One glance was all it took. It may have been ten years, but Duo would know Solo anywhere, at any time. Now he just has to convince the stubborn wizard to let him help. Master of Death? Sorry Snake Face, the Shinigami has no master. 02/HP, 04/03
Everything seemed fuzzy, slow. Harry and Hermione jumped to their feet and drew their wands. Many people were only just realising that something strange had happened; heads were still turning towards the silver cat as it vanished. Silence spread outwards in cold ripples from the place where the Patronus had landed. Harry's stomach clenched in horrified remembrance of a scene very much like this once upon a time ago. Then somebody screamed.
Harry and Hermione threw themselves into the panicking crowd. Guests were sprinting in all directions; many were Disapparating; the protective enchantments around The Burrow had broken.
"Ron!" Hermione called, her voice high with fear as she shoved party goers to one aside as they barged into her. "Ron, where are you?"
As they pushed their way across the dance floor, Harry saw cloaked and masked figures appearing in the crowd; then he saw Lupin and Tonks, their wands raised, and heard both of them shout 'Protego!', a cry that was echoed on all sides –
"Ron! Ron!" Hermione called, half sobbing as she and Harry were buffeted by terrified guests; Harry seized her hand to make sure they weren't separated as a streak of light whizzed over their heads, whether a protective charm or something more sinister he did not know, he tightened his grip on his wand –
And then Ron was there. He caught hold of Hermione's free arm and Harry felt her turn on the spot; sight and sound were extinguished as darkness pressed in upon him; all he could feel was Hermione's hand as he was squeezed through space and time, away from The Burrow, away from the descending Death Eaters, away, perhaps, from Voldemort himself...
"Where are we?" asked Ron's voice as Harry's sweaty hand tightened spasmically on the handle of his wand.
He opened his eyes. For a moment he thought they had not left the wedding after all: they still seemed to be surrounded by people.
"Tottenham Court Road," Hermione panted, side-along Apparating two adults as well as herself, was apparently strenuous. "Walk, just, walk, we need to find somewhere for you to change. Especially Harry. The Polyjuice is wearing off already," she warned as she dropped their hands and began a brisk half run half walk up the wide, dark street thronging with late-night revellers and lined with closed shops, the occasional jarringly bright lit window of a take-out restaurant, or the neon open signs of pubs and clubs. A double-decker bus rumbled past, giving Harry a quick glimpse of his changing face. He looked more like himself than the round faced 'Cousin Barney'. Even his hair was darkening past auburn to dark brown, soon it would be back to its dark inky black. A group of merry pub-goers, young ladies out on a Hen night judging by the sash and sparkly wands and pink fluffy handcuffs, ogled them as they passed; both Harry and Ron were still in dress robes.
"Hermione, we haven't got anything to change into," Ron blurted out in a hiss, as a young woman burst into raucous giggles at the sight of him, drawing stares from the other people around them.
Harry grimaced, glancing over his shoulder in paranoia, "Why didn't I make sure I had the Invisibility Cloak with me?" he growled under his breath, inwardly cursing his own stupidity. "All last year I kept it on me and – "
"Solo!" a voice shouted.
Harry felt his breath hitch for all of a second.
He glanced over his shoulder and it was the work of the last four years not to perform a full body flinch at the familiar amethyst eyes pinned to him through the crowding public.
He sped up.
"It's okay," Hermione was saying, unaware of the muggle following him, or the tension that suddenly corkscrewed up her friend's spine, she was too busy keeping her eyes on the shadows they passed. "I've got the Cloak, and I've got clothes for both of you," she said, "Just try and act naturally until – this will– "
"OI! SOLO!" the muggle shouted even louder, speeding up after them.
This time even Ron noticed, looking over his shoulder, the other two craning around to see who was shouting in their direction. The red head frowned, "Is he shouting at us?" he asked.
"No," Harry grit out, not looking as he hunched his back and skipped a pace forward.
"He's definitely looking at us," Hermione noticed worriedly.
"You know him, Harry?" Ron asked warily as they kept moving.
"Don't know him," the Gryffindor confirmed shortly, lying through his teeth.
"Damnit, would you stop ignoring me! Solo!"
"He's definitely shouting at you, mate," Ron said to Harry. The Gryffindor only shook his head again, and Ron nodded seriously, wheeling around and stopping, squaring himself up to his full height. He would have looked somewhat ridiculous to someone from Hogwarts who knew him, but right now, he was not a figure to be messed with standing at well over six feet tall, with surprisingly broad shoulders and a deep chest from all the training he'd been doing in the DA and for Quidditch. Hermione grabbed Harry's wrist, pulling him to a stop just behind him, not wanting to be separated. Ron folded his arms defensively as the smaller male came to a stop in front of them, a look of relief on his face as he opened his mouth, only to be cut off.
"Look mate, back off okay? You've got the wrong guy and you're making my friend uncomfortable," Ron commanded, blue eyes boring into purple.
The stranger was surprisingly small, but not thin, he had large amethyst purple eyes, with round apple cheeks, and long chestnut coloured hair in a thick braid that dropped down to mid-thigh. Wearing a leather jacket over a red T-shirt, he was quite clearly muggle.
He stared at Ron for a moment, before his eyes slid over to Harry, who was very carefully not looking at him, but at Hermione who was glancing between the two anxiously. He stared before his face broke out into a friendly smile, and he stepped back. Ron relaxed as the muggle's arms went up behind his head and he leaned back.
"Ahh-ahahah, my bad. Sorry. Seriously though, the resemblance is freaky close. Green eyes, black hair, hell, even the facial scar. Still, if you say so. Sorry about that man!" he blustered brightly.
Harry shifted uncomfortably, "That's... okay. I'm sorry I'm not who you're looking for," he managed to get out, still not looking up.
"Yeah... me too," the muggle agreed, suddenly solemn.
He didn't follow them again.
He wasn't wrong.
Duo Maxwell knew that face as well as his own.
It was older now, but there was no mistaking it. Ever. Not when it swam in front of his eyes night after wretched night when his inner demons decided to remind him of all his faults, crimes, and mistakes.
Still too thin, too pale, too pinched with anxiety, anger, and helplessness. That familiar mess of inky blue-black was shorter now, but that colour wasn't something you could find even in a bottle. Those eyes though, they were what gave it away when the young man turned around, muttering something under his breath. Those blade sharp green-green eyes that glared out of a pale pinched face, looking for a threat in the darkness.
It had been ten years, but Duo would know Solo anywhere in the Galaxy.
And Duo could still read him like an open book. No matter how much the green eyed boy tried to hide it, Duo knew he was in trouble with just one look at his face. He had all but worshipped the other boy back in L2, the two of them practically heading their little gang of gutter rats. Back when Solo did everything in his limited power to keep them healthy and fed, Duo chasing his heels like a loyal puppy, the two of them leading attacks on the rival street gangs to steal food, sleeping in piles of dirty clothes in the corners of warehouses and back alleys. He had that same look on his face the first time they pissed off a few of the adult cutthroats, always looking over his shoulder as he ushered their little group of five through the alleys, it was before they took in the trash heap kids and bloated their numbers into the thirties, and nearly broke poor Solo's back with the responsibility of their lives. Looking back, Duo wished to smack his seven year old self for being completely ineffective in helping his best friend, and take the green eyed child and hide him from the world he was far too good for. Looking at him now, seventeen years old, ushering another two people under his care through the streets, looking over his shoulder in much the same way, Duo wanted to break something. Preferably whoever was putting that look on his face. Because the more things changed, the more they stayed the same. And Solo was still trying to protect his people.
He was determinedly not thinking about how Solo had been letting him think he was dead for the last ten years. Or what his old friend must have thought of his actions during the Colony Wars two years ago.
He hung back as the red head guided his old friend away, the three rushing a little further down the street before ducking into an alley way, it wasn't long before they surfaced again, the boys in normal clothing as opposed to those weird Lord of the Rings style fancy robes. He could still see Solo looking around, his eyes hidden behind an awful pair of glasses that did little to hide the sharpness of his gaze. They hurried down the road, ignoring a group of drunks that cat called the woman, both boys bristled, the red head shifting closer while Solo glanced their way and dismissed them entirely. Still sharp as a lazer scalpel. Those guys weren't going to do anything but shout. A complete non-threat.
The three ducked into a cafe, a dirty little greasy spoon that was mostly empty at this time of night.
Duo hauled himself onto the top of a doorway, perching upon the huge decorative relief work above so he could peer through the grubby section of window above the net curtains strung annoyingly halfway up the window. He could see the three grab a seat from where he was, a pretty waitress approaching them, he could read the girl's lips ordering three cappuchinos, and the waitress leaving.
He didn't see them coming, which was the first thing that tipped him off.
Two men, one big and burly, in clothes a little too good a quality to be fucking around in this part of town. A smaller dark man, who seemed to be sneering at what was around him. Duo shifted deeper into the shadows above the door as he watched them go into the cafe, the way they leaned towards the three at the table. How Solo's eyes followed them from under that mop of dark hair.
The waitress went over, and was waved off, much to her offence.
It all happened at once.
The two men that had just waved away the waitress moved at the same time as Solo, and Duo found himself launching himself down onto street level as the cafe windows lit up with light from what had to be beam weaponry. He shoved the door open, gun already in hand.
The big guy's head vanished in a spray of blood, bone, and grey brain matter.
A woman screamed.
Solo's face lit up with red light and the second man dropped like a puppet with his strings cut.
The room fell silent.
Big, blond, and bloody laid out on the floor in front of the windows to his left, the waitress unconscious at his feet. Solo stood in front of him, an odd brown weapon in his hand (it looked like a stake, but that couldn't be right, Duo knew he saw it use lazer tech), red was tied up, literally, under the table they'd been sat at seconds before hand. His girlfriend was next to him, a brown weapon in her hand.
They were all staring at him with wide eyes.
Duo grinned, and stowed his gun away. Yes, that was how to make an entrance. He was the King of Awkward Silences, him.
"What. The. Hell was that?" Solo's voice suddenly tore the silence. Duo flinched at the furious snarl, unable to stop himself from jerking slightly as the dark haired teenager stormed over, "A gun Duo? What the ever loving fuck!" he snarled, hand whipping out and smacking him around the head hard enough to make him squawk. Duo couldn't stop himself from cowering at the smaller teenager's temper, it was reflex. Solo's temper had always been something to fear. "Bustin' inonna fight, yah fakkin' shitcaked hairball! Can yah no take a hint or didyah leave yah brain behind up'pon L2?" the green eyed teenager continued, that familiar harsh rolling L2 slang falling from his lips like a forgotten dream.
Duo couldn't help the earsplitting grin that spread over his face. That accent. Even the old insult. Only Solo ever called him a shitcaked hairball.
He laughed and bounced forward, unable to hold himself back as he banded both arms around the smaller teenager.
"It is you, Solo!" he exclaimed, squeezing the suddenly frozen boy in the tightest hug he'd ever given another living soul.
"...fuck," he heard Solo breathe in undisguised tones of complete horror.
"Wait, you really do know each other?" the girl's voice asked, sounding confused, and a little hurt.
Duo withdrew from his hug a little, unwilling to let Solo out of his grasp just yet. And felt like someone had just punched him in the gut at the expression on his face.
He had gone pale grey, his expression twisted as if someone were holding a gun to his head.
"I..." Solo trailed off, mouth open, unable to get anything out as he stared at Duo's chin in a kind of numb terror, not even seeing him.
Duo grinned over at the two, red now cut free from his ropes and being helped to his feet by the girl, he tugged Solo tight up under his arm once again, "Sure do! Solo here and I go way back!"
Solo jerked and shrugged him off, ducking free like the slippery little bastard he was.
"Harry?" the girl asked. Oh, so that was what he was going by these days? Meh, Duo still preferred Solo. It fit the boy better than 'Harry', the shit kinda name was that for someone like Solo?
"I... Yes. I... I do know Duo. We used to... We knew each other back before, before Hogwarts," he admitted, swallowing against his dry throat.
Duo grinned, "Duo Maxwell, at yah service. I may run an' hide, but I'll never tell a lie." He bowed theatrically to them, he liked to think even Trowa would have been proud of that one.
"H-Hermione Granger," the girl returned with a polite, if dazed nod.
Red didn't answer, too busy staring at the ruin Duo made of that dude's head. Or rather, what was left of it. He was looking rather pale as he stared at the fleshy slop on the grimy linoleum floor.
"Don't look at it, Ron. You'll only feel sick," Solo advised grimly, catching sight of where his friend was looking.
"Yeah, no kiddin'. His brain may have been big, but that ain't a healthy colour," Duo observed clinically. He'd seen a lot of brain matter, soldiers, civilians, criminals, and saints.
Red made a sick noise and quickly turned away. Duo shrugged. Not his problem if Solo's friends were soft.
"Baaaack to the matter at hand," Duo drawled lazily, staring at his old friend severely. Solo glanced his way and braced himself just in time. Duo's fist smashed into his face.
"Oi!" red shouted, as Solo crashed into one of the tables behind him.
The taller teenager lunched forward, and hit the ground a second later, Duo knocking him unconscious with a neat smack to the back of the neck. The girl followed half a second behind him as she tried to get to Solo while Red went for him, unable to bring her weapon around fast enough to attack him.
Then Solo was on him.
He was still a quick little bastard.
But Duo hadn't fought and survived the Colony Wars for nothing. Solo was fast, and he was skilled. But ultimately, he was still a civilian, absurd reflexes or not.
Duo caught his wrist as he brought his weapon up, yanked him forward and buried a knee in his stomach. He hauled his old friend up and flicked him over his shoulder, slamming him onto the table Red had been tied up under a split second before.
Solo wheezed, winded as all the air in his lungs forcefully wooshed out. Duo twisted his wrist, pressing his thumb down until he could yank the weird weapon out of his hand.
Solo's eyes snapped open and he twisted, feet bracing against the cafe divider and launching himself at Duo, tackling him around the middle.
The Gundam Pilot staggered, but he didn't go down.
Solo did though, when he drove an elbow down onto the back of the teenager's neck.
Duo caught him before he could smash his face open on the floor and sighed deeply.
"That... did not go as planned," he complained to himself as he hefted Solo's slight weight. Fuck, he weighed even less than Quatre did back during the Colony Wars when they were fifteen. He sighed deeply, dropping his ass down to sit on the floor, and arranged Solo's limbs comfortably on his lap before rummaging in one of his many pockets for a comminucator.
This was going to be a fun one to explain to Sally. Find his dead gang leader from when he was an L2 brat, murder a complete stranger that attacked them, knocked his friends unconscious, knocked him unconscious – no wait.
Solo breathed deep, struggling up into the conscious world, hazy green eyes flickering open, out of focus as he stared up at Duo's nervously grinning face.
"Wow, you're made of sterner stuff than I thought!" he exclaimed, absurdly proud for some reason. He shouldn't be. Solo was going to be one hell of an unholy pain in his ass, he could just tell. His buddy didn't get frantic like that unless he was trying to protect people. Duo was a little jealous, he'd often thought Solo would have made a better choice for a Gundam Pilot with that attitude. But he wouldn't have wished the Colony Wars on anyone, especially Solo.
"Du..." he murmured hazily, a moment before his gaze sharpened, and he scrambled up.
"Hermione!" the former gang leader yelped, scrambling to the girl sprawled out awkwardly on the floor. Duo saw him reach for her weapon before he got anywhere near her and grabbed his ankle, yanking him back towards him before he could grab it.
"Nah'ah. Nice try, Solo, but not fast enough." His grin dissolved at the look of anger that painted itself across the green eyed teenager's face. "You've got some explaining to do, Solo. I think I deserve that much," Duo pointed out softly, unable to hide the hurt and confusion he currently felt.
Solo flinched as if struck, and let Duo drag him back, rolling over and sitting up once they were in front of each other.
"Explain what, Duo? That I got the Plague?" he asked dully, staring at him with dark eyes.
Duo shrugged, "It's a good place to start," he pointed out, "What happened? You died. I know you did. We stuck with you until the end, but, I couldn't risk the kids getting sick from hanging with a corpse too long. 'Specially one with Plague. I checked yah mahself, yah died," he grit out, his own harsh slum drawl surfacing with the memories.
Solo drew his knees up, wrapping his arms around them, "Coma," he answered quietly, "Irregular weak heartbeat, low blood pressure, hypothermia. I nearly didn't survive. I... Some old geezer found me. Thought I looked like the long-lost son of some dead buddies of his. He got me patched up. But... I thought you guys was all dead, or at least just gone. I woke up on Earth. I had no way of gettin' back tah L2. Fast forward 'few years, the fucker that murdered the old geezer's buddies thinks I'm their legit kid, starts tryin'a kill me too. I never had time tah look in on 'nyone else. Never... Was never brave enough. Didn' wanna know if tha Plague got yah."
He wasn't quite lying. But he was leaving a lot out.
But one thing stuck out to Duo most, "He starts tryin'a kill yah? As in, he ain't stopped yet?" he stressed, eyes narrowing.
Solo muttered something scornful about how he definitely left his brain up on L2 before giving Duo a very pointed look, that then slid to the dead body and the unconscious one on the floor. The Gundam Pilot grimaced, okay, good point, shut up, he knew that. Solo rolled his eyes.
Duo pushed himself up onto his feet, "An' these fucks would'ah killed yah, if they managed ta get tha drop on yah?" he asked seriously as he approached the dark one that was still unconscious.
Solo got to his feet, a look of forced nonchalance on his face, "Depends. If they were tha only ones who picked up our trail, they'd prob'ly torture us first. If there was more comin' in after 'em, they'd take us prisoner to bring to their master. He'd do the torturing, the whole 'Join me and we'll rule the world', followed by inevitable betrayal, further torture, then death." His tone was almost chipper with all the dry sarcasm he managed to pack in there. Duo would have been amused if they were talking about anyone else, but as it was -
Antonin Dolohov's head painted the floor in much the same way Thorfinn Rowle's head had.
Solo stared down at the second dead body in shock, and something that looked like horror.
"Duo... he was unconscious, why – " he began quietly, only to fall silent when the Gundam Pilot got into his space again.
Amethyst bored into green, "I just found you, Solo. Ten years I think you're dead. Then like God's finally smiling on me, I find you again. Only then I find out some fuck's trying ta kill yah. Not happening. Not again. Not ever. If I have to be the God of Death again just ta keep yah alive, then the streets are gunna run red, get me?" he swore darkly.
There were lines in his book. Lines Duo swore he'd never cross after the Colony Wars.
But he'd fucking tapdance in a Gundam over those lines for his friends. For the other pilots, for Sally, Noin, Hilde, Relena, and especially for Solo. Always, for Solo.
He didn't give Solo a chance to say anything, he could see those green eyes flaring with anger.
He moved quick, one short, sharp blow, and Solo was out once again. And this time, Duo decided as he rummaged for the tiny first aid kit he kept on his person at all times, he was going to stay that way. It was a good thing Duo never got out of the habit of packing anaesthetic after the War. One shot of General, and Solo was well and truly out. And would continue to be out until Duo said otherwise, until Duo got him somewhere safe.
He glanced over at Red and the girl whose name he'd already forgotten. He then looked back at the bodies and the waitress.
He pulled his communicator out again and dialled Sally.
He wasn't enough of an asshole to leave two civilian kids in a place with a pair of corpses and people likely to follow them and finish murderising them. Solo would never forgive him, he knew, as the familiar lovely visage of the former Alliance Doctor flashed onto the vid screen.
He would have the Preventers clean up the mess for him, and haul Solo off somewhere warm and sunny where they could deal with the fall out over the last ten years, and Duo could beat some information out of him about what trouble he'd wedged himself into this time.
Done. Enjoy this, ladies and gentlemen. Over the last three days I have binge watched Gundam Wing for this fic. And never have I regretted watching an anime more. This cartoon was flavoured with nostalgia in my memories, I recalled it as something good, entertaining, enjoyable. I rewatched it and regularly wanted to lobotomise myself because of how bad the writing, character development, and just... god, everything was awful and Relena concerns me on a deep maternal level. Like, seriously, could you make a character more in danger of becoming the victim of a domestic abuse relationship?
This anime was 'Cardgames on Motorcycles' level of WTF-ery. I shit you not.
Still, I got through it. I managed it. And thus you get this fiction. Enjoy it and review.