Well, you know me. Never can seem to work on just one fic at a time. <g> Yes. Inspired by another song from Sarah Brightman.
BGM lyrics are at the end.
When It Rains
(kodoku na okami)
COMMENTS: It wasn't going to be this long. <shrug> Oh well. I think they're in Washington (state) or Oregon in this story. It fits with some of the details, but it's just a guess.
BGM: "When It Rains In America" from Sarah Brightman's album "Dive".
WARNINGS: shonen ai, moody
It is raining outside.
I can't see the rain. I can't hear it. I can't even feel it in the air. But I know it is raining. It was raining when we first came in, and every time one of us sneaked out for supplies, and every time we walked to the lobby to pay for our next day and get a newspaper. Growing up on L2, rain was rare and water precious. But now... Now, I wish it would just go the Hell away.
I feel trapped. I feel like I'm in a cage, waiting for someone to come get me and take me to the slaughtering pen. If I stop and think about it too long, I'll panic and... Breathe, Duo. Just breathe.
Rex Ho el. That's what the sign said. They should have rearranged the last four letters to spell "hole".
We are wanted. Our pictures are plastered all over the city. Oz knows they have us in the net along with the other four million people here, they just need to sift us out. That's why I brought us to this part of town. At the Rex Ho el and any of a hundred other places like it, no one asks questions as long as you pay your bill in advance. It's a dump, but that's what makes it a good place to hide.
It was Heero who maneuvered us into a basement room with no windows. Safer that way. But incredibly claustrophobic. Don't think about it. He also mapped three escape routes and drilled me on them so many times in the first two days I am sure I can follow them without thinking, even in the dark.
I wish I knew what the deal is with him. I know I love him. I just don't know if it goes beyond a "deep friendship" love or not. I'm open to the idea if it happens that way. He... I just can't figure out what he's thinking. I mean, on the one hand, he's looking out for me -- like the escape routes -- but, on the other hand, that could just be part of the mission. It is so hard to tell with him. Where does the mission end and Heero Yuy begin?
He's sitting there, fingers flying over the laptop. There isn't a phone in the room, so I know he isn't checking for assignments or anything like that. Maybe he's writing up reports or, Hell, for all I know, maybe he's writing a novel. He won't talk to me. Not that that is surprising. He never talks to anyone much unless he has something important to say. And I... I need someone to talk to me and say nothing right now. The silence is oppressive.
Yeah. I might as well be alone for all the company Heero is. I'm depressed. Oz is on my tail. The Colonies have abandoned me. Deathscythe needs major repairs. I hope to God I hid him well enough before skulking into town to meet Heero. I am completely out of touch with everyone who might be able to help me. And all I can do is sit and wait and pray that it'll all blow over so I can get away. This is the part of being a terrorist that I hate the most. The waiting.
Damn. Even the Colonies have turned against me. Is there even a reason to keep fighting?
I don't want to fight. I don't care about the Colonies. I just want out of this box. I want to be somewhere where I can see for more than fifteen feet without running into a wall. I want to be somewhere where there's air to breathe. I want-- Slow down, Duo. Keep breathing. Nice and deep. Steady. That's it. Don't panic.
I wish I understood you. Sometimes I see you start to say something to me, then you back away or say something that I know isn't what you started to say. I don't know why you do that. Isn't it almost a lie?
I know why I want to understand you, though. You can make me almost laugh -- come closer than anyone else ever has. Or almost cry. Or want to live. Or be willing to die for you. It scared me at first, then, over the months, I realized it was because I feel something for you that, somehow, made it past years of careful conditioning as if they never happened. I realized that what happens to you matters to me. I don't understand how. I don't even know what to call it.
Do you hate this place as much as I do? Do you wish it would stop raining? What do you really want? How many times have I seen you come too close to me? So close I thought you were going to touch me. Not to carry me because I was injured or to bandage a wound, but just because I was there.
But you always stop. I understand. You don't want to touch me. You might get blood on your hands. That sounds strange, but it is true. You call yourself an Angel of Death, but I could stain you because I am soaked in the blood of thousands of people I never knew, except as "enemy". You... that just washes off you. After the battle, you pick up and go on with the art of living, but I am always painted in shades of death and destruction. Isn't that why you always draw back?
What do you want? What do I want?
How should I know? All I've ever done is fight and kill or learn how to fight and kill. I talk and walk and move and act like a human, but I don't think I really am. The Perfect Soldier. A machine designed for war. And after the war? Well, maybe the solder can fit into the new world he brings about or maybe not. But it doesn't matter. I am just a machine and I can always be shut down.
Is that true? If it's true then how can I care--. That's the word for what I feel -- I think. How can I care about Duo? Or anyone? Maybe it isn't true. Or maybe it isn't what I think I feel. Or maybe I just think I feel and it's nothing more than a bunch of neurons firing in a random pattern that I don't understand. If that's true, then why bother? If nothing matters, even missions are meaningless.
There must be something more. There must be something worth something. I need someone to show me. I need someone to help me understand what I feel, because I don't. I never learned that. It isn't part of war. Soldiers and machines aren't supposed to feel.
But I feel something. I can't believe it's nothing. And you, Duo... you are part of that feeling.
Maybe I'm not a machine after all. Or maybe only part of me is a machine. The part of me that can type mission reports and assessments of Oz's tactics while the rest of me is thinking about feelings and futures and... friends?
Are you a friend? That could help. Friends feel certain things for each other. That could limit my choices for what I really feel.
No. That doesn't help. I've never had a friend before. I don't think I'll ever know if you really are my friend unless someone tells me. Maybe you'll tell me someday. Maybe you'll tell me if I'm your friend and what I feel.
Maybe you'll tell me what you feel. I know you feel. You weren't programmed like I was. I've heard enough from you to know your childhood wasn't normal, whatever that is, but at least you had one. I have always been an adult. Even now, I think I'm much older than you and the others, except, perhaps Wufei. Or maybe I'm younger. Maybe I haven't made it to childhood yet and I just think I'm older. Why do I want to know what childhood is?
I wonder what he feels right now.
He's laying on his bed, staring at the stained ceiling, glancing over at me occasionally. He looks miserable. I never learned miserable either. I guess that's good, because he looks like it is very unpleasant. It's too cramped for him. I never learned that either. I grew up in tiny rooms and cells. I know he isn't happy here. I can tell because he's so quiet. I am too. This is a bad situation. Oz has every way out of this city locked down. I know. I've been looking for a way out for two weeks, and every time I think I've found one, I see something. A checkpoint I missed, an inspection procedure I didn't notice before, a piece of paper we don't have. Something that makes it a trap instead of an escape.
This is why I don't like being partnered with him. If it was just me, I could take Wing and fly out shooting and take the risk. If I died, well, I would be just one more statistic in the war. Another dead soldier. But Deathscythe can't fly out. And even if it could, it's too badly damaged right now.
But we've got to get out of here. He's going crazy. I think I might be going crazy. Maybe that's what needs to happen. Maybe I need to go crazy and do something only a crazy person would do.
Oh, shit! He's hyperventilating again.
"Duo!" Heero slapped him gently on the face, getting his attention. "Duo! Breathe. Look at me. Breathe. See how I'm breathing. Breathe with me." Heero took long, slow, steady breaths and, held Duo's face, forcing him to watch. "Breathe with me." After a moment, Duo tried, struggling to join Heero's rhythm until he was in control again, breathing normally.
"Thanks, Heero," he said, then looked away, ashamed.
We have to get out of here. That's the third time today. It's getting worse. Something crazy. That's the only way. Something crazy.
There's only one way. And it is crazy.
"Get up. Get your stuff. We're leaving."
"Naaniiii? We can't leave. Oz has all the roads closed off. We-- We'll never get--." He began gasping again.
"Breathe, Duo." Heero breathed with him again, guiding him back to regular respiration, then said, "Fuck Oz. We're leaving. Get your stuff." He shut down the laptop and put it in his bag with the few clothes and books he'd brought with him.
"You've lost it, haven't you. You--"
"Hn. Maybe. But it's the only way we're going to get out of here." He began stuffing Duo's clothes in Duo's backpack.
"OK! OK!" Duo took the backpack from him and pulled the clothes out, folding them neatly before putting them back in. "Don't want to wrinkle them." Heero didn't say anything. He knew Duo was as close to insanity as he was and needed to grab at bits of the usual to keep himself together. He handed Duo clothes from the bedside table, letting him fold them and pack them.
Duo nodded. "Where are we going?"
Heero looked at him, cold, uncertain. "I don't know yet. Just away from here." He saw the apprehension in Duo's eyes. He understood it. It wasn't like him to have a plan that only went as far as "get to Wing and leave". He'd work something out on the way. The walk would be at least half an hour. Plenty of time to think about where to go.
"Wait." Heero said. He ran upstairs to the lobby and paid for one more day. It might throw off any pursuit. Not that they'd left any clues, but just in case. Returning, he found Duo, leaning against the wall, eyes closed, breathing carefully. "I'm back." Duo nodded at him, opening his eyes. "Now. Let's go."
He led Duo out by the second escape route -- a basement window. It had been painted closed, but he'd taken care of that the first day. Now, before closing it again, he pulled the can of paint he'd found in the basement and repainted the edges of the window. He could hear Duo's impatient pacing and nervous "C'mon. Hurry.", but ignored it. He finished the paint job and closed the window. It should take them a while to find that.
He knew he was being paranoid. There was no way knowing they'd left through the basement could help Oz find them, but he wasn't taking any chances. And he was a little afraid of the risk he was taking -- going off without a plan. He clung to the details he knew, seeking the security they offered. They were all he had right now.
Ducking into shadows and alleys and side streets, hiding in doorways, running when they had to, always staying out of sight, they made their way across the city to an abandoned submarine base in a part of town no one used anymore. Heero had flown Wing in literally centimeters over the waves, bringing it into one of the old boomer berths where it now floated, half-submerged. A roof designed to protect the subs from prying enemy satellites hid Wing from Oz's eyes. By the time they got there, Heero knew where he was going next and how he was going to get there. He could pull the specific coordinates once they were out of the city.
"Shit, Heero. How did you get him in here?" Duo asked, incredulous.
Heero didn't answer, just took Duo's bag and leaped from the quay onto the wing and cat-footed to the cockpit. He punched in the access code and the canopy opened. "Get in."
"Uh. There's only room for one. What about you? I'm not sure I can fly that thing."
"There's a jump seat behind mine. Get in or stay here." He knew it was a cruel, insincere threat, but Duo was about to talk himself out of it and Heero was damned if he was going to leave him here. He'd knock him out and stow him in the jump seat if he had to. It would be easier if Duo did it himself, though. The jump seat faced backwards and had less leg room than most airline seats. He dropped their bags behind his seat and folded the jump seat down over them.
Duo considered for a moment, then hopped across the water onto Wing. He was a good enough seaman that the waves rocking the Gundam didn't throw him. He walked casually over and inspected the space. It was tiny, cramped, and had no view. "Uh. Maybe--"
"Shut up and get in. Just think about how we're going to be out of here and it won't seem so small." Heero glared a warning at him. This was not an option.
It seemed Heero knew he didn't like small places. Duo frowned. Well, what could he expect after his display at the hotel, especially today. He took a deep breath, steeling himself and dropped into the space -- barely enough room for him to stand -- and sat in the seat. Heero adjusted the harness around him, tying him in so securely he could barely move. "Does it have to be this tight?"
Heero pushed a helmet onto Duo's head and nodded. "I don't want you bouncing around the cockpit distracting me if we get into a fight." And if he's strapped in tight, his movement will be limited so he might not notice how cramped it is. He jumped into the pilot's seat and began the pre-startup checklist. Close canopy. He skipped that step, leaving the cockpit open as he ran through rest of the checks, letting Duo get some of the fresh air they'd both longed for these past two weeks.
"What about Deathscythe?"
He began the engine startup list -- battery, generators, fuel pump, internal engine air supply, mix, throttle, ignition. A soft whine as the engines came to life. He listened to them for a moment. They sounded odd, but it was only because they were half underwater, muffled. He punched down the canopy and clipped the oxygen mask/microphone onto his helmet. "We'll come back for it after they realize we've escaped." It was so obvious. He should have done this a week ago. He looked in his rear view mirror and saw the back of Duo's head nodding. "Talk to me. I need to know you're... breathing." He'd almost said "not panicking", and knew Duo knew what he really meant, but "breathing" didn't sound as bad, and, Hell, with all his training, even *he* was on edge. He was surprised Duo had held together this long.
"OK. What do you want me to talk about?" Duo's voice was staticky
over the intercom. He'd never really tuned the jump seat gear because
he'd never thought he'd need it.
"Hn. I don't care. Just talk. But if I interrupt, listen and respond.
It means something important is happening."
"OK. How are we getting out of here?"
"Same way I came in, just ten meters lower." Heero wasn't sure
would work. Wing wasn't really designed for underwater operations,
but he couldn't just bolt out the same way he'd come in. Two weeks
was plenty of time for Oz to get a dedicated bank of satellites aimed
at the city. A fast-moving craft running just above the waves would
get their attention in a heartbeat. He edged the Gundam back from the
dock and let it settle into the water, listening for sounds of an
impending engine stall. Still the soft purr. Good. The water closed over the cockpit.
"Uh, Heero. How low is ten meters lower?"
"About ten meters under the surface."
"Don't think about it. Talk."
Duo talked. Heero let the machine part listen to Duo, monitoring him for signs of hysteria, and turned most of his attention to driving Wing slowly through the water. He didn't want to leave even a hint of a wake that Oz's satellites could follow.
After thirty minutes and twenty kilometers, he noticed he was burning too much fuel. Well, not surprising. There was a Hell of a lot more friction in water. He ran a quick estimate. Another ten minutes, then he'd have to break the surface and hope he was out of the focus area or getting them away would dig too far into Wing's reserves. Life would have been easier if he'd had Deathscythe's countermeasures. In some ways, the other Gundam was superior.
"OK." Duo said, then continued talking about playing soccer on L2 with the other children in the orphanage. Heero listened, really listened, envying the moment of childhood, then turned his attention back to the controls.
Gently, he raised Wing in the water, bringing it back to the surface, then over the ocean. He activated the terrain scanners and bumped up the throttle until Wing raced over the wave tops, occasionally jumping up as they faced a larger wave. Fourteen minutes searching maps, a set of coordinates chosen, he set their course and let the autopilot take over. He also set the controls so alerts would go to his helmet and visor display, but not Duo's. Duo didn't need to hear or see them.
"We're away," he said.
Duo sighed. "Good. I was getting tired of talking."
"Hn." Heero almost laughed. That reminded him of his thoughts earlier.
"Where are we going?" Duo asked.
Twenty minutes later, they crossed the beach and Wing began jumping up and down violently.
"Shit, Heero. What the Hell is going on?"
"Autopilot terrain following."
"Yeah, but even I know it shouldn't be this rough."
"It should if you're running a meter off the ground."
Duo was quiet for a moment, contemplating the almost non-existent margin for error. Then, "You're sure it works?" There was a hint of nervous and nausea in Duo's voice.
"We're not dead yet." Heero knew that wasn't exactly what Duo wanted to hear. "Yes. It works."
He reached under his seat and pulled out the knife he kept there to cut the parachute off of him if he had to eject. He held it against his side, feeling the edge sharp against his skin as he slit his tank top. He squirmed in his harness, pulling on the fabric.
"What're you doing?" The panic was building again.
At last, the strip of shirt tore free. "Here." Heero flipped it back to dangle over Duo's visor. "Blindfold yourself and keep your hands on your lap. It helps prevent motion sickness." And claustrophobia attacks.
There was silence for a moment, then Heero felt a tug and let go. He watched in his mirror as Duo struggled with the helmet. It touched the canopy before it cleared his head, but he was able to balance it against the back of the seat and tie the blindfold over his eyes. The helmet slipped down again. A moment later, Duo said, "That does help. Thanks."
He sounded calmer. That was good. "Hn. Don't want you puking in my cockpit." Heero thought for a few minutes, an idea forming, then said, "Tell me what feelings feel like."
"No one ever taught me about feelings. How would I know if I, say, cared about someone?" He waited, listening to the quiet again as Duo considered his question.
"I can only tell you how I would feel. When I care about someone, I want to see them happy and safe..."
They passed the time as Wing jerked over the ground, Heero learning how Duo felt things and correlating it with his own experience. He was missing some of the details Duo described, but Duo missed some of the things he did feel. Maybe that was what Duo meant when he said it was how *he* felt. Maybe different people felt the same emotions differently.
An hour later, an alert drew his attention from Duo's description of happiness. They were nearing the coordinates he'd chosen. "We'll be landing in one minute." Duo fell silent as Heero maneuvered Wing up a vertical wall, into the rocks, and side-slipped the Gundam under an overhang. He heard Duo moving behind him as he began the shutdown checklist. "Stay put. I'll help you out in a minute."
A few more switches and buttons, and the canopy lifted. He unbuckled his harness and pulled himself up in the seat, inspecting their hiding place. It should do for a few days. That should be enough. He looked around and had another idea. He was certain it was born of the something-not-the-machine in him, and chose to claim it as a sign he might be more than the sum of his training. He felt a faint upward twitch pass briefly over his lips.
"OK," he said, standing in his seat and pulling Duo's helmet off. As he reached for the strap releases, Duo's hands moved to the blindfold. Heero caught them. "Wait." Please. "You'll like it better if you wait." Do you trust me?
Duo frowned, then shrugged, too tired to argue. "OK." He let Heero lift him up and guide him out of the cockpit to the ground. They were on a hard surface of some kind. He could feel the wind blowing. It was warm. It smelled dry -- a welcome change from the rain. Heero led him to face into the wind. Then he felt Heero's hands in his hair, undoing the braid. "What the Hell are you doing?" he asked, uncertain.
"Damn it, Heero! I hate waiting!"
"Wait." Trust me.
He sighed, frustrated, then felt his hair blowing free in the wind, the strands whipping around his face, his body, flowing behind him, then coiling back against him again. It felt good, actually.
"OK," Heero's voice. Maybe three yards to his right. "Take off the blindfold."
Duo raised his hands and lifted the strip of green cloth-- To see the sun setting before him. He was standing near the edge of a small butte overlooking a sea of twisted rock formations and undulating sand which seemed to burn with the golden light. He watched it, awed for a moment, then turned to see Heero looking at him and-- Damn! He was smiling.
"You were tired of small places and rain. So was I. This seemed like a good change."
"I... Yes." He smiled. "It is." He beckoned. "Come stand beside me."
Heero shook his head. "I like watching your hair in the wind. It's like... something. It makes me feel... something I like feeling." He shrugged. An hour was scant time to learn everything about feelings.
"Come stand beside me." Duo said again. "And be my friend."
Heero's smile vanished. His lips parted slightly. It was the closest Duo had ever seen him come to drop-mouthed shock. He beckoned again and Heero walked over slowly, as if under a spell, and stood beside him.
He felt Duo's hair twining against him, around him. Then Duo's arm closed around his waist, pulling him closer. Duo had said they were friends. "The view is... better here," he muttered. If they were friends, what he felt could only be one of a few specific things. He began comparing Duo's descriptions to his new, smaller list.
"The desert gets cold at night," Duo said, looking straight up to see the darkness racing after the sun, his eyes following as it crept down to the horizon.
"I have a tent and a sleeping bag," Heero said. He'd added them to his survival kit after seeing Duo's. "I'll keep you warm."
Duo chuckled. If he had said that, there would probably have been another meaning under the words, but Heero's statement was utterly guileless. "I love you," Duo said. He still wasn't sure how much.
"I care about you. Maybe more." But he wasn't sure if there was more.
Duo leaned against him, hair settling as the sunset wind began to die. "That's good enough." Good enough for friends. Good enough for now.
Good enough to drive the rain away.
Now, the BGM... When I listened to "Dive" after going GW-crazy, I heard this song and immediately thought of Duo crying. That didn't happen. I also planned to start them in Japan, but given the boomer base, it obviously isn't Tokyo! (Tom Clancy again -- a boomer is a nuke missile sub.)
Which brings Washington to mind. <sighs contentedly> The Olympic Peninsula would be a nice place to send them on a camping trip, ne?
"When It Rains In America"
(From Sarah Brightman's album "Dive")
Do you wanna feel freedom
Do you wanna see sun and rain
Do you wanna be near me
Do you wanna light up the way
A strange magical feeling
That maybe baby we'll find someday
I thought I heard you laughing
I never wanted to make you cry
I only needed a reason
To see a teardrop caught in your eye
'Cause lovin' you keeps me from the storm
When it rains in America
There's a place we can run to
Far away from the city stare
Where the ocean's a desert
But the wind still blows in your hair
Where we can watch the sun go down
When it rains in America
When it rains in America
When it rains in America
'Cause lovin' you keeps me from the storm
When it rains in America
Ah, sap. God, I love it. I think this is the third story I've published that leaves their relationship hanging at this phase. They've been bugging me about "Non-Euclidean Geometry" lately, and I have the beginning of a sequel, but it doesn't have a hint of a destination -- other than a bite for breakfast -- and that it will move very slowly. We'll see what happens, but don't try to plan your vacation around it. <g>
LW: But right now--
D: <glares> HEY, that's my line.
LW: I'm gonna go work on the D&D fic (after reading the ML).