Title: Atonement: To Love, Protect, and Forgive

Author: Kenhime

Genre: Drama/Romance/Action

Disclaimer: -_- I don't own Gundam Wing, but I do own the new characters in the story.

Author's Note: Non-yaoi pairings: 1xR, 2xH, basically.  Contemplating on 3xM, and there's a nonexistent 4xD.  In fact...what do you think about the 3x4?

Prologue: Normal

                With a sigh, Heero leaned his head against a shadowing lone wall of what used to be an office building, one bloodied hand clutching a gun and the other holding his throbbing temples.  Ground was covered with gray ashes as it danced gently with the breeze, the foul stench of gunpowder and blood in the air.  He closed his eyes, feeling his tensed muscles relax and the frantic flow of adrenaline slow down.  If he kept on fighting these vigorous battles like the one he had minutes earlier, it would sooner or later take a great toll on his body.

                "How long are you going to stay in this void, Heero?" a soprano voice, soft and melodious, penetrated his acute senses.   His eyes snapped open and found its speaker, a petite girl, standing just out of the shade he sat underneath.  Her back turned towards him as she looked far into the distance, her porcelain-like hands folded neatly on her back.  The folds of her blinding white dress blew in the gust of wind.  It was at the moment she appeared that, to his surprise, a single small snowflake floated down.  He opened one hand and watched it come to daintily rest on his palm.  Many started to come down in the same manner, slowly and lovely, like it was sent from the heavens above.  It had begun to snow.  She turned to face him, her auburn bangs brushing against her forehead and accenting her impassive dark blue eyes.  The sight of her face caused a flicker of recognition in Heero's Prussian blue eyes before it became identically vacant as hers.  "Well?"

                "I don't understand what you mean about this void," he answered truthfully.  Her eyes narrowed slightly at his reply, but she remained expressionless.

                "It won't be long, Heero, before you know what I mean."

                He shot up from his bed, a trembling hand reached forward to the girl that was no longer there.  The erratic beating of his heart rang strongly in his ears and sweat dripped down his face in beads.  Another nightmare.  It started out like any other of the nightmares that tormented him every night: full of bloodshed and screams.  But the dream ended very different than it usually would.  How odd.  He shook his head to stop the ringing and ran a hand through his disheveled brown locks of hair.  Tentatively, as if to not fall from dizziness, the young man stood up from his bed and half walked, half-stumbled into the bathroom, clutching onto the doorframe for support.  Splashing icy cold water onto his pale face, he glanced up at the mirror above the sink to see the reflection of the bathroom clock.  It indicated four in the morning.  Looked like he wouldn't be getting anything more than three hours of sleep today.  Well, he never slept well often anyway.

                Not bothering to wipe his face with a towel, he walked out to the apartment kitchen.  Absently, he began to make coffee.

                He had not dreamt of her until now.  There was a feeling of premonition that something drastic was about to happen, but he pushed it away, the logical, more dominant part of his mind telling him that everything was over and life was supposed to be normal now since the war was over. 


                He scoffed bitterly.  It wasn't that he didn't like the peace; he just felt so out of place.  The war had marred his childhood and his innocence.  He had once believed that there was no way out of this insane circle of meaningless fighting.  But now, as he lived among civilians, he would see young children running around laughing and carefree.  A small part of him longed to be like them before he darkly crushed the yearning; he would never be able to return to that kind of happiness.  Even though he sat with other college students his age, he felt old, too old to be among the likes of his cheerful peers.  For that reason, this new calm life didn't seem normal to him.  He had no attachment at all to these people, the very same peaceful civilians he had fought to protect two years earlier.  The only 'attachment' he had was those he fought along with—but even then, his callousness made no way for close relationships between his former colleagues either, unless he considered Duo's one-sided (on Duo's side, not his) friendship one.

                He paused to reevaluate statement, remembering all the times he was with Duo in war, like that time Duo rescued him out of the Alliance hospital or when they were penetrating the defenses of the colony X18999.

                Okay, so maybe it wasn't one-sided and perhaps he did have a close relationship with a few of the people—which only consisted of Duo and Relena.

                The coffee maker made a small buzzing sound, startling him out of his reverie.  He poured the black liquid into a mug and began to sip it, the hot fluid sliding down his throat.  He continued to contemplate.

                Why he had thought of Relena so suddenly eluded him.  She meant everything to him, but yet he could barely understand why.  Perhaps, ever since they first met, Relena seemed to offer him a way out of the insanity.  Just like she did...  He lowered his chin, pouring more coffee into his mouth.  He knew he needed Relena—she was the only one who could rest his troubled soul. 

                But the 'Dove of Peace' seemed so golden, something he couldn't touch.  With her clear azure eyes that seemed to instill hope and peace in the hearts of others, her lucid voice that reached the souls of those who heard it, and the way she carried herself with the elegance of a natural-born princess, she had captured the hearts of many world and space wide.  She was everyone's angel while he was a soldier, a boy who had stained his hands with the blood of many lives, even if it was for peace.   So he kept himself distant, his eyes watchful of her every move.  Just watching the young woman would just be enough for him, he always told himself, but deep inside, he knew it wouldn't be enough. 

                Even in the days of peace, he still couldn't find his own peace—something was stopping him from being tranquil.  It was a logical reason for all his nightmares and insomnia. 

                And it was an illogical reason for him to need her so much, his mind pointed out.

                But his heart said otherwise.  She was the only one who could save him.

                The loud beep rang from his bedroom, signaling to him that he had email.  He pushed his thoughts about Relena to the back of his mind and considered the present matters at hand.  Setting the mug on the counter, he walked back into his bedroom and opened the cover of his sleek laptop that he kept on twenty-four hours a day to read the awaiting message.


                The morning sun's gentle rays filtered through the tall glass windows as Relena Dorlian walked through the hallway, its spots of light dancing on her golden hair.  The wonderful weather outside filled her with a contented feeling, making her feel all the more prepared to take on the strenuous work her duty as Vice Foreign Minister had given her today.  After bidding her co-workers with a cheerful good morning, she opened the door to her spacious office room. 

                A large window completely covered the far wall from the ground to the ceiling, showing the bustling city street four stories down below.  Her window faced to the north, as to allow some but not all sunlight through the glass.  The young seventeen-year-old gazed at her room from her position at the doorway, still awed by its vastness even after two years she had started working in there.  A large oak desk and a large black chair stood facing against the window, along with two smaller black chairs for the guests, two file cabinets were situated at the corner, an extensive bookcase of folders stood at the left wall, and a large couch with the coffee table opposite of the bookcase completed the picture. 

                After her routine survey of her room, she walked in, closing the door behind her, and set her slim black leather suitcase on the smooth top of the desk.  "Good morning, Hee-chan," she cheerfully greeted the small teddy bear that sat along the taped-up card it originally came with on the corner of her desk.  Ignoring the large stack of papers that sat conspicuously on the corner of her neat desk, she turned to look out the window, smiling warmly at the people below.  She could see a young girl of probably five years beaming, her mouth open wide in a laugh, as she tugged her mother's hand.  An elderly couple held hands as they made a leisurely walk with their golden retriever.  Two giggling girls ran to meet their other friends in their walk to school.  This—this was what she worked hard for and still did.  Looking at these peaceful people had given her encouragement to continue her work, no matter the stress and pressure it gave her.

                Taking a deep breath, Relena glanced at the papers determinedly, ready to tackle them all for the day along with those boring talkative diplomats who would start to come in by the next hour.

                By the time she had reached one third of the work papers and talked to four politicians concerning about the Mars Terraforming Project, it was already a half past noon.  She stood up from her chair and stretched, cranking her stiff neck.

                "Relena, there's a call for you on line one," her receptionist appeared at the doorway, holding a can of soda.

                "Thanks, Elaine."  She pressed the receive button on the video-phone to see a wide grin of a particularly cheerful young man.  She knew no one who had that grin other than the illustrious former pilot of the Deathscythe, Duo Maxwell.

                "Hey, 'Jousan, what'cha doin' today?"  She slumped down on her chair, shaking her head and smiling at the sound of his little nickname for her.  Duo would never change, during or after a war.  She still remembered that time he shot Heero in the arm when the pilot of Gundam 01 had pointed a gun in her face.  Relena admired how Duo was always exuberant, even in the darkest times, and his good heart, although he did brainless things once in awhile.  Since the time she met Hilde at Battleship Libra, they had shared a close bond.  Both of them knew at least one of the Gundam pilots and both of them wanted to help them as much as they could.  And now, both of them loved two of the Gundam pilots.  The three of them were so close that when the couple moved to Earth, they chose an apartment that was only a block away from her home.

                "Just as usual, Duo.  How are you doing today?" she asked.

                "Just fine, Relena!"  He jerked a thumb over his right shoulder.  "Hilde's out with the dog, but she'll come back soon.  It's been borin' lately and we haven't talked, so we're wondering if you wanna eat lunch with us."  Her face lit up in pleasure and she could only nod enthusiastically to show her happiness.  He laughed heartily at her reaction.  "Man, it sucks to be dragged down with that kinda job."

                She smiled sheepishly.  "No, but I find it nice to go out of my work sometimes to ease the stress."

                "Well, whatever ya say."  A door slammed in the background and a voice, which Relena recognized as Hilde's, called his name.  "We'll pick ya up in ten minutes, 'kay?"

                "Sure," she answered before the screen flashed and turned blank.  Tapping her finger on the desk, she wondered what she was going to do for ten minutes.  She had no heart to look at more paperwork, especially when she was ravenous from lack of food for the past six hours (a wonder she could still fit in her clothes with her large appetite).  "Don't want to work either, huh?" she asked the teddy bear and grinned.  "Well, it's not like you work anyway.  Want to play with me?"  She stood up from her chair and picked up the teddy bear, twirling and dancing around with the stuffed animal in her arms.

                "I am Relena Peacecraft Dorlian, Vice Foreign Minister of United Earth Alliance Nations and the former Sanc Kingdom's Princess Peacecraft," she told Hee-chan.  "But I am—now and forevermore—just plain Relena." She smirked, shaking her head at it.  "No, Hee-chan, I'm not what people say.  I'm just a seventeen-year-old girl whose education only went as far as high school private.  I can't go to college because of this job.  I'm just a teenager who has to live by herself, protected by those," she wrinkled her nose, "fools that surround my apartment complex like the Great Wall of China and call themselves security.  I have no privacy at all and it's suffocating me!" she threw her hands up in despair.  The VIP bitterly remembered that incident where she had accidentally dropped her shampoo bottle in the shower, causing a sound loud enough for three security guards to rush into her bathroom and ask if she was all right.  She had a large vein popping out on her forehead while she spoke to them with a calm—on-the-edge-of-exploding calm—manner that she was not fine because three men had walked in on her naked.  It took them awhile to figure out in their dense brains to leave the apartment quietly or their lives would have been at stake.  Thanked goodness that the shower curtain was dark blue and not transparent when that happened!  "It's no wonder I'm still single and that I never had an escort at all in any of the parties I attended.  Oh woe is me!" she said sardonically.  It was at that moment Elaine opened the door, revealing an odd Relena standing in the middle of the office, on one leg and holding a stuffed animal up in the air.  The perturbed secretary coughed, catching the attention of her employer, who immediately dropped her awkward pose and blushed slightly.

                "Yes, Elaine?" she said in an authoritative tone as she put Hee-chan back in his little spot on the desk.

                Elaine began to stammer, blushing to the roots of her hair.  "Uh—Ms. Schbeiker and—and Mr. Maxwell is here."

                Frowning a little in concern, Relena asked, "Are you all right Elaine?  You seem to be anxious."

                "It—it's nothing, Relena.  I'm fine," she insisted.  Although Relena didn't push further to see what was on her employee's mind, she was wondering what could make her usually stern secretary blushing so much.

                "Hey!" Duo appeared behind Elaine, a hand raised in greeting.  Elaine jumped at the sight of Duo and shakily backed away from him, disappearing to her own desk outside.

                "Duo, what did you do?" Relena interrogated him, knowing for sure that the braided idiot had done something.

                "What?  I didn't do anything," he innocently put his hands up.

                "Hi, Relena!" Hilde walked in, giving her friend a hug.  "How are you doing?"

                "Hey! I'm doing fine, Hilde," she smiled before she nodded her head in Duo's direction.  "Can you tell me what Duo did to Elaine?" 

                Hilde rolled her eyes, jerking a thumb at Duo's chest.  "Remember that time when he couldn't get through the door to see you so he had to use his so-called 'wit'" she emphasized the word with her two fingers, "to get through?"

                "Oh...that's right.  I guess she still remembers how he scandalized her in such a way."

                "Hey!" Duo protested.  "I didn't scandalize her, I just—"

                "Right, right, Duo, you just told her that you were a male stripper sent in by the Preventers to entertain Relena," Hilde cut in nonchalantly. 

                "And you were also wearing your priest clothes," Relena added.  The two young women crossed their arms and shot meaningful looks at him with their eyebrows raised.

                "Okay, okay, I shouldn't have done that," Duo mumbled.  "Can we go to lunch now? I'm starving!"  With that said the three left the office complex and walked down the boulevard to eat at the street café Toby's.  The small popular café was situated outdoor, with red checkered cloth tables and waitresses dressed in blue skirts and white blouses.  After they had made their orders, Duo updated Relena on what the other Gundam pilots were doing.

                "Quatre's comin' to some conference here, so he's probably gonna stop by and see ya.  I haven't kept in touch with Mr. Clown but looks like he's doin' fine, with the circus 'n all.  Wufei's still a Preventer, workin' with Sally.  And Mr. I-Don't-Give-A-Damn Yuy," he glared, "is still not giving a damn.  He's out there in space somewhere probably.  Haven't talked to me since those missions we had half a year ago, that idiot."

                "Duo!" Hilde elbowed her boyfriend in the chest for the sake of Relena.  "You know better!"

                He frowned, "But I can't forgive him for leavin' the amazing babe Relena alone like this!"  In response, the 'amazing babe' blushed wildly, struggling to restrain herself from pounding his head in, knowing that if she did attempt to beat some sense into his head, he would not become any smarter and the people would think her odd and unfit to be the elegant 'Miss Relena Dorlian.'  Fortunately for her, Hilde knew Relena's intention and did just that for the sake of her friend and of course herself.  Being with Duo so long, Hilde's only way from running down the street screaming bloody murder in her frustration with the idiot was to beat him up.

                "Never—" whack, "ever—" whack, "call—" whack, "Relena—" whack, "a babe!" She finished her scolding with a nice punch to the face.  Relena gave her a grateful look as Duo pouted, rubbing his abused head.

                "Fine, fine, babe, I won't!"

                "MAXWELL!" His girlfriend's tone threatened him with more than mere bruises on the head, something he knew from experience.  The Shinigami raised his hands in surrender to prevent any damage Hilde's wrath might do to the café and most importantly, to him.

                "Okay, okay, Hilde!"  Pouting, he grumpily crossed his arms.  "But I'm still mad at Hee-man for making you suffer like this."  Relena smiled gratefully, patting on his arm in a comforting gesture.

                "It's okay, Duo.  I know you are worried about how I'm feeling, I appreciate that.  But I'm sure Heero's too busy.  Besides..." She trailed off, her cerulean eyes briefly distant and wistful.

                "Besides?" Hilde prodded her to continue.

                "Besides, I know he's there...  Somewhere, looking after me..." When she realized what she had said, her eyes lost its pensive gaze and she sheepishly looked down.  "I know that would seem arrogant to think that, but I just have the feeling of being protected by him."  The couple stared at Relena for a moment before they both simultaneously sighed, shaking their heads.

                "Really, and I thought I was the idiot instead of him..." Duo frowned.

                "It's been a year already, you have to move on," said Hilde.

                The hopeful young woman sighed, "Hilde, he is what makes me move on.  Without him, I wouldn't have gotten this far.  As long as he is there, I have the strength to overcome obstacles that keep me from what I want to achieve.  I...I love him, and even if he doesn't feel the way I do, just to see him smile and just to love him would make me happy."

                "Okay then, Relena.  I understand how strong your feelings are, but I don't want you to get hurt," Hilde took Relena's hand in hers.

                "Anytime you need something, just ask us," offered Duo, shaking her shoulder in a friendly gesture.   "When we spot a Heero somewhere, we'll gag him and bring him to ya, packaged with shipping and handling." Then he added, mischief glittering in his violet eyes, "If you wanna, we can strip him down to his boxers just for the fun of it."

                "Duo!"  Hilde exclaimed, but she couldn't help grinning just as evilly as him.   "But with those spandex shorts he used to wear, do you think he even wears boxers?"

                "Don't know, but we can find out," he replied.  "Here's what we're gonna do..." He began to lay out the plan to kidnap his stoic friend with his accomplice, both of them sniggering along the way.  Relena could only just sit there until the lunch was served, too embarrassed and appalled to say anything.


                Duo and Hilde arrived back at their apartment an hour later, still laughing about their devious plan.  The apartment was small, but furnished stylishly.  The walls were a soft light blue; the large windows wide open with its peach curtains blowing softly in the gentle wind.  After putting away her purse and jacket, Hilde went through the mail they had picked up on the way home.  Then, suddenly, two arms encircled her stomach, trapping her in a bear hug. 

                "Hey!" she exclaimed, feeling Duo's breath on her neck.  She didn't have to look to see that he was grinning.

                "You smell good..." Duo murmured as he continued to hug her.  Blushing, Hilde laughed as she patted the back of his head.  "And the way you laugh...  Finally, all that I dreamed of came true.  I don't want to ever wake up outta this dream."

                "Duo...it's not a dream..." she sighed.  "We're in peace now.  Look..." she gestured at the bedroom window.  Releasing his death grip on Hilde, Duo walked to the window and glanced down.

                A group of children were playing tag near the street, their voices loud enough for the two to hear.  "One...two...three!" a boy looked around to find his friends, who hid and tried to stifle their giggles.  "Gotcha!" he caught a girl hiding behind a tree.  Laughing, he chased after her as she squealed.

                "Do you see any shadow of war in there?" Hilde asked as she came to stand in front of him.  "Well, do you?"  He shook his head.  She touched his cheeks with her hands, bringing his head closer to her.  "You haven't settled down one bit.  You need to believe that this peace will last for a very long time, longer than our lives."  Touching her hand on his cheek, he closed his eyes and replied.

                "I know.   But sometimes, it feels like this is some illusion and that I would wake up inside of Deathscythe.  I always worry that someday I'll lose the ones I wanna protect.  I wanted to protect Father Maxwell and Sister Helen so much, but they died in front of me, a helpless kid.  I don't want it to happen again.  Not again, Hilde."  Then, his eyes shot open, revealing buoyant amethyst depths.  "But I'm the Shinigami now.  And no one—I repeat—NO ONE messes with DA Shinigami!  So as long as you're here with me, your life's one-hundred-percent secured!"

                "Oh, really, huh?" Hilde raised an eyebrow as she put her hands on her hips.  "No one messes with the Shinigami?  I think I'm one exception."  She grabbed the scissors sitting on the table, grinning cruelly as she made cutting motions with it.  "It's time to cut your braid."  He gulped in the throat and dashed out of the door, holding his brown hair, his vanity and pride, in his hands to try to protect it from the evil shears.  "Hey, COME BACK HERE!  Cutting your hair is the sign of maturity.  Relena cut her hair too!"

                "But I'm not Relena!" he yelled back.  Hilde let out a groan, but she took on a determined mission to cut that braid of his, even if she had to run all over the city to do it.


                The sun was beginning to make its daily descent when a tall man climbed out of a black limousine, tugging at the stiff collar of his black suit.  He had rugged good lucks and long blonde hair that was tied up in a low ponytail, but he held a powerful, commanding presence, his face business-like and grim as he waited for the space shuttle slow to a stop.  When the shuttle stairs were properly placed under the entrance, the door shot open and stepped out a man holding a bag.  He paused in the middle of the stairs, feeling the gentle rush of wind in the night's coming.  The last rays of the sun reflected on his bright red spikes that were cut short on his head, but his hazel eyes remained dark and brooding. Then, flicking a spiked bang out of his eyes, he came down the stairs and greeted the other man with a nod.

                "Mr. Asayuki," the waiting man said, deftly taking the bag from the other.  "How was your trip?"

                "It was fine.  Are all the preparations in order?" the man called Asayuki asked in a calm tone.

                "Yes sir," he replied as he opened the door for the other to go in first.  Once Asayuki got in, he went in after, closing the door and telling the driver to start.

                "Excellent.  When will the others arrive, Glenn?'  

                "All by the end of next week."

                "Very well.  And call me Akito."

                "By your command, Akito," Glenn replied respectfully.  The rest of the ride remained silent, both men brooding to themselves.  And as Akito Asayuki looked out the window, he saw the ghostly image of a girl in the last glows of the day and smiled.

                "It's been two years, hasn't it, sister?  It is now time to take my vengeance," he thought to himself, "At last, he will suffer as much as I have!"


Sources: Croik's Essay: http://croik.com/essays/gundamwing/

                GWNET: http://gundamwing.net/lagrange02/scripts.html

Croik's Essay was VERY helpful in understanding the characters and I believe that HEERO IS HUMAN.  HUMAN!  =_=  Even though I tend to make him impassive, I try not to have him be like that! I try to make the relationships reasonable and close to the cannon, so basically this one's full of HxR and DxH and not really anything else.  If you don't believe in these pairings, take a look at Croik's Essay.

I would like to thank Fierysable for everything.  ^_^ You forced me to take this story out, dust it off, and rewrote it.  Then you helped me by beta reading and through that I improved my writing.  These words can't really express my immense gratitude to you, but there is no other way I can say it.  I'll continue to write this story and sincerely hope that this will be the first story I will ever finish.  Really hope... *sweatdrop*

I also would like to say something to Black Rose.  You were, in fact, my first beta reader.  I know it has been more than three years since I had emailed you my first draft of Atonement and I do not know if you are actually reading this.  You told me not to give up on a story, that when you submit it, you have to be sure if you can finish it.  In fact, I will not work on any other story until I finish it.  I owe a lot to you in a way that I said that I would finish it three years ago, but I didn't update, and in a way, I believe I have disappointed you.  I think I disappointed myself as well.  But by the time you're reading this, I can really swear that I will finish it.  I WILL!  *raises fist in determination*