Eternity In His Hand
Quatre Winner lowered his saber and lifted his protective face mask as his defeated opponent bowed to him and left the fencing square. Sweat beaded on his brow and Quatre wiped it away with the back of his sleeve, his chest heaving with exertion. The silver ring of saber against saber had filled his ears all morning and though his muscles were beginning to get a bit watery, he had never felt more alive. The air seemed crisper, the green leaves of the campus trees more green, the sky so clear he thought perhaps he could peek into heaven. It was a beautiful feeling, as if the world had been born anew with the rising sun. Or maybe he had just never noticed the small things before.
Unconsciously his eyes swung to the notebook on the nearby bench, a few sheaves of hastily scrawled music sticking out of the folders. He had finished his masterpiece "The Sunlit Garden". When he had struck the final chords that morning he had had an overwhelming need to rename it but had dotted it up to lack of sleep on his part. He couldn't figure out where the title "The Rose Bride" had come from; nevertheless, he liked the whimsical sound of it. Perhaps it would do for a ballad.
In front of him, the next fencer positioned herself with a smirk and saluted him briefly with her saber. Quatre smiled.
"Good morning, Dorothy. I had no idea you would be practicing today."
"Neither did I, but I had a feeling I would find you here." She lowered her face plate. "I must warn you I'm feeling rather energetic. It will take a miracle for you to beat me."
He laughed lightly and pulled his own mask into place. "But you believe in miracles so I guess that means I have a chance."
Her voice came to him slightly muffled but he could hear the smile in it. "Yes, I suppose it does."
The first strike was his.
On the sidelines, Duo clapped with the rest and managed to whistle in support of his friend. He really wasn't much for fencing matches having a distaste for swords but he liked to support Quatre, especially when he was matched against Dorothy. It irritated the long-haired vixen to no end and that was something he thoroughly enjoyed, even though it got him in constant trouble with Hilde.
Thinking of her, he turned and looked over the crowd of spectators trying to find a glimpse of her dark curls. She usually liked to watch fencing duels, saying it reminded her of someone. She was his number one partner in cheering and it was odd she hadn't shown up yet. Most likely she had slept in which presented a delightful excuse for him to wake her up. And he had such wonderful ways of doing it, too. Grinning to himself, he cheered for Quatre again and was echoed by a feminine voice to his side. He glanced over to see who it was and slapped the girl heartily on the back, causing her to lurch forward unsteadily and glare at him.
"Duo!" she said, exasperated, but the twinkle in her gray eyes didn't fool him. He winked at her.
"Come to cheer on the Quat-man have you, Catherine? That's my girl," he said proudly, clapping his hands as Quatre evaded a spectacular lunge by Dorothy. Catherine rolled her eyes.
"Why is it we never cheer for Dorothy again?" she asked, jumping up and down a few times in order to see over the heads of people in front of her.
"Because she always beats him. That's hard on a man's ego, lady. We have to do what we can to keep his spirits up," he replied wisely, adding in a chorus of "Go, Quatre!"
"Of course," Cathy replied blithely but she shouted right along with him.
A minute later Quatre was defeated and gave a bow to Dorothy who was smiling at him with an air of cat-like superiority. Duo sighed and shrugged.
"Well it would have been a miracle if he had won anyway."
Catherine punched him playfully in the shoulder and he grabbed her elbow to lead her out of the crowd. "Come on, missy. It's time to find Hilde."
* * * *
She stood in the middle of Heero's empty dorm room, a well creased letter in her hands as she tried to imagine what the place had looked like only a few days ago. It was both wonderful and frustrating when she couldn't. Wonderful because she knew it meant Heero had achieved Eternity and his wish had been granted. Frustrating because any sign of both him and Relena had been erased from the hearts and minds of those they had touched. The Arena Forest was gone along with the Platform, the Student Council had been abolished as if it had never existed, and when she had mentioned Heero's name to Duo the other day he had simply looked at it her if as if she had gone crazy. It was as if the Rose Bride and anything connected to her had never been. Hilde knew better of course. Her memories were still intact, along with his.
She glanced over her shoulder as Trowa walked around the room, his hands in his pockets as his one visible green eye caught her gaze.
"Why do you think I can remember?" he asked quietly. "I was not close to him, as you were."
Hilde smiled. "Because you remember how Catherine was before your wish came true. She may not remember but you do and so you will never take her life for granted. Think of it as payment for your dream."
His expression cleared. "I will," he answered, "but what about you? None of the others know anything."
She nodded. "Yes, it will be hard to stay here. Heero wouldn't mind but it bothers me to see them happy and know that they are oblivious as to the reason why. Maybe it's selfish but I want them to know that it was Heero who fulfilled their wishes."
"But it was his own that made them forget," Trowa said gently, laying a hand on her shoulder. "The duels destroyed as much as they gave. I think he just wanted them to lead normal lives." He lifted his ringless right hand. "It's odd, but I'm not going to miss it. The Rose Seal disappeared around the time Heero must have entered the Gate. It's time that I move on, with Cathy."
"Heero would want that," she replied, trying to keep her voice from cracking. His hand squeezed her shoulder.
"Will you go to him now? The letter said this afternoon."
Hilde nodded. "Yes, and I'm taking Duo. I'm hoping that if he sees him..."
"I understand. Duo was the only one of us that didn't duel for himself. Even I, in my need to save Cathy, thought mostly of my loneliness without her. I hope everything works out."
"So do I."
He turned to go, his hand reaching for the door before he paused.
"Will we see you again? Cathy tells me you and her had a long talk. She will miss you."
"And I her, but I don't know the future. Perhaps someday but for now..." She shrugged and he bowed to her.
"Then fare you well. Give my regards to both of them."
This time Hilde managed a brilliant smile.
* * * *
"Where are they?" she muttered aloud, shielding her eyes as she looked down the beach. Beside her Duo sighed.
"I don't understand. What are we-"
She shushed him and blinked against the sunlight. Was that two figures walking towards them? She strained to see.
Duo was squinting. "Hey, look, there someone here besides us."
She smiled and threaded her arm through his, ignoring his confused glance, because there were indeed people walking towards them. A man and a woman holding hands as they walked barefoot through the wet sand, the incoming waves breaking gently at their ankles. As they grew closer, Hilde drew in a shaky breath as her eyes took in the sight of Relena.
The former Rose Bride looked somehow smaller, as if her overwhelming spiritual presence had fled along with her powers. She was now just a slender young woman in a flowered sundress, her long gold hair waving gently in the breeze. Her eyes were no longer vacant or distant, the aqua irises wide and joyful and full of the man who walked beside her. Her smile, too, was much changed. It was blinding.
Heero only looked content.
In jeans and a button down shirt, he didn't look anything like someone who had fought and won the duel called Revolution. Well, perhaps his eyes showed it, Hilde amended. They were dark and seemed to look into the distance and see things she would never know or want to know. It was as if he held a glimpse of Eternity itself in his gaze and she had to look away from the power in them. It wasn't something a normal person should see.
Duo frowned, "Do you know them?"
The couple came to stop before them and Relena laughed, releasing Heero's hand. "Why, Duo, you shouldn't joke. Besides, it's time for you to come out." She leaned forward and laid a light kiss on his cheek and to Hilde's amazement her boyfriend blinked once and grinned.
"Hello there, princess. Sorry to worry you." He looked over at Hilde and squeezed her hand. "And you as well. It was a bit foggy there for a bit but Heero thought it was necessary and who I am to argue with the Granter of Wishes?."
Heero smirked but his words were directed at Hilde. "You came. I wasn't sure if you would."
Immediately and perhaps, foolishly, tears sprang to her eyes and she threw herself at him, hugging him tightly. "I can't believe you said that, you jerk! I ought to— "
But Heero grunted with the force of her impact and she stepped back, instantly contrite. "I'm sorry, did I hurt you?"
One of his rare half-smiles graced his features and he laid a hand on his side. "Things just aren't all healed yet," he glanced at Relena, "but they will be."
Hilde watched the two of them with a knowing look in her eye but was suddenly serious when she spoke. "Everything is different now. It's like… It's like the two of you never lived. Is this…" she looked at Heero, "Is this what you wanted?" She saw him take a deep breath.
"Many things happened when I went through the Gate, Hilde. Most of them I will tell you and Duo later as the story is quite long, but what I will say now is that the world is the way it should have been. A world without a Rose Bride, or duels, or Rose Seals. The Gate of Eternity is safe again, the Sword of Peacecraft back where it belongs, and its guardian finally at rest. An old wrong was righted and all that's left to hope for is peace."
Duo was watching Relena. "Then you're— "
"Free," she finished brightly and Hilde didn't miss how she stepped closer to Heero as she said it. "The spells that were placed on me are gone. I can speak of my memories clearly now and I can live again, with Heero." She glanced at her lover with a tender smile. "After all, that was my wish."
The look in his vast eyes was just as tender though his face was still as composed as ever. "Mine, too."
Duo whistled. "Man, I wish I had a camera." Hilde elbowed him as Relena laughed.
"Well," Hilde asked, tilting her head, "what should we do now? I'm not sure I can go back to the Academy just yet. I'm afraid, if I go back, I'll forget everything." Duo nodded in agreement.
Heero and Relena exchanged looks and then Relena spoke, her voice cheerful as she grabbed both Duo and Hilde's hands and placed them together. "Come with us. We have many things to tell you, some of which you'll have to hear sitting down." She winked to lessen the seriousness of her words and then let Heero draw her to him as Duo pulled Hilde away, a wild smile on his face.
"Well, if we're stuck with them for a while, let's have fun!" He splashed water from the surf at her and Hilde, suddenly feeling every worry and care lifting from her shoulders, ran after him in an effort to tackle him into the sand.
Relena watched them go as she walked quietly with Heero, tucked under his arm as the sun drifted down towards the horizon. "You know, you still need to thank him," she murmured, curling an arm around his waist. Beside her, Heero nodded but it was clear his mind was not on his friends as he looked down at her. She read his thoughts easily in his eyes and smiled, the pure genuine smile of the real Relena Peacecraft. His arm tightened possessively around her shoulder and he stopped to hug her against his chest, his head bending as she stood on tiptoe to receive his warm kiss.
"I love you, Heero," she whispered when they broke apart. "You really were my true Champion. I'm glad I wished for you."
He smiled and the sight of it made tears of happiness catch in her lashes.
"I love you, too," he replied, brushing her hair behind her ear. "And we have all the time in the world to experience it."
She kissed him again, the first of many.
After all, thanks to Heero, they had an Eternity.
THE END.Dedicated to everyone who believes in me. I believe in you too.