Chapter Six: Settling In

He felt powerful, truly like the God of Death. Nothing, it seemed, could stand against him when he was in Deathscythe's cockpit. Finding another suit, at the bottom of the sea, and making chum out of enemy Cancers to secure it, had left him ready to take on all of Earth. Soon, he thought, they'll be begging his mercy, and he'll be the one not granting it.

It was there, the edge, the darkness howling beneath it and ready to claim him, that gave Duo pause as he waited at the docks for nightfall and a chance to bring up both suits. It was far too easy to remember abandonment on the streets, the orphanage, the string of families who hadn't been able to accept a boy who had already grown to adulthood, without his body's maturity. He remembered Sister Helen's death, the unfeeling machine of the military that had crushed civilian and enemy alike. It was all the fault of the enemy, the unnatural thing that his young life had become. It was right that he pay them back, he thought, right to use both suits to totally destroy them, whatever the cost.

Duo heard voices. He tensed and drew his gun. Death to anyone who saw him. That was one of the last orders Dr. G had given him. It would be a pleasure, Duo thought grimly. Who else would be on a military barge, but military? He checked his timer. The suits would be floating up soon, but he still had time enough to make a quick kill and to check for other soldiers.

Duo rounded a corner and stopped in his tracks. A girl, in a party dress, was standing there. Quickly, Duo drew a flare and lit it, almost blinding them both. He shouted a warning and told her to leave, but there was someone else beyond her, someone Duo could just make out drawing a gun.

It didn't matter, a part of him thought. So, the stranger was going to shoot the girl. He should have shot her as well, if she hadn't flustered him so much. A person couldn't be expected to plan for girls in party dresses to show up in military installations, though.

That thought hit Duo hard, as if he were sucker punched, and he suddenly saw things with an entirely different perspective. War was war, and soldiers had to die, but he wasn't about to become what he was fighting against. He wouldn't kill civilians to get what he wanted.

"Don't do it!" he shouted and fired first. The girl flinched and the person beyond her went down. That moment changed his life.

"Hey, Heero," Duo said as he approached the man arranging his new desk. "Glad you could join preventers with the rest of us."

Heero looked up at him, face grim as he nodded. "It seemed a cause worth supporting."

"You were all about causes, during the war," Duo grunted as he noted the lack of anything personal in Heero's things.

"You weren't?" Heero retorted, but it was without heat, a simple reminder of how things had been.

Duo shrugged and looked his new partner over. Killer, his mind told him, cold, ruthless killer working for the law now.

"Your not still sore about getting shot by me?" Duo wondered. "That's going to suck, if you are, considering that we have to work together."

Heero paused in the arranging of his desk, stared at nothing very hard, and then continued as he said,"I'm not angry about that. It... It changed my life."

Duo raised eyebrows. "How?"

Heero seemed a little embarrassed to reveal something of himself, but he was feeling obligation more strongly. "I was ready to kill anyone then. I was going to kill Relena Peacecraft. When you stopped me, I realized that I had never really wanted to kill her. The desire wasn't in me. I wasn't the weapon that they had trained me to be, living only to follow orders. I decided, afterward, to fight the war in my own way."

Duo felt a shock at that revelation. His mouth worked for a moment and then he admitted, "So did I... I didn't want to kill civilians... only the enemy."

If they had harbored preconceived notions about each other, those notions were gone. Heero wasn't the stone cold killer. Duo wasn't the avenging God of Death without a conscience.

Duo stuck hands in his uniform pants pockets and felt a blush, his mind free, now, to notice just how handsome Heero had become. "Uh, how about going down to the commissary and grabbing some breakfast, before we start on our first assignment?"

Heero gave Duo a small smile. "I would like that."

Heero stood and Duo boldly draped an arm over his shoulder as he said cheerfully, "I'll show you around afterward and tell you what to expect around here."

Heero stiffened at the touch, but then relaxed and allowed it. "All right."

As Duo led him into an elevator he said, with a grin, "I'm taller, now."

"I'm stronger," Heero retorted.

Duo squeezed with his arm. "I can feel that."

"We've both changed," Heero agreed.

"That's what growing up is all about," Duo chuckled.

END

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