in Paradise + Part 10
Zechs paced slowly through
the mobile suit hangar, pretending not to notice how heads turned and
silence trailed in his wake. They were still a bit unsure of him.
Not that he particularly blamed them for that. He'd departed Oz most spectacularly,
after all, shedding not only his rank but his very identity as well. Then
he'd gone wandering among the colonies, searching for a cause, a concrete
belief on which to take a stand.
He hadn't found one.
He'd returned to Earth at the news of the attack on the Sank kingdom,
hoping to at least protect his sister, but managing only to engage in
another test of skill with Heero Yuy.
Zechs admired the younger pilot, but more than that, he envied him. Heero
knew where he stood, what he was fighting for. All the Gundam pilots had
what Zechs knew he lacked: the courage of their convictions.
Zechs scowled viciously, thinking of what had been done to the driven
young man. He didn't envy those vicious idiots who had done it. Treize
respected the Gundam pilots even as Zechs did, and took his honor very
seriously. As a prisoner of Oz, Heero had been under Treize's protection.
Those fools would learn the price of besmirching Treize's honor.
Zechs sighed. It didn't really matter what Treize did to them, though.
The damage had been done, by vindictive bullies looking for someone to
blame for their unhappiness.
That wasn't what Oz soldiers were supposed to be.
But the younger, newer men... They had never known Treize, as the original
Specials had. They had an idea of Treize, but it was tailored to their
own beliefs and desires.
Oz had gotten too big. It was no longer a force for change, but a destructive
juggernaut, simply rolling over and crushing any opposition. Even the
Gundams could only do so much. Powerful as the machines were, and dedicated
to the point of suicide as their pilots were, there were still only five
of them. And the cause for which they fought so valiantly seemed to have
gone up in smoke some months back.
As things stood now, the remnants of Treize's force that hadn't already
returned to his side would either do so or be wiped out easily by Oz's
ever-swelling numbers, and the Gundams... Well, Zechs rather thought they
would fight until they couldn't any longer, but at this rate, the great
machines would be dragged down, worn down by superior numbers, not defeated
in glorious personal combat. And once the Gundams were gone... You needed
two sides to have a war.
It would end by default, with no one strong enough to oppose Treize.
That wasn't the sort of fight Zechs had signed on for. And, he was certain,
it wasn't the sort of victory Treize wanted.
Zechs came to a halt at the feet of Epyon, the massive machine gleaming
malevolently in the hangar lights.
He wondered how differently things might have turned out if he'd taken
Quinze up on his offer all those months ago. Would he have found the strength,
the resolve, to defy Treize? Or would he only have expedited the return
of the Oz soldiers within White Fang to Treize's command?
He didn't know. He never would. He'd ignored Quinze's request, choosing
to take some time to try and figure out where he stood on his own.
And in the end, aimless and confused, he'd returned to Treize's side,
to the only clear path he'd ever known. He'd been too long gone from Sank,
seen too much in his short life. He could no longer embrace his father's
ideals as Relena could, in her innocence. He was a warrior, first by necessity,
now by choice.
Treize had welcomed him back like the prodigal son. Or perhaps like a
favorite dog, who'd strayed, but finally found its way home.
Yes. That fit. Treize's prize hound. As Heero put it, Treize's most loyal
But how was a servant, a hound, to alter the course of events? How could
he return things to how they ought to be, how could he set this war back
on the path it should have taken?
He didn't know.
"Baka. I told you how. I even gave you the means to do it."
Zechs stared up at Epyon.
Zechs frowned in thought, and climbed slowly up to the catwalk at Epyon's
cockpit level. He stared into the darkness for a moment, and until his
eyes adjusted he entertained the brief whimsy that the entrance led not
to a cockpit, but an endless black abyss.
It gazes also...
Zechs climbed in and seated himself, closing the cockpit so he was sealed
in silence and shadow.
If Heero couldn't control it, perhaps... it can't be controlled? Perhaps
Epyon requires... a more passive approach.
"I don't understand how he thinks."
But... I do. I do.
Zechs reached out and touched the controls, bringing the guidance system
to life with a soft hum. He set the control helmet on his head, settled
back in his seat... and began to listen.
Wufei slid through the shadows of the base, trying to keep Duo in sight.
The American was just slightly more adept at skulking about unnoticed,
and kept getting further ahead. Wufei could hardly call Duo back, either,
since they were deep inside the massive base already.
Getting in had actually been remakably easy, since they'd left their Gundams
some kilometers distant. Wufei had some experience with sneaking into
Oz bases, and Duo had plenty of experience with breaking and entering.
Between the two of them they'd snuck past guards, hot-wired alarms, and
played merry hell with the surveillance system. In the last guard station
they'd ghosted past, there had been a very loud argument going on as to
why every camera circuit on the fourth level seemed to be looped to the
feed from the monitor outside the women's bathroom. The shift supervisor
had been unimpressed with the guards' protestations of innocence.
Wufei and Duo had shared a conspiratorial smile and moved on to the stairs
down to the second sub-level.
Now that they were here, though, on the floor that actually housed prisoners,
Duo just couldn't seem to restrain himself to Wufei's more cautious pace.
Wufei sighed softly and shook his head. He couldn't blame the boy, he
supposed, but he also couldn't understand why Duo was breezing past all
these cells without even checking. The actual cell number where Trowa
and Heero were being held had not been included in the information Wufei
was able to hack without setting off alarms. Heero probably would have
been able to do it, but none of the rest of them could quite match the
Japanese boy's computer skills.
Duo seemed confident of his destination, though. Wufei just shook his
head. He'd known he would have to be the practical one on this mission.
He halted before a cell door and slid back the observation panel, checking
Shrugging, he moved on to the next cell.
That one and five more after it were also unoccupied. A less patient man
might have given up at that point and just followed Duo's lead, but Wufei
believed in being thorough. He was not, as Maxwell had occasionally
suggested, just anal-retentive.
Sniffing in irritation at the very thought, Wufei pulled back the panel
on the eighth cell he'd come to.
His eyes widened briefly in surprise and amazement, then a small smirk
twisted his lips.
It always paid to be thorough.
Duo wandered silently down the semi-darkened corridors, passing cell after
cell without even pausing to look in.
Wufei would be carefully checking them all anyway, on the off chance that
Duo was incorrect in his destination.
He couldn't explain what urged him to pass by all these cells. Logically,
he acknowledged that Heero and Trowa could be in any one of them, and
he ought to follow Wufei's meticulous example, and not his own strange
But hell, if Quatre could formulate his (usually) excellent battle plans
around his ‘feelings', then Duo could run a rescue operation based on
Besides, they didn't have any time to spare, so on the off chance Duo's
instincts were leading him in the right direction, it was worth a shot.
At the very least, they eliminated one more cell.
His light steps slowed as he neared the end of the corridor. Somewhere
along here... he was pretty sure... It just felt right.
Felt right... Duo bit his lip nervously, wondering what this reunion would
be like. He missed Heero like an amputee misses a limb. The Japanese boy
had become a part of Duo, and being without him... Well, Duo knew withdrawal
when he felt it. His body craved Heero's touch, his heart needed to feel
Heero's love warming him, keeping him safe...
And Trowa... Duo was worried about the tall pilot. Trowa had not been
himself before the fight, and he had no idea how Heero had handled that.
Or if Heero had handled it. Trowa had a very bad habit of repressing his
emotions behind his mask of stoic implacability, and Heero wasn't likely
to even realize anything was wrong if that was what Trowa had done.
Heero would be okay. As long as the Japanese boy wasn't dead, Duo wasn't
too worried about him. He'd probably be a little banged up, but Heero
could take a lot of punishment without batting an eye. He was strong,
he'd be fine.
But Trowa... Trowa was strong, too, of course, but... there was something
fragile inside him, that made Duo just want to wrap Trowa up in his arms
and hold him close, protect him from the world. Not that Trowa was likely
to allow such a thing. The tall pilot liked his freedom, and Duo understood
that. But Trowa... Trowa had needed him, back at the mansion, and they
hadn't had time...
We'll make time, Duo decided firmly. I'm going to drag him out
of that shell of his if it's the last thing I do. Heero will help me,
His mind produced the memory of Heero smirking in the doorway of Trowa's
It was kind of funny, Duo had reflected over the past few days, how Heero
had so easily accepted Duo's attraction to Trowa. He knew that Heero understood
he was attracted to the taller boy, but Heero's accepting grins and smirks,
his utter lack of protest or jealousy, had Duo somewhat confused. After
that performance back at the cabin, he'd expected a certain amount of
possessiveness from the Japanese boy, but Heero hadn't acted that way
at all, lately.
Duo had wondered what it meant when a person who'd been possessive suddenly
decided he didn't mind sharing.
And he'd also wondered, very late at night, remembering meaningful looks
between the two that he'd dismissed at the time, exactly how close Heero
and Trowa were. What exactly had gone on between them when they'd traveled
together after the Noventa disaster?
What exactly did Heero and Trowa mean to each other? And what did he mean
to either of them?
Duo frowned, pausing in the hall to shake off the cumbersome doubts that
had left dark shadows under his eyes for the past few days. He was only
worrying because they weren't there with him, to reassure him that it
was all real. He was only worrying because it was all too good to be true.
He was only worrying because the other shoe was still hovering up there
Baka, Duo chastised himself. You're wasting time. Trowa needs
you, you need Heero, so quite shuffling your feet and get on with it.
As soon as you find them, everything will be okay again.
Nodding firmly in agreement with himself, Duo stepped forward... and halted,
looking at the door in front of him.
Had that been a soft groan he heard, coming from the other side?
Yes, definitely a groan. And definitely Heero's voice. God, was he hurt?
How badly would Heero have to be hurt to groan like that?
Certain of his identification, and more than a little frantic with sudden
concern, Duo quickly picked the lock, habit alone holding him to near
silence as he worked. Finally, the door swung open, just as another groan
emanated from within, light from the hallway spilling over the cot inside...
Trowa looked around in surprise as light spilled into the dim cell from
the doorway. He hadn't heard a key in the lock!
But as his eyes adjusted to the light, Trowa recognized the figure standing
there, staring at the two bodies entwined on the cot.
It wasn't an Oz soldier.
It was Duo.
Oh, this has to look good, Trowa thought bleakly to himself,
studying Duo's expressive face for clues as to what the braided boy thought
of the scene he'd walked in on.
Duo's eyes were wide, his jaw slack in surprise and amazement. A shadow
of worry was fading from the violet eyes even as Trowa watched, being
slowly replaced by... fear?
"Duo," Trowa said softly.
The violet eyes locked onto Trowa's steady gaze like a lifeline. "Trowa,"
Duo replied, a weak smile tugging at his lips. "I guess you had some time
to think, huh?" he asked, obviously trying for a light tone.
Okay, I suppose that answers that question, Trowa thought bleakly.
Beneath him, Heero groaned again, and insistently ground himself against
Trowa's pelvis, momentarily blanking out all rational thought in the taller
pilot's mind. Heero, quite obviously, had not yet noticed Duo's presence.
He was somewhat preoccupied.
Cursing quietly to himself as he swam back up from the swirling sea of
sensation that was threatening to drown him, Trowa wondered what the best
course of action would be. It really wouldn't be fair to Heero to rush
things, not now, but...
"Um, not to rush you or anything, but we're sort of on a schedule," Duo's
strangled voice observed from the doorway.
Trowa cursed silently again. Of course they were on a schedule!
Here was Duo, trying to rescue him and Heero, and Trowa was contemplating
prolonging the moment? You were right about one thing, Heero, sex does
fuck up your priorities.
"Right," Trowa muttered, quickly taking stock of Heero's and his own readiness.
Nodding clinically, he gave a few more sharp thrusts of his hips, and
it was all over.
Trowa collapsed on top of Heero, gasping slightly as he pressed his forehead
to Heero's cheek. "Heero," he murmured. "Heero, Duo's here. He's come
to get us out. Ready to go?"
His message delivered, Trowa raised his head to look down at Heero's face...
and suddenly realized what he'd been missing all along.
Heero's face had gone completely blank.
Heero was terrified.
Shit! Trowa thought. What have I been thinking about? This was
only a part of it, just a little tiny part... He's used to torture, used
to being hurt, but he's not used to being loved! He doesn't understand
it, doesn't understand... Heero's words came back to him.
"I think... he would do a lot of things he didn't want to, or didn't
like, if it was for me. I don't know why, but... he would."
You don't know why... he would want you. You don't know why you're
worthy of that. And when this happened, you worried... you were afraid
you'd hurt him. God, I should have seen it then... it's all about
him, isn't it Heero? Not just the fear that you hurt him, but that...
you're not good enough. That he won't want you anymore.
You know you love him... but you don't know that he loves you.
"Heero," Trowa said softly, staring intently into the shadowed blue eyes.
"Hn," Heero grunted skeptically, but he sat up when Trowa did, the taller
boy quickly yanking his pants up as he slid off the bed.
Trowa walked over to Duo, who smiled weakly at him. Duo seemed to be dazed,
like he was in shock. Probably is.
"Duo," Trowa murmured softly, when they were only inches apart. He didn't
embrace the shorter boy, wanting the eye contact between them to convey
the seriousness of his words. "Heero "
"Is ready to go," Heero interrupted sharply from right behind Trowa. Trowa
turned to look down at the Japanese boy, and Heero returned his look flatly,
a determined set to his lips. Trowa frowned in disapproval. You idiot,
if we don't explain, don't you know what he'll think? Trowa wanted
But of course, Heero didn't know. Heero never had understood Duo's insecurity.
"Let's just get out of here first," Heero snapped, sliding around Trowa
and Duo and out of the cell. Before Trowa could stop him, Duo moved quickly
after Heero and grabbed the Japanese boy's arm, calling his name softly.
Heero jerked his arm out of Duo's grasp so hard the American almost fell
down. Trowa wished his hands had the sense to cover his eyes, but instead
they foolishly hung limp at his sides as Heero turned on Duo, his face
a mask of defensive anger.
Duo took a step back in reaction to the rage in Heero's expression.
"Don't touch me," Heero warned softly. Trowa watched with oddly detached
calm as Duo's shoulders twitched and then slumped in response to this
Heero backed away down the corridor, watching Duo for a few steps. Then
he turned and began jogging toward the distant sound of Wufei's voice.
Trowa drew breath for the explanation that would clear everything up,
but his throat froze in the face of the look Duo turned on him at that
Confusion. Hurt. Betrayal. It said without words, You took him away
Trowa shook his head in denial of the unvoiced accusation.
Duo simply turned and ran after Heero.
Heero came to an abrupt halt when he turned the last corner and found
Wufei standing there, surrounded by a group of old men.
"Heero! Long time no report," a familiar voice greeted him, accompanied
by the clacking of a mechanical hand.
I want to go back to my cell.
"What are you doing here?" Heero demanded of his erstwhile mentor. The
other four scientists milled around, talking quietly with Wufei, who was
apparently trying to figure out how to expand the rescue mission.
Dr. J shrugged, smiling his oily smile as he stepped closer to Heero.
Involuntarily, Heero took a step backward, and then had to jump quickly
to the side to avoid being run over by Duo.
Duo skidded to a stop, turning towards Heero with a pleading look on his
Pleading? What's he got to be pleading about? Heero wondered.
"Heero," Duo murmured softly, his tone thick with indecipherable emotions...
Heero glanced from the braided boy to Dr. J, who was frowning back and
forth between Duo and Heero.
Kuso. Could this get any worse?
Dr. J could be very... straightforward about removing any potential weaknesses
in his perfect soldier. If Heero showed any sort of emotional dependence
on Duo right now, he might as well stamp potential weakness on
the American's forehead in big red letters. Or maybe, potential target.
So when Duo stepped forward, obviously intending to embrace his lover,
Heero kept his face carefully blank and sidestepped Duo's open arms.
"I told you not to touch me," he growled, watching in confusion and despair
as Duo's eyes widened in shock, shimmering slightly. Why was Duo reacting
so strongly to Heero's behavior? It wasn't like they hadn't spent months
acting this way around each other back at the beginning. Then it was always
Duo reaching out, and Heero slapping his hand away. Of course, things
have changed a lot since then, but...
Heero had never understood why Duo reached out to him. Why he bothered.
Eventually, recently, he'd finally acknowledged his own desire to take
what was offered. But he still didn't understand why it was offered.
What did Duo see in him, anyway?
I'm just a soldier. Just a killer. That's all I ever was, and now...
He'd never been good enough for Duo. But now it was even worse. Now he
was dirty, a thing that had been used... Heero had wondered, for several
days now, if that would disgust Duo. If he would turn away from Heero.
Or, worse, if he would stay... out of pity.
Heero shuddered slightly at the thought.
Duo blinked in surprise, frowning at the shiver. He lifted a hand slightly,
and Heero backed away again.
Suddenly, Duo's expression smoothed into his usual mask of vapid good
nature. He smiled his wide, empty smile at Heero, nodded, and walked away
to join the knot of people surrounding Wufei. Heero watched him go, wary
and confused. Something had just happened between them. He'd just sent
Duo a message.
And he had no idea what it had been.
In the end, Wufei wasn't sure they ever would have made it back out if
it hadn't been for Zechs.
Four Gundam pilots alone, no matter their state of convalescence, were
a lot better at sneaking around than four Gundam pilots with five old
scientists in tow. Wufei had taken the lead with Duo covering the rear,
and they'd moved through the base with their weapons drawn. There was
simply no concealing a group of their size, so anyone that saw them would
simply have to be shot. The odds of them making it out alive if they had
to shoot anyone were not good.
But just as they were approaching the main level of the base and almost
certain detection, suddenly alarms started going off. Emergency lighting
cut in as the florescent lights died overhead, and the sound of boots
pounding along the corridors filled the air in the fire exit staircase
they were climbing. After a few moments, the corridors seemed emptied
of people, though the alarms still blared. Finally, Wufei dared to stick
his head out the door, and found the hall beyond deserted.
From that point on, escaping had been child's play. Providing, of course,
that one was speaking of a child playing with a container of nitroglycerin.
One wrong move still would have gotten them killed, but the confusion
they found on ground level provided ample cover for them to find and steal
a transport truck, loading the doctors and Heero and Trowa in the back.
As Wufei burned rubber away from the base, they observed, beyond the hordes
of running, screaming soldiers and aimlessly wandering mobile suits, the
massive figure of Epyon, green eyes gleaming in the darkness. As they
stared, the huge mobile suit brought its whip down on top of a row of
mobile dolls, sending up a succession of fireballs like a Roman candle.
Zechs voice growled over the external speakers, apparently recruiting
followers for a ‘real war', whatever the deranged aristocrat meant by
Wufei sniffed in irritation. He'd rather liked having all the bad eggs
in one basket, but it seemed Oz was factioning again. Ah well, he supposed
life would be more interesting now.
He raised an eyebrow in surprise when Duo asked him to slow the truck
a bit. He'd turned with a critical comment about Duo's driving on his
lips, but swallowed it in the face of the American's blank expression.
He'd never seen Duo look quite like that, and frankly, he found it unnerving.
Enough so that he began to argue when the American flung open the door
of the still moving vehicle, betraying his intent to jump out. But before
Wufei could even begin to yell, Duo was out and rolling down the soft
grassy shoulder of the road. Wufei cursed, but he really couldn't stop
to drag Maxwell back to the truck, no matter how much he would enjoy it.
They couldn't risk letting any pursuers catch up to them.
Still, he wondered exactly what Duo thought he was doing...
An idea occurred to Wufei, and he glanced at the odometer. Ah. He was
going after Deathscythe. Wufei frowned, still irritated. They could have
come back for the Gundams tomorrow, or any other time...
Finally, he shrugged. Duo was gone, so there was no sense arguing the
point. Wufei could give the American a thorough tongue-lashing when next
He briefly considered pointing out Duo's departure to Trowa or Heero,
but a glance in the rear view mirror showed both pilots asleep on the
Wufei sighed and drove on into the night.
Duo cursed softly under his breath, a steady litany of expletives accompanying
his tromp through the woods as he approached Deathscythe's hiding place.
The occasional explosion from the base still lit the sky every now and
then, but Duo guessed Zechs was long gone by now. The fires were just
getting to fuel and ammo dumps before they could be extinguished.
Finally, Duo arrived at the clearing that held his Gundam, and climbed
wearily up to the cockpit, collapsing into the seat.
"I should have been expecting this," Duo announced grimly to the darkness.
"It was only a matter of time before he figured out he could do better."
Duo closed his eyes, picturing Heero at his most relaxed, his most open...
sleeping beside Duo. The coldly beautiful features softened to delicacy,
the perpetually tousled hair soft beneath Duo's fingers, the long lashes
fanned against a golden cheek...
Duo sighed and opened his eyes, banishing the memories.
"Trowa. You thought about it, didn't you. And you realized you could have
him without the baggage of me. Always knew you were smart."
Duo's mind produced a vivid image of Trowa's face, turned toward the door
in surprise, green eyes wide and warm with passion...
"You never looked at me like that," Duo whispered softly to the memory.
Trowa's head turned back to Heero. "Of course, why would you?" Duo murmured
He settled more deeply into the seat, curling into a ball. "I should know
better by now," he chided himself. "Ask for too much and you always end
up with nothing." He squeezed his eyes shut, one hand gripping at the
arm of the pilot's seat.
"But I've still got you, eh, Shinigami? You and me, we were meant for
each other." Duo chuckled softly in the darkness. "Me and Death, fucking
inseparable," he muttered.
"I'm gonna sleep for a while, partner," he continued after a moment. "Maybe
when I wake up, things will look better, ne?" he asked with a small smile.
Somewhere within the massive machine, metal groaned, a low, mournful sound.
Duo sighed, the smile slipping away. "Yeah," he murmured, "I don't buy
A/N: And...that's it? Damn... Well, I believe I warned you folks it ended
on a bit of an unresolved note. Heh heh... Let's see, Zechs has taken
off with Epyon, Duo's sulking with Deathscythe, Heero's emotionally fragile
and also emotionally retarded, and the wacky docs are back. (White Fang
was holding them prisoner in the series, so I figured when Treize's troops
came crawling back to Oz, they brought the freaks as a please-don't-court-martial-me
present...) I can't really believe I left the story hanging here. Neither
can Shoori. The third part of this trilogy consistently rates in the top
five of her list of Things Aoe Ought To Be Writing. So where does it rank
on yours, folks? I'd love to hear your thoughts!
and if you hold any love for me at all, you will contact Aoe and
tell her you want her to continue this arc. now. please? *sheepish
grin* -- Dacia ^_~
[part 9] [back
to Aoe's fic]