Dr. J's stern order echoes through my mind.
"Always." The single word demands a permanence... an uncompromising obedience.
More words. Retrain... devoid... human emotions.
The disjointed syllables jumble into flashes of memory. Bits of fractured feelings bounce like ricocheting bullets inside my head.
I squeeze my eyes shut, my face frowns as the recurring dream makes another assault run. My chest heaves, painful breaths hitch and my heart hammers as I try to outrun the madman and his damnable training.
"No." I whimper clutching up fistfuls of the damp bedding. Fingers curl in white-knuckled desperation. Body curves into a defensive fetal position. The dream races on - closer to the edge of no return.
"Are you lost?" The young girl holding a flower asks.
"I have been lost all of my life."
Detonation... devastation... death. It should have been me mangled among the traces of crumbled mortar and twisted steel. My life should have been sacrificed for the cause. Damn Odin, damn J, and damnation to the power-hungry bastards who started the war.
I wake with a shudder; trembling hands cover my clammy face. Pain lances through my brain and I wish I could simply fall over the edge. Why can't I self-destruct as easily as I can destroy my Gundam? One button and the Perfect Soldier could be sent straight to hell.
Someone calls my name. Tears blur my vision but I know that is it "him" leaning over the bed.
How long as he been standing there... long enough to observe my weakness? He calls again but I roll over, turn toward the wall, away from his anxious eyes.
Detachment... rejection. I can't let him get too close.
He might see, might find out that there is a threadbare scrap of humanity left in my wretched soul. That would give him cause to hope, a reason to prolong his persistent mission to save me.
"Life is cheap." J knew that I was disposable from the beginning. I was young and strong-willed but he broke me, made me an agent of destruction.
"Heero look at me."
Why does that braided fool waste his time? "Go away." I demand. What gives him the right to care?
I don't notice the mattress sag as he sits down. I don't hear the swish of fabric or feel the sheets being untangled. But I do sense his presence beside me like a ghostly wisp of smoke.
"I said go away dammit!" I hiss at his unwelcome intrusion.
A hand touches my shoulder and it is all I can do to resist my automatic response to counter the violation and beat Duo to death. I hold my breath praying that he will stand down. Ninmu shippai. Abort.
The hand tightens in a gentle tugging persuasion. "Stop." I beg. "Please." I plead. But he stubbornly holds on. Is he a weight or an anchor? Will I be swamped or rescued?
"Shut up. Can't you see I'm staggering on the edge?"
Obstinate. Duo always was headstrong. Tenacious. Once Shinigami targets his objective nothing can dissuade the shot. But Duo's softer side, damn, that is the real slayer.
Suddenly my defenses give out, my determination betrays me and I let him turn me back. I stare at the ceiling. I can't let my eyes meet his because if I do the barricades built around my heart will shatter.
I flinch as his hands cup my face. As he leans nearer I struggle to stay calm, to halt my retreat. "Always in control." flickers through again as I totter above the abyss.
"Heero do you trust me?" His breath feathers on my face, his mouth hovers over my quivering lips. So near yet miles apart.
Trust... dependence. A soldier cannot afford to trust. Any measure of vulnerability is a flaw and this soldier has to be perfect.
I open my mouth to protest, to warn Duo of his impending serious mistake. "Don't get too close" I want to warn but the words are cut off by the kiss that seals my surrender.
With a chaste brushing of lips on lips Duo pulls me back from oblivion. All my training is undone. All the pain and fear and loneliness vanish in the comforting caress of that kiss.
Duo eases down beside me, enfolds his arms about my shivering shoulders. "I'm here. Everything will be all right."
"Do what your heart tells you." Odin's lesson speaks softly.
I let Duo hold my hand, entwined his fingers with mine and give them a reassuring squeeze. I am in control. I am the master of my fate. I AM NOT a mindless killing machine!
I bet that crazy old scientist would be pissed to know that his robot is rebelling.
As I look bravely over the edge into the void that was once my life, duty fades like the night giving way to dawn. Like the moon bathed in the sunset's brilliance my heart is illuminated by Duo's promise of protection.
Closing my eyes I grab onto the offered lifeline. I allow Duo to guide my heart and trust that he will see me safely to shore. And in that assured submission I find myself standing on the brink of love.
*Ninmu shippai--Mission failure
Standing on the Brink of Love--Karen Hickman--August 2003