Author: Elyndys
Pairing: will be 1+2+1, 1x2x1; reference to past 1xR (Rx1?)
Disclaimer: Don't own the characters, but the story's all the product of my own little mind. Emphasis on the "little".
Warnings: Part 3 has no warnings. This is an AU fic. For warnings for future parts, see previous parts. If you see what I mean...

Escaping + Part 3

Heero watched as his companion ate salad, a leaf at a time, with his fingers. He had found himself seated next to the striking stranger at the top table in the banqueting hall; Relena, as hostess, sat halfway down the table, flanked by the President of the Earth Sphere Unified Nation on one side and his deputy on the other. Heero had, however, secured himself a good vantage point; it was unsurprising, he thought, to end up next to Duo Maxwell. Who had probably done the same thing.

"I read some reports in some magazines," Duo was saying, "about how disgustingly opulent the menus were at these do's." He made a dismissive gesture that encompassed the whole hall. "And how each course costs more than the world's poorest people have to spend on food in a year [1]. And it was true. It was appalling. So I thought, I'd do something about that." He grinned. "So here I am." Heero had an idea that there was more to this story, and he found that he wanted to hear it. He kept quiet, inviting Duo to fill the silence. Duo seemed like he was going to accept that invitation, but his words were cryptic to Heero: "Just never let them tell you being poor means you can't achieve anything." He smiled; it was a strangely fierce, determined expression, but then it faded to one of almost ruefulness as he continued. "Not that you'd have to worry about that."

Heero knew he was referring to Relena's riches that now, seemingly, were Heero's too, though he never thought of it that way. He spoke up quietly to point his out. "It hasn't always been like this."

Duo looked at him in mild surprise, then seemed to realise. "Ah, of course, you were saying. You were in the war, weren't you?"

Heero nodded. Duo had asked how he and Relena had met, so Heero had merely said he had been a soldier, and had met Relena then. Then, they had had to take their places at the table, and that conversation had been lost, until now.

"Yes, I remember." Duo looked at him from the corner of his eye. "Me and my partner went to see the gundam, y'know, at the exhibition."

Heero felt a spear of chilling sensation work its way up from the pit of his stomach, freezing him. 'He knows.' He tried to remain as casual as possible. "What did you think of the exhibition?"

"It's very impressive, isn't it? The gundam..." He met Heero's eyes, expression serious. "It still affected me. Even though it's just a museum piece now, even though they dismantled all the working parts... It still got to me. Whoever piloted that thing..." He looked away briefly, but then brought a sure gaze up to meet Heero's again. "He'd have to be... some human being..." He shook his head.

Heero sensed it. He felt like he was very close to something... he could reach out and touch, but he couldn't see it. The awe in Duo's voice... could only show the attitude of someone who had been there, seen the gundam doing what it was designed for. "You were in the war too," he said quietly.

Duo nodded. "I wasn't one of the ones they `found', though," he said wryly. "I guess you were?"

Now Heero nodded, unwilling to elaborate. He had a strange feeling that if he even tried to half-explain, his suspicion that Duo already knew the truth would lead him to reveal it. The knowing look Duo gave him sent a fresh shiver of cold through him; but, he realised, it wasn't a look of smugness or satisfaction: it was one of sympathy. Understanding.

"I didn't want to be found." Duo's voice cut through the momentary silence between them. "I wasn't doing it for the recognition, so I didn't let them know who I was or what I'd done. I just wanted to get back home and keep doing what I always had. But then...." He paused a minute as if trying hard to phrase it in the best way. "I looked around me, and saw how people lived. saw how I had lived. and it was just wrong! No-one should have to endure what I did." Heero looked and saw his eyes were serious. Heero saw fire. Duo continued. "So I decided I should do whatever I could to change things. I decided to do it for myself, work out how I should do it. And I figured that the only way to do that would be to come to big things like this and talk to the people who decide what goes on in the world. I've always been good at talking," he smirked, "so I figured I ought to use my talents." He stared off into space. "Of course, people said to me, What? A diplomat? An ordinary brat who lived on the streets for half his life, and was a soldier for most of the other half?" The smirk turned into a dark smile. "The main reason people don't try things, y'know, is because they think they won't succeed. Think it's a waste of their time, they'll make fools of themselves and have nothing to show for it after all. Think they'll be seen as naive. That's why people say things can't happenóbecause nobody tries to make them happen, because they're put off when everybody says they can't happen." He chuckled. "So I thought I'd try it anyway. I mean, I've experienced some pretty bad times, so I wasn't afraid of anything worse. And so, here I am. Of course, I'm just a," he adopted a supercilious tone, "`junior representative'óbut it's a start, considering I only graduated [2] a year ago. They're letting me have this as a kind of trialóa test, more like. I think if I fail they'll tell me to go home and do something I'm good at instead," he laughed, "but I've worked hard to get here. I'm not going to let it go to waste." Again, that determined look. Heero felt a growing sense of admiration for his new acquaintance. He was unafraid, willing to take chances. His attitude was refreshing; it stirred memories in Heero.

So he couldn't hide his surprise at Duo's next words. The young man turned to him, an oddly unreadable expression on his usually open face.

"I don't know why I'm telling you all this."

Heero was genuinely surprised; that did not sound like the sort of concern he would have expected from Duo. Maybe he had been mistaken. Even that thought startled him a little ó how did he know that? He had known the man for only a few hours. How could he know what sort of behaviour was to be expected from him?

But that voice cut through his thought again, and he looked back at his companion as he spoke.

"I don't know why I'm telling you these things, because I know you know already."

Heero again felt that coldness still his body; like he was caught. Although the feeling scared him, it was also strangely. exhilarating. He looked away from his companion's steady gaze.

Dinner was over. "Come on." Automatically Heero got up and followed, to a wide terrace outside through some open glass doors. Duo leaned on the railing, looking up. Heero glanced back into the room, seeing no-one notice them: no-one else stepped out into the fresh darkness. He turned away and stared out.

A spear of cloud bisected the moon; it moved away quickly in the breeze, leaving the three-quarter moon bright and exposed. Heero stared at the sky. It was the only thing visible over the high walls of the building complex. He let himself forget those walls, and thought of the colony he came from.

"I wish you could make out the colonies from here." Duo's voice was low.

Could he be?

"I just like to remember they're there. and I have somewhere to go back to." Whether or not it does all go wrong.

"You're from the colonies as well?" Heero kept his voice soft too. Duo turned and smiled at him. "Yeah. L2, S-7981."

"L1. B-16682." [3]

Duo resumed his sky watching and there was silence for a long moment. "I love being colonial." Duo's words were sudden. "Because it reminds me that there was a day when one man said `I'd love to live in space'. And he didn't let anyone tell him he was crazy; he didn't let anyone say it was impossible. But he went and, eventually, he did it. And I'm proud that he did."

Duo continued to stare upwards. Heero stayed silent, needing no words. He followed Duo's gaze, thinking. Everything Duo had said was like hearing a story he'd heard a long time ago but forgotten; and now, hearing it again, he remembered every detail, and the words fitted a pattern somewhere inside his head.

He wondered where he had gone, that this stranger should come and find him when no-one else had; and he hadn't even realised he was lost.

Duo turned back to him finally, a hint of a smile on his face. "I've enjoyed talking to you. Heero. We should get together again sometime."

"Yes. We will."

+

[1] I read something similar about the G8 summit in Osaka... but I don't remember figures...
[2] I use the word graduated in the British sense of having been to university and got a degree. Don't think about the timescale too hard!
[3] Hm. These came into my head, dunno how you're meant to classify colonies. Anyone who guesses the significance of the numbers and letters wins a prize!
Comments, pretty please?!?

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