DISCLAIMER: I don't own Gundam Wing.
First GW fic, yo. Uh, either this is pretty decent or a pile of pretentious crap. I'll figure it out after I've had some sleep.
Call It Revolution
In Heero's dream, Duo holds his heart out in cupped hands, slick with blood and still beating. He smiles, a strange, ugly little smile, and says, "Go ahead. I wasn't using it anyway."
He speaks to a crowd of strangers, to Lady Une, to Hilde, to Quatre and Wufei and Trowa. His eyes fall on Heero briefly, and when they do, his smile turns almost real and perhaps a touch wistful.
Heero wakes, unsettled, and doesn't understand. He doesn't think he wants to, anyway.
The peace is killing Duo, and it's ironic in an unfunny sort of way. The war nearly finished the rest of them more than once, but Duo always seemed like a cockroach at the time. Step on him and he still scuttles away, battered but surviving.
It's not like Duo drinks to excess, or starves himself, or goes around looking for fights he can't win. He just--gets more pale and tired and distant with each passing day. He calls less often when he's on L2, and when he visits Heero's apartment, meets up with the others, he's quieter, more prone to wrapping himself in solitude.
Heero wishes he didn't know why.
Duo is sprawled on Heero's sofa. He should look comfortable, at ease, careless. He's on vacation from the scrapyard, from L2; he's visiting a friend he hasn't seen in two months. He should look young and at peace. Instead, he looks drained, and his lips are pinched at the corners as he glares at the vidscreen.
The picture flickers between Relena and Lady Une, both of them issuing statements about the latest 'unrest', both of them weary but composed. Heero turns the sound off, cynically aware that neither woman has anything new to say, just old words packaged up in different ways.
"We fought and fought and fought," Duo says, almost to himself, because that's the only way he can let himself be open enough to talk about anything serious. Heero doesn't say a word, doesn't move, because that will break the spell. Duo will snap out of it with a self-deprecating joke and a grin, and the moment will be lost.
Heero sees an end in sight to such moments, and it makes him hold on all the more tightly to those in his reach. He isn't ready, yet, to admit that he sees another end in sight, feels the closest thing he's ever had to a friend slipping away, but he still holds on as tightly as he dares.
But Heero doesn't dare much, not in this. His touch bends iron and breaks bones, and he will not break Duo, not even to keep him.
"We did things, Heero. For the peace." Duo laughs, short and sharp and ugly as the smile he wore in Heero's dream, and it looks more like crying than tears ever did. "What fucking peace." It's not a question.
Heero has no answers.
"He needs to move on," Wufei says when Duo begs off half an hour into their first group gathering in months. Quatre nods his agreement. "To let go of the war. It's over."
Heero doesn't tell them that it's not the past haunting Duo. He suspects they don't want to know, anymore than he wants to tell them.
Trowa doesn't say anything, but Heero doesn't know if it's habit or wisdom or helplessness, this time.
Heero tells himself that sometimes, when something shatters, it does so in pieces large enough to be put back together. If only the pieces can be found, if only someone cares enough to be patient and meticulous, to try.
"I don't fucking lie," Duo snarls, fist in the mirror and blood everywhere. "I don't."
He laughs, jagged as the broken glass, and says, "Jesus, Heero, I messed up your bathroom but good, yeah?"
"I don't care," Heero shrugs. He can buy a new mirror, and he's washed away more blood than this, in the past. Scrubbed out more from his hair and beneath his fingernails.
Duo cradles his hand against his chest, looking away, looking anywhere but at Heero. "Why is it, man, that every time I come here I--"
"Stop pretending that it's alright? That you're alright?" Heero suggests when Duo fades to silence, struggling for the right words. It is painful, to see someone so bright and self-assured at such a loss. "We fought and killed and bled, and people are already starting to forget."
He doesn't know why some people say Duo's eyes are violet. To him, they are very blue.
"You see it too?" Duo asks, desperate as a drowning man offered a breath of air. "You really do?"
"We made them afraid. Fear doesn't last forever." Heero risks a step forward, grabbing the hand-towel from the side of his sink. "Let me wrap your hand."
Duo doesn't move, stays very still in the middle of Heero's bathroom, dripping blood on the yellow tiled floor. It's an unattractive mix of colors, and Heero feels his lips quirk slightly at the bizarre observation. "I just wanted," Duo says hoarsely, shaking his head. "I just--I thought I could make things a little better."
"Are you sure you didn't?" Heero asks curiously, and reaches out to take Duo's injured hand. During the war, Trowa taught him that friendship could be a quiet thing, a shared silence, a commonality of purpose and background. And Duo taught him that sometimes, friendship needed to be about pushing and pulling and inviting yourself in even when you're not sure you're wanted.
"People smiled for a while, right after," Duo says. "They don't as much, anymore."
Heero uncurls Duo's fingers with careful presses of his own, frowns a little at the tiny shards of glass glittering against his blood and his skin. Some of them will wash away; some will need to be extracted more forcefully. Heero doesn't trust himself with such delicate work, not on anything less durable than a Gundam or his laptop--but then, he forgets sometimes that the pilots survived where their Gundams didn't, and that Duo is as much a pilot as the rest of them. Even now.
Perhaps more so, now.
He feels a strange relief when Duo's hand is bandaged. Less at the promise of healing, and more at distancing reality from his nightmare. Go ahead, I'm not using it--and that red, red heart in his hands.
Duo curls up on the sofa, arms around his shins, knees drawn up to his chin. Heero wonders if he ever had a teddy bear to hold, as a child. From what he knows of Duo's past, he doubts it.
Children should have teddy bears, he thinks with a sudden surge of conviction and determination, and then shakes his head at the stupidity of it when the moment passes. Children should have shelter, and food, and the promise of safety. Teddy bears are secondary.
"I dunno how to do it," Duo mutters into his knees, and Heero finds himself crouching on the floor in front of him, hands hovering in the air near Duo's ankles, head tilted up to try and get a glimpse of his friend's eyes. He considers lowering his hands before Duo notices, then wonders at the strange vulnerability he feels at the thought of being seen like this, worried and uncertain and paralyzed by his own ignorance of normal human interaction. Vulnerability is not a word for peacetime.
What fucking peace, Heero thinks, and rests one hand on Duo's bare ankle, right below the cuff of his slacks, close enough that the material brushes against his knuckles. Black slacks, black button-down shirt, a rubber band to tie off his braid. Bad for his hair, but then, Duo's never bothered to take any special care of it. Just keeps it long and whole and clean, out of the way during missions and on the job, wearing it loose only for the time it takes to dry enough to braid.
Duo's skin is soft beneath his palm. It shouldn't come as a surprise.
He wonders what it all means. He wonders why it has to mean anything.
"I don't wanna have to fight again, Heero," Duo says, pulling his legs ever closer to his chest, face pressed hard against his knees. Heero moves with him, leaning in and up just a little, because it seems strangely important to him that Duo knows he's there. "But every damn day on the news--in the papers--all I can think is 'It's already ending.' Hell, it's already gone, everything we fought for. And I don't want to have to do it again."
His words are muffled but clear. Heero wishes he were strong enough to be thankful for that.
"There are other ways," Heero says, hand tightening on that bony ankle, though he is careful not to grip too tightly. "I don't believe that--that everything is just a cycle of killing until people are too afraid to kill anymore."
"Until they forget," Duo finishes. He finally lifts his head, and his eyes are red-rimmed but terribly dry. His expression is hollow and hungry, and Heero thinks he knows, now, what Duo looked like as a child. It isn't a comforting realization, and it makes him want to hurt someone. "Mass murderers for peace, huh? Not really a cause I'd donate to."
"There is another way," Heero persists, and he wants to hold hard enough to bruise, now, but stops himself. Duo is not fragile, but he is sometimes brittle, and brittle things snap under pressure.
"If there is, man, we haven't found it yet."
"Perhaps we aren't the right ones to find it," Heero says reluctantly. It feels like he's admitting failure. Perhaps he is.
"Relena hasn't found it."
Heero has nothing to say to that. Nothing but 'yet', except he thinks that might sound like a lie.
What he says is, "How do I make you better?"
Duo laughs, but it's a dry laugh, and unamused. "You don't. That part's up to me."
Heero has never enjoyed feeling helpless. He doesn't know how to be helpless, and doesn't want to learn, either. "I want to fix you," he insists.
"Yeah, well, I ain't broke yet," Duo mutters, staring at Heero's shoulder, his chin, anywhere but at his eyes. "Swear I'm not, Heero."
"Don't go back to L2."
Duo finally, finally meets his eyes, but Heero can't begin to name what he sees there. For the longest moment, he thinks Duo is going to--refuse, or laugh in his face, or tell him not to be ridiculous.
But his brow furrows, and then he smiles a strange, sad smile--it's not ugly or beautiful or anything but *there*, an awkward and bemused little curl of Duo's lips--and he says, "Sure, buddy." His voice is all soothing and low like Heero's the one about to shatter, and something in the gentleness of it makes Heero think that might be closer to the truth than he'd care to admit. "I'll find a place."
"You'll stay here."
"I'll stay here," Duo agrees, still using that odd, soft tone, like he's talking a man down from a ledge. Heero wonders when he became the desperate one. He wonders if maybe the reason he focused so hard on the cracks in Duo's facade was so that he wouldn't have to see all the little fault lines in his own.
He thinks humanity's a bitch to get the hang of.
"You're like some deadbeat live-in boyfriend," Trowa observes to Duo, but he's almost smiling and not at all judgmental when he says it, so Heero doesn't have to glare or hurt him.
"A kept man," Duo agrees with great satisfaction, as if he doesn't spend half his time at the local public high school, teaching teenagers no older than he is to fix up car engines and build motorcycles from scratch. It isn't the best fit--Duo dislikes schedules, doesn't thrive on regimented time--but it's better than doing nothing. Heero attempted to force Duo to relax for a week and a half, before he realized he was driving them both insane with his demands. "All that's missing is, you know, the sex."
"That can be arranged," Heero hears himself murmur, and the open shock on Duo's face is worth the embarrassment of practically propositioning him in front of Trowa.
"Look at us," Trowa snorts, glancing back and forth between them, taking Heero's words as they were meant--pretty much at face value. "You two, and me with Quatre. Who would've thought we'd all be riding the rainbow?"
"Wufei's straight," Heero objects mildly.
"Only 'cause he'd never pull that stick from his ass long enough for someone else to fit a dick in," Duo says, rolling his eyes, still red-cheeked from Heero's rather blatant invitation. Trowa laughs, and as always, he looks and sounds sort of surprised about it. Heero smirks, and he kind of wishes Wufei were around to sputter and go red and threaten anyone who dared smile at Duo's crudity. He can picture Quatre's wide-eyed, half-feigned shock, and the amusement hidden beneath it.
It's been a long time since he's truly wanted to see them, and he never even realized it until now.
He thinks he'll invite them over for dinner, someday soon.
Wufei takes one look at Duo and tells him he's pathetic. Heero's on his feet before he can think, before he can remember that Duo fights his own battles well enough to win most of them without back-up, before he can remind himself that Wufei is a friend.
"Shut the fuck up," Duo snarls, hands curling into fists, and it's a damn good thing the bandages are gone and the scars mostly healed, or Heero would have hurt Wufei by now. Duo is close enough to damaged as it is. "You're the one buying into all this goddamn--"
"What," Wufei cuts him off, silky soft and dangerous. "This what, Maxwell? Spit it out. You've been wanting to for months."
It's strange to see them at odds. They bicker, sometimes, but have been close friends since they escaped that OZ cell together. Heero isn't sure he's ever seen them go all out like this, in an honest attempt to hurt each other. He knows he doesn't like it, and he almost steps in to force them to stop, but a glance at the other two makes him hesitate.
Trowa's expression is a study in neutrality. Quatre watches silently at Trowa's side, eyes gone distant and a touch sad. Neither object to Wufei's words.
Heero thinks he might just trust them enough to follow their lead, for now. It's a strange thought. He always assumed trust would be more pleasant an emotion.
"This illusion, that's what," Duo snaps, his voice cracking. "Tell me what we won, huh, Wufei. You know the reason we have Preventers, even now? 'Cause people still want to kill each other. We all still wanna blow the shit out of each other, and no one's fucking learned. What the hell have we actually changed?"
"My, my, Maxwell. And here I thought I was the idealist. You never told me you were fighting to change the very nature of humanity." It's snide and heartless and Duo flinches back at the almost-accusation, the mockery in Wufei's dark eyes. "You don't play the martyr as well as you think."
"Wufei," Quatre murmurs, not quite censure but certainly not approval, but even Heero recognizes that none of them have a chance of stopping Wufei, not now. Or Duo, for that matter. They'll argue it out or rip each other to shreds, and all he can do is watch. He isn't even sure he can step in before one of them goes too far, because he's too out of his depth to know what constitutes 'too far', right now.
"All I know is that I went out there and killed thousands of people for a peace that's already half gone," Duo snarls, and Heero wonders if the sheen in his eyes is a trick of the light. He hopes not. He's always found it unsettling, that he's wept on occasion, seen every one of the others in tears or close enough to them, before, as to make no difference--but never Duo.
"We fought with everything in us so Une and Relena would have a chance to maintain what peace we could give them," Wufei says succinctly. "Do you think they will fight any less assiduously to preserve that gift?"
Duo falters, taken aback, and something shifts in Heero's mind--a change in perception, perhaps, a change that makes the world suddenly seem a tiny bit further from splitting in two, right down the middle. It's still crumbling at the edges, and it's shot through with fractures, but--not quite broken, not yet.
Yet, he thinks, is a word he could grow to hate.
"They're already losing," Duo says, but it sounds subdued. "We're losing."
"Since when has that ever stopped us?" Quatre asked, with a sort of gallows humor that Heero never once suspected of him.
How long, Heero thinks, closer to numbness than he's been since before the end of the war, how long have we all known we'll have to fight again? Kill again? And again and again and again, he realizes, because every time they fight and manage to win a bit of peace, they'll be giving Relena and Une another chance to try and make it stick.
"I'm tired of killing," Duo whispers, as if he's revealing some secret fault, some great personal shame. "I'm sick of Shinigami."
"Enough to let someone else take your place?" Wufei asks, and it's the cruelest thing Heero's ever heard, but Duo couldn't have fooled himself for much longer, not about this. Couldn't have fooled himself into thinking he could give up. No more than Heero could have. Neither of them have to speak for the others to know their answers--and Heero suspects, suddenly, that all of Wufei's words and accusations were just as much for him as for Duo.
He just hadn't been quite as ready to admit he might be wrong.
"We'll lose," Duo says.
"This isn't a war you win or lose," Heero finally speaks up, and the truth of it isn't anything but undeniable and tiring beyond belief. "It's just--"
"A war good men need to fight, regardless," Wufei murmurs.
"And women," Quatre adds automatically, because Sally's not around to do it for him.
Sometimes, when something shatters, it does so in pieces large enough to be put back together, Heero tells himself. Let the world split down the middle; the five of them were all good with their hands, and could patch it back up again.
Again and again and again. Heero doesn't want to have to be this strong.
"It's possible to be too honest, Duo," Quatre says softly, wearily, not quite leaning into Trowa but somehow still managing to look like he's using the taller boy as a support. Their closeness is always a tangible thing, even when they're considerably farther apart than they are now. "We--we need to believe, for a while, that this will last. That it's worth protecting what we've achieved. We wouldn't be human if we didn't let ourselves believe in something that isn't strictly real, on occasion."
"Like peace?" Duo asks, only it's not really a question. What fucking peace.
Duo stares at the floor, at his bare toes curled in Heero's rug. "I don't know how to lie to myself like that." He sounds reluctant to admit something Heero has always considered a strength--but a strength in wartime only, perhaps. Not in this limbo. Here and now, it is a fatal weakness.
"You're smart," Trowa says, eyes glinting with a sharper reflection of Quatre's earlier show of black humor. "You'll figure it out."
Duo smiles, and it's ugly and very real. If he held out his hands, Heero thinks he'd see his heart in it. An offering to the universe, he muses almost whimsically, and suddenly, savagely hates the idea.
In the dream, he stared and ached and wondered at the sight.
Now, in his apartment, he takes a step forward, presses his shoulder against Duo's, lets the backs of their hands brush together briefly. He ignores Wufei's startled glance, the speculative light in Quatre's eyes, the smug twitch of Trowa's lips. This is not for them.
I wasn't using it anyway, Heero remembers, as if from far away, and the words feel wrong, bent into an unnatural shape. They were true enough in the dream, he supposes. But he's going to make sure they're utterly false outside of it.