Author: Elyndys
Pairing: will be 1+2+1/1x2x1; reference to past 1xR, R+1.
Disclaimer: I am not owning these characters, to use the Indian English construction.
Warnings: Part 7 has no warnings. For future warnings see Part 1 and see individual parts. This is an AU fic.

Escaping + Part 7

Heero realised he hadn't expected not to have dinner with Duo. He nodded and Duo smiled.

"Great!" But then his expression was suddenly tinged with a little concern: "Ms. Peacecraft doesn't mind me dragging you away like this?"

Heero had never thought about it. "She knows my work is as important to me as hers is to her."

Duo smiled. "Yes, she does seem like a very talented individual."

Heero said only, "I didn't tell her exactly who it was I was meeting."

Duo nodded. "I understand. She doesn't know about the investigation?"

Heero shook his head. "No-one does."

"Of course. So will you be around at the summit again?"

"Probably."

Duo smiled. "I'll look out for you. But how are you going to explain it to the delegates? To your wife?"

Heero was silent for just a moment. "I'll think about that when, and if, I have to."

"Must be difficult, not being able to talk about your work with your partner..." Duo mused.

Heero looked at him. "I've never thought about it. And besides, she's used to it." Heero felt strangely uncomfortable with the direction this conversation was heading in, and he couldn't quite say why. That was even more unusual. He cast about for a change of focus, and remembered something. "What about your partner? You were alone at the opening dinner..."

Duo shrugged, smiling. "He went back home to L2. He has to work. I think maybe 'partner' was too strong a word -- we're not that serious. He came down with me and stayed a few days on earth before the summit, got to see a few of the sights, like the Gundam." Just a small flash of a glance, out of the corner of an eye... Heero looked away. "But anyway, those formal do's aren't his scene." Duo gave a small laugh. "Not mine, either, really."

Heero knew he didn't have to say he felt the same. "I'd much rather have a smaller arrangement for the whole affair. In fact," he looked serious, "it strikes me as pretty stupid. Announcing to the world 'Oh look, here are all the leaders of the Earth Sphere gathered in one place, anyone who wants a shot please form an orderly queue.' I mean, you don't have to worry so much, Relena has her home to go to, but lots of us are even staying in the same place, for god's sake! That's another reason I've been trying to get out of the place as much as possible. And it's why I want to help you. I thought... you'd maybe need a hand, keeping an eye on all these dignitaries. And," his smile returned a little, "all the other people, like me."

There was silence for just a few moments, before Duo spoke again. "So I just want to say again. Thank you for meeting me like this. Thanks for giving me a chance."

Heero kept his expression neutral. "It is my job."

Duo shrugged. "Yeah, but you did say yourself you don't have any evidence as yet... I admire you for taking it so seriously." He smiled. "Makes me a feel a little safer."

"I'm glad to do it. It's been a while since I've felt so... involved. Like I had a real chance to do something; even prevent things from going wrong... That's what this feels like it could be."

Duo nodded, still smiling. "I knew we understood each other. Anything I can do... just let me know."

"You have enough to do, I'm sure, at the conference."

Duo shrugged. "It's all pretty frustrating really. Everyone seems so... distant from what they're talking about." He smiled wryly. "It's just like everyone said it would be, but I didn't expect any different. It's just..." his smile faded. "They don't feel for what they're talking about, y'know?" He sighed frustratedly. "And even the ones who seem to care a bit more are never listened to, so end up having to agree to whatever anyone else says." He met Heero's gaze then. "No offence to Ms. Peacecraft..." He looked apologetic, and his voice trailed away.

Heero shook his head. "Don't worry. Relena doesn't need me to fight her battles for her." As soon as the words left his lips he realised what he had said.

It was true. She didn't. Relena was perfectly capable of looking after herself in this new era of peace. Heero suddenly felt hollow. In Relena, he saw a peace he'd never known, an innocence he'd never seen. Some instinct, it couldn't be evoked through his raining alone, told him to protect that hope of peace, even at the cost of his own life. And he had; throughout the war, every time he had encountered Relena, some reflex caused him to jump and push her from the line of fire. Stopped him pulling the trigger himself.

But now...

Peace. What he'd wanted. What he'd fought for...

Moments of confusion. But ... he had thought all this so recently!

The prisoners! Over and over, they rejected peace and sought to shake it. He'd been a soldier... nothing else. Now he was ... worthless... words he'd had spoken to him time and again.. he would never change, would never be able to forget what he had done, and should never be able to lay aside his responsibility... Familiar words that rang in his brain. No-one expected him to be anything but a soldier, no-one expected that he could change.

...But that was why he should try...

This was his purpose now. To keep that peace. Of course. He knew. There was no need for confusion, for helplessness; Relena may not need his protection as much now, but there were others that did. Ordinary citizens... and... those others concerned with keeping the peace.

People like Duo.

It was still his duty to protect those who worked to improve the world...

"To atone for my own mistakes... for all I did..." He heard his voice, barely a whisper. He was surprised to hear himself say it out loud, but it made it real.

"Heero?" Duo watched him closely.

Heero looked up, his speech still quiet but deliberate, water seeping through the cracks in the glass. "I have to do it. That is why I do my job -- I must pay back in peace what I destroyed in war. All the things..." His voice dropped lower again. "I... killed innocents... I killed pacifists... I made mistakes." [1]

"Some things are unavoidable. War makes it so." Duo looked sincerely into his eyes. "You can't blame yourself."

"And you don't?" Heero met his gaze.

Duo sat back sharply, startled. "I..."

Heero shook his head. "You have less to blame yourself for than me. You're making your amends but it will take me longer..."

"...but you're making yours as well." Duo had leaned forward again, a force deepening his eyes.

Heero looked into those eyes... so full of... conviction. Heero remembered what he had thought before. Determination. It flowed out and through channels in Heero he had once known well and now regained, never having noticed them run dry; now it felt like the inside of his body had been asleep, and this vital reviction woke him and brought back sensation; pins and needles pricking. This investigation would help him.

Duo would help him...

But making amends... Still so far to go. He lowered his gaze, suddenly weary. Still... so far...

"I have to do it." Voice still a whisper. "I can do it, but there is so much to do."

"I can help you. Let me help you."

A smile in remembrance of those words, echoed from earlier that day. But... "Still so far..." Heero looked up again, smile gone. His whisper so low he couldn't hear it himself; merely felt his lips move in the shape of the words. "Duo. I was the gundam pilot."

A silence. Heero waited, anticipating nothing.

Duo's hand covered his on the table. Warmth seeped through. Heero looked up.

A low voice, but full of conviction to match his eyes. A tighter grasp of Heero's hand. "I know."

+

[1] I am following the canon timeline, even though the background is rather different; you can take it that Heero did basically the same things, although alone for much of the time (exceptions being eg fighting with the mercenaries -- but in my fic Heero is obviously entirely secretive about the gundam; in the series, he just loves to tell people, ne?! "I am a gundam pilot after all" etc, etc...).

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