Title: Pilot 02
Author: Becka
Pairing: 1+2, 3+2, 4+2, 5+2
Warnings: Heero-POV, Angsty, Odd
Disclaimer: Gundam Wing does not belong to Becka; characters are used without permission for a non-profit purpose. No infringement is intended.

o

With smiles, with laughter, and gentle touches, I found myself being driven slowly insane. Everything that braided baka did got to me somehow, and there's nothing _I_ could do about it. What was I supposed to say? "Duo, I want you. Shut up, bend over, and get out of my head."

Somehow I'm sure that might have gone over a little too well for my liking. It's hard to ignore him, because I know he's been ignored his whole life. It's hard to tell him to go away, because I know no one's ever asked him to stay. It's hard to keep my hands from his waist and my mouth from his lips, because I know that everyone who's touched him like that has only used him.

Sometimes I wonder how he keeps smiling. It's like he's some kind of wind-up doll. Turn the key and he'll laugh and joke, and like a wind-up doll, I don't think anyone else has ever looked beneath the smooth, flawless surface and examined the broken, rusty gears inside. So long as it functions, what does its condition matter? I know that's how they all think, because it's how J trained _me_ to think. It doesn't matter until it's broken, and when it breaks, replace it with a newer model.

God, how I wish I could still think that way. And at the same time, I know that if I ever did start to think that way, I'd try self-destruct until, by some miracle of an unnamed god, I succeeded.

Looking at him hurts, because I know that the smiles are fake, but I also know the only reason I can tell they're fake is because they can't be real. Outwardly, they look just the same as a real, honest smile. They don't appear to be forced. Quite the contrary, they look even more relaxed and laid back and honest then any smile I've ever seen.

Even the little girl from so many years ago didn't have a smile that appeared half as pure as Duo's, and that's what frightens me. _Me_, of all people. A perfect soldier, one who lives and breathes to complete the next mission, and shows no emotion because they're not useful, not prudent.

How can his mask be so peerless? How can his eyes reflect the joy of his smiles? It's impossible, but somehow he does it. He defies every law, every belief. He breaks them all, and no one notices, because he's good. Too good.

His laugh is lyrical, poignant. When he jokes, it rings clear, like a bell, and never once have I heard sarcasm, or bitterness, or darkness, or any emotion I know he really holds reflected in its musical depths.

I've studied him, watched him, and I know him. Months under my carefully trained eye, and until last night I thought that he really was an innocent. I thought the smiles were real, and the laughter was true, and he was the joker and the slacker that we all believed him to be. That there was nothing hidden beneath the clear waters of his eyes.

Watching him showed me that I'm not the only one fascinated with his sweet smile. Trowa's eyes, all but obscured by his hair, soften imperceptibly every time they fix on his lithe form. Quatre cares for us all, but every time Duo comes into his sight, he'll make any excuse to talk and to touch him. As for Wufei, the Chinese boy never lets Duo _out_ of his site. Onyx eyes never let the braided boy stray from their line of vision.

And under that constant supervision, Duo's mask never slipped once. Perfect, as perfect and flawless as J had ever trained me to be. He's an actor in his own drama, and he never slips from his character. Morning, afternoon, evening, he lives his lie. On the battlefield, at school, even in his sleep he remains Duo Maxwell. Even G doesn't know who he really is.

Duo Maxwell, pilot 02.

Who is he, really?

I thought I knew. I'd studied him, searched his background. Officially he didn't exist. Not one record of a home, a family. No relatives, no loose ends. Even my search brought nothing but dead ends. I had been lost, desperate to find something. I knew I had files, as did Trowa, Quatre, and Wufei. How could Duo not?

So I risked my maker's wrath and hacked into J's computer. Nothing. G's, however, yielded a single document, labeled "Pilot 02." Something!, I thought. I opened it, expectant. I found a single image of Duo, combined front and side shots, and a list: "Name: Unknown, Date of Birth: Unknown, Origin: Unknown, Family: None, Skills: Piloting, Salvage, Infiltration, Assassination, Weapons expert…"

The list went on for quite a while, and at the very bottom was one last category. "Pilot: 02, Deathscythe."

Who is Duo Maxwell?

I didn't know.

I didn't even know who Pilot 02 was.

Until last night, I didn't know they were different.

We'd been stationed in a base. Everything was fine, until someone had bothered to check into our carefully engineered history as cadets and crosschecked our recommendations with the people who'd "written" them. The officer who'd done all the snooping had confronted us, demanding to know who we were. He'd grabbed Duo by his braid, and in a flash so fast that my eyes had difficulty following it, a knife embedded itself into the man's throat.

Duo looked up at me, hands curled protectively around his braid, and smiled.

"Oi oi, what'cha lookin' at? He touched the braid, man!"

He didn't drop his mask of Duo Maxwell.

And that's the only reason I now know that it's a mask.

He killed a man because the fool touched his hair.

And he smiled and joked about it.

With our cover blown and a dead officer on our hands, we sped up the mission and destroyed the base.

Afterwards, as we returned to our safehouse and to the other pilots, I opened my mouth to say something, anything. Duo, you're lying. Duo, you're not the Pilot of Deathscythe. Duo, who are you? Duo, talk to me. Duo, why? Duo, Duo, Duo…

I said nothing.

We made it back to the base, and all was as it had always been.

Forgive me, Duo.

I'm weak. I'm not perfect.

Because I fell in love with your mask.

And I can't let him go.

o

fin

o