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Notes:  Part seven



Christmas Memories
Part 7



Duo sat at the window, watching as the clouds rolled across the sky.  He had awakened several minutes ago.  He had gotten up
off the floor to sit beside the window, after checking to make sure his make-up hadn’t been smeared by his sleeping on the
floor.  He couldn’t believe how exhausted he had been, how tired he still was.  He hadn’t even been able to make it to the bed
before he had collapsed.

He sighed, a sadness filling his mind completely.  Now that the war was over, he couldn’t stop thinking about his life.  Without
the constant battles there was nothing to stop the memories from returning.  The blood of innocents stained his hands.  The
deaths of all he had loved, invaded his every moment, whether awake or asleep.  Their faces were always there, haunting him.

He was at one of Quatre’s estates.  Although the blonde Arabian didn’t celebrate Christmas himself, he was sick and wanted to
be with his friends for the holidays.  At least that’s what Rasid had said.  And Duo just couldn’t bring himself to refuse Quatre’
s request, not when the blonde was sick.

Duo looked out the window once again, watching as snowflakes began to fall from the dreary sky.  Seeing those pure white
flakes brought memories to his mind.  And as much as he wished he could, he just couldn’t stop them.


Flashback


A single snowflake fell from the ‘sky’ of the colony, followed quickly by millions of others.  Duo looked up at the sky, from a
window inside the Maxwell Church, his home for a while now.

“Duo, can you lend me a hand?”  Sister Helen called out.

“Coming!”  Duo replied, already knowing why she needed his help.  They had to set up buckets and other containers to collect
the snow.

Duo had heard that kids on Earth played in the snow.  He couldn’t imagine himself ever doing such a thing.  Water was just too
precious a comodity on L2.  Snow could mean the difference between life and death to the poorer citizens who couldn’t afford
to buy as much water as those rich snobs who controlled everything on the colony.

Duo ran from the room, nearly tripping because of the bagginess of the clothes he wore.  As he approached Sister Helen, he
saw the pails and buckets she was trying to carry all at once.  Duo grabbed a couple from her before they fell from her arms.

“Thank you, Duo.”  She said, smiling down at him.  She opened the door and stepped out into the snowstorm.  Duo followed
behind her.  “You know what to do, Duo.  Looks like tonight you get a bath.”

Duo set the first bucket down, where he always placed it, knowing that was where it would collect the most snow.  “You
really don’t have to waste it on me.”  He said.  “I'm sure you can find other, more important, uses for the snow.”

“That didn’t work the last time you tried it, Duo.  What made you think it would work this time?”  Sister Helen replied with a
chuckle.

Duo frowned.  She had seen right through his attempt to get out of taking a bath.  She always did.  Maybe he would have to
try something different next time.  It wasn’t that he didn’t like taking baths.  The opportunity to take one was so rare, he
actually enjoyed them.  He just felt that Sister Helen shouldn’t waste the water on someone as insignificant as him, when there
were so many other kids that needed one, kids that had a chance for adoption, unlike him.

“Duo?”  Sister Helen said, her tone concerned, as she grasped his shoulder.

Duo shook his head to clear his thoughts.  He hadn’t even realized that he had stopped working, that he was just standing there,
holding the last bucket in his hands.  His body shivered, for the first time actually feeling the coldness outside.  He dropped the
last bucket to the ground.

“Duo, are you okay?”  Sister Helen asked, from behind him.

Duo sighed, knowing that he couldn’t lie.  It just wasn’t something he did.  “I just don’t think you should waste water on me.  
I’m not worth it.”

Sister Helen spun him around, causing his braid to swing over his shoulder and hit him in the chest.  He looked up into her
eyes, suddenly afraid of how she might react.  He wasn’t even aware that he was holding his breath.

However, he only saw kindness in her eyes.  She smiled, laying her hands on either side of his face.  “You are worth so much
more than you think.  God has a purpose for you, Duo, just like He does for all of His creations.”

“I don’t believe in God.”  Duo replied, his brow furrowing slightly.

“Yes, you’ve told me that, many times.”  She said, letting go of Duo.

Duo shivered again, smiling up at Sister Helen.  He appreciated her kindness, it was something he was so unused to.  No one
had ever been kind to him before, without wanting something in return, except for Solo.  But that friend was dead, and all the
others were in foster homes.


End of Flashback


Duo was pulled from his thoughts by the sound of someone knocking on his door.  “Come in.”  Duo said, not turning to see
who entered the room.

However, he didn’t need to turn to see who had walked in.  He could see his visitor quite clearly in the reflection of the
window.  It was Heero.

“Quatre says it’s time to get a tree.”  Heero said, in his usual monotone voice.  “He wants us all to go.”

“Yeah,”  Duo sighed.  “I'll be right down.”

Duo ignored Heero’s reflection and looked out at the falling snow again.  He wasn’t aware that Heero hadn’t left, or that he had
stepped toward Duo, until the unemotional ex-pilot spoke.

“Is something wrong?”  Heero asked.

Duo finally turned to face him, shocked to hear those words coming from Heero’s mouth.  Heero had never shown the least bit
of interest in Duo’s well-being before, at least not before their arrival at the estate.  For years Duo had dreamed of Heero caring
about him, about the possibility that Heero could love him.  But it had never seemed possible, and now it still didn’t.

However, just because Heero had asked him if something was wrong, didn’t mean that he cared about Duo in the way the
American had dreamed about.  He didn’t let himself hope for something that would never be.  He couldn’t open himself up to
the heartbreak that would come when Heero rejected him.  Duo wouldn’t take that chance.  Not that it mattered anyway, he
already felt no reason to continue living.

Duo shook his head, knocking the thoughts from his mind.  He placed a smile on his face, not wanting anyone to know his
pain, to see him without his cheerful mask on.  “Why should anything be wrong?”  He replied, avoiding answering Heero’s
question.

“You okay?”  Heero questioned.

Duo stood facing Heero.  The Japanese pilot’s body was so close, only inches away.  Duo could feel Heero’s hot breath
brushing against his cheek.  Duo wanted to grab Heero, to press his lips against his.  He wanted to plunge his tongue deep in
that wonderful mouth of Heero’s, and find out if he tasted as delicious as Duo thought he would.  And yet, he did none of
those things, knowing that Heero didn’t care about him.  No one cared, no one ever would.

He just smiled, his eyes always staring at Heero’s sensuous, inviting lips.  “Let’s go.”  Duo said, trying to look away.  “We don’
t want to keep Quatre waiting.”


*****


Heero watched as Duo stepped around him.  He turned and sighed as Duo left the room.  There was something wrong, Heero
was sure of it.  It was just a hunch, nothing but a feeling, but Heero was sure that something was bothering Duo.

He really had no right to ask how Duo was feeling, or to pry into the American’s life.  It wasn’t as if they were dating,
although Heero did like that idea.  Heero wanted to be more than friends with Duo, but fear held him back.  Fear of rejection, or
heartbreak, that’s what kept Heero from admitting his feelings.

When Rasid had invited him, saying that Quatre was ill and wanted to see everyone, telling him that al of the other pilots would
also be there, Heero knew he had to come.  All the years he had known the American, Duo had never missed a party or a
celebration hosted by Quatre.  And in truth, Duo’s presence was the only reason Heero had decided to attend.  He had thought
that maybe it would be the perfect time to admit his feelings, to proclaim his love for the long-haired ex-pilot.

However, whenever faced with an opportunity, Heero could never go through with it.  He just couldn’t get the words out.  
Heero couldn’t understand why saying one simple phrase would frighten him so much.  It was just three little words, nothing
more than a small sentence, but he just couldn’t do it.


*****


Quatre tossed the blankets away from his body, and weakly swung his legs over the edge of the bed.  He stood, his body so
tired, his heart and soul feeling the pain of that still unknown friend.  

At least they had narrowed it down to two possibilities.  It had to be either Heero or Duo, Heero most likely.  Quatre had sensed
the pain so much more intensely when he had embraced the two of them, he knew the pain was coming from one of them.  
But he still couldn’t be sureof which one.  It had been too overwhelming, all of that pain.  He couldn't focus on who it had
been, he could only feel the terrible agony.

“Where do you think you are going, Master Quatre?”  Rasid asked, as he stepped into the room.

“I’m telling you the same thing I told Wufei before he left to inform the others.  We need a tree for the holiday party, and I
want all five of us to go get it together.”  Quatre said, his breath coming out in gasps.

“You are in no condition to go out in this weather.  I will not allow it.”  Rasid replied, walking over and gently grabbing Quatre’
s shoulders.

“I tried to tell him the same thing.”  Wufei said, from behind the large Arabian.

Quatre leaned over to see around Rasid.  “Don’t start this again, Wufei.  I have to go, if only to help our friend.  I can’t let him
remain in so much pain.”

“I already agreed to your wishes, Winner.  Now, I suggest we get you dressed in several layers of warm clothing.  It would do
no good for your condition to get worse.”

Quatre nodded, allowing Rasid to pick him up.  The older man set Quatre down on the bed.  Quatre couldn’t help but blush as
Rasid helped him out of his pajamas.  But he knew he couldn’t refuse the assistance.  He had absolutely no strength left,
standing for just those few moments had totally wiped him out.  So he just laid there and let Rasid dress him, feeling ashamed
that he was so weak.

Once he was dressed, Wufei walked over and lifted Quatre into his arms.  Quatre turned to Rasid.  “I don’t need any more
negative emotions to interfere with the ones I’m already feeling.  And since you can’t seem to get along with Trowa, I want
you to stay here.”

“But Master Quatre . . .”  Rasid said.

“No.  You stay here.”  Quatre said, forcing his voice to sound commanding.

“Yes, Master Quatre.”  Rasid bowed.

Wufei carried Quatre, bundled up in heavy winter clothing, out of the room and down the stairs where the others stood waiting
by the door.  Duo was pulling on his thick coat as he looked over at Quatre.  “You think you’re in any condition to be going
outside, Quatre?”  Duo asked, zipping up his coat.

Quatre sighed, he was grateful that Duo seemed so worried about his health, but he didn’t want to be left out.  Besides, he had
to know for sure if it was Heero sensing the horrible pain, or if it was Duo.  By going with them, he hoped to be able to see
them react to different things.  

“Duo  . . . I’m bundled up like a Himalayan Yeti with an overprotective mother.  As much as I wish it weren’t so, I’m probably
going to be carried around like an invalid.  I may not be able to do much until I get my strength back, but I really don’t want to
miss out on this.”  Quatre said, feeling uncomfortably warm in all the clothing Rasid had dressed him in.

“Let’s get going.”  Heero said, opening the door.

Quatre watched as the others walked out.  As Wufei stepped out, still carrying Quatre, the blonde was grateful for all that
warm clothing.  Even with all of it, he shivered, and tried to curl closer to the warmth of Wufei’s body.  He did not like the
cold.  Why had he decided to spend the winter in Colorado anyway?  He would have been so much happier in Bermuda.

Snowflakes landed on his cheeks, and Quatre turned away, burying his face into Wufei’s coat to keep the cold away.  The next
thing he was aware of was hearing a car door open, and then being set down in a seat.  Warm arms circled him, and he looked
up to see Trowa holding him close.  No doubt, the silent man was just holding him to keep him upright and warm, but it felt
nice to be so close.

Quatre quickly averted his eyes, trying hard not to blush.  Heero got into the passenger seat, Duo slid into the seat beside
Trowa, and Wufei got behind the steering wheel.  He sighed in contentment at the warmth of Trowa’s body so close to his, as
the truck was started.


*****


Duo gazed out the window, watching the passing scenery, staring at the snowflakes as they continued to fall from the dreary,
gray sky.  Again, memories flooded his mind.


Flashback


Duo ran down the aisle, searching for a place, any place to hide.  He got down on his knees and scurried under a pew, hoping
he wouldn’t be found there.  Sister Helen wanted him to take a bath, but he couldn’t let the precious water be wasted on
himself.  There were so many others that needed it more than him.

“Duo?  Duo, where are you?”  Sister Helen called out.

Duo stayed hidden under the pew, curling up into a ball in an attempt to make himself more difficult to find.  After a moment,
he heard Sister Helen’s footsteps approaching, and then they stopped.  He took a chance and opened his eyes, only to see Sister
Helen’s feet standing right next to the pew he was hiding under.

“Come on out, Duo.  I know you’re under there.”  Sister Helen said, calmly.

“No.”  Duo replied.

Sister Helen got down on her knees, leaning over so that she could see Duo.  “Please, Duo.  You’re the only one left.  All the
others have gotten their baths.”

Duo shrank back, trying to keep out of the kindly nun’s reach.  “No, you can use the water for something else.  I don’t want
you to waste it on me.”

“I thought we already had this discussion, Duo.  It won’t be wasted, if you take a bath.  Now, please come out?”

Duo sighed and crawled out from under the pew.  “Fine, but I still think it’s a waste.”  He grumbled.

Sister Helen took hold of his arm and led him into the bathroom.  Duo stood over the tub and looked into it.  The tub was filled
with grungy water.  But that was the problem when you had to share the same water with all the other children that had gone
before him.

Duo slowly stripped out of his clothes, just dropping them to the floor, as he stepped into the tub.  The water was chilly, and
he shivered as he sat.  Hands were behind him, unraveling his braid.  He ignored Sister Helen, who had begun washing his hair,
while he picked up a washcloth and began scrubbing the dirt from his skin.

A few more minutes, and he was clean, at least cleaner than before.  He quickly got out of the cold water, Sister Helen
wrapping a towel around his body.  He dried himself off as quickly as possible, while Sister Helen worked to get some of the
water from his long hair.

Duo shivered once again as he got dressed.  He felt tired, but always did after taking a bath, guess he found it sort of relaxing.  
He just followed as Sister Helen led him out of the room and to the dormitory.

“Come on, Duo.”  Sister Helen whispered, helping Duo up onto the bed.  She sat behind him, grabbing his brush from an old
worn out table by his bed.  Slowly she worked the knots out of his hair, being careful not to pull too hard.  He appreciated her
gentleness.

A thought entered Duo’s mind.  “About the Christmas Pageant . . .”  Duo mumbled, talking about the pageant being held to
show the kids off to the locals.  Someone thought this would be a good idea, as a way to get some of the kids adopted before
Christmas.  “I don’t know why you’re putting me up on that stage.”  

Sister Helen finished with his hair, and got up from the bed.  Duo climbed under the covers.  “Whatever makes you say that?”  
Sister Helen asked, as she tucked him in.

Duo sighed, trying to keep his tired eyes open.  “I’ve been ‘adopted’ how many times now?  And I've been returned every
time.”

Sister Helen smiled as she brushed her fingers through his bangs gently.  “That’s because God hasn’t found your family yet.  
Be patient . . . your turn will come.”

“But when?”  Duo asked.  “I heard the older kids whispering.  As you get older, your chances of getting adopted go down.”

“It’s important to you, isn’t it?”

Duo put on a brave smile.  “Nah  . . . It just hurts  . . . when you know you’re not good enough for someone.”

Sister Helen laid her hand against his cheek.  “Oh, Duo  . . . that will never be the case.  Perhaps you’re just too good for all
those people.”  She leaned over, placing a tender kiss on his forehead.  “Go to sleep now, little one, and know that you are
loved.”


End of Flashback


“Why do you find the snow so fascinating, Duo?  It’s cold and wet.  What’s so great about it?”  Quatre asked, quietly, but
loud enough to snap Duo from his thoughts.

Duo turned, flashing one of his fake grins at the blonde Arabian.  “In all my life, I’ve never seen so much of the stuff.  It was a
rare occurrence on L-2 that couldn’t be wasted.”  He glanced back out the window.  Although it was wasted on me plenty of
times, he thought.

Heero spoke up from the front seat.  “Hn!  All it is, is frozen water.”

Duo looked over in time to see Quatre smile softly.  “Not really, Heero.  Snow is the symbol of wintertime to some people.  I
remember once, five of my sisters snuck me out from under the watchful eyes of my tutors.  They bundled me up more that I
am now, and took me outside to play.”

Duo felt a pang of resentment, but pushed it down.  It wasn’t Quatre’s fault that no one had ever loved the little street brat Duo
had been.  “It must’ve been great . . . having all those sisters.”

“You okay, Duo?”  Heero asked.

Duo looked up and met Heero’s eyes in the rearview mirror.  He pasted a huge fake smile on his face.  “Why wouldn’t I be
okay?”  He replied, answering Heero’s question with a question of his own.  It was the simplest way to avoid answering
questions like that without having to lie, a thing he never did.

“Perhaps, Maxwell, Yuy was concerned because you sounded so serious.”  Wufei said.

“Ouch, Wufei!”  Duo joked.  He didn’t let his hurt show.  He wondered if that was how they all saw him.  Was he just the
clown and nothing more?  No wonder they never call him.

Duo shrugged.  “Where’s the fun in being serious?  Face the world with a smile, I always say!”  Yeah, face the world with a
smile . . . so that the world can’t see how close you are to crying.  He turned back to look out the window.  

He forced his face to remain in his cheerful mask, even when it started to hurt.  The last thing he wanted was pity.  And that
was all he’d get if he broke down now.


*****


For the remainder of the drive, Heero watched Duo.  He was at just the right angle to see Duo in the reflection of the rearview
mirror.  Something seemed off about Duo’s behavior, like he was just pretending to be himself.  

Duo hopped out of the truck as soon as Wufei parked it.  The others got out just a little bit slower.  Heero helped Quatre out of
the truck, then stepped aside as Trowa took the blonde into his arms.  

As they walked along, Heero glanced at the sign by the road.  “Joe’s Tree Farm.”  He read aloud.  “So this is where we’re
getting the tree?  From a guy named Joe?”

“Yes.”  Wufei replied, simply.  

Heero sighed, and followed the others as they started walking.  As they walked, someone stepped forward and handed Heero
and Wufei axes.  “Just pay for the tree on your way out.  And don’t forget to return those.”

Heero was not enjoying himself, not one bit.  It was cold, the wind whipping snow into his face.  And every tree they came to,
Quatre found something wrong with it.  Too tall, too short, too brown, too ugly, none of them seemed to meet Quatre’s idea of
a ‘perfect’ tree.  For a guy who didn’t even celebrate Christmas in the first place, Quatre seemed to be awfully particular about
finding the right tree.

“Duo?  You okay?”  Quatre’s weak voice asked.

Heero glanced over.  Quatre was still in Trowa’s arms, staring at Duo who walked between Trowa and Heero.  Duo was
walking with his arms wrapped around his body.

“It’s just a bit cold, that’s all.”  Duo grinned, removing his arms from around him.

Heero watched as Duo moved, noticing that the American’s body was shivering.  Duo reached up, placing his hands in front of
his mouth and began breathing on them.  For the first time, Heero noticed that Duo wore no gloves.  He must be cold, Heero
thought.

“Here.”  Heero said, pulling off his gloves and handing them to Duo.  Then fear flashed through his mind, reminding him that
he was seen as an uncaring emotionless person by Duo.  “They were too warm for me anyway.”  He shrugged, turning his
attention away from Duo, trying to act as if what he had done held no meaning to him.

“That one!”  Quatre finally announced, after another ten minutes of walking.

Heero looked up at the pine tree.  If he had to guess, he would say that is was about seven feet tall.  The dark green branches
were covered in a light coating of snow, almost giving it an otherworldly quality.  As if plucked from a storybook he had once
seen in a window as he walked by it.

Duo let out a slow whistle, then spoke.  “Quatre, I knew you had good taste . . . and this is yet another example of that.  It’s
beautiful.”

“Perfect.”  Trowa mumbled, although when Heero looked to him, he saw that the silent young man was looking more at the
blonde he held in his arms, than at the tree.

And on the other side of Trowa, Wufei simply nodded in agreement as he looked up at the tree.

Heero shook off the sappy thoughts and cut down the tree, along with Wufei’s help.  Then Heero, Wufei, and Duo set about
getting the tree back to the truck.  At least they had finished this little task.  Maybe now they could get back to the warmth of
the mansion, out of this icy cold weather.



To Be Continued . . .