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Soldiers and Fools
Part 06 -- Hopeful Secrets
By LoneWolf
(kodoku na okami)

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(Sometimes simple gifts are the most precious. Sometimes fools find hope.)

Duo's soft snoring broke the last shreds of sleep from Heero's head. No classes today, but he did have some pre-calc homework to do. Now would be a good time, without Duo awake and talking at him. He crept down from his bunk, stealthy as moonlight, and ghosted across to the desk. He reached for his notebook, and froze. Someone had moved it.

He studied it. Carefully replaced, but slightly moved. He glared at his sleeping roommate. Duo was compelled to mess with his stuff. Heero repositioned the notebook to its proper place and opened it.

Someone -- Duo -- had put a page in the book. Heero unfolded it. It was twice the size of the pages in the notebook. His eyebrows rose. Beautifully drawn characters filled the stiff sheet of paper, spelling out the words of a poem in English. "William Butler Yeats" and "Stolen Child" were laid out neatly across the top of the page. Heero remembered it was the poem Duo had quoted to him last week. In the bottom, right corner was a tiny "DM-195". Heero remembered the shirt and the pages Duo had drawn for the sonnet and realized that must be how Duo signed his pieces. He'd never realized Duo was this good.

He read. "Where dips the rocky highland / Of Sleuth Wood ..." What kind of tree is sleuth wood? A hair-thin line led to a picture in the margin -- a tree-covered crag overlooking a still lake. Oh, a place. Other images filled the margins and spaces of the paper. Maybe he wouldn't need an encyclopedia. He could remember all the biographical details of the Celtic Revival poet from English Lit, but they didn't fit with anything he really knew. He read on.

Where dips the rocky highland
Of Sleuth Wood in the lake,
There lies a leafy island
Where flapping herons wake
The drowsy water-rats;
There we've hid our faery vats,
Full of berries
And of reddest stolen cherries.

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.

Where the wave of moonlight glosses
The dim grey sands with light,
By far off, furthest Rosses
We foot it all the night,
Weaving olden dances,
Mingling hands and mingling glances
Till the moon has taken flight;
To and fro we leap
And chase the frothy bubbles,
While the world is full of troubles
And is anxious in its sleep.

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.

Where the wandering water gushes
From the hills above Glen-Car,
In pools among the rushes
That scarce could bathe a star,
We seek for slumbering trout
And whispering in their ears
Give them unquiet dreams;
Leaning softly out
From ferns that drop their tears
Over the young streams.

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.

Away with us he's going,
The solemn-eyed;
He'll hear no more the lowing
Of the calves on the warm hillside
Or the kettle on the hob
Sing peace into his breast,
Or see the brown mice bob
Round and round the oatmeal-chest.

For he comes, the human child,
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
From a world more full of weeping than he can understand.

The words and images stirred him in ways that were at once familiar and alien, but the refrain Duo had quoted resonated deeply within him, especially the shift at the end. "For he comes, the human child," he whispered.

/Who cares about being human?/ the soldier whispered. /This is a war./

"I care. I want to be human one day," Heero mumbled softly. He knew he needed the soldier now, for the months or years that the secret war dragged on, but he didn't like the way the soldier wanted to own him. The soldier wanted him to be nothing else, just a weapon. That was what he needed to be now, but later. Maybe when it was all over he could be something else.

Beside the last refrain was a picture of a dark-haired boy being led into the moonrise by a long-haired, winged figure. He knew what it was. He'd looked up faeries in the encyclopedia three days ago. He allowed a sigh to escape his control. Then he noticed the faery's hair was braided.

The room was quiet.

Duo's soft snore started again.

Heero looked up, watching him. He really seemed to be asleep.

He studied the paper again for long minutes. /What are you trying to say, Duo?/ He shook his head, then took the page and walked over to his dresser. From the bottom drawer, he pulled a small, flat box from beneath a blanket and slipped the page in with the battered flower, a scrap of worn fake fur, a bullet with a red tip and three sheets of notebook paper covered with words and pictures. /Why do I keep these things?/

/Because you're weak,/ the soldier whispered. /Because you're stupid enough to think you can live a normal life one day./

/I will, you bastard. Just wait./

Silence again.

He didn't raise his head, but turned his eyes to the mirror over the sink, watching Duo's reflection. /Still asleep, just not snoring anymore./ He put the box away and returned to the desk. Pre-calc was calling.

When Heero's pencil started scratching figures on the paper, Duo half-opened his eyes again and smiled. He'd decided he liked Heero Yuy, even Heero Yuy the Perfect Bastard. And the poem... Well, he'd seen Heero's face as he read it and tried to figure out the meaning. Heero's vaunted control wasn't nearly as good when he thought no one was looking.

/If I keep working on you, Heero, you just might end up getting your wish some day./ He knew Heero was human, had seen him make mistakes and get angry and even apologize, but he understood. Heero wanted to learn how to be a normal human. It wouldn't be easy.

/Wouldn't that be a laugh? Death heals a soldier./ Duo had been trying to be a normal human for a long time and had yet to succeed. He wasn't sure he could teach something he didn't understand, but he wanted to try. Of all the pilots, Heero was probably the most innocent of the lot. The others, including himself, had chosen their role in the war in some form or another. Heero's had been chosen for him. He'd never really had a chance to know what he was getting into or what he was giving up. He had been made into a soldier -- had, from what Duo had been able to dig out and guess, never really known much else. Heero most deserved someone trying for him, and it looked like Duo Maxwell, the Fallen Angel, Shinigami was the only one around to do it.

He closed his eyes again, thinking. In Celtic mythology one of the Morrigan's faces was a fertility goddess. /Maybe I can give Shinigami another face too./ He nodded, but he was too close to sleep to actually move his head. /A chance to make up for some of the horror I've brought into the world. A chance for.../ His fingers tightened around the cross on his chest. /Maybe./ Duo wasn't sure he believed in redemption, certainly not for a person as complicit in his sin as he was. Certainly not for a fallen angel. As cousin Sleep claimed him, an old memory fluttered through his mind.

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Sister Helen sat, holding him on her lap as she tended the cut over his eye that he'd earned while taunting an Alliance soldier on the street today. "Little angel," she said softly as she finished taping the wound.

"Little /fallen/ angel, you mean." He had no doubts about his position. He shouldn't have been taunting the soldier. Hell, he shouldn't have even been out on the street in the first place. It was his own damn big mouth that had gotten him hurt. One of these days, maybe he'd learn to control it.

"No." She smiled and hugged him. "An angel waiting for wings."

He had no doubts, except the times when she smiled and hugged him.

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Heero looked up as the soft snore started again. Duo would have recognized the glimmer of suspicion had he been awake, but he wasn't. Heero wondered why he was smiling, decided it didn't matter, then went back to his homework.

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Well, I warned you Yeats was going to make a major appearance. Oh, you thought the passing reference was all? BUWAHAHAHAHA!

The contents of the box were settled long ago, so it was interesting to see the guesses that brushed against the edges, but weren't quite there. <g>

And someone guessed Duo had done the Fallen Angel shirt himself, but thought they were wrong. You were right. <g>

For the non-Celtophiles, in Celtic mythlogy the Morrigan is the goddess of battle and strife, queen of the ravens that attend the battlefield and eat the dead. She has two other aspects, one of which includes significant fertility goddess features.

Loreena McKennitt's rendition of Yeats' "Stolen Child" on her album "Elemental", is haunting. You'll likely not forget it soon. Yeats would approve. You can get a sample at her website -- www.quinlanroad.com.