I didn’t know until Duo mentioned it on that particular
night, that it was Christmas Eve. I had long since lost the need to know
the date, to know the season. It made very little difference to what I had
become. I think, when I bother to dwell on it, that I went just a little
bit insane in those long months of fighting after I lost my Gundam, before
returning to space. Parts of it, to this day, are not altogether clear.
There was just a drive to continue fighting. A need to not give up.
I think, sometimes, that I almost frighten Duo with that focus, not that
he’d ever admit it, but he has a look that he gives me on occasion,
that seems almost… haunted.
I don’t really know how it came about that we ended up on so many
missions together. Not like we were partners… none of us were. But
we seemed to work well together, and I didn’t question it. Didn’t
question that sometimes it felt nice having him beside me, knowing that
he would watch my back when I’d lost the ability to care. Knowing
that he would reach out and bring me back when the soldier J had made of
me would have leapt right off a cliff in pursuit of the goal.
Somehow, over the months, Duo had become something of a safety net for me,
and I wasn’t sure how that had happened. Wasn’t even sure if
he understood how important he had become to me. How much of an anchor he
was. He was just there, and I had found myself trusting him despite myself.
Sometimes it was a relief… and sometimes it was just scary.
Like that night. That Christmas Eve.
We were in Kaunas, trying to stop the invasion of the Sanq kingdom. Romefeller
was moving north, getting closer and closer to the border, keeping to the
populated areas and making it impossible for us to meet them with Mobile
Suits without ensuring that the civilian casualties would be… unacceptably
high. They were high enough as it was.
Fighting as we were, on the ground, among the rebels… was something
new for us. It was war on an entirely different level. It was somehow not
as easy to ignore things when fighting on foot. In a Gundam, you never noticed
the broken ruins of people’s lives. Never smelled that metallic tang
of blood mixed with smoke. Never heard the cries of the people as they searched
for loved ones in the confusion.
Duo said it made him think of the stories told by the bomber pilots in the
old wars. The pre-colony wars. Men who never had to set foot on the ground
they destroyed. When Duo spoke of it, he looked… troubled. I didn’t
like to think of us as being like those men, and I don’t think he
did either. We didn’t speak of that part, even though… I think
we both felt it.
Duo and I had started out moving down what had once been the main street
of town, with a squad of local rebels. Our goal had been to reach the city
center where the enemy command post had been set up, and attempt to take
out the commanding officers and break the communications net. We hoped the
lack of direction would throw the occupying forces into enough confusion
that Noin and her regulars could manage the job of pushing them back. Not
that a victory at Kaunas would do more than delay the inevitable, but we
were mostly buying time for Relena to hopefully win her own battle. A conquest
on the floor of the council chambers, at the moment, was far more likely
to help the cause than a win on the battlefield.
Somewhere between the river crossing and the downtown… we’d
lost the other rebels. I don’t know if they were killed in the fighting,
or if we had just become separated. Or, perhaps, the men who had volunteered
had decided that living to fight another day was the better part of valor,
and had simply abandoned us. I’m not really sure, but by the time
we passed what had been the public library five blocks out… it was
down to just me and Duo.
I had taken the north side of the street, and Duo the south. We tried to
keep each other in sight, but the debris and the abandoned cars made it
difficult. Sometimes, as I looked across for him, he seemed almost part
of the smoke and shadows. Our advance was slow as we tagged forward, laying
down cover-fire for each other. I dropped down behind a pile of bricks that
had once been part of a balcony, checked my load and took over firing at
likely spots ahead of us. I distantly heard Duo grunt as he turned the firing
over to me and made his run. He darted and dodged, running low in a way
I hadn’t mastered… managing to keep himself down while still
exhibiting impressive speed. He passed my position, ducking into the shadow
of an over-turned car. I knew he was in position when he unlimbered his
rifle and began to fire.
I shouldered mine and followed, running parallel and seeking shelter in
the shattered front of what had once been a pleasant looking café.
We progressed that way a mere quarter-block at a time. From car to tree
to pile of stone to stoop. Whatever offered us cover in which to shelter.
I was kneeling in the dust and dirt, firing methodically down our path,
when I heard a sound from Duo that I had not heard before. I couldn’t
spare the attention to look his way, but I heard the cadence of his steps
falter and his gait change. Some part of me knew that something was seriously
wrong, but the rest was consumed with refusing to consider it. I put all
my focus into my firing, doing my best to drive the enemy under cover, making
sure Duo had the distraction he needed. He didn’t move into the position
I’d expected him to, but almost fell behind what had once been a raised
planting bed, almost directly across from me.
When I realized he was under-cover, I dared to duck down to look his way.
I could just make him out, sitting on the ground and leaning against that
wall, all detail lost to the dark. Sitting. Facing the wrong direction.
Just sitting. His rifle in his lap and not his hands. Just…
I ignored it when my hands began to shake.
‘Duo?’ I hissed and he responded with an odd little cough.
‘Shit,’ he muttered, almost as much to himself as to me. ‘Ah…
‘Report!’ I snapped, the anger coming easily to cover the fear.
I hate it when he jokes to hide the truth. Hate it because it’s always
a truth that shouldn’t be hidden.
‘I… I…’ he stammered, voice almost lost to the thirty
feet or so of distance. It was very… unsettling to hear the thread
of fear in his voice. Duo knew no fear.
‘Are you hit?’ I demanded, falling back on rote. I found myself
leaning dangerously in his direction and had to force myself back under
‘I’m… evaluating,’ he told me gruffly, so I waited
and watched movement from him that I couldn’t really make out. He
seemed to be hunched in on himself and I feared what he would report.
‘Gut shot,’ he finally told me. ‘I think I might be done
with this running thing.’ I growled my frustration, low enough that
I didn’t think he could hear, but there was a quiet little, ‘sorry,’
a moment later.
Is it totally insane that something happening to Duo had never entered my
mind? I… can’t really explain it; the logical part of me always
knew that we were soldiers and soldiers sometimes died. But… not Duo.
It was like watching the rock of Gibraltar crack.
I dared a glance over my pile of debris and fired off a couple of shots,
just to keep the enemy cautious. ‘Are you mobile?’ I asked tersely
and could hear the soles of his boots as they scraped against broken concrete.
‘Not to speak of,’ he replied after a long few moments, trying
to sound as though he wasn’t the least bit bothered by the fact.
‘Shit,’ I muttered to myself and ran a hand threw my hair.
‘I believe I already said that,’ he returned, but then ruined
the affect with a cough that ended in a pained little wheeze.
A bullet came just a little bit too close to where my ass was parked and
I quickly returned fire, shifting right after, so they couldn’t home
in on the muzzle flash. I wondered how long before staying stationary was
going to get us very dead.
‘You need to haul it on out of there, Yuy,’ Duo said then, his
thoughts mirroring my own. I shook my head, though I doubted he could see
‘I’ll never get the rest of the way alone,’ I told him
and was pretty sure I heard him sigh.
‘I meant retreat,’ he clarified. ‘Reconnect with the rebel…’
‘Shut up,’ I cut him off, not able to hear him say it. ‘I’m
‘Don’t be an ass,’ he said, managing a faint chuckle that
almost sounded genuine. I didn’t respond, and after a few minutes
I heard him shifting around and then the sound of tearing cloth. I imagined
him doing his best to stop the bleeding, and shivered.
Funny how the prospect of losing something, makes you reevaluate your priorities.
I was suddenly very much unconcerned with reaching the city square, and
very much more concerned with reaching Duo.
‘Do you think you can get in a position where you can give me some
cover fire?’ I asked. ‘I need to get over there.’
There was an exasperated sigh. ‘I’ll give you the damn cover,
but you need to get the fuck out of here. I doubt I can even stand up, much
less walk. You’re only going to get yourself killed along with…’
I snarled and fired off several rounds at distant shadows down the street,
unable to hear him finish the sentence.
Bullets immediately pocked the ground around me, and I knew they were homing
in. There was a long bit of silence before Duo dared, ‘Heero…’
in a gentle tone.
I didn’t respond to it though, and he didn’t seem to know what
he wanted to say anyway. We were quiet for a moment, and I could hear the
pained pant of his breath. ‘You get ready,’ I finally told him,
not able to bear that sound. ‘I’m moving.’
I think he growled outright. ‘For God’s sake, Yuy…’
he began, but he didn’t finish it, whatever the thought was, because
we were both brought up short by the sound of distant bells. Not bells of
alarm, not klaxons of warning, but church bells. They sounded very…
surreal. After a moment, they were echoed from another part of the city.
Everything else just… went still.
‘What the hell?’ I muttered, and Duo let out with an odd little
‘It’s… Christmas,’ he told me, voice wistful and
something else I couldn’t identify. ‘It’s midnight…
it’s Christmas day.’
I blinked across where I could just see Duo’s form, and for a moment,
thought I might have met his gaze.
‘Merry Christmas, Heero,’ he said so softly I almost didn’t
hear it. I couldn’t help it… I laughed.
It won me a spark of surprised laughter in return and then he was quiet
for a bit. The whole town seemed to be silent for that moment, while we
all listened to the sounds of the bells. They sounded eerie, echoing in
a quiet that hadn’t existed just moments before. I suddenly felt the
cold I hadn’t had time to notice before. I turned and sat down, mirroring
Duo’s position with my back to the enemy. I was just… very tired.
‘You know,’ Duo told me conversationally. ‘There’s
an old legend that during one of the Earth wars, the soldiers on the two
sides lay down their guns on Christmas Eve and sang Christmas carols together.
They supposedly came out of the trenches, shared a few drinks and declared
a truce for Christmas.’
I snorted. ‘That sounds like an urban legend.’
‘It does, doesn’t it?’ he said softly, and I suddenly
wondered if he were fading on me. ‘But I like to believe.’
I shook my head, not really able to disabuse him of his faith, and who knew?
Maybe it was true. It didn’t seem likely to me, but then… no
one was shooting at me at the moment either.
Duo chuckled softly, almost to himself, and then I heard his rifle scrape
gently against concrete. I turned sharply his way, sure that he’d
just laid his weapon aside, but I couldn’t see well enough to tell.
I opened my mouth to admonish him, but then closed it again… thinking
better of it. Somehow, it just didn’t seem to matter. I wondered at
myself, but wasn’t quite sure where the soldier had gone.
‘Look Heero,’ Duo called out, and his voice held a spark of
some childish awe. ‘It’s snowing.’
I looked up and found the flakes just beginning to come down, falling fat
and wet, and so utterly silent. The bells still sounded, ringing merrily
and I shivered.
‘I love the snow,’ Duo said with an air of serenity about him,
‘Sister Helen used to tell us about snow, but I didn’t believe
her until I came to Earth and saw it with my own eyes.’ There was
something in his voice that was very calm, and I don’t know why…
but it frightened me. ‘Have you ever been to midnight mass, Heero?
The choir is so beautiful. Somehow… on Christmas Eve, it was like
hearing angels sing.’
I didn’t reply, but he didn’t seem to need me to. There was
a moment of the oddest silence, full of a strange… anticipation, and
suddenly… Duo began to sing.
I had never heard him sing before, and I doubt I was hearing him at his
best, sitting in a ruined city with a bullet in him. But… I thought
his voice was as beautiful as any choir he might ever have known. Surprisingly
deep, somehow mellow, and strong despite the obvious pain behind it. It
should have seemed a foolish thing, but it didn’t. It just felt right
‘Silent night, holy night…’ he sang, while I sat and listened
like we were sitting in a church somewhere and not in the middle of a broken
city. In the middle of a battlefield.
The bells still tolled behind Duo’s voice and it flitted through my
mind that perhaps the city wasn’t so broken after all. I knew the
bells had sounded first, but it seemed as though they rang only to accompany
‘All is calm, all is bright…’ and then somewhere ahead
of us, somewhere in the dark, another voice joined in. Something in my chest
felt… odd. Later, I would remember looking up and watching Duo’s
snow fall out of the dark, but I wouldn’t remember the exactly moment
I laid my rifle aside. I wouldn’t remember standing up and starting
the walk across the wide, exposed street.
Duo didn’t falter, perhaps he didn’t see me coming, and I’m
just as glad because some part of me fully believed that he sang me across
that street. That his voice protected me until I reached his side. A silly
notion, I suppose, but that’s how it felt… as though his voice
were wrapped around me, and guided me across that open expanse.
I should have been afraid, but I wasn’t.
I’d had the med-kit with me and Duo’s voice faltered as I bent
to packing his wound, finally stopping all together with a pained gasp.
The shadow voice hesitated as well, seeming to stumble on the lyrics, and
a third voice picked up the second verse.
‘Shepherds quake at the sight…’ and the bells still rang
their silver thread behind the words. I picked Duo up in my arms, and I
walked away from that place, our weapons left lying in the dust, slowly
being covered by the snow.
Duo’s head was heavy against my shoulder, but I could hear the bemused
smile in his voice as he said, ‘I think… maybe I believe.’
‘You believe in your spirit of Christmas,’ I whispered against
the top of his head. ‘And I’ll… believe in you.’
Fiction : GW :