Disclaimer: Gundam Wing belongs to Sunrise, Sotsu, Bandai, and other companies that have slipped my mind.
Warnings: Nothing much really. It's pretty tame, unlike the previous chapter.
A.N: When I reread the original version of this epilogue I noticed how rushed it felt. While I don't want it to be as long as the last few chapters were I thought that it really needed to be fleshed out a bit more. Hope you enjoyed this reworking as much as I did.
The rain eventually let up over the next week and today it was nothing more than a light drizzle as it softly caressed the earth. On days like this, the country was truly beautiful. The people were more than overjoyed to have their beloved Foreign Minister back, fighting for their welfare and championing their causes like she'd always done in the past. To them she was a pillar, a support structure for their fragile society and the symbol for balance and peace. Her presence had helped dissipate the tensions between the remaining OZ faction and the E.S.U.N; as the days got brighter so did the situation. The E.S.U.N and Preventers, at Relena's urging, agreed that the majority of the soldiers within were to be given light sentences. She'd wanted to extend an olive branch to them in an attempt to stop the senseless cycle of hate and revenge that had been behind the last war. Although they'd initially objected the idea, she had reasoned that with Whitenburg's death, there were a scant few who could really be held responsible. The soldiers may have participated in the war but they were just disenfranchised veterans from the previous wars searching for their niche in life.
They concluded that the ones who should be subjected to severe punishment were the ones who originally conspired to set into motion Operation ZERO and the Foreign Minister's kidnapping. In their minds that included the aristocrats who'd help fund the army, the scientists that developed the Seele units, and the now deceased Whitenburg. Although many believed his death was a fitting end, others thought he'd escaped having to answer for his crimes by taking the easy way out. In the end, there was nothing they could do to rectify that predicament; he was no longer a part of this world, having passed on to the next. His demise was the signal to the end of what had been deemed the ZERO War; the battle between lost souls, between past and future.
The others who took part in the war were once again resuming the lives they'd put on hold. Trowa was back at the circus with Catherine who was eager to show him the new routines she'd devised. During his last conversation with Relena he'd mentioned that the troupe was heading out towards Asia and would remain there for another year or so. The young Winner heir returned to space, enthusiastically immersing himself in the family business, glad to be doing something other than fighting, though missing the excitement all the same. Using his vast amount of resources, he continued to give aide to the Preventers from afar, helping to procure data that wasn't so easily obtained. Speaking of Preventers, Wufei was still giving Sally a hard time - no surprise there - while Duo did the same to him. Heero... well, that's a different matter.
This time around, instead of being destroyed, the Gundams were safely stored away within Preventer compounds. Behind layer after layer of security in the same underground storage facility that housed the Tallgeese III, they slumbered until their assistance was once more needed. Since the Tallgeese III managed to fly under the E.S.U.N's radar during the last battle, Une decided that it was best to not disclose the information regarding the Gundams whereabouts to them either. The last thing she had wanted to deal with, after having to clean up OZ's mess, were politicians eager to divvy up things they believed they had a right to. She figured she'd deal with it when the time came, but for now there were more pressing matters she had to attend to. One such matter was the relocation of the Foreign Minister.
Relena's return, according to her, was a return to endless stacks of documents, proposals, requests, treaties, and many, many other obligations. Although Zechs and Noin had done their best to maintain order in her office during her absence, they both lacked the experience required to handle her workload. On some nights, the young woman would wake up to find herself still at her desk using a pile of forms as a pillow, a cold, nearly empty cup of coffee next to her. Other nights the Foreign Minister would drift off to sleep in her bed amidst an endless sea of papers sprawled around her mattress. Her goal to make up for lost time was taking its toll on her. On those days she wondered if maybe she would've been better off still a soldier for OZ.
The morning was fast approaching noon though it was hard to discern through the cloudy, rain filled sky. Such early spring showers always brought about mixed feelings in people. Inside the Preventer building, Relena was getting situated into her new office; Lady Une came to the conclusion that her working there would be an ideal situation for all parties concerned. With the given security of their headquarters the Preventers would be able to effectively ensure her safety. No one would be foolhardy enough to make an attempt on her life in a building full of Preventers, a few being former Gundam pilots. Relena in turn would be provided extra assistance in her job, something she greatly appreciated. They weren't going to allow her to suffer alone anymore; peace was not a one man/woman job but the responsibility of all those who wished for it.
Although her new office wasn't as large the one located at the Peacecraft mansion, it definitely had its own perks. Located right next to Wufei and Sally's office she was made privy to many of their 'conversations'; their quarrels and humorous bickering was the best form of free entertainment one could get. Satisfied with the finished arrangements, the young woman strolled around her desk and slumped into the soft, cushioned chair; it had been an exhausting morning. Resting her head and arms atop the desk, her eyelids slowly slid shut. It had been too long since she'd had a decent amount of sleep, taking whatever opportunity arose to catch up on it. /*sigh* I'm getting too old for this. I think that I'll... just rest... for a little... while.../
The room soon fell into a comfortable quiet, save for the soft sounds of the air conditioning and the pit pat of raindrops outside. Minutes elapsed when the office door slowly opened and a shadow entered, taking extreme caution to avoid detection. Making its way to the young woman, the intruder reached out a hand towards her head. With lightening quick reflexes, Relena grabbed the hand, still somewhat half asleep.
"Oi!" Duo screeched in surprise, "How did you do that?! I thought they said you were back to normal."
She blinked several times then gave a quiet laugh, but her melancholy expression revealed the turmoil inside her heart. "I guess... those things will always be a part of me, right?" Relena gave him another smile and released his hand. "Sorry to sound so gloomy, I haven't had much sleep lately. What brings you to my new establishment?"
"Well," he began rubbing his hand as he took a seat in the chair beside him, "I just came to see how you were adjusting to things here? Any problems I should know about? I'd be willing to help."
"Come back in a few days, and we'll see what develops," she joked lightly, "By the way, have you heard from my brother or Noin? I haven't seen them around lately."
"You don't know?" She shook her head. "They went back to Mars to check on the Terraforming Project. Noin was saying something about them needing to plan ahead for the actual cultivation of vegetation there once the atmosphere was established. But if you ask me, I think they just wanted to go on a vacation. I guess they didn't want to bother you with such trivial matters seeing as how stressed out you already are."
/Why have you disappeared again, brother? Is it me, or do you still have demons of your past to deal with? Even though Noin's with you… I can't help but worry... Do what you have to do, but stay safe and come back to me.../ "Well, thanks for letting me know, Duo," Relena replied, "but if you'll excuse me, I have a stack of work I need to tackle before the day is done."
"Sure, no problem," he grinned widely, getting up and making his way towards the door. "Besides, I gotta help Commander Une show a new guy around, see ya." He waved behind him as he exited through the door.
Watching him leave, Relena sighed and shifted in the chair, motionless for several minutes. "So, Heero, think my brother will come back?"
Outside her window, nicely perched on the branch of a nearby tree, hidden by its foliage was a figure dressed in a camouflage colored rain jacket. With his back still against the trunk, the youth gazed into the room and cocked his head to the side. Lowering the gun he'd drawn when Duo had entered, he gave her a quick glance then moved his field of vision towards the sky. "Certain events have transpired," Heero began in his deep, monotone voice, "He needs to rethink and redefine the things in his life. He'll be back; he cares about you."
"... Thank you, Heero."
"Why are they always doing shit like this?" Wufei mumbled to himself as he typed his weekly report on his computer. "It's not like we don't have enough work to do."
His partner across the room dropped the file in her hand and laughed; a death glare from his side quickly hushed her. "Give them a break. After all that's happened, we could all use a vacation. Hmmm... you know what? I'll make out a form requesting a little time off for you, Wufei."
The youth's eyes widened and he protested, "Don't you dare, onna! I don't need rest!"
"Yes you do, Wufie," Duo replied, leaning against the doorframe, "don't think I haven't notice those bags under your eyes. Plus, you're much grumpier than you used to be."
"What would you know baka?" Wufei retorted, "And don't call me that!"
The American chuckled to himself as he left, "You're one in a million, Wufei."
In the large office located on the top floor of Preventer Headquarters, a tall man stood in front of a desk where a young woman quietly observed him. He wore a white, long sleeved, button-down shirt and nicely pressed black slacks. His reddish blonde hair highlighted his handsome face as he stood stalk still, his stance refined and disciplined. Lady Une took another look at him then back to the portfolio in her hand; he waited patiently, exuding nothing but calm and obedience.
"Are you sure about this?" the woman arched an eyebrow in his direction. "Considering your past, you may not be able to adapt to the surroundings for quite some time… It's not that I don't think you're capable - you could even say that you're a bit overqualified - it's more a matter of trust." She set the folder down and clasped her hands atop the desk. "The only reason I'm bringing you onboard is because I think your knowledge about OZ may help with Relena's rehabilitation… though I think that I may be alone in feeling that way. Considering your role in Operation ZERO there aren't many agents here willing to extend a hand of friendship to you, especially the Gundam pilots."
She gave him a sympathetic smile. "But speaking from personal experience I honestly believe people can change for the better. So for now I'll give you the benefit of the doubt – please don't make me regret placing my trust in you. That being said, you'll continue to be monitored for a time on everything that you do. Along with that, you won't receive the same degree of freedom or level of access around here or on missions as our other agents." She saw him nod a 'yes' in understanding. "I guess there's nothing more I can say... except 'welcome aboard'." At that moment, Duo came into the office, an expectant look on his face. "Maxwell," she turned to address the part-time Preventer, "I'd like for you to show Mr. Dereks around. He'll be working with us from now on and needs to get acquainted with the compound and its many facilities."
"No problem at all! Just leave it to me." Duo exclaimed with a grin as he opened the door for the other man.
The tall man turned around and Duo caught a glimpse of something in his bright brown eyes. Dismissing it as sunlight, the young agent began to lead the way. Dereks gave him a smile as he passed by and, for the first time in years, his heart was light. The former OZ officer sighed in contentment; he was happy. /Look, Anna, Julian, I'm moving on.../
Author's Note: Sorry to have to put everyone through this again but I hope this rewrite was better than the original. I'll now be able to concentrate on Requiem with a clearer mind and though it won't be as long as ZERO, hopefully it will be just as enjoyable.
-chan= suffix of endearment used by girls when addressing those closest to them or used by anyone to agitate Wufei^_^
doki= Japanese version of heartbeat sounds
Nataku= the name of a legendary/mythical Chinese warrior
omae o korosu= I'll kill you (if you didn't already already)
owari= the end
rei= zero (it has other meanings too, i.e. spirit)
Shinigami= god of death
Auf Wiedersehen die Ewigkeit= Good-bye forever
es ist Zeit= it is time
es tut mir leid= I am sorry
ich liebe dich= I love you
mein freunde= my friends
mein Gott= my God
seele = soul