Disclaimer: Don't own any part of Gundam Wing or the characters, more's the pity. This is for fun...no profit involved.

Warnings: AU (sort of), yaoi, swearing (lots), some OOC (probably), some violence, references to NCS

Pairings: 1X2, 3X4, developing 5X6



Duo POV…

So, here I am on another piece of shit bus…and all I can think is how much has changed in a few short weeks. The "kiss my ass" attitude I carried with me for so long has changed to a more cautious, analytical mind set. It isn't just me against the system any more. I've actually found a system I might belong in.

Not that I think the military life is gonna work for me, necessarily. But I want to get into a real mobile suit so badly, I'm willing to give it a shot. And whether I succeed or fail at that, I know I want to be near Heero; and Quatre and Trowa, too.

Those guys have seen me through some serious shit. They've seen me at my worst, and I like to think at my best. And they're still willing to call me a friend. For my part, I'm just damned grateful I can call them mine.

Yeah, I know, Trowa and I had our problems. But then I had them with Heero, too, at the start…and even briefly with Quatre. And in spite of all that, I love those guys like brothers. Well, in Heero's case, I love him like something more…much more. I have a feeling I'll love him right up until I kick the bucket.

But with any luck, that won't be for a while. And when it happens, hopefully it'll be in a mobile suit, with a spectacular display of selfless heroism and the biggest bang you ever saw. Yeah, I'm starting to get a little bit of a martyr complex, I think. Or at least a desire for lots of attention. I think, on some level, I've always been afraid that I'd die on the streets of L2 or in a prison, in some stupid, pointless scuffle over cigarettes or sex. At least if I go out in a mobile suit battle, with guns blazing and the fate of the world on the line, my death might mean something, yanno?

Shit, they really brainwashed me good, didn't they?

Don't get me wrong. I'm in no hurry to die. On the contrary, I have more to live for than at any time in my life. I have a lover, friends, and a future. I want it all, and I want to keep it forever.

I look over at Hilde, who's sleeping beside me with her head on my shoulder, though I can't imagine how she nodded off while we were still on the bumpy dirt road being jostled by the worn-out springs on this crappy old bus. From across the aisle, Howard quirks a wry smile at me, shrugging as if to say the girl could sleep in the middle of a busy street. I envy her that. Sleep is one of the first solaces to escape me when I'm stressed. My appetite is second…but then that's old news.

I will admit, since we reached the highway, the ride hasn't been so bad. Now if I could only turn off the errant thoughts of what might happen on L2, and how things will go when I finally get to the Academy, and whether a month apart will cure Heero of wanting me… Fuck, but I need to stop obsessing!

I look around the bus at the collection of recruits, families, and friends, and catch Jason's eye…and then inspiration strikes. With a wink and a grin, I launch into a thoroughly obnoxious rendition of "Ninety-Nine Bottles of Beer on the Wall." And before we get to the next mile marker, every single recruit on the bus joins in.

That's what you call teamwork at its finest.

And suddenly the stress drains away, and I'm not worried about the future any more; I have a feeling everything will be just fine.


A/N: God, I can't thank everyone enough! The reviews blew me away. If I brought any of you to tears, well, you did it to me, too. I was touched, flattered, and just overwhelmed by the number of people who took the time to review, and the number of times they did. I never dreamed there'd be so many helpful and supportive readers, and I just thank you all. I only hope I can make the sequel "The Academy" live up to your expectations, and the quality you deserve. You're all wonderful!