Soldiers and Fools
Part 05 -- Buried Treasure
(kodoku na okami)
(Sometimes soldiers find weaknesses. Sometimes fools are surprised by what they find.)
Heero had come to hate homework. It wasn't the homework itself. It was--
"Um, can you give me a hint on number twenty-five?" Duo asked.
It was the desk. "Subject?" The desk had a large, square top and seats for two people facing each other.
Heero was still trying to figure out why Duo had to make all those unnecessary sounds around his words. "Physics," would have been sufficient, but Duo had to add an "Ah" or an "Um" or an "Er" to everything he said, even in Japanese. He shifted mental tracks and found problem twenty-five in his memory. "An inclined plane."
Duo squinted at the problem as if that would help him see it better.
His head cocked to the left, then the right. He twiddled the end of his
braid between his fingers. Heero was rewarded with that look of sudden understanding
that Duo always got. Why had he watched for it? He'd seen it often enough.
"Oh, like my hair. It's straight, just twisted into a braid."
He thought about that for a second. "Close enough." Duo's mind ran in strange courses.
Heero went back to his English Literature homework. He didn't like literature classes in any language, especially when the instructor assigned composition pieces. He was writing a sonnet in the English Romantic style. He had no problem with the rigid rules of form, but the actual writing was... difficult. Five minutes passed as he squeezed out three more words.
"Um, hint on number thirty?"
Heero searched his memory. Problem thirty wasn't part of the assignment. Duo may have been a loud-mouthed idiot, but in the fifteen days and twelve hours they'd been sharing this room, Heero had learned he wasn't stupid -- and he didn't do unnecessary work. He looked up and saw Duo watching him.
"Anou. You, uh, seem to be concentrating awfully hard and not writing much."
"English. A Romantic-style sonnet." /Leave me alone. This is difficult enough as it is./ But he didn't say that. It would certainly provoke--
"Hey, can I read it?"
Funny. The boy was serious. He really wanted to read it. "It isn't finished." Heero tried to think of a better excuse but the paper slipped from his hands before he realized it.
/Damn the little thief's hands!/ Training redirected the anger. Heero slowly considered ten different ways of killing Duo with varying degrees of pain. "Duo, give it back."
Duo recognized the threat in Heero's voice. Most people wouldn't, but Duo's catalog of the subtle signs of the emotions Heero kept in tight rein -- /stabled is more like it/ -- had grown quite large. "Y'know, English is my first language. And I like the Romantic poets. I could, uh, help you with this." He looked at Heero, watching the almost-invisible twitches and twinges as Heero considered his offer -- contempt, faint surprise, disbelief, one he didn't recognize, careful considering. /Should be safe now./ "And the first thing is, um, war and bloodshed aren't exactly in the Romantic style."
"The Romantic poets wrote about nature." Duo looked at him, uncertain where he was going. "War is natural."
Duo's mouth quirked into a sad smile. "Not to the Romantics. They were interested in Nature with a capital 'N'. Y'know, uh, trees, grass, wind, clouds, water, ... and magic." He drew himself up and quoted, his voice different, deeper, passionate. "Come away, O human child! / To the waters and the wild / With a faery, hand in hand, / For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand."
Heero stared at him, eyebrows raised a hairbreadth. Duo watched him for a moment, then decided that must be surprise and added it to his list. "What is a faery? Did you write that?"
"I wish!" Duo laughed. "I draw. That's William Butler Yeats' 'Stolen Child'." He paused, staring through Heero into some unseen place.
They had covered Yeats in English Lit, but Heero knew that particular poem wasn't in their books. Duo must have memorized it. Maybe he did know something about this. If he was going to have to put up with the boy's mouth, maybe he could direct it to something useful. "So what should I write about in a Romantic sonnet?"
"Hmmmm?" Duo's eyes half-connected with the here-and-now. "Come with me." Before Heero could protest, Duo grabbed a pencil, a notebook and him and was dragging them out the door.
"Hnnnnn!" Heero jerked away.
"OH!" Duo retreated as if expecting a blow. "Ah, sorry?" His voice squeaked.
Heero contemplated a few more painful deaths, then shrugged. He was just trying to help even if he was being obnoxiously enthusiastic about it. "Lead," he ordered. Tension melted out of Duo's shoulders. Heero saw his hand move away from the pocket with the gun.
/Did he notice that?/ Each wondered.
They continued at a more sedate pace, Duo chattering away about Romantic philosophy and Heero three-quarters-ignoring him as he scanned for threats. Eventually, they came to a part of the park that seemed forgotten by everyone else. "Sit." Heero sat with feline grace, leaning against a tree. Duo flopped down unceremoniously beside him. "What do you see?"
Heero looked around. "Trees. Water. Grass. Birds. Dirt." He stopped, not certain what else to say, and looked at Duo. The boy was watching him and Heero could see he'd written words, Heero's words, in the notebook. Duo motioned for him to continue. Heero looked around again. "Sunlight on water. A pond. ... Cherry trees. Cherry blossoms. Ducks. Sparrows. ... Clouds." Duo was strangely silent. "That one looks like you." Heero wondered what was wrong with Duo -- he wasn't saying anything -- but he knew he wasn't supposed to look at him. "Wind blowing the cherry blossoms. I smell them too."
After a few minutes, Duo nudged him. "OK. Here's a list. Pick five things off of it." Duo had dutifully written down everything Heero had itemized. Heero had never noticed how neat the boy's handwriting was.
"Cherry blossoms. Sparrows. ... Sunlight on water. ... Wind. ..." Nothing else on the list seemed right. He was about to add dirt, when Duo said, "Four is good enough."
"You said five." He didn't like mission parameters changing underneath him.
Duo smiled, shaking his head. He'd had his own chance to see understanding begin to dawn as Heero had named things while he wrote. He liked it. "Rhyme and rhythm are the only formula in a sonnet. The rest is up to the writer. You could choose five or ten or four or even one thing on this list and still write a sonnet. Four is enough." He turned the page and wrote Heero's choices on a blank sheet tore it out and handed it to him, then wrote them again in the notebook. "Tell me about those things. English or Japanese. It doesn't matter which."
Heero stared at the paper. "Cherry blossoms are flowers from a tree of the genus--"
Duo punched him in the shoulder. "Look at what's around you." He slapped the paper. "A map is just a representation. It's useless if you don't see what it represents."
Heero looked, and slowly described the things he saw. Neither of them noticed the hours passing until the sky began to glow orange with sunset. Odd that his internal sense of time hadn't warned him how late it was. That didn't matter right now. "Can we add sunset?" Heero asked, almost a whisper.
Duo glanced up at him and froze as if he'd spotted a wary deer and didn't want to frighten it away. This wasn't the Heero he knew. This was, perhaps, the Heero beneath the soldier. The one he hoped to see more often. He liked this Heero -- very much. "Tell me about it and how it fits with the other things," he said, softly. Heero spoke and Duo wrote until the sky was dusted with stars.
"OK," Duo said, "that's enough. I'm gonna go blind if I try to write by starlight. Let's go back to the room." He stood and offered Heero a hand up. To his amazement, Heero took it and pulled himself up. Duo squinted in the darkness. Heero looked a bit, well, out of it. He laid a gentle hand on the other boy's elbow, guiding him as if he were blind until he felt Heero's steps return to their normal, assured pace and the elbow swung away.
"Don't lose that mind set just yet. There's more work to do." Heero looked at him, and Duo read the unspoken question. "You've got to go through three pages of description in English and Japanese and beat it into a sonnet form in English."
"You wouldn't want me doing your homework for you now, would you?" Duo flashed him a quick grin, not waiting for the answer he already knew. "I'll help if you need it." He handed Heero the notebook. "You go on and get started while I go get us dinner. Just take those pages and try to make the words fit a sonnet form. And remember what you saw when you said them. That's important. Chinese food?"
Heero nodded and watched Duo's braid disappear into the darkness. He knew something wasn't quite right. Duo had said almost nothing all afternoon and when he had spoken there was not an "Um" or "Uh" to be heard. /Strange,/ he thought.
He looked at the notebook. /His/ night vision was excellent and he saw the clean, flowing English letters Duo had written. There were little drawings beside many of the words, vignettes of the things he'd described. And the Kanji... /He has a hand worthy of haiku./ Heero decided he wasn't going to rectify this afternoon with his image of Duo -- not any time soon -- and he needed to finish this poem tonight. He walked up the stairs to the room, reading, and noted a tiny "DM-195" at the bottom of each sheet.
When Duo came in with dinner a half-hour later, he was surprised to see Heero laying on the top bunk. "Hey! I'm not gonna write that sonnet for you, Spandex Boy."
Heero ignored the taunt, simply pointing down at a piece of paper on the desk and watching as Duo read. When Duo's mouth dropped, something warm stole through Heero's chest, just long enough to feel before it hid again.
"Damn," Duo whispered. He read it again. "Damn. Heero, you wrote this? I mean, uh, yeah you obviously did, but... Well... Damn!" He shook his head, then grinned, "I'd've never guessed you had it in you."
Heero saw "lie" written all over Duo's face, but didn't know why it would be a lie. Duo laid the paper on Heero's dresser as if it were a fragile crystal ornament and set dinner out on the desk. "Um, let's eat. I'm hungry."
He yammered through the meal. Heero wasn't certain how Duo managed to eat and talk at the same time, but he did notice that "Um" and "Uh" were back. Things seemed to be back to normal, but Heero knew something had changed today. He just wasn't sure what.
Yes, strictly speaking Yeats was Celtic Revival, not Romantic, but he did go through a Romantic period and CR is (in my mind) a subset of the Romantic movement (like Stickley's "Mission" furniture is a subset of Arts and Crafts movement -- personally, I prefer Greene and Greene).