Author's Note: It's been nearly a year and 86 chapters of this story but we're come to an end, or have we? Well, whatever happens, I'd like to give a big thank you to ShadowMajin and Kibin Okami who had been reviewing this leg of the story the whole time. I'd like to thank Archsage Soren, ShadowMajin, shinigamiinochi, Kibin Okami, and Observing Time for lending me various OCs that I have used and killed off over the entirety of what I'm calling The Maxwell Trilogy. And one last big thank you to ShadowMajin, Archsage Soren, and Kibin Okami for being here since the beginning and constantly giving me feedback to make this a better story. Couldn't have made it here, you guys, and that's just one more year of our lives spent. Hope to see you three again, you are my best fans after all.
Now for the rest of you, enjoy.
Disclaimer: I do not own Gundam Wing.
Ten years later…
The Maxwell Church and Orphanage
"Are you still at it, James?"
The kneeling man glanced up from his prayers to look at his more self-assured brother before resuming his previous position, the bells of the church ringing in the background to announce the time with three chimes.
Father Maxwell continued to smile fondly at his younger brother. "It has been nearly a decade since that debacle was concluded. The men who abused and took hostage your dreams have been dealt with and can no longer hurt anymore people. Have you not forgiven yourself yet?"
"Too many were harmed and destroyed by me," James finally spoke after a long period of silence. "Children who should not have been touched had their lives and innocence stolen, noble men were corrupted by the power that was teeming beneath the surface of it, and countless others have suffered. I have not gotten close to repenting for all the pain that has been caused."
"It wasn't your fault, James," Father Maxwell said kindly as he crouched down next to his brother.
"I shouldn't have trusted him," James insisted.
"We all make mistakes," Father Maxwell replied. "No one could begrudge you wanting to make your dreams a reality. Isn't that what every human in this world desires to do? To bring to life the fantasies that are born from within our minds? You had good intentions; you were just blindsided by evil men."
"The path to hell is paved with good intentions," James stated. "I never wanted it to go the way it did."
"That's why you must forgive yourself, James," the priestly brother said. "We were given free will long ago in time immemorial and with it we are free to make our choices. You made choices that may have harmed some but even from evil, good can still be salvaged. Remember all the information that was recovered? Without it, more people have managed to recover from some of the worst diseases and disorders that have plagued us for centuries. That is something that cannot be taken from you, not even by God Himself."
"You have a point," James acknowledged.
"If you want to atone, you can't do it by kneeling here, praying for your immortal soul," the priest continued. "Forgive yourself. That is but the first step."
"And what comes after?" James asked.
"We'll get to that in time," Father Maxwell said, patting his brother's shoulder. "So, can you forgive yourself?"
"Not right now," James sighed. From the corner of his eye, he could see his brother's acolyte, the boy Yuuan who was busy replacing some candles. Even now, he was prospering despite what had happened to him. "But maybe soon," he added.
"And I'll be waiting right here for you," Father Maxwell said, his smile never leaving his face. "If there is anything you can trust, it will be that I will never abandon you, no matter how damned you believe yourself. You will get through this, I promise you with everything I can offer.
"You'll never be alone."
A bar somewhere in the Central U.S.
"What do you mean you're cutting me off?!" a large patron demanded as he roared at the smaller bartender. "I'm a Goddamn paying customer, aren't I? Give me some fucking booze, you asshole!"
"I'd say you've had a little bit too much," the bartender replied wryly, his green streaked blue eyes never leaving the much bigger man in front of him. Compared to the man, the bartender was puny and wasn't helped at all by his thin frame. All and all, it looked like he could be broken into two easily.
However, the patrons of this establishment, especially the regulars who came here every day after work, knew better than to challenge this barely out of adolescence boy. Despite his diminutive frame, he had been able to take down even the burliest of men and put them into intensive care. How he was this strong was as mysterious as how his black hair turned white halfway down the strands.
Already the regulars were putting some distance between them and the drunk man but it was so subtle that few picked up on it. The bartender raised an eyebrow and asked, "Could I get you a cab? You can come back in the morning to pick your truck up when you're sober."
"Fuck that, prissy," the drunk spat. "I want some fucking beer now!"
The bartender's eyes narrowed. "You have five seconds to take that back and get out of here."
The air was full of suspense as the rest of the patrons awaited the inevitable. A few could swear that the very air moved around them…
The drunk and the bartender continued their stare down, even as the five second deadline had long since passed. Then, "Last chance," the bartender said.
"Fuuuuucccccckkkkkk yyyyyyooooooouuuuuuuu," the drunk slurred.
The next thing any of them knew, a nearby table of customers were scrambling out of the way as the offending drunk was sent hurtling through the air to land on it, crushing the table beneath his weight.
Back at the bar, the bartender only had one fist raised and extended from his body and some could swear the air around it was swirling around it before vanishing. Slowly, he lowered the fist and gestured with the other for someone to get his latest KO out of here.
As that was taken care of, he turned towards the previous occupiers of the now ruined table and said apologetically, "Sorry for the inconvenience. How's about a round on the house sound to make up for it?"
The men at the ruined table nodded and then everyone resumed their previous activities, as if nothing of importance had happened, outside of a patron calling out "Atta boy, Jason!"
Jason, the master of wind and survivor of the Project Maxwell fiasco, only nodded his head and got back to work. He never would have thought he would end up in a place like this ten years ago when he had awoken from the battle with the monster Xavien.
He had been all alone then, Solo and Duo being nowhere in sight, as if they had vanished into thin air. There had been no word on either of them either in the years that had passed. There would be times when he would think about the assholes but he always pushed the thought of them aside.
He had a life now, something he had never had before. He was respected, made a living serving the very substance that he lacked a tolerance to but no longer consumed himself, and hell, he was content for the first time ever. No one was looking for him, they even thought he was dead.
He wouldn't have had it any other way.
The physical changes on his body still got to him every now and then, though. The way his hair was slowly turning white and he wasn't old yet and how it seemed that he could move his body with no resistance whatsoever. It would be in these times that he would remember Pike's words about how they would never stop evolving, becoming more than what they were.
To get out of these morose thoughts, he would always distract himself, successfully he would add, by entertaining the customers and patrons that came here, always giving them some wild story that was half based in fantasy and half in truth.
And he would forget. Yeah, he couldn't think of anything better than where he was now…
It had been a tough decade for them.
Setting the federal government back up wasn't no easy chore yet trying to get it where no one would have an unfair advantage over others was even harder. It seemed like everyone and their mothers wanted things to be just the way they wanted. The problem there inlaid that what one person or group wanted was completely different from what others wanted.
Of course, there were still the ones that wanted things to go back to the way they used to be right before Septum made his bid for power. If there was one thing that most agreed upon, it was that things couldn't go back to "the way they used to be;" there was the risk that someone else would get bold and start another fiasco.
Before all things were said and done, though, Zechs was sure that he had some gray hairs in his legendary mane.
It was a shame that Keppel couldn't have been here to see this. The general had passed away eight months after the retaking of the capital and the disturbance in Arizona. In his place was a group of newbies who had no idea what they were doing but were going to have to do things from scratch using only the U.S. Constitution that Keppel prized so much as a guide.
One of the things that had been done was to limit lobbyists since it had been through them that the Big Three, WEI, Romafeller, and XAI, had risen to prominence politically. That, along with a few other things that some veteran politicians opposed and fought against to the very end were put in place as well.
The system wasn't perfect but it was reformed to some degree…
It was exhaustive work and that was primarily the reason why Zechs found himself sticking around; to make sure that it was working and not falling to pieces. They could have done a better job, he was sure of that. Other than those few changes and reforms, the government was nearly back to what it was right before the uprising. Sure, maybe the military was being restricted and put on a tight leash, but really, had nothing been learned?
It sickened him at times but at others he could see hope. He primarily saw the latter in the form of a young woman, a congresswoman from Arizona who was currently the Speaker of the House. Rumors had it she was the next Hilary Clinton or Eleanor Roosevelt while others condemned her to be the next Nancy Pelosi. She wasn't a Sarah Palin, to be sure, or Jackie Kennedy what with her more eloquent speech and the fact that she didn't sound like an airheaded bimbo despite her blond hair.
Yes, he expected great things to come from the young woman he knew as Relena Darlian and thanks to these past ten years, he knew not to expect miracles right away. These things took time, especially when the opposition consisted of those who didn't like to change too quickly.
Or at all.
She definitely had a fight on her hands but he could tell just from the way she spoke, how she sounded as if she not only believed in what she was saying but knew they would come to pass, he knew that she would be able to thrive and prosper.
However, that still didn't mean he wouldn't keep an eye on her. A personality as…dedicated as hers needed to be looked after, to be cared for and allowed to grow. He had already made her acquaintance but for now would remain out of the spotlight.
The presence of his beloved, Noin, leaning against him yet standing at ease was more than reassuring. He could feel her eyes on him and he couldn't help but let a small smile escape him.
"I think we can call it a day," he finally spoke. "Things seemed to be running smoothly."
"And yet you'll be here tomorrow to keep an eye on them," Noin replied wryly. "I know the drill."
"At least it gets me out of the house," he shrugged.
"I wish you would spend more time there," Noin said though she didn't sound too serious about it. In fact, was that a hint of teasing in her voice?
"What? Is the absence of my presence starting to get to you?" he teased. "Do you need me to come home and be a man for you?"
"Getting full of yourself, Zechs," Noin said. "Looks like I'm going to have to take you down a couple pegs."
"I'd like to see you try," Zechs challenged as he stood up from his seat in the spectators' section and headed for an exit, Noin right on his heels.
The evening sun shined down on the city and seemed to sap the strength out of those who happened to be caught in it, a certain Congresswoman Relena Darlian not being immune to it.
Her car didn't provide any protection as the sunlight beamed in through the driver side window, and combined with the exhausting session at the House, it could be understood that she wasn't in the best of moods. Traffic wasn't helping either but it was to be expected. Then again, she always did enjoy the peace and quiet she had while in her car, going to and from work. It always gave her the time to reflect on how far she had come with her life.
She doubted that if any of her old friends back in Boulder would believe that she, Relena Darlain, was one of the most powerful politicians in the United States, fourth in the line of succession as prescribed by federal law. Everyone had thought that she would just be a stay-at-home mother and marry her high school sweetheart…
No matter how much time had passed, she still missed Heero and would wake up in the middle of the night from the nightmares of watching him die time and again, like she had back in Los Angeles. His dead eyes still haunted her to this day.
Whenever thoughts of her past love came to mind, they would invariably lead to Dorothy. She had not heard from her or any word on her for the past ten years, not after she had left Xihong Deng's with Wufei to lead the Chinese to the remains of their hometown. Not a peep since then and she was sure that her best friend would have contacted her by now.
She didn't expect anything less from the stubborn girl who should be by her side, helping her get through the days ahead. She wanted to hear the dry humor that came from the other's blond's mouth, wanted to see how the other would treat the other politicians behind their back, what jokes they could have had between each other.
It was lonely being the last of your friends; she had to start over after the fall of XAI and the revelations of Project Maxwell was released to the world. How it was confirmed that the man behind the operation, Janus Xavien, was dead, she did not know and didn't want to know either. She was fed up with that chapter of her life and wanted to put it behind her and start on the next one.
She owed it to Heero after all.
After battling through the rat race, she finally turned into the suburb that she called home, and traveled the last half mile towards the small house that she was still paying the mortgage off on. It wasn't much to look at but it reminded her of the home that she had lost and she wouldn't have had it any other way.
While living modestly, the only thing that she did spend big bucks on was the home security system. It was one of the best that had risen after the fall of the Big Three and she had a basic need to feel secure while she slept, something that had formed after her nightmarish time in LA.
There was no one to watch her back now so she would have to make the precautions herself.
Her exhaustion made itself known as she pulled up into the driveway and turned her vehicle off. It had been a long day of arguing with simple minded men and woman who could fill a thimble with the amount of intelligence they possessed collectively. It was a trial just to get a few of them to see reason and even then there were still those that held onto their ways of doing things like it was going out of style.
It took her a few minutes to work enough energy to get out of her car and make her way up to the front door. That in and of itself seemed like an unneeded trek but she made it and all she needed to do was unlock that door in front of her and enter her humble abode where she could collapse onto her nice soft bed and fall into a catatonic sleep.
That sounded so nice…
It fact, that plan was so nice that she found herself on the other side of the door without any memories of unlocking or opening it. Automatically she found herself in front of the panel that regulated the home security system and she was halfway with punching in the code when something odd struck her.
It took her a second to realize that the panel was showing no signs of life, as if it had been turned off. Now how could that be? No matter, she'd just turn it on and…why wasn't this damn thing working? As her frustration mounted, she pushed random buttons, trying to get some kind of response but nonetheless received naught for her troubles.
Damn it, she was going to have to call her security provider and…and…
Wait, why did this seem so familiar? She could swear that something like this had happened before and was that the sounds of her television on and rapidly changing channels? Did she have an intruder?
Suddenly, the similarities hit her as she realized that what was happening right now had happened to Heero ten years ago, right before he was taken against his will by…
Slowly looking away from the panel, she swallowed as she stared ahead in anticipation. Could it really be? After all this time?
There was only one way to find out.
Resolute, she took a step forward towards the living room, braced for whatever might be waiting for her there.
It would be a lie to say that she wasn't excited about it.