48 Hours

Epilogue

He awakens slowly, as if gently being lifted from a deep-sea depth to meet the water-rippled sunlight. There is an odd feeling in his chest; he doesn't quite know what it means, just that something is going to happen, something big. For now he sets it aside, and lying there, quietly, his first coherent thought is that today…

Today is Sunday, third of September.

Sunday. The day that concludes the cycle of the week; a beginning, an ending. A day for rest and relaxation, for peace.

September. The month when the forget-me-nots start to fade; the month when the freshly cooled breezes blow, heralding the start of autumn. The month when the leaves and grass start to turn a golden brown, a golden auburn, the golden colour of his hair.

The third. One and two, come together, make three.

Today is Sunday, third of September, and exactly sixty-seven years ago, a few hours before dawn, Duo closed his eyes for the very last time.

He can think about Duo without too much pain, now; sixty-seven years is enough to teach anyone how to distance themselves, having seen too much, too much. He can now remember his times with Duo and smile, albeit sadly; he still lives the lessons taught to him so long ago. He forgives easily, and smiles when he is able; he makes the effort to notice the small oft-overlooked details, and takes time to make friends. The neighbourhood children often drop by to visit and never hesitate to play with him, nor he with them; their parents have no reserves about asking him to take care of their children or inviting him over for dinner.

He has lived life like Duo would have lived it, and has no regrets.

Carefully he gets out of bed, the inexplicable feeling still nestled in him, and starts preparing for the day, washing up and setting his now-white hair in some semblance of order. Apparently the might of sixty-odd years still cannot tame his hair, though admittedly it has become slightly easier to handle than before, being of less volume. He has taken care of his body, and happily can still move about easily if he doesn't move too fast; a blessing when he thinks of others at his age enthroned in a wheelchair.

Three days ago on their bi-weekly Wednesday visit, Quatre had reminded him time and again that today's weekly Sunday dinner is to be at his house, and so he had better not forget to prepare his part of the potluck meal for five, because Sally has something else on. He snorts softly to himself – just because Quatre's memory is failing him, he assumes everyone else's is, too; at the time, Trowa and Heero had traded amused looks over his head, silently agreeing that Quatre was just making himself feel better by pretending this is so.

Last Wednesday, Sally had done the same to him, with Wufei exasperatedly rolling his eyes behind her; he has no doubt that next Wednesday, she will be at it again. And next next Wednesday, Quatre's turn… he smiles at the thought. A pair of nagging grandmothers, he thinks fondly, and knows that Quatre would huff at him if he called him that to his face.

The feeling tugs at his chest again, but he ignores it.

He eats bread-and-butter for breakfast, with Earl Grey tea, and has lunch with the Lee family down the street. The old Chinese grandmother, Lee Ling, is a good friend of his, and they idle a few hours away playing with the kids, and chatting. When Ling invites him to join her and Mdm Nicholson next door for lunch tomorrow, he gladly accepts, and doesn't quite notice the odd sensation in his body anymore.

Late afternoon he returns to his home, and sets some spaghetti noodles to boil while he prepares Duo's special spaghetti sauce. He sets it to simmer in a pot on the stove, and then goes out into the back garden, and sits in the wicker chair on the back porch.

The air is crisp, and a light wind blows; the flowers sing with it, and the forget-me-nots are especially sweet. He smells their faint scent, and hears their faint whispering, and watches the cloud-comforted sky contentedly. Every afternoon, weather permitting, he comes out to enjoy his garden and the world, just like this. In his trance-like state, he never knows how long he's been sitting, but doesn't care.

"What do you mean, you don't care? Think of the poor spaghetti sauce being burnt to death on the stove. There's an art to it, you know."

The odd feeling surges to life in his chest, and then subsides, disappearing. Heero relaxes, sinking further into his chair; shrugs a little, and smiles lazily at the sky. "I know. Don't you think I'd have perfected that art over the years? Besides, I can always make a new pot."

Hands on hips, Duo moves to block his view, and mock-glares at him. "How terribly irresponsible of you. Haven't the years taught you anything? Think of the poor starving children on L2."

"If you're that worried, go save it yourself. I'm too comfortable to move, my old body needs all the rest it can get."

His arm is lightly smacked with the end of that familiar braid of hair. "You are a lazy pig," Duo declares, and stalks into the house with food-saving determination. Heero grins to himself, and continues gazing out over his garden.

A few minutes later Duo comes back out and drops down to sit cross-legged on the wooden boards next to Heero's chair. "Done," he announces. "Saved the noodles, too. I tried the sauce, by the way; it's perfect." He nudges Heero's foot with his own. "Not bad for an old man."

"Why, thank you, youngling."

He's answered with a laugh, and they settle into a comfortable silence. The clouds dance across the sky; the sun moves downwards; the light starts to burn dusk. "Sunset in a few minutes," Duo comments.

"Mm-hmm."

The braided boy unfurls himself, and steps lightly into the garden. He reaches down to the bed of forget-me-nots, and plucks one tiny blue flower; turns, and approaches Heero. He holds it out in one cupped palm, and smiles gently at the white-haired man. "You didn't forget," he murmurs.

"Of course not. You're an idiot to think I would."

"I wasn't sure… you were so depressed for a while, I thought you were a goner for sure."

Heero holds out a cupped palm, and Duo tips the flower into it. "Never," he says firmly.

He watches as Duo turns around to see that the sky has started to burn its red dusk-fall flame; watches as he steps, almost skips, into the middle of the garden. His love looks back at him, then, and gives him that impossibly beautiful smile; a smile that has lived in his memory for all these years, keeping him alive.

"Come out and dance with me!" Duo calls. "The flowers shall be our carpet, the garden our ballroom hall, the sky our domed chandelier-ed ceiling. Much more fun than just sitting in your chair, believe me." He holds out a hand, beckoning, and then grins. "I always knew you'd make a fragile grandmother, but this is too much."

"Who are you calling a fragile grandmother?" Heero demands. He stands and clears the steps in one jump to chase after Duo, impatiently swiping away the messy brown hair blowing into his eyes. "Wait 'til I get my hands on you!"

"If you can!"

As he runs, he remembers the day again. One and two, to make the third; September, to make gold. Sunday, an ending, a beginning; a day for peace.

Finally, at peace.


"Don't tell me he still forgot, after I kept reminding him on Wednesday," Quatre said huffily as he unlocked the front door with the key Heero had given him and Trowa. "And if he ignored the doorbell on purpose, I'm going to, I'm going to…"

"Smack him?" Trowa suggested dryly, as he followed Quatre into Heero's house, closing the door behind them. "Send him to bed without supper?"

"So funny," Quatre grumbled, leading the way into the kitchen, turning on the lights as he did so.

Trowa set the container of grilled beef on the table, and noted the pots on the stove. "Quatre, love," he said, interrupting the other man's muttered ranting, "I don't think Heero forgot."

"What? Oh." Quatre went over to the pots and peered into them. "Okay, fine. Spaghetti noodles, and, oh, Duo's special sauce!" He dipped a finger into the pot and tasted the contents. "Mm, perfect as usual. A bit cold, but we can just heat it up again."

Trowa frowned, a little uneasy. "Where's Heero?" he wondered out loud. "The lights are off, and the food is cold."

"Probably out on the porch again, he keeps losing track of time when he's out there, I told him he's going to catch a cold that way…"

Ignoring Quatre, leaving him to unpack the food, Trowa headed for the back door and opened it. He could see the top of Heero's head, but something made him take the few steps further to stand next to Heero.

There was a smile on that aged face, and his eyes were closed; his expression was one of utter, gentle peace. A flash of blue caught Trowa's eye, and he looked closer; in one upturned hand was a small forget-me-not flower.

War-honed instincts, despite decades of not being used, made Trowa turn to look at the gravel path leading from the porch into the garden. Yes, like he'd seen at first glance, it was undisturbed… so how…?

"Trowa, Wufei's here. Have you found Heero…" Quatre appeared in the doorway, but trailed off when Trowa turned to look at him. There were tears in his green eyes, but a soft smile graced his face.

"Oh," Quatre said softly, and stepped forward to bury himself in Trowa's embrace, tears spilling from his own eyes. "I don't want to… to look."

"It's okay," Trowa said soothingly, patting his lover's back as Wufei came to stand next to them. "It's okay… he's happier now."

"How can you say –"

"Look at him, Quatre. Wufei. Look carefully."

Trowa watched as both men looked first at Heero, then at the gravel path. Wide blue eyes then turned to look at him in wonder, while their Chinese friend looked back at Heero in disbelief. "Do you think…?"

He had to smile. "I think Duo is a very strong personality."

Wufei snorted. "Amen to that."

"He always did do whatever he wanted, didn't he? And nothing could stop him… You're right." Quatre reached out to touch Heero's shoulder. "They're together now."

"See you next time, old friend," Trowa said softly.

Wufei bowed his head. "May we all be together again."


The alarm clock shrills loudly, jerking him from sleep, and from a curious dream. He's had that dream since young, or to be more accurate, had dreams featuring the same people since young – a solemn dark-eyed Chinese boy, a sweet blue-eyed blond, a tall Latin brunet with a weird hairstyle and one visible green eye.

And of course, the unforgettable violet-eyed boy with the long hair and angel's smile.

His mother calls from downstairs, warning that if he doesn't get up he'll be late for the first day of school. First day for him, that is; his family has moved house so many times across countries and states, that he hasn't stayed in one school for more than a year. It makes having friends difficult; it does not help that he is by nature quiet, fiercely focused, and not at all social. Besides, he has always felt like an outsider, like he doesn't fit in.

This time, though, his parents have assured him that their move is permanent; he hopes that this is the case, though doubt still lingers. For some reason this town feels… right.

He takes the bus to school, and contrary to his mother's over-anxious worries he's actually early. He goes to the principal's office first, and spends the half the first period, homeroom, being briefed about official matters. He is informed that since his chosen combination is an unusual one, he will be put in a very small class with other students who have similarly atypical choices, and he assures them he does not mind. When that's done, he is shown to his homeroom, and he enters with his eyes downcast, wary of any forthcoming ridicule because of his race and his accented English.

The teacher asks him to introduce himself, and he does in a soft voice: "Heero Yuy. Hello."

"Hello to you too, Heero," comes the reply, and he can hear the warm smile in that impossibly familiar voice. He raises his eyes in disbelief, and his gaze locks with a bright blue one.

"Hello," and that soft greeting, though in a voice slightly deeper than the first, is equally familiar. The smile that on that face is small, but in those green eyes he sees a much deeper depth of welcome.

"It's good to meet you, Yuy." – and at the end of that sentence he hears an unvoiced 'at last'; he looks at the black-haired black-eyed boy, who nods at him, and like the green-eyed boy his smile is in his eyes.

And finally – with a hope, a trembling joyful hope, he turns his gaze to the last boy, and there it is – the sweetest, most beautiful smile he has ever remembered seeing, and violet eyes that are currently shining with delight. "Do you always greet people so curtly?" comes the teasing comment, and that voice warms him to the core.

He knows them. He knows them all – Quatre, Trowa, Wufei… Duo.

And they know him in return.

He now realizes why has never fitted in to other social circles; why he has never felt comfortable with other people. Why he has always felt like something very important is missing from his life. Why, unlike others, he has dreams so real sometimes he cannot tell them apart from reality.

The teacher is saying something behind him, but her voice fades into the background as he smiles, slowly, brilliantly, and receives answering smiles in kind.

Duo pats the seat next to him, and Heero moves without hesitation. When he sits down, underneath the table Duo's hand finds his, and their fingers entwine; a perfect fit.

The sun is bright, and his world is complete.


There was a boy –

A very strange, enchanted boy.

They say he wandered very far

Very far...

Over land and sea.

A little shy and sad of eye,

But very wise was he.

And then one day –

One magic day he passed my way.

And while we spoke of many things,

Fools, and kings,

This he said to me:

The greatest thing

You'll ever learn,

Is to love –

And be loved in return.

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