If you have ever watched sparrows sit on the top of a barbed wire fence, you know what it is like to be a child of war.
It has always amazed me that those tiny birds don't let the electrical machinery or wire frighten them off. They perch happily on the fence as though there were no machinery just a foot or two below them, ready to electrocute them to death. Their feathers blend in with everything: the tan metal boxes, the browning leaves, the dead patches of grass around the base of the fence. They are so peaceful and serene, sitting there on the barbed wire fence, oblivious to danger, beautiful despite it, as well as because of it.
At the same time, I understand it perfectly.
Someone is saying my name.
I say, sounding, even to my own ears, surprised.
We have to go. Now. It is Heero, I realize, a mission-ready Heero.
I, uh- Sorry, Heero.
I turn around and get in the car, a strange feeling welling up in my throat. Heero starts the hotwired car quickly, and I can understand his urgency. The owner of this car may come out of the mall at any moment, and try to stop us. We pull out of the parking lot, and drive out of town and onto the nearby highway.
Heero is going just over the speed limit, like most highway drivers do. Inside the car is quiet beyond the sound of the wheels beneath us and our breathing. I use the automatic button to put my window down a little, thinking that perhaps the rush of air past my ear will pull away that strange sticking in my thoat. Heero scowls and forcefully puts up the window with the master control pad on the diver's side, and then switches off the button that gives me any control over the windows.
Finally, I can no longer stand the silence.
Did you see them?
He flicks his gaze over at me, thinking there is some serious concern in my mind. He seldom looks at me anymore, I have noticed, unless I am talking about a mission. He avoids my eyes like the plague. he asks.
The birds, I say quietly, staring at the autumn foliage we are passing by.
He hardly ever says more than he has to, and this time he does not even bother to look over at me.
Those birds sitting around the power box at the mall, I say. They were so pretty. I watch his profile as he snorts in contempt. He obviously thinks I am an idiot.
You think I have time to notice such things? he asks, using an uncharacteristic number of words.
I don't know, I think. But I hoped so.
We are, essentially, dead. Few people know we are alive at all. Those who do know that we are alive also know that we are destined to die soon. We, ourselves, know this. It is something we must accept before we go into each battle. Otherwise, I don't think any of us would be able to kill.
I am not sure, however, that I really want to kill at all. It seems that it has done nothing to better me, personally. Sometimes, I'm not sure I'm even doing regular citizens any good with all my killing. But I have to keep thinking that I'm helping people. If I were bogged down by thoughts of uselessness, I would surely die sooner than later.
Heero said that to me once. When he says things like that, I think he may actually care for me. From anyone else, it might be strange. But for Heero to say, Don't consider yourself useless, it will get you killed,' means mountains. I think it is about as much care as the Pefect Soldier can express at one time.
I'm not sure why it matters how much Heero cares about me. It does seem sort of pointless to care about people when I will most likely die before I am even properly kissed. I can understand how Heero feels this way, although I can't be sure that I agree with him. I know that I will probably die before I graduate from highschool, but that doesn't mean that what little life I do have is a waste. In fact, I almost feel that I should live it to the fullest. Squeeze as much living as possible into the little time I have left, so to speak.
Although I'm failing quite miserably at that particular tac. Were I of the mind to live my life to the fullest, I would probably reach over and kiss Heero right now. However, I do still manage to value my life, and I would like to hang on to my existence for as long as I possibly can. I don't think that Heero would react very positively to my kissing him. Although, occasionally, I have reason to believe that he might like it.
Like right now, for instance. For some reason, his eyes keep flicking away from the road to glance at my profile as I watch the road for him. He must do this because he thinks I don't notice, but he should know better than that by now. It may simply be that my question about the sparrows disconcerted him, but it isn't that easy to put the Perfect Soldier off balance.
Ne, Heero, you okay? I ask quietly without taking my eyes off the road.
Out of the corner of my eye, I can see Heero blink in surprise at being caught, and then fix his eyes on the pavement ahead of him with a certain air of determination. Just asking, I say when he doesn't reply.
Don't be so sorry all the time.
Did Heero actually just say that?
Heero just shrugs. We can't afford regret.
I'm silent for a long time, and Heero doesn't make any move to say anything else, either. Gathering up my courage, I ask, So you don't have any regrets? What a loaded question.
Just when I think Heero isn't going to reply, he says, I didn't say I don't have regrets. I just said that we shouldn't.
I am utterly amazed. Heero has just admitted that he holds on to something. Whenever I think of Heero, I think of him as being perfectly detatched from everything, free-floating in space where nothing, not even I, can touch him. It seems, now, that I am wrong in my thinking. Heero holds on, at least, to his regrets. Maybe he holds on to other things, too. Maybe there is room for love in a heart like his, after all... Heero has justed admitted that he isn't perfect. I am too shocked even to reply.
Don't act so surprised, Heero grunts.
But I am. Oh, but I am.
No one's perfect, he says, eyes on the road. I'm just better at pretending than you are.
Heero never ceases to amaze me, in all honesty. I am, actually, at a sort of loss. I have no idea where this leaves me now. Pretty much everything I have thus far assumed about Heero - because I can't honestly say that I know anything about him - has been proven wrong. So Heero's passivity is just a cover? Is that what he's telling me here? I mean, I have always believed that Heero had emotions, but, even at my most optomistic, I never expected confirmation.
It seems that we have lapsed into silence again. After a while, I get sick of the quiet, and turn on the radio. There's a very old song playing on whatever station this car's real owner listens to.
It don't matter where you bury me, I'll be home and I'll be free. It don't matter anything at all... All my tears be washed away.
Heero snaps off the radio and jerks the steering wheel violently, landing us on the side of the road. He turns off the ignition, and undoes his seatbelt.
I'm about to open my mouth and ask him what's wrong, when he speaks.
We're going to die.
That certainly wasn't what I was expecting. I wonder what sparked this, and realize, after a split-second, that it must have been the song. I am mildly surprised that Heero understood the lyrics, but, then, Heero Yuy is a man of many talents. Though maybe it has nothing to do with the song at all. Heero, this mission is gonna be a cakewalk.
I'm not talking about today, Heero cuts in. Maybe not this week, or this year, but - We're going to die before this war is over.
Thanks for the cheery senti-
I'm serious. Heero looks serious, too, his deep blue eyes aflame.
I sigh. I know. And, I know. I just try not to think about it too much, I guess. He says nothing, and so I try and prompt him. What's your point?
It's completely pointless to make promises to ourselves about things we're going to do when the war is over. We're not going to see the end of this war. We can't wait. Some things have to be done now. Before I can ask him what he means, he leans over and kisses me full on the lips.
He tastes like whatever he had for lunch. Normally, this would not be a good thing, but for Heero, it's sort of nice. A little spicy, and mostly like rice.
He pulls away, and I stare at my hands sitting in my lap. I am struck with the realization that this is it. I will never get a flustered, You know, I really kinda like you, or a, Nice shoes, wanna fuck? from Heero Yuy. What I get from Heero Yuy is a dismal promise and a kiss in a car, on a highway shoulder on the way to a cakewalk mission. I don't mind. I'll take what I can get, really.
Then I really surpise myself. I pick up his hand, and press a kiss into his open palm. We're not going to die in this war, Heero. We're going to make it through, I say with utter confidence, and I realize that I believe it. For everything, I don't think we'll die. A mild epiphany.
He leans over and kisses me again, that ricey taste again somehow overwhelming my senses. I trust you.
I feel the air sigh happily out of me, and my eyes flick to the greenery on the roadside, where there are a number of tiny, brown sparrows fluttering around in the unmown grass. They break out into flight when Heero and I get out of the car to watch the world around us for a few short minutes. The sky is an open expanse of blue overhead, and the sparrows are already dark specks drifting along on high-up air currents.
The title of this story is derived from a phrase that a particular group of Sri Lankan rebels use for their girl-forces. This group uses young girls on certain suicide missions, and these innocent-looking walking bombs are given the codename birds of freedom. I heard this on the radio about a month before I got around to starting this story. It stuck in my mind, and I was kicking around the idea of writing a Gundam story based on the losing-battling idea connected to the phrase. Then, I saw several sparrows sitting on a barbed wire fence that surrounded some electrical equipment. It finally got the ball rolling on this fic.
The song I used belongs to Emmylou Harris. (I can't, at the moment, remember the title.) I orginally used the Stone Temple Pilots song Pop's Love Suicide. The lyrics worked as a catalyst, but I later decided the Harris lyrics were better.