Sequel/Series: Beginning of the "If I Should Die" series.
Summary: Let's say things had turned out a little differently... and,
after several years, the war has finally ended.
Pairings: None in this part.
Rating: Um, PG in this part.
Warnings: AU. ...yes, definitely AU.
THANK YOU DEARLY to my dearest betas, Bronze and my Kitten. You guys rock
so much I'm dizzy.
I Should Die... + Prologue
So You Want to be a Hero
I late? Did I miss any exposition?"
--Buffy the Vampire Slayer
returns to nothing.
*It all comes tumbling down.
*It all returns to nothing.
*It just keeps letting me down...
--Komm, Susser Tod
Peace at last.
Duo let out a whoop of delight and threw open Deathscythe Hell's hatch
almost before he remembered to shut the engines off. As the last of the
power lights flickered off he was nearly to the ground, rappelling down
in bounds from joint to joint down his gundam's legs, barely feeling the
weight of the line as he descended and touched down lightly on the ground.
"It's over!" he hollered, racing towards the crumpled form of Wing Zero.
His short ponytail bounced as he ran. "We did it! War's over!"
Heero crawled out of the slightly-mangled Zero a few seconds before Duo
tackled him. The force of the motion sent them both spinning dizzily,
and Heero found himself bringing his hands up to steady Duo's hips where
the other pilot was clinging to him. "Get off."
"Come on, you sourpuss!" Duo said with a laugh of delight. "We kicked
"Hn," was all Heero deigned to comment, but Duo saw the slight smirk of
triumph threaten his dour demeanor.
Sandrock and Heavyarms landed nearby, and Duo sprang off Heero to spread
the joy. Trowa, the first on the ground, was the next recipient of Duo's
triumphant noise; Duo ignored his confusion and hugged him anyway. "We
won! No more war!"
"Yes," Trowa replied. His smile was much more visible than Heero's.
Quatre was moving a little more slowly to the ground, cupping a bloody
side but still grinning. "Thank Allah it's over!"
Whooping with excitement, Duo let Trowa go--much to the shy boy's relief--and
led Quatre in a manic parody of the tango. "Break out the champagne!"
He dipped Quatre over Sandrock's foot. "There's gonna be a party tonight!"
As Trowa and Heero were very carefully not laughing at the ridiculous
demonstration Quatre and Duo put on, Shenlong descended behind them, finally
settling in the dust.
"Hurry up, pokey," Duo called, and spun his dance partner again.
"Duo, I'm getting dizzy," Quatre giggled giddily, letting the next exaggerated
dance move find him seated on Sandrock's foot. Duo noticed the blond was
a little paler than usual, and grabbed Trowa for the next round of dancing,
despite Trowa's protests.
Finally, Meiran exited the hatch, gracefully springing down to the ground.
"Stop screeching at me, Maxwell."
Duo spun away from Trowa to sweep her up and spin her around, dropping
her feet-first on the ground when it became evident that she did not share
his level of exuberance. "War's over, Mei!" he crowed.
"Yes, Maxwell, I am aware of that." Her smirk echoed Heero's. "The weak
will always be defeated by the strong."
"No moralizing," he told her, shaking a chiding finger, and they joined
the rest of the group. "Whaddya all say we party tonight?"
The response was an overwhelming affirmative. Well, Quatre's was overwhelming,
Duo was running a few minutes
late, as usual, so Meiran already had a table by the time he arrived,
still rubbing the sleep from his eyes.
"What did you want, Maxwell?" She stood as he joined her, a
gesture of politeness left over from her traditional upbringing, and sat
immediately after. Her napkin returned to her lap, and she lifted her
glass of water to take a healthy drink.
"Good morning, Mei-mei!" Duo also took a drink of water, eyeing
the folded napkin at his place as if it were alive. "Is this supposed
to be some sort of animal or something?" He poked at the folds with
his salad fork, looking for a pattern.
"Just pretend you're a civilized creature for once and put it in
your lap, Maxwell." She did not look amused, and raised her menu,
effectively blocking Duo's view of her face.
"What's the fun in that?" he asked with a wink, but snapped
the napkin open and laid it on his lap.
Any further comments either may have had were cut off by the appearance
of the waiter. After he'd taken their orders and made his exit, Meiran
once again gave Duo a steady look. "Why did you ask me to lunch?"
"Can't a guy just ask his fellow ex-soldier to a celebratory meal
without an ulterior motive?" He finished the water in his glass and
smiled at her.
"No," was her calm reply.
"Mou," he pouted, "you're just like Heero sometimes. Sourpuss.
Why can't you emulate Q or me? Even Trowa would be an improvement."
He forestalled her growing ire with a raised hand. "I know, I know,
if I don't get to the point within the next five seconds, you'll leave.
I just wanted to know what you're doing now that the war's officially
She gave him a blank look. "Excuse me?"
"Oh, you know," he said, "Quatre's heading back to his
big company and his family, Trowa's got the circus--which, you know, is
like his family--Heero's shadowing Relena, who's been talking about *making*
him family... heh, I wonder if he's going to stalk her like she did to
him...? ...but no one knows what you're doing." He put his arms behind
his head and stretched. "You know, now that there's no one left to
beat up, how're you gonna figure out where to deliver that justice of
yours?" He did not mention the destruction of L5, and with it, the
last of Meiran's family; she felt absurdly relieved. But, of course, if
there was one thing she had in common with Duo Maxwell, it was that they
both understood loss all too well.
Meiran unfolded her hands from her lap and smoothed back a stray strand
of hair. "If you must know, Colonel Une has discovered a plot led
by that snake Dermail to bring back the authoritarian government. Guided
by this possible threat, she decided to found an organization devoted
to maintaining peace."
"You're gonna work with Psycho-Bitch Une?!" Duo said with a
laugh. "Ms. Multiple Personality herself? No shit?"
"She, Sally Po, and I are co-founding it." There was a bit of
a smirk on her face. "We decided it would be the best way to represent
all sides in this oncoming era of peace. Une is handling the political
aspect, Sally will supervise health issues and biological warfare, and
I am taking care of internal policies. The Earth-Sphere Alliance has already
agreed to sign a contract and give a rather sizeable grant; we are in
the midst of negotiations now."
"No shit," Duo repeated softly. His gaze turned from his lunch
companion's face to the window; it was a beautiful day outside, and people
seemed to be determined to enjoy it and the new peace. "You guys
already have that all worked out?"
"The fighting ended a few weeks ago, and the peace treaty was signed
last week," Meiran pointed out. "There has been plenty of time."
Duo didn't answer. "What will you do after the war?"
"Dunno," Duo said softly, still staring out the window. "I
mean, I don't have any family or nothing, so that's out... no commitments...
the only people I really know that well are you guys, and you've all got
plans..." His lip twitched.
"Surely that floozy who followed you around during the war has extended
an invitation of sorts." Hard to imagine that just a few weeks ago
counted as "during the war;" it already seemed like an entirely
different era. "You can't tell me that your own personal Relena has
given you up."
Duo rolled his eyes. "She's not a floozy, Mei, she's an ex-soldier.
And, yes, Hilde offered me a job in her junkyard, but..." He looked
over at Meiran, who was staring at him not-quite-impassively. "Ever
feel like you're missing something?"
Meiran lowered her eyes to the tablecloth in front of her; it was as white
as her clothes. "No."
Duo nodded and looked back out the window. "Maybe I'll go back to
"What?" he asked, offended. "I'm smart enough!"
"You lack discipline," she said. They waited for a tense moment
while their food was placed in front of them.
"I was disciplined enough to save the world," he said, after
they were alone again.
He scowled. "Well, I'll just have to focus, then, won't I?"
The sudden hostility in his voice surprised Meiran, and she paused with
her fork poised over her plate. Duo paused, a forkful of potatoes in front
of his closed mouth. His eyelids lowered slowly over the overly-intense
glare, and when they re-opened he was calm and pleasant again.
She set her fork down slowly, the food on her plate untouched. "You're
acting strangely, Maxwell."
He took a big bite and grinned at her. "Weren't you the one who told
me I was dropped on my head as a child?"
"You're confusing me with Yuy." She gave him another considering
look before picking her fork up again and beginning her meal.
He was his cheery self throughout the rest of the meal, but Meiran remained
After lunch, Meiran only briefly
considered going back to work with Une before she pulled out her cell
phone and made her excuses. Instead, she headed over to one of the larger,
more heavily-guarded warehouses scattered around the edge of the country--an
hour's drive, by the clock on her car stereo, which continuously ran a
little slow--and slipped past security with an ease that would have infuriated
those in charge. Her target was one of the innermost hangers, filled with
weapons that had been sealed away since the end of the war a few weeks
ago. Keying in the code, she allowed the door to slide shut behind her
as she fumbled a little for the light switch. Fluorescent lights flickered
on around her, reaching to the back of the large room.
Shenlong looked strangely empty under the artificial lighting; Meiran
stared at her gundam, wondering where the spark of glory and life had
gone. Was it just her imagination, or was there something final and abandoned
about the mecha? She climbed up easily and seated herself on its shoulder,
next to the giant head.
"I've paid my debt, Shenlong," she told it. Her voice rang a
little in the bare room, and she continued at a softer level. "I've
done my best to protect the honor of all the people who died for my sake.
I've rid us of this war. Pointless death will now end. Can you forgive
Shenlong remained silent. The room felt like a tomb.
If she closed her eyes, she could see it: herself in that piece-of-crap
Tallgeese, determined to protect the colony; that stupid scholar, running
into the fray like the idiot he'd always been, no mecha or anything; the
field of flowers afterward, where she'd laid his head down and watched
him breathe his last breath. She could feel the dead weight of his head
on her lap as his eyes slid closed that last time. She'd pushed him off
and run back to O to prove her strength as Shenlong's true pilot, and
every time she fought, she could feel his dead weight on her back, or
in her arms, or lying on her thighs, pushing her on. Every time she fought
Treize, she saw her scholar's blood on her hands, staining her clothes
and the ground beneath them. She'd been furious; how dare he die like
that? How dare he pity her while he was the one too weak to move? How
dare he forgive her as he choked on his own blood?
She sighed and relaxed, laying a hand on the smooth guard on Shenlong's
head. "It is time for me to move on. You have been avenged, Wufei."
His body was irrecoverable; she made a note to put up a grave maker on
Earth so he would not be forgotten.
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