Those few days that Heero fought against the pain in his back were some of the worst in my life, second only to the days he was on Hell, maybe not even then. The feeling of helplessness, of thinking that it was all supposed to be over then finding that it wasn't, that there was one more monster around the corner to face, was almost more than I could bear. I forced myself to be strong for Heero, because he had been so strong for me, but inside I was dying. I couldn't hide it that day I ran out of the room, guilt overcoming me for the pain that I believed was my fault, though I'm still not sure it wasn't. Wufei chased me down and, though he was no Heero, he comforted me none the less. He even managed to make me feel as though I had to let him comfort me, so that he could repay his debt to me. I think a part of me knew that he was just trying to get me to accept some support, but I let him anyway.
Quatre and Trowa only made one appearance, while Heero was asleep. While the lovers were there, Heero and Dorothy went into an attack. The pain was almost too much for Quatre, but because of their link Trowa felt it too and it caused him to faint. It was decided then that Quatre would be banned from the room until the patients were feeling better. It seemed that Trowa hadn't been able to find the courage to approach again. Not that I blamed him.
Heero was too caught up in trying not to let me forget about myself that he never even noticed that two's absence. Of course, horrendous pain can make a person forgetful. Though he never forgot to ask me if I had eaten or slept, no matter how much pain he was in. It made my heart bleed, that he thought of me instead of himself at a time like that.
As the attacks got worse, so did my mental state. Though I made sure to eat and sleep enough to please Heero, the food never set well on my stomach and my sleep was never restful. I could hear Sally saying something about stress, but we both knew where I would tell her to shove any advice about leaving Heero for any amount of time. She wisely kept silent.
I'm not sure what triggered my epiphany. Maybe it was the blood red outlines on Heero's back. Maybe it was Wufei's comment. Maybe it was knowing that Heero couldn't last much longer under that kind of strain. Maybe it was fate. Whatever it was, I'm glad as hell that it occurred, otherwise I'm not sure what would have happened.
Cutting Heero wasn't as hard as I had thought it would be. I guess I didn't even fully realize what I was doing past saving Heero's life. It made me feel odd, later, that I was capable of doing that without even thinking about it, but I suppose it was reducing pain instead of causing it, so it wasn't so bad.
Heero's wings emerged blood red, as did Dorothy's a moment later. Both were soaked in blood and bleeding heavily before they fainted from the pain and shock of seeing wings come out of their backs. Sally's main concern was getting the blood-flow from the base of their wings stanched, but it was soon evident that the cuts Wufei and I had made were healing quickly and most of the blood was being shaken of the wings, which lay limp on either side of the two new demons. Sally gave them something for the pain, now that she knew what she was dealing with, then suggested we let them rest for a while.
Once it was found that the injuries weren't bad we wrapped the wings in towels to dry them and let Heero and Dorothy sleep of their ordeals in peace. Relena and I were so relieved that we slept nearly as long as the injured two, curling up beside our lovers for some well-needed rest.
I woke early the next day and found Heero curled against my chest, his breathing even in sleep. I watched him for a very long time, feeling all the tension of the last few days drain out of me.
It was over. It was finally over.
Quatre and Trowa made a visit, having heard the news about Heero and Dorothy. Quatre said that all the pain had faded since their wings were released. Of course, I didn't need to be told that; I had forced our link open to make sure of that before he arrived. Our link had been closed through most of the battle so we didn't get distracted while fighting. I had assumed that Heero had kept it closed after the battle to keep from feeling my pain. I had never even thought it could be the other way around.
Quatre's comment, though it did nothing for me, relieved Relena quite a bit, since she was not yet linked with Dorothy. Her worry for Dorothy was just as great as mine for Heero, even though I had been a bit too preoccupied to notice her. As I looked at her then, holding the hand of her sleeping lover, she looked less like a princess than ever before. Her hair was mussed and had lost a bit of it's shine, probably from going without a bath the last few days. There were bags under her eyes and she looked exhausted. Still, the look of love and relief in her eyes made her just as beautiful as ever, maybe more.
Dorothy was the first to stir, waking slowly into a groggy consciousness. Relena and Sally took her to wash her wings immediately; the longer the blood was given to dry on her feathers the harder it would be to get out.
After another half an hour, I decided that if we gave the blood on Heero's wings time to fully dry we'd never get it off. I managed to wake Heero up part way, but it was obvious he wouldn't be moving by himself. I realized I would need some help getting my love clean.
I was only a bit surprised when Trowa offered to help. Since joining the Night Force Trowa had become closer to Heero and I, bit by itty bitty little tiny bit, but he had slowly grown closer to us. Now, many months later, it was strange to see him doing things that he never would have thought about when he first arrived.
Getting Heero up and into the bathroom proved to be more difficult than I had anticipated. When we helped Heero sit up and get his feet on the floor we found that Heero's legs couldn't support him, they kept buckling and almost sent him to the floor several times, if not for Trowa and my interventions.
What finally resulted was Trowa, to Heero's utter mortification, lifting Heero out of the bed and carrying him to all the way down to one of the more elaborate royal bathrooms in the guest hall.
We chose the guest bathroom because of it's size more than anything. It looked more like a public bath than a personal bathroom, with several showerheads all pointed so the streams of water met and merged in the middle. Trowa and I stripped Heero then stripped to our boxers and turned on the water. Once it was warm, I lifted Heero and placed him under the spray. Even though I had shut off our link again I still knew that letting Trowa carry him naked would make him nervous, not to mention embarrassed.
I set Heero down on his knees under the spray and Trowa and I, brandishing soup bars, set to work. It was soon easy to see that those wings weren't going to get clean any time soon. As a matter of fact, I'd have been surprised if we were finished any time that week. The wings had been soaking in blood for years, then had been allowed to partially dry. All the blood that wasn't caked on was layers thick and not very pleased with the idea of leaving.
Heero began to fall asleep on us, his nervousness forgotten as he began tipping slightly forward before catching himself and sitting back up. After a while Heero stopped catching himself and Trowa or I had to grab him before he bashed his nose off the floor. Finally, I got fed up and grabbed a chair out of a nearby room. I brought it into the shower and set it in front of him, the seat facing him. He seemed confused about it, but didn't bother to say anything. The next time he nodded off he ended up resting his head and shoulders on the seat of the chair. Eventually his arms came up around his head in his sleep, so that he was on his knees, leaning against a chair in his sleep. It was so adorable that I almost laughed.
As Trowa and I continued to clean Heero's feathers one by one we found something amazing about Heero's wings.
They were white. Pure white.
Now, light wings were hard enough to find. White wings were almost impossible to find, like an albino human.
Once we finished drying Heero's wings, and got over the shock of tier color, we decided that it would probably be best to take Heero back to my room. I decided that Heero and I would probably need some time alone, and, since Heero was in no immediate danger, it would be fine to take Heero back to the room instead of the hospital. When I reached our room and saw Relena entering her room I realized she had made the same decision.
I put Heero into the bed and he immediately snuggled into what I had deemed as his spot. I could see from his body language that he was waiting for me to climb in beside him, but I, unlike he, was still in regular clothes. I took a minute to change into my sleeping clothes, since it was late enough that I didn't intend to leave the room again.
"Duo," Heero said as he curled around me, nestling himself next to me as I settled into bed, "I have wings."
"Yes," I said, smiling, "I've noticed."
"I..." he trailed off, his eyes far away in an awed revere.
"You can fly," I told him softly. He was still for a second, then buried his head in my chest.
"I never thought it would happen. When Wufei couldn't help me I thought... I thought that was it. I wasn't sad, because I have so much here with you, but I was... disappointed. I..."
"I understand," I told him gently. This was all such a shock to him I was a bit worried. Still, it was a good shock.
"I love you," he said suddenly.
"I love you, too," I told him, pulling him closer to me. "I just don't understand it. Why did Noventa take your wings? It just doesn't make sense."
"I think maybe he to give us incentive to control the dragons. I was trained to obey any order, but being offered the chance to fly would have probably added a little extra enthusiasm to my mission. Or maybe he didn't want us to know that we were fighting against our own race; maybe he wanted us to think we were human to eliminate feelings of betrayal. Either way, he severely underestimated J's training. It wouldn't have mattered wether or not I had wings, before I met you I would have done anything I was told. What I don't understand is what changed Noventa's mind. I thought he wasn't going to use Dorothy and me. We were too dangerous."
"I think that was my fault. Had Noventa been able to raise able to hatch and raise those dragons he wouldn't have needed to control them by force. He would have had to capture and control wild dragons, something only a person with demon strength could manage."
"It's all so confusing..."
"Ah, mad men make no sense. I really don't care about anything other than the fact that he tried to use you, and for that he can rot in hell."
"He's already there, love, so there's no sense in worrying about it now."
"You're right. You do realize what this means, don't you?"
"I'm going to have to teach you to fly tomorrow."
We both broke out in huge grins. Heero wore his even as he fell asleep; grinning like the child he had never been. I grinned because he did, and because it was so rare to see him so innocently happy.
The next morning I took Heero to the landing strip on the cliff face. The drop was about three miles, so if Heero should happen to fall there was plenty of time for me to catch him. Heero seemed a bit nervous, but I doubted that was unusual. I had never seen something called the first take-off, which was like a adulthood ritual amongst demons. I had taken my first flight off the ground, but I had jumped off many cliffs and mountains on my flight from the orphanage. I had been terrified the first time I had needed to jump from a cliff and fly. I almost hadn't been able to do it. Then again, there hadn't been anyone there to catch me if I fell, I was pretty sure the parents watched over the ritual and I would watch over Heero to make sure nothing happened.
"Duo, are you sure this is how it's done?" Heero asked, peering over the edge of the drop.
"Sure I am. Haven't you ever seen mother birds teach their chicks how to fly?"
"Duo, 39 of young birds don't survive their first flight."
"That's because they don't have a grade A flight instructor like me," I told him, winking and grinning like a loon. If Heero didn't get over this nervousness he'd never be able to fly. He needed to relax and do what came natural, but I wasn't sure that my up-tight lover could do that.
"Come on, love. You know, demons aren't really considered adults until their first flight," I told him. He turned to me, interested. "I guess you could call it a challenge."
The steely glint of determination shone in Heero's eyes and I could see he was determined to prove his... manhood? Adultness? Maturity? I don't know, but he was really determined to prove it, whatever it was.
"Don't think of this as a test," I told him, gracefully hopping off the cliff and hovering in the air. "Don't think at all," I suggested.
"Easier for you than me," he commented dryly. Heero stood up and took a deep breath, obviously trying to calm himself. Letting out his breath in a long sigh, Heero stretched his wings their full length, then stepped off the cliff and plummeted.
I folded my wings back and gave chase, but didn't interfere. I realized it could take Heero a minute to adjust to the feel of falling and get himself under control, but I stayed right beside him. I didn't intend to let my lover plummet to his death.
I called to Heero but received no reply and was just starting to get worried when he spread his wings and caught the breeze, slowing his fall but not stopping it. After a few more seconds he gave some powerful beats of his wings and began to ascend. I followed about a foot below him, careful not to make him nervous by getting too close, but staying near just the same.
Heero made it about half way back up the cliff before he fell. I was pretty sure he wouldn't make it back to the top, since we had fallen almost a mile and a half, and it was, after all, his first flight. It would take a while for him to build up the muscles in his wings enough to fly long distances or carry extra weight.
Heero gasped as he fell the few feet to my arms. I lost a few inches while trying to compensate for the sudden weight then continued the flight back to the top of the cliff. Heero rested against me, a light sweat on his forehead. The flight had taken a lot out of him and I figured we could both use some time to rest.
We went back to the room and rested, had lunch, and packed for the trip that we would start in the morning. It was time to say goodbye to Master O, one way or the other.
"You know," Heero said as we packed, "the chances that Master O will still be alive are slim. We may be making this trip for nothing."
"Even if he isn't alive, I think I would still want to say goodbye. Besides, I have a feeling he's still alive and kicking, enjoying some quality time with the family."
"It's not logical to think..."
"None of this is logical, love. Who would have thought I would have bonded to a slave I met in the farthest reaches of the kingdom? Who would have thought you would have turned out to be such a magnificent fighter? None of this is logical. It's... fate. I don't know how else to explain it."
"I don't know that I believe in fate."
"Just because you don't believe in doesn't make it fake anymore than believing it will make it real. It's not tangible, but it's real none the less."
"You're being silly."
"Maybe," I quipped, taking Heero's hand in my own, "but you have to admit that there's something more at work here than luck."
"I don't believe..."
"...In luck either, I know. What I mean is, there had to be something stronger at work to bring us together, to keep us safe through everything that happened. Fate."
"Maybe," Heero quipped in reply, an indulgent smirk on his face as he pulled me into an embrace, "Just maybe."