Disclaimer: I don't own nada! Zip! Zero! Zilch! NOTHING!
Warning/Summary: Light, light hint of 1x2. More like 2+1, though. Duo tells a little story about a woman with long hair. Sweet, sappy, and a bit sad. Please Read and Review!
I refused to let the tears fall. Until I was safely tucked away in my own room, that is. I threw myself face down upon the bed, the tears spilling out and dampening the sheet under my face. I keep my arms tightly hugged around the precious possession, though, wrapped underneath me, safe and sound.
Maybe I'd over-reacted a little bit, I think. But that didn't give that Chinese ass any right to make fun of me, now did it?. And then to make matters worse, when it had escalated into me yelling to defend myself... Heero hadn't done anything. Heero, who was *supposed* to be my best friend, had just snorted and muttered 'baka' to me.
There was no real reason to explain why the book that I'd found- setting abandoned in a mass of others in some second hand yard sale on our lunch break today- spoke to me... not without explaining my past, at least. I tried to laugh it off, but damn, Wufei just had to keep goading me. So I got defensive. Nobody messes with Maxwell's Demon. Nobody. Maybe now that Wufei had a black eye to match that black heart of his...
Oh, hell. Who am I kidding? I can't hate the prick. I sigh into the black sheets. He may be an asshole sometimes, but he's a real good guy underneath it all. Sorta like Heero. Cold on the outside, but there was that rare glimpse of a softer side to him.
I lift my body just enough to pull my arms up from under me, the book cradled protectively in them. It was old, faded. The golden edges of the pages were smudged, a few of them dog-eared. It was well loved. I traced a finger down the stenciled cover. It wasn't very thick. Just an old children's book. I traced each letter in the title.
I don't remember much from before Solo or the Church. Partly because I was so young. Mostly because I don't *want* to remember. It hurt to remember.
I clutch the book to my chest as I sat up and spun, the colt revolver from beneath my pillow aimed before I even realize who had spoken my name. I click the safety back on and set the gun down.
"Come to laugh at me some more, Heero?" I ask, turning away.
"Duo... what's wrong?"
"Stupid arrogant asshole wouldn't leave well enough alone, then you go and call me names to boot? What the hell do you think is wrong with me? I thought you were my friend."
I steal a peek at him from the corner of my eyes. He's thinking, running back over the conversations in his mind. Probably trying to place what he did wrong.
"Am I an idiot just because I buy a book, Heero?" I ask softly, deciding to save him the trouble and just tell him.
Prussian eyes blink and stare at me. "You're an idiot for letting Chang goad you into fighting back," he replies. "You should know better than to let him get the best of you by now."
I sink into the bed. Whatever I was expecting... it isn't that.
"He just hit a nerve," I say quietly. "He should know when to keep his fucking mouth shut, is all."
"Will you tell me why it hurt?"
I blink up at him, surprised. There was genuine concern in his voice. I've never heard him sound like that. He quietly moves across the room and settles on my bed, at the foot.
"Why does it matter?" I ask defensively.
"I care," he replies simply.
Before I'm even aware of doing anything, I'm laying the precious book down on the bed.
"Rapunzel?" His voice isn't condemning or sarcastic. It's merely confused, curious.
"I don't remember much of when I was a child," I admit. "But I remember this." I close my eyes as the memory, one of the few I have of *before*, washes through my mind.
"She was tall," I find myself saying. "Tall, slender. Elegant. Beautiful. Her skin, I remember, was soft. Soft as satin, white as snow." I laugh at my own poeticness. "Her eyes were the same color as mine. Dark, dark indigo. Her hair... darker. More red than brown, but still a deep deep mahogany color. She always kept it twisted up on top of her head. Wound around and around, like a crown..."
"Duane," she smiled down at the small child. "Duane, stop chewing on your hair, you silly little thing." She plucked the strand of hair from the child's mouth.
"Help! Help!" He said, bouncing happily. She laughed and lifted him to set him on the bed. She was dressed in a long blue nightgown.
"Okay," she smiled. "You can help." Reaching up, she began to pull pin after pin out of the mass on her head until in one great rush, the braid unwound, twisting and coiling until the end fell to her ankles.
"Pretty!" The boy- Duane- chirped as the woman began the arduous task of unweaving the three strands that made the braid. The three almost six foot long strands glistened in the light of the bedroom.
"Okay, my little darling. You can help now." She sat down on the end of the bed, seperating out a small section for the child to take gently, reverently, in his little hands. She handed him a small brush, and he set to his task with enthusiasm. His mother smiled at him sweetly as she began to brush out the rest of her hair. His enthusiasm was creating just as many tangles and knots as he worked out... but she didn't mind. To her, anything was worth that bright smile.
It took a very long time, especially teasing her hair from the grips of a sleepy little toddler and making sure to work out the knots. Once her hair was again braided, she picked up the sleepy child and carted him to his own room.
"Mmm... story firs'," The child mumbled drowsily. She smiled gently.
"Alright. Which one?"
Her chuckle was light and soft as she tucked him in and settled beside him. Rapunzel seemed to be his favorite story. So, she pulled out a well-worn golden-paged book- her own from when she was a toddler, and began to read, reciting the story as much from memory as from looking at the pages. She'd only gotten to the point where the prince had finally climbed the tower for the first time when she noticed he was asleep. Gently tugging her braid from his clutches- he seemed to love hanging onto it- she turned out the lights and kissed his cheek.
"Good night, my love."
I blink up at Heero once I'd finished my little tale. He seems quiet, pensive.
"She was your mother," he says. "And you were the little boy."
I nod, unable to say anything more.
"I don't remember my mother," he continues softly. "I don't even have a memory like that to hold onto. I can see why you wanted the book," he brushes a finger gingerly across the edge of it. "And I can see why you were defensive with Wufei. Maybe if you told him..."
"No." I shake my head vehemently. "This... this is for *me* to know. No-one else. Me."
"And me?" He asks tentatively. I smile up at him. I feel better having opened up to him, but I have no want or need to open up to anyone else.
"And you," I admit, finally, for the first time since getting home, opening the book. The front cover page was a faded blue, an oval portrait of a girl in a tower, a rope of hair hanging out of the window. I suppose the braid was once blond, or more likely gold... but years of use and fading had transformed the black and white picture... until it almost seemed as if the hair could be brown. Dark... mahogany... brown.
"I can't even remember her name," I whisper quietly to myself, tracing my fingertips along the faded ink inscription. "And calling her 'mommy' just seems childish anymore. All I know to call her... is Rapunzel."
'To my beautiful daughter... my Rapunzel... Love Daddy.'
Below that... another note, not as faded, in different writing.
'For my little Duane. With all my heart... Mommy.'