After All
Disclaimer: These characters do not belong to me. I am using them for fun, not profit. If you sue me, all you'll get are my medical bills and college loans.
Rating: PG-13
Pairing: 1x2, 4x3 implied
Author's Notes: Well, this is my first-ever 1x2 fic. The song 'After All' does not belong to be. It belongs to Dar Williams, a wonderful singer who happens to write good songfic material :) This is in Duo's POV. Slightly depressing, slightly angsty, no lemons (sorry) and probably OOC-fair warning.
Feedback is always appreciated. Flames will be ignored and used to amuse friends.

**-indicates song lyrics


**Go ahead, push your luck, find out how much love the world can hold
Once upon a time I had control, and reigned my soul in tight.**

I had hope once. I'm sure I must have. I may be the God of Death, but what is Death without Hope?

But what is Hope without Love? That's the question I find myself asking so often lately. My love kills, this I know. I know this because I've seen it proven time after time. So I began holding back, closing myself, presenting a smile to the world that never reflected what I was truly thinking, feeling. I kept myself tight, and it was fine. Amazing how a pair of eyes can threaten such carefully built control so easily.

**Well the whole truth, it's like the story of a wave unfurled,
But I held the evil of the world,**

Innocence lost. We all feel it-it's not just me. When I look at my fellow pilots-my *friends*--I swear I can see the parts of us that have died, that we've killed with fighting. We're drenched in blood. Blood that will never go away-at least, not for me. I can find reasons for the others to be forgiven.

Quatre is, I think, the least touched by all the fighting. Not that he hasn't suffered, not that he hasn't lost himself, but...he's managed to keep his innocence around him. I wish I knew his secret. If you ask me, I think he's stronger emotionally than the rest of us-I know he'll find a way to keep living, and truly *enjoy* it.

Trowa-he can be a mystery wrapped in an enigma sometimes, but he, too, is strong. Everyone thinks that he is the grounding for Quatre, that he is the rock in the relationship. They aren't looking too closely, though. I see how interdependent they are on each other-they complement each other's strengths and weaknesses. They are wrapped in a cocoon of love that, I think, will in the end save them both. As long as their love exists, Trowa will have a reason to continue.

Wufei.... His faith in Justice is what will keep him going. He has no illusions-he knows as well as I that 'peace' will not necessarily mean an end to all violence-the human race just seems incapable of grasping that concept. As long as there is a cause, a place that justice is being abused, Wufei will have a purpose. I know he is not a self-styled savior, but that doesn't mean that he won't try to save the world all the same-I mean, that's what he's doing now.

Heero, the 'Perfect Soldier.' I know he might have trouble adjusting to life without the constant missions, but I think like Wufei, he'll be able to find a cause. If anything, Relena will be happy to give him something...who knows? She may even be able to awaken the heart I know is in there-more power to her if she can succeed where I've seemed to have failed.

**So I stopped the tide, froze it up from inside,
And it felt like a winter machine that you go through and then,
You catch your breath and winter starts again,
And everyone else is spring bound.**

And what of me, Duo Maxwell? I guess I'm just one of those who are destined to be a 'lost soul.' The only thing I've ever firmly believed in is Death, and one day the killing and war will stop. I stopped believing in justice long ago, when I saw the people I considered family die for things beyond their control. I don't even have love to cling to. My love kills, and, besides, the only heart I've ever wanted seems to be, at best, barely aware of my existence.

It's for all those reasons I know I'm lost. And, unlike everyone else, I don't have a clue of where I can turn to for salvation. No, I *know* where I can find salvation-it just seems to be permanently out of my grasp.

**And when I chose to live, there was no joy, it's just a line I crossed,
It wasn't worth the pain my death would cost,
So I was not lost or found.**

You think I haven't considered escape? Just ending it all, forgetting about life, putting a stop to the smiles I use to hide myself? No, I have...but it's not worth it. For now, anyway, there's still too much we have to accomplish, and I'm not that selfish to sabotage the peace of the world because I'm tired of hiding behind a smile, because I'm tired of never daring to let my guard down.

**And if I was to sleep, I knew my family had more truth to tell.
And so I traveled down a whispering well,
To know myself through them.**

'He runs, he hides, but he never lies.' It's true, too. I don't lie about what's going on inside me. I just don't tell. If they want to think I'm happy, that's fine with them. I just smile and say nothing to contradict them. That's not lying.

But...if anyone ever *did* stop to question my smile...what would I say? There are stories I just don't want to tell, things that I want to forget. Even them sometimes, for all that they are my best friends. But I also know that they are what are keeping me sane. And I'd never want to hurt them the way I know that any death except that through battle would. Besides...I suppose I still have some hope that I will be able to tell Heero how much I love him...I can't do that if I'm gone.


**Growing up, my mom had a roomful of books, and hid away in there,
My father raging down a spiral stair,
Till he found someone, most days his son,
And sometimes I think my father, too, was a refugee,
I know they tried to keep their pain from me,
They could not see what it was for.**

It's nights like this that are hard for me. We're all sitting at a table at one of the many safehouses we take refuge in and someone...I can't remember who, decided that getting drunk would be a good idea, a way to try and forget about war for a few hours. Sure, it was fine for awhile-everyone was talking, even Trowa and Heero-hell, Heero actually *left* his laptop. But then Quatre mentioned his family, and the talk turned to our pasts....

And Quatre realized that I had never talked about my past, not *any* of it. So now they're all staring at me, wanting to know my secrets. I can't hide anymore, and I can't lie. So where does that leave me?

I'm about to stand, to run away, when I feel a hand on my arm. I look up and find myself falling into a well of endless blue. I've never seen Heero's eyes look so warm before...he does care, even if it seems like he doesn't. One look from him, and my resolve turns to ash. One look at him, and I'm spilling my story, about Solo, about the Maxwell Church Massacre...I'm telling it all. And I can barely hear my voice, barely realize what I'm doing, because I'm too busy drowning in Heero's eyes....

It's Quatre's sob that brings me out of my trance. I look away and glance around the table. Pity...various degrees of pity and shock...though how I could shock this bunch is beyond me. And the only thing I can this is, 'What have I done?'

**But now I'm sleeping fine,
Sometimes the truth is like a second chance,
I am the daughter of a great romance,
And they are the children of the war.**

I get up, and no one stops me this time. Holding back my own tears, I flee to my room and slam the door behind me. Everything I am has been spilled out to be seen and judged...I've never felt so exposed. I feel desperate, for how could I ever hope to win Heero's love when he now knows how pathetic I truly am?

I feel strangely calm, though. In a way, it's a relief to know that I'm no longer hiding. The part of my mind that is trying to rationalize the pain is telling me that this is a good thing, because it means that I trust my fellow pilots, my friends. And I do...but I still feel empty. A reaction to the release of things I thought I'd never tell.

I wander over to the window and rest my forehead against the cool glass, staring up at the stars. Actually, what scares me the most is wondering if I've changed in their eyes...if I've become less to them. My rationale says I'm being paranoid, but if this war has done anything for me, it's reinforced my idea from childhood that paranoia is sometimes the only thing that stands between life and death.

**Well the sun rose with so many colors it nearly broke my heart,
It worked me over like a work of art,
And I was a part of all that.**

I stand at the window until dawn's light brings me out of my trance. I can still hear the murmur of voices downstairs, and I wonder what they're talking about. But I don't care anymore. Staring at the night sky, watching the's filled me with a sense of peace, a tranquility that I've never had before. Everything happens for a reason, I think, and eventually the reason for tonight will be shown to me.

**So go ahead, push your luck, say what it is you gotta say to me,
We will push on into that mystery,
And it will push right back, and there are worse things than that,**

The door opens, jarring me slightly out of my thoughts. I turn, and, even though the figure is backlit, I know it is Heero. He confirms this by saying my name and it is his voice. "Duo...?"

I've never heard him sound so emotional before. So...lost, so tender.

"I'm fine," I say in response to his unasked question. And I am. I...I think the old wounds have finally stared to heal. Oh, sure, I have plenty of more recent ones that are still bleeding, and I know I will have more, but...if the old ones heal, the new ones will have a chance.

He approaches me, stopping only inches away. "Are you sure?"

"Of course I am. Yes, I was upset at first, but...I'm not afraid anymore."

Heero blinks. "You were afraid?"

I laugh. "All the time. I just hid it better than I thought. Everyone fears, Heero...we all just handle it in different ways. But I feel free now."

"I...I'm glad. I really am." He is, too. I can see the relief in his eyes. And it's now, in this moment where we are both open and vulnerable, that I realize I have to say it. I will not regret missing this chance.

"Heero, I love you."

**Cause for every price, and every penance that I could think of,
It's better to have fallen in love,
Than never to have fallen at all,**

He is silent, and I'm beginning to think that he's going to reject me, and, yes, the thought hurts, it kills me inside, but at least now I *know* instead of being lost in speculation.

I'm thinking this, so it's a surprise when Heero's hands come up to gently cup my face. It's an even bigger surprise when he presses his lips to mine in a tender kiss.

When he pulls away...I can see it in his eyes. He loves me too. He can't say it-it's not his way-but I can *feel* it I wrap my arms bout his neck and kiss him, putting all of my heart into that contact, and I can feel us both being swept away on this current of emotion.

**Cause when you live in a world, it gets into who you thought you'd be,
And now I laugh at how the world changed me,
I think life chose me after all.**

If there is one person who can survive my love, it is Heero. He is strong, and I know him well enough to know that once he is set on something, he will never let it go. And I can see in his eyes, feel in his touch that he is set on me, and that he will let *nothing* keep us apart if he can help it. Not even Death.

I'm not sure where this is going to end up, but I'm willing to go along wherever this takes us. As the full light of early morning floods my room, enfolding us in warmth, I have a thought.

Maybe I can still have Hope. Maybe Love doesn't always have to end in tears. At least...not this time.


The End