6-27-2001

Ok well, here is the final chapter to "The Perks of Being a Wallflower"! wow. i can't belive i have gotten this far that so many of you actaully like it and wanted me to continue, so thank you so much for that. ::huggles::

Title: The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Full Circle

Author: Znma

Archive: will be at Vinyl No Minko's anyone else, sure!

Parings: 3 + 4, solo + 2, 4 + dorothy (more to come)

Notes: The final chaper to the "Perks..." series.

Warnings: AU, OOC, naughty words, boys liking boys, RHPC, drugs...

Disclaimer: some mine, some not...

----
April 29, AC 195

Dear Friend,

I wish that I could report that things are getting better, unfortunately, they aren't. It's hard too because we've started school again, and I can't go to the places where I used to go. And it can't be like it used to be. And I really wasn't ready to say good-bye just yet.

To tell you the truth I've been avoiding everything. I walk around the school hallways and look at the people. I look at the teachers and wonder why they are here. If they really like their jobs. Or us. And I wonder how smart they were when they were fifteen. Not in a mean way; in a curious way. It's like looking at all the students and wondering who's had their heart broken today, and how are they able to cope with having three quizzes and a book report on top of that. Or wondering if they did the heart breaking. And wondering why. Especially since I know that if they went to another school, the person who had their heart broken would have their heart broken by someone else, so why does it have to be personal? And if I went to another school, I would never know Duo or Trowa or Hilde or anyone except my family.

I have been hanging out in the mall lately trying to figure out why people go there. Its kind of a personal project.

There was this one little boy who was around four or five, I'm not sure. He was crying really heard, and kept screaming for his mom. Then, I saw an older boy, probably around seventeen. I think he went to a different school because I had never seen him before. Anyway, this older kid, who was really tough looking with a leather jacket and long hair and everything, went up to the little boy and asked him his name. The boy answered and stopped crying. Then, the older kid walked away with the boy.

A minute later, I heard the intercom say to the mom that her boy was at the information desk. So, I went to the information desk to see what would happen.

I guess the mom had been looking for the boy for a long time because she came running up the information counter and started to cry. She held him tightly and told him never to run off again. Then, she thanked the older boy who had helped, and all he said was, "Next time just watch him a little fucking better."

Then he walked away. The man behind the counter was speechless. So was the mom. The little boy just wiped his nose, looked up at his mom, and said,

"French fries."

The mom nodded and they walked over to the food court. I followed them and took a seat at an empty table in the corner. I watched the kid get ketchup all over his face and the mom sitting there taking drags of here cigarette. And I watch teenaged girls wearing too much make-up trying to empress the awkward boys walking by. And I saw old couples completely happy with each other and happy to be together even though they were in a mall's food court. And I saw the people working and giving change and it all seemed a little unnerving to me.

I decided that I needed a new place to go to observe people. Unfortunately, there aren't too many places like that. I don't know how much longer I can go without a friend. I used to be able to do it so easily, but that was before I knew what it was like to have friends. Sometimes it better to not know what you are missing. Sometimes its better when all that is important is having French fries with your mom.

The only person who I really talked to in the past two weeks was Jarren, the boy that used to "go with" Catherine back in middle school when he was "fat". I saw him in the halls talking and flirting with a bunch of girls. When he saw me approaching me his face drained of all colour. It was like he didn't want to remember what it was like 12 months ago, and he certainly didn't want the girls to know that he used to be friends with me. The whole group got quite and they all stared at me. I didn't pay attention to them. I just looked at Jarren and asked,

"Do you ever miss her?"

I didn't say it mean or accusingly, I just wanted to know if anyone else remembered Catherine. To tell you the truth I was stoned in a bad way and I couldn't get the question out of my head.

Jarren was at loss. He didn't know what to do. These were the first words I've spoken to him since last year. I guess it wasn't fair of me to ask him in a group like that, but I never see him alone anymore and I really needed to know.

At first I thought his blank statement was one of surprise, but after it didn't go away I knew it wasn't. It suddenly dawned on me that if Catherine were still here Jarren wouldn't be dating her anymore. Not because he is shallow or mean. Friends leave. And the world doesn't stop for anyone.

"I'm sorry I bothered you, Jarren. I'm just having a tough time. That's all. Have a good day." I said and walked away.

"God, that kid is such a fucking freak." I heard one of the girls say when I was halfway down the hall. He said it more factual than mean, and Jarren didn't correct him. I don't know if I'd correct him myself these days.

Sincerely,
Heero

----

May 2, AC 196

Dear Friend,

A few days ago I went to see Rashad to buy more pot. I should mention that I keep forgetting that Rashad doesn’t go to school with us. He watches more television than anyone I know, and he is great with Friends trivia. It’s kinda spooky.

He has a very particular way of living. He takes a shower every other day. He weighs his "stash" daily. He says that when you are smoking a cigarette with someone, and you have a lighter, you should light theirs first then yours. But if you have matches, you should light your first, so that you breathe in all the "harmful sulfur" instead of them. He says it is the polite thing to do. He also says that it is bad luck to have "three on a match." He heard it from his uncle who fought in the Eves War. Something about how three cigarettes was enough time for the enemy to know where you are.

Rashad says that when you are alone, and you light a cigarette and the cigarette is only half lit that mean that someone is thinking about you. He also says that when you find a penny, its only "lucky" if it is heads-up. He says the best thing to do is find a lucky penny when you’re with someone and give the other person the good luck. He believes in karma. He also loves to play cards.

Rashad goes part-time to the local community college. He wants to be a chef. He is an only child, and his parents are never home. He says it used to bother him a lot when he was younger, but not so much anymore.

The thing about Rashad is that when you first meet him, he is really interesting because he knows about cigarette rules and pennies and Friends. But after you’ve known him for a while, he starts to repeat things. In the last few weeks, he hasn’t told me anything that I haven’t already heard from him before. That’s what made it such a shock when he told me what happened.

Basically, Quatre’s father caught Quatre and Trowa together. I guess Quatre’s father didn’t know about his son because when he caught them, Quatre’s father started beating Quatre. Not a slap kind of beating. A belt kind. A real kind. Trowa told Duo who told Rashad that he had never seen anything like it. I guess it was that bad. He wanted to say "Stop" and "You’re killing him." He even wanted to hold Quatre’s father down. But he just froze. And Quatre kept yelling "Get out!" to Trowa. And finally, Trowa just did.

That was last week and Quatre still hasn’t come back to school. Everyone thinks he might have been sent to a military school or something. Nobody knows for sure about anything. Trowa tried to call once, but when Quatre’s father answered, he just hung up.

Rashad said that Trowa is "in bad shape." I can’t tell you how sad I felt when he told me because I wanted to call Trowa and be his friend and help him. But I didn’t know if I should call him because of what he said about waiting until things got clear. The thing was I couldn’t think about anything else.

So, on Friday, I went to "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." I waited till the movie had started before I went into the theater. I didn’t want to ruin the show for everybody. I just wanted to see Trowa play Frank ‘n Furter just like he always does because I knew if I saw that, I knew he would be ok. Just like my sister getting mad at me for smoking.

I sat in the back row and looked on the stage. It was still a couple of scenes before Frank ‘n Furter enters. That’s when I saw Duo playing Janet. And I missed him so much. And I was so sorry about how I messed everything up. Especially when I saw Hilde playing Columbia. It was all very hard to watch. But then Trowa finally came out as Frank ‘n Furter, and he was great. He was actually better then ever in a lot of ways. It was just so nice to see all my friends. I left before the movie was over.

I drove home listening to some of the songs that we listened to those times we were infinite. And I pretended they were in the car with me. I even talked out loud. I told Trowa how I thought he was great. I asked Duo about Solo. I told Hilde that I was sorry and how much I really loved the e.e. cummings book and I wanted to ask her questions about it. But then I stopped because it started to make me too sad. I also thought that if anyone saw me talking to myself in the car, their looks might convince me that the something that’s wrong with me might be even worse than I thought.

When I got home, Relena was watching a movie with her new boyfriend. There isn’t much to say about him other than his name is Todd, and he has short hair and is a junior. Todd had rented the movie. After I shook hands with him, I asked about the movie because I didn’t recognize it except for an actor who used to be on a TV show, and I couldn’t remember his name.

Relena said, "It’s stupid. You wouldn’t like it."

I said, "What’s it about?"

She said, "Come on, Heero. It’s almost over."

I said, "Would it be ok if I watched the end?"

She said, "You can watch it when we are done."

I said, "Well, how about I watch the end with you, and then I can rewind it and watch it up to the point that I started watching with you?"

That’s when she paused the movie.

"Can’t you take a hint?"

"I suppose not."

"We want to be alone, Heero."

"Oh. I’m sorry."

To tell you the truth, I knew she wanted to be alone with Todd, but I really wanted to have some company. I knew it wasn’t fair though, to ruin her time just because I miss everybody, so I just said good night and left.

I went up to my room and started reading the new book Zechs gave me. It’s called "The Stranger." Zechs said that it is "very easy to read, but very hard to ‘read well.’" I Have no idea what he means, but I like the book so far.

Sincerely,
Heero

----

May 8, AC 196

Dear Friend,

It's strange how things can change back as suddenly as the changed originally. When one thing happens and suddenly, things are back to normal.

On Monday, Quatre came back to school.

He looked very different. It wasn't that he was bruised or anything. His face actually looked fine. But before, Quatre was always this guy that walked down the hall with a bounce. I can't really describe it any other way. It's just that some people walk with their heads to the ground for some reason. They don't like to look other people in the eye. Quatre was never like that. But now he is. Epically when it comes to Trowa.

I saw them talking quiet in the hallway. I was too far away to hear what they said, but I could tell that Quatre was ignoring Trowa. And when Trowa started to get upset, Quatre just closed his locker and walked away. It wasn't that strange because Quatre and Trowa never talked in school since Quatre wanted things to be secret. The strange part was that Trowa would walk up to Quatre in the first place. So, I guess they didn't meet on the golf course anymore. Or talk on the phone even.

Later that afternoon, I was having a cigarette outside by myself, and I saw Trowa alone, also having a cigarette. I wasn't close enough to really see him, but I didn't want to interfere with his personal time, so I didn't walk up to him. But Trowa was crying. He was crying pretty hard. After that, whenever I saw him around anywhere, he didn't look like he was there. He looked like he was someplace else. And I think I knew that because that is how people used to say that I was. Maybe they still do.

On Thursday, something really terrible happened.

I was sitting alone in the cafeteria, when I was Trowa walk up to Quatre, who was sitting with all of his football buddies, and I saw Quatre ignore Trowa like he did at the lockers. And I saw Trowa get really upset, but Quatre still ignored him. Then, I was Trowa say something, and he looked pretty angry as he turned to walk away. Quatre sat still for a second, and then he turned around. And then I heard it. It was just loud enough for a few tables to hear.

"Faggot!"

Quatre's football buddies started laughing. A few tables got quiet as Trowa turned around. He was mad as hell. I'm not kidding. He stormed up to Quatre's table and said,

"What did you call me?"

God, he was mad. I'd never seen Trowa like that before.

Quatre sat quiet for a second, but his buddies kept egging him on by pushing his shoulders. Quatre looked up at Trowa and said softer and meaner than the last time.

"I called you a faggot."

Quatre's buddies started laughing harder. That is, until Trowa threw the first punch. It's kind of eerie when a whole room gets quiet at once, and then the real noise starts.

The fight was hard. A lot harder than the one that I had with Dekim last year. There was no clean punching or things you see in movies. They just wrestled and hit. And whoever got the most aggressive or the angriest got the most hits. In this case, it was pretty even until Quatre's buddies got involved, and it became five on one.

That's when I got involved. I just couldn't watch them hurt Trowa anymore, even if things weren't clear just yet.

I think anyone who knew me might have been frightened or confused. Except maybe Wufei. He taught me what to do in these situations. I don't really want to go into detail except to say that by the end of it, Quatre and his two buddies stopped fighting and just stared at me. He other two friends were lying on the floor. One was clutching his knee I bashed in with one of those metal cafeteria chairs. The other one was holding his face. I kind of swiped at his eyes, but not too bad. I didn't want to be too bad.

I looked down at the ground and saw Trowa. His face was pretty messed up, and he was crying hard. I helped him to his feet, and they I looked at Quatre. I don't think we'd ever exchanged two words before, but I guess this was the time to start. All I said was,

"If you ever do this again, I'll tell everyone. And if that doesn't work, I'll blind you."

I pointed at his friend who was holding his face, and I knew Quatre heard me and knew that I meant it. He didn't say anything back, thought, because the security guards of our school came to bring us all out of the cafeteria. They took us to the nurse first, and they to Mr. Khushrenada. Trowa started the fight, so he was suspended for a week. Quatre's buddies got three days each for ganging up on Trowa after they broke up the original fight. Quatre wasn't suspended at all because it was self-defense. I didn't get suspended either because I was just helping to defend a friend when it was five on one. Quatre and I got a month's detention, starting that day.

In detention, Mr. Khushrenada didn't set up any rules. He just let us read or do homework or talk. It really isn't much of a punishment unless you like the television programs right after school or are very concerned with your permanent record. I wonder if that's all a lie. A permanent record, I mean.

On that first day of detention, Quatre came to sit next to me. He looked very sad. I think it all kind of hit him after he stopped feeling numb from the fight.

"Heero?"

"Yeah?"

"Thanks. Thanks for stopping them."

"You're welcome."

And that was it. I haven't said anything to him since. And he didn't sit next to me today. At first when he said it, I was kind of confused. But then I think I got it. Because I wouldn't want a bunch of my friends beating up Duo even if I wasn't allowed to like him anymore either.

When I got out of detention that day, Duo was waiting for me. The minute I saw him, he smiled. I was numb. I just couldn't believe he was really there. Then I saw him turn and give Quatre a really cold look.

Quatre said, "Tell him I'm sorry."

Duo replied, "Tell him yourself."

Quatre looked away and walked to his car. Then, Duo walked up to me and messed up my hair more than it already was.

"So, I heard you're this perfect ninja or something."

I think I nodded.

Duo drove me home in his pickup. On the way, he told me that he was very angry with me for doing what I did to Hilde. He told me that Hilde is a really old friend of hers. He even reminded me that Hilde was the only one there for him when the really rough time that he told me about when he gave me the typewriter. I don't really want to repeat what that was.

So, he said that when I kissed him instead of Hilde, I really hurt their friendship for a while. Because I guess Hilde really liked me a lot. That made me feel sad because I didn't know she liked me that much. I just thought she wanted to expose me to all these great things. That's when Duo said,

"Heero, you're so stupid sometimes. Do you know that?"

"Yeah. I really do know that. Honest."

Then, he said that Hilde and he got over it, and he thanked me for taking Trowa's advice and staying away as long as I did because it made things easier. So, then I said,

"So, we can be friends now?"

"Of course," was all that he said.

"And Trowa?"

"And Trowa."

"And everyone else?"

"And everyone else."

That's when I started to cry. But Duo told me to shush.

"You remember what I told Quatre?"

"Yeah. You told him that he should tell Trowa that he was sorry himself."

"That goes for Hilde, too."

"I tried, but she told me..."

"I know you tried. I'm telling you to try again."

"Okay."

Duo dropped me off. When he was too far away to see me I started to cry again. Because he was my friend again. And that was enough for me. So, I made myself a promise to never mess up like I did before. And I'm never going to. I can tell you that.

When I went to "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" tonight, it was very tense. Not because of Hilde. That was actually okay. I said I was sorry, and then asked her if there was anything she wanted to say to me. And like before, I asked a question and got a very long answer. When I was done listening (I really did listen this time), I said I was sorry again. Then, she thanked me for not trying to make what I did seem less by offering a lot of excuses. And things were back to normal, except this time Hilde knew we were just friends.

To tell you the truth, I think the biggest reason for everything being okay is that Hilde started dating one of Solo's friends. I don't know what his first name is because everyone calls him Muller, even Hilde, and he is in college, which makes Hilde happy. At the party at Solo's apartment, I overheard Hilde say to Sally that she was much happier with Muller because he was "opinionated," and they had debates. She said that I was really sweet and understanding, but our relationship was just too one-sided. She wanted a person who was more open to discussions and didn't need someone's permission to talk.

I wanted to laugh. Or maybe get mad. Or maybe shrug at how strange everyone was, especially me. But I was at a party with my friends, so it didn't matter that much. I just drank because I figured that it was about time to stop smoking so much pot.

The thing that made the evening tense was that Trowa officially quit doing Frank 'N Furter in the show. He said that he didn't want to do it anymore... ever. So, he sat and watched the show in the audience with me, and said things what were hard to listen to because Trowa isn't usually truly unhappy.

"Do you ever think, Heero, that our group is the same as any other group like the football team? And the only real difference is the clothes we wear and why we wear them?"

"Yeah?" And there was this pause.

"Well, I think that's all bullshit."

And he meant it. It was hard to see him mean it that much.

Some guy that I didn't know from somewhere else did the part of Frank 'N Furter. He had been the second to Trowa for a long time, and now he got his chance. He was pretty good, too. Not as good as Trowa, but pretty good.

Sincerely,
Heero

----

May 11, AC 196

Dear Friend,

I've been spending a lot of time with Trowa these days. I really haven't said much. I just kind of listen and nod because Trowa needs to talk. But it isn't like it was with Hilde. It's different.

IT started on the Saturday morning after the show. I was in bed trying to figure out why sometimes you wake up and can fall back asleep and other times you can't. Then, my mom knocked.

"Your friend Trowa's on the phone."

So, I got up and wiped the sleep away.

"Hello?"

"Get dressed. I'm on my way."

Click. That was it. I actually had a lot of work to do since it was getting close to the end of the year, but it sounded like we were going to have an adventure, so I got dressed anyway.

Trowa pulled up ten minutes later. He was wearing the same clothes that he wore the night before. He hadn't even showered or anything. I don't even think that he went to bed. He was just wide-awake on coffee, cigarettes and Mini Thins, which are these small pills you can buy at Quick Marts or Truck Stops. They keep you awake but make you really thirsty.

So, I climbed in Trowa's car, which was filled with smoke. He offered me one, but I said not in front of my house.

"Your parents don't know you smoke?"

"No. Should they?"

"I guess not."

Then, we started driving...fast.

At first, Trowa didn't say much. HE just listened to the music on the tape player. After the second song started, I asked him if it was the tape I made him for Christmas.

"I've been listening to it all night."

Trowa had this smile all over his face. It was a sick smile. Glazy and numb. He just turned up the volume and drove faster.

"I'll tell you something, Heero. I feel good. You know what I mean? Really good. Like I'm free or something. Like I don't have to pretend anymore. I'm going to college next year, right? It will be different there. You know what I mean?"

"Sure," I said.

"Things'll be different there. They have to be."

"They will be," I said.

"You really think so?"

"Sure."

Thanks, Heero."

That's kind of how it went all day. We went to a movie and we eat pizza. And every time Trowa started to get tired, we got coffee and he ate another Mini Thin or two. When things started turning dusk outside, he sowed me all the places he and Quatre would meet. He didn't say much about them. He just stared.

We ended up at the golf course. We sat on the eighteenth green, which was pretty high on a hill, and we watched the sun disappear. By this point, Trowa had bought a bottle of red wine with his fake ID, and we passed it back and forth. Just talking.

"Did you hear about Lily?" he asked.

"Who?"

"Lily Miller. I don't know what her really first name was, but they called her Lilly. She was a senior when I was a sophomore."

"I don't think so."

"I thought your brother would have told you. It's a classic."

"Maybe."

"Okay. Stop me if you heard it."

"Okay."

"So, Lily comes up here with this guy who was the lead in all the plays."

"Parker?"

"Right. Parker. How did you know?"

"Relena had a crush on him."

"Perfect!" We were getting pretty drunk. "So, Parker and Lily come up here one night. And they are so in love! He even gave her his thespian pin or something."

At this point Trowa is spiting out wine between sentences, he's laughing so hard.

"They even had this song. Something like 'Broken Wings' by that band, Mr. Mister. I don't even know, but I hope it was 'Broken Wings' because that would make the story perfect."

"Keep going," I encouraged.

"Okay. Okay. So they've been going out for a long time, and I think they've even had sex before, but this night was going to be special. She packed a picnic, and he brought a boom box to play 'Broken Wings.'"

Trowa just couldn't get over that song. He laughed for a good ten minutes.

"Okay. Okay, I'm sorry. So, they have this picnic with sandwiches and everything. They start to make out. They stereo's playing, and they are just about to 'do it' when Parker realizes that he forgot the condoms. They're both naked on the putting green. They both want each other. There's no condoms. So, what do you think happened?"

"I don't know."

"They did it doggy-style with one of the sandwich bags!"

"NO!" was all I could say.

"YES!" was Trowa's rebuttal.

"GOD!" was my counter.

"YES!" was Trowa's conclusion.

After we shook off the giggles and wasted most of the wine with spit takes, he turned to me.

"And you wanna know the best part?"

"What?"

"She was valedictorian. And everyone knew it when she went up to give her speech!"

There's nothing like deep breaths after laughing that hard. Nothing in the world like a sore stomach for the right reasons. It was that great.

So, Trowa and I told all the stories we could think of.

'There once was a kid named Barry, who used to build kites in art class. Then, after school, he would attach firecrackers to the kite and fly it and blow it up. He's now studying to be an air traffic controller.' - Trowa's story via Duo

'And then there was this kid named Chip who spent all of his money from allowance and Christmas and birthdays to buy bug killing equipment and he would go door to door asking if he could kill the bug for free.' - my story via Relena

'There once was a guy named Carl Burns and everyone called him C.B. And one day, C.B. got so drunk at a party that he tried to fuck the host's dog.' - Trowa's story

'And there was this guy they called "Action Jack" because supposedly he was caught masturbating at a party. And at every pep rally, the kids would clap and chant. Action Jack... clap clap clap... Action Jack!' -my story via Wufei

There were other stories and other names. Second Base Stace, who had breasts in the fourth grade and let some of the boys feel them. Vincent, who took acid and tried to flush a sofa down the toilet. Shelia, who allegedly masturbated with a hot dog and had to go to the emergency room. The list went on and on.

By the end, all I could think about was what these people must feel like when they go to their class reunions. I wonder if they're embarrassed, and I wonder if that's a small price to pay for being a legend.

After we sobered up a bit with coffee and Mini Thins, Trowa drove me home. The mix tape I made for him hit a bunch of winter songs. And Trowa turned to me.

"Thanks, Heero."

"Sure."

"No. I mean in the cafeteria."

"Sure."

After that, it was quiet. He drove me home and pulled up in the driveway. We hugged goodbye, and I was just about to let go, he held me a little tighter. And he moved his face to mine. And he kissed me. A real kiss. Then, he pulled away real slow.

"I'm sorry."

"No. That's ok."

"Really. I'm sorry."

"No, really. It was ok."

So, he said "thanks" and hugged me again. And moved into kiss me again. And I just let him. I don't know why. We stayed in his car for a long time.

We didn't do anything other than kiss. And we didn't even do that for very long. After a while, his eyes lost the glazy numb look from the wine or the coffee or the fact that he stayed up the night before. Then, he started to cry. Then, he started to talk about Quatre.

And I just let him. Because that's what friends are for.

Sincerely,
Heero

---

May 17, AC 196

Dear Friend,

It seems like every morning after the first night, I wake up dull, and my head hurts, and I can't breathe. Trowa and I have been spending a lot of time together. We drink a lot, well, actually Trowa drinks and I sip.

Its just hard to see a friend hurt this much, especially when you can't really do anything excep "be there." I want to make him stop hurting, but I can't. So I just follow him around whenever he want to show me his world.

One night Trowa took me to this park where you men go to find each other. Trowa told me that if I didn't want to be bothered by them, just don't make eye contact. He said that eye contact is how you agree to fool around anonymously. Nobody talks; they just find some place to go. After a while, Trowa saw someone he liked. He asked if I needed any cigarettes, and when I said no, he patted my shoulder and walked away with this boy.

I just sat on a bench, looking around. All I saw were shadows of people. Some on the ground, some by a tree, some just walking. It was so quiet. After a few minutes, I lit a cigarette, and I heard someone whisper.

"You got an extra cigarette?" the voice asked.

I turned around and saw a man in shadow.

"Sure," I said.

I reached out to hand the man a cigarette. He took it.

"You got a light?" he said.

"Sure," I said, and struck a match for him.

Instead of leaning down and lighting the cigarette, he reached out to make a cup around the match with our hands, which is something we all do when it is windy. But it wasn't windy. I think he just wanted to touch my hands because while he was lighting the cigarette, he did it for a lot longer than necessary. Maybe he wanted me to see his face over the glow of the match. To see how handsome he was. I don't know. He did look familiar, but I couldn't figure out where I knew him from.

He blew out the match. "Thanks." And exhaled.

"No problem," I said.

"Mind if I sit down?" he asked.

"Not really."

He sat down and said a few things. And it was his voice. I recognized his voice. So, I lit another cigarette and looked at his face again, and thought hard, and that's when I figured it out. It was the guy does the sports on the local news!

"Nice night," he said.

I couldn't believe it! I guess I nodded because he kept talking. About sports! He kept talking about the designated hitter in baseball was bad and why basketball was a commercial success and what teams looked promising in college football. He even mentioned Wufei's name! I swear!

All I said was, "So what's it like being on TV?"

I guess that was the wrong thing to say because he just got up and walked away. It was too bad because I wanted to ask him if Wufei had a chance at making it to the pros.

Another night, Trowa tool me to this place where they sell poppers, which is this drug that you inhale. They didn't have poppers, but the guy behind the counter said that he had something that was just as good. So, Trowa bought that. It was in an aerosol can. We both took a sniff of it, and I swear we both thought we were going to die of a heart attack.

All in all, I think Trowa took me to about every place there is to go that I wouldn't have known about otherwise. There was this karaoke bar on one of the main streets in the city. And there was this dance club. And this one bathroom in the one gym. All these places. Sometimes, Trowa would pick up guys. Sometimes, he wouldn't. He said that it was hard being safe.

The night he did pick up a guy always made him sad. It's hard, too, because Trowa would start out each night really excited. He always said he felt free. And tonight was he destiny. And things like that. But by the end of the night, he just looked sad. Sometimes, he would talk about Quatre, sometimes he wouldn't. But after a while, the whole thing just wasn't interesting to him anymore, and he ran out of things to keep himself numb.

So, tonight, he dropped me off at home. It was the night we went back to the park where men meet. And the night he saw Quatre there with some guy. Quatre was too into what he was doing to notice us and Trowa didn't say anything. He didn't do anything. He just walked back to the car. And we drove in silence. On the way, he threw the bottle of wine out the window. And it landed with a crash.

And this time he didn't try to kiss me like he had every night. He just thanked me for being his friend. And drove away.

Sincerely,
Heero

---

May 21, AC 196

Dear Friend,

The school year is just about over. We have another month or so to go. But the seniors like Trowa and Duo and my sister only have a couple of weeks. Then, they have prom and graduation, and they are all busy making plans.

Hilde is taking her new boyfriend, Muller. Relena is taking Todd. Trowa is taking Sally. And Solo agreed to go with Duo this time. They even rented a limo and everything. Hell, Relena even rented a pink one to match her dress.

Zechs has been very sentimental lately because he can feel his first year of teaching coming to an end. At least that's what he said to me. He was planning on moving to New York and writing plays, but he told me that he doesn't really think he wants to anymore. He really likes teaching kids English and thinks that maybe next year he can take over the drama department, too.

I guess he's been thinking about this a lot because he hasn't given me a new book to read since "The Stranger." He did ask me to watch a lot of movies, though, and write an essay about what I thought of all those movies. They were "The Graduate," "Harold & Maude," "My Life as a Dog" (in subtitles), "Dead Poets Society," and "The Unbelievable Truth," which was very hard to find.

I watched them all in one day and the essay I wrote was very similar to the past few essays because everything Zechs gives me to read or see are similar. Except the time he had me read "Naked Lunch."

Incidentally, he told me that he had given me that to read because he had just broken up with his girlfriend and was feeling philosophical. He apologized for letting his personal life affect his teaching, and I accepted because I didn't know what else to do. It's strange to think about your teachers as people even when they're Zechs. I guess he has since made up with her because they are living together now. At least that's what he said.

So, in school Zechs gave me my final book to read for the year. It's called "The Fountainhead," and it's very long.

When he gave me the book, Zechs said, "Be skeptical about this one. It's a great book. But try to be a filter, not a sponge."

Sometimes I think Zechs forgets that I am sixteen. But I am very happy that he does.

I haven't started reading it yet because I am very behind in my other classes because I spent so much time with Trowa. But if I can catch up, I will end my first year with straight A's, which makes me very happy. I almost didn't get an A in math, but then Mr. Theile told me to stop asking "why?" all the time and just follow the formulas. So, I did. Now, I get A's on all of my tests. I just wish that I knew what the formulas did. I honestly have no idea.

I was just thinking that I wrote to you for the first time because I was afraid about starting high school. Today, I feel great, so that's kind of funny.

By the way, Trowa stopped drinking that night he was Quatre in the park. I guess he's feeling better. He just wants to graduate and go to college now.

I saw Quatre in detention the Monday after I saw him at the park. And he looked just the same as always.

Sincerely,
Heero

---

May 27, AC 196

Dear Friend,

I've been reading "The Fountainhead" for the past few days, and it's an excellent book. I read on the back cover that the author was born in Russia and came to America when she was young. She barely spoke English, but she wanted to be a great writer. I thought that was very admirable, so I sat down and tried to write a story on my new old typewriter.

"Mariemaia is a young girl with short red hair whose dream is to rule the world."

That was the first sentence. The problem was that I just couldn't think of the next one. After cleaning my room three times, I decided to leave Mariemaia alone for a while because I was starting to get mad at her.

I've had a lot of time to write and read and think about things this past week because everyone is busy with prom and graduation and schedules. Next Friday is their last day of school. And then prom is on Tuesday, which I though was strange because I thought it would be on a weekend, but Duo told me that every school can't have their prom on the same night or else there wouldn't be enough tuxedos and restaurants to go around. And then Sunday is their graduation. It all feels very exciting. I wish it were happening to me.

I wonder what it will be like when I leave this place. The fact that I have to have a roommate and buy shampoo. I thought how great it would be to go to my senior prom three years from now with Duo. I hope it's on a Friday. And I hope I will be a valedictorian at graduation. I wonder what my speech would be. And if Zechs would help me write it if he doesn't go to New York and write plays. Or maybe he would even if he was in New York writing plays.

I don't know. "The Fountainhead" is a very good book. I hope I am being a filter.

Sincerely,
Heero

---

June 2, AC 196

Dear Friend,

Did you have a senior prank? I'm guessing you did because Relena says that it is tradition at a lot of schools. This year, some seniors filled the swimming pool with about six thousand packs of grape Kool-Aid. I have no idea who thinks of these things or why, except that the senior prank is supposed to signify the end of school. What this has to do with a grape pool is beyond me, but I was very happy not to have to swim in gym.

It's actually been a very exciting time because we've all been busy finishing up the year. This Friday is the last day of school for all of my friends and my sister. They've been talking about their prom nonstop. Even the people who think it's a "joke" like Hilde can't stop talking about what a "joke" it is. It's all very fun to witness.

So, by this time, everyone has finally figured out which school he or she is going to next year. Trowa is going to the University of Washington because he wants to be the music there. He says that he thinks he wants to work for a record company someday. Maybe be a publicist or a person who finds new bands. Duo finally made his decision to leave early for the summer program at the college of his choice. I love that statement. College of my choice. Safety school is another good one.

The thing was that Duo got into two schools. The college of his choice and a safety school. He could have started at the safety school in the fall, but in order to go to the college of his choice, he had to do this special summer program just like Wufei. That's right! The school is OZ, which is so great because now I can visit Wufei and Duo with one trip. I don't want to think about Duo leaving just yet, but I wonder what would happen if Duo and my brother started dating, which is stupid because Wufei is straight, and Duo is in love with Solo. I need to stop doing this.

Relena is going to a "small liberal arts college back East" called Sarah Lawrence. She almost didn't get to go because it costs a lot of money, but then she got an academic scholarship through the Rotary Club or the Moose Lodge or The Romafeller Foundation or something like that. My sister is going to be second in her class. I thought she might have been valedictorian, but she got a B when she was going through that though time with her old boyfriend.

Hilde is going to Berkeley. And Sally is going to study medicine at some school in New York. I guess it was a good thing I gave her that book.

Also, I finished "The Fountainhead." It was a really great experience. It's strange to describe reading a book as a really great experience, but that's kind of how it felt. It was a different book from the others because it wasn't about being a kid. And it wasn't like "The Stranger" or "Naked Lunch" even though I think it was philosophical in a way. But it wasn't like you had to really search for the philosophy. It was pretty straightforward, I thought, and the great part is that I took what the author wrote about and put it in terms of my own life. Maybe that's what it means to be a filter. I'm not sure.

There was this one part where the main character, who is this architect, is sitting on a boat with his best friend, who is a newspaper tycoon. And the newspaper tycoon says that the architect is a very cold man. The architect replies that if the boat were sinking, and there was only room in the lifeboat for one person, he would gladly give up his life for the newspaper tycoon. And then he says something like...

"I would die for you. But I won't live for you."

Something like that. I think the idea is that every person has to live for him or her own self and then make the choice to share it with other people. Maybe that is what makes people "participate." I'm not really certain. Because I don't know if I would mind living for Duo for a while. Then again, he wouldn't want me to, so maybe it's a lot friendlier than all that. I hope so anyway.

I told my shrink about the book and Zechs and Duo and Trowa and all their colleges, but he just keeps asking me questions about when I was younger. This thing is I feel like I'm just repeating the same memories to him. I don't know. He says its important. I guess we'll have to see.

I would write a little more today, but I have to learn my math formulas for the final on Thursdays. Wish me luck...

Sincerely,
Heero

---

June 5, AC 195

Dear Friend,

I wanted to tell you about running. There was this beautiful sunset. And there was this hill. The hill was up to the eighteenth green where Trowa and I spit wine from laughing. And just a few hours before, Duo and Trowa and everyone I love and know had their last day of high school ever. And I was happy because they were happy. Relena even let me hug her in the hallway. So, Duo and Trowa and I went to the Big Boy and smoked cigarettes. Then, we went walking. Waiting for it to be time to go to "Rocky Horror." And we were talking about things that seemed important at the time. And we were looking up that hill. And then Trowa started running after the sunset. And Duo immediately followed him. And I saw them in silhouette. Running after the sun. Then, I started running. And everything was as good as it could be.

That night, Trowa decided to play Frank 'n Furter one last time. He was so happy to put on the costume, and everyone was happy he decided to do it. It was quite moving actually. He gave the best show I had ever saw him give. Maybe I was biased, but I don't care. It was the show I'll always remember. Especially his last song.

The song is called "I'm Going Home." In the movie, Tim Curry, who plays the character, cries during that song. But Trowa was smiling. And it just felt right.

I even persuaded Relena to come to the show with her boyfriend. I have been trying to get her to come since I started going but she never would. But this time she did. And since she and her boyfriend never saw the show before, they were technically "virgins," which meant they would have to do all these embarrassing things before the show started to get "initiated." I decided not to tell her this, and she and her boyfriend had to go on stage and try to dance the "Time Warp."

Whoever lost the contest had to pretend her or she was having sex with a large stuffed Gumby doll, so I quickly showed Relena and her boyfriend how to do it, so they wouldn't lose the contest. It was fun watching my sister dance the "Time Warp" on stage, but I don't think I could have handled her pretending to have sex with a large stuffed Gumby.

I asked Relena if she wanted to come to Solo's for the party afterward, but she said one of her friends was having a party, so she was going to that. That was okay with me because at least she came to the show. And before she left she hugged me again. That's two in one day. I really do love my sister. Especially when she's nice.

The party at Solo's was great. Solo and Muller bought champagne to congratulate all the people who were graduating. And we danced and talked. And I saw Hilde kissing Mueller and looking happy. And I saw Duo and Solo kissing and looking happy. And I saw Trowa and Sally not even care that they weren't kissing anybody because they were too excited talking about their futures.

So, I just sat there with a bottle of champange near the CD player, and I changed the songs to fit the mood of what I saw. I was lucky, too, because Solo has an excellent collection. When people looked a little tired, I played something fun. When they looked like they wanted to talk, I played something soft. It was a great way to sit alone at a party and still fell a part of things.

After the party, everyone thanked me because they said it was perfect music. Solo said that I should deejay to make money while I was still in school just like he does modeling. I thought that was a good idea. Maybe I could save up a lot of money, so I would be able to go to college even if something like the Romafeller Foundation didn't come through.

Wufei said recently on the phone that if he makes it to the pros, I don't have to worry about college money at all. He said he's take care of it. I can't wait to see him. He's coming home for Relena's graduation, which is so nice.

Sincerely,
Heero

---

June 10, AC 196

Dear Friend,

I just got home from school and Relena is still asleep from the after-prom party the school organized. I called over to Trowa and Duo's, but they're still asleep, too. Trowa and Duo have this cordless phone that always runs out of batteries, and Duo's mom sounded like a mom in the "Peanuts" cartoon. Wah Wah Wuh.

Last night I sat in my room while all of my friends were at prom. And today was difficult because I don't know anybody since all of my friends and my sister are no longer in school.

The worst was lunchtime because it reminded me of when everyone was angry with me for Hilde. I couldn't even eat my sandwich, and my mom made my favorite because I think she knew how sad I would be with everyone gone.

The halls seem different. And the juniors were acting different because they are now seniors. They even had shirts made. I don't know who plans these things.

All I could think about last night was that Duo is leaving in two weeks to go to OZ. And Hilde is going to be busy with her boyfriend. And Relena is going to be busy with hers. And Sally and I aren't that close. I know Trowa will be around, but I'm afraid that maybe since he isn't sad, he won't want to spend time with me. I know that sounds wrong in my head, but it feels that way sometimes. So, then the only person that I would have to talk to is my shrink, and I don't like the idea of that right now because he keeps asking me questions about when I was younger, and they're starting to get weird.

I'm just lucky that I have so much schoolwork and don't have a lot of time to think.

And I hoped that last night was great for the people whom it's supposed to be great for. Relena's boyfriend showed up in his Buick, and he was wearing a white "tails" coat over a black suit, which looked wrong for some reason. His cummerbund matched Relena's dress, which was layer-y and blue with a flower in the front.

And I hoped that my sister felt beautiful, and her new boyfriend makes her feel beautiful. I hoped that Solo doesn't make Duo fell his prom isn't special just because he's older. I hoped the same for Hilde with Muller. I hoped Quatre and Trowa decided to make up and dance in front of the whole school. And that Sally is secretly a lesbian and is in love with Quatre's girlfriend, Dorothy (and vice versa), so nobody felt left out. I hoped the deejay was as good as everyone said I was last Friday. And I hoped that eveyone's pictures turn out great and never become old photographs and nobody got in a car accident.

That's what I really hoped.

Today I had two finals. One in biology, which I think I got a perfect in. The other in Zech's class. The final was about "The Great Gatsby." The only thing hard about it was the fact that he had me read the book so long ago, and it was difficult to remember.

After I handed in the final, I asked Zechs if he wanted me to write an essay about "The Fountainhead," since I told him that I had finished it, and he hadn't told me to do anything. He said that it wouldn't be fair to have me write another essay when I have so many finals this week. Instead, he invited me over to his town house to spend Saturday afternoon with his girlfriend and him, which sounds like fun.

So on Friday, I will go to "Rocky Horror." Then on Saturday, I will go to Zech's town house. Then, on Sunday I will watch everyone graduate and spend time with my brother and all the family because of my sister. Then. I'll probably go to Duo and Trowa's to celebrate their graduating. Then, I'll have two more days of school, which doesn't make sense because all finals will be over. But they have some activities planned. At least that's what I've heard.

The reason I am thinking so far ahead is because school is terribly lonely. I think I've sad that before, but its getting harder every day. I have two finals tomorrow. History and typing. Then, on Friday, I have finals in all my other classes like gym and shop. I don't think that Howard, the teacher, will give us an actual final. He'll probably just play us old records like he did when we were supposed to have a midterm, too, but it won't be the same without Trowa lip-synching.

Sincerely,
Heero

---

June 13, AC 196

Dear Friend,

I just got home from Zechs' house. I would have written to you about last night this morning, but I had to go to Zechs'.

Last Night, Solo and Duo broke up.

It was very sad to watch. In the past few days, I have heard a lot about the prom, and thanks to those one-hour film places, I have seen what everyone looked like. Duo looked beautiful. Trowa looked handsome. Hilde, Sally, and Muller all looked great too. The only thing is that Sally wore white stick deodorant with a strapless dress, and it showed. I don't think that kind of thing matters, but supposedly Sally was paranoid about it all night. Solo looked handsome as well, but he wore a suit instead of a tux. That's not why they broke up.

Actually, the prom was supposed to be very nice. The limo was really great, and the limo driver, Pargan, got everyone stoned, which made the very expensive food taste even better. The prom's music came from a really bad cover band called The Maganacs of Arabia, but the drummer, Abdul, was good, so everyone had a nice time dancing. Trowa and Quatre didn't even look at each other, but Duo said that Trowa was really ok about it.

After the prom, Relena and her boyfriend went to the after-party that the school organized. It was at this popular dance club downtown. She said that it was really fun with everyone all dressed up and dancing to good music played by a deejay instead of The Maganacs of Arabia. The only thing was that once you came in, you couldn't leave and come back. I guess the parents thought that it would keep the kids out of trouble. But nobody seemed to mind. They were having too much fun, and enough people smuggled in liquor anyway.

After the party, it was about seven o'clock in the morning and everyone went to the Big Boy for pancakes.

I asked Trowa how he liked the after-prom party, and he said that it was a lot of fun. He said that Solo had rented a hotel suite for all of them, but only Solo and Duo went. Actually, Duo wanted to go to the after-party, too, but Solo got really angry because he had already paid for the room. That's not why they broke up.

It happened yesterday at Solo's house after "Rocky Horror." Like I said, Hilde's boyfriend, Muller, is good friends with Solo, and he kind of stepped into the middle of things. I guess he really likes Hilde a lot and has grown to like Duo quite a bit because he's the one who brought it up. Nobody even suspected.

Basically, Solo had been cheating on Duo ever since they started going out. And when I say cheat, I don't mean that he got drunk and fooled around with one guy and felt bad about it. There were several guys (and girls, too). Several times. Drunk and sober. And I guess he never felt bad.

The reason Muller didn't say anything at first was the fact that he didn't know anybody. And he didn't know Duo. He just thought he was this dumb high school guy because that's what Solo always told him.

Anyway, after he got to know Duo, Muller kept telling Solo that Solo had to tell him the truth because he wasn't just some dumb high school guy. Solo kept promising he would, but he never did. There was always some excuse. Muller called them "reasons."

"I don't want to ruin the prom for him."

"I don't want to ruin graduation for him."

"I don't want to ruin the show for him."

Then, finally, Solo said that there was no point telling him anything at all. He was about to go away to college anyway. He would find a new guy. He was always "safe" about other people. There was nothing to worry about in that way. And why not just let Duo remember the whole experience in a good way? Because he really liked Duo and didn't want to hurt her feelings.

Muller went along with this logic even though he thought it was wrong. At least that's what he said. But then after the show yesterday, Solo told him that he fooled around with yet another guy the afternoon of the prom. That's when Muller told Solo that if Solo didn't say anything to Duo, he would. Well, Solo didn't say anything, and Muller still didn't think it was his business, but then he overheard Duo at the party. He was talking to Hilde about how Solo might be "the one" and how he was trying to think of ways to keep it going long-distance while he was at school. Letters, phone calls, vacations, and breaks. That was it for Muller.

He went up to Solo and said, "You tell him something now, or I tell her everything."

So, Solo pulled Duo into his bedroom. They were in there for a while. Then, Duo walked from the bedroom straight out the front door, silently sobbing. Solo didn't run after him. That was probably the worst part. Not that he should have tried to get bad together with him, but I think he should have gone after him anyway.

All I know is that Duo was devastated. Hilde and Sally went after him to make sure he was ok. I would have gone, too, but Trowa grabbed my arm to stay. He wanted to know what was going on, I guess, or he though Duo would be better off with female company.

I'm glad that we stayed, though, because I think our presence prevented a pretty violent fight between Solo and Muller. Because we were all there, all they really did was scream at each other. That's where I heard most of the details I'm writing to you about.

Solo would say, "Fuck you, Muller! Fuck you!"

And Muller would say, "Don't blame me that you fucked around on him since the beginning! The afternoon of his prom!? You're just a bastard! You hear me?! A fucking bastard!"

Things like that.

When it looked like things were going to get violent, Trowa stepped between the two, and with my help, got Muller out of the apartment. When we got outside, the girls and Duo were gone. So, Trowa and I got into Trowa's car and drove Muller home. He was still seething, so he "vented" about Solo. That's where I heard the rest of the details. Finally, we dropped Muller off, and he made us promise to make sure Hilde didn't think he was cheating on her because he wasn't. He just didn't want to be found "guilty by association" with that "prick."

We promised, and then he went into his apartment building.

Trowa and I weren't sure how Solo actually told Duo. We both hoped that he gave him a "soft" version of the truth. Enough to make him stay away, but not enough to make him doubt everything about everything. Maybe it's better to know the whole truth. I honestly don't know.

So, we just made a pact that we wouldn't tell him unless we found out that Solo made it sound like "nothing big," and Duo was ready to forgive him. I hope it doesn't come to that. I hope that Solo told him enough to make him stay away.

We drove around to all the places where we thought we might find Duo and Sally and Hilde, but we couldn't find them. Trowa figured that they were just driving around, trying to let Duo "cool off a bit." So, Trowa dropped me off and said he would call me tomorrow when he had heard anything.

I remember going to sleep last night, and I realized something. Something that I think is important. I realized that throughout the course of the evening, I wasn't happy about Solo and Duo breaking up. Not at all.

I never once thought that it would mean Duo might start liking me. All I cared about was the fact that Duo got really hurt. And I guess I realized at that moment that I really did love him. Because there was nothing to gain, and that didn't matter.

It was hard walking up the steps to Zechs' town house that afternoon because I didn't receive a phone call all morning from Trowa. And I was so worried about Duo. I tried calling, but no one was home.

Zechs looks different without a suit. He was wearing his old graduate school T-shirt, which was White Fang. His girlfriend was wearing this funky western shirt and Zechs introduced her to me as Noin. They looked very happy together. And I was glad for Zechs.

Their house didn't have a lot of furniture in it, but it was very comfortable. They had a lot of books, which I spent about a half an hour asking them about. There was also a picture of Zechs and Noin at the White Fang together.

Noin made lunch while Zechs made the salad. I just sat in the kitchen, drinking ginger ale, and watching them. The lunch was a spaghetti dish of some sort because Noin doesn't eat meat. Zechs doesn't either now.

They had a really nice collection of jazz records, and they kept playing them through lunch. After a while, they broke open a bottle of wine and gave me another ginger ale. Then, we started talking.

Zechs asked me about "The Fountainhead," and I told him, making sure that I was a filter.

Then, he asked me how I liked my first year of high school, and I told him, making sure that I included all the stories in which I "participated."

Then, he asked me about boys, and I told him how I really loved Duo, and I wondered what the lady who wrote "The Fountainhead" would say about how I came to realize that I loved him.

After I finished, Zechs got very quiet. He cleared his throat.

"Heero... I want to thank you."

"Why?" I said.

"Because it has been a wonderful experience teaching you."

"Oh... I'm glad." I didn't know what else to say.

Then, Zechs took this really long pause, and his voice sounded like my dad's when he wants to have a big talk.

"Heero," He said. "Do you know why I gave you all that extra work?"

I shook my head no. That look on his face. It made me quiet.

"Heero, do you know how smart you are?"

I just shook my head no again. He was talking for real. It was strange.

"Heero, you're one of the most gifted people I've ever known. And I don't mean in terms of my other students. I mean in terms of anyone I've ever met. That's why I gave you the extra work. I was wondering if you were aware of that?"

"I guess so. I don't know." I felt really strange. I didn't know where this was coming from. I just wrote some essays.

"Heero. Please don't take this the wrong way. I'm not trying to make you feel uncomfortable. I just want you to know that you're very special... and the only reason I'm telling you this is that I don't know if anyone else ever has."

I looked up at him. And then I didn't feel strange. I felt like I wanted to cry. He was being so nice to me, and they way Noin looked, I knew that this meant a lot to him. And I didn't know why it did.

"So, when the school year ends, and I'm not your teacher anymore, I want you to know that if you need anything, or want to know more about books, or what to show me anything you write, or anything, you can always come to me as a friend. I do consider you a friend, Heero."

I started crying a little bit. I actually think Noin was, too. But Zechs wasn't. Her looked very solid. I just remember wanting to hug him. But I've never done that before, and I guess Duo and Trowa and family don't count. I didn't say anything for a while because I didn't know what to say.

So, finally I just said, "You're the best teacher I've ever had."

And he said, "Thank you."

And that was that. Zechs didn't try to make sure that I would see him next year if I needed anything. He didn't ask me why I was crying. He just let me hear what he had to say in my own way and let things be. That was probably the best part.

After a few minutes it was time for me to leave. I don't know who decided these things. It just happens. So, we went to the door, and Noin hugged me good-bye, which was very nice considering I didn't know her expect for today. Then, Zechs extended his had, and I took it. And we shook hand. And I even sneaked in a quick hug before I said "good-bye."

When I was driving home, I just thought about the word "special." And I thought that the last person who said that to me was my Uncle Jay. I was very grateful to have heard it again. Because I think we all forget sometimes. And I think everyone is special in their own way. I really do.

Wufei gets home tonight. And everyone's graduation is tomorrow. Trowa still hasn't called. I called him, but no one was home again. So, I decided to go out and buy everyone their graduation presents. I really haven't had time to do that until now.

Sincerely,
Heero

---

June 16, AC 196

Dear Friend,

I just rode home on the bus. It was my last day of school and it was raining. When I do ride the bus I try to sit towards the middle because the front is for nerds and the back is for "squids." I don't know what they call "squids" at other schools. I don't even know why they are called "squids" here.

Anyway, today I decided to sit in the front row with my legs over the whole seat. Kid of like I was laying down with my back to the window. I did this so I could look back at the other kids on the bus.

The one thing noticed was how different everyone looked. When we were little, we used to sing songs on the bus ride home from school. The favorite song was a Pink Floyd song, I found out later, called "Another Brick in the Wall, Part II." But there was another song we loved even more because it ended with a swear. I went like this...

"No more pencils/no more books/no more teachers' dirty looks/when the teacher rings the bell/drop your books and run like hell."

When we finished, we looked at the bus driver for a tense second. Then, we all laughed because we knew that we could get in trouble for swearing, but the strength of our numbers would prevent any retribution. We were too young to know that the bus driver didn't care about our song. That all he wanted to do was go home after work. And maybe sleep off the drinks he had at lunch. Back then, it didn't matter. The nerds and the squids were one.

Wufei came home on Saturday night. And he looked even more different than the kids on the school bus looked compared to the beginning of the year. He had a ponytail! He also smiled more and was more "courteous." We all sat down to dinner, and everyone asked him questions about college. Dad asked about football. Mom asked about classes and Wufei said he wanted to go into pre-law to see that "justice is served." I'm not quite sure what he meant by that, but it sounded convincing. Relena asked nervous questions about what college is "really" like and would she gain the "freshman fifteen"?

I was expecting Wufei to just talk about himself for a long time. He would do that whenever there was a big game in high school or the prom or something. But he seemed a lot more interested in what we were all doing, especially my sister with her graduation.

So, while talking I suddenly remembered the TV news sports man and what he said about Wufei. And I told my family. This is what happened as a result.

My dad said, "Hey! How about that?!"

Wufei said, "Really!?"

I said, "Yeah. I talked to him."

Wufei said, "Did he say something good?"

My father said, "Any press is good press." I don't know where he learns these things.

Wufei kept going. "What did he say?"

I said, "Well, I think he said that college sports put a lot of pressure on the students who do them." Wufei kept nodding. "But he said that it built character. And he said that OZ was looking really good with their recruitment. And he mentioned you."

My dad said, "Hey! How about that?"

Wufei said, "Really?"

I said, "Yeah. I talked to him."

Wufei said, "When did you talk to him?"

I said, "A couple of weeks ago."

And then I froze because I remembered the other part. The fact that I met the man in a park at night. And the fact that I gave him one of my cigarettes. And the fact that he was trying to pick me up. I just sat there hoping it would go away. But it didn't.

"Where did you meet him, honey?" my mom asked.

The room turned pins and needles quite. And I did my best impersonation of myself when I can't remember things. And here's what was going on inside my head.

"Ok... he came to school to have a talk with the class...  no... my sister was know it was a lie... I met him at the Big Boy... he was with his family... no... my dad would scold me for bothering the "poor man"... he said it on a news cast... but I said I talked to him... wait..."

"In the park. I was there with Trowa," I said.

My dad said, "Was he there with his family? Did you bother the poor man?"

"No. He was alone."

That was enough for my dad and everybody else, and I didn't have to lie. Luckily, the attention was turned off me when my mother said what she likes to say when we're all together celebrating something.

"Who's in the mood for ice cream?"

Everyone was except Relena. I think she was worried about the "freshman fifteen."

The next morning started early. I still hadn't heard from Trowa or Duo or anybody, but I knew I would see them at graduation, so I tried not to worry too much. All my relatives, including my dad's family from Sank, came to the house at ten A.M. The two families really don't like each other, except for all us younger cousins because we don't know any better.

We had this big brunch with champagne, and just like last year for my brother's graduation, my mom gave her dad (my grandfather) sparkling apple juice instead of champagne because she didn't want him to get drunk and make a scene. And he said the same thing he said last year.

"This is good champagne."

I don't think he knew the difference because he is a beer drinker. Sometimes, whisky.

Around twelve-thirty, brunch was over. All the cousins drove the cars because the adults were still a little too drunk to drive to the graduation. Except for my dad, because he was too busy videotaping everyone with the camera he rented from the video store.

"Why buy a camera when you only need it three times a year?"

So, Relena, Wufei, dad, mom, and I each had to go in a different car to make sure nobody got lost. I went with all my Sank cousins, who promptly pulled out a "joint" and passed it around. I didn't smoke any because I really wasn't in the mood, and they said what they always say.

"Heero, you're such a pussy."

So, all the cars pulled into the parking lot, and we got out. And Relena yelled at my cousin Alex for rolling down the window while he was driving and messing up her hair.

"I was smoking a cigarette," was his reply.

"Couldn't you wait ten minutes?" was my sister's.

"But it was a great song," was his final word.

So, as my dad was getting the video camera out of the trunk, Wufei was talking to some of the graduating girls who were a year older and "looking good." I noticed he had his eye on Sally the entire time, who was the only one out of the group that I could find, but she looked too busy to talk to at the moment. And Relena was looking through my moms purse. The great thing about her purse is that it has everything you could ever need at any given time in it. I still can't figure out how she does it.

After primping, Relena followed the trail of graduation caps to the field, and we all found our way to the bleachers. I sat between my mom and my brother since my dad was off getting a better camera angle. And my mom kept shushing my grandfather, who kept talking about how many black people were in the school.

When she couldn't stop him, she mentioned my story about the TV news sports man talking about Wufei. This made my grandfather call my brother over to talk about it. This was smart on my mom's part because my brother is the only person who can get my grandfather to stop making a scene because he's really direct about it. After the story, this is what happened...

"Jesus. Look at these bleachers. How many colored people--" Wufei cut him off.

"Okay, Grandpa. Here's the deal. If you embarrass us one more time, I'm going to drive you back to the nursing home, and you'll never see your granddaughter give her speech." Wufei is real tough.

"But then you won't be able to see the speech either, big shot." My grandfather is really tough, too.

"Yeah, but my dad is videotaping it. And I can arrange it so that I get to see the tape and, and you don't. Can't I?"

My grandfather has really weird smile. Especially, when someone else wins. He didn't say anything more about it. He just starting talking about football and didn't even mention anything about Wufei being on a team with black kids. I can't tell you how bad it was last year since Wufei was on the field graduating instead of up in the bleachers making my grandfather stop.

While they were talking football, I was looking for Trowa and Duo, but all I saw were those graduation caps in the distance. When the music started, the caps started marching towards the folding chairs on the field. That's when I saw Duo's braid hanging under the cap and he was walking behind Trowa. I was so relieved. I couldn't tell if he was happy or sad, but it was enough just to see him and know he was there.

When all the kids got in the chairs, the music stopped and Mr. Khushrenada, who Trowa swears is gay, got up and gave a speech about what a wonderful class this was. He mentioned some of the achievements the school had made, and he emphasized how much they needed support at the Community Day Bake Sale to start a new computer lab. Then, he introduced the class president, who gave a speech.

Then, it was time for the top five honor students to give a speech. That's the tradition in the school. My sister was second in her class, so she gave the fourth speech. The valedictorian is always last. Then, Mr. Khushrenada and Vice Principal Une hand out the diplomas.

The first three speeches were very similar. They all had quotes from pop songs that had something to do with the future. And all through the speeches, I could see my mother's hands. She was gripping them tighter and tighter together.

When they announced Relena, my mom uncoiled into applause. It was really great watching my sister get on the podium because Wufei was something like 223rd in his class and consequently didn't get to give a speech. And maybe I'm biased, but when Relena quoted a pop song and talked about the future, it sounded great. I looked over at my brother, and he looked over at me. And we both smiled. Then we looked at my mother and, she was crying real soft and messy, so my brother and I each took one of her hands. She looked at us and smiled and cried harder. Then, we both rested our heads on her shoulders, like a sideways hug, which made her cry even harder. Or maybe it let her cry harder. I'm not sure which. But she gave our hands a squeeze and said, "my boys," real soft, and went back to crying.

When Relena finished her speech, we all clapped and yelled, but nobody clapped or yelled louder than my grandfather. Nobody.

I don't remember what the valedictorian said except that she quoted Henry David Thoreau instead of a pop song.

Then, Mr. Khushrenada got up on stage and asked everyone to refrain from applause until all the names were read and all the diplomas were handed out. I should mention that this didn't work last year either.

So, I saw Relena get her diploma and my mother cry again. And then I saw Hilde. And I saw Sally. And I saw Trowa. And I saw Duo. It was a great day. Even what I saw Quatre. It seemed ok.

We all met my sister in the parking lot, and the first one to hug her was my grandfather. He really is a proud man in his way. Everyone said how much they loved her speech even if they didn't. Then, we all saw my father walking across the parking lot, holding the video camera over his head triumphantly. I don't think anyone hugged Relena longer than my dad. I looked around for Duo and Trowa, but I couldn't find them anywhere.

On the way home for the party, my Sank cousins lit up another joint. This time, I took a hit, but they still called me a "pussy." I don't know why. Maybe that's just what Sank cousins do. That and tell jokes.

"What has 32 legs and 1 tooth?"

"What?" we all asked.

"A White Fang unemployment line."

Things like that.

When we got home, my Sank cousins went straight for the bar because graduations seem to be the one occasion where anyone can drink. At least it was like that last year and this year. I wonder what my graduation is going to be like. It seems very far away.

So, Relena spent the first hour opening all the gifts, and her smile grew with every check, sweater, or fifty dollar bill. Nobody is our family is rich, but it seems like everybody saves up just enough for these kind of events, and we all pretend we're rich for a day.

The only people who didn't get my sister money or a sweater were my brother and I. Wufei promised to take her out one day to shop for college things like soap, which he would pay for, and I bought her this little house that was carved out of stone. I told her I wanted to give her something that makes her feel like she is home even after she goes away.

But the best part of the party was happened when my mother came to me and said I had a phone call. I went to the phone.

"Hello?"

"Heero?"

"Duo!"

"When are you coming over?" he asked.

"Now!" I said.

Then my father, who was drinking a whiskey sour, growled, "You're not going anywhere until your relatives leave. You hear me?"

"Uh, Duo... I have to wait for my relatives to leave," I said.

"Okay... we'll be here until seven. Then, we'll call you from wherever we are." Duo sounded really happy.

"Okay, Duo. Congratulations!"

"Thanks, Heero. Bye."

"Bye."

I hung up the phone.

I swear to you, I thought my relatives would never leave. Every story they told. Every pig in a blanket they ate. Every photograph they looked at, and every time I heard "when you were this high" with the appropriate gesture. It was like the clock stopped. It's not that I minded the stories because I didn't. But I wanted to see Duo.

At about 9.30, everyone was stuffed and sober. At 9.45, the hugs were over. At 9.50, the driveway was clear. My father gave me twenty dollars and the keys to his car, saying, "Thanks for sticking around. It meant a lot to me and the family." He was tipsy, but meant it just the same. Duo had told me they were going to a dance club downtown. So, I loaded everyone's gifts in my trunk, climbed in the car, and drove away.

After about half an hour of looking around the dance club, I finally saw Hilde with Muller. They were both drinking scotch and sodas, which Muller bought since he is older and had his hand stamped. I congratulated Hilde and asked where everybody was. She told me Sally was getting high in the ladies' room and Duo and Trowa were on the floor dancing. She said to have a seat until they come back because she didn't know where they were specifically. So, I sat down and listened to Muller argue with Hilde about Democratic candidates. Again, the clock seemed to stop. I wanted to see Duo that badly.

After about three songs, Duo and Trowa came back completely coated with sweat.

"Heero!"

I stood up, and we all hugged like we hadn't seen each other in months. Considering everything that happened, I guess that makes sense. After we let go, Trowa lay on top of Muller and Hilde like they were a sofa. Then he took Hilde's drink out of her hand and drank it. "Hey, asshole" was her response. I think he was drunk, even though he hasn't been drinking lately, but Trowa does that stuff sober, so it's hard to tell.

That's when Duo grabbed my hand. "I love this song!"

He led me to the dance floor and he started dancing and I started dancing. It was a fast song, so I wasn't very good, but he didn't seem to mind. We were just dancing, and that was enough. The song ended, and then a slow one came on. He looked at me. I looked back at him. Then, he took my hands and pulled me in to dance slow. I don't know how to dance slow very well either, but I do know how to sway.

His whisper smelled like cranberry juice and vodka.

"I looked for you in the parking lot today."

I hoped mine still smelled like toothpaste.

"I was looking for you, too."

Then, we were quite for the rest of the song. He held me a little closer. I held him a little closer. And we kept dancing. It was the one time all day I really wanted the clock to stop. And just be there for a long time.

After the dance club, we went back to Muller's apartment, and I gave everyone their graduation presents. I gave Sally a film book about "Night of the Living Dead," which she liked, and I gave Hilde a copy of "My Life as a Dog," on videotape with the subtitles in it, which she loved.

Then, I gave Trowa and Duo their presents. I even wrapped them up special. I used the Sunday funny papers because they are in color. Trowa tore through his. Duo didn't rip any of the paper. He just plucked the tape off. And they looked what was inside each box.

I gave Trowa "On the Road," "Naked Lunch," "The Stranger," "This Side of Paradise," "Peter Pan," and "A Separate Peace."

I gave Duo "To Kill a Mockingbird," "The Catcher in the Rye," "The Great Gatsby," "Hamlet," "Walden," and "The Fountainhead."

Under the books was a card that I wrote sing the typewriter Duo bought me. The cards said that these were my copies of all my favorite books, and I wanted Duo and Trowa to have them because they were my two favorite people in the world.

When they looked up from reading, they were both quiet. Nobody smiled or cried or did anything. We were just open, looking at each other. They knew I meant the cards I wrote. And I knew it meant a lot to them.

"What do the cards say?" Hilde asked.

"Do you mind, Heero?" Trowa asked.

I shook my head no, and they each read their cards while I went to fill my coffee cup with red wine.

When I came back, they all looked at me, and I said, "I'm going to miss you all very much. I hope you have a great time in college." And then I started to cry because it suddenly hit me that they were all leaving. I think Muller thinks I'm a little strange. So, Duo stood up and took me into the kitchen, telling me on the way that it was "okay." When we got to the kitchen, I was a little calmer.

Duo said, "You know I'm leaving in a week, Heero?"

"Yeah. I know."

"Don't start crying again."

"Okay."

"I want you to listen."

"Okay."

"I'm really scared to be alone at college."

"You are?" I asked. I never really thought of that before.

"Just like you are really scared to be alone here."

"Okay." I nodded.

"So, I'll make a deal with you. When things get to be too much at college, I'll call you, and when things get to be too much here, you call me."

"Could we write letters back and forth?"

"Of course." He said.

Then, I started crying again. I'm really a roller coaster at times. But Duo was patient.

"Heero, I'm going to be back at the end of summer, but before we think about that, let's just enjoy this last week together. All of us. Okay?"

I nodded and calmed down.

We spent the rest of the night just drinking and listening to music like we always did, but this time it was at Muller's, and it was better than Solo's, actually, because Muller has a better music collection. It was about one o'clock in the morning when it suddenly occurred to me.

"Oh my God!" I said.

"What's wrong, Heero?"

"Tomorrow's a school day!"

I don't think I could have made them laugh harder.

Muller took me into the kitchen to make coffee, so I could sober up to drive home. I had about 8 cups in a row and was ready to drive home in about 20 minutes. The problem was by the time I got home, I was so awake from the coffee, I couldn't fall asleep. By the time I got to school, I felt like dying. Lucky, all the finals were over, and all we did all day was watch filmstrips. I don't think I ever slept better. I was glad, too, because school is really lonely without them.

Today was different because I didn't sleep, and I didn't get to see Duo or Trowa last night because they were having a special dinner with their parents. And Wufei was on a date with Sally! Relena was busy with her boyfriend. And my parents were still tired from the graduation party.

Today, pretty much every teacher just let the kids sit around and talk after we handed in our textbooks. I honestly didn't know anybody, except maybe for Jarren, but after that time in the hallway, he's avoided me more so than ever. So, I didn't really talk. The only good class was Zechs' because I got to talk to Zechs. It was hard to say good-bye to him after class was over, but he said that it wasn't good-bye. I could call him anytime over the summer if I wanted to talk or borrow books, and that made me feel a little better.

This one kid with crooked teeth called me a "teacher's pet" in the hallway after Zechs' class, but I didn't mind because I think he missed the point somewhere.

I ate my lunch outside on a bench where we used to all smoke and after I finished I lit up a cigarette. I was kind of hoping someone would ask me for one, but no one did.

When the last class was over, everyone was cheering and making plans with each other for the summer. And everyone was clearing out their lockers by throwing their old papers and notebooks on the hallway floor. When I got to my locker, I saw this skinny kid who had the locker next to me all year. I had never really talked to him before.

I cleared my throat and said, "Hey. My name is Heero."

All he said was, "I know."

Then, he closed his locker door and walked away.

So, I just opened my locker, put all my old papers and things in my backpack, and walked over the debris of book and papers and notes in the hallway to the parking lot. Then, I got on the bus, and then, I wrote this letter to you.

I'm actually really glad that the school year is over. I want to spend a lot of time with everyone before they leave. Especially Duo.

By the way, I ended up with straight A's this whole year. My mother was very proud and put my report card on the refrigerator.

Sincerely,
Heero

---

June 2, AC 196

Dear Friend,

The night before Duo was going to leave made the whole weeks a blur. Duo was frantic because not only did he need to spend time with us, but also had to get ready to go. Buying things. Packing thing. Things like that.

Every night, we would all get together after Duo had just said good-bye to some uncle or had another lunch with his mom or had done some chopping for school things. He was scared, and it wasn't until he had a sip of whatever we were drinking or a hit off of whatever we were smoking that he would calm down and be the same Duo.

The one thing that really helped Duo through the week was his lunch with Solo. He said he wanted to see him to have some kind of "closure," and I guess he was lucky enough to get it because Solo was nice enough to tell him that he was right to break up with him. And that Duo was a special person. And that he was sorry and wished Duo well. It's strange the times people choose to be generous.

The best part was that Duo said he didn't ask him about the people he might be dating even though he wanted to know. He wasn't bitter. He was sad, though. But it was a hopeful kind of sad. The kind of sad that just takes time.

On the night before He left, we were all there at Duo and Trowa's house. Rashad, Sally, Hilde (without Muller), and I. We just sat on the rug in the "games" room, remembering things.

"Remember the show were Trowa did this... or remember when Rashad did this... or Heero... or Hilde... or Sally... or Duo..."

The inside jokes weren't jokes anymore. They had become stories. Nobody brought up the bad names or the bad times. And nobody felt sad as log as we could postpone tomorrow with more nostalgia.

After a while, Hilde and Rashad and Sally left, saying that they would be back in the morning to see Duo off. So, it was just me, Trowa, and Duo. Just sitting there. Not saying much. Until we started our own remember when.

"Remember when Heero first came to us at the football game... and remember when Heero let the air out of Dave's tires at the homecoming dance... and remember the poem... and the mix tape... and Punk Rocky in color... and remember when we all felt infinite..."

After I said that, we all got quiet and sad. In the silence, I remembered this one time that I never told anybody about. The time we were walking. Just the three of us. And I was in the middle. I don't remember where we were walking. I don't even remember the season. I just remember walking between them and feeling for the first time that I belonged somewhere.

Finally, Trowa stood up.

"I'm tired, guys. Good night."

Then, he messed up out hair and went up to his room. Duo turned to me.

"Heero, I have to pack up some things. Would you stay with me for a while?"

I nodded, and we went upstairs.

As we entered his room, I noticed how different it looked from the night Duo kissed me. The pictures were down, and the dressers were empty, and everything was in a big pile on the bed. I said to myself that I would not cry no matter what because I didn't want to make Duo feel any more panicked that he already did.

So, I just watched him pack, and I tried to notice as many details as I possibly could. His long hair and his thin wrists and his violet eyes. I wanted to remember everything. Especially the sound of his voice.

Duo talked about a lot of things, trying to keep himself distracted. He talked about what a long drive they had tomorrow and how his parents had rented a van. He wondered what his classes would be like and what his eventual "major" would be. He said he didn't want to join a frat but was looking forward to football games. He was just getting more and more sad. Finally, he turned around.

"Why didn't you ask me out after the whole Solo thing happened?"

I just sat there. I didn't know what to say. He said it soft.

"Heero... after that thing with Hilde at the party and us dancing at the club and everything..."

I didn't know what to say. Honestly, I was lost.

"Okay, Heero... I'll make this easy. When the whole Solo thing happened, what did you think?" He really wanted to know.

I said, "Well, I thought a lot of things. But mostly, I thought that your being sad was much more important to me that Solo not being your boyfriend anymore. And if it meant that I would never get to think of you that way, as long as you were happy, it was ok. That's when I realized that I really loved you."

He sat down on the floor with me. He spoke really quiet.

"Heero, don't you get it? I can't feel that. It's sweet and everything, but it's like you're not even there sometimes. It's great that you can listen and be a shoulder to someone, but what about when someone doesn't need a shoulder? You can't just sit there and put everybody's lives ahead or yours and think that counts as love. You just can't. You have to do things."

"Like what?" I asked. My mouth was dry.

"I don't know. Like take their hands when the slow song comes on for a change. Or be the one who asks someone for a date. Or tell people what you need. Or what you want. Like on the dance floor, did you want to kiss me?"

"Yeah," I said.

"Then, why didn't you?" he asked real serious.

"Because I didn't think you wanted me to."

"Why did you think that?"

"Because of what you said."

"What I said nine months ago? When I told you not to think of me that way?"

I nodded.

"Heero, I also told you not to tell Hilde she was pretty. And to ask her a lot of questions and not to interrupt her. Now she's with a guy who does the exact opposite. And it works because that's who Muller really is. He's being himself. And he does things."

"But I didn't like Hilde."

"Heero, you're missing my point. The point is that I don't think you would have acted different even if you did like Hilde. It's like you can come to Trowa's rescue and hurt two guys that are trying to hurt him, but what about when Trowa's hurting himself? Like when you guys went to the park? Or when he was kissing you? Did you want him to kiss you?"

"Not really..."

"So, why did you let him?"

"I was just trying to be a friend," I said.

"But you weren't, Heero. At those times, you weren't being his friend at all. Because you weren't honest with him."

I sat there very still. I looked at the floor. I didn't say anything. Very uncomfortable.

"Heero, I told you not to think of me that way nine months ago because of what I'm saying now. Not because of Solo. Not because I didn't think you were great. It's just that I don't want to be someone's crush. If someone likes me, I want them to like the real me, not what they think I am. And I want them to show me, so I can feel it, too. And if they do something I don't like, I'll tell them."

He was starting to cry a little. But he wasn't sad.

"You know I blamed Solo for not letting me do things? You know how stupid I fell about that now? Maybe he didn't really encourage me to do things, but he didn't prevent me from doing them either. But after a while, I didn't do things because I didn't want him to think different about me. But the thing is, I wasn't being honest. So, why would I care whether or not he loved me when he didn't really know me?"

I looked up and he had stopped crying.

"So, tomorrow I'm leaving. And I'm not going to let that happen again with anyone else. I'm going to do what I want to do. I'm going to be who I really am. And I'm going to figure out what that is. But right now I'm here with you. And I want to know where you are, what you need, and what you want to do."

He waited patiently for my answer. But after everything he said, I figured that I just do what I wanted to do. Not think about it. Not say it out loud. And if he didn't like it, then he could just say so. And we could go back to packing.

So, I kissed him. And he kissed me back. And we lay down of the floor and kissing. And it was soft. And we made quiet noises. And kept silent. And still. And then we went over to the bed and lay down over all the things that weren't put in suitcases. And we touched each other over clothes. And then under clothes. And then without clothes. And it was beautiful. He was so beautiful. And he took my hand and slid it down his body. And I touched him. And I just couldn't believe it. It was like everything made sense. Until he went down on me.

That's when I stopped him.

"What's wrong?" he asked. "Did that hurt?"

I shook my head. It felt good actually. I don't know what was wrong.

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to--"

"No. Don't be sorry," I said.

"But, I feel bad," she said.

"Please don't feel bad. It was very nice," I said. I was starting to get really upset.

"You're not ready?" he asked.

I nodded. But that wasn't it. I didn't know what it was.

"It's ok that you're not ready," he said. He was being really nice to me, but I was just feeling so bad.

"Heero, do you want to go home?" he asked.

I guess I nodded because he helped me get dressed. And then he got dressed. And I wanted to kick myself for being such a baby. Because I loved Duo. And we were together. And I was ruining it. Just terrible.

He took me outside.

"Do you need a ride?" he asked. I had my father's car. I wasn't drunk. He looked really worried.

"No, thanks."

"Heero, I'm not going to let you drive like this."

"I'm sorry. I'll walk then," I said.

"It's two o'clock in the morning. I'm driving you home."

He went to another room to get the car keys. I just stood in the entry hall. I felt like I wanted to die.

"You're as white as a sheet, Heero. Do you need some water?"

"No. I don't know." I stared to cry really hard.

"Here. Just lie down on the couch," he said.

He laid me down on the couch. He brought out a damp washcloth and put it on my forehead.

"You can sleep here tonight. Okay?"

"Okay."

"Just calm down. Take deep breaths."

I did what he told me. And just before I fell asleep, I said something.

"I can't do that anymore. I'm sorry." I said.

"It's okay, Heero. Just go to sleep," Duo said.

But I wasn't talking to Duo anymore. I was talking to someone else.

When I fell asleep, I had this dream. My brother and my sister and I were watching television with my Uncle Jay. Everything was in slow motion. The sound was thick. And he was doing what Duo was doing. That's when I woke up. And I didn't know what the hell was going on. Duo and Trowa were standing over me. Trowa asked if I wanted breakfast. I guess I nodded. We went and ate. Duo still looked worried. Trowa looked normal. We had bacon and eggs with their parents, and everyone made small talk. Hilde and everyone came over, and while Duo's mom was busy checking everything over, we all walked to the driveway. Duo and Trowa's parents got into the van. Trowa got into the driver's seat of Duo's pickup truck, telling everyone he'd see them in a couple of days. Then, Duo hugged and said good-bye to everyone. Since she was coming back for a few days toward the end of summer, it was more of a "see ya" then a good-bye.

I was last. Duo walked up and held me for a long time. Finally, he whispered in my ear. He said a lot of wonderful thing about how it was ok that I wasn't ready last night and how he would miss me and how she wanted me to take care of myself while he was gone.

"You're my greatest friend," was all I could say in return.

He smiled and brushed his lips over mine, and it was like for a moment, the bad part of last night had disappeared. But it sill felt like a good-bye rather than a "see ya." The thing was, I didn't cry. I didn't know what I felt.

Finally, Duo climbed into her pickup and Trowa started it up. And a great song was playing. And everyone smiled. Including me. But I wasn't there anymore.

It wasn't until I couldn't see the cars that I came back and things started feeling bad again. But this time, they felt much worse. Hilde and everyone were crying now, and they asked me id I wanted to go over to the Big Boy or something. I told them no. Thank you. I need to go home.

"Are you okay, Heero?" Hilde asked. I guess I was starting to look bad again because she looked worried.

"I'm fine. I'm just tired," I lied. I got into my dad's car, and drove away. And I could hear all these songs on the radio, but the radio wasn't on. And when I got into the driveway, I think I forgot to turn the car off. I just went to the couch in the family room where the TV is. And I could see the TV shows, but the TV wasn't on.

I don't know what's wrong with me. It's like all I can do is keep writing this gibberish to keep from breaking apart. Duo's gone. And Trowa won't be back for a few days. And I just couldn't talk with Hilde or anybody or Wufei or Relena. Except maybe Uncle Jay. But he's gone. And even if he were here, I don't think I could talk to him either. Because I'm starting to feel like what I dreamt about him last night was true. And my psychiatrist's questions weren't weird after all.

I don't know what I'm supposed to do now. I know other people have it a lot worse. I do know that, but it's crashing anyways, and I just can't stop thinking that the little kid eating french-fries with his mom in the shopping mall is going to grow up and hit my sister. I'd do anything not to think that. I know I'm thinking too fast again, and it's all in my head like the trance, but it's there, and it won't go away. I just keep seeing him, and he keeps hitting my sister, and he won't stop, and I want him to stop because he doesn't mean it, but he won't listen, and I don't know what to do.

I'm sorry, but I have to stop this letter now.

But first I want to thank you for being one of those people who listens and understands and doesn't try to sleep with people even though you could have. I really mean it, and I'm sorry I've put you through all this when you don't even know who I am, and we've never met in person, and I can't tell you who I am because I promised to keep all those little secrets. I just don't want you to think that I picked you're name out of the phone book. It would kill me if you thought that. So, please believe me when I tell you that I felt terrible after Catherine died, and I saw a girl in class, who didn't notice me, and she talked about you to a friend of hers. And even though I didn't know you, I felt like I did because you sounded like such a good person. The kind of person who wouldn't mid receiving letters from a kid. The kind of person that would understand how they were better than a diary because there is communication and a diary can be found. I just don't want you to worry about me, or think that you've met me, or waste your time anymore. I'm so sorry that I wasted your time because you really do mean a lot to me and I hope that you have I very nice life because I really think you deserve it. I really do. I hope you do, too. Okay, then. Goodbye.

Sincerely,
Heero

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August 23, AC 196

Dear Friend,

I have been in the hospital for the past two months. They just released me yesterday. The doctor told me that my mother and father found me sitting on the couch in the family room. I was completely naked, just watching the television, which wasn't on. I wouldn't speak or snap out of it, they said. My father even slapped me to wake me up, and like I told you, he never hits. But it didn't work. So, they brought me to the hospital where I stayed when I was seven after my Uncle Jay died. They told me I didn't speak or acknowledge anyone for a week. Not even Trowa, whom I guess visited me during that time. It's scary to think about.

All I remember is putting the letter in the mailbox. The next thing I knew, I was sitting in a doctor's office. And I remembered my Uncle Jay. And I started to cry. And the doctor, who turned out to be a very nice woman, started asking me questions. Which I answered.

I don't really want to talk about the questions and the answers. But I kind of figured out that everything I dreamt about my Uncle Jay was true. And after a while, I realized that it happened every Saturday night when we would watch television.

The first few weeks in the hospital were very hard.

The hardest part was sitting in the doctor's office when the doctor told my mom and dad what had happened. I have never seen my mother cry so much. Or my father look so angry. Because they didn't know it was happening when it was.

But the doctor has helped me work out a lot of things since then. About my Uncle Jay. And about my family. And friends. And me. There are a lot of stages to these kinds of things, and she as really great through all of them.

The thing that helped me the most, though, was the time I could have visitors. My family, including Wufei and Relena, always came for those days until Wufei had to go back to Oz to play football. After that, my family came without my brother, and he sent cards. He even told me that he read my report on "Walden" and liked it a lot, which made me feel really good. Just like the first time I saw Trowa. The best thing about Trowa is that even when you are in the hospital, he doesn't change. He just cracks jokes to make you feel better instead of asking you questions about feeling worse. He even brought me a letter from Duo, and Duo said he was coming back at the end of August, and if I got better by then, I could stand in the back of the pickup truck if I wanted to. Things like that helped more than anything.

The days when I received mail were good, too. My grandfather sent me a really nice letter. So did my great aunt. So did my grandma and great uncle. My Aunt Cai even sent flowers with a card signed my all of my Sank cousins. It was nice to know that they were thinking about me just like it was nice the time Trowa brought Hilde and Sally and Rashad and everyone for a visit. Including Solo and Muller. I guess they're friends again. And I was glad they were. Just like I was glad that Hilde did most of the talking. Because it made things feel more normal. Hilde even stayed a little later than the others. I was so happy to have a chance to talk to her alone before she left for Berkeley. Just like I was happy for Zechs and Noin when they came to see me two weeks ago. They're getting married this November, and they want me to go to their wedding. It's nice to have things to look forward to.

The time it started to feel like everything was going to be all right was the time when Wufei and Relena stayed after my parents left. This was sometime in July. They asked me a lot of questions about Uncle Jay because I guess nothing had ever happened to them. And Wufei looked really sad. And Relena looked really mad. It was at that time that things started to get clearer because there was nobody to hate anymore after that.

What I mean is that I looked at my brother and sister, and I thought that maybe someday they would be and aunt and uncle, just like I would be and uncle. Just like my mother and Uncle Jay were brother and sister.

And we could all sit around and wonder and feel bad about each other and blame a lot of people for what they did or didn't do or what they didn't know. I don't know. I guess there could always be someone to blame. Maybe if my grandfather didn't hit her, my mom wouldn't be so quiet. And maybe she wouldn't have married my father because he doesn't hit. And maybe I would have never been born. But I'm very glad to have been born, so I don't know what to say about it all especially since my mom seems happy with her life, and I don't know what else there is to want.

It's like if I blame Uncle Jay, I would have to blame his dad for hitting him and the friend f the family that fooled around with him. And the person who fooled around with him. And God for not stopping all this and things that are much worse. Because it wasn't going anywhere. Because it wasn't the point.

I'm not the way I am because of what I dreamt and remembered about my Uncle Jay. That's what I figured out when things got quiet. And I think that's very important to know. It made things feel clear and together. Don't get me wrong. I know what happened was important. And I need to remember it. But it's like when my doctor told me the story of these two brothers whose dad was a bad alcoholic. One brother grew up to be a successful carpenter who never drank. The other brother ended up being a drinker as bad as his dad. When they asked the first brother why he didn't drink, he said that after he saw what it did to his father, he could never bring himself to even try it. When they asked the other brother, he said that he guessed he learned to drink on his father's knee. So, I guess we are who we are for a lot of reasons. And maybe we'll never know most of them. But even if we don't have the power to choose where we come from, we can still choose where we go from there. We can still do things. And we can try to feel okay about them.

I think that if I ever have kids, and they are upset, I won't tell them that people are starving somewhere else in the world or anything like that because it wouldn't change the fact that they are upset. And even if somebody else has it much worse, that doesn't really change the fact tat you have what you have. Good and bad. Just like what my sister said when I had been in the hospital for a while. She said that she was really worried about going to college, and considering what I was going though she felt really dumb about it. But I don't know why she would feel dumb. I'd be worried, too. And really, I don't think I have it any better or worse that she does. I don't know. It's just different. Maybe it's good to put things in perspective, but sometimes, I think that the only perspective is to really be there. Like Duo said. Because it is ok to feel things. And be who you are about them.

When I got released yesterday, my mom drove me home. It was in the afternoon, and she asked me if I was hungry. And I said yes. Then, she asked what I wanted, and I told her McDonald's like we did when I was little and got sick and stayed home from school. So, we went there. And it was nice to be with my mom and eat french fries. And later that night to be with my family at dinnertime and have things just be like they always were. That was the amazing part. Things just keep going. We didn't talk about anything heavy or light. We were just there together. And that was enough.

So, today my father went to work. And my mother took Relena and me out to take care of last-minute things for my sister since she is leave for college in a few days. When we got back, I called Trowa's house because he said that Duo should be home by then. Duo answered the phone. And it was so nice to hear his voice.

Later, they came by in Duo's pickup truck. And we went to the Big Boy just like we always did. Duo told us about his life at school, which sounded very exciting. And I told him about my life in the hospital, which didn't. And Trowa made jokes to keep everyone honest. After we left, we got in Duo's pickup truck, and just like Duo promised, we drove to the tunnel.

About half a mile from the tunnel, Duo stopped the car, and I climbed in back. Trowa played the radio really loud so I could hear it, and as we were approaching the tunnel, I listened to the music and thought about all the things that people have said to me over the past year. I thought about Zechs saying I was special. And Relena saying she loved me. And my mom, too. And even my dad and Wufei when I was in the hospital. I thought about Trowa calling me his friend. And Duo telling me to do things. To really be there. And I just thought about how great it was to have friends and a family.

As we went into the tunnel, I didn't hold my arms like was flying. I just let the wind rush over my face. And I started crying and smiling at the same time. Because I couldn't help feeling just how much I loved my Uncle Jay for buying me two presents. And how much I really wanted my sister and brother and Duo and Trowa and everyone else to be happy.

But mostly, I was crying because I was suddenly very aware of the fact that it was me standing up in that tunnel with the wind over my face. Not caring if I saw downtown. Not even thinking about it. Because I was standing in the tunnel. And I was really there. And that was enough to make me feel infinite.

And when it was over Duo kissed me again. Not demanding, but not as a friend. Just as someone who truly does love and care about me. And Trowa grinned and punched me in the arm. And were together again. And I am lucky to have such great friends.

Tomorrow, I start my sophomore year of high school. And believe it or not, I'm really not afraid of going. I'm not sure if I will have time to write any more letters because I might be too busy trying to "participate."

So, if this does end up being my last letter, please believe that things are good with me, and even when they're not, they will be soon enough.

And I will believe the same about you.

Sincerely,
Heero
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comments? feeback?? anything, please???

*znma havok