1-8-2003

Title: Tide of Farewell
Author: Karen, The Huntress
Disclaimer: I do not own Gundam Wing or its characters
Pairing: 1x2
Warning: some angst, some sap

Notes: Hello everyone. Here is the story I wrote for the Moments of Rapture Contest. I noted that Dev Bassa posted her entry so I suppose it is all right to post mine. Anyway I hope you enjoy the story and that it is entertaining. Take care and have a good evening. Hugs, Karen, The Huntress.

Tide of Farewell
by Karen Hickman

For two days Heero had been aware that Duo was not himself. His usually cheery partner was quiet, uncharacteristically reserved. When he asked what was wrong Duo dismissed his low spirits as simply being tried. True they had just completed a gruelling undercover mission and Heero had to admit that it had taken its toll on him as well. Still there was an underlying tension that he was certain had nothing to do with fatigue.

After Duo and Heero became partners in life as well as work Duo confided that he had always wanted to live near the ocean so as a first anniversary gift Heero purchased a house by the seashore.

Duo was ecstatic with their new home. Each day he found time to sit quietly on the sand. Bathing in the sun's warmth he listened to the seagull's haunting calls and hungrily breathed in the salt scented air. The waves crashing on the shore with a rhythm as old as time gave him a sense of peace. It was comforting to know that a power greater than himself kept the meter of nature in perfect sequence.

He was further reminded of the universe's absolute order every evening when he and Heero shared the sunset. They would hold each other curled up in a blanket to ward off the gathering chill. As the dragon eyed sun melted into the sea and the horizon became ablaze with brilliant hues of red, orange and pink Duo found harmony in his lover's arms. Contentment came in the wave's constant spray as thousands of frothy bubbles hissed against the shoreline.

Each evening their love was reaffirmed as the sunset painted Heero's face with a soft glow and sparkled in rainbow bands across his eyes that were as deep blue as the sea. When the last traces of daylight faded into night and the stars blinked out one by one Duo would kiss his soul mate and know that indeed everything was right in his world.

But the night before the ocean failed to work its magic. The sunset paled in the deepening gloom that washed over Duo's world. Even the stars seemed to fade in his cloudy disposition. Heero had held his lover, stroked his hair and whispered his promises of loyalty and love but nothing helped Duo's mounting despair. As Duo rested entwined in his lover's protective embrace Heero felt helpless to stem the depressing tide.

Early the next morning Heero lay alone in bed. He couldn't dismiss the nagging feeling that something more serious than weariness was the reason for Duo's melancholy mood. Duo had not slept well, tossing and turning and finally getting up before dawn.

Heero gave Duo an hour to be alone then got up to see if he was all right. He found Duo sitting in the pre-dawn shadows staring out of the window at the restless sea. His unbraided hair draped over his shoulders and pooled on the sofa lending a soft silhouette to the lone figure. Duo didn't notice Heero until his image reflected in the window. With a heavy sigh he turned around as his concerned partner knelt beside him.

Duo's eyes were moist and puffy. Dark circles from lack of sleep gave them a hollow appearance. Now Heero was more than worried, he was heartsick at the disturbing sight of his forlorn lover.

"Duo," he said taking his hand, "I know something is wrong," he declared rubbing his thumb over Duo's palm, "and don't tell me that you are tired because I know that is not the truth."

Duo shook his head knowing that the time for avoiding the conversation was over. "I'm sorry." he whispered feeling bad for worrying Heero.

"Don't be sorry for how you feel." Heero replied moving to sit beside his troubled lover, "I want you to be all right and you are not. Please tell me what is wrong so I can help you." He slid his arm about Duo's sagging shoulders and pulled him nearer.

Biting his lower lip Duo stared down at his hands looking like a young child who felt sad but didn't know how to put the hurt into words. More misty droplets pooled behind his long eyelashes threatening to cascade down his pale cheeks.

"Is it something I did?" Heero asked anxiously even though he could think of nothing out of the ordinary he had said or done.

Duo silently shook his head "no" as he fought to keep the urge to cry in check. He was afraid if he tried to talk that his last measure of control would crumble and his frail emotions would shatter like fragile crystal. He was scared that even with Heero's unconditional love the scattered shards could never be made whole. Duo did not question his lover's devotion. What he doubted was his own strength to pick up the pieces and bind them together again.

But Heero deserved an explanation. They had been through too much, dodged death too many times for him not to trust Heero to help make everything right. What was ironic was Duo's dependence on the formally cold, unemotional soldier. It had been Duo's persistence that had broken the barriers around Heero's heart. It had been the God of Death that had breathed life into a stoic soul that was desperately clinging to its last threads of humanity. Duo had been the rescuer, the savior. Yes Shinigami had for once in his pitiful existence healed instead of harmed.

The tide had turned. Now the Perfect Soldier was offering the anchor. It was Heero's lifeline that kept Duo from drowning in the swamping flood of uncertainty. How could he not accept Heero pleas to help. How could he not answer one simple question and belay Heero's fear that Duo's weeping was his fault.

"You haven't done anything." Duo declared easing back in Heero's strong arms. "You have been so patient and I have been so..."

"Shhhh." Heero whispered, "Let's not place blame, just tell me what I can do to help."

Duo straightened locking his reddened sight with Heero's expressive eyes. There were parts of Duo's past he had never shared with anyone. He had tired to bury the memories but they were the mold that had shaped him. It was those horrible life experiences that drove his deadly desire for freedom. But oddly those same painful events had also given him the ability to care with compassion. Now Duo cursed his past, as it seemed determined to ruin his future with Heero.

With a calming breath Duo began his tale of abandonment and finally finding security only to have it torn from him. He told of being an orphaned street rat, of the hunger and loneliness, of Solo's care and his sacrifice. How he had failed to save his friend and how the guilt that had never left his heart.

Duo continued the retelling about Father Maxwell and Sister Helen repeating how they, like Solo, had offered love to a sacred child who put up a very brave front. Duo trembled in Heero's arms. With sentences fractured by catching sobs he told of that horrible day when Maxwell's Church was destroyed. That recollection was almost too painful to remember. Again his small measure of security had been ripped away and once more Duo's failure to protect those who loved him sliced through his soul like Deathscythe's thermal beam.

Heero remained quiet. He knew the only way Duo could cleanse his broken spirit was to open wide the floodgates and let the healing waters wash away the pain and guilt. Duo Maxwell had been Heero's saving grace. He had been steadfast to the point of being stubborn in his mission to give his friend and lover a safe haven from the world's callous cruelty.

When the story was finished, when the tears ran dry and the trembling lessened to winded shudders, Duo looked up into his soul mate's loving eyes. "Today is the anniversary of the Maxwell Church Massacre." he announced acknowledging the real reason for his despondency.

"Everyone I cared about is gone. My parents, Solo, Father Maxwell, Sister Helen. Anyone who loved me was taken away and I was powerless to stop the Grim Reaper's claiming. That is why I am Shinigami because I am not good for anything but death." Duo proclaimed wiping away lingering tears. "I am so afraid that I'm going to lose you too." he confessed exposing his heart's frightened remnants to truth's purifying light.

Heero understood the fear. He, too, had been orphaned, left alone to find his own path. He had paved his way with a hardened heart and his own brand of death. There had not been a day since he and Duo became lovers that the dread of losing his soul mate had not invaded his thoughts. He, too, had struggled with the daily doubts and how he would survive if the worse ever happened.

They were soldiers and war could be a cold-blooded mistress. They were not guaranteed anything beyond the next minute. Heero had long ago learned to live in the present. The past was gone and the future was out of reach. All he and Duo had was now to love each other.

"I cannot predict the future." Heero answered honestly. " Right now we have each other and I will do everything in my power to grow old with you. But if the fates destine otherwise then we will meet the end together." he promised.

Duo choked back a second bout of tears, swallowing hard to force down the emotional lump in his throat. "I won't let that happen." he declared tightening his hold on his precious partner. "Death is not my master but my slave."

Heero nodded. "May I make a suggestion that I believe will help?" he asked tucking wisps of silky hair behind Duo's ear.

"Of course."

"I want you to go to the bedroom and write three letters, one to you parents, one to Solo and one to Father Maxwell and Sister Helen. I want you to tell them how you feel, put down your private thoughts in a permanent form. Take all the time you need and when you finish bring them to the kitchen."

"The kitchen?" Duo questioned the strange location.

"Trust me." Heero requested even though he knew that Duo already trusted him with his heart and, in battle, with his life.

Duo wrapped his arms around his partner's neck and leaned in for a comforting kiss. Heero held his lover close offering all the reassurance he could by his touch. Then Duo left for the bedroom and Heero headed for the kitchen.

**********

"Dear Mother and Father. I don't really remember you in your physical bodies. I was so young when death took you away that phantom images are my only memories. Although I was alone a part of you remained in my heart. I could feel you watching and wondered if you ever wept for me. I don't blame you for leaving, I know that was not your choice. I want you to know I love you and will keep you in my thoughts and prayers until we see each other again. Sometimes when you are watching say a prayer for me. With all my love. Your son, Duo."

**********

"Dear Solo. I am sorry I couldn't save you. I remember the last words spoken between us but now they seem so inadequate. I hope you know how much I cared for you. You were my guardian, my friend and even though we didn't share a bloodline, my brother. I would not have survived on the streets had it not been for your constant care. You showed me how to be tough and taught me to trust my instincts. There have been many times when your wise council saved my life. You gave me a sense of self-worth and the courage to chase after my dreams. Your life lessons made me a better person and I will always love you for your devotion.

I am happy and have someone to share my life. I know you did not believe in an existence beyond your physical body but I know that your spirit is still here because I feel it. I will offer a prayer for you. Thank you for saving me. Your little brother, Duo"

**********

"Dear Father Maxwell and Sister Helen. It has been awhile since I talked with you. You told me that prayer was a powerful connection but lately there has been too much hurt in my heart to pray. Please forgive my lack of faith. There were so many things I wanted to say but first fear then pride kept me silent. Both of you offered unconditional love, a sanctuary for a child that had lost his ability to believe. You did not offer you care from duty but from a genuine concern for me as a fellow human. You kindness and devotion will not be forgotten.

There will always be a special place for you in my heart. I can't promise that I will never stray but I will try to live by the values you taught me. I know that the world isn't perfect and that there will be trials but I have learned to be content in every circumstance. I have found someone to share my life. You might frown on my choice of a man but I know you would not judge and would be happy for me. Thank you for your unwavering belief in a rough street rat. Thank you for teaching me that no matter what the fates decree I have the strength of spirit to overcome any obstacle. I will hold you in my thoughts and prayers until we see each other again. Say a prayer for me. Your son in the faith, Duo."

**********

An hour later Duo came into the kitchen letters in hand. He had washed his face and secured his lengthy hair in a loose ponytail. The smell of coffee, bacon and eggs reminded him that the last few days of below normal appetite were catching up with him.

"Feel better?" Heero wondered pouring out the coffee. Duo nodded "yes" accepting a welcomed kiss. "We are going to have a decent breakfast then we will go to phase two of my plan."

"Still the soldier." Duo thought to himself as he sat down carefully laying the letters in a vacant chair.

Heero set a plate brimming with the breakfast goodies at each place and added a plate of lightly buttered toast. One more kiss before sharing the morning meal. Neither pilot talked while they ate. Each one had their minds occupied with sorting out their own reasons for living and loving.

Halfway through Duo noticed three freshly washed wine bottles on the counter. They always put the empty bottles in the recycling bin so the containers sparked his interest. "Why are those bottles there?"

Heero glance at the counter. "Second phase." he replied offering no further explanation.

From pervious experience Duo knew that Heero would not give up any information he didn't want to. He knew when Heero was guarding a secret that pleading, pouting or whining did not work. Even Duo's best "love techniques" had failed to make him talk so Duo could do nothing but accept his stubborn lover's silence.

"I'm finished." Duo stated pushing back from the table. Stomach full he was ready to move on to phase two.

Heero piled the dishes in the sink; they could wait for washing. "Bring the letters." he instructed. Duo obeyed without question.

"We are going to roll up each letter, put one in each bottle and seal the corks with wax." Heero explained phase two. "Then you are I are going down to the seashore."

Suddenly Heero's intensions were clear. Duo had recently read an article about people who lived in the Pacific Ocean region. Once a year they held a Remembrance Ceremony to honor family and friends who had passed on. They made seashell necklaces and wrote down private messages and prayers in Letters to the Dead. The gifts were placed in specially decorated gourds and sealed with tree pitch then the entire village assembled on the shore. The gourds were thrown into the waves so the ocean's energy could carry their messages to the departed spirits. Duo had been so impressed by the remembering ritual that he had shown Heero the story.

Now Duo knew why his precious partner asked him to write the letters. Everything he never had the chance to say could now be carried by the ocean's power to the spirits of his past. There would be closure, an ending chapter to the unfinished story that fate had penned on his heart. Duo could let go, say goodbye and finally free himself for a future with Heero.

Tears welled in Duo's wide eyes as buried feelings were exhumed and freed from their dehumanising bondage. "I love you." he whispered embracing his partner for life.

"I love you." Heero answered then seal his tender proclamation with a kiss.

As he and Duo readied the letters for their final journey Heero notice that instead of three letters Duo had written four. "What's this?" he wondered touching the remaining paper.

For the first time in days a serene smile graced Duo's lips. "That is my letter to you."

Heero tiled his head at an inquiring angle. His fingertips lightly traced the black inked words that had been scrawled in Duo's sloppy handwriting. A soft sigh escaped over quivering lips, as he made no attempt to hide his clearly emotional response.

Duo put his arms around Heero's waist resting his head on his lover's shoulder. "Go on read it."

Afraid he couldn't hold the letter in his trembling hands without tearing the paper Heero left it lying on the counter. "Can I read it aloud?" he asked licking his lips in preparation. Nodding "yes" Duo's bangs tickled under Heero's chin.

"Dear Heero. There are so many things I want to tell you but if I had to put them into basic words I would simply say I love you. It was hard chipping away the wall you built around your heart. I will admit there were times I felt like giving up but you know how stubborn I can be."

Heero smiled as he read Duo's statement of his stubbornness. He had found out the hard way that once Duo took on a mission, professional or personal, he wouldn't quit until he carried it through to the end. Duo's dedication to duty was what had initially attracted Heero to the Deathscythe pilot, that and the fact that when someone shoots you it leaves a lasting impression.

Heero continued the reading. "The work was worth the effort. You were first a loyal friend. Then we learned to trust, to give up more of ourselves and we became lovers. Finally we committed our lives and we became soul mates.

Now the circle is complete. No matter what the future holds, whether we grow old together or this moment is our last, I will pass on with a happy heart and content spirit. Heero Yuy you have fulfilled my desires, quieted my fears and healed the wounds from my past. You unconditionally accepted my flaws and made me a better person. In return I pledge my love and my life. Thank you for giving me the strength to realize my dreams and the support to become all I was destined to be. All my love forever, Duo."

Tears tracked down Heero's cheeks. Duo held on tight as he and his life partner shared the release and renewal. "The circle is complete." Heero whispered enfolding Duo in a strong but gently embrace.

Heero leaned over looking down into the most expressive eyes he had ever seen. Duo Maxwell was his light, he was the foundation on which they could build a future. "Are you ready to send your letters? he asked as he surrendered the final part of himself.

"All but the one I wrote for you." Duo declared, "I want to put it away in our keepsake box as a remembrance of our commitment."

**********

Two figures strolled hand in hand to the water stopping where the foamy waves flattened on the sand. As the sun sparkled like diamond dust across the endless aqua ocean Duo pulled the tie from his hair presenting himself in his most humble state. A steady breeze ruffled the chestnut stands billowing them out like a sail. Overhead seagulls soared on the warm currents calling out to the waiting spirits.

Heero stood to one side. This was Duo's moment, his private communication with those individuals who had loved and protected him from birth, through childhood and beyond.

After casting the bottles into the waves Duo offered up a prayer. Clutching his cross he whispered a sincere entreatment for the spirit's peaceful transition from this world to the next. He also asked that they watch over he and Heero in their earthy journey.

With a satisfied sigh Duo sat down in the sand. Kneeling behind his lover Heero wrapped his arms about Duo's shoulders, "Are you all right?" he whispered lowly to preserve the solemn reverence.

"Everything is perfect." Duo answered resting back against his soul mate.

Carried out by the tide of farewell the bottles grew smaller until they were but tiny dots bobbing below the cloudless horizon.

Tide of Farewell--Karen Hickman--January 2003