*Cringes* This part is really kinda... choppy, but it's done, so you get it. I hope people remember this story. I know it's taken me forever to work on, but here it is. And guess what. Duo finally shows up in the present! *grins* now I can finally working on finishing it up.
As Imperceptibly as Grief
Disclaimer: The vampire does not own GW. She claims to sometimes but people immediately correct her, which is really a shame because it hurts to get a bubble burst.
I have written all these things down as if I know them to be truth, as if I want them forever remembered by the reader, who shall stumble upon this leather-bound journal perhaps how I stumbled upon it. Maybe in an antique store it will be sitting, and read by the patron and they will think it to be unforgiving truth. But in these accounts I have lied more times than I care to think about.
I admit this now for the sake of the reader. I never kissed Duo. Not once in my long years with him was I graced with the feel of those lips on mine. And yet I wrote it all down as if cold, hard fact and placed it before an audience for them to read and accept.
I never kissed Duo. I won't mar him by saying I did. The last entry was not correct, was a foible on my part, even perhaps a fantasy. I know that because I can look back on the words and not feel whispered memories to renew them.
That all I could think about today. Writing the wrong I put down in black ink as the truth. I thought it as we sat in the waiting room. I thought it as the doctors came out to tell me that my father was finally on his deathbed. I thought it as they told me that it shouldn't be more than a few days before he's dead completely. And I thought it as Quatre tried to sooth the tears that would not come and as Relena talked quietly to the doctor as if he could do anything to change that truth.
For my father's death was truth. I know that because they just wheeled him out of his room in the ICU and down to the morgue.
Relena cried softly, Quatre wrapped an arm around her shoulders and I stood watching as he was lifted off of the bed and onto a cold metal table. They didn't want me to be there, but I didn't leave.
There's something final about watching a once-living thing. It's as if he stayed in that bed we all would have thought him alive. But he didn't stay. Three orderlies came and put him on a stainless steel, wheeled table and covered him with a sheet and then moved him to the elevator and down to the basement.
And that's why I'm sitting in the office of this dreary funeral home and listening to a droll man tell me how the expenses were all taken care of.
I can believe it. My father wouldn't have wanted a big funeral, and as I glance him laying in the coffin I know it. It's a pine box, like they would have buried a soldier in. He's wearing a black suit that he hated in life but evidently doesn't mind now that he's dead. And he looks peaceful for once. But I expect him to get up at any moment and look at me. I can imagine him waking up to tell me not to touch the house or to leave or to finally get some backbone and quit tiptoeing around in New York.
All these things I can see his corpse saying to me. But it doesn't. It lays peacefully in that pine box as if it either doesn't know I'm here or doesn't care. It can't be my father. My father couldn't die, he was too strong, too mean. People like that don't die, despite what biology and time seems to say. He's not dead. It looks like him in that cheap coffin but it isn't. Mt father can't die.
I notice when arms wrap around my waist, but I don't react right away. Looking down at the intruding limbs, I notice the lean musculature and tan skin. It takes me a while to register that it is neither Quatre nor Relena, and even then I don't do anything. Not until a soft voice whispers my name.
I spin around and there he stands. Duo stands guiltily before me now, a light blush spread across his cheeks. He studies the floor, one hand reaching up to rest on the back of his neck.
"Sorry, I guess you don't remember me." He forces a smile then, but it isn't like the smiles I recall. "It's Duo. Duo Maxwell."
"I know," I same lamely, sounding for all the world like a lie.
"Oh," the hand returns to rub his neck nervously. "Well..."
I know he expected a warm welcome, and I desperately want to give him one, but he's different. Or perhaps not different enough. He's taller, and his skin is less pale, and his hair is darker than I remember. But he has the same blue-violet eyes and the same braid. For an instant two images flash before me and overlap. One of youth and one of adulthood all encompassed in this beautiful figure standing in the viewing room of a funeral parlor.
"I heard about your dad. I..." He looks at everything but me now. "I didn't mean to interrupt you, really. I just--"
"Are you coming," I ask, interrupting him.
I am tempted to take a step back but then I would be closer to my false father. "To the funeral. Are you coming?"
He looks scared this time. Really scared, like when it finally registered that I was leaving and he was staying in this dead-end town. "I...I didn't think I was invited."
"I didn't know you were here. I had hoped that," it's my turn to look embarrassed now. "If I had known I would have found you."
"When I came into town. I would have found you. But I didn't."
"No," he said, a bit dazed. "You didn't."
I blush. "So are you coming?"
He finally meets my gaze and I want to die. His violet eyes are so sympathetic, so caring. That look shouldn't be directed at me. It wasn't meant for a long ago friend who didn't even have the nerve to look him up when they came into town.
"Sure. If you want me to."
"I want you to," I say, ripping my eyes away again. I can't look at him. I can't be on the receiving end of one of those gazes. It hurts too much.