There is a little patch of cement on a particular street corner that is quite cracked. It's been stepped on, hit, fallen on. Everything that a good piece of sidewalk is destined to have done to it has been done to this little section of concrete.
But growing through the cracks of the dirty, grey cement are bits of bright green grass, little fingers reaching up. You can't see the dirt below, or anything, but these small stalks of grass press their way through the concrete to reach sunlight, unmoved by pedestrians and bicyclers, unwilling to be squashed by handcarts and heavy shipping crates. There is little in this world that can kill a little patch of hopeful grass.
I grew up in a time when there was little hope, but a lot of cracked sidewalk. Nature remained hopeful while the humans that inhabited the world lost faith and laid down their heads to cry. I never believed in any of that, and I always thought it was important to keep pressing on, no matter how much weight they put on top of you, no matter how hard you had to fight.
Someone I really respect once told me that everything has a spark of life in it. Even the darkest of the dark has a tiny bit of light... Every bade of grass deserves a chance at a little bit of sun. Every criminal is still a living being.
This idealism has no place in my life. But it is a belief that still curls in my mind, every time I go into battle, every time I think of how many people I have killed. I think about this sort of thing a lot, but I don't believe that I should try and deny the truth, that I am a killer.
I am a killer, and I still keep going. Maybe I do the things I do because I'm told to, or maybe... Maybe I do them because it's the only way I can survive. Maybe I am a killer, a fighter, whatever, because I feel that it will bring the world closer to whatever good we can all find. Maybe that's the little bit of bright in my darkness. Maybe I do it because I believe that there is still hope in the world.
How long have you been waiting?
I look up, and smile at Heero. Not too long.
You're blue as ice.
I shrug. The cold can't stop me. In fact, it is very cold, and I'm wearing a standard-issue school uniform with no coat. But there is still no snow, and the sky is a bright blue, the same colour as Heero's eyes, because I have been waiting a long time, and the day is almost over. Dark is falling on this industrial city, and there are no stars that will shine.
It's sort of obvious that you don't belong here, he says quietly, suggesting that perhaps I am too ambitious.
Nonsense, Heero, I say, standing up and brushing off my pants. Anyone can belong anywhere. Who's to say that a lonely schoolboy wouldn't be sitting on a downtown street corner? I smile at him, crinkling up my face, and we start to walk away.
It's just unusual, that's all. Anything that draws attention...
I know what he means. Heero is a man very concerned with his mission. He feels that it is very important to be inconspicuous. Make them like you, but forget you the second you leave, I was always told in my days of thievery. If you smile too sweetly, they'll remember you were there, just as they'll recall you if you're too gruff.
We have turned the corner, and are crossing the street. Once we've walked a little further away, I ask, Did you get all the stuff you needed? He went downtown on a munitions run.
he said. When I glance over at him, he won't look at me.
Well, that's good, at least, I reply. I can't see anything on him, but it's probably in the satchel he's carrying.
I wish you hadn't come. He still won't look me in the eyes.
I am silent after that. I cannot think of anything to say. I cannot tell whether this is Heero's obstinacy, or his concern for my safety. It could be either. Heero is shy about his emotions, and he often disguises his laughs as coughs, and his kindness as impertinence.
We make it back to our school dorm without incident, of course, and we settle down. Heero starts on his homework, and I lie down on the bed, staring at the ceiling. I am itching for something to read, but my attention span has become so short for anything unrelated to the mission that I doubt I could read a newspaper headline.
Why do you say that? I ask, having stared at the ceiling for far too long.
he says, intentionally not looking up from his work.
You said that you wished I hadn't followed you today. Why?
His words are half-swallowed and hesitant when he finally says them. It was a liability.
I smile. Yeah, I know, Heero, I say. I know what he means, no matter how gruff he tries to be. Heero Yuy won't mince words saying, I didn't want you around because I didn't know if I could keep you safe, too.'
I was told at the outset of my career as a Gundam pilot that I should fight for myself and no one else. That is what I was taught during my time as a thief, too. But I did learn, though not from any teacher, that there are better things to be fighting for than your own safety.
Nature, that is, the natural state of man is ruled, according to some, only by the instinct of self-preservation. Man will not do anything that might put him at risk.
But, in times of war, all this is shoved aside. Men pour onto battle fields, with an inspired zeal. But, why? Because they've been paid? Perhaps. Because they want to protect their own interests? Maybe. But it is far more likely that people fight because they have something to believe in, and something to protect. Men will willingly go to war because they have loved ones at home, and a pride that is fiercer than the midday sun.
I think that Heero knows a lot about this. Like I did, he also learned that you fight for hope, or for the future, because there is something better out there to be discovered. We are the explorers, wading through blood and mud, and ducking explosions in the search of a greater good.
It's just that it's never apparent in our day-to-day lives. We do not get up in the morning and think, I am going to save the world a little more today,' while we brush our teeth.
But the truth is there, and it is important. Some days, it is the only thing that keeps us going, the only motivation we have to get out of bed. Somewhere, deep down, we are good people, and we cannot be stopped.
Heero is sitting next to me on the bed, and I wonder when he came to me.
I say quietly, sitting up and taking his hand.
He lifts my hand to his cheek and holds it there. His skin is warm and smooth, his expression relaxed. His complexion is a shade or two darker than my own, and it is a nice contrast.
I can feel his warmth seeping into me, healing me, quieting my doubts. He seems to be promising me the world.
There is nothing we can't do, he says.
I love you, Heero, so much.'
It's nice to know how it feels to love someone back.'
He finally lets my hand drop.
We sit there for another long moment before I fall backwards onto the bed, staring up at the ceiling again. This ceiling is like an old friend, constant. I close my eyes, sick of watching it, ready for a change.
I feel Heero flop down next to me, and then his hand is over mine again, and he laces our fingers together. His breathing is calm and even, and I imagine that his eyes are closed, too. It is like we are trying to fall asleep together.
What are you thinking about? I ask.
The future, he says simply.
Yeah? What about it?
How I'm going to live through all this, he replies.
I told him he would, once. I have never believed that Heero Yuy could die. I don't think he'd give up that easily, or even give up at all. He's perfect that way, and, I hope, so am I.
It is more of a sigh than a word, my attempt to let him know how glad I am.
And how I want to wake up every morning and know that I'll see you.
I am pleasantly surprised by his hesitant words, but, at the same time, I have known they were coming for a while. I smile, my eyes closed, my face relaxed.
That sounds good to me.
he agrees, and I feel his fingers tighten our embrace a little. I squeeze his hand back. I can feel his warm body close to mine, the fabric of his shirt just brushing my arm.
There is nothing we can't do, I say. And I know it's true. We'll always keep pushing. We'll fight, we'll lose, we'll gain, whatever. There are always things, like love, and hope, and life, that last forever, invincible.
We are our own hope, our own light. The war is concrete, and we, blades of grass, hopeful. We will always push, and fight, for what we want. But we, unlike the reaching grass, continue not in search of sun, but because of it.
No, there isn't, Heero says.
We will stretch on forever.
Someone I really respect once told me that everything has a spark of life in it.: Not cannon, but I'm attributing it to Sister Helen.
Usually, I'm not terribly interested in those, I wrote this cuz everyone wanted a sequel, fics... However, in this case, I was actually considering how I could further continue the Birds of Freedom plotline. As an individual story, it wasn't really strong enough to be continued... I tend to lose that style if I write too much... It either simplifies into regular prose or becomes disgustingly florid. (I'm sure you all don't care.) In any case, since I'm partial to short stories anyway, I started trying to seriously plot a sequel to Birds of Freedom. Then I got an idea for another analogy, and I was finally good to go.
The title was taken from a Pat Benetar song called, surprisingly, Little heartmarks to Hot Fudge Productions for their nummy (sorry for the pun) music video.
Now that I look at the finished product, I guess it isn't exactly a continuation of Birds of Freedom. I do make mention to events from within that story and, obviously, I'm using the same characters, but it's definitely different. I'd hoped that Birds of Freedom was hopeful, but it was definitely melancholy, too. It is here, as well, but I hope it is less so.