This story has been stuck in my head for a long time and I finally decided that it wouldn't leave until it was told. I still have to work out the finer details, but I hope to establish a quick, satisfactory update-pace.
I hope it will be to at least someone's liking and I hope that someone takes the time to post a review. Thanks!
Part I - No Standard Solution Available
Snow fell around me. The ash was smothered and the skies grew silent. I looked around and realized I had never seen earth like this: peaceful and quiet. I never expected to see her like this.
The moon disappeared behind the clouds, dawn was only an hour or two away. What had happened to yesterday? What had happened to last night? Where did all the time go? More importantly, could we ever earn it all back?
The snow just kept falling, oblivious to my questions. The world could not be bothered with us anymore, I thought bitterly, just faces in the crowd from now on. I was eager to disappear, but at the same time, dreaded the true meaning of it.
"Duo," a kind and familiar face appeared before my eyes, "aren't you cold?", the skin of Quatre's forehead folded with concern. He himself was wearing a thick blue parka, I didn't know where he had gotten it, but apparently he had more of them to offer. One was thrust into my arms. "Put this on." He mothered. Before he walked away to find the others and force them into the warm coats - truly forcefully if he had to, no doubt - he asked me if I was alright. His forehead wrinkled deeper.
"I'm fine." I sounded exasperated and wistful. I didn't sound like myself. For some reason, I didn't mind.
Quatre nodded, he understood that amongst us pilots, even an innocent question like "Are you alright?" was prying. Butting into business that wasn't of your concern. He always tried though. He walked away, calling out WuFei's name in the dark.
The area started filling up with curious people. They stared wide-eyed at the ruins of what was once a prominent building on their block. Marimeia's destroyed fortress.
Suddenly uncomfortable being alone, I jogged after Quatre before his silhouette disappeared. He smiled at me when he felt my hand land on his shoulder and gestured for me to put on the parka. I did, because I knew better than to fights Quatre's logic, let alone his motherly concern for all of us. The coat was too big for my thin frame, like Quatre I looked like a child in his father's coat, but it was warm inside.
"Trowa!" The little blond abruptly belted.
Up ahead a figure stilled in the grey mist and turned towards us. I saw the figure raise his hand in what appeared to be an awkward wave. As we closed the distance between us, Trowa's face became recognizable. The unfamiliar look of exhaustion on his usually stoic face conflicted with the relief that gleamed in his eyes. Relief that the war had finally come to an end and relief that he was finally able to let the emotions shimmer through to the outside world.
I looked away, feeling like an intruder, when Trowa and Quatre greeted each other with a tight hug. I felt like I was encroaching on an intimate moment. I don't know why I was reading so much behind a simple hug, that looked nothing if platonic. We could hug each other, right? Didn't years of fighting alongside of each other turn our necessary comradeship into something deeper, more meaningful and ultimately, more comforting as well as normal? I guess I had gotten too used to my awkward interactions with Heero.
When they parted I greeted Trowa with one of my brig stupid grins.
He just nodded.
"Have you seen WuFei?" Quatre asked the chestnut haired boy.
Trowa, quiet as always, just shook his head.
"I saw his Gundam a few blocks from here before I landed." I inserted, even though I was not asked. "Why?"
Quatre gave me a strange look. "Because the war is over. I want to say goodbye."
"Oh." Was my ever clever retort. I didn't know that the end of the war would be the end of us. The end of the G-boys, as I had joked to their apparent dismay on several awkward occasions, hiding out in leaky, creaky safehouses. I realized I would miss the leaky, creaky safehouses. Nailing boards in front of the windows, sharing the warmth of a little electrical heater, watching Quatre pick dustbunnies off his quilt, watching Trowa study the process of paint chipping, watching WuFei do vigorous sit-ups and push-ups and finally, watching Heero strip and then reassemble his weapon repetitively.
When I forced myself back into the present a man I didn't know had joined our little tea party and was beckoning "master Winner" to come with him, before the streets would get too crowded with onlookers.
"Your limousine is waiting, sir." He pressed.
Quatre nodded, then turned to me. "I wish you the best."
A lump formed in my throat, I realized this was a goodbye. I didn't know what to wish him, I wished for him to stay and Trowa too, help me find WuFei and Heero amongst the wreckage that we made of this suburban area. But he was leaving and no pathetic plea could make him stay.
So I said: "Yeah. You too, Quat." I wanted to say that I was going to miss him, but I didn't, because maybe that would be out of line. I figured we had gotten close in our shared grief an alike hardships, but I seemed to have interpreted us - the G-boys - all wrong. There was no unison to speak of, if there ever was, Quatre shattered it as he walked off with the elder man, even though - empathic as he was - he must have sensed my sadness at his departure. The fact that all the effort I had put into befriending them over the course of hard time proved to be in vain, was a hard pill to swallow. These people were the only friends I had.
With a bitter taste in my mouth I watched him go, remembering fondly one evening when we had shared a blanket and he picked the dustbunnies off my side as well.
What the fuck, I said to myself, what kind of sentimental fag have I turned into?
Trowa, to my surprise, moved to follow Quatra towards the waiting black limousine. Two steps away from me he turned and like I expected him to, he did not say anything, but the look in his eyes consolidated me, if only a little. This is a goodbye, not a farewell. I nodded in return, then he turned and walked away.
Shivering within my parka I dug my hands deep inside the pockets, frowning as a card pricked into my palm. I took hold of it and pulled it out. The business card of an upscale hotel. On the back of it, scribbled in a distinctly anal, decidedly Quatre-like handwriting: Two-bedroom suite. Reservations under the name George Town.
I smiled, partly because of the not so subtle hint to the little town Quatre and I stayed at, after the attack on the train, but mostly because I knew who he intended that second bedroom for. But at that thought my hart instantly sank. I had no idea where he was. He had probably left already. Vanishing, like he always did.
I started walking around as more and more people gathered outside. They held candles as the block suffered a power failure, within the ruins of the fortress I saw sparks of snapped electrical wires, no doubt the cause of the black out.
I folded the collar of the coat upright and duck my head in between my shoulders. I couldn't risk some Earthian recognizing me from the whole media attention my face had gotten during the first war.
The scene around me was reminiscent of a memorial, I wondered what they were remembering. Everyone was quiet, simply staring at the stars or the flickering flames in their hands.
Loved ones, I figured, they are remembering lost loved ones. Many to remember.
As I gingerly moved through the frozen bodies I was paying so much attention to the people standing still that I missed the one person approaching me. By the time that I did, it was too late and we bumped into each other.
The pink clad figure reeled back from the force of the collision and outstretched hands blindly groped at thin air to preserve a delicate balance on high heels.
Recognizing the face, though contorted in shock, I grabbed one of the flaying hands and kept her to her feet. "Miss Relena." I greeted formally, trying to ease the awkwardness of the moment.
She seemed uncomfortable the instance she aimed her blue eyes at my face. Her eyes moved around as she searched her memory for my name. "Deo, right?" Though tentative, her voice held a hint of victory.
She looked away. "That's a strange name." She spoke softly.
I frowned at her logic. "As is Deo."
She nodded, but I felt that we weren't actually in agreement. "That is true." She seemed highly uncomfortable in my presence, refusing to make eye contact. That did not surprise me. During this war and the previous, we never had the opportunity to meet. All she knew of me was hearsay and I knew for a fact people rarely had nice things to say about me.
Of her I knew very little. Only that which Heero had divulged, both voluntary and involuntary. All I knew was that she wore pink too often for it to be coincidental, she had an unnatural interest in the boy that had attempted to end her life and she had the habit of popping up in situations where she was most unwelcome. Of course I should not be prejudiced based on what I could wring out of Heero and Trowa. Though admittedly the whole "former queen of the world" reference that was often used by the media didn't sit well with me. As a street rat I had a congenital aversion to such titles.
"Is the girl going to be okay?"
She gave me a confused look.
"I heard over the intercom that she was shot. Quatre." I clarified, though I wasn't sure if she knew him.
"She's going to be fine. I just wish Heero had stayed." She looked around, maybe she was still looking for him.
I opted for a fake chuckle and a joke. "He is not the kind of guy to mingle."
Relena shook her head and pursed her lips a little, I got the feeling she didn't think very highly of me and my every word annoyed her as she kept looking around herself. "No, I meant waiting for the second ambulance. It was on it's way..." She finished with a mumble.
My body tensed at her words. "Is he hurt?" I squatted down a little to come eye to eye with her.
The sudden fixation of her eyes on mine made me uncomfortable too. "You didn't hear that over the intercom?" Her tone was bitter.
I straightened up to try to spot his face in the crowd, but no one even resembled him. "I'll help you look for him."
She glared at me and put her hands on her hips. "I don't need your help." She snapped.
I snorted and pushed past her. "Fine." I didn't have time for her prissy-antics, "Then I'll look for him by myself." I cast a glance over my shoulder and saw her leave in the opposite direction, surely just to be contrary, as she was heading further into the crowd, where I knew Heero would not wander.
The city lights blinked back to life, but the neighborhood remained mostly black. I scoured the dark edges of the buildings and the few alleyways. The rustle of my parka sounded loud and obnoxious in the quiet of the night. My braid tapping against the back of it in sync with my step made for an odd rhythm of rustle and tap.
I squinted my eyes and willed for my vision to see through the dark as I peered around another corner into an alley. The open space between two tall apartment complexes was separated in two by a chain link fence halfway, on the far side, where the alley led back to the road, there was a single streetlight that illuminated plenty trash cans and one lonely silhouette, sitting against the wall. I did not need to see a face to know who it was.
The small, lithe boy had his knees drawn up to his chest, his arms resting on his knees and his head, in turn, resting heavily in his arms, his face away from sight.
A messy haired head jerked up. Dark orbs glared distrustingly at me.
"Sorry buddy," I said carefree and added a whimsical wave as I walked up to him, "Didn't mean to scare ya."
Heero snorted. He relaxed his muscles and straightened his legs a little. He seemed to deflate before my eyes, getting smaller and smaller. I immediately noticed the stain in his tank top, over his abdomen, but wisely kept my mouth shut. I knew I needed to work myself up to that, it always took some coaxing for Heero to let someone take care of his wounds.
"I heard you coming. Not a very stealthy approach."
"No need for that in my spare time."
The term "spare time" caused a physical reaction in him. His body tensed up and he drew his legs back up, wrapping his arms around them.
"That girl is looking for you." I mentioned cautiously.
His only response was a slight movement of his eyes, perhaps the beginnings of a roll that he stopped short.
"Quatre was looking for all of too, but he left." I smoothed the coarse wrinkles of the oversized parka. "Gave me this ridiculous thing." I chuckled at myself. Heero did not share in my humor, as he rarely - read: never - did. I decided to join him on the cold, wet floor. The stuffed shoulder of the parka touched his bare shoulder. I noticed a little bruise, but it was his bloodied tank top that had me concerned.
I know it was wrong of me to think so, but I was happy I still had Heero who needed me to look after him. I shouldn't think those despicable thoughts, I should want him to be as independent as he thinks he is, but I enjoyed the comforting feeling of being needed - meaningful to someone's life. And surely I returned the favor to him, though I doubted he concerned himself with such frivolous things.
"Hey Heero," I started.
"Let's get out of here." With a grunt I rose to my feet and stretched my hand down towards him.
He looked at my hand for a little while, his eyes empty, his face blank, every facial muscle relaxed to allow for a perfectly neutral expression, but tension and strength radiated from his incredible eyes. Oh, how I wished he would never stop looking at me.
He did not accept my hand, just stubbornly and effortfully rose to his feet by his own strength. He wiped some of the dirt off the damp bottom of his jeans, but that only made his hands filthy. As he looked at them, dirt clinging to his slim fingers and coarse palms, the muscles around his eyes and mouth tightened.
I ignored his displeased stare and grabbed his hand, dragging him along with me. I could have sworn the stain in the front of his shirt had gotten bigger, growing as did my concern.
Deliberately guiding us through the shadows I distanced us from the crowd. Behind me I heard Heero breathing through his nose. Normally, he breathed so quietly not even a trained ear at his nose could hear. I spent many nights in shared dorm rooms and dingy safehouse bedrooms fixating my eyes on his chest, waiting to see the rise and fall in the dark. I just had to be sure he was okay, that he didn't promptly lost the will to live. I needed him. I needed this strange boy, who I knew very little about, who hardly spoke to me. There was no logic behind it, just dire need.
The hotel where Quatre had made reservations was close by, just a five minute walk, but I was careful not to walk too quickly and stress Heero's injury, of which the nature was yet unknown to me. I offered him the coat as a cold breeze reminded me that he was scarcely clad. He rejected my offer, but I insisted. He only accepted when I pointed out that he needed to cover his wound, or he would draw attention.
Rule number two: be inconspicuous. Heero lived by those rules the scientist had drilled into us and I knew how to use that to my advantage. For his own good of course.
Rule number one: the mission has priority.
We entered a lavish lobby. A lot of marble, bronze and rich wood, lit overhead by a crystal chandelier. To my surprise I spotted the older man that had whisked off Trowa and Quatre, earlier that evening. He was pushing a trolley with luggage towards the elevators. They were obviously staying in the same hotel. That made my heart rejoice, though secretly. I did not like this dependency to them that I had developed. But they were the only four people in the world that understood. This war, the pressure, the fear...
I turned towards Heero, stoic as ever and ordered him to wait for me in the lounge as I arranged our room. He ended up following me to the front desk anyway.
"Good evening." A pretty girl greeted. "Happy end of the war!" She chirped.
You need to work on that 'holiday greeting', I thought, but just said: "Yeah, you too. I have reservations."
Her fingers ghosted over her keyboard. "Your name, sir?"
"George Town." If it had been anyone but Heero, that may have evoked a sarcastic snort, but Heero did not respond.
She typed in my name and confirmed the reservation. "Thank you for choosing Tullip Hotel, sir Town. Here is your key," she handed me something that had more resemblance to a credit card than a key, "you will be staying in suite 102-"
0102, I thought and smiled. For someone involved in a war, it certainly had the appearance that Quatre had too much time on his hands.
"-it overlooks the park... of course..." She frowned, "the view has been changed a little this evening..." She shook her head and regained her professionalism, "The number of the front desk is 1, room service is 2, if you would like to-"
She continued but I tuned her out. I didn't interrupt her and patiently waited for her to finish. She finally did, after asking us if we had any luggage, with a friendly: "Enjoy your stay."
I practically dragged Heero upstairs with me.
Suite 102 was spacious and luxurious, with a full sized living room, kitchen and diner table, a large, classic bathroom and a small hallway leading to two identical bedrooms.
Through the large living room window I saw what she meant when she referred to the changed view. The park had turned into a mobile suit parking place. Rows and rows of identical LEO's, some more damaged than other's. Heero came to stand by me, looking at the suits. Who knew what he was thinking.
I turned my attention away from the aftermath of war and to him. Without any words I peeled the parka off his shoulders and studied the brown stain shortly before carefully tucking his shirt out of his jeans and pulling it up.
Heero made no resistance, after our shared missions, he had gotten used to me tending to his wounds. I was happy that he trusted me to this extent.
I found a short, but deep cut just under the left side of his ribcage, I assessed the damaged and judged that no major organs had been involved, but the impact, of what was probably a metal shard, had broken the lowest rib.
I called room service and asked for a medical kit, scolding myself for leaving my own in Deathscythe's cockpit, as I had been too preoccupied finding a suitable hiding place for the gundanium suit. Before they brought it upstairs I ushered Heero into the bathroom, firmly ordering him to sit on the edge of the bath. When I opened the door for them, I assured them it was just a minor cut.
"Kitchen accident!" I said and laughed it off. I locked the door behind them and hurried into the bathroom. The wound was still bleeding and needed to be dressed tightly.
Heero looked down at my fingers as I worked, making sure I made no mistakes, no doubt.
"Is that too tight?" I asked once I had finished.
I suddenly became hyperaware of the fact Heero was only half dressed and I was kneeling before him. Our eye contact instantly had an intimate charge of electricity, that jolted through me and caused a spasm-like shiver. I chuckled nervously and rose to my feet.
"It's been a long day. Let's get some rack."
Heero was just silent as he followed me to the bedrooms.
"Goodnight." I said in the hallway, where our paths would part.
He nodded and then went into one of the room, softly closing the door behind him.
With a sigh I entered the other room, throwing myself at the double bed. After five minutes of just lying there, I finally gathered the energy to strip, scolding myself once more for leaving my duffel bag with clean change of clothes in the cockpit. I'd forget my own braid if it wasn't growing out of the back of my head.
Tired, mentally and physically, I crawled under the covers, inhaling the delicious scent of clean sheets. I lay in the bed, just breathing, looking at thin air. Trying to think of peace, as a concept, as a reality, but no thoughts came to me. My mind drew a blank. Enter: Peace. ... ERROR, not found.
I tried to imagine what my life would be like. I couldn't live on like I had since the first war, mooching off Hilde, working a scrap yard. If that was the life I had been fighting for all this time, I should have seriously reconsidered my options back when I was just a teenage street rat and a black car with tinted windows slowed down next to me on L2.
"Thanks, but no thanks!" That's what I should have said when the back window rolled down and a stranger with an obscenely large nose revealed himself and asked: "Hey kid, want to be a hero?"
The hero of a massacre, that's what he made of me. I turned, suddenly uncomfortable.
Life after war, I mused, pushing the what-if's aside.
No standard solution available...
No standard solution available...
No standard solution available...
I jerked upright. In the dim light of the moon I saw Heero, like me in just his underwear, leaning against the closed door of the bedroom. I didn't even hear him sneak in.
I looked at him and noticed how uncertain he seemed. Childlike. It was endearing, but Heero would adamantly argue that he was definitely not endearing.
"Yeah?" I finally croaked.
Before he spoke any further he walked around the bed, to the empty side, folded back the covers and slipped inside. Once he had settled, on his back, eyes peering at the ceiling, with the covers drawn up to his chest, he asked: "Is this okay?"
I smiled, though he wasn't looking at me, so he wouldn't see. "Sure."
I genuinely hoped Heero would be part of my non-standard solution.