What J Tried to Put Right
AN: Heero finds out that J left something behind in the midst of his fifth anniversary with Preventer.
This was my submission to the Moments of Rapture contest for 2012. Obviously I did not win. Depressed about that a little; it gets really discouraging to keep being rejected in contests (my regular fiction which is much, much better *sigh*)
Hey-it's time for thanks for reading:skywright, color2413, xAngelOfSorrow, Bookreader9999, The Button Harlequin, FlyingShadow09, , Amithest5710, Luvinlife08, , Emelinee Baconinee Tortalinee, Amethystaura, EternalScion7894, Gananimal, TakanoxOnodera4ever, IsThisOneTakenToo, fabulousdior, honugurl2010, VegaLume-San, SilverDragon-Purity, Kairichin, harhar317, LLyNnS, nekotenshi93, Ko-Datenshi, TuTsXxX, Riku Lupo, Twilight DeLucca, Kenwick, Samma-sugar and Lucifer-luci, LadyV11, KathrynAlex, Serene80, Leo-ta, Kendecia, FanOBooks, justbecauseican, yusasumi, wingedblackwolf, SumGhai,
Thanks to all mentioned and not-for reading my stories. It still blows me away that anyone would want to read my stuff, and if you liked it; bonus : )
Heero put the report he had been working on in his outbox. Later, Sherry Weinberg from the secretarial office would be by to collect it and deposit it with other paperwork on Director Une's desk. Heero liked Sherry; she had a kind smile and always had an interesting story to tell.
He sat back in his rolling chair and listened to the familiar squeak with satisfaction. It always felt good to complete a project or assignment.
He glanced at the wall clock, the chrome glinting a little in the russet glow streaming in from the windows; it was almost dusk and that meant quitting time although Heero did not need to consult any time-keeping device. His internal clock was accurate to the last second. One of the dubious "enhancements" bequeathed to him by J.
Heero began to gather his things in his messenger bag, unwilling to allow thoughts of the quirky scientist into his head. J's presence in his psyche was unwelcome.
It was as he rose to leave that he noticed the yellow manila envelope under the door. It disturbed him minutely that he did not take notice of its presence when it arrived. He wondered who would have been able to slip the flat parcel under his door so unobtrusively, and why. He could at least assume the delivery person was a Preventer employee; security was unparalleled at Headquarters.
Eying the envelope with suspicion he examined it carefully. It had no address on it, in fact the only thing on it was his name so neatly printed that it looked typed. There seemed to be no powdery residue or dried chemicals anywhere on the package. No need to notify the bomb squad then, he thought, slightly perplexed.
Just as he was about to open the envelope a knock sounded on the door. "Enter," he said, distracted.
Chang Wufei opened the door and stuck in his head. "Are you ready to leave, Yuy?"
Chang was his carpool partner. They alternated driving to work each week.
Stowing the envelope in his bag Heero decided to unravel the mystery of the envelope at home. "Yes, Chang. Let's go."
Showered, wearing comfortable clothing and fed, Heero sat in his home office and ripped the top of the envelope off neatly and precisely.
It had taken years for him to shake the stigma of the enhancements he received during the wars, a stigma that he lived with daily, was reminded of daily whenever he pulled off a shot with frightening accuracy, or saw how things connected in a case when he merely closed his eyes and envisioned it, undoubtedly an after effect of the Zero System. It was present in the clipped monotonous voice he used to interact with others. The word is, robotic, he thought, ruefully.
Again he willed himself to not think of the madman. Opening the envelope he admitted to himself with some chagrin that he was relieved to note only papers as the contents. He read the first page of the stapled documents. It was a letter.
The letter was from a law firm: Hirsch, Moskowitz and Levy.
Evidently Heero was being informed that he had been named beneficiary in J's will.
On the day the will was read there was only Peter Rollins, the lawyer designated as executrix and Phil Hirsch, one of the partners, present.
Heero knew that J had had no one to call family or even friend, his only associations being primarily with the other scientists and with the young Gundam pilots, but it was disconcerting and kind of sad.
Heero was decidedly uncomfortable sitting in the plush leather armchair listening to J's last wishes.
Joseph T. Baron was his actual name, at least it was the name that the lawyer said as he read the will. Heero suspected that the name was one of several aliases-the scientists loved to use aliases, but he also thought that Joseph might really have been his given Christian name; Heero thought it ironic, as he'd never known J to subscribe to any religion.
The ride back to earth from L1 on the shuttle was calm, although Heero was less than calm himself.
Fifty-million, he thought, stunned. J. left him fifty-million credits.
He did not think about much else on the taxi ride home, eager to simply shed his clothes along with the events of the past few days and grab some sleep.
Heero awoke the following morning feeling rested and good. That was not something he experienced every day. In fact, at least four out of seven nights a week did Heero wake from nightmares. The severity of the dreams had lessened slightly, but they still packed a wallop. Most of the nightmares concerned the wars and their destructive and sometimes frightening violence.
This morning Heero ate breakfast as he always did, enjoying hot tea, whole grain toast and eggs with fish. But this morning's meal was enjoyed more than usual as he realized that he had not had a nightmare the previous night.
It felt like he had turned a corner somehow.
Une had given him a several days off to deal with the legalities of J's will, but Heero did not feel the need to skip another day of work. Working took his full attention and kept him from thinking about certain things.
When Heero reported in to Une she inquired about his trip-Heero told her that he had been asked to receive a few personal items J had left behind; he did not tell her about the money. It seemed prudent.
Heero did not have the foggiest idea what to do with the money. He thought that perhaps he might donate a good portion of it to charity. As for the rest he simply did not know.
The fewer people who knew about his sudden wealth the better.
At lunch Heero checked his email. Smiling, he opened the email from holyscythe . That was Duo Maxwell's email address. There was the usual upbeat greeting from the former pilot of Deathscythe, and a brief account of his days at the Catholic Church. Heero dashed off a quick reply, once more wishing his friend and his efforts at the church well. As usual he refrained from asking Duo Maxwell when he was going to stop playing at priest and come back to earth. He also refrained from admitting how much he missed Duo's presence.
He signed off and ate his lunch.
Heero sat on the examination table waiting for Sally Po to return from the Preventer dispensary. When she returned she handed him a couple of small white tablets. Heero eyed the pills as if they were suspects. "What are these?"
Sally was used to his terse manner and sometimes abrasive tone. She gave him a small smile. "I know how you feel about drugs, agent. These are merely prescription strength ibuprofens, for the discomfort you may be experiencing from your dislocated shoulder. I heard you shattered the door you battered through."
He grunted, slightly amused by the almost rhyme. "It's just a dislocation-there is no need for all of this fuss."
"Nevertheless, Une wanted you checked out; it's my job, you know? Otherwise, where would I wear my nifty white coats?" She grinned at him. "You're all set Heero. Une's given you a few days off-not negotiable."
More time off; that was all he needed.
Heero sighed heavily, knowing there was no sense in arguing. Po couldn't help him with that anyway.
He pulled on the kaki work shirt all agents were required to wear and left the office, buttoning it. The pain of his dislocated shoulder faded to the background. J had made him impervious to pain. All the same if the situation occurred again, he might think twice about bashing in a door with his shoulder.
Sally watched him walk down the corridor, shaking her head.
Heero put more hours in than any other agent. Obviously he had nothing better to do.
There was a lonely young man.
Heero lounged on his sofa, drinking a beer. His first day off in, well...ever, and he was doing absolutely nothing.
He pondered this.
It occurred to him that he might consider traveling. There were plenty of destinations that interested him. One in particular: Hawaii.
Heero had seen an ancient BC film once about the Hawaiian Islands and surfing and thought it would be interesting to learn the sport. At the very least he would enjoy swimming in the ocean and maybe take a tour of a volcano.
As appealing as the idea was, it was unappealing to plan such a thing for himself alone.
The last traveling he had done prior to his involvement with the wars had been with Odin Lowe. It had not been recreational. He hesitated to think of him as a mentor, but he had learned a great deal from the assassin.
When he was with Odin Lowe, they would travel the colonies, Odin posing as his father, and he, a nameless son.
He had had parents, but he'd been led to believe that they were dead. Lately he had begun to question the veracity of this. He had never been shown any death certificates.
No known relatives had ever been contacted on his behalf.
He did not even recall the circumstances that had led him to Odin, he'd been that young. It hardly mattered, the way things had turned out. And yet, the thought that his parents could still be alive niggled at him.
If they were alive though, he thought that it would be best to leave them be as opposed to upending their lives, especially by a son they did not know who began his career as a terrorist. He hardly thought that his current peacekeeping career could dilute his past-at least to those who truly knew nothing of him. Some things were better left alone.
Before Odin died he advised him to act on his emotions, but Heero had never been clear about what he had meant. It wasn't as if Odin had been affectionate or chatty, he had been a ruthless assassin, the one who Heero theorized killed the man for whom he was given his code name, a man who stood for peace. Heero actually felt some anger about the senselessness of that kill. Killing men of peace never made sense to him. He did not understand mankind's inherent desire to destroy itself.
Yet ultimately, he joined the Preventers. In three days' time it would be his fifth anniversary of employment with the peacekeeping agency. He was ambivalent about celebrating the day, but it was a day to celebrate that he could call his, as his birthday was unknown.
His five years with the Preventers had not been carefree. Heero had had to do a little soul-searching before he accepted the invitation from Sally Po and Chang Wufei. Did he really want to wield a weapon again after the wars and his part in them? He had done things that had made him seem cold and unemotional, but Heero had longed for justice, more so than Wufei and in the end he concluded that it was only right he help to keep the peace so hard won.
Five years that saw his development into Une's and the organization's top agent. Five years that required he complete an accelerated college course of study from which he graduated at the top of his class, with honors and a Masters degree in both criminology and political science.
Five years, two of which he endured the repetition of the agent training program, which was beneficial as it schooled him not only in procedure and elements of law enforcement, but also provided him with some insight when dealing with the public. He had become much more approachable and amenable in the last year or so.
His stoic demeanor belied his true nature. He was highly introspective, constantly examining his feelings and motivations. He did have a sense of humor contrary to popular belief; at least Trowa Barton got his rare jokes. But mostly, he had learned to be more sympathetic, despite his impersonal manner.
Said impersonal manner had a reason. Heero, despite the social strides he'd made was a lonely young man. He was in fact, pining.
The object of his longing was no other than Duo Maxwell.
Heero crossed the floor in a hurry, the phone was ringing off the hook and he had been indisposed in the bathroom. He picked the phone off of the console, flipping the vid switch off as he did so. He was not in the mood for visual contact tonight. "Hello?"
"Heero? Hello, it's Relena. How are you?"
Heero rolled his eyes, glad she couldn't see him do it. He never understood why she always acted surprised when he answered his own phone. It was not as if he had a roommate or something, she knew he lived alone. "I am fine, Relena, and you?"
"Very well, thank you Heero. I heard that you were on leave-were you injured?"
Only someone with Relena's political credentials could ascertain private information like this. It annoyed him, but he shoved it aside and forced himself to be civil. "It was a minor injury, Relena-but thank you for your concern, I...appreciate it."
He thought he heard her sigh her relief. It was sweet, really, but he knew she had harbored feelings for him since they were in their early teens; he could not return the sentiment. He tried very hard to keep things between them neutral.
"Heero-I understand it is your fifth year with the Preventers, or at least it will be in a couple of days. I thought it might be nice if you and I went out to dinner, and maybe a movie? I know you wouldn't want a fuss, like a party, but dinner between two friends? What do you say?"
This was a surprise. It actually sounded kind of nice. He supposed it wouldn't do any harm to accept. "That sounds acceptable, Relena, thank you."
The restaurant was one of Heero's favorites and it surprised Relena that he liked Italian food so much. He ordered pasta primavera, wanting to go easy on the calories and they shared a house salad with oil and vinegar. Relena had the fish special, a Chilean sea bass with capers. But she ate more salad than fish. Heero knew that when she said her meal was delicious she meant it, she just wasn't a big eater.
She looked quite lovely sitting in the seat across from him in her tailored powder blue silk skirt suit. Her honey colored hair was loose about her head and shoulders giving her an unequivocal feminine appearance. Her makeup was light and the lipstick an understated rose hue.
Heero was glad she had abandoned her signature pink look when she became Vice Minister. Personally he thought she looked far more mature and sophisticated in anything other than pink, or yellow. Nobody looked good in yellow.
Except, maybe Duo. Duo looked good in anything, but for the last few years his signature color was primarily black. Not that Heero had given that much thought to it, but when he was completing his college education, he took a few art courses and developed an understanding of color theory. He wasn't sure about Relena's color choices, usually pastels, but he thought perhaps she selected the colors she did because they flattered her unblemished complexion.
Duo liked black because of the priest who took him in years ago; it was a kind of tribute.
"Are you enjoying your meal, Heero?"
"Yes, thank you. The pasta primavera is very good here. Do you like what you ordered?" He knew she did, he was being polite.
For some reason Relena always made him feel so formal and stiff. He could not relax around her like he could with Lucretia Noin, or Sally Po or even Une. He'd been comfortable around Duo's friend Hilde Schbeiker, too.
Relena always made him feel out of place. That was why he'd resigned as her bodyguard. That and her increasing romantic interest.
"So, Heero, it has been five years since you enlisted as a Preventer. What are your future plans-I mean, how long can you see yourself in this position?"
"I intend to be an agent indefinitely, or until I am killed on the job, whichever comes first."
Relena gasped and her hand flew to her mouth. This was the problem with their little get–togethers; Relena seldom got his jokes. Trowa would be on the floor.
"Oh Heero! Don't say that!" She was sensitive to remarks of this kind; after all, Heero had devastated everyone when he self-destructed at the war's end, an end he brought about by that very action. After months of hospitalization, physical therapy and recovery she spent some time with him when she was able, attempting to convince him of his worth as a person.
He healed rapidly in those months; he shouldn't have lived through the detonation of his Gundam, Wing, and yet he did live and healed extraordinarily quickly and well. Again thanks to J's meddlesome modifications.
For a while Relena had entertained the fantasy that Heero would see how much she cared for him and would confess his love for her. But that hadn't happened and she was done waiting. Some things were not meant to be. She wanted to be his friend, though, but it was nearly impossible to break through that shell.
Sighing, Relena poured herself another glass of the house red. "I'm sorry Heero."
Heero looked over at her. She looked frustrated, not contrite and in any case he did not understand her apology. "What are you sorry for?"
"I think that maybe you did not want to go out with me tonight. I always seem to put you in an uncomfortable position."
"I am not in an uncomfortable position." He refrained from saying that his chair was quite comfortable; he did not think she would get the joke.
"Really? We have been sitting here for about forty minutes and it's as if we were two complete strangers who happen to be sharing a table. I know you talk more than this, so it has to be because of me," she huffed. "So, I'm sorry."
"I don't understand." He really didn't. Relena looked intently at him, the urge to swoon at the sight of those startling blue eyes there, but far weaker than it used to be. "No-I guess you don't." She finished her drink. A pleasantly woozy feeling overcame her. She might as well get it all out in the open. What the hell. "Heero, I don't know if you ever noticed, but I used to have something of an infatuation for you."
Heero snorted, taken off-guard. "Sorry," he said, the ghost of a smile on his face, "but yes, I noticed."
"Hmm. And I don't suppose that you are just painfully shy?"
Heero at least had the grace to look sheepish. "No."
Relena exhaled, the puff of air from it dislodging a lock of hair. It was not the answer she wanted, but it was honest. She poured herself and Heero some more wine. There was something to the so-called Dutch courage, although inwardly she cringed; the Dutch could not possibly like the expression, with its insulting implication.
"I guess it's a good thing I've given up on my crush, yes?"
Heero looked so relieved it would have been insulting, had it not looked so cute on his face. She laughed, a gentle titter. "Oh, Heero. What a twit I've been! You know, I can live without a romance with you. I would like to be friends, though, really."
His eyebrows knit, perplexed. "I was under the impression that we were already friends."
"No, no-that was just a working acquaintanceship. I mean real friends, who do things together, talk, just enjoying each other's company. Like that."
Heero smiled a little. "That would be acceptable."
"Uh-huh. Okay, I have talked a bit. Now it's your turn."
For once Heero returned from being with Relena feeling buoyant. They'd had a nice conversation about work, current events, and then they saw a movie at the Downtown multiplex theater. Heero had actually had fun and that was the first time he could say this. Once she let her hair down, so to speak, Relena was really down to earth and charming. But she was the wrong gender.
At least he had a better friendship with her now.
Duo had been the one to get through to him about the value of friendship.
On the day of his actual anniversary Heero went in to work, not to report for duty, but to collect his paycheck and mail. Heero frequently went on assignments that spanned weeks at a time so he felt more comfortable with his mail going to his office, a more secure environment than his apartment, if that was possible.
Trowa knocked and walked in, grinning. "Five years, eh? Congratulations."
Heero looked up from his mail. "Thank you. It will be your fifth year in January, won't it?"
Trowa shrugged. "I was hoping I could sneak it by Quatre. You know he'll want to do something special."
"Aa. I would think that would appeal to you."
Trowa laughed. Heero grinned at him.
"I meant something in the way of a party."
Heero smirked at him. "So did I."
Trowa shook his head. "I don't understand how people don't get your humor, Yuy."
"Maybe that's because grunts and stoic posturing can only be understood by one who speaks the same language, Barton."
Heero and Trowa turned toward the door in unison.
"Hey, hey! Duo!" Trowa cried, rushing over to give him a hug. "What the hell are you doing here?"
Heero stared at him expectantly awaiting the answer to Trowa's question.
The trademark grin was out in full force. "I heard through the grapevine that Heero here was having an anniversary of sorts, man."
Trowa snorted comically. "You took a shuttle all the way from L2 for that?"
An odd look flitted past Duo's handsome face and but fled as quickly as it appeared. Trowa was looking at his friend, sizing him up very carefully.
"No-not exactly. But it's mostly the reason," Duo said almost with an embarrassed tone.
Heero continued to stare at the handsome man with the ridiculously long braid. It was almost as if he was in a stupor. Duo Maxwell was here, in Brussels. Duo was here.
Just as he was shaking off his torpor, Duo turned toward him, aiming that dazzling smile his way. "Congratulations, buddy."
"Thanks," Heero said.
Trowa rolled his eyes. "Uh-riveting as this reunion is I have to go to court today, my smuggling case is being arraigned. Hey Duo-good to see you man, you will not leave before Quatre gets to see you, right?"
Duo laughed. "Okay-like I would do that to my best friend. Relax Barton and tell your way better half to make time for me tomorrow evening."
Trowa nodded and left Heero's office.
Duo was holding a large carry bag. He dropped it where he stood and walked over to Heero, arms held wide. They hugged briefly and then Duo perched himself on Heero's desk. "So, five years, huh? Congratulations, buddy," he repeated.
Heero colored slightly, embarrassed. "It's not that big a deal. I've just been doing my job."
"And a bang up one at that, I hear," Duo said with a wink. "Say-if you don't have any plans I would like to take you out to celebrate-but first I have to check in to my hotel. I could meet you after work?"
"Oh, uh-I, well, I don't have to, that is, I only came in for my mail, I don't have to work today, and no, I have no plans and you can stay at my place, if you want."
Duo laughed delightedly. "Sounds like a plan."
Duo's idea of celebration included an all you can eat smorgasbord restaurant at which Heero confided in him that he couldn't eat all he could eat. He gave it a valiant effort though.
Then Duo took him to a bar near the downtown area that catered to pool aficionados, and they shared a pitcher of creamy, dark ale.
They got back to Heero's apartment around one a.m. and Heero set Duo up on the fold-out couch in the living room.
As Heero climbed into his bed, woozy with ale but happy, he realized that he truly had had a great time, and that only ever happened with Duo.
Morning came with regrets as Heero rummaged through his medicine cabinet for some aspirin. He rarely drank as much as he had the night before and he wondered how it was that none of J's mods, as he sometimes thought of them, came with a quick hangover cure. He looked at his slightly red eyes in the mirror and shrugged. That's what comes from getting carried away.
As he passed through the hallway he suddenly remembered his overnight guest. Heero thought that Duo would probably be amused to find him hungover, Shinigami probably never succumbed. But as he drew closer to the sofa bed he noted that the only visible part of Duo showing over the blanket was his braid. And there was some groaning.
"Ugh, don't scream at me Heero, I have a couple of angry leprechauns dancing a jig upside my skull!"
Heero could not help the laugh that escaped his lips. "I thought you could hold your liquor, Maxwell."
"I would hardly call Communion wine liquor. And please stop shrieking."
Heero nodded mostly to himself as he returned to the medicine cabinet.
Duo had been living at St. Brigitte's Roman Catholic Church for the past three years. He had gone to live with Hilde Schbeiker after the wars were over, and together they ran Hilde's salvage business. But after a few months Duo had realized that he would rather be doing something else: first he gave the Preventers a try but decided that he had had enough of the violence to last him a lifetime, then he worked with his friend Howard for a while with the Sweepers, but that wasn't the right fit either. Finally he returned to L2 and found St. Brigitte's. He seemed most fulfilled helping out at the church with repairs and helping with the orphanage. Duo had a soft spot for orphans, having been one himself. He totally empathized with the children.
Duo kept in touch with all of his friends faithfully. Heero had resigned himself that Duo was inextricably linked with the church, so this visit, the first since he'd left for Hilde's was curious, to say the least. Especially since the reason he'd given had at least a little to do with Heero.
Duo accepted the pain relievers and a glass of water gratefully. "Whew! I guess I just can't drink the way I used to. What about you, buddy-feeling any pain?"
"No-I took a few aspirin when I woke up. Do you want breakfast?"
Duo groaned and fell back against the sofa bed. "No," he squeaked.
Heero laughed again. It seemed he laughed most when Duo was around. "Want to do something today?"
Duo answered with a muffled, "don't you go into work?"
"I have some time off. I wasn't going to take it, but now that you are here..."
Duo sat up and smiled at him. "That would be great. Oh, but I do have to make sure I see Quatre."
"When were you planning on leaving Brussels?" Heero hated asking. He knew Duo could not stay for long, but...
"Um, well, that's a funny thing. See, I left the church, and I am kinda at loose ends."
Heero's eyes widened at that. This was the best possible news and if he wasn't so hungover he might actually have cheered.
Duo was very happy that Heero invited him to stay as long as he liked. In truth he had been a little anxious about his welcome, having been gone so long. It was true he had kept in touch frequently, but it really wasn't the same as being there.
But Heero had surprised him with the invitation to stay. Heero had surprised him in other ways as well.
He was much more relaxed and amiable. Duo noticed his manner with others was a lot less stiff and aloof, not that Heero acted superior; he was just shy. And he was a bit more talkative. Duo had been amused by his account of his celebratory dinner with Relena a few nights ago. He had also been secretly relieved when Heero recounted the part of the evening where they had discussed the lack of attraction Heero had for her.
Three years of finding himself and atoning for past transgressions and hiding from his crush on Heero had done him little good. The moment he'd come into contact with Heero all the old longings and desires had resurfaced with a vengeance.
Like it or not, he was done hiding. All he had to do now was to figure out what to do about how he felt about Heero Yuy.
Duo was feeling pleasantly full on humus and tabouli and lamb. Quatre remembered how much he liked those foods. He also remembered Duo's favorite carbonated vice: Coca Cola.
After dinner they decided to sit out on the balcony of Quatre's penthouse. Heero and Trowa and Wufei had retired to the screening room to watch a movie.
Quatre was sipping at a cup of tea. He looked at Duo and smiled. "I'm so glad you have returned, Duo. You really left the church?"
Duo shrugged. "Yeah-it was time, ya know?"
"I think you had us convinced that you were going to enter the priesthood, my friend."
Duo laughed. "Catholics are very forgiving, but I'm not sure about their policies concerning Shinigami and priesthood."
Quatre frowned fleetingly, and then said, "That was part of your persona during the war-we all had to have something that could help us do what we had to. We were kids, for Allah's sake."
"But you believed in the cause, Quat-I just wanted revenge."
Quatre shook his head. "Whatever the case, the mad five totally took advantage of us, our youth and for some of us, our damaged lives. It was completely unethical, what they did."
Duo shrugged again. "Water over the bridge, I guess."
Quatre's expression softened. He hadn't wanted to distress his friend. "Yes it is," he graciously agreed. "I'm still happy you're here. So, any idea what you want to do now?"
Duo stretched his arms above his head and groaned at the feeling of muscles tightening slightly. He needed to get back into shape; the church and the kids had softened him a bit. "I don't have any idea. But Heero seems to be willing to let me mooch off him awhile," he said with a nervous chuckle.
Quatre eyed him knowingly. "Still?"
Duo just grinned sheepishly. "Can't dictate to the heart, ya know?"
Quatre's response was a delicately uplifted eyebrow.
Duo yawned as he walked into the kitchen. Heero handed him a cup of coffee. He took a careful sip only to find that it was the perfect temperature and was slightly sweet with a hint of cocoa, just the way he liked it. He smiled his thanks at Heero. "It's perfect buddy."
Heero gave him a quick shy smile in return. "I made scrambled eggs-if you're interested."
Duo sat down with a plate of eggs and grabbed a piece of toast from a stack on a plate on the table. It warmed him, this nascent domesticity with Heero.
He had been at Heero's place for nearly three weeks. The first week was a lot of fun because Heero had had the week off from his job at Preventers. In that time they went to a basketball game at the international sports arena in the heart of metropolitan Brussels, seen three action adventure movies and went to an exhibit at the premiere opening of the Brussels Museum of Science and Space.
For Duo it was as good as things got, but if he was going to stay he needed to find a job, something productive; the last thing he wanted was to be a burden to Heero.
In the evenings, Heero would return home from work to find that Duo had cleaned up (not that Heero was very messy), and made dinner. It was something Heero could get used to, having Duo around, though he did not necessarily need him to do all those chores all of the time.
Heero just really liked Duo's company.
But how to advance things? And was that even possible? He wasn't sure if Duo even liked men; there was what appeared to be that flirtation with Duo's friend Hilde. Perhaps he could find out from Duo why that did not work out.
When they had gone to see Quatre and Trowa, Heero thought that Trowa might be dropping hints about whether or not Duo was interested in taking their friendship further, but Heero never assumed things and had not wanted to pursue the notion with Duo and Quatre chatting nearby. Besides, he was paralyzed with the fear of rejection. Duo had just come back into his life and Heero would do nothing to chase him away.
Heero set down his mail on the hallway console and removed his jacket to hang it up. When he returned to the console table he sorted through a couple of envelopes. One of them had the stamped return address from the law office that took care of J's will. Heero hesitated. What could possibly be left to do? He had gone and collected his inheritance, paid the corresponding fees and taxes-what more could there be?
He shrugged, silently admonishing himself for being fearful and tore open the envelope. Inside there was a brief note about a property and key that Heero was entitled to as per J's will. There was an address too, on L1.
Heero wanted to just sell the building J left, an old warehouse that had been J's old laboratory and where Heero had received his most severe training, but Duo talked him into taking the trip to L1 to check it out.
Heero agreed to the trip, as long as Duo agreed to accompany him. Little did he know that Duo would do nothing less.
Heero commandeered a Preventer shuttle on his pilot privilege, but he allowed Duo to fly them out. The flight would take thirty-six hours, plenty of time for Heero to wrap his mind around going back to that lab.
Many suppressed memories were associated with the L1 lab. J called it training; anyone else would call it torture. But Heero had been strong, he had endured mental and physical abuse designed to make him into the killing automaton he had been during the war.
Some of his memories were connected to those days.
One in particular, his worst nightmare in fact, was connected to a botched training objective, wherein an innocent was killed.
Heero had met the young girl and her puppy prior to blowing up the military facility. She had asked him if he was lost and gave him a flower.
When he discovered evidence of her presence in the ruins of the military base, it had shattered him and he went back to J openly defiant, only to be forcibly "retrained".
Heero had not gotten over it-not in the years subsequent, not for all the good he'd done enforcing the law and reclaiming his humanity, not even with the help of his friends who knew nothing of the incident.
He was so young when the event occurred that it could be argued that the he imprinted upon the experience, as if it had become one with his cellular makeup.
Duo noticed Heero's preoccupation. "Hey-you okay, buddy?"
Duo frowned. One-word answers were not good-not since Heero had opened up to him and their friends. Something was definitely bothering him but he knew better than to badger him about it. Instead he said, "I am kind of amazed that you haven't asked me what I plan on doing, now that I've left the church."
Duo frowned. Grunts were worse than one-word answers. He watched Heero out of the corner of his eye. He showed signs of being very tense. In a few moments he would be able to engage the automatic pilot. Then he could properly attend to his friend.
Heero watched the slow passage of the shuttle into the inky expanse of space. Stars glittered from a distance, winking uncaringly at him. He was starting to regret consenting to this trip. The idea of stepping foot back in that lab had him on edge. And he had the feeling that Duo had not only picked up on his anxiety, but was planning on addressing it.
Duo made his way to the passenger area of the shuttle using the handholds to propel himself forward. He loved zero g, the weightless feel of floating was fun. Pulling himself into the seat next to Heero he grinned. "You good, Yuy?"
Heero could not help but grin back despite the butterflies tap dancing in his stomach.
"You always liked zero g," Heero observed.
"Yeah. I think I may have been an acrobat in another life."
"You believe in that? Reincarnation?"
Duo shrugged. "Nah-not really. I kind of believe in God, though."
This surprised Heero. "Really? But I thought you didn't believe in God, you said so enough times during the war-remember? In fact if I recall, you said the only god you believed in was the god of death, eh Shinigami?"
Duo cringed a little. "That was pretty arrogant and stupid of me, wasn't it?"
Now Heero shrugged. "You were out for vengeance-and we were just kids. What the hell did we know about anything?" He suppressed a shiver thinking about his early training.
"That's kind of what Quatre said to me when we there that night. Fuck the scientists anyway," he said bitterly. Then he looked over at Heero. "Do you want to know why I left the church?"
This was the second time he posed the question so Heero surmised that it must be important for him to talk about it. "Tell me."
"I was asked to leave."
Heero's eyebrows reached his hairline. He had not expected this answer. "Why?"
Duo laughed at the expression on Heero's face. "Not for the reason you obviously think. Father Lamont-he's the Monsignor at the church; he called me in to his office one day. He thanked me for all the work I'd done there. Then he told me that it was time for me to stop hiding and go out into the world and be the person I really am. He said that I should stop using the church to make me feel better about myself; that that would only come when I admitted who I am and what I really want out of life."
"So you came to earth."
"Yeah. I figured that I can still atone for my sins by doing some good out in the world. Although I have to admit that the old saying about confession being good for the soul has some merit to it."
Heero wasn't sure what he meant by this. "So what are you going to do?"
"I don't know. Maybe, maybe I can go to school and earn a teaching degree. I'd like to help kids somehow."
Heero smiled. "You'll be great at it."
Duo's answering smile lit the cabin. "You think so?"
"Hn. If you need the money for tuition I can handle that."
"Oh yeah," Duo said enthusiastically, " you're stinkin' rich now, ain't ya?"
Duo had been flabbergasted to hear of Heero's inheritance from J. Flabbergasted and acutely aware of how much his friend wanted the information kept quiet. Duo felt a bit honored to be trusted with such a life-changing secret. He wondered why the crazy old man had done it, there had to be some reason. In fact, he was suspicious of J's posthumous intentions.
"I don't hold a candle to Winner," Heero said.
Duo laughed. "Trowa was right, you do have a good sense of humor."
Heero was oddly pleased by this. The conversation had lightened his mood. So much so that he felt like sharing. "I am not comfortable going to this warehouse."
"So I gathered."
"It was J's lab, it was where I trained."
Heero told Duo about the girl. As painful as that was he was willing to share it; less so with telling how he was trained. He did tell Duo a few things, things that had the long-haired man clenching fists in anger.
"Bastard," Duo grated out. But when he offered to turn the shuttle around Heero declined. "Perhaps I need the...closure."
The sleep cycle came soon enough and bunking near each other rendered their sleep peaceful and dreamless.
They awoke simultaneously and Heero, quite off guard from having been asleep said, "my nightmares have disappeared since you came back."
Heero wanted to pretend that he was half asleep and muttering gibberish but given the emotional upheaval he'd been experiencing since J's will was read he just did not have the energy for it. Let Duo make what he would of it.
When Heero did not reply Duo said, "I have been agonizing over telling you something. I was hiding-from you."
Heero looked at him. Duo was a little pale and he was wringing his hands nervously. For a panicked second he thought that maybe Duo was about to tell him that he was terminally ill or something. "It's okay, Duo. You can tell me anything."
Duo tried a smile but it looked sickly. "I'm afraid."
"That you'll hate me."
"I could never hate you."
Duo snorted. "You did in the war."
"I hated myself back then," Heero said, nervous and exasperated. "Would you just tell me, please?"
Duo took a deep breath and let it out in a huff. "I came back because I wanted to be with you. I love you, Heero."
Heero blinked. He was uncertain as to what he'd just heard. He thought that Duo had just admitted to being in love with him. All he could stammer out was, "w-what?"
By now Duo was a nervous wreck. And was Heero really asking him to repeat that? He cleared his throat. "I love you, Heero Yuy. As in, in love. With you."
Still Heero did not speak. Duo was beginning to get annoyed. "Look, after the Eve wars, and Marie Maia, you went off with Relena for a while. It broke my heart so I took Hilde up on her offer at the scrap yard. I didn't really like it so I joined Howie and then ultimately I ended up at the church where I assumed I could get over you. You're all caught up. Can you say something now?"
Heero began to laugh. It started out as a low chuckle and then grew into great guffaws. Incensed, Duo grabbed a handhold and floated to the galley.
The grin slid right off of Heero's face. Grabbing a handhold he went after Duo. "Duo, wait!"
The shuttle was small so it did not take long for him to get to the galley. Duo was floating above the counters eating a piece of a bagel. Heero wondered at the fact that Duo could go from furious to hungry so quickly.
He floated in place, wary of coming too close now that he'd made Duo angry. His mouth curved upward in a smile, he could not help it. Duo, seeing it, thought that Heero had come to mock him. "What do you want now? My humiliation isn't enough?"
Heero tried to look contrite but judging by the look on Duo's face, he hadn't quite mastered it. "I'm sorry, Duo."
"Ya stomp on my heart an' yer sorry?" Duo's L2 accent tended to come out when he was upset.
"I am sorry, Duo. I wasn't laughing at you, I swear."
Heero sighed. "You ought to know that I have some trouble with talking about feelings. I was very happy about what you just said."
"You were?" Duo eyed him warily.
"Yes. I have the same feelings-for you."
Duo's eyes went wide. Then they narrowed suspiciously. "This isn't part of this fabulous new sense of humor of yours, is it?"
Heero kicked off the wall so that he could drift closer to Duo. "No," he said in a low voice. "I feel the same-I love you too."
It was Duo's turn to be speechless. Heero reached out for him. Gathering him in his arms he said, "this is supposed to be the part where we share our first kiss."
Later, tucked cozily together in one bunk, Duo's head resting on Heero's chest he sighed, "god Heero, I almost died when I thought you were making fun of me."
Heero stroked the back of Duo's head reveling in the feel of his silken hair. "I said I was sorry. But I am glad we worked it out," he said, grinning.
They had worked it out all right, with a very hot bout of lovemaking, difficult in zero g, but not impossible.
There were going to be other things they would need to work out like what Duo was going to do in the future, but at present all Heero could do was lie with Duo in his arms, in utter bliss. He pulled Duo back on top of him and kissed him hungrily. Duo responded in kind, having spent so long deprived.
In a few hours they would be on L1 and they would deal with the lab together.
The reflectors were on and simulated sunshine lit the streets of L1. It was a nice colony to live in if you hadn't been raised by terrorists and mad scientists. But it was rather chilly as well, the colony following the earthside weather patterns. The powers that be said it was for continuity's sake but Duo just thought it was dumb; a colony wasn't earth, it could have its own rules. He zipped the neck of his parka closed as he waited for Heero to call a taxi.
Heero looked straight ahead in the taxi. As luck would have it the route to the industrial area passed the place of Heero's nightmare. He thought that maybe before they left he would buy a rose and place it near where it happened, a poor tribute, perhaps, but sincere.
At last they reached the street where the lab stood. It looked like an ordinary gray concrete warehouse, not at all like the confinement where a young terrorist had been made. Duo looked up at the high frosted widows, they were barred, and shuddered. Heero looked at him. "You don't have to go in with me. I won't be long."
Duo shook his head. "No way am I letting you go in there alone."
Heero held the key. "Come on then, let's get this over with."
He had expected to see a lot of the old equipment: computers and vials, medical equipment and books and the devices with which he had been controlled. The space was virtually empty. Except for a box in the middle of the floor.
Heero approached the box as if it were an explosive. Duo was right there with him giving it a once over. "Not a bomb," he guessed. "Just an old box."
Heero looked at him and Duo nodded his encouragement, so he lifted the box up. It was light. He opened it. There was a sheet of paper folded in thirds and a photograph.
He unfolded and read the note: "Heero, if you are reading this then I am dead. I expect you may have been surprised to have been named my beneficiary. I owed it to you. You see, I do realize the price I made you pay to be the perfect soldier. I do not hope for forgiveness, but please know that I am sorry for what I put you through. One thing more; I had to know that you could have the last scrap of humanity removed from your soul. There was a war that had to be won and we needed you to be unemotional in order to do what needed to be done. For that alone I will most likely suffer eternal damnation if there is such a thing. But I misled you in order to accomplish this. The girl-the one you thought you killed accidentally, she was unharmed. I planted the evidence you found, let you think that your actions had resulted in the death of an innocent child. It did not. The picture in this box is of her, her name is Mariko. You will see the veracity of my words when you look at the photo. I watched you after the wars, saw the good man you had become and I knew I had to put this right somehow. I hope I succeeded. Farewell, Heero.
"Holy, fucking shit!" Duo exclaimed.
The paper fell from Heero's fingers as he dropped to his knees on the gritty cement floor. He curled into a ball and then great wracking sobs came from within the deepest place in him, where he'd grieved a mistake it turned out he never made.
Duo watched his new lover as years of grief and pain were released with the most heart wrenching sounds imaginable. He knelt next to him and wrapped his arms around Heero as best as he could. "Let it out, baby. Goddamn J that rat bastard!"
After a long while Heero subsided, exhausted. He let Duo hold him and he felt safe in his arms, for the first time in his life. "God, " he croaked, "no wonder I held my emotions in check so long-that was just horrible."
"Yeah," Duo agreed. "But, hey, at least you can stop believing that you killed that girl, huh?"
Heero picked up the photo. The woman in it looked to be about nineteen years old, pretty, and she did look like what the girl would look like if she was older. "I want to believe this," he said.
"What-do you think it's a trick?"
"I don't think so. J left me a lot of money..."
"Yeah, it makes sense now-he felt guilty," Duo concluded. Heero nodded and let himself rest against Duo a moment longer. After a while they both rose to their feet.
Back in the shuttle, on their way to earth Duo asked, "so what do you plan on doing with the building?"
"I think I'll donate it to your church-they can sell it and make good use of the money."
"Do you want to find Mariko?"
Heero looked at Duo surprised that he had read his thoughts so clearly. But he would not search for her. It was enough to know that she was living her life. Just like he planned to do; live a new life full of possibilities with Duo.