Disclaimer: I wanted to use affection in a different way with this. I've no doubt in my mind that there's probably been fics involving telephones and sexual distraction. That's not what I wanted with this. I wanted to combine the fact that these are two people who are still recovering from the war a few years before, but that they're together, solidly dealing with the memories and the pain. In that sense, they're adults. But I also wanted to portray the fact that they've missed out on being children, and in this fic, I wanted to have them behaving in a way that's probably more immature than the series would have them be. Yes, these characters are incredibly brave, wonderful mature people. I wanted to pay tribute to that, and for that to come across initially in their determination to overcome the past. But I also wanted to show a side of them that is a throwback to the childhood they missed out on. If it comes across that they're OOC, so be it.

Essentially, they're still only teenagers. They still have their serious sides, their very realistic traumas resulting from all they went through. But the way I see them now is together in a very steady, secure relationship, and enjoying that. This fic isn't about sex. It's more about the sort of easy affection that occurs between couples who've been together for some time and know each other almost too well. It's an intermission into their daily life as partners, and for this, it's not about the smut. I really just wanted to portray a sense of comfortable affection, of security in each other, of trust. I still don't know if I achieved it, but I hope I did. Perhaps it's not for me to say, in the end.


Part 3

By almasy


26th March AC200

Slowly, and with a somewhat uncomfortable shudder, I pulled my eyes open. Immediately, I was hit with a ray of sunlight that felt as if it could melt the whole of Antarctica. Desert, right, I reminded myself. And with desert, comes heat. Woot. Hiiro's black jacket was beginning to feel unbearably warm, and I turned over slowly to look at him. Legs hanging over the side of the driver door, arms sprawled over the passenger door and the backseat, he looked strangely at home underneath me. His diary underneath the dash, and his eyes were shadowed a little with insomnia. Regardless of that, he looked contented enough, breathing softly into the thick, muggy air. Satisfied that he was having a peaceful doze rather than a terrified excursion into the blackness of his mind, I quickly kissed him, detached myself from his arms carefully and hopped over the cardoor. Grabbing a bottle of water from amongst the spareparts piled up in the backseat, I went about an early morning routine that has never really left me, even in the middle of an open space. Feeling as clean as I could in the circumstances, I went back to Hiiro rather wet and feeling much more comfortable. Slowly, I levered myself back into the seat, arranging myself against him once more as gently as I could so as not to wake him. He looked as if he hadn't dropped off until fairly late, so I reckoned it was only fair to let him have his peace in, well, peace. Time could wait. It was too hot to move all that much anyway.

Turning onto my stomach, I rested my head against his chest once more, listening to the languid thud of his heartbeat. His breathing underneath me was comfortable, and I absentmindely ran my hand up and down around his neck and throat. Occasionally my fingers touched his jaw and he sighed softly, always being a sucker for having his face held. Moving upwards, I ran one hand over his forehead tenderly and with the other, fingered the familiar pendant that hung around his neck, just underneath his shirt. Oh, now that has a story of it's own, doesn't it Hiiro?

I guess that's why I pulled myself away from caressing him and began to write. Not on the laptop, it being impossible to type on in such confined conditions, especially with someone sleeping less than 1 foot away, but vague scribbles on this paper. I'll type it up later, it'll just take longer this way. And I don't know, it's brought back a memory that I almost feel I need to get out of me somehow. It'll fester otherwise, and bother me all day. Much better to deal with it now. No, the pendant isn't a painful recollection from my past, not completely. It's bittersweet, I suppose. It goes back to Hiiro's 18th birthday, when we'd been together about 18 months. The other story that goes with the date is far more amusing, I assure you, than mine. This being because it was Hiiro's first exposure to alcohol. And hell, what an exposure it was. He'd decided pretty much that morning, after having an obscenely long lie-in and brunch in bed, that he wanted to go out and let his hair down a bit. Clubs weren't ever really his scene, as he is at heart quite shy, but for once he wanted to get out there and forget about being scared of socialising. He wanted to taste a bit of normality, I guess. Me, I didn't mind what he wanted to do. I saw his decision as progress on the social front, anyway. That he wanted to go hang out with other people, other people who would probably want to actually converse with him, well, it had to be a good thing. If it got too much for him, I'd sort it. Simple. The only problem, in fact, was that he'd decided that I wasn't allowed to wear an all-black ensemble. We both know that it's my comfort thing, but I figured that if could break out of his shell a little, then so could I.

I certainly wasn't wearing purple, though. Not a chance. Hiiro has some very strange fashion preferences, as shown by this light purple monstrosity of a shirt he'd bought for me with a sadistic snigger. Eventually, though, after rooting through his closet for a while, I found a passable dark green, short sleeved shirt that could sort of look like black, if you wear squinting some, and paired with some light blue jeans I hadn't worn in years, I felt rather impressed with my efforts. Hiiro looked similarly appreciative as he bounced about the apartment searching for money, keys and a pair of socks that matched. Typically, he looked stunning in a disbelieving sense. By which I mean that it's impossible to imagine anyone else on the face of the planet getting away with his outfit, yet it made him look absolutely gorgeous. Seriously, wine red trousers, right? You tell me someone who can pull that off. Thought so. Well, Hiiro had somehow carried it off in that indescribable way he has, and with the white shirt he loves, I was starting to consider hiring professionals to keep the public off him. I love that shirt, actually. Wonder if he's brought it with him. White is really a compliment to it, as it's more accurately described as semi-transparent, as if it's permanently wet. Meaning that you can see his nipples through it. Ooh, and his bellybutton. All of which means that Duo Maxwell was a happy bunny. I might even have worn the purple shirt after all.

The night itself was fantastic, in all honesty. Hiiro even did some dancing, after he'd been plied with plenty of alcohol. Which wasn't technically my fault. He'd picked up a cocktail menu, deciding that he wanted to be "sophisticated" (as if), and then sat sniggering over it for the best part of 45 minutes. Like a small child, he kept pointing out the ones with the rudest names, chuckling away to himself as if he was five years old. Rolling my eyes, I decided on the best way to shut him up. Sneaking a look at the menu, I scanned the names and selected the most filthy of them.

"I dare you to order that."

His eyes followed my fingertip. A blush rose on his face and he squirmed. "Nooo!" He said, with a nervous giggle. "You know I couldn't."

"Drinks on me all night." I tempted.

"I would have thought that was par for the course, it being my birthday and all." He stuck out his tongue at me.

"Fine. I'll wash up all next week." Now that, he couldn't resist. He hates washing up more than just about anything. I think he'd rather get up at 7 every morning than put his hands in a bowl of Fairy Liquid. I could see the torment going on in his head just by looking at his eyes. Embarassment versus lukewarm water with food particles in it. It was, looking back, an easy decision.

"You're on." He agreed, looking both petrified and strangely amused by it all. The look on the bartender's face when he stuttered his request for 'A Screaming Orgasm' may have been weary, but Hiiro's expression was priceless. The boy came back absolutely exhausted with the fear of it all, though rather proud at his conquest. A very nice drink it was, too. But I mean, how was I to know he'd develop somewhat of an addiction to them? Gin, Baileys, a splash of lemon? That's about as far away from Hiiro's taste as you're going to get. I had him down as a 'Sex on The Beach' kind of a guy, but that's Hiiro. Full of surprises, I mean, not the sex and beaches part. Exhibitionism and sand aren't two of his favourite things, in case you're wondering.

Well, except for that night. He excelled himself, exhibitionally-speaking anyway, and after 6 of those drinks, I wasn't really surprised. We'd both taken to them after a while, and I was feeling similar lightheaded when he took to the dancefloor. I've a far superior alcohol tolerance than him, even now, so I can clearly recall the way he kept flicking his hips outwards and making it painfully blatant that he was mine. His grinding certainly worked as a people-repellant, even if I did get some hateful glares the whole night through. A few envious looks, too. I think they thought that I was a girl, actually. I had my hair loose, and everything. It's a mistake that's often made, and I'm painfully used to it, but it was the looks on plenty of faces when Hiiro began unbuttoning my shirt that made me think that the assumption had been universally made. Warning bells had started to go off in my head, apart from the fact that Hiiro had probably had about 11 cocktails by then and was looking very much the worse for wear, and when he started licking one of my nipples, I thought it best we make a swift exit. I don't know much about openly gay activity around here, but I did know that we suddenly seemed a lot less welcome, and reluctantly, I directed us both out of there. Hiiro, bless him, barely even noticed. He was still gyrating when we were halfway up the road, happily moving about to imaginary music and giggling himself stupid. Needless to say, he was pretty far gone. Feeling more than a bit guilty for suggesting the whole cocktail idea, I took his hand and tried to lead him home for some soothing water and a head massage, in the hope that I might save him from the hangover from hell.

Cheerfully, he bounced back towards me and threw one arm around my shoulders, letting it toy with my nipple through my shirt. Wrapping my left arm tightly around his waist, I let him lean on me and walked him towards home, not entirely quietly. He seemed to be singing for the entire country to hear, punctuating the distorted lines of his songs with trips and jumps until he declared that he felt sick and wanted a piggy back. So, that's pretty much how we ended up; me carrying a semi-conscious boyfriend on my back, looking a lot like someone who'd drugged a hooker and was dragging him home for some torture and killing. The situation wasn't really assisted by Hiiro's promises that he would probably throw up on my back, and where was he going, and was I going to take him now, and actually, who was I?

This, I swore, would be the last time anything alcoholic passed his lips.

Once I'd got him home, and deposited him onto the sofa, I went to retrieve some water and a cold cloth for his head. After a round of questions deduced that he wasn't about to be sick just yet, and in fact felt strangely blurry, he seemed content to sip at the water and snuggle up to me.

"Your nipple's wet." He complained sleepily, fingers toying underneath my shirt.

"I know." I replied simply. "You licked it."

"Did I?" He asked dreamily. "Yay me. Ooh. Water. Water is good."

"Yep, water is good. Just keep drinking, okay? Good for you."

Feeling the cold touch of liquid on my chest, I had the distinct feeling that he'd decided water was good for the nipple as well, but I said nothing. Craning my head to look at him, I found him happily sipping water and smiling in the way that only drunk people can whilst water ran down my skin. A smile slowly crossed my face, and I decided that, pissed or not, it was time. I'd held off giving him his present before we went out, because...well, I don't even know, to be quite frank. Maybe I'd wanted it to be the capping of a perfect day, probably, somewhere in my sentimental old brain. Perhaps I'd wanted a private, personal moment at the end of the day, at nightfall. What I'd got was a boyfriend, duped on alcohol, who looked at me with loving eyes and a intensely contented expression. I couldn't help thinking that it was almost better that way. There was a story accompanying the present that wasn't entirely cheerful, and I thought it best he be told it whilst in high spirits, so that it couldn't put a dampener on what had been a damn good day.

"Thankyur." He mumbled incoherently. "Best birthday ever." The smile put light into his eyes.

"Mm, glad to hear it." I whispered back, stroking his stomach gently. "Listen, got you something."

"Oooh, pressie." He chirped. That, weirdly enough, was not the drink talking. Hiiro, believe it or not, can do energized child. I've seen it often enough to know. He's not Mr. Serious Perfect Soldier all that much anymore. He's far more inclined to behave like a 12-year old, in a cute sort of way. And thus presents get him all excited.

I left him, carefully drew a box out of the pocket of my black jacket hanging up in our bedroom and returned to find him looking at me with a curious joy on his face. It's an image I'd want to keep forever, the look of complete contentment in his eyes. Even if he was pretty drunk, he still looked gorgeously, deliriously happy. I hoped that I wasn't about to ruin that. Placing it in front of him, I watched him gently take it apart until the silver pendant was revealed. A tiny cylinder, made out of a blackened iron with a delicate inscription on it, it was the exact same as a one I had. But only I could know, for the time being, that it concealed something inside it. It hung on a strong, silver chain, and would meet the hollows of his chest when worn. He looked at it for the longest time, eyes gazing over the ironwork with an expression of awe on his face. I could almost see him sobering as he looked at it, as if his body was draining and preparing for its hangover tomorrow morning.

"It's just...God, this is beautiful..." He breathed, suddenly gaining sensibility within his drunken state. It was as if I'd woken him up from it a little, pleased as he was with the gift. I don't know, perhaps he was sobering up. I'd never seen him drunk, so I couldn't say. All I knew was that he looked happy, and this was definitely a good thing. "Isn't this...it's just like yours, isn't it?"

I nodded, not trusting my voice for a moment. I wear the same thing underneath my shirt.

"Thankyou, so much, it's...I love it, I really love it." He said, a little choked, watching the little trinket spin in his fingers.

"Welcome. If you look, though, it's..." My voice trailed off as I reached my finger gently to it, to touch where the chain took hold of the pendant. Indicating the ridges of silver at the top of the cylinder, I explained myself. "This lifts off."

Tenderly, Hiiro clasped the pendant and tested my advice, watching with interest as indeed, the cylinder could be detached from the chain and thus, left open. Almost timidly, he set the chain aside and turned the piece of iron over in his hand until a small glimmer of amethyst fell into his open palm. Staring at it for a second, he caressed it with the fingers of his other hand and then looked up at me.

"Oh..." He was otherwise speechless, it appeared. Turning the stone over and over, he leaned over and kissed me. "Thankyou..." He said again, quite unneccessarily, I thought, with an indulgent blush. I nodded, pleased that he liked it, and then spoke.

"There's a little story behind it."

He raised an eyebrow, sitting back to look some more at the tiny gem, then at me with an inquisitive look. "I'd like to hear it." He said, with a warm smile.

Getting myself comfortable opposite him, I began.

"I got mine from Sister Helen, when I was much younger. She...well, she got it from an old, and very good friend of hers before I was even born, probably. She couldn't remember the exact year, but it was a while ago by the time I came to her. And this friend, she'd been pregnant with her first child; a son. And she used to visit Sister Helen a lot, because they were close and she was nervous, even in her first few months. I suppose it's like that with most women and their first borns. And Sister Helen didn't mind, because she always liked company, and talking. She was a warm person, you know? Always nice for a chat, and to be reassured. I suppose that's why her friend was there so often."

Hiiro nodded, transfixed, toying with the present in one hand absentmindedly.

"Anyway. In one of her visits, this friend had been talking about her baby, as she did with the frequency of most expectant mothers. And Sister Helen, well, she was equally excited, and they'd begun hastily predicting what the child would look like. The friend quickly confessed that she'd prayed for him to have violet eyes. Why was never told to me, but from the way Sister Helen told me, I guess it was probably a pretty sad reason. She looked so melancholy about it. This friend, she'd prayed and prayed for violet eyes, and had even bought a gemstone, in the hope that it would secure her wish."

"An amethyst." Hiiro realised, the story slowly sliding into place a little.

"Yes." I replied. "She thought that it would perhaps give her God a clear sight of what she prayed for, I suppose. Give weight to her chances. And she took the stone with her, everywhere she went, always in the hope that she would give birth to a son with eyes the colour of it. Maybe it was a strange logic, but her fervour surely couldn't ignored, said Sister Helen. Human enthusiasm was always admired by God, she said. As it happened, though, she never got to find out whether this strange logic worked or not."

"She didn't?" My lover questioned, twisting the chain of the trinket around one hand very gently.

"She lost the child." I replied.


"Oh, God..." He breathed, eyes taking on an expression of blatant sympathy, drawn into the story. "The poor thing..."

"Yeah." I nodded, weighed down by the force of it once more. "A month later, she came to visit Sister Helen again. And as much as she tried to help her friend, and make her feel even the slightest bit better in the whole horrible, horrible situation, Sister Helen couldn't get through to her. Her friend just insisted that it was her own fault, and that God was punishing her."

"Because she'd wished for violet eyes?"

"Instead of a healthy child, yes. She'd spent time praying for the wrong thing, she'd been stupid and superficial. She couldn't be happy with a normal, healthy son but instead, had to put conditions on his looks. And now, she was being punished for her selfish attitude. Sister Helen couldn't convince her otherwise. As far as she was concerned, she had learnt one lesson harshly, and she made Sister Helen promise to remember it. That was, never let a physical element, an outside impression, distract from what's inside. Never focus all of your heart on looks, but instead see the true value of a person; what is underneath."

"She must have been half out of her mind," Hiiro considered sadly. "The poor girl."

"She was, in all honestly. Torn apart by grief and guilt, she died not long afterwards. On that visit, though, she gave Sister Helen a gift, to thank for her all the help she'd given her when she was pregnant, for being there for her when perhaps others were busier. And of course, when she tried to give Sister Helen the amethyst, she was politely yet firmly refused. Yet her distress was so great, her passion that she could not be reminded of the stone and all of what it had cost her, and neither could she bear to sell it for money to use, that Sister Helen felt she had to accept it. It remained safety tucked away in a bedside drawer for many years, until I appeared. I, a young boy, with violet eyes."

Hiiro smiled sadly. "Just what the woman wanted."

"Yes. And Sister Helen said later that she had been tempted, then and there, to give me the stone, because of the way I looked. But, remembering the words of her friend, she decided that she would wait until I revealed my temperament and my inner core before doing so. And then, when she gave it to me, she told me that she loved me very much and that I deserved it. Of course, I couldn't really understand then. The story made sense, and I knew that it was a precious gift, but it's only been in the last few years that I've really let it get to me. That I've let it in. The stone I wore in an old locket I had, around my neck, always tucked underneath my shirt where it couldn't be seen. I wore it through a lot of the war, until, you remember the incident where I had my nose broken?"

Hiiro nodded. "Falling forwards, I remember."

"Then, I felt the sharp clang of the metal locket on the fragile stone, and almost knew the moment I went down that it would have splintered inside. When I checked later, it had split clean in half. Quite a difficult feat, to be honest, but it had happened nonetheless. I was pretty down about it, because it meant such a lot to me after I lost Sister Helen, you know."

Hiiro nodded again, taking my hand silently.

"So...I put it away for a while, tried to forget. Didn't work. It was only when I recalled Sister Helen's words, years later, that I found peace with it. 'Someday, I hope,' she'd said, 'that you find someone you love through and through, and who loves you just as much back, and maybe you'll pass it on to them. I love you, so I give it you, and maybe you will feel the same about someone else someday. Someone you love as much for their soul as their face.' I didn't quite understand then, but then...I met you."

Tears began to fill Hiiro's eyes, and he stroked the flat of my hand shakily. "Me?" He almost whispered.

"Yes, you. You know how much I love you, you know that. For everything you are. About a year ago now, I searched for similar pendants, to put the two fragments of stone in. Had it not split, I know I would have given it to you anyway, but it splitting felt even better to me. I could keep one half, and I would give you the other. That way, I'd lose neither you nor Sister Helen, both people I have so much love for that it terrifies me."

Salty water began to run down Hiiro's face, one single, solitary tear as he continued stroking.

"And when I found this," I motioned to the iron trinket, "I figured it was perfect. Just the right size to protect the stone, and stronger than the old locket I had. I thought...it looked like it would suit you, and I'm glad you like it. I just...I wanted you to know the story behind it, baba. Not to make you cry, oh God, I didn't want to upset you, I just...I needed you to know why I've given this to you. I wanted to explain, to..."

"It's okay," He said, smiling through the tears. "It's not upset, it's...happy, it's I love you, it's...thankyou." He pulled me close for a hug. "You are so brave, do you know that? You're incredible. I love it, and I love you. Always will. And I'm glad you told me, let me in. She sounded like a wonderful woman, Sister Helen."

I pulled him back against me with all the force I could muster. Burying my nose in his hair, I whispered,

"She was. She really was." And for the first time in years, I allowed myself to cry over her, and all that I'd lost. And Hiiro sat, all the while, and ran his hand across my back in even, soothing strokes.


As I look at the pendant now, I feel a sort of tightness in my stomach that I can't quite put my finger on. He's worn it every day since he got it, and I know he treasures it. And sometimes I wonder whether she can see me now, Sister Helen, and whether she can see him. And I wonder whether she knows that I did find someone that I love through and through, who loves me just as much back.

I really hope so.

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