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Notes: Thank you for reading this story, you've been wonderful in your patience and your support. As ever, I thank you in advance for your review, your kind words and your time.

Song: Rhythm Emotion – TWO-MIX

::I just feel "rhythm emotion"::
::The beating of my heart connected to you so far away::

::I don't care if I'm hurt any more::
::Without turning my eyes away::
::I want to live passionately::

::I want to hold you because you give me the strength to never give up. ::

Fade to Black

By Doctor Megalomania

Epilogue: Live Passionately

::I just feel "rhythm emotion"::

::The beating of my heart connected to you so far away::

It was kind of appropriate that the library had become their battle ground. She took a moment to look at the gathered crowd. She was nervous, but felt comforted that everyone here had heard Sjobol's winning story at least twice. Angelica's story about first attack by Heavyarms was pretty good. She winced to hear the cheers as the older girl took her bows.

Despite actually being the child of a Gundam Pilot, Nataku somehow never had any story that compared to being up close and personal with a Gundam sweeping through a base. She had her own story to tell, but she wasn't ready to share it yet. She could understand now why sometimes remembering the past was a little painful. She glanced down at her note cards and then her watch one more time. "Time to stop stalling, Nats..." Sjobol bumped shoulders with her, "You're up next, Gundam." He smiled kindly, "Good luck."

She smiled briefly at him, nodding once at him.

Nataku moved, thought for a moment and then grabbed a chair. She used it to step up onto the table. She checked her watch. She stared down at the gathered crowd. She reached inside herself to take a hold of the cold, hard thing that had helped her stare down Ketchin and used it here. It gave her the strength she needed. She took a deep breath. Glancing once at the prompt cards that Sally had helped her to write, she dug deep and began speaking.

"There was a last moment. A moment where everything was falling apart. It was at that last moment, the colonies declared their intent to cease all forms of combat. Expressing their hope that ..."

She dropped her head and shook it.

"You know how that goes. So I'll tell you ... Zechs Marquise was there. He didn't want to give up yet, he didn't see himself as one of the weak. Heero Yuy, Pilot Zero One followed him. They fought all the way into the wreaked corridors left in the tumbling block of Libra. They fought until they couldn't fight anymore. Until they fought to a standstill..."

She paused again. Remembered how Trowa had told it. It wasn't her way. She shook her head fiercely.

"But you know that too. The Gundams stayed on, fighting to destroy as much of the Libra as possible. Zechs destroyed the power core, but still that wasn't enough."

Here she took a breath. She nodded.

"And yeah, I know you know what happened next. You know that Wing Zero flew on, aimed its buster rifle up at that chunk, even while they both were falling. Entering the earth's atmosphere, burning up."

She dropped her cards, watched them flutter to the ground and then crouched down.

"But what you don't know is how the targeting system shook. You don't know how ... impossible it was right at that moment, the system failing around him."

She stood slowly, closed one eye and pointed her arm up like she was shooting a gun.

"You don't know how the heat began leaching through the mobile suit, through Heero's own space suit. How the metal flaked off Wing Zero, and melted as he fell."

Her arm trembled as if she was unable to get a confirmed lock.

"Up until that moment, you don't know how firmly Heero believed that this moment was it. The war was over. No need for soldiers anymore."

She reached up with her other hand and grabbed her wrist as if to steady it.

"And in this moment, falling to earth like a shooting star, one chance, one breath."

Her arm wavered for a moment longer until it locked into place.

Her entire body was still. Her eyes locked on the end of her fingers.

"You don't know that in that moment, he said: I won't die." She said simply. "I will survive."

She dropped her arms to her side and crouched again. Breathing for a moment. Her head was bowed for a long moment.

"My father said it was a light brighter than he'd ever seen. It was impossible for anyone to survive."

Nataku lifted her head slowly.

"But he did."

She snorted lightly and looked up, beyond the crowd.

"But you knew that. Because that's what Gundam means."

Sjobol frowned as he and others around him turned to look at the opening library door. Gundam Pilot Zero One smiled politely at the receptionist with him, and glanced up to look for Nataku in the crowd. Spotting her, he raised a hand to wave at her. Sjobol's mouth fell open as Nataku bumped shoulders with him. She smiled at him brightly. "My Uncle Duo said that this is the point where I should drop a microphone and just walk away." She walked backwards for a bit and waved at him.

She bounded up to Heero's side and they left together.

It was so strange looking back on such a young version of Duo. It made him smile.

"It's a good idea, ain't it?"

Quatre looked up from the photograph and raised an eyebrow quizzically at the supervisor. Trowa's supervisor had invited him in to look over some of the machines they were working on after she'd caught him waiting in the car park. He'd gotten the tour of the facilities and was now just waiting in her office for Trowa to clean up, ready to leave. His supervisor was a bombastic woman, terrifying in her honest manners. He could understand how Trowa liked to work with her, he always preferred things to be clear.

She raised her coffee cup to him, "That's what the boss always says. It's a good idea. And then somehow, everything is okay again." She nodded toward the door, "You and him. He plays his cards close to his chest, but he was worried about the way you were pushing work our way."

Quatre smiled faintly. "It was just a good idea."

"Uh huh." She moved toward the broad window of her office which looked down over the factory floor. The massive rain-makers were almost completely broken down, giant skeletons of the machines left to cannibalise. He could see how clean the rain-makers had been picked, and how the parts were being sorted so that every useful scrap of metal would be put back to use.

Her snort brought him out of his contemplation.

"See you itching to get down there." She smiled around her coffee, "I heard you did some construction work."

Quatre smiled faintly, "Some." He raised a hand as he spotted Trowa coming up the stairs.

"Well," the supervisor shrugged her shoulders, "You ever feel like working, I'm sure there's a spot you could fill on the floor. I hear you Gundam pilots work hard for your money."

Quatre laughed. "Something like that." He shrugged, "What can we say? We're good at what we do."

"So good, I hear that the Preventers aren't so keen for you to retire again. Trowa's not said anything, but I notice a new version of his contract's come up for me to sign, got a clause in it about being on the occasional Preventer mission."

He nodded and smiled faintly, "You should also notice that he's got a right to refuse, as have you." He turned to her, and pulled a card out of his pocket. "It's important to me that Trowa is never under pressure to do something he doesn't want. If he refuses, and Preventers push, you've got the right to refuse to release him. You call this number, and ask to speak to Une. She'll listen to you."

The supervisor looked down at the card doubtfully. "He know you're doing this?"

Quatre picked up his suitcase and opened the door to step out. He smiled at her, "Whose good idea do you think it was?"

Ketchin was sat patiently in the holding cell. He didn't look up as Duo approached. His hands were loosely linked, and the hand cuffs glinted dully. Duo stared through the bars. He did not have long, he had a few minutes at best. It was the most that General Une could get, and that was in exchange for a few favours which she would no doubt call in when he was better.

Ketchin looked up at him.

Duo held his gaze for a long time.

"I never asked you to kill me."

There wasn't an answer, and the guard at the end of the corridor was getting antsy. Duo turned on his heel and walked away. Ketchin's voice was low, but it still managed to reach him before Duo could reach out to open the door. "You did, your eyes were dead and you wanted me to come."

Duo looked over his shoulder. "You're not the one I was asking."

Ketchin looked up then, his smile bitter. "But I was the one who came. You trusted me."

"There's only four people I trust, and I assure you. You're not one of them." Duo took a step back to the cell. "You like to think that I was talking to you, well mister, you weren't even on my radar. I wasn't talking to you."

Ketchin stared at him dully. "Who were you asking?"

Duo smiled to himself and walked away.

"Don't worry," Duo said, "He got the message..."

Heero hadn't really dozed off, but there was a warm feeling when Sally tried to shush Nataku's delight. Duo had finally arrived, finally joined them for this picnic in the park. He kept his eyes close, the colony's reflected sunlight was beautifully warm on his face and it was nice to smell the scent of summer in the grass beneath him.

Nearby, he could hear the flicker of Quatre's newspaper, and his occasional murmur to Trowa. They bickered good-naturedly about turning the pages. He could smell the bread as Wufei passed it over to Sally.

He felt a shadow over his face, it stayed for a moment before he felt a warm body settle next to his. Opening his eyes, he could see the upper side of the colony in the far distance. He tilted his head, and took a moment to appreciate Duo's profile. The other man's lips were quirked in a smile.

He reached out and felt his fingers entwine with Duo's.

It was better to live.

::I just feel "rhythm emotion"::

::We feel and understand each other's pain::

::We believe in the warmth::

::I just feel "rhythm emotion"::

::I want to make you feel the truth of my passion::

::with this kiss::

::So far away... ::