10-8-1999

This is a possible ending/continuation/sequel to the songfic "Swim." I left the end of Swim very open because I wanted everyone to be able to decide what the ending was on their own...but then I found that I really wanted to write one of the potential endings I envisioned. Keep in mind that this is only a possible ending...anyone is actually perfectly welcome to write their own, and I might write another ending in the future if I feel like it. Actually, anyone that wants to write an ending is very welcome to do so.
The mood/feel of this story is going to be very different from that of Yundah and Swim. While the writing is still in first person, the viewpoint has, of course, shifted. It's gone from being more of a psychological piece to an exploration of what could have happened, I think.

Thanks to Steph who suggested the song and the lyrics, as well as helped me get started.

Even more thanks to Jacque and Rick, my long suffering proof-readers. May blessings rain down upon them for putting up with me.

A little about the song: "All Soul's Night' has to be on of my most favorite Loreena McKennitt songs of all time. I guess I'm moving back toward celtic music with this one. ;) This is a little description/something about the song that I feel is important: "This piece was inspired by the imagery of a Japanese tradition which celebrate the souls of the departed by sending candle-lit lanterns out on waterways leading to the ocean, sometimes in little boats; along with imagery of the Celtic All Souls Night celebrations, at which time huge bonfires were lit not only to mark the new year, but to warm the souls of the departed."

Disclaimers: Hints of yaoi and male/male relationships, some angsting, a teensy bit of Relena bashing. The characters belong to who they belong to and not me. I'm not worth suing.

--KnM

 

All Soul's Night

 

AC 208

It had been ten years since the first of my friends disappeared. I was surprised to find myself thinking of it, after such a long time. But then again, I never have been able to let go easily. Not of the things I care for. Or the things I hate.

With each passing year, it gets harder and harder to let go. I lost so many things to the war; Meiran, my home colony, my self. When it was over, all I had left were the other pilots, and a few people that had fought with us or against us. In my mind, I made them into my family, the replacement for all that I had lost.

Ten years makes all the difference.

Contrary to my own former beliefs, no human can live in a vacuum, subsisting on his ideals alone. Not if he wants to remain sane and human. Everyone needs outside contact, friendship, and a sense of belonging to someone or something.

Without that something to be supported by and to cling to, there will be no peace.

Ten years.

It's such a short phrase to say. It sounds almost insignificant, when you think about it. Simple words are deceptive. Like simple appearances.

Ten years is a long time. It can rot a person from the inside out, or make them into someone else entirely.

It's a long time to pursue something, especially when you find yourself no closer to the answer than you were ten years before.

[Bonfires dot the rolling hillsides
Figures dance around and around]

I rubbed my eyes, trying to clear them. They were burning with fatigue, complaining loudly about the long, unbroken session of screen watching I was putting them through. I wasn't terribly thrilled myself. Since the war, I've found myself preferring action, any action at all, to passive watching and waiting. Staring at a monitor for several hours did not fit the bill in any way shape or form. It gave me the curious sensation that I was filled with too much energy while at the same time dead on my feet. Not my preferred state of being.

A door opened behind me, and I sat back, relieved at the interruption, no matter how brief it would turn out to be. "Good afternoon, Zechs." I said simply. I could see his reflection in the screen.

"Afternoon." Zechs took that as the invitation to talk that it was, and sat down on top of the desk behind me.

When we first began to work together, we'd made a very tentative truce, and spent most of our time avoiding each other. I'm not certain when the truce became real, or when we'd become friends. It just was, and I was grateful for it.

I leaned back slightly in my chair. "I thought you had a meeting." I remarked. Another invitation. I could see by his reflection that his shoulders were tense

"I do." he said grimly. "I'm giving my sister a minute to cool down."

I nodded. It made sense now. Relena and Zechs, too, had a tentative truce. Theirs had never developed into anything more, though. Relena, I think, was angry over Zechs' actions during the war, though she would never stoop to admitting to it. Zechs didn't help matters by officially changing his name from Milliard. They weren't exactly the picture of familial bliss, though I couldn't really see either one being to blame for the situation. Relena was one of the most stubborn, frustrating women it has ever been my misfortune to deal with. Zechs is as unwavering as me when it comes to his chosen beliefs.

"What's she on about now?" I asked, not really all that curious. Relena had meetings with her brother at least three times a week over various matters, most of which I really didn't care about. Zechs didn't normally get visibly frustrated, though.

Zechs sighed. "Heero's disappeared. She's convinced that he's been kidnapped and wants us to look into it."

"So the Preventers are her marriage counselors now?" I asked with nonchalance I didn't feel. This particular bit of news was totally unexpected, and very disconcerting. Another disappearance.

Zechs wasn't fooled. We both knew it. But we could pretend. "Looks like it. I told her that I don't think abductions is even a possibility in this case. She doesn't like my opinion." He pinched the bridge of his nose. "I really don't have time for this. The paperwork on my desk must be knee high now."

I stood quickly and turned to face Zechs. "I'll take care of it."

His eyes widened. I don't think he'd been expecting that; there are, after all, some things that even good friends won't do for each other. This was different, though. "Go ahead." he said. "Just try not to offend her too much."

I smirked. "Yes, our budget is in her hands now, I know."

"She doesn't like you very much."

I walked toward the door. "The sentiment's mutual. Don't worry. I'll be civil."

[To drums that pulse out echoes of darkness
Moving to the pagan sound.]

I nodded to Relena as I entered the room. She watched me warily while I sat, remaining silent.

"So Heero's finally left?" I asked. Not the most tactful of things that I could have said, but not blatantly rude, either. I was feeling too tense at the moment to care about pleasantries.

"He didn't leave." Relena informed me coldly. "He was kidnapped."

"No." I said, just as coolly. "He left. At this point in time, even after ten years of soft life, you can't possibly believe that anyone could take Heero anywhere against his will."

"He wouldn't have just left." she repeated.

I think she was trying to convince herself. "Was there any evidence of a struggle, or have there been any demands?" I waited until she shook her head. "Then I am not going to treat this like a kidnapping. There's no need for it. What do you want us to do about it?"

"Find him."

I shook my head. "First of all, missing persons are not in our jurisdiction. Second, I won't be able to find Heero if he doesn't wish to be found, and neither will anyone else." I stood. I didn't really see the need to continue. Zechs might have had a compunction telling his sister no, but I had no such problem.

She opened her mouth to argue, and I sat back down with an internal sigh of frustration. I had a feeling that this was going to take a while.

[Somewhere in a hidden memory
Images float before my eyes]

 

AC 198

"Ne, Wu-man, whatcha up to?"

I glanced up for a moment, my fingers fumbling for another match. "Nothing of interest."

Duo bounded over to me, his braid almost slapping me in the face when he turned abruptly and sat. "I wouldn't have asked if I didn't think it was interesting." he said.

I growled something incoherent as the match caught, then was blown out by the wind. I discarded it into the steadily growing pile of little sticks that had suffered a similar fate. "Right now, I'm just trying to get a match to stay lighted!" I said.

"Here." Duo cupped his hands to make a shield from the wind. I nodded and lit another match. This time, it continued to burn long enough for me to light the wick of the fat red candle I had sitting beside me. A paper lantern cover went over the candle, and I shook the match out.

"Thanks." I said.

"That's cool." Duo remarked, poking experimentally at the lantern. I lightly slapped his hand away so that he couldn't tear the paper, and he stuck his tongue out at me. "What's it for?"

"Memory." I said shortly, before I picked up the lantern. I nodded my head toward the nearby beach, certain that Duo would be able to see the gesture in the weak but steady candle light.

He looked toward the lake and let out a soft exclamation of surprise. A few miles out, the night was full of lanterns, tiny flickers of illumination bobbing up and down on the gentle roll of the tide. The light flowed from the shore a few miles down from us in a steady stream softly glowing lanterns that were drifting their way toward the horizon.

I could hear the distance muffled sounds of the people that had released those guiding lights, further down the shore. No one would notice mine among the large numbers of lights that already floated in the ocean.

No one but the ones that mattered, that is.

I carried my own tiny message toward where the water met the beach. Duo followed behind me. "Do this often?" he asked.

"Often enough." I said. I kicked my shoes off and left them behind. The sand was warm between my toes.

He paused to take off his own shoes, then caught up with me. "By yourself?"

I snorted. "Of course."

[Of fragrant nights of straw and of bonfires
And dancing till the next sunrise.]

 

AC 208

I glared at the monitor. It seemed to be unimpressed; it didn't do anything, and the information displayed on it didn't change. I sighed and rubbed my eyes.

After the argument with Relena, I had found myself alone in the office. Apparently, we'd been fighting far longer than I'd thought. All the better, though. My terminal was still on; I'd used it to bring up the file that had been made nine years ago, a year after Duo had first disappeared.

I could still remember the call I'd gotten from Hilde. My confrontation with Relena had been uncomfortably similar.

I'd begun a computer query on Duo at her request. If he'd had any contact with anything that would put him on record, the query would turn it up. I'd even listed all of Duo's aliases for the computer, though normally the program didn't need them.

The results showed nothing.

It was impossible.

That meant in ten years, Duo had completely avoided pretty much...everything. It couldn't be possible, unless he really was dead. I couldn't make myself believe that possibility, however. If Duo had died, I would have felt it somehow, that I was sure of. I was sure of it when any of the other pilots were concerned. We were all to closely connected for it to be otherwise.

I wouldn't believe that possibility.

[I can see the lights in the distance
Trembling in the dark cloak of night]

 

AC 195

An agonized scream tore itself from my throat as I watched my colony disintegrate into a cloud of pathetic metal scraps in the wake of the firestorm surrounding it. I continued to scream, losing myself in the cold light of the stars.

/There is no justice!/

I could feel my screams becoming words, feel Nataku fighting around me. More fire lit up my vision until I was alone in the middle of a scrap cloud, surrounded by the metal corpses of my enemies and my home.

Alone.

I pulled the safety harness off and curled myself into a little ball so that I could no longer see the wreckage or the stars, only darkness. I couldn't even close my eyes; every time I did, I saw the fire, again and again... A hoarse sob tore itself from my throat, and I clenched my hands into fists until the nails cut into my palms. I would not cry. Warriors did not cry.

But my cheeks were wet. There was blood on my hands.

/There is no justice!/

I closed my eyes. There was the fire, eating everything. Destroying my home, my family, my enemies...

...me.

[Candles and lanterns are dancing, dancing
A waltz on All Souls Night.]

 

AC 186

I waded into the water until I caught up with the bent old Japanese man. He moved a great deal faster than he looked capable of. By the time I stood at his side, the paper lantern he'd been carrying was already drifting out into the water, glowing softly and scattering sparks of light to catch on the ripples made by the koi feeding at the lake's surface.

We stood in silence, surrounded by the soft sounds of the water as the lantern drifted further away, toward the other shore of the lake.

The old man was a traveler, one that claimed to be on a journey with no specific destination. I'd heard him and become fascinated by the way that he spoke, and the ideas that he spoke of. For the last few days, I had sought him out and simply talked to him. If he found the fact that one as young as me had such initiative surprising, he gave no sign.

"What is that, sensei?" I finally asked, the Japanese words feeling strange and awkward in my mouth. It was not a language I used often, and I was still uncomfortable with it.

"A lantern, Wufei. What else does it look like?" the old man smiled, his face becoming a mass of wrinkles. I knew him by no name other than "sensei."

I shook my head. I could feel him testing me, teasing me with knowledge. "It must be more, sensei." I said. "Everything you do is deliberate. This must have a purpose."

"Why not just because it is beautiful? Or perhaps it is just the whim of an old, homeless man."

Once again, I shook my head, balling my small hands into fists. I disliked being toyed with. I said nothing, though. If I lost my temper, I would not learn anything at all.

The old man laughed softly. "The first time I visited this colony, it was before you were born. People used to burn incense and paper in great quantities. It clogged the air system badly."

"So now we burn candles?"

"Now, you burn nothing. I am alone with my candles, because I am a traveler and cannot be tied to one place."

The lantern was a tiny spark now, dancing carelessly along the edge of the dark water. Something deep inside of me danced with it, filling me with an odd bittersweet sensation as the lantern disappeared.

"I know that there must be more." I finally said. "It speaks to me and says that the beauty is for something."

Finally, the old man nodded. "It is." he said, his eyes glittering oddly. "It is for memory."

[Figures of cornstalks bend in the shadows
Held up tall as the flames leap high]

 

AC 208

I considered my options carefully. There was only one option that I could think of that might possibly help me find Duo. The official query had been going on for nine years. According to the law, a person could be declared legally dead after seven consecutive years of non appearance in records if a loss of hope was shown. If I cancelled the query, that would most definitely be seen as a loss of hope. Duo would be dead, and I would have access to his personal possessions as well as his next of kin information.

For a moment, I hesitated.

When I found him, I could always restore his records. Bring him back to life.

I terminated the query.

[The green knight holds the holly bush
To mark where the old year passes by.]

I couldn't help but laugh as I leaned in the doorway of my tiny apartment. The floor was covered with boxes of all sizes, each labeled with Duo's sloppy handwriting. I had asked for Duo's personal possessions. It hadn't even occurred to me that there would be so many...or that they would already be boxed up and waiting in a long-term storage facility on the L2 colony. They'd been waiting, completely untouched, for ten years.

I hadn't even considered that I might be Duo's next of kin. The list of relatives had been short; me, Trowa, Quatre, Sally Po, Hilde. Strangely enough, Heero's name didn't appear on the list. I guess that I simply hadn't thought of the possibility that, like me, Duo's only family were the people he knew, that he had no blood relations left. I supposed that Trowa's next of kin list would look like that, though, and Heero's. None of us had families.

But I was the only one that was alone.

I shook my head. My apartment was very small, only two rooms; a bathroom and the main room. My futon, my swords, a few books, a tiny kitchen area, the practice mat, the clothes in my closet...that was my life. I found it strange that I'd had ten years longer than Duo to acquire memories and possessions, yet everything I owned would barely fill two of his boxes.

[I can see the lights in the distance
Trembling in the dark cloak of night]

 

AC 204

"Wufei!"

With a faint smile, I looked up from the book that I had been reading to see Trowa and Quatre coming toward me across the richly carpeted floor of the Relena's library. I'd been forced to attend an official function by Sally, for what reason, I still had no idea. I'd escaped the annoying crowds almost immediately and headed for the library. It had been a long time since I'd seen so many books before, and I took every opportunity I had to go to them and absorb their knowledge, reacquaint myself with my old friends.

"We found you!" Quatre beamed, stopping beside the chair that I had dragged over to the bookshelves.

"Aa."

"We knew where to look." Trowa said quietly. He stood next to Quatre, one arm loosely around the other man's waist.

I set down the book, carefully marking my page. I was always happy to see Quatre and Trowa. They produced their own light, driving away and shadows that dared to get close to them. They were warmth that I could hold my hands over for a little while, until the cold was chased away.

I would not feel jealous of them. It was an unworthy emotion.

We exchanged pleasantries before finally cutting to the heart of the matter. "Have you seen Heero lately?" Quatre asked, his voice worried.

"When I came in, yes."

"Does he look...happy?"

I snorted softly at that question. "Has he ever looked happy? I can't say that I've seen any change." Quatre gave me a faintly disapproving look, and I immediately sobered. "No, I don't think he is happy. I think he's lost."

Quatre found Trowa's hand, and their fingers twined together. "Wufei?"

"Aa?"

"Have you heard anything new about Duo?"

I raised my eyebrows. "You would have been the first to know. Why?"

Quatre squeezed Trowa's hand gently. "I don't think Heero is lost. I think he's looking for Duo."

[Candles and lanterns are dancing, dancing
A waltz on All Souls Night.]

 

AC 195

I lay on the cold floor of the cell and concentrated on regulating my breathing and my heartbeat, keeping my muscles relaxed. I'd felt as if Heero was waiting for something. It hadn't been hard to figure out that he was waiting for me to sleep.

“You got captured.” Heero said quietly.

“Yeah, looks like it.” Duo coughed softly, and I heard him spit. “No worries, though. I know you’ll get us out of here. Heero Yuy, Perfect Soldier AND escape artist!” he giggled.

“Baka.”

“Am not.” Duo protested.

“Yes you are.” Heero replied. I heard the soft whispering of cloth moving, and Duo's quiet, pained yelps. Heero must have picked him up or helped him sit up.

“Thanks man. The floor was getting uncomfortable.”

“How badly are you hurt?” Heero asked quietly.

“It’s not as bad as it looks.” Duo chuckled softly, a hitch in his voice. “My ribs hurt like a bitch, though. I think a few of them might be broken.”

“Let me see.”

I wondered why Heero had felt the need to wait until I was supposedly asleep. The only time I'd ever been blind was with my own denial. I could see easy truths without any effort at all.

I'd seen them together.

[Bonfires dot the rolling hillsides
Figures dance around and around]

 

AC 208

Thus far, the boxes had proved completely useless. There were several full of nothing but old clothing. None had identifying tags of any sort, not that I thought they would help. A few more had been filled with old manga. What I was going to do with that, I had yet to determine. I pulled another box across the floor. It was smaller and lighter than the rest.

There were photos in it.

Heero and Duo in their school uniforms, Duo with his arm draped over Heero's shoulders, Heero looking as if he were preparing to hit Duo.

Duo and Quatre, drinking tea.

Quatre and Trowa, holding hands and smiling at the camera. Another of them, sitting side by side on a couch, both asleep and leaning against each other.

Heero, wearing his gym shorts and shirt and holding a basketball. Another of him staring into a shop window, at a display that had a stuffed bear in it. Another, of him sitting on a park bench, staring up into the clear, blue sky. I carefully put the pictures of Heero back. I felt like a voyeur, an unwanted intruder into Duo's life.

There was another picture; one of me. I picked it up. I had no idea when Duo had taken it. I was sitting by Nataku, my back resting against the Gundam's foot. I was smiling. It seemed strange to me that I couldn't remember when this was. It seemed to me that it should have stuck in my memory; I didn't smile often enough for such occurrences to be easy to forget.

I turned the picture over in my hands. There was a short note written on the back of it in ink. It said, "Wu--I figure if anyone's going to find this, it'll be you. Don't worry, I'm still alive and kicking unless something unforeseen has happened, and I'm happy. Do me a favor and watch out for Heero. He needs some help figuring things out. And if you want, drop by some time and let me know that you're ok."

I carefully set the photo down and covered my face with my hands.

Duo had known he wouldn't be coming back. But he said he was happy, and alive.

I wished I could believe him.

But now Heero was gone too, and I was afraid.

The next box was where I found the only clue. There were more pictures in it; pictures of dolphins, and of sunsets, and the ocean. There were also a few odd pebbles of black basalt.

[To drums that pulse out echoes of darkness
Moving to the pagan sound.]

 

AC 209

The rocks and the pictures had given me a general idea of where Duo had gone. It had been a simple matter of mineral analysis and a hard look at a few maps. I soon found myself on the coast of Ireland, sitting in one of the numerous little pubs that seemed to be the country's main means of support. I was tired; I'd gone for almost a week with no sleep, driving myself until I had found a fairly small area to search in.

I took a small sip of the beer that the elderly bartender had thumped down in front of me and grimaced. I didn't tend to like alcohol in any of its forms, but this was one of the worst I'd ever tasted. Still, since I hadn't ordered the beer and the tender hadn't yet said anything about me paying for it, It would have seemed rude to not drink it.

I wondered if Heero had sat in this same pub and perhaps even drunk from the same glass two months ago, when he had disappeared. It was an intriguing possibility, though more than a little disconcerting. I felt around in my pocket until I found one of the photos. It was the picture of Duo and Heero. I slid it across the bar, to the tender. He looked down at the picture and then raised an eyebrow. "Ever heard the legend of the selkie, boy?"

I glanced up at the bartender. He grinned at me, revealing several missing teeth. I shook my head.

“Seal women, laddie. They shed their skins on t' full moon and become human. Fascinatin' tale.”

"What does that have to do with anything?" I asked pointedly.

"Just strikin' up a conversation, m' boy." The tender leaned against the bar. "Yer not showin' me this picture fer my health, now are ye laddie?"

I nodded. "Of course."

"T' dark one was here, 'bout a month ago. Never seen t' other." He pushed the photo back to me, then started wiping the bar down.

"Do you know where he went?" I asked.

"No."

I resisted the urge to curse. "Did he talk to you about anything?"

"Yah. Listened to m' story 'bout the selkies. Asked 'bout dolphins."

"Dolphins?" I carefully set the mug of beer down.

"Aye. They help sailors weather storms."

I finished the mug of beer through an act of sheer willpower. "Anything else?" The bartender shook his head, and I headed for the door, my stomach complaining quietly about the alcohol.

The bartender called after me. "Go catch yerself a selkie, boy. Ye look like ye need one."

[Standing on the bridge that crosses
The river that goes out to the sea]

That night, I dreamt, for the first time in a long time. I heard two men laughing, and I knew who they were. I followed them out to the ocean and watched the dolphins play.

I woke when it was barely after midnight, and pulled my clothes on. I was almost sick when I got out of bed; my head was swimming, and my stomach's complaints had become much louder. The beer was not sitting well.

I could still hear the phantom laughter of my dreams, and I followed it, ignoring how foolish I felt. I was staggering with fatigue; sometimes I think that it is better to not sleep at all, rather than just begin to rest and be woken up.

I couldn't tell how long I walked, or where I went; everything was a haze. When I woke up again, I was on the beach. A rock of black basalt jutted up under the soft moonlight. I climbed up onto it, ignoring the water that soaked my clothing.

When I reached the top of the rock, I looked out over the dark water of the ocean. It was a mass of delicate silver designs as the water gently rolled. I heard splashing out in the distance, and I saw shapes that shone like the moonlight leap from the water.

They could only have been dolphins. I remembered the pictures that I had found in Duo's belongings. Nothing else could look that joyful.

I watched them for a long moment as they came closer to the beach. I thought I heard the happy laughter again, and I shivered, suddenly alone. I was tired of being alone. I could hear Heero and Duo; the part of my family that I'd been missing, what I'd been searching for.

I'm not sure if I stepped off, or if I fell. There was a shock as I hit the icy ocean water, and then dreams.

[The wind is full of a thousand voices
They pass by the bridge and me.]

 

AC 198

"Don't be stupid, Wu. You're not alone. I'm here."

I didn't deign to answer. Instead, I walked into the water. It was slightly chilly, but still warm enough that I could stand to be in it. I moved forward until that water was waist deep, and there, I released the lantern. "Some day, you'll leave. Everyone does, whether they intend to or not." I said, quietly.

"That's even dumber." Duo followed me out into the water. The wake he made sent my lantern drifting quickly away. "I'm always going to be around, some form or another, unless you forget me. But you don't forget anything." He laughed. "We're all going to be around. You can't get rid of us."

[I can see the lights in the distance
Trembling in the dark cloak of night]

"Hn." I watched the lantern move away, more quickly now. "I don't know how you do it, Duo." I finally said.

"Do what?"

"Be you."

"It's easy, man." Duo laughed. "You just got to let it all go."

[Candles and lanterns are dancing, dancing
A waltz on All Souls Night.]

 

AC 208

The next thing I knew, I was in the hospital. The moment I awoke, I was bombarded with messages, most of them angry, and accusing me of being stupid. I found it funny. I hadn't intended something like that to happen.

I was glad, though. I had seen the dolphins.

There was another surprise for me, though the biggest had been waking up at all. On the bedside table, someone had left me a present. It was a small gold cross necklace like the one that had belonged to Duo. Under it, I'd found a note, written on part of a paper napkin in blue ballpoint pen. The handwriting on it was very neat. It said, "Next time, remember your water wings if you can't figure out how to swim."

[I can see the lights in the distance
Trembling in the dark cloak of night]

I was able to check myself out of the hospital that day. As soon as I had escaped the clutches of the doctors, I called Sally.

"Wufei! I'm glad to see you've recovered from your little stunt."

"Aa." I said tiredly. "It was worth it."

"Did you find out anything?" She went immediately on the alert. Sally has always had an interest in keeping an eye on us all. I should have thought of the fact that she would be worried about Heero, and that her worries over Duo would have been renewed by this.

"Aa." I said again. "Change their status to deceased." Her face paled, and I shook my head. "Save your tears for someone that will need them." She didn't cry, and I continued. "I haven't taken a day off in ten years, Sally. How much time do I have saved up?"

She didn't even have to think about it. "Almost a year and half."

"Perfect. I'm taking it all, starting now." I nodded to myself. Duo and Heero had found their answers, as had Quatre and Trowa. It was my turn to find mine.

[Candles and lanterns are dancing, dancing
A waltz on All Souls Night.]

That night, I went back to the rock at the edge of the ocean. There was no breeze; it only took one match to light the candle. I waded out into the freezing water that had almost killed me before.

I watched the dolphins leap and dance in the distance as my lantern drifted away, its light warm against the cool black and silver of the ocean.