Soldiers and Fools
Part 07 -- Confutatis Maledictis (Judgement of the Damned)
(kodoku na okami)
(Sometimes fools strike truer than soldiers.)
The shell exploded behind his back and the world jumped.
Heero bolted upright in bed, wide eyed, sweat soaked, heart racing, mouth gasping for air, face unaccountably wet. /Just sweat,/ he told himself. Long seconds passed before his breathing and heartbeat were under control. He didn't know why he woke up like this some nights. It only happened after a mission.
/Because you're weak./ The soldier said. /I can make you strong. If you'd let me do more than fight the battles, this wouldn't happen./
A part of Heero was tempted by the offer, but another part he'd never quite understood warned him against it. It was the part of him that wanted to be human one day. He trusted that part more than he trusted the soldier and chose to review the mission in his mind instead of answering the soldier's proposal.
The afternoon's mission had been simple. He and Duo had destroyed the only factory in Asia that made hip and knee joints for Leos, putting a major dent in Oz's parts supply. That was good. In the old days armies may have marched on their stomachs, but now they marched on spare parts. His thoughts paused as he listened to Duo breathing. He couldn't tell if he was asleep or awake. /He's getting too good at that./ Heero had caught him practicing a couple of times, but lately, it had been harder. Before long, Heero knew Duo would have mastered that little trick. Maybe it would serve him well sometime.
He slid his legs over the edge of the bed and sat there, trying to decide if he should go over to the sink and wipe his face with a cool washcloth. It would feel good to get the sweat -- it was only sweat -- off his face. His throat felt dry, almost raw. Maybe some water too.
A soft touch on his heel. "Heero?"
Adrenaline surged. His heart raced. He jerked his legs back up onto the bed. /Damn him! Damn him! DAMN HIM! He was awake. Whydoyoucare? Idon'tknow./ The soldier was silent. He didn't have to speak. Heero could feel his mocking smile.
"Heero, are you OK?"
Duo's head appeared from the lower bunk. Light reflected off his eyes, the eerie sheen making Heero wonder for a moment if his nickname, Shinigami, wasn't truth. In battle, there was little dou-- Heero strangled the thoughts as he heard the soldier's soft snicker. He could do this alone if he had to. Control. He concentrated. Control. His heart slowed again. He moved his focus to Duo's shoulder, an innocuous part of anyone's body.
"Daijoubu?" Duo's head moved further out of the bunk as if he might be about to get up.
Control. ... "Hai." Control. "I just wake up like that some nights." For some reason Duo winced at that, but at least he stayed where he was.
Duo had heard the glacier come crashing back in Heero's voice. "It was just a nightmare," Duo said. Before Heero could say anything he added, "I have them too." He saw Heero's head turn in the darkness. He couldn't see them, but he could feel the cold, cold eyes on him.
"I don't dream." He saw the look of disbelief on Duo's face. "I have never dreamed." Duo's head disappeared back into his bed. There was blessed silence. The soldier told him it was what he'd wanted, but somehow it didn't make him any more comfortable.
/Liar!/ Duo thought. /And that lie hurt you more than me even if you don't realize it. You didn't cry out, a good soldier wouldn't, but I listened to you whimpering and thrashing the sheets for five minutes. I would have climbed up and shook you awake if I'd thought you wouldn't have killed me before you knew what you were doing./
Instead he'd kicked the bunk above him. His foot was still sore, but he'd accomplished his mission. Now he had another. Heero needed to be reminded of the truth.
"Everyone dreams, Heero," Duo whispered to the wall, knowing Heero would hear him. Knowing Heero would think he didn't know it. "And soldiers' dreams are always nightmares. It's worst after a mission, when you've let the soldier do his job, killing and destroying, and then you pretend to be human again. You dream each one of them at the moment you killed them. You wake up, wanting to run, but you don't know how to run from yourself, crying, but you don't know which of you you're crying for. And all you really want is..." He stopped, frowned.
He wasn't sure what he wanted. Maybe peace. Maybe a chance to forget it all. Maybe hope. Maybe quiet. Maybe someone to hold him like Sister Helen had and make him think for a moment that he could be a real angel one day instead of a clumsy fallen angel waiting for the wings that he knew would never come. He had known what he wanted once. He was sure of that. But that was long ago when he was younger -- much younger. Somewhere along the way, he'd forgotten what it was. Somewhere in all the death and fighting and anger and pain... He fell asleep, right hand locked tight around the end of his braid, trying to remember what he wanted.
Heero lay in his bed, hands clasped behind his head, staring at the ceiling. He was certain Duo was asleep now. "Dreams are obstacles," he told the blank slab above him. He lay awake, thinking about what Duo had said, and wondering why he had stopped. For a moment he had thought Duo was going to tell him what he should want. He had been disappointed to hear the soft breathing start. He had known it wasn't a ruse. Maybe Duo had fallen asleep. Or maybe he was lost too. That kept him awake for the rest of the night.
Twice Duo's own nightmares came for him. Heero shook the bunk, stirring the boy just enough to break their hold. "Obstacles must be eliminated." One of them should get a good night's sleep tonight.
The soldier approved of the statement if not the sentiment.
Somehow Heero thought that was good.
In case you're wondering, "Confutatis Maledictis" is a movement from Mozart's "Requiem", as are "Lacrymosa" (tomorrow's installment) and "Benedictus" (part 12).