Hello everyone. Yes I am still around, I have been busy. Here is a story that I finished today. I hope you like my humble offering. This is also a way of saying thank you to everyone who has sent such kind comments. Take care and enjoy your reading. Your friend and sister author, Karen, The Huntress.
Author: Karen, The Huntress
Disclaimer: I do not own Gundam Wing or its characters
Pairing: None really, I have included everyone
Warning: some angst, some swearing, some sap
Feedback: Yes, please don't make me beg
An early March breeze blew steadily, its cool traces encouraging Heero to turn up his jacket collar. He stared numbly out over the horizon not even aware that the wind was blowing his tangle bangs over his eyes. The sky was a radiant blue, brighter than it had been in a long time.
No more battle smoke and dust to obscure its purity. No fire-flashes to lessen its brilliance. The war now seemed so removed like a bad dream not recalled in the clear morning light. But the physical scars that marked Yuy's body were stark evidence. The metal scars, while harder to see, were always there never letting Heero forget.
Beside the former Zero pilot, Duo Maxwell shoved his hands deeper into his pants pockets drawing up against the stiff wind. The wind was always worse on the cemetery's chest. Duo was just thankful that Merquise had not decided to request his and his fellow pilot's presence in the dead of winter. Duo glanced over at his partner as Heero's faraway gaze made Duo wonder what he was thinking.
"Are you all right?" Duo inquired lowly moving to Heero's side.
Heero nodded brushing the tousled bangs from his eyes, "Just thinking." he answered shifting his sight to Duo.
Duo let a small smile tug at his mouth's corners. Without pause he slipped his arm about Heero's waist drawing his lover closer. "Would you want to talk about your thoughts later?"
"Maybe." Heero replied allowing his wandering eyes to take in the cemetery's full scope. "Such a waste." he sighed heavily leaning into Duo's embrace.
Trowa moved closer to Quatre situating his body so his taller frame blocked most of the whipping wind. Quatre smiled up locking his eyes with Barton's green sight. Reaching out Winner took Trowa's fingers between his flatten palms rubbing to warm them up. Behind the Gundam quartet, to the left Wufei knelt before the third grave in a nearby row. Solemnly he read the name on the stone in an attempt to recall if it was familiar.
There were so many cold stones stretched out across the rolling hills. So many reminders of the senselessness of war. Countless lives wiped out for nothing more than hatred and greed. Hanging his head Wufei gave into a momentary twinge of sadness as he realized that the name held no meaning. The Date of Death also served to bring on a sense of sorrow. The poor soul resting for eternity in that lonely grave had died only weeks before the war's end. How sad to survive until nearly the conflict's conclusion and not be able to out-run the Grim Reaper.
Letting a sigh escape over his lips the Chinese man stood giving up the gravestone's protection. He, too, pulled his long black overcoat tighter around his body. Duo angled his head, his braid whipping across his back. With a slight nod he acknowledged Wufei's return to the gathered group.
"Why do you suppose Zechs asked us here?" Quatre wondered aloud as Trowa put both his koi's hand and his hand into his coat pocket.
"It is strange." Duo admitted, "I know the war is over and we have made a certain brand of peace with Merquise but why he would want us to meet him here of all places is a mystery."
Heero tilted his head in the direction of the parking area. "Well he had better get here soon. I have more important things to do than stand around in the cold waiting for the great "Lightning Count" to put in an appearance. He might consider himself royalty but I am not at his beckoned call." he announced with a curt snort.
Quatre sighed, "Zechs would not have asked us to come if it was not important. In fact, to issue the invitation at all took a great amount of courage considering our past encounters."
"Zechs is either brave or stupid." Wufei commented not bothering to hide his mistrust of the former OZ Officer. "Either way I would not trust him to watch my back." he declared firmly.
Sure Zechs or Milliardo, whatever the man called himself now, had come down on the Gundam's side when he joined the Preventers but Chang was having a difficult time forgetting the barely-averted tragedy that had been set in motion by the White Fang Leader.
"Let's hold our judgment until we find out what he wants." Duo spoke up noticing that Heero's entire body had stiffened at the mention of Zechs' name. Yuy and Merquies had had their share of battles and each one, Duo knew, was remember with quite vivid recollection.
"The stuff nightmares are made of." Duo thought to himself.
Crunching tires alerted everyone that Merquise had arrived. He extracted his lanky but muscular frame from the car with a single graceful motion. An ankle-length leather coat flapped in the battering breeze. Zechs' long legs carried him effortlessly up the hillside's grade. His platinum hair was longer than the pilots remembered and was held back in a loose ponytail. The constant breeze ruffled the silvery strands feathering out the ends.
Five former Freedom Fighters turned in unison. Five sets of eyes burned with remembered passion for what the war had taken from them. Memories that lurked just beneath the surface of each pilot's consciousness. Demons waiting to claw their way through their dreams and ravage what measure of shredded sanity they had managed to rescue. Still Zechs could not be totally blamed for the ruining of their lives. Each individual's past, long before the war, had already done a damn thorough job of that.
Zechs locked his steel-blue sight on his former adversaries and, maybe now, his peacetime cohorts as he walked closer to the united group. Daring to think of them as friends was something Merquise was too smart to do. He knew they could never be friends but he hoped that they would not remain enemies either.
One look at the spit and fire in the narrowed eyes boring into his soul assured Zechs that there could never be anything more between himself and the Colony Fighters than mutual respect as warriors. He did, however, still hold Heero Yuy in high regard. Yuy's skill and fierce fighting when they once battled at a remote Antarctic base had earned him Zechs admiration.
So it was fitting that Heero was the first one to break the uneasy silence. "You have a hell of a lot of nerve asking us to come here." he glared not bothering to hide his annoyance.
Zechs bowed from the waist deferring to Heero and the other's clear animosity. They did, after all, have good reasons for their hostility. To say that the angry young men hated him, well, that was not for him to decide.
"I know my request was very presumptuous," Zechs readily admitted, "but I humbly beg that you will hear me out before passing too harsh a judgment"
"We're listening." Duo stated folding his arms across his chest using the "body language" display to put Zechs on notice that his and his friend's patience was thin when in came to Merquise.
Zechs looked from one Gundam Master to another. Each, in turn, nodded that they would remain quiet and hear him out. "I asked you here hoping that we might be able to establish some agreement, to reach some form of closure. I have known since the war's end that there was something that I needed to do to put the past behind me. Meeting with you face to face was one of the most necessary steps. I don't expect your forgiveness only that you allow me to offer a gesture of mutual understanding."
Wufei stepped forward pausing a few feet from Zechs. "Why should we help you ease your damned conscience? What do you expect us to do hold your hand?" he growled.
Zechs lowered his head suddenly feeling that his coming there was an exercise in futility. He strongly considered leaving without another word. "Yes," he told himself, "you were foolish to come." It was simply too much to expect the young warriors to offer anything but distain.
Zechs turned aiming his slumping shoulders back towards the parking area. He had done all that he could. At least he had tried. Maybe that was the way it should be, trapped alone in the private hell constructed by his despicable deeds. The young men owed him nothing and he would ask for nothing more.
Quatre pulled away from Trowa's arms running after Zechs, "Wait." he called, "Please."
Zechs stopped but did not turn around. He didn't know if he was up to looking everyone in the eye again.
The gentle Desert Prince lightly laid his hand on Zechs' arm, "Please tell us what you want." he urged turning slightly to read the expressions of his friends. Again each nodded giving Winner the "go-ahead".
Zechs took in a deep breath, mustered up his courage and prepared to do one of the hardest things he had ever done. "Will you come with me?" he asked lowly raising his eyes but not locking his sight. "We don't need to go far." he added to encourage the Gundam Masters to agree.
Heero took in his own deep breath wondering if he was going to regret his part in the mystery. "All right lead the way."
Zechs started down over the hill's opposite side. Quatre took Trowa's hand as they moved in line. Duo hooked his arm through Heero's elbow using the leverage to steer them onward. Wufei lagged behind choosing to keep a comfortable distance. He would reluctantly go but he could not wholeheartedly condone his friend's decision to follow after the supposedly penitent Preventer. Trust was one thing Wufei absolutely could not give Zechs.
Seven rows down the hill then four graves across. Finally Zechs stopped by the fifth marker. The stone was simple in design carved out of rough tan marble and rounded across the top. The front had been polished. There were no adornments, no vines or flowers etched into the smooth surface. No angels to keep their heavenly watch. Two short engraved lines were centered one under the other.
Everyone leaned forward reading the plain inscriptions. The first line read: "Treize Khushrenada". The second: AC 171--AC 195.
There was no other words, no epitaph. No inspirational testimonial.
Wufei drew in a startled breath as he realized whose grave he was standing before. Past events, their battle, hit him like a beam cannon set on full power. "Treize." he whispered, "No."
Then all of Wufei's pain, the guilt he had carried for so long exploded. "You cunning bastard!" he screamed at Zechs balling his hands into tight fists, "You knew exactly what this would do to me. Is this your idea of making amends?" he shouted fighting hard not to attack Merquise then and there.
This time Zechs did not shy away. This time he looked directed at Chang. "I knew the consequences but this is the only way to heal. Please I beg your forgiveness and the other's also. We have to exorcise our demons so we can begin to put the past behind us. We have to start somewhere," he declared, "why not here?"
Wufei, despite his shock, took several deep breaths. Gradually an odd calm began to settle over his quivering body. There was a tranquil wave that washed over his mind soothing his soul. Yes, maybe now was the time for healing. There had been too much anger, too much desperation. The war was over. "Let it be over." a quiet inner voice offered its council to Chang. "Wufei let it be over."
Falling to his knees Chang Wufei, the Lone Dragon, wept openly. He was not ashamed of his tears as they freed a floodgate of relief. Quatre knelt by his friend rubbing his quaking shoulders and offering consoling words.
Finally when all his tears were spent, when all the pain had been washed away, Wufei rose to his feet. Extending his hand he held it out to Zechs. "The war is over." he proclaimed, "For me. For everyone." he stated as Zechs accepted the gesture of friendship.
"Well I never thought I would live to see this day." Duo said allowing a satisfied smile to break through. Heero nodded but offered no reply. Perhaps he, too, was fighting for control. Maybe the war could be over for him as well. With Duo's help Heero had come a long way towards recovery. This day could be another step in that direction.
Zechs reached into his coat pocket pulling out a crumpled sheet of paper. It was clear from the yellowed page and ragged fold-lines that the paper had been folded and unfolded many times. "I would like to share something with you all if I may?" he requested.
Quatre took Trowa's hand once more, "Please we would be honored."
Zechs carefully unfolded the paper afraid it would come apart in his hands. He cleared his throat to push down the lump that was interfering with his voice. "This is for Treize." he declared, "For all of us."
Then in a clear, sturdy voice Zechs read aloud: "Do not stand at my grave and weep. I am not here. I do not sleep. I am a thousand winds that blow. I am the diamond-glints on snow. I am the sunlight on ripened grain. I am the gentle autumn rain. When you awaken in the morning's hush, I am the swift uplifting rush. Of quiet birds in circled flight. I am the soft stars that shine at night. Do not stand at my grave and cry. I am not here. I did not die."
The silence that followed was carried on the mournful currents passed the other sleeping heroes that rested safe from the world's troubles and strife. Then Duo's soft voice joined the hushed wind. "Amen." he whispered.
Remembrance--Karen Hickman--Mar. 2002
Thank you for reading!!!