Revised April 2012
Author's Note: Alright, everyone. Thank to Jessica (Nerf or Nothing), I have gotten off my lazy ass and decided to rewrite this entire story. And YES, I will finish it this time. I re-read the first chapter and groaned outloud at how shitty my writing was when I was 17. Can yall believe that I'm 28 now, and married a second time, with 3 boys? I feel so fucking old, yall. I will be updating these chapters as time allows, so please be patient. I have 3 kids, 4 when I have my niece, and 3 of those are in diapers. I also work and I'm enrolled in college full-time for nursing school. So PLEASE be patient! And please, if you get time, let me know if you like this chapter better than the old version. Thank you!
March 17, AC 204
5 AM, North American Midwest, Earth
She walked into the farmhouse and laid her gloves on the table before washing her hands and pouring a much-needed cup of coffee. The cows were milked and fed, the stalls mucked out, and now all she had left was to throw a few bales of hay to the horses before her morning chores were through. She lit a cigarette and sipped her coffee while she read the morning paper. More uprisings in the colonies, like that was a surprise. Thank God she lived on Earth, where things were stable for the most part.
The phone rang, and she groaned. If it was this early, it was almost always her neighbor, Jess, wanting help with her own livestock. She let it ring a couple more times while took another swig of her heavily sweetened coffee before she finally answered it. "What, Jessica?"
"Gomen, I must have the wrong number."
"Who are you looking for?" She asked, her attention perking up. If it wasn't Jess calling her, and it wasn't actually a wrong number, it was an emergency. No one called this timezone at 5am unless it was important.
A chill ran down her spine, and she leaned against the wall to keep herself from sitting on the floor. "Speaking," she said quietly.
"Ma'am, I regret to inform you that your brother, Duo Maxwell, has passed away. You were his only listed next of kin, so if you'd like to retrieve his personal effects—"
"What happened?" She snapped. This wasn't the first death notice she'd received in her life; the monotonous taking-care-of-business tone grated her nerves every time, and it didn't fail to do so now.
"I apologize, ma'am. He was in a car accident, but frankly, we're all kind of baffled over his death. He sustained a few traumas, mostly fractures, but other that he was just fine. He just suddenly died this morning. The cause of death remains unknown," the caller replied.
Rei remained calm, calculated, just as she'd been taught to do. "Duo was last on L4. Which hospital should I come to?"
"Municipal Hospital, ma'am, in Section Eight. Before you go, there's one more thing."
"Your brother listed you as the only next of kin, but he also listed one other name as an emergency contact. He also wrote both of you letters, but we only have an address for the other person. Could you possibly contact him for us on your way to L4?"
She nodded wearily. "What's the address?" Rei jotted it down automatically, fighting to retain her composure. "Thank you," she said quickly, and hung up the phone before she collapsed on the floor, heaving up her coffee.
Duo was dead. Duo was dead. Rei punched the wall in her grief, and screamed wordlessly before throwing up on the kitchen tile again. Once she had herself under control and had cleaned up her mess, she stared blankly at the little piece of paper on the floor. Her eyes widened in surprise. She had never met the man- hadn't even thought of him in years- but Duo had spoken of him as if he'd been their own blood. And he'd told her that if anything happened to him, she was to immediately contact Heero Yuy.
Now her brother had asked her to, and she wasn't about to deny his last request.
9 PM Colony L3
She dreamed of them both on the flight. Duo, holding her tightly after a nightmare, letting her crawl into his bed and snuggle close until she finally dozed off. Telling her how much he loved her. Promising her that no matter what, her big brother would always protect her. Then she dreamed of the other one, the man that Duo had told her stories about; stuff that legends were made of. The man she'd aspired to be like when The Prof and The Doc had put her through the paces, had been amazed by her reflexes, astounded by her ability to pilot. She had emulated him. She'd worshipped him. And now she finally had to find him.
After a very long flight delay she grabbed her bags and hit the sidewalk. There wasn't a cab in sight, so she started walking in the direction of Section 8. Rei picked up a map after a few wrong turns, and the clerk in the store was kind enough to direct her towards Heero's street.
Rei held the map in front of her face as she walked along, subconsciously using her training to walk around lightposts, mailboxes, and the few pedestrians in her way without even looking at them. She only looked away from the map at every block to confirm that she was heading in the right direction, then immediately stuck her nose back in the center of it, trying to decipher all the little lines and letters. She stopped and looked up when she realized that someone had spoken to her. "Huh? Sorry, I didn't hear you, I'm trying to read this damned excuse for a guide to the city."
The man leered at her. He was big, about twice her size, and looked like he'd been raised in a gym since he was off his mother's tit. "I just thought I could show you around the town. A tiny, helpless thing like yourself shouldn't be walking around L4 without an escort."
Rei snorted in contempt, and kept walking, holding the map back up in front of her face.
"Don't ignore me, little girl. People that ignore me wind up getting hurt."
If he touches me, I'm putting him in the dirt, she thought. "Well, I suggest you pretend that I'm not ignoring you. I'd hate to fuck up your face any worse than it already is," she said with another snort. She didn't bother to stop walking or looking at her map, but was wholly prepared when he grabbed her by her shoulder. Rei kept the map in her right hand while she swung her weight back, ducked, and rolled him over her shoulder and onto the ground. "Touch me again and I'll take your balls," she warned him.
"The only place you'll be taking my balls is in your mouth," he snarled, and jumped to his feet.
Rei sighed in resignation when he charged her, prepared to drop her bag so her hands would be free, only for a loud report to deafen her in one ear. She spun to fight off whomever had fired the gun, only to be shoved defensively behind the shooter. She peeked over the man's shoulder to see her would-be assailant lying dead on the ground, shot right through the forehead. "Huh. Thanks," she said with a smile, patting the man on the shoulder. "He was really starting to piss me off."
"And he was about to kick your ass and rape you," the man replied grimly. He stuck his gun in the back pocket of his blue jeans and turned to study her carefully. "Are you hurt?" He frowned at the sight of one of the most stunningly beautiful women he'd ever seen; she definitely didn't belong in this neck of the woods.
"God, no. I was about to beat his ass when you shot him." She scooped up her map and studied it again, flipped it over, and sighed. It was covered in blood.
It wasn't a boast, it was a simple fact, and her savior knew it the moment she said it. He sized her up, then turned and studied the dead man on the ground. "You and what army?"
She chuckled, and held up her fist. "The army of Rei. No man can withstand its might."
"Well, the army is lost, I see." He took the map from her and threw it in a trash bin. "I live nearby. Where are you going?"
Rei sighed with relief, and dug the address out of her pocket before handing it over. "Arigato, you're a lifesaver. Twice, actually," she said with a smile while he deciphered her handwriting.
When he stared at her, she found herself looking into the most captivating blue eyes she had ever seen. "A very dangerous man lives at this address. He'd likely kill you for knocking on his door."
She frowned, overwhelmed by the strangest feeling of déjà vu. The way he now studied her reminded her of her own brother. She shook it off, along with the wave of grief she felt at the reminder of Duo, and put on her best please-help-me-out smile. "You can just lead me there and point out his front door."
"Not a chance." He turned and started to walk away, and fought every urge to punch her in the face when she forcefully spun him back around.
"Look, I need to see this man, ok? It's important; more important than I could ever explain to you. And if you don't take me there, I'll either find someone that will, or I'll buy another damned map and find my way there eventually. It might take me a week to navigate this fucking city, but if you help me, it'll save me a lot of time." She pulled a wad of cash out of her pocket and thrust it towards him. "I'm only asking you to lead me there, and I'm willing to pay."
He considered the desperation of her tone, and then waved the money away. "I'll take you there, but I can't guarantee your safety once you knock on that door."
"Agreed," she responded, and let him lead the way. She grinned after they'd walked a couple of blocks in silence. "You know, you could have easily killed me. I wouldn't be so worried about Heero Yuy."
"That was different," he stated firmly.
"You're right, it was. He'll be in front of me. You were behind me… and for that matter, just how did you manage to sneak up behind me? Not many people have ever been able to do that."
"Trade secret. If I told you, I'd have to kill you."
Rei rolled her eyes. That had always been Duo's response to one of her questions when he'd rather not give her the answer. She followed the man down a few more blocks and several alleyways before she began to wonder if he was leading her in some sort of circle. Her sense of direction was never as good as her brother's, but it wasn't so bad that she couldn't tell what was up. She began to study the way he was leading her, and as if in response, he led her straight to an apartment building only a block away.
"This is the place." He pointed to a door on the third floor of the five-level, upper-middle-class building. "That's his door. I'll see you around."
Rei sighed as he walked away. "Just in case he decides to shoot me in the face, would you mind backing me up?" She asked in resignation, embarrassed to be asking this man for even more help. Those blue eyes studied her again, and she viciously raked her fingers through her hair in frustration. "Never mind. You've done more than enough, and I thank you for it. Really, I do." She hefted her bag onto her shoulder and made her way to the stairs, when she was tapped on the shoulder.
"Tell me what you want with Heero Yuy, and I'll accompany you."
Rei considered this proposal while she sized him up as he had only an hour before. He was slim, but muscular. Maybe ten years older than herself, but not by much more. If he shaved off the stubble on his face, he'd look even younger, and if she didn't know how quiet he could be when sneaking up behind her, she would have totally discounted him as a potential threat. However, he had snuck up on her, and as she'd told him, that was simply something that almost no one could do. The Prof had made sure of that; and Duo had personally trained her in paying attention to what was behind her.
"Ok," she finally decided. She would tell him what she could without giving away too many details, and hope that he would be satisfied with her tale. If not, they would go their separate ways. "My brother was a friend of his. He died, and I've come to tell him the news." She shook off another wave of déjà vu when he stared her down. She could have sworn that his face had displayed anger, then something that seemed like disbelief, before settling back into an emotionless mask.
"Sorry about your brother." He took the lead up the stairs, and stopped at the door of apartment D8.
Rei knocked on the door, and waited impatiently. Duo had always told her she was too impatient, and at that thought it only made her knock again a little harder. There was no answer, and she furiously pounded twice more on the wood.
"Let me try," her guide offered.
"I don't see what good it'll do," she grunted in frustration. "All that, just for him not to be home. This is bullshit."
When he took a key from his pocket, and unlocked the door, Rei nearly smacked herself in the forehead, cursing her stupidity.
"Come on in," he said with a wave of his hand.
Unable to refuse gracefully, she ignored her instincts to run, and followed him inside. She jumped when he locked and bolted the door behind her, and she felt Heero Yuy coldly press the barrel of his gun against the back of her head.