Once on the lawn, they begged me to keep my wings folded and opened theirs up above mine. My feet were intertwined with their heels, so I would not dangle in between them while they were flying. The braid, Heero must have made while I had been asleep, was fluttering to the beating of their white wings, as we fluttered towards Meiran. It was quite an uncomfortable ride, but it didn’t harm me. It must have been quite strenuous for Quatre and Heero to carry me. They pulled me through the narrow passage and inside the cave. Meiran was immediately at my side.
“He is sick, he couldn’t stay in the dungeons any longer,” Quatre said, grabbing a blanket from Meiran’s things to wrap me in it. Meiran sat down at the fire, and so did Quatre, once he had finished with me. Heero sat down right behind me, caressing me weak wings, patting and massaging them. It was quite a pleasure to feel his warm hands on the skin there, not to mention that he was quite good at massaging.
“I wanted to ask you anyway, to get Duo out of there,” Meiran said.
“Hn,” Heero grunted, “He wouldn’t have survived much longer.”
“Trowa will bring Wufei, soon. I have no idea in what shape he is. I hope he feels better than you do, Duo. Else, there will be a problem getting him here. I figured, what has happened has not calmed the angels down, it has encouraged them. It is good, you reacted so quickly, Quatre and Heero, when Duo was in danger. Sooner or later, the clans would have found out about this conspiracy, anyway.”
“We have done quite some good acting, so far,” came Trowa’s voice from the passage. My face lightened in joy as his head popped out from the entry and he crawled inside. Then, a very dirty, but otherwise fine Wufei sat down next to us.
“Trowa! Wufei!” Quatre cheered, and crawled over to give them both a big hug. The little angel was just too sweet. Trowa received an extra-large one, with so much energy, it almost knocked him down. Quatre sat down next to him, smiling, filled with joy. Wufei and Trowa looked at me.
“Ohayoo,” I grinned.
“What happened?” Wufei asked, checking my glassy eyes.
“You’ve got a nice dungeon,” I answered, “just a little wet and cold.” Wufei raised his eyebrows as he understood what had put me into this shape. Heero flicked the braid over my shoulder, since it was in the way of his massaging.
“What happens now?” Trowa asked, looking around. He seemed a little disappointed by how things had turned out.
“Good question,” I admitted, “we can’t just stay--- ahhhh!” I couldn’t finish my sentence, because Heero rubbed his knuckles over an extremely sore spot between my wings, giving me the most relaxing, but strong pain I had ever felt. This guy knew how to massage a battered angel, absolutely. I arched my back some, squirming, trying to get away from his hands, but what he did was just necessary to relax my tensed muscles. “Heero! Ow!” I complained, as he did it again. The zero-born stopped a moment in contemplation, and then moved his knuckles over the same spot with some pressure again. “HEERO!” I cursed, as the pain came up inside me. He repeated the move, and the pain grew less intense with each time he did that. My muscles relaxed, and I closed my eyes, now enjoying the procedure.
“What you wanted to say, Duo, was, that we cannot stay in here, Meiran, without being discovered, and we can’t go back, either,” Quatre picked up the conversation.
“We can’t do anything as long as Duo isn’t back to his normal self,” Wufei said, pointing at me with a wave of his head.
“Well, excuse me!” I protested, “Tell your angels to build a better prison!”
“Not your fault,” Trowa said, to both me and Wufei, “Let’s accept the facts as they are.”
“I know,” Meiran said, “I am sorry, I have no plan, either. There is no place I can think of for you to hide away. This is absolutely not going the way it was supposed to go.”
We spent the whole morning trying to find something to do, thinking about places in the vast lands, we could use to hide, before any clan would have the idea to search Meiran’s modest premises. We had a hard time coming to conclusions. We thought about talking to all of the angels in our group of five, so they could see, Shinisouls and Shouriwings could get along quite well. But this was too dangerous. Hell, someone even suggested in a mere mood of sarcasm, we should cut our wings, and cast ourselves out. Maybe pity would lead them into freedom. Could have been my idea, but this time the master of angry sarcasm was Wufei. He didn’t mean it, though.
As for the hideouts... the vast land is not really big, it is hard to travel it unseen, and there were no hideouts that were not known to the angels. Briefly, there was no way to hide, except Meiran’s place, which was a bad hideout. We thought about maybe digging a secret cave for ourselves, but it would take way too long, and we’d be discovered quickly. We all sat, pondering in silence, as a voice called from outside.
“Meiran!” We exchanged glances. It definitely was Treize. Meiran hurried outside before he would crawl through the passage. It was quite a funny thought, to imagine Treize on his knees, squeezing himself through the entry with his big wings, and maybe getting stuck...
“Oh, Treize, what a surprise! Nice of you to visit me,” we heard Meiran say, and she tried to sound naturally happy. Our bodies were tensed, and we hardly breathed, hoping we would not be heard.
“I’m here on business,” he said. “Trowa and the Shouri, we imprisoned, have vanished. Do you know anything?” His voice was harsh and demanding, so that Trowa and I automatically hid in our wings. Angel-reflex, you know... If there had been any sympathy left for Treize till than, any of my old adoration at all, it was gone now.
“You know, Treize, I have got nothing to do with this war anymore,” she answered bravely “You know my opinion about your battles, and for your information, Milliardo misses his boys and Duo, too. See where this war leads you! Now you lost those precious kids. Maybe they are somewhere out there, slaying each other, because they have never learned to do anything else!” I had no idea she was such a skilled liar. I don’t like lying, really. I do a lot of bad stuff, but I never lie. I didn’t mind her doing it this time, though, because Meiran did a fine job out there, and it saved us!
Treize had obviously flown away, since Meiran reappeared in the cave. He transparent shape shimmered somewhat feebly, as she tried to calm down. “Ignorant idiot!” she gasped.
“Let’s see to the facts,” Wufei said, rubbing Meiran’s shoulder some (yes, she was transparent, but I never said, you couldn’t touch her!), “We are just five weak young angels, trying to correct the world. We are no part of them, we don’t belong here.” He was totally miserable, as it seemed.
“Right,” Quatre agreed, and swallowed a lump in his throat. “I think... I think it is time to say our good-byes.” We silently agreed. Do you think we gave up easily? We had not said, we did not intend to come back, but as things were currently, there really was no point in taking any action. Patience is a virtue, and as Wufei had said: We were of a different kind. We were not at all like these guys.
“Maybe, the time for peace has just not come yet,” I said, “but we’ll never give up.”
“Right,” Meiran said to me, “I am counting on you, still.”
“Meiran,” Wufei addressed her quietly. “Will you come with us, of we should leave this country?” There was a begging in his voice, something I had never heard from Wufei. He looked at Meiran fully.
“I will live in both worlds, when you are gone,” she said, almost sadly. “I can keep you posted on the war, and we shall never forget our mission to bring peace to these fighters. I will try to find out, when the time is right, and when they learned, what they have done by loosing you...”
Wufei nodded, and swallowed quietly. I had expected her to say something like that, and so had he. He looked down onto his cross-legged legs. There was a moment of embarrassed silence.
“Will we just sneak away like that?” Quatre inquired after a while; a question directed to all of us. Heero, who had been playing with my wings all the time, finally spoke, too.
“No. Our will is to bring these people to peace. We should let them know why we are going.” We all agreed with him, yet, we still had to figure out, how we would manage to do this. We could not let them have the opportunity to catch us and keep us from going.
We finally figured out a way: Meiran would invite the fighting parties to an old tree close to her hideout. She would admonish them to keep peace for our sake, as long as the meeting on the oak tree would last. We expected them to care for us enough to keep this agreement. There, we would be waiting for them, ready to leave, ready to tell them, why we were going away from the land of war.
We had to wait, though, I was not in shape to fly to another land, yet. So we spent three days in Meiran’s cave. Only at night, the others would carefully sneak out, get some food for us, while I was still recovering. In the meantime, several people were inquiring Meiran about us, but she always prevented them from entering the cave. Overhearing their conversations, which sometimes were quite long, we found out, that most of them really missed us, and were worried. Whenever there was a chance, Meiran tried to make them see, that it was time to rethink the war-question. The only one, she got close to in this matter, however, was Milliardo’s sister Relena Peacecraft. She said, she would try to talk to Milliardo, since the boys (she meant us), were more important, than any fighting.
What can I say...? The conversations almost broke our hearts, and we were about to dismiss the plan about going away. However, our will to teach these angels a lesson, and our knowledge, that we would only live in constant disappointment, if the war didn’t stop, made it reasonably impossible to us. We had to go!
When the third morning came, Meiran flew out, to hand out her invitations for the following evening. Meanwhile, Wufei had managed to steal new clothes for himself, and my old black stuff had been washed in the lake at night. I felt much more comfortable and healthier now. We were all ready to leave, taking not much more with us, but these clothes, and our wings.
Meiran returned successfully, the message would surely arrive and spread among the angels. Now we only could wait. Noon passed by with us talking about how we would miss our old homes, this cave and the vast lands. Meiran advised us to sleep, since we would have a long journey this night. Quatre laid his head on Trowa’s hips and fell asleep. I couldn’t really, and maybe the others could neither. I was leaning on the wall next to Quatre, Heero was on my right, leaning back against my wing. Wufei had his head on Heero’s shoulder. All of us seemed to sleep, but maybe we all truly were not. We just kept our eyes shut to not disturb the others.
Except for Quatre, maybe.... the blond angel had really been asleep, and woke up after an hour, yawning and stretching. It was the sign for all of us, to ‘wake up’, from our rest, too. We stretched and massaged each other some, to get rid of this unnatural tension, before it was time to go to the oak tree. I was so nervous, I swear! We were determined, not to fail our self-control, and fall for people holding us back. No, we would go, we would leave and make our point clear. No matter how hard they would try to hold us back. And if they did not try at all, we would not be disappointed about them not caring.
We were coming through the open fields, walking. The white- and black-wings were already there, neatly separated into two groups, refusing to look at each other. Yet, they kept some sort of peace. The tree was ahead of them. With hanging heads, we arrived, the evening sun cast big shadows to our left. When we arrived, we could not help, but feel sadness. It had come this far, and that was disappointing. Around us, eyes blinked, wondered, asked silently. We had no idea, how we were supposed to begin, or who should speak. Trowa took the initiative and flew onto a big branch above them all, standing there in the evening sun. Quatre flew to his side, while Wufei, Heero and I occupied another branch. Trowa stood, while we all sat down, gazing at the angels below us. They looked sad. Maybe they couldn’t understand our moves.
“Angels,” I heard Trowa’s voice, “we have missed your company, for you are our families, and we love you all. And we know, you love us, but you refused to listen to our cry for piece, and it disappointed us. You know our opinion, for Wufei and Duo have made that clear to you. They have taken great suffering to do that, and you should know, that all of us stand behind them and admire their bravery to face such angels as you.” He looked over at Quatre for a moment, “I don’t feel I am a Shinisoul anymore, and I can speak for my friends, that they don’t feel they belong to you, either. Since we can’t bring peace to your minds, and we cannot live in war anymore, we decided to leave Yagen Valley, the Cleeve Hills and the vast lands, to search for peaceful grounds. We five may look different from each other, but nothing can separate us.” There was gasping around. Quatre almost started to cry, as far as I could tell, and I didn’t feel very joyful, either. Trowa’s speech really took it out of me... Heero dangled his legs softly, his pure white wings surrounding me and Wufei, all spread out. I for myself, had no strength, to spread the black skin. I kept my wings folded.
“Whenever you are willing to take our help in peace-matters, we will be in reach. We are still trying to help you, but it became clear for us, that this world is maybe not ready for it, yet. We decided to wait for you to grasp the meaning of peace.” He paused a little, opening his mouth, searching for the right words. “From the moment I first fought Quatre, I noticed, that there is more to white-wings, than what I had been told. I realized, that our generation was completely detached from this war, that we were innocent, that Quatre was innocent. When he surrendered, I regretted, I had not been the first to take this move. Maybe, Quatre was, after all, even more thoughtful and reasonable than I was.
I had intensely injured him, and guiltily took care of his wounds. But knowing, that my family, which was supposed to only mean the best for me, would not understand my care about an enemy – not after they had been about to re-wing him. I searched a hideout to be able to help him. Even Duo did not seem to really understand. I found a hiding place in Meiran’s cave, and I found much more there. I found, that Duo, Wufei and Heero felt the same me and Quatre did, I found the truth about the past... But the most precious thing, I found that night,...” Trowa was swallowing a little, his voice had a faint quiver to it by now. “...the most precious thing was, that I learned, how much is possible between Shinisouls and Shouriwings.”
His voice merely was a faint whisper now, only carried over to the watching warriors by the light breeze. “That night, Quatre and I exchanged out vows of love.” His hand reached out for Quatre’s, a faint blush was on the Sandrock-born’s cheek. Now, there was no question anymore, who had been mostly hurt by this war. We hadn’t known this, we had not understood the slight hints, implying this relationship. It must have happened before I had joined them in the cave... No wonder they had been so close to each other the past few days... Quatre had edged closer to his lover as he tugged on his hand. They watched each others eyes, and Quatre whispered to the angels, as barely audible as Trowa had been before, “Now you can probably understand, why we cannot feel and understand the depth of this war like you do.”
He laid his head on Trowa’s chest, wings spread. Trowa laid his own black velvet, as well as his arms, around his lover protectively. It was the most beautiful sight I had ever seen. The dark orange sunlight did it’s rest to the scene. I don’t know how many of these angels down there were about to cry, I surely was, and I honestly tell you that.
Suddenly, both Trowa and Quatre, arched their backs and screamed. Our hearts froze in shock, as they clenched their hands into each other. There was a bright light, blinding me, and I closed my eyes in reflex. When I opened them again, Trowa and Quatre were still hugging each other tightly, Trowa’s wings embraced both protectively. It was amazing: Where there had once been dark black and bright white wings, there were golden ones now, resembling Heero’s in size and shape. Long, silky, golden feathers were sparkling in the sunlight, and I seriously wondered, whether Trowa and Quatre knew what had happened. Their eyes were tightly shut, they were clenched into each other, probably still reflecting the pain, from a moment ago. The other angels, though, were in shock, staring at the lovers stupidly. Not all of them possibly knew about the golden-wing thing, which had happened in the past. I am pretty sure, Milliardo and Treize knew, judging from the disbelief in their faces.
Meiran hovered in front of the tree-trunk, and her shape seemed stronger, less transparent and more shining. I don’t know how to tell, but she was blazing from her inside. And there was something else about her... I had never noticed that, but she, too, had wings. They looked a lot like Trowa’s new ones, but they were, as the rest of her, transparent. She fluttered mildly, staying in place.
“You saw what happened,” she said with the most sweet and composed voice I could imagine on her. Her long, dark, transparent hair fell down her shoulders to her elbow -, in a sparkling way, I had never seen on her. “For once, someone has spoken truth from his heart, and I am very thankful for that. I can feel and see in your hearts, more distinctly with every minute passing, and I know, there’s more truth to be revealed. I also learned to see into the hearts of my friends,” she made a wide gesture to the crown of the tree, we were sitting in. “And I think none of you should be afraid to speak truth.”
She turned around a little, setting her eyes on us. “Heero, I know there’s no reason to hide your truth. I can feel your heart, and I can feel the other’s. Don’t hesitate, for I know, nothing can go wrong...”
Heero blinked at her, really surprised. I felt, as if the other angels down there in front of the tree were not present anymore. I had no idea what was going on, believe me or not, but it seemed as if Meiran knew perfectly well, what she was talking about – and so did Heero, even though it shocked him.
The white wings, that had been spread out behind me all the time, gently touched my black ones, as if wanting to grab my attention. I could not really grope what was happening. Cobalt blue eyes looked at me. I blinked, when Heero’s arm slid around my waist. I felt hazy and warm, confused and happy, all at the same time. Heero smiled, but I could not react. This was all too new and too strange for me. And seeing Heero smile made it even more weird. He carefully tilted me forward until our cheeks touched. When his lips were close to my ear, he whispered: “Suki desu, Duo.”
My eyes sprung open wide in a sweet, sensational shock. I reached out a hand to pull on his shoulder until he was totally leaning against me. His warm body was incredibly close to mine, our wings touched on numerous spots. So all the caressing my wings, messaging, combing my hair, the bandaging and the trust had been nothing but an exchange of affection... And I had enjoyed all this, because I returned that feeling. The endless nights in the dungeons, the wish for him to never leave,... I slowly became clear of my feelings.
“Suki desu... I love you,” I said, and I hadn’t known that myself all the time. Why had Meiran known it, then...? Poor Heero, he probably had waited for me, to show that I returned his feelings, but I had known myself too little, to know that I loved him. And to tell me honestly, he had needed Meiran’s encouragement. I embraced him tightly. Yes... I did love him.
Then, I felt a familiar crawling in my bones... a snake in my flash. I was about to curse, I didn’t really want any pain. Yet, the sensation could not be stopped. I dug my hands into Heero’s arms, as we both pulsated in pain. We didn’t scream, we were prepared for the pain, and we had each other. He clutched me as tightly as I clutched him, until the pain and the light were over. We let go of each other for a moment. There he sat, right beside me, golden wings spread out widely, and he looked at me with the most loving eyes, I had ever seen.
“Meiran!” I heard Wufei’s surprised voice at my side. I turned around to see her, and there she was... but she was not transparent anymore. She was an angel, complete with golden wings, dark black eyes, dark hair, and a long, silky dress. Wufei almost fell off his branch.
“Thank you, Heero,” Meiran said, he cheeks seemed slightly flushed. “Thanks to you and Trowa, I have returned to my normal shape. Thank you for speaking honesty from your hearts. My words can’t express my gratitude...”
I think the others (I slowly became aware of the fact, that there still were others), were totally puzzled by now. Well, you would be, if these angel-guys on the tree suddenly cuddled and transformed into golden-winged ones, now, would you? But it set the alarms off in them, and that was good. Treize separated from his group, holding out a hand to Milliardo. Heero and I cuddled and watched in happy anticipation.
“I am sorry, my friend and brother,” Treize said, as Milliardo took it, “can we bury the fight and restart? Lets head towards a new peaceful era!”
“I think we can,” Milliardo said, “if you want to go that way with me.” He laid his other hand on the shaking ones and so did Treize. The other angels watched the floor timidly. They didn’t really know whom to excuse to. Relena met Lady Une in a hearty embrace. Slowly, angels separated from their groups and excused to one another. Hilde started off with Sally, and it seemed to be a good example to the others. Slowly, white- and black-wings mixed up. Everyone had someone he really needed to excuse to. Trowa, Quatre, Heero and I watched the beginning of peace with joy. Only Wufei sat sadly on his branch, watching the big family re-unite.
“Hey Wufei...?” I asked concernedly.
“Everyone is so happy...” he said in contemplation, “and I am up here on my own, watching.” At this point, Meiran came up beside him, sitting next to him.
“I told you, I can look into people’s hearts,” she said. “It was time, Milliardo and Treize became friends... but theirs’ are not the most interesting hearts I’ve seen this evening.” She leaned against him lightly. His white wings immediately enclosed her in an embrace, as if they had a life of their own.
“No...? Then tell me, who has the most interesting heart?” Wufei asked.
“You have,” she answered in a light, clear voice.
“Why?” he said, with a nervous laughter, as the sun set.
“Because you love me,” she whispered, and kissed his cheek. Wufei blushed a little and nodded. She grabbed his hands and pulled them around her. Wufei was totally caught by surprise and couldn’t do much more but let it happen.
“Hold me tight, you will need it,” she said. And really, a moment later, he clutched her tightly, almost too hard. His face changed in pain, as the light shot through his back, revealing bright, golden wings.
I bet this old oak tree was the luckiest tree in the world. It had the first six golden angels of the new age sitting on them, and after years of fighting, it could watch, how peace was made under it’s crown. Slowly the air cooled off and darkness spread around us. Angel after angel sat down in mixed groups under the tree. And after a while there was peaceful silence beneath us.
Angelic peace, really.