errr.. sorry about that ^^;; The real title is

Ever After

Once there was a prince.  An evil sorcerer had stolen his heart and had hidden it within a human boy.  The prince was sent from his floating kingdom in the heavens in order to retrieve it.  Wings gone, he fell to Earth.

Heero lay, quietly feigning slumber as Duo shifted next to him in bed.  It was one of the many small, bitter sweet moments he couldn't help but indulging in, since coming to Earth, since meeting Duo.

"Do you love me, Heero?"  A soft voice whispered in his ear, filtering through the stifling silence of the night.  The light touch of hair? . . . fingers? brushed over his face and lips, gently tracing his features.  Heero knew the other pilot thought him asleep and continued the pretense.  It was better this way, even though his stomach clenched slightly at the deception.  He didn't know how to answer Duo.  The feelings he wasn't supposed to possess swirled within him confusingly.  So he feigned slumber during these moments.  One part of him whispered coward tauntingly.

"Ah . . . as talkative as ever." A soft sigh of warm breath caressed his face.  "It's okay if you don't . . . . I love you anyway." Duo's voice sounded unusually subdued.

The Japanese pilot had found that the pre-dawn conversations from his lover was as close as anyone could hope to get behind Duo's laughter and smiles.  In the daytime, the other would be chattering twice as much, but the words spilling from his mouth never pulled at Heero's heart as they did during these quiet moments.  The laughing pilot had never told him I love you to his face, never spoke about the thoughts and dreams he would spin before his supposedly slumbering partner.  While one part of Heero was relieved at not having to deal with the other's emotions, another part of him, a steadily growing part, longed for Duo to push for something more.

The prince, now human boy, roamed on Earth restlessly for his stolen heart.  But his fall to Earth had erased the former prince's memory of his kingdom set among the clouds; he had forgotten the reason for his quest here.

"Ne, Relena came looking for you while you were out.  For all that she's annoying, she does love you."  A brief pause as the warm body against his side shifted in their bed.  "Not as much as I do . . . but she does.  Do you love her, Heero? . . . I think you do. . . "

The silent boy wanted to call out.  No!  She represents something I fight for, something I want to preserve.  Peacecraft was a distant ideal in his mind's eye.  She's not the person I want to kiss, to comfort, to hold.  She's not the one that flashes in front of my face everytime I want to die, everytime I confront death.  He wanted to rage against the paralysis that bound him, voiceless and motionless.

"There's something in your eyes when you look at her, something whenever her name comes up.  Is it love?"  The voice paused to let out a low, dry chuckle, " . . . Or is it because you're trying to keep yourself from killing her? . . . or maybe both."

Heero maintained his silence, wishing he could sort out the confusing welter of emotions.  Wishing he knew how to reach out to the other boy, but he couldn't.  He couldn't say anything, do anything to comfort the other.  He didn't know how or even what he wanted.

The voice continued, relentless.  "Do you think. . . " The other boy swallowed convulsively.  “Do you think there's a future for us?  Is it more than just sex for you?  If I die tomorrow, or the day after . . .will you mourn for me?"  A warm hand gently sifted through his short hair.

Questions he couldn't possibly hope to answer.  Did he love Duo?  He didn't think of the future, past ending the war.  All he knew was that Duo's laughing eyes, gentle hands, cheerful voice, those things kept him captive.  Recently, he felt himself wanting to make the other laugh, to bring a spark to those beautiful violet eyes.  But the things that made him perfect for war, for killing, also prevented him from reaching out for the other.  No matter how much he wanted . . . and he did so want to . . .

A soft kiss brushed against his lips.  The other pilot rose from the bed.  Briefly Heero wondered what would happen if he reached out to grab Duo and *show* him what he couldn't say, couldn't express in words.  But he kept silent, as the other dressed and gave him another kiss.  Duo left the room quietly, unknowingly leaving the other in a state of turmoil.

The boy felt the numbness under his breastbone spread all throughout his soul.  He soon forgot how he had felt before ... when he had been whole.

Heero's eyes flickered over the kitchen table, as he walked into the room, where the others sat.  Where was . . . Quatre piped up.

"Heero-kun.  Duo had to leave this morning on a mission."

Aa, sou ka.  He grunted noncommittally in response, refusing to meet the amused glances of the couple before him.

The Japanese pilot stalked over to his desktop.  If Duo had been here, the American would have tried to feed him breakfast.  Or maybe make another joke at the time he spent in front of the "damned machine" as he called it.  Heero's lips tightened slightly . . . if the other had been here.

He turned on the screen, listening to the familiar hum as it logged on.  Heero scanned over the information quickly, noting no new missions.

Throughout the entire day, thoughts of the laughing pilot lingered in his mind.  If Duo was here, he would have said this...made this joke, touched him there... just so.  If he was here...

His fingers hovered above the keyboard before slowly typing out search strings for the mission Duo had been assigned.  His blue eyes widened slightly at the words that followed.

M i s s i o n  f a i l e d

He was dreaming.  He knew he was dreaming, but it didn't keep him from reaching out for the laughing vision of Death before him.

It spoke out, flashing playful violet eyes.  "Ne . . . Do you love me Heero?  Do you?"

The words echoed and re-echoed in his mind.

Do you love me?

Then the fallen prince met a human boy.  This boy was as different from himself as the moon to the sun, bursting with life and laughter and joy.  None of which the prince could recognize without his heart, but he yearned towards that warmth as the unnamed emptiness within him yearned for completion, much as the moon reflects and turns itself towards the sun's embrace.

Heero didn't want to sleep.  Eyes wide open, he stared unblinkingly at the dark ceiling above him.

In his waking moments, there were always the missions, thoughts and dreams kept at bay by refusing to think past the moment.  But that was his problem wasn't it, refusing to think past the here and now, to *not* think past the moments that he would spend with Duo.  It had been Duo that had made the first advances; it had been Duo that pushed and forced him to become more than just a soldier.  Finally, it was Duo, during their last moments together, that had planned out their future together or rather their separate futures.  And he had been unable to do anything then, mind racing, heart beating fast, but body being unable to move.

Heero continued to stare up blankly, his clenched fists belying the impassive expression on his face.  He clenched and unclenched the blankets by his side.

Duo Maxwell had always been able to imagine the future, envisioning grand images and visions of 'ever after', painting their futures.  Futures, that is to say, futures set apart.  Heero, with Relena, was to live out whatever fantasy the Queen of the World aspired to, 2.3 children and a vacationing home in all of the colonies perhaps.  And Duo living his life out as a famous race card driver or perhaps a multi-billionaire inventor, earning his status through the invention of something that had not been created or even imagined yet.  All said jokingly and with a self-deprecating laugh and a cheeky wink, of course.  The jester seeking to amuse them all with the yarns spun from ephemeral dreams and a wish for a future past the war.  Yet, with an ironical tone which could not be escaped, and with a sense of fatalism which could not be denied.

Heero drew in a deep breath, the raspy sound of his breath the only sound in the still room, lacking the sleepy murmurs that Duo used to voice, the rustle of body and limbs moving gently within the fabrics of the bed.  Or perhaps the phantom sounds of himself ... finding himself drawing closer to the boy lying at his side or his own sleepy murmurs in reply to the other's.

Duo Maxwell never lied.  And Heero knew... no, felt... believed that the other boy spoke of the future as if it were already determined, Heero succumbing to Relena's offers and presence.  What an irony then that Shinigami's own predictions had caused a stir within himself.  A stir, an uneasy ripple, uneasy in that he was so unused to these sensations, for something more than which was offered.  More than either boy was willing to offer, in these times, in these circumstances.  But Heero wanted more, even if the mind had yet to register, to catalogue, these feelings as such.  His body felt them in the way they were constantly drawn to touch, to watch beautiful Death.  And his heart felt them in that last moment, as Duo said his good-byes, neither boy, the one awake or the one feigning sleep, would know.

Heero let out another breath slowly, unwilling to pull into the seductive realms of Dream, where would no longer have control, where he would see Duo lingering in the folds and crevices of his mind.  And it hurt, not in the sense of a broken bone, something which was, yes, painful but could be set right again, and the pain would fade into a wisp of a memory.  This pain was deep, lingering and made his teeth stand on end, as every nerve wept, as his hands reached, reached for something that was just out of his grasp, something which could not be grasped or claimed, something... which he could not even envision or voice.  But something which was represented by his lover, by his love.

Only Duo was gone, wasn't he?

And Heero slept, his dreams haunted, or blessed, with dreams of his love.  In this dream, here was the future he wished for, that perhaps Duo had wished for.  A future together, building something together, an 'ever after'.

A happily ever after.

And as one without a heart, the prince both yearned for and rejected the foreign concepts the laughing boy brought with him.  The boy made to leave, not understanding the prince.  He had his own quest to fulfill, one his father had assigned to him.

What was it about the chiming of bells.  The sound rousedhim from the complete silence and darkness he had been sinking into.  It hurt to regain consciousness, and it definitely hurt trying to move.  But the sound of those bells called him back as nothing else would.  Duo opened his eyes briefly, catching a glimpse of a grey, low ceiling, before letting his eyes flutter shut once more.  This time the darkness was comforting and welcoming as he drifted off to a deep, healing sleep.

Bells calling them to mass, to meals.  The last sound they heard before falling asleep, the first sound they heard as they awoke from their slumber.  The bells were a sign of the peace and security he had found here.  Just like the solid structure of the orphanage itself, the heavy, woodsy, scent of the pews, and the familiar rumble of Father Maxwell's voice, the sound of the bells signaled a moment in his life when he could let down his guard.

And in the end... when the sanctuary had been reduced to rubble, Sister Helen's cold hand caressing his face before falling limp on her still chest, those bells were the only things left intact, as if defying the destruction and carnage scattered all around them.

To remember his past.

The next time he surfaced from the deep, drugging sleep, voices, faint and murmured, caught his attention.


"Not yet."

"Let me know when our young visitor's condition improves."

"Yes, Father Jean."

Ah... so, he was *here* again.  The almost cloying scent of incense and wax, the constant murmuring chant, and the gentle clacking noise of prayer beads shifting, lulled him to sleep again.  And in his last waking moments, he heard the deep, lulling sound of those bells once more.

When Duo awoke, *really* awoke, not one of the sisters who had been taking care of him asked any questions.  Instead they, there were two of them, carefully examining him from head to toe, gently prodding and shifting his bandages.  The sight of the familiar, long black gowns and the remembered touch of gentle, callused hands brought a dizzying sense of having fallen back into the past.  Especially, when they helped to wash and to braid his hair.  It was... hard to describe.  A sense of peace from happier memories... which inevitably evoked the aching sense of loss as the rest of his past played out.  One always led to the other, which was why Duo preferred *not* to remember.  It... hurt, pleasure always leading to pain, and he couldn't escape it.

Which was why it was all he could do to remain still, trying not to fidget from the touch which brought forward all the memories which lay, half-buried, within himself.

Eventually, he was left alone, exhausted but clean.  The American pilot guessed, if he recalled correctly, that they had probably gone to fetch Father Jean.  He sighed and leaned back gingerly against the soft pillows, allowing his eyes to wander about his "room".  The furnishings were sparse but meticulously clean, a small altar and crucifix lying on a nearby desk, a fresh change of clothes, presumably his, lying folded neatly on the chair by his bed.  Duo inhaled deeply, memories stirring once more at the painfully familiar, musky scent of incense.  He glanced out the window, noting the presence of the bells that had drawn him into consciousness that first time.  Somehow... they brought a measure of comfort and security, however small and false they may be.

To come to terms with his present.

Father Jean had been a surprise.  First of all the man was *young*.  The man didn't look old enough to *buy* the wine he no doubt served during Communion.  The young priest had also offered the injured boy sanctuary for as long as he needed, no questions asked.  What was the phrasing he had used?  Oh, yeah.  "No prob, dude."  Duo snickered to himself, even as he was careful not to disturb his ribs *too much*.  Two cracked ribs, one broken leg, and a mild concussion... not bad considering he had done his best impression of an anime character set to flight by his pissed off fiancée.  Vaguely, he imagined the look on Heero's face if *Relena* ever screamed out, "Heero no baka!" and sent the Wing pilot into LEO (Low Earth Orbit) with a pink mallet.

"Maaaa, the idiot would probably just pick himself up and go back to her for more."  The braided boy snorted to himself, making a face when it disturbed his injuries.  "Yare yare..."

Briefly, Duo thought of the other pilots, choosing not to linger on thoughts of Heero ... for too long.  They had probably heard about his mission being a failure.  The boy let out a deep breath of air, ignoring the dull ache in his ribs.  He should contact them, let them know where he was but not now.  Perhaps when his injuries were better, and he was far from here.  The very last thing the American pilot wanted was to put these people in danger.  "Feh.... too bad I didn't think of that before..."  Duo put a firm clamp down on *that* thought; it was the last thing he needed right now.

And he wanted... No, he needed time to himself, time to think, away from the others, away from *him*.  "And what better place to do it then here, Maxwell.  Nothing like taking away attention from your love life, or lack thereof, than a nice vacation in the middle of your personal version of heaven and hell."

Ah well... He'd survive, he always did.

As if to remind him to rest, the bells rang, signaling mass probably.  The boy let his eyes drift shut, succumbing to the exhaustion that pulled at his limbs and senses.

And in his dreams... Surprisingly, Duo did not dream of death and blood.  He dreamt of an intense blue eyed young boy, staring directly at him, slender figure shrouded by clinging shadows.

Ah, Heero...

To find his future.

A cursor blinked at the edge of the screen, the arrival of a new message.  Heero thought not to open it but years of training were hard to circumvent.  He carefully removed the layers of coding and encryption from the message.  They were strangely familiar.  Blue eyes widened. Masaka...

Yo minna!
 You guys probably know this, but I thought I'd check in.  I'm feeling genki genki and am about to return for the big family reunion.  hehe.  Well, my location's been encrypted into the ... well, encrypted mail.  Yare yare ;p I'm getting as paranoid as you guys (minus Quatre of course)  Come pick me up, cause I ain't got anything to travel with.  Well, I guess I can always pick pockets... I'll see ya when I see ya!

Ja na!



The rest of the pilots had received the same message.  No one argued when Heero abruptly volunteered to go, more than a hint of challenge in his voice.

To the boy's surprise -his- quest led him back to the waiting prince.

Duo stood underneath the shelter of a welcoming tree, watching in seeming fascination as the steady drizzle of light rain formed myriads of faint rainbows in the damp, foggy air.  The smell of wet grass and earth filled his senses.

Leaving the church had been hard.  Walking away from the steady acceptance and security he had come to rely on... He watched the air in front of him steam as Duo let out a deep breath.  It was a mixed feeling, the need to stay.. the need to leave.

But in the end, he *had* left because of the peace he had found, both in the everyday routine and within himself.  Like making a renewal of vows with his ever present past, both a burden and a blessing, the church and all it stood for was the very reason he fought, that *they* fought.

So he had left that part of his past.  And here he stood in the rain, waiting...

And the prince finally found the one who had held his heart.  Or rather, they had found each other.


He turned around at the sound of the familiar voice, a determinedly cheerful smile on his face.  "He-"  Heero's hand gently came over his lips.

"Duo... It's my turn to talk."  The hand trembled slightly.  "My turn about.. everything."  The sound of his next words were covered by the sudden, almost deafening downpour of the rain.

And much later, under the protective, slightly bowed branches of the tree, they kissed.  Duo, for once, hushing the tumbling fall of Heero's words with his unspoken assent, declaration, and seal.

The human boy offered his own heart in exchange; his quest had been fulfilled.  The prince accepted.  And they lived... ever after.

~Ever After~

*sweatdrops*.... seriously this should be the *last* revision ever made ^_^;; And yup, the title vaguey refers to the Cinderella type fairy tale movie that came out a while back.... I've never seen it but I *liked* the title =9

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