AN: So here is the next chapter as promised, I wish I could tell you chapter 81 won't be far behind but I just don't know when my writing for the fic is Really going to be able to come back to me. But I hope the end of this chapter will give you a satisfying place to wait until I can give you more!
Thank you to morgansgirl for the editing of the fic!
Thanks again to all of you for reading! For being so patient with me! I can't possibly thank you enough! Your words of encouragement mean so much to me! I hope you enjoy this chapter!
Disclaimer: I don't own the characters from Gundam Wing
Fading in the Aftermath
Accident Ash knew was not the best way to describe the scene in that alley way, but it had been the simplest thing he could say to get Trowa to meet him in the parking garage and help him get Heero to his room. He was going to have a lot of explaining to do for his friend, and he had been trying to prepare himself for it on the long walk back. Trowa hadn't said anything when he met Ash just took one look into Ash's hazel eyes and held open the door for them.
"What happened?" John asked meeting them in the hall, Sally right there at his side.
Ash shook his head, wanting Heero seen to before he tried explaining. The doctors and pilots all seemed to realize this as they moved into Heero's room. Ash finally released his grip on Heero flexing his blood stained hand. He moved over to the small sink quickly washing his friend's blood from his fingers before turning back to an impatiently waiting room. Both John and Sally were more focused on Heero, the older doctor speaking softly to his patient and receiving no answer.
Leaning back against the counter Ash looked to Wufei and Trowa, who stood at the end of Heero's bed. "Have either of you ever seen him like this?" it had scared the shit out of him, the blank look in Heero's eyes. It was like he had pulled into himself, and nothing Ash said or did would draw him out.
Trowa nodded his head, "Once during the war."
Ash pulled a trembling hand through his hair, hazel eyes flickering over Heero, where he sat shirtless while John cleaned the gunshot wound on his shoulder and Sally checked his vitals. That bullet had been meant for Heero's heart. Ash still couldn't believe the speed with which Heero had moved, nearly avoiding the bullet altogether while taking out his attacker in on clean shot.
"Care to fill us in on what happened?" Wufei asked then.
Drawing in a breath Ash attempted to organize his thoughts into a coherent line, it wasn't easy. "A gunman followed us into an alley on our way back," Ash had sensed the danger a second after Heero, at the moment not thinking much about his lack of gun. Cradling his still tender arm Ash looked at his friend who had still yet to respond to any of them. "Heero recognized him…I think…" he was pretty sure he'd heard Heero whispered 'the innkeeper'.
"He accused Heero of having killed his wife and daughters," Ash continued after a pause.
"This would be during the war," Sally supplied as she and John finished with Heero having removed his shoes and positioning him further onto the bed.
Ash nodded watching John gently lay his friend back while Sally prepared a syringe, "Apparently they'd been killed on one of the colonies destroyed by Zero."
Trowa and Wufei exchanged a quick look, "Heero wasn't the one piloting it then," Trowa pointed out.
"I doubt it would have made much difference if Heero had pointed it out." The former pilot hadn't said anything in his own defence, whether that was because he knew it wouldn't help, or didn't think his actions deserved defending Ash didn't know.
John dimmed the lights over Heero's bed and motioned for them to all move deeper into the room, "He'll sleep for the night now," he assured Ash, a creased hand resting briefly on his shoulder.
Once they had all taken seats around the coffee table Sally leaned forward pressing for more information, "It obviously ended in an exchange of gunfire, then what happened?"
"Heero's shot killed the man instantly, and I say quick reflexes or not he's lucky to be alive himself," Ash glanced once more to his sleeping friend, remembering all too clearly the aftermath of the shooting. "Heero got to his feet after, and I don't know…" he struggled to find the right words, "Just seemed to shut down."
Ash hadn't known what to make of it any more then than he did now, Heero had stood there sunglasses hiding his eyes, his body having gone ridge. Ash had felt sure Heero was staring at the corps in front of him, and had he not known better he would have thought this was Heero's first time seeing a dead body. But that couldn't possibly have been the case; he'd called out to his friend several times trying to get some sort of response. When the gun clatter to the pavement Ash knew something was seriously wrong. He'd reached for Heero then, careful not to startle his friend, but even as his hand closed around Heero's arm and gently turned him to face Ash, there was no response.
Blinking back to the present Ash looked over the faces sitting around him; Sally was looking to the two other pilots, while John looked as puzzled as Ash felt. Slowly Sally looked back towards Heero's sleeping form, "He made a promise," she began eyes locking onto Ash, "At the end of the war, he swore never to kill again."
"And he'd kept to it for all this time?" Ash questioned sitting back feeling stunned, even as he thought through all his time with Heero realizing this was the case.
"Until now…" Sally sighed.
Heero's eyes snapped open, his body going stiff it took absolutely no effort to remember what had happened, he wasn't given a chance to forget. He didn't want to forget, this was entirely his fault he'd broken his promise, he'd taken that life. There was no coming back from that, no escaping the harsh truth. Pushing himself up from the bed Heero slipped his feet into his boots and went to search out a shirt and sweater. He paid his shoulder no mind as he finished dressing and ducked out of the room.
He was silently grateful for the fact that he'd woken up alone in the room, it could easily have gone the other way. Glancing at his watch Heero suspected he'd come too well before John or anyone else expected. He ghosted his way through the agency foregoing any of his usual haunts in favour of places none of the pilots would think to look.
His strides were long as he put as much distance between himself and the pilot's wing as he could. Heero wasn't sure why he didn't just leave the agency altogether, it was the surest way to avoid having to speak to anyone for as long as he felt he needed. But he didn't leave, he found himself in a remote corner of the agency standing on the wind swept roof cursing himself out for having not disarmed the man.
It shouldn't have been a problem, the man should still have been alive.
The sun had just barely crested the horizon and detective James Krevin had been at the scene of the murder for hours. It was their unfortunate luck that the attack had taken place in a seldom used alleyway, which offered a fair amount of seclusion and no witnesses. The victim Paul Lenard the owner of a small hotel not far from there had been long since removed. Raking a hand through his short brown hair Krevin swept his surroundings again blocking out the movement of various crime scene workers and just take in what he knew.
A man had been shot once clean through his right eye, the man had been dead before he had hit the ground. Krevin took a few steps down the alley away from the place that Lenard had fallen, his eyes locking onto the high velocity blood splatter against the wall, and the small pools of blood on the ground already dry. It was the only evidence that they had that another person had been in the alley when Lenard died. Samples had already been taken to the lab, and Krevin was awaiting word on who their suspect was. With luck the dirt bag would be in the system.
The vibration of his cell brought the detective out of his thoughts as he reached for his phone brining it to his ear, "Yeah?"
"Detective, I've got the DNA results back from the second blood donor," a lab tech on the other end responded.
"And?" he prompted straightening up.
"The shooter's an Agent,"
"A name would be useful…" Krevin sighed rubbing a hand across the back of his neck.
There was a sigh on the other end, "I need a Delta level clearance…"
"Fuck," Krevin swore striding down the alley towards his car, "How soon can I get in to speak with someone?"
"An appointment's been made for within the hour," the tech replied, "Apparently you'll be meeting with Une."
"Delta clearance, I guess I shouldn't be surprised." Krevin climbed into the front seat and started the engine, "What are her people thinking?!" he demanded rhetorically, "Dropping a murder in our laps."
"Be sure to ask her when you get there," the tech replied a smile heard clear in his voice. James sighed and switched off the phone tossing it on the seat beside him, as he manoeuvred his way through the relatively thin traffic leading towards the agency.
The great structure loomed in the distance, a symbol for many to the end of the war, for detective Krevin and his fellow officers; it didn't quite hold that significance. As with many agencies the world over and the city police it always felt like a turf war, as they both battled for supremacy. Krevin hadn't had too many dealings with the Agency yet, but through his superiors he had already garnered distaste for 'big brother' who always seemed to know better. And now here he was with a murder dropped on his doorstep, and an Agent had been involved and obviously fled the scene.
Looking up at the imposing structure of the Earth Defence Corp world headquarters James couldn't help but feel a little intimidated. The first four floors of the sprawling building had been given over to a state of the art hospital open to all. The expansive parking lot was more than half full even this early in the day. James drove past it, heading instead to the underground parking which was reserved for the agency portion of the building, where security was far tighter.
The detective pulled his car to a stop outside the parking garage, rolling down his window as the agent approached the side of his car, "Can I see some credentials?" the man asked smoothly leaning forward so he could see Krevin's face. James reached for his badge and ID and handed it over.
"I'm here for a meeting with Une," he found himself volunteering, and cursed internally. He felt like a teen trying to explain himself to an adult.
The man looked the ID over and handed it back with a smile, "Go right on through."
Krevin drove past as the yellow and black guard bar raised to let him through. pulling into the garage Krevin parked in the first open spot in the visitors sections and shut down his car. James got out of the vehicle keeping his ID and badge in hand, he headed towards the elevator knowing he'd be asked to show it more than once before he got in to see Une. Security was tight, Krevin had never actually had cause to go into the agency of yet, but he knew fellow officers who had.
Once inside the elevator James pressed the button for the top floor knowing that was the location of Une's office, along with other top officials and conference rooms. The ride up was a long one and James just leaned back idly flipping his ID open and closed, he didn't like the feeling of unease, if there was one thing James Krevin had always been sure of it was himself. He was a well respected detective, members of the Corp should have just as much respect for him as he does for them.
The elevator opens and James finds himself face to face with another agent, "ID please," the man requests in a deep baritone.
Yeah right… Krevin thought passing his ID over what were the odds that he'd made it this far through the agency without having his ID checked at least once. They didn't see him as being on the same level at all, but he wasn't about to let that effect him. With a silent nod James made his way past the agent and down the hall bypassing all the doors lining the long hall, and those halls intersecting it. His focus was on the double doors at the end, wood where the others were metal.
Pushing the door open James was met nearly immediately by Une's private secretary, the woman rising from behind her desk to give James an appraising look. "Can I help you?" she asked politely, which actually surprised Krevin, he half expected a secretary to be as condescending as an agent.
"I'm here to see Une," it sounded ridiculous to say, why else would he have come this deep into the agency. But he knew that wasn't entirely it either, "I'm detective James Krevin."
The woman's brown eyes lit with recognition, "Ah yes, she's been expecting you, please go right on in," she gestured towards the inner door.
With a nod of thanks James stepped forward, realizing again for what still felt like the first time, that he'd never actually spoken with the former OZ commander. The woman known only as Lady Une, or Commander, her first name had never been released to the press, and James didn't really care to learn it. He was here with a purpose, and had no intention of letting himself appear overwhelmed by her status in the media and world.
Stepping into Une's office James was a little surprised to see that Une wasn't alone, although he supposed this man sitting across from her might well be the agent responsible for the shooting. James would have liked more time to study the man, and the relaxed way in which he appeared to sprawl in his chair. But almost immediately Une was rising from her seat extending a hand towards him, "Detective Krevin, welcome."
After releasing his hand Une directed his attention towards the other man in the room, and James gave him an appraising look. "This is Ash," she introduced and they shook hands, Krevin didn't miss the calloused feel of Ash's hand, nor the way he held himself. He may not have been dressed like an ordinary agent but he had training that much was clear. "He was a witness to the shooting," Une continued which brought Krevin around.
"Witness?" he questioned eyes narrowing, "Where's the agent responsible?" his tone was harsh but he didn't really care.
"If you'll please take a seat," Une spoke calmly lowering herself back down into her own leather chair. "The agent in question is in the middle of a very covert operation, on my orders he left the scene, but as Ash will explain to you, the shooting was self defence."
Krevin was shaking his head well before Une had finished, this stank of a cover up, perhaps he'd seen one too many movies, but he doubted it.
Heero stood at the edge of the roof, hands crammed deeply into his coat pockets as his cobalt eyes stared out at the endless expanse of the ocean. To his left the city of Sanc, moved on as though nothing had happened the night before. The War might have been over but murders still took place, Heero didn't actually believe in a world were no blood would ever be shed, it was foolish and idealistic. Two things Heero had never been, or at least as far back as he could remember the cold reality of the world had been pressed on him.
He knew the years had changed him, his training with Dr J and hardened him. It would have been logical to assume that the war would have only enforced what he'd been taught. And Heero had fought to maintain that distance, that mentality that he was just a soldier, the Perfect Soldier. No hesitation, no second thoughts, he'd been 'designed' to kill to bring an end to the war. He had done it, ended the war, but he hadn't been alone, and that had changed him, more than anything. Or at least that's what he thought.
I will never kill anyone ever again…
Those words he'd heard in his head so many times. At times becoming like a mantra to him, the truth of his new life. Though with the Inner circle it had been a little hard to convince himself at time; but he'd never taken a life not even while rescuing Relena.
I will never kill anyone ever again…
It felt as much a promise to himself as to Relena. But in a split second he had broken his word, when and unexpected threat had sprung up on him Heero had reacted as trained. That Perfect Solider had taken over and without a thought eliminated the threat.
Heero looked up, the wind whipping against his face leaving his skin raw, had he ever been in control of it? Had he ever managed to over come the training? Did Relena really teach him all that much? Or was he just a soldier designed to kill, a monster that didn't have a place in this peace. He saw the man's face flash in his mind, saw every detail, knew beyond a doubt that he could have ended it differently; the old man didn't have to die. No one had to die.
But here in the middle of the peace, Heero was doing what he had been trained for; and he was beginning to realize that he hadn't left that soldier as far behind as he thought. Pulling his gun from the back of his jeans, Heero held it before him in both hands. Beyond the hand of Odin, the gun was one of the first things he remembered holding. Heero's eyes narrowed, and he looked back towards the sea, he wanted to throw it as far away from him as he could. But it was like loosing a limb, he couldn't just willingly cripple himself. As much as he hated to admit it, he needed that security, he'd possessed it for far too long already; knew the consequences of loosing it far too well.
So what was left for him?
Heero's grip on the gun tightened, it was a cursed object to him, more still was the direction his life had taken. He should have died in the war, as the Perfect Soldier, fight, win, and give his life. All so he wouldn't have to stand here and face the reality that was his life. He'd never been made to consider it before, he was as he had been raised, and it was right. Now living in a world of peace, surrounded by people who yes knew war, but were not bread for it. Heero couldn't help but call into question everything he knew.
How could he ever hope to truly settle into this peace, if when threatened his immediate instinct was to kill? Not disarm; he could have done it easily. The thought made him shudder, he was a machine nothing more, than tool like the gun he held. This life couldn't be for him. How was a machine supposed to feel? How could he ever trust himself with Relena?
The thought of harming her chilled him to the bone, he tried to tell himself it could never happen, that she had taught him more than anyone and for that he would love her. That emotion itself was only for her, he'd never known it before meeting her, doubted he could express it to anyone else considering how clumsy he still was with it. But at the exact same time, Heero saw the reality of it all; each situation that could possibly go wrong, fueled by the events of yesterday, Heero didn't think he could trust himself again. How could he be sure those instincts wouldn't be the ones that took over?
"I hope you're not thinking of doing anything drastic," John's voice broke through Heero's thoughts and he blinked seeing the gun held white knuckled in his hands.
He didn't look up at the old doctor, merely returned the gun to the back of his jeans and continued looking out over the ocean.
John stepped up beside him, and Heero flinched away from his touch, "Do you want to talk about it?" John asked gently giving Heero a little room.
What was there to talk about? Heero had already reached his own conclusions, he wasn't safe.
The wind rushed between them, "At no point in our lives are we stagnant," John began voice easily carrying to Heero's ear. "We aren't set in stone, moments define are lives but they don't control them, we human's are always changing."
Heero considered those words, and couldn't deny the truth of them; from the moment he set foot on Earth for the first time, to this moment overlooking the ocean; Heero knew he had changed. "It's not enough," he muttered without really noticing.
"It's true that what we know and learn can be hard to forget or change," the old doctor continued calmly. "But that doesn't change the fact that we can teach ourselves new things, old habits can be broken."
"Not ones that meant life or death," Heero returned, his instincts had kept him alive all these years, as a soldier you couldn't hesitate, blink and you're dead. How could he shut that off?
Heero shook his head, feeling anger rise up in him, none of this mattered, "I killed a man," he stated bluntly, what did his character really matter in the face of that?
"A man who was trying to kill you," John attempted to point out.
"I could have stopped him," Heero muttered bitterly.
John turned towards Heero, but maintained his distance, "Can you be sure you would have survived?"
"It's not worth one man's life."
"I highly doubt Relena would agree to that, not to mention myself and the others," John continued undeterred.
Heero leaned his forearms onto the waist high wall, dark eyes staring down the edge of the cliff. He couldn't explain it to John, wasn't even sure he wanted too, just talking like this was stepping outside of a comfort zone Heero didn't even want to admit he had.
"I know about the promise you made Heero," John's voice was understanding, but how could he possible know?
He felt the gun press at the small of his back, and began to ask himself why? Why hadn't he shot to wound? Why had he shot at all? Why after so long did he break his word?
"You were a soldier Heero--"
"Was?" he tossed back incredulously. The war was over, but how did that make him not a soldier?
John drew in a breath, "Do you see yourself as nothing else?" it was his turn to ask.
It's what I was trained to be he thought silently raising his head watching the clouds trail across the sky. Heero knew he could no longer say it was all he knew, he'd seen and experienced much since the end of the war and even during it. But despite that he continually felt like he was standing on the outside looking in. For him it wasn't a lonely feeling, simply a truth that he wasn't meant for that life.
"How you see yourself can't change if you step away," John said shocking Heero at how he seemed to read his mind. "You're hurting yourself more than you know when you pull away like this. The way you were raised is no fault of your own," he continued firmly. "You've taken responsibility for your actions, which is more than can be said for some. You need to learn to forgive yourself Heero."
Heero remained silent; he didn't think it was nearly as simple as John was making it out to be. But then what could he really know being a doctor, he didn't take lives he saved them; there was less guilt to be carried. He sighed, the sound lost among a gust of wind, his training had been near perfect, but Dr J couldn't account for guilt. An emotion Heero himself hadn't known until he'd destroyed that plane load of pacifists. Had he ever forgiven himself for that?
"You're not perfect," John's voice broke through his brooding thoughts yet again. "The worst thing was done to you in the past was for someone to convince you that you are. Humans can't maintain those heights and they shouldn't have to. You defended yourself yesterday, in a split second you reacted, you hate yourself for the reaction you chose but let me ask you this." He paused and reluctantly Heero looked up into the doctor's eyes, "If it had been Relena staring down the barrel of that gun, what would you do?"
His eyes narrowed, it was an unfair question. Since the end of the war, his job had been to protect Relena, but despite the requirements for the job he'd managed to keep his word. It wasn't really something he'd had reason to think about until now, but he had been learning a slightly different way of life. And now he was staring himself in the face, that 'Perfect Soldier' wasn't nearly so deeply buried as he had hoped.
Unexpectedly John reached out a hand and rested it lightly on Heero's shoulder, the former pilot stiffened immediately. But John didn't pull his hand away; instead he gave the shoulder a squeeze. "You're not a threat to us, you don't deserve to be alone, you can be forgiven," the doctor told him leaning close to speak softly into Heero's ear.
Heero remained silent, not sure he could allow himself to agree with that. There were far too many unknown, too many possibilities where it could all go wrong, and the body lying at his feet was someone he loved.
"Have you done anything among your closest friends to make you believe you could hurt them?" John asked continuing to hit at just the right spots. "And I'm sure you could argue that we can't know everything that will happen. But forget all that, and try and focus on the fact that both I and Relena have faith in you." The hand on Heero's shoulder squeezed again, "Now do you think at least you could come in out of the cold?"
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