“I’ve assembled you all here, to tell you the tale you all long to know.”
Now, that was a surprise. Who’d have thought she knew the answer? I didn’t even look up though, those white wings were too interesting. I still cleaned them, smoothed them with my hands. Heero had his eyes closed by then. I figured it didn’t matter whether you were white-winged or black-winged, you’d always like your wings being caressed and scratched. I kept on plucking loose feathers and ordering the old ones, so Heero looked less battered. I bandaged all the wounds I found, while Meiran was still talking.
“For years I have tried to bring peace to your two clans,” she explained, “I have used all kinds of diplomatic skills to come through to your relatives, but they were too much set on the fight, to understand my intends. You five are the first generation which is different. You five are my hopes to bring peace to this world.” We all listened attentively. Trowa was sitting at Quatre’s feet, both leaning against the wall. Wufei sat cross legged and stared into the fire. Heero still held his eyes closed. I had finished with his wings, but still caressed them to feel the soft sensation of feathers on the palm of my hand.
“All of you long to understand the meaning of this fighting. I never understood the deeper meaning, I have to disappoint you here, but maybe that is just because there is none... Maybe it is something, a spirit like me cannot understand. Maybe you, who are thinking like angels, can tell me. I can only tell you how everything began.
It is not too long ago this fight started. Maybe three or four generations. The eldest of your clans just missed the beginning, I guess. Before that, the two clans had lived as one big group in Cleeve Hills. The clan consisted of thirty people, and knowing how small the Cleeve Hills were, it got pretty crowded for the taste of angels. The leader, a man they called Oz, decided that the clan had to be split up, and one part had to move to the less fertile valley of Yagen. Otherwise the increasing population of the angels would grow to a serious problem. Quickly, a voluntary group under the leadership of Epyon was found. Epyon wanted to take the challenge to cultivate Yagen Valley with his group and make a new living space for the angels. Full of energy the group left, ready to work hard on the fields.”
I finished scratching Heero’s wings and he slowly blinked his eyes open. With a nod of his head he signed me to sit back some, before crawling over to me and starting to bandage me. I let him do it, it was much easier than struggling with the bandages myself. Heero seemed to remember exactly all the places he had ever hit me. He didn’t need to search for wounds, he already knew where they were. He also knew about the broken collarbone, even though it was not really visible from the outside.
“By the time the groups separated, all angels still had golden wings,” Meiran proceeded. “They were all of the same big family and ready to visit each other every now and then. Epyon and his men were quite successful in making Yagen a fertile and useful place for the angels. And their own clan grew over the years. They made their own little community, developed their own habits. They lost contact to the other clan, more and more. It didn’t really matter, since everybody was fine with it. Of course, Oz and Epyon both died eventually and made room for new leaders. After a few changes, the leader in Yagen Valley was a strong angel named Romefeller, while J reigned in the Hills.”
Heero was by then bandaging my collarbone tightly. It was a quite painful procedure and I winced in pain. However, once the bandage was set, I could hardly tell that the bones were broken, Heero had done a perfect job in supporting my shoulder with the bandage. It seemed he was quite skilled in dressing wounds.
“When a year of a very unsuccessful harvest came, the Yagen-angels were fighting with sickness and death. They hoped for support from the Cleeve Hills, they even sent messengers asking for help. They had no idea that sickness and hunger were spreading in the Hills as well. J didn’t dare to give his own food away to the other clan, to save his own people. The winter was harsh and cold, and with little supplies, the angels hardly survived... one, however, didn’t survive at all... In Yagen, Romefeller’s daughter died from hunger and coldness.”
Heero, in the meantime, had moved to my wings and band-aided, bandaged and scratched them softly. It was a wonderful feeling and I could only enjoy it. His skillful fingers caressed the supporting bones and massaged the tip of my huge attachments. I felt like purring – of course I didn’t!
“Of course, Romefeller made the Cleeve inhabitants guilty for this incident, since they had refused their help in the hard times. After all, they were one family, sharing the same pairs of golden wings. Romefeller was filled with agony and anger and offered J to move down to Yagen for one year, so the Romefeller-clan could enjoy the fertile hills, before the clans would switch places again. He requested an exchange of location every summer, so each clan could take advantage of the better land. By the time, Romefeller’s request arrived, J and his angels had grown fond of their hills. They loved their living place, they wouldn’t just leave it. After all, Yagen wasn’t too bad, ever since Epyon had worked on it.
Romefeller was outraged! J not only refused the exchange plan, he also refused to offer supplies for the next winter. Romefeller mobilized his angels and launched an attack in the Cleeve Hills. The Cleeve Hill people were completely caught by surprise and had not many weapons, except for the peasants’ tools. Their advantage was, that they knew the Hills better than their opponents. Romefeller was defeated after a long, bloody battle, but left behind was the corpse of J – along with many injured angels. Romefeller had stabbed the leader from behind. The Cleeve Hills-angels had loved their leader, they were angry and sad about what had happened... especially in Romefeller they saw their enemy. The same night, a mob from the Hills flew down to the Valley and killed Romefeller. He was found dead in his bed the next morning. An assembly of Yagen-angels, who called themselves Shinisouls, sent a war-declaration to the Cleeve Hills. The officials returned the letter, declaring war to the Valley in return.”
Meiran took a meaningful break and drank from a bowl of water, before her gaze returned to the fire, and she spoke again. Heero was sitting next to me now, having finished with my wings and wounds.
“When the angels awoke the next morning, their wings were all sore and golden dust was laying all about them. Up in the Cleeve Hills, the angels found themselves in white wings, down in Yagen, black-winged angels woke up. Both groups advanced each other in the vast land this morning, each making the other one responsible for the mysterious incident. It was a bloody battle, but it didn’t decide anything. Ever since, the families have been fighting, ever since, there hasn’t been peace, only war.”
“I never heard the story that way...” Wufei muttered.
She leaned back, signing us, that her story had been finished. For a moment, we gazed at each other in turns. When I couldn’t stand the silence anymore, I burst out laughing mercilessly, clutching my stomach as I did. I laughed so heartily, without anyone joining in, that the others looked at me with the most puzzled expressions I have ever seen on angels’ faces. It caused me to only laugh more.
“Duo?!” Quatre asked, totally helpless.
I pressed my lips together, then looked into Quatre’s eyes and burst out laughing right away again. Don’t get me wrong, my body and my wings ached like hell, but I was in a flash.
“We...” I tried to speak between laughs, “...have been...” Another fit of giggles swiped over me, “...have been trying to.. kill..” I was pressing against the wall of the cave in laughter, “...each other, because... some Romefeller-guy has gone...crazy!” I tried to catch breath before I crouched down again in hopeless laughter. The others didn’t think it was funny. It really wasn’t, considered, how many people must have died in the first battle, how cruel that was, and how I had almost been the first casualty of the new age. That was not why I was laughing, I was more or less going crazy. It was like this just couldn’t be true. Angels, not even grown up yet, fought each other, because some guy in the past thought he had been betrayed by his fellow family members... and that even was the reason, why I had black wings! Things fit together so oddly...! The others let me laugh until I couldn’t anymore. I spread my limps apart laying on the sore wings on my back.
When I had completely calmed down, Meiran cleared her throat and drew all the attention, including mine, to herself.
“As I said, you boys are this world’s last hope. I tried to talk to Treize and Milliardo until they ordered me never to speak about the other clan in their, or any angel’s presence, again. It needs someone from their own people to set this right. I know you five are all brave and have a great sense of justice. You were the only ones in years to wonder whether the war is really necessary in the way it is. Please, don’t turn your backs to peace as well.”
“We won’t,” I assured her immediately, “but what are we supposed to do?”
“It would be senseless to set all five of you in danger, so I would say, you carefully have to approach the clans from the ‘other side’. For the first step, it would be sufficient for one of you to speak to the other clan quietly, without meaning any harm. Maybe at one of the morning assemblies. You would be endangered to be captured, but the others should at least try to ensure your safety. Nevertheless, there will be a great risk.”
Another wave of silence filled the room. My questioning purple eyes met cobalt- and water-blue, black and emerald ones. This step was somewhere between a radical and a soft approach to the problems, maybe just right.
“I’ll go,” Wufei said, to all our surprise. Our eyes locked on him. He stared into the fire, but he was aware of the questioning looks, asking ‘You, Wufei?’
“Peace must be brought to these senseless clans,” he started, “and even though, I feel I am a warrior, and only find my true self in battle, I am only willing to fight for justice. Nothing is of less sense and as unjust as this war, there must be an end. If you trust in my bravery, I will gladly take this step towards freedom.” Okay, to put it briefly: He could speak with sense, so he was perfectly suitable to speak in front of the clan. We let him know that.
“What happens if they capture you. Even Duo and I couldn’t keep them from doing it if we wanted to,” Trowa uttered our doubts.
“Then, I’ll turn myself in to the Shouriwings,” I said sternly and determined.
“That would be okay, maybe prevent them from harming either of you, or even, make them awake,” Meiran pondered out loud, “but you two will be the only ones captured if that should happen. There’s no point in having all five of you imprisoned.”
“Right,” Wufei nodded approvingly.
“Duo... if that should happen,” Quatre spoke softly, “I’ll do everything in my power to stop them from hurting you...” I still think this guy is incredible! He just had given me the most honest friendship, I had ever received... He made it clear to us, how much friendship there was in this room by now. Unbelievable, that hardly an hour ago, Wufei, Heero and I had been about to slay each other.
The plan was set, yet, not able to be realized, until Heero, Quatre and I were in better shape. We gave our injuries two weeks to heal, then Wufei would meet us in front of the Yagen Valley’s gate before the morning assembly. Meiran had strictly forbidden us to keep contact over the next two weeks, you never know what happens, when people get wind of the fact that you are about to rip their understanding of the world apart... especially when it is something as cruel as war...
Trowa and I kept track of the days and on the fifteenth day since our first and last meeting at Meiran’s, we got up early and awaited Wufei in front of the gate. Everybody was at the assembly, so nobody would see us here. We’d hopefully be in time for the meeting, and nobody would miss us, either. Wufei came flapping towards us, holding close to the ground so nobody would take note of his approach from the house. He landed in front of us, gracefully, as possibly only white angels can... except for Trowa... He was obviously nervous, but he tried hard to spread a sufficient air of confidence. We greeted him briefly, asking how things had been. He said he was fine, Trowa inquired about Quatre, who was perfectly well, and to my question about Heero, Wufei answered, that he only had minor scratches which were still healing, but his wings were fine and he was almost back to his complete strength.
I lead Wufei inside, walking on his right, while Trowa occupied his left. We didn’t really know whether we should act as what we were – friends –, and imply on which side we were standing, towards the other Shinisouls. We decided it was better to act neutral, or we might have gotten into trouble with our own clan. We managed to be late for the meeting, two minutes, maybe, and heads turned around, as we entered the door.
Of course they noticed Wufei – who can hide bright white wings? It was quite interesting to see people react to him. Some immediately drew their weapons, some figured he was no harm (he made that impression), and Treize’s wings snapped out immediately to make himself look bigger and more forceful. We let Wufei take two steps forward, and he showed all bravery one can show standing unarmed in the middle of twenty Shinisouls, ready to kill him at an instant. I was amazed by how cruel my relatives could be. Yet, here they were, and they absolutely were ready to kill. If that’s were the war takes one’s mind, it’s quite a pity.
“You can arrest me, if you wish to,” Wufei started calmly, “I am unarmed and won’t retaliate. Before you do that, I wish to beg you to be allowed to speak to you. I don’t intend any harm to you, I am all alone and I am here without the knowledge of my clan.” He proceeded to the front without getting killed, and reached out a hand to Treize, who by now had withdrawn his wings and displayed a composed look.
Treize let Wufei shake his hand, giving him permission to speak. Trowa and I still stood at the door, waiting. We were full of anticipation, as Wufei started his speech. I figured he must have thought about what he was going to say quite a while.
“Like all of you and all of my clan, I was born a warrior, trained to follow my principles in life as well as on the battlefield. I was born into this war, learned that it was part of my life, and that fighting, and probably winning against the Shinisouls, was my destiny. I heard the tale of two separated clans from our leader, Milliardo Peacecraft, and it inflicted hate and disgust against your race upon my soul. Until I first got my wings, I never questioned what I had learned. It’s hard to question something you are so familiar with. I didn’t even ask myself why I had been ‘raised’ with this war, as if it was something natural. It is not. Maybe I did not know it was not. I passed judgement on you, like my clan-mates, and like you pass judgement on me right in this moment.
My principles, you have to know, are honor and justice. When I flew over the lands and met a few of you, as well as the creatures of the desert, I wondered, whether I could really pass true judgement, when the only voice I had ever heard about the war, was Milliardo’s. You didn’t seem the way the enemy should seem... Shouldn’t I at least have heard Treize’s part of the tale, before I could decide on justice? How could I fight honorably, when I was not sure, I was fighting for the right thing? I finally started to question my position, and the position of all of us. And I searched, and found a true voice to the tale of this war. I know all the officials know the true tale. This is exactly, why I can’t understand, why they never stopped this senseless fighting a long time ago. They smashed those down who wanted to make them realize their folly. Our whole history, especially the parts we are still suffering on today, is based on misunderstandings, unlucky circumstances and a lot of exaggeratedly expressed agony. And we all are guilty, with every strike we take.
It doesn’t make me angry, it disappoints me. I am disappointed that after years, nobody realized this mistake, nobody tried to clear out the wrongs of the past, and end today’s useless agony. I will ask you the same question I am going to ask my clan, I can only hope you’ll try to understand... I am a soldier, I like fighting, but there is neither honor nor justice in this war. It leads us nowhere, and there are better things we could use our abilities for. Angels, can we not understand, that we once were one family? I desperately hope, we have the strength to do so. Thank you.”
There was complete silence for a moment. Lady Une and Treize dubiously looked at Wufei from the side of the stage. It almost seemed, as if Wufei had achieved to open something up inside them - yes, I almost started to cheer from inside, as the first faces in the audience seemed to light with understanding. Treize’s harsh voice cut the air, before the transformation could go any further.
“Arrest him!” he yelled, and immediately, two of us ran up to him, pinned him to the floor and bundled him in tight ropes. I felt detached from the scene, felt I did not have anything in common with these emotionless bastards. I felt like I needed to scream, needed to get away from these angels, I had used to love. I was sorry for Trowa, that he had to stay here and care about Wufei, and I would leave in a few minutes... When they had finished with the Nataku-born white-wing, he lay unable to move, right in front of Treize’s feet. No, these angels did not want peace, they wanted to stick with what was cruelly familiar to them. How insane!
My wings snatched open in a loud thud, once the room had calmed down. Immediately, the attention was on me, as I flapped my wings and broke through the opened windows in the ceiling. I bat the air with my wings as loudly as possible, growling a little in anger. As I left the room, I heard Treize yell:
“WHAT DOES HE THINK HE IS HE DOING?”
“Turning himself in to the Shouriwings,” I heard Trowa’s calm and settled voice. I did not hear more, I directly flew over to the Cleeve Hills. Maybe I just wanted to find out, whether white-winged angels were less cruel. I landed in front of the entry, and was immediately faced by two guards. Namely, Howard and Ilea, as far as I could tell the folk of the white wings apart.
“Please,” I said, showing my inferiority by kneeling in the dust in front of them, “I come unarmed, let me talk to Heero and Quatre, please... I won’t harm you. My clan has captured your Wufei, and I want to help you to prevent the worst.”
Ilea nodded at her companion and left to seek Heero and Quatre. I assumed, they, too, were at their morning assembly. They came quickly, knowing that my appearance here did not mean anything positive. They hurried down the steps behind the gate, looking down onto the kneeling me with questioning eyes.
“Wufei got captured. As promised, I turn myself in. I wish to talk to your clan before, briefly, if that is possible.” Heero nodded, picked me up some and I was lead to their assembly room the same way, Wufei had been. Heero was on my right, Quatre on my left, shielding my back with their wings, so nobody would try to kill me from behind.
Everybody was already nosily staring out of the windows, since they wondered, why Heero and Quatre had been asked to leave the morning convention so urgently. As they saw us approaching, they seemed to be quite confused. I made sure, my bare hands were visible, showing, how defenseless and vulnerable I was. Quatre and Heero lead me directly to the stage. People were quiet. I figured they missed Wufei, and knew I would answer their silent question about what had happened to him in a moment.
“Thank you, for letting me join you in here,” I said loudly. And I was nervous, really. I had not prepared anything to say, and yet, my words were of major importance. “I am unarmed, I just ask you to listen. Wufei has been captured by my clan, when he came, as unarmed as I am, to speak about the meaning of peace to all of us.” A million eyes seemed to stare at me, fixed on my lips. I had no time to ask whether there was hate in their souls. The words floated out of me, with some stuttering to them, though.
“Wufei reasonably explained... why we shouldn’t have this war. It is senseless, as you would all find out, if you wanted to know the real tale.” I faced the long-haired, blond leader. “Meiran tried to make that clear to you, Milliardo, as well as to Treize, and you both shushed her quiet in a most ungrateful way. Wufei said, he was disappointed, that we angels are unable to achieve peace. He really regrets what is happening... I think it is to late for being disappointed. On the other hand, it makes no sense to hate the people who started all this, they are dead. But I hate myself, for having joined in this war earlier, and I damn all of you, including my own clan, for being ignorant enough to fight blindly for a cause you don’t even know. I am filled with disgust and agony for my race: the angels we are all supposed to be, but which we are not.
Wufei wanted to ask you a question, but he couldn’t, because my ignorant clan has arrested him, without giving an answer. I’ll post that question in his place: Angels, can we not understand, that we once were one family? I am as serious about this question as he was - and I desperately hope, you are better at understanding than my whole damned clan!”
Okay, I got a little carried away, and a little loud, too. Maybe they did not like that. There was silence and angry stares at me. I dared to speak once again.
“I’ve come here after Wufei’s capture, to give my life into your hands, as Wufei’s is in those of my clan. I cannot promise, that Wufei will be alright, if you don’t harm me. I cannot even tell, whether my clan still cares about me, but I am trying to give my life for his. I remind you, that we are both willing to give our souls for peace...”
I walked up to Milliardo, trustfully, and held out my wrists. He nodded in acknowledgement to my brave act, before he handcuffed me. Bastard! He ‘handed’ me over to two white winged angels, Rasid and Howard, I guessed, and I was lead away. Quatre and Heero could do nothing but stare, but I approved the silence in the room. These angels weren’t much better than the Shinisouls, but at least they were trying to think about what I had said.
I was lead downstairs and thrown into some sort of prison cell. It was cold and moldy, and there was not even a bench. I seriously wondered whether they would just forget about me and let me rot in here. Considered how wet this cell was, I would start to mould soon enough. There was a tiny bit of hey in a corner, I decided to sit on. I would have a lot of time to think now, I guessed. Think about this stupid war, and how stubborn all angels in this world were.
My wings were wrapped around me in a desperate attempt to warm myself. I was expecting some cold nights down here and then... my execution? I had no idea. I didn’t think I could get executed, though. I was too much of a survivor to be. I wondered whether Wufei felt any better right now. I wasn’t sure whether there was a place as this in Yagen Valley. I hoped there was not, then Wufei would at least not start to mould, too.
While I spent days and weeks in this prison, the battle outside was raging. The angels who brought me my food, looked more and more battered. Really, for a war-prisoner I couldn’t complain. The food was quite nice and I never needed to stay hungry. I was not guarded day and night, but left on my own, which had it’s good and bad sides. Still, the cell and the straw I was sitting on were wet, there was mould on the walls, and the sticky smell of fouling substances streamed through the whole damp area. It made it hard to breathe sometimes, making my lungs sore. Well, this was war, what did I expect? I didn’t even know what I was waiting for in here, or how long I would have to stay.
In secret moments, either Heero or Quatre would visit me, tell me how things were going. Quatre would bring me fresh fruits, so I could get some vitamins to myself, or a blanket. He brought towels to dry my wet feet after the water had flooded the floor of my cell when it was raining. Quatre, impossible to say it in other words, was an angel! He did his best, caring for me, talking to me, trying to make my miserable time in the cell as comfortable as possible.
Heero and Quatre kept me posted on the war, and we came to the conclusion, that turning myself in, had probably not been the best idea of the year. The fights were even bloodier than before. No wonder, since none of the clans could threaten they would kill or harm their prisoner – the other clan had one, too. If only Wufei alone had been captured, the Shouriwings wouldn’t attack, in order to prevent the Shinisouls from harming him. However, the white ones had me now, and the unspoken rule was clear: Do anything to your prisoner and I will do worse to mine. We hadn’t foreseen this possibility. My act had even increased their hate for each other, making the fights what they were now: Just too bloody.
Worst of all, neither Heero nor Quatre could get in contact with Trowa – the defense walls on both sides had increased too much. Their faint connection to them was Meiran. And Meiran always told us, to not make a move yet, as if she was waiting for something. Heero spent endless nights just sitting next to the iron bars of my cell. We weren’t talking much. Occasionally, one of us would utter our will to find a way to end the stupidity we were all facing, or curse the stubborn angels for their behavior. Sometimes, I would tell him, how much I missed the vast lands, how much I wished to see the sun again. I must have been imprisoned for almost two months by then. I usually added, that it didn’t really matter; I’d wait patiently until we had figured a way to stop this insanity. And I was sure, Wufei felt just the same. The constant darkness around me, and the infinite boredom, ... it did drive me crazy. When nobody was there, I sometimes kicked the walls or spilled the hey in the cell, just to scoop it all up afterwards.
My hair was filthy, the braid smelly with dirt and the remains of the hey were stuck in it. The only time I ever got out, was for the ‘necessary’ breaks, every angel and human being has to take. But even then, I never saw the daylight. In my quiet moments, when I had calmed down after a hey-throwing fit, I tried to figure out, how angels could be so cruel. And then, I would start laughing as I remembered, how human beings thought about angels, and how disappointing it was that they were totally wrong.
One of the nights, Heero was there, I felt particularly bad for humans. I told Heero my thoughts, and he nodded some. I guess I just needed to babble to anyone, although I doubted Heero’s interest. When you are alone all day, you are happy to find a living soul anywhere to talk to. And Heero was a patient listener. We fell back into silence afterwards. I leaned against the iron bars, Heero against the wall next to my cell. I tried to see the stairs from where I was, but I couldn’t see far enough. Stairs into freedom... no, they were stairs to the battlefield.
Slowly, Heero got up, intending to leave to get some sleep after all. I knew all the nights had to end like that, but I also knew, Quatre would come in the early morning hours to keep me company, until he had to appear at the morning assembly. They never told me, in what relation they stood to their clan, now. Were they hated? Did people even understand, that all five of us were part of this ‘conspiracy’? The angels had probably not figured that yet – our nightly meetings at my cell were too secret, and Quatre and Heero did everything to not make the impression, that we were friends. It would have been too dangerous to let them know. Unbelievable these were our friends and family – in rage, they were as sharp as knifes.
Heero brushed his pants off, after he had gotten up. I swear, I had not touched any angel ever since I had been imprisoned. Not even Quatre when he had stuffed the blanket into my cell. Almost automatically, my feeble arms reached out through the iron bars and caught Heero’s wrist. He turned around in surprise, facing me. A shot of dizziness went through me shortly.
“Please, don’t go. I can’t stand being all alone much longer...” I whispered . Heero grabbed my wrists, which were still holding him, with his other hand, softly.
“Duo, you have a fever...” he said. His cobalt blue eyes concernedly looked into mine. I bet he checked whether they had the glassy stare of sickness in them, and they probably had.
“No wonder. It’s wet and cold down here,” I muttered. He disengaged our hands, promised he would be back soon, and went away. I heard him running up the stairs and the large door banged shut. I was all alone in the darkness again, only a torch flickered in the hall before me. My arm hung loosely through the iron bars onto the floor in front of me. Now, that Heero had said it, I realized, that I really felt crappy. I noticed the heat under my bangs, and how dried out my mouth was. Well, it wasn’t a surprise, really. That I had been alright for the last two months, was probably only due to Quatre’s care, but even with vitamins, blankets, and towels, my body couldn’t just take everything. And the constantly damp cell was one of the things, it could not deal with any longer
Heero returned with keys, and wordlessly opened the door to my cell. I pushed myself onto my legs, supporting myself on the iron bars. I intended to step out, but somehow, I felt all hazy and strange. The upper part of my body tilted forward as I stepped out of the cell. My feet followed quickly, in order to prevent me from falling, and before I noticed it, my weight sent me running against the wall. I bumped into it, and sank down onto the floor. I immediately tried to get up again, sure, that my legs had to work properly, now that I was free.
Heero wordlessly threw my arm around him and pulled me up. Supporting my weight on him, I stood panting for a moment. My wings feebly swiped the floor as we started walking. I couldn’t keep them in their folded position anymore.
“Heero,” I managed to say, “if they find out I was gone, even if I am going back-”
“I don’t care anymore.”
With some effort, Heero brought me to his and Quatre’s room. Quatre awoke as Heero threw me onto his bed with a groan. Or maybe Quatre just awoke because of the moldy odor coming from my body. He immediately saw what was up and climbed out of his bed. Since I finally intended not to consciously fight the fever anymore, it spread completely, leaving me hot and weak.
Quatre threw a concerned look at me, before his hand reached for my forehead. I was so heated and dirty, that Quatre and Heero decided to clean me up first and cool me under the water. Together they carried me to a bathroom and heaved me into the tub. Heero unfolded my braid and released me of my black shirt, while Quatre pulled down my pants. I couldn’t even protest against being undressed completely, hell, I didn’t really figure I was! When they had finished, I was about to sack into slumber.
“You are not falling asleep, Duo, okay? Talk to me!” Heero demanded harshly, trying to prevent me from falling into unconsciousness.
“The war.. I... have to go back... the cell...” I tried to connect the words to what I was trying to say. “Can’t stay here...”
“Don’t worry about that right now, Duo. Tell me,... tell me something about Trowa!” he demanded insistently. Quatre meanwhile had started some warm water and washed off the dirt, cleaning me with the stream of water and a sponge, while Heero watched my face. His eyes seemed to pierce through me, and I had to work hard, to keep looking into that bishounen face.
“Trowa... why Trowa...?” I couldn’t really make sense.
“Tell me about him. He’s your friend!”
“Trowa’s got the blackest wings ever... and soft like velvet... He looks like the night, like the sky when the moon’s not shining... I touched them, and I was... jealous... Mine are just big... but his are almost... female... beautiful... He needs to protect them... he’s too wild...” I babbled, not really knowing, what I was saying. Meanwhile, Quatre slowly turned the water colder, so it would cool my body instead of heat it. “Hilde has velvety wings, too, but when I first saw his... they were so much better... water... water... cold, cold, cold!” I whimpered.
“Almost over,” Quatre let me know. I started to shiver. In full clothing, Quatre went into the wet tub, sitting behind the shivering me. He wrapped his legs about me, so the cloth on his pants would warm me some, while he made my hair all wet. Heero meanwhile was still talking to me, rubbing my cold shoulders with his hands, trying to keep me conscious.
“Stay with me, Duo! Tell me, who is Hilde?” he kept on bugging. I didn’t like to reply, I wanted to sleep. Quatre was soaping my long hair, which was all about mine and his body and wings. There was just too much of it. But it was my pride, I would never cut it. I felt Quatre’s careful hands on my strands, rubbing and cleaning. And his wet shirt and warm body caressed my wings. It was relaxing... I closed my eyes.
“DUO! TALK!” Heero yelled, shaking me some.
“H-Hilde is my f-f-friend,” I stuttered, eyes big and wide, watching cobalt ones. “She used to... b-be in a room w-with Lady Une... before Une m-moved over to T-Treize... Une h-helps with the conven-ventions, s-s-she adores T-Treize. A-a-and s-s-she really cares ab-b-bout us b-boys. I-I t-thought she was n-nice... ice... c-c-cold... water...”
“What about Hilde?” Heero inquired again.
“She is j-j-just like the others... she w-wanted to re-wing Qu-Qu-Quatre...” Quatre gasped some, but kept on working on my hair. “A-and... s-s-she s-s-supported the others on... imp-p-prisoning Wufei...!” Quatre cleaned my hair from the soap and crawled out of the tub again. His pants and the pink shirt were all soapy and wet. Together, Heero and Quatre heaved me out of the tub, and wrapped me in a towel and a blanket. Then, they carried me back to Heero’s bed. They tucked me in, using both Heero’s and Wufei’s blanket. Only my head and the upper part of my wings were still visible, as I was laying on my stomach, hands almost tucked under my shoulders. Heero lightly sat down on top of me, legs spread to either side of my body, so his weight hardly rested on me.
While Quatre changed into something less soaked, he fumbled my wet hair out from under the blankets and carefully started brushing it. All the way up from the top. He held it in his hands for brushing the tips, which usually ended somewhere on my bum. He did it with all care, trying to get all the knots out of it, that had come in there over the last two months. Since they had been in a braid before, the knots weren’t too bad, but after Quatre’s washing and rubbing, there still was a lot of work at hand. I eased into sleep, the last thing I saw was Quatre sitting on the bed, watching us.
I was woken by a gentle rubbing and patting on my shoulders. Heero massaged them gently, while Quatre kneeled in front of me, waiting for my eyes to open. There was light in the room, it must have been early in the morning.
“Duo-kun,” Quatre addressed me gently, waiting for my eyes to focus. “You cannot stay here. We’ll take you to Meiran, before the others get up.” I moaned faintly, trying to express that I understood. Carefully they unwrapped me from all the blankets, and I realized consciously, for the first time, that I was completely naked. My wings immediately spread around me in protection. Quatre giggled lightly.
“Too late, Duo-kun. We got some clean clothes for you, let us help you put them on,” he said.
Well, I didn’t really have a choice, I still felt dizzy and weak. I let them help me dress into some blue, rather velvety and baggy pants, a shirt and a jacket. Heero zipped it up to my chin, to make sure I was completely warm, before he and Quatre took me into their middle and carried me outside.