To Ashes

Disclaimer/Author Notes: This is a rewrite of the first yaoi-based story I ever wrote…  (Thanks a bunch, Yuki.  :P)  In the original story, I believe, they were in the mountains and Quatre went zero when Heero wouldn't talk to Duo…  It also had a completely different ending, which I think I actually took from a story somewhere…  I like this version much better; the other one ended with a truckload of needless sap and I managed to drop Duo's "ashes to ashes" obsession somewhere in the first paragraph…  Also, while I'm here, I'd like to thank Orasu for the quick beta—I recommend Orasu's services to anyone in need of a good beta reader.  I'd also like to thank Endymion, who read the original and told me that it wasn't "that bad, " and Yuki, who made me do this in the first place.  Thanks, guys.  ^_^  And that's about all, except for the usual disclaimers.  Don't own them.  Don't want them.  Leave me be.  Rawr.  ^_^

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"Ashes to ashes, dust to dust," Duo murmured softly, pushing a small pile of sand around with his toe.  "But life and death are…"  He stopped, voice trailing and drifting away on the late summer breeze.  It was getting dark and the dimming light of the setting sun flashed colors of red and gold in Duo's hair and reflected gently against the beach sand, softly illuminating the world it so gently caressed.  After a long moment, he shook his head.  "That's not it either."  Hunkering down in a low squat, Duo picked up some more sand and let it run through his spread fingers, starting the anecdote over again.  "Ashes to ashes, dust to dust…"

From their spot by the water, several feet away and just barely within hearing distance, Quatre and Trowa exchanged worried glances.  Duo had been trying to remember the rest of that little poem for days.  Since they'd lost Wufei, Duo had been listless and depressed, nothing like his usual perky self, and that worried them.  Since the tragic day that they had all tried to forget, Quatre and Trowa had done what they could for the braided boy, but nothing seemed to raise Duo's spirits.  Even this expensive beach vacation, which Duo had been hinting at for ages, did nothing to revive the boy's smile, simply make him fall further into his lonely misery.

Still watching Duo, Quatre sighed.  "What do you think could possibly be wrong with him, Trowa?" he asked quietly, doing what he could to keep the question out of Duo's hearing.  Trowa didn't respond.  Instead, a voice from behind the blonde boy answered the question.

"That's simple."  Quatre and Trowa turned to face Heero, who was coming from the beach house with his shoes in one hand and jacket over his arm.  "It's obvious that Wufei's death had a strong impact on him and now he's responding in his own way.  Namely, he's moping about like a sad cheese Danish."

Quatre cringed at the analogy but said nothing about it.  Ever since Duo had told the Japanese pilot that "normal people" had a tendency to make ridiculous comparisons and notes, Heero had been saying all sorts of strange things.  This was unusual just because Heero was actually listening to Duo for a change, but many of his remarks brought about some interesting reactions from his fellows.  One of the worst had been his 'pathice' remark two weeks ago.  Trowa, who knew Latin and thus knew what the word meant, had nearly choked on his morning cup of coffee.  Quatre hadn't understood quite why until much later, when Trowa finally stopped sputtering long enough to tell him what the problem was.  Quatre couldn't remember ever blushing so red as he did that night!

However, as a sort of revenge, Trowa had started to criticize each and every one of Heero's pathetic attempts.  "Cheese Danish?" he repeated.  "If that's the case, then something must be done.  You know how Duo is about cheese Danish."

Heero narrowed his eyes.  "Don't mock me, clown."

Quatre stopped Trowa, the blonde's own private pathice*, before he could say anything else by elbowing the tall boy in the ribs.  "Heero, is there anything you could do?" the blonde asked, worried.  When Heero didn't answer, Quatre pursued the subject further.  "Heero, you can do something, can't you?"

The stoic pilot shrugged his shoulders, uninterested.  "It's possible.  I could go speak to him, I suppose."

Quatre's eyes lit up.  "Will you?"

"Perhaps."

Trowa frowned, taking the situation into his own hands.  "Heero, try to help Duo."  It was a command, not a request, and Heero looked over at the braided pilot who sat playing with sand and rocks.

"Ninmu ryokai," Heero said brusquely, making his way over to where Duo was sitting.  The other pilot acknowledged his presence by covering Heero's feet with a handful of sand, but neither of them spoke for a long time.  Finally, once Heero's feet were almost completely buried beneath the sand, Duo looked up.

"Heero, do you believe in Heaven?"

"No."

Duo rolled his eyes.  "Think you could be any more blunt?"

Heero frowned.  "Probably not."  He eyed Duo.  "Would you like me to lie instead?"

Duo shrugged.  "It might have helped," he said after a long pause.  "Did you like Wufei?"

"He was a good soldier."

"That's not what I asked.  Answer the question: did you like Wufei?"

"I don't know.  I didn't not like him."

Duo smiled slightly at that.  "Well, I liked him.  He was a jerk sometimes and he couldn't cook for beans, but I still liked him.  A lot."  He paused.  "Maybe because he was so much like me.  I didn't have a stick completely lodged in my ass, but we were still a lot alike."

"Why?"

"Because," Duo said simply and shortly.  Seeing the frown on Heero's face, he sighed and went on.  "For one thing, he didn't have anything in the world but his Gundam, and he blew that up the same time the rest of us did.  He had no family to speak of and no place to call home.  And he didn't like people to see the feelings he kept locked up inside.  I kept mine behind a grin when I could and he scowled them away.  We aren't like Quatre, who wears his on his sleeves, or like Trowa who doesn't have many to speak of."  Duo hung his head.  "And you know what?  I killed Wufei, all because I didn't tell him any of that in the first place.  Maybe he would have stuck around if I'd told him that I understood."

Heero snorted.  "You make it sound like he ran away, or committed suicide.  He killed honorably in battle.  In the lines of duty.  The way he would have wanted to go."

"Aren't we Mister Sensitive today," Duo muttered bitterly.  "The 'honorable' way out.  Right.  He went in on an impossible mission, something he knew he wouldn't be able to handle.  At one point in the mission he could have left.  The work would have been half done, but he'd still have his skin.  Wufei wasn't stupid, but he knew that completing the mission and dying for it would look more honorable than throwing himself off of a cliff or sticking a gun in his mouth and yanking the trigger.  So he hung around and got shot three times." Duo pointed his thumb and forefinger at Heero.  "Once in the leg," he said pointing to Heero's knee.  "Once in the arm," he said softly, pointing at Heero's elbow.  Finally he pressed his finger into the area just below Heero's navel.  "And, for the grand finale, once in the gut."  He moved his hand away.  "Bang."

Heero frowned.  "You think it was a suicide?"

"Wow, you have been paying attention.  Good for you, maybe next time teacher will give you a little gold star."  Duo rolled his eyes.  "Yeah, that's pretty much what I've been saying for the past five minutes."

Heero thought about this for a moment, then looked at Duo, squatting down to talk to him face to face.  The sand covering Heero's feet cracked and began to fall away.  "Did you love Wufei?"

Duo lifted an eyebrow.  "Why do you want to know that?"

"Curiosity."

Remembering Heero's earlier statement, Duo shrugged, giving him a small smile.  "I didn't not love him."

"That's what I thought."  Heero was quiet a moment, thinking about what Duo had told him.  The braided pilot claimed that he was like Wufei for all sorts of reasons; that couldn't possibly be true, could it?  Wufei hadn't hid any emotions so far as Heero knew.  The Chinese boy had always seemed angry at something; anger was a feeling.  Perhaps the anger was too overwhelming, or perhaps Duo was right when he said Wufei hid behind his bitter feelings.  Heero could accept that.

He had trouble, however, accepting that Duo was the same way.  The boy seemed to have emotion in the figurative book, with an overabundance of that "happiness" thing to boot.  Wasn't that true?  Heero frowned.  He wasn't an expert on emotions, really.  Maybe it wasn't; he never had seen Duo cry.  He'd seen the boy when he was happy, excited, furious, vengeful, and pissed off; he couldn't remember Duo ever admitting to being sad, even after he'd put people to their death-even after he'd seen people let go and leave him forever.  His moping did come close, however…

Feelings were strange to Heero; he had trouble understanding even the simplest ones.  He'd been trained to ignore and to extinguish them before they could take effect, but he'd never once been taught to display them openly; such things were a challenge for him.  Following his heart, advice he'd dispensed several times, was also difficult-many times he couldn't be certain what he was trying to tell himself.  Who was he to say that these feelings weren't hard for other people, too?  Who was he to judge whether or not Duo and Wufei had been hiding things they wouldn't let anyone else see?

He looked at Duo carefully.  "I think I understand," he said, getting to his feet, then offered Duo a hand up.  Duo took it, taking Heero's hand in his own, but he didn't let go once he was up.  He squeezed Heero's hand gently.

"I thought you might."  As the two of them walked along the shore back to the house, into the setting sun, Duo looked over at Heero.  "Hey, how does the poem end?  You know, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.  What comes after that?"

Heero frowned, thinking about this.  "I don't think there is any more to it.  I think that's how it ends, with the ashes and the dust.  It leaves the rest of us to keep on going for as long as we possibly can so we can make our own ending to the poem.  And then, when we can't, that's where it'll end for good.  In the wind, with the ashes and the dust."

"Oh.  Okay."  Duo looked out into the distance, over the ocean.  "I think I like your ending.  And I think Wufei would have liked it, too."

The corners of Heero's mouth perked up a little into what was almost a smile.  "So do I."

From a window where they watched the two pilots walk hand in hand toward the house, Quatre sighed happily.  "I'm glad that's done with," he told Trowa, who nodded.  "What do you think they talked about?"

"I don't know," Trowa admitted.  "Hopefully nothing about cheese Danish or pathice."  Quatre laughed.  "I think Duo's going to be all right, though."

Quatre nodded, taking Trowa's hand happily.  "I think they'll both be just fine."

---Owari---

*pathice: Latin word for the passive one in sexual intercourse and who plays the female in homosexual encounters.  Close to "patty-cake" in pronunciation. *grins* I figured I'd try to alleviate the 4x3 fans here.