in blood, was daring to snatch at the dream.

"I need some air," I murmured after a moment, and almost stumbled in my haste to move away, to navigate the stairs as quickly as possible. I moved purposefully towards the rear patio, ignoring the startled look on Becky Peterson's face. Pushing the doors open, I stepped outside.

The wind was coming in from the sea. It smelled fresh and clean, with a faint tang of salt. Closing my eyes, I let it tangle in my hair, toying with the loose folds of my shirt. I wanted this. Against my better judgment, against the strictures I forced upon myself as a means of battling the weight of death in me, I wanted it... and I didn't know what to do about it.

***

Something in my heart breaking and remaking, I watched his descent, legs pumping as strongly as they had on his climb, the few tattered shreds of dignity Heero still possessed the only thing that kept him from breaking into a frantic run. I stepped forwards and reached out for one bedpost, the deep carvings a pattern of curlicues and arcs beneath the pads of my fingers. The wood seemed to vibrate slightly at my touch, a subtle confirmation of welcome. I tightened my hand around it and leaned my forehead against the post, closing my eyes and drawing in deep, earthy breaths filled with the fresh, slightly musky scent of cherry wood.

"Mr. Maxwell?" that soft, feminine voice asked, a bit breathless from her own dash up the stairs but the concern in it wrapping around me almost tangibly. "Are you all right?"

"Duo. Call me Duo." I turned slightly watery eyes up to Becky Peterson, who no longer looked anything like Relena to me. If anything, the compassion called up images of Quatre. "I don't feel old enough to be a 'mister' yet."

"Duo," Becky repeated. "Does Mr. Yuy...Heero," she corrected at my look, "dislike the house? Trowa was so certain it would suit the both of you." Her face fell mournfully; failure clearly hadn't been in her game plan. One slender hand flew nervously to her mouth.

Trowa? Something was there in the way she said his name, but my mind refused to wrap around it, not consumed as it was with thoughts of Heero. At times, I wondered how I thought about anything else. "No," I said, shaking my head a bit and gratefully accepting the handkerchief she held out to me. Girls and movie stars are the only people who look semi-attractive in tears, which disqualifies me on both counts. "Actually, he likes it very much." I knew that with no room for doubt. I had no explanation for it other than the awareness of him that had lodged itself in my psyche. He liked it, and that was the problem.

I closed my eyes, seeing behind those darkened lids the road before me. Rocky, treacherous, devoid of light, uphill far more than down and running only in one direction. Towards Heero. Hilde had tried to tell me what my heart already knew. No matter how rough the road, if it went to him I would walk it. This house and everything it represented to us both was just enough to cast a faint, warm glow on the path ahead, to illuminate the next few steps. And, hopefully, to take in faith the ones that were to follow.

"You love him." The wisdom in that girlish voice wrenched my lids apart, dissolved my vision of that winding allegorical pathway into the feminine form of Becky Peterson. She'd taken a seat in a wingback chair next to the bed, legs properly crossed and fingers thoughtfully steepled. What took me most aback were her eyes, rich mahogany pools utterly devoid of surprise or condemnation.

"It's difficult, making the transition from wartime to peace, but it's especially hard on the ones who fought. That's why Sanctuary was founded, Duo. Occasionally we handle property acquisitions such as Winner Enterprises requires, mostly as a favor to the company, but our primary purpose is to match former soldiers with places of peace for life after war."

Ironically amused and visibly stunned warred for control of my face. Amused won, but just barely. "I guess it's hardly a coincidence that they called you, then?"

"Hardly." She smiled then, and I realized that despite her adolescent appearance she was at least five years older than me. "I'll apologize in advance in case I'm overstepping, but part of loving someone means asking the questions and giving him a chance to say no." The smile slid once more into daVinci. "Because that also gives him a chance to say yes."

Swallowing around the lump in my throat became suddenly difficult. I knew what I had to do, I think I had always known, but it's easier to follow your instincts when another voice confirms them. "If he says yes, I want this to belong to both of us."

"There's no problem with that." Becky rose from her chair, an oddly familiar boneless grace in her movements. More information to pound around inside my skull. "Let me worry about the details, Duo, that's my job." Her hand touched my shoulder, gave it an encouraging squeeze. "I think you've got a question to pose."

I used to think it was a stupid gesture, but I had no other way to thank her for her insight. I took those elegant fingers in mine and brushed my lips across them softly, seeing my nervous reflection shimmering in her glasses. "How did you know I love him?" I couldn't help asking.

Her face softened, the pink tip of her tongue darting out to moisten her lips. "Let's just say you remind me of two people very close to me who nearly let themselves get away from each other, who have been through some of the same things you and Heero have." Curling her smile around a small giggle, she stood on tiptoe and kissed my forehead. "Or maybe it's because my maiden name was Winner."

Her index finger curled under my chin and gently tapped my surprised mouth closed. "Now go, Duo..."

Simply put, I went.

***

Things would have been so much easier for Duo without me. I can deny it, I can hide it, but my...self...that part of me trying so hard to be born, to grow in the arid wasteland of my soul, was still hurting, still bleeding. I couldn't give him what I didn't know how to give. I couldn't show him the love he wanted so badly. But I needed him. Without him, I would die. I knew that with calm clarity. It was no more simple and no more complicated than that. Damn me for being weak, damn me for falling short in the only mission that has ever really mattered. I needed him to hold back the nightmares, to remind me why struggling through life was better than slipping into death. By instinct, I think, I knew that his warm, vibrant strength was the only thing that could ever make me feel clean again.

If living in this house with him was what he wanted, I would find a way to give it to him. No matter the cost.

The wind gusting in from the water kissed my face, the soft cry of a gull rising in descant to the primal melody of the tides. Beyond those most basic of elements, I recognized an all too familiar presence, soaking it in like the afternoon sunshine. I could have turned and unerringly pointed at him even if I were blind, like a lodestone seeking magnetic North.

***

My whole world stilled and halted as Heero stood there, the oceanic winds running through his hair like the caress of a familiar, favored lover, rustling against his clothes as though eager to separate them from his skin, I felt everything inside me tighten fiercely, almost painfully. I could watch him for hours, days even, and never be conscious of time's passage. An aching feeling of rightness throbbed within my chest, beating a counterpoint to the steady pulse of my heart. This...this place, this boy, this poignant promise of the future...was the fulfillment of that desperate need eating away at my insides.

My soft footsteps fell without sound in Heero's wake, though I knew better than to believe him unaware of my presence. One hand rose on its own and hesitated just out of touching distance, fingers fluttering like a nervous hummingbird, before gently pressing against my lover's back. An ebb and flow of emotion passed through that silent physical contact...questions asked, questions answered. Strength given, strength received. "Could we call this home?" There was no hyperactive begging, no childish imploring. Nothing one might expect of me when I desperately wanted my way.

***

I didn't move, not even when his hand touched my back. However, I think that... in that moment, I could have denied him nothing. The connection between us flared at that touch, and I realized that I wanted this as badly as he did. Somewhere to rest, to be safe. I wanted to be with him, to make love to him in a bed rich with his scent, in a way half-remembered from similar encounters on a thousand nights before it. I wanted what I had never known I was living without... A home.

I turned to him, and I think if even a fraction of what whorled in my mind showed in my eyes, he couldn't help but be staggered by it. "I want to," I told him simply... and I did.

***

For those several silent minutes, I felt like I was standing on the precarious edge of a great, yawning, hungry abyss, one which was all too eager to swallow me and which could have put me completely down the hatch in one bite. Since the matter had first arisen one ocean and several hours ago, Heero had vibrated with this subtle tension. I knew what he was thinking: how exposed and unprotected this place was, how vulnerable we would be to stay here, how easily we could fall prey to such predators who neither realized nor cared that the war was over. All things I knew. Things I recognized and my mind acknowledged as valid concerns. I held no illusions about what we had been, what had defined our short, young lives until very recently.

But those same parameters must be shattered and their power must be broken in order to go on. They had defined who we were, not who we would be. Those pages were not yet written, and I intended for once to find the pen firmly in my grasp.

My whole being seemed to shiver, to dance crazily beneath that shell of skin when he turned around. I could still feel the lip of the ravine beneath my toes, the slight crumbly feeling of the rocks and pebbles shifting in time with my balance-keeping sway. The night-darkened oceans of his eyes disarmed and drowned me, suffocated and resuscitated me, all in the span of one chest-rattling breath. Something in his eyes made me dizzy, dizzy and desperate for more.

I knew it was real; my dreams were never this good.

"Yokatta," I whispered; I simply had no more voice than that.[2] "She said it's very simple...we seem to be in 'a buyer's market,' I continued, clearing my throat of stray emotions. "We can set it up where it belongs to both of us. I think that's fitting." The words must have somehow formed themselves, for inside the vessel of my body, Heero Yuy's eyes were seducing my soul and I was shouting madly for him to continue it forever.

***

"Hai," I agreed quietly.

I looked up, watched the sunlight glitter on the glass that lined the wall behind us. When at last the sun dropped into the horizon, the house would be flooded with warm, richly colored light. Suddenly I longed for sunset. I wanted to feel that warmth across my face, to count the colors it found in Duo's long chestnut hair. My gaze found his again and lingered there. Everything I knew of beauty, I had learned from watching him. It was the kind of beauty that can drive a man mad with desire to possess it. He was the only person on earth or in space that could inspire such intense want in me.

I reached out because I needed to touch him, to feel his skin beneath my fingertips as I continued to sink deeper and deeper into the amethyst depths of his eyes. *I will survive this and I will go on, because you won't let me do anything else,* I said to him silently. I could step through heaven's portal and abide there because the angel in my arms held the door wide for me. Everything I had to give was his for the asking. My protection, my body, even my life. All he had to do was ask.

***

[1] Japanese for 'Look.'

[2] Japanese for 'I'm glad.'

TBC...