Trial and Error + Chapter 12//Mission Duration:
Heero sat on his bed in his bare room, staring at the whiteboard; the names captive of a maze of arrows that led nowhere. His fingers were frozen on his laptop's keyboard. The soldier persona he was using to steady himself was telling him to write a report, summarize the incident, reduce it, analyze it, learn from it. A failed mission; he deserved to be punished, to have his mistreatment of the situation fully acknowledged.
But he couldn't. He didn't know why he'd failed. This scared him. There was something here...he'd never been so little in control. No wonder he'd made such a balls-up. This was more than lack of information, or an understanding of human relations...Heero closed the mission planner and opened another program, one he hadn't used in a very long while.
It wasn't actually the zero system. That was destroyed along with Wing and good riddance. But Heero thought of the program as zero, because it made it easier to accept what he had to do with it.
It was when he not only failed to kill Relena but even saved her life that Heero had realized that his emotions were treacherous little curs. He kept them safely where they belonged, locked away in their kennels, properly trained to guide him but never interfere beyond that...only to discover they could still slip their leads and bite their master's hand when he least expected it. Zero had opened his eyes to what was really going on, what his emotions had been trying, in their underhand, back-stabbing way, to tell him about Relena and peace. Zero dragged out your deepest, innermost thoughts and fears and plastered them to your cortex. You couldn't hide from it. It was about as pleasant as being run over by a Gundam wearing cleats but at the end you knew where you stood.
In front of the thorough failure of all his plans, and the strength of the emotions howling and ripping at the barriers in his mind, Heero had to face the possibility that the flaw lay within himself. Maybe there was something else here, in him, that had been sabotaging his mission from the start. He had to face it. When his subconscious had saved Relena, and made him fight for a peace he knew nothing about, he'd been grateful to it, and followed his feelings once he became aware of them. Remembering Duo's back slumped in pain, he didn't think he'd be able to be quite so thankful this time. But if there was anything within his mind that was hidden from him, he had to know. It could not be allowed to interfere with his missions any more.
The program wasn't much; he'd found, when he looked for a substitute for zero, that he didn't' actually need something that complex. The laptop was his mirror, his reflection. The program prompted him to enter a header, then an explanation to the problem he'd put there, in free-hand text. It would then realign and juggle his thoughts and words, running through a number of complex patterns, until he could see the underlying logic in it. The important thing was to fill in the fields correctly and honestly, then let the program run and open his mind to the result.
Mission was a failure, he wrote.
The triggers he'd set himself when he wrote the program reacted as soon as he hit Enter, scolding him with a crisp warning. He'd programmed the database to pick up his own patterns of self-deceit. Heero scowled and muttered but turned the sentence around.
I failed the mission.
The word mission triggered another error message. Right, don't hide behind duty either. The mission was merely a set of parameters. What exactly had he failed? He deleted some of the words.
He stared and wrote a few words, always returning to that single letter with the delete key. I failed my friends. I don't understand what happened. I don't understand...
Heero frowned and opened up his mission planner again. Operation Equations...Start date...Difficulty moderate (yeah right)...
Amazing. He'd written page upon page of information, mission details, operation plans, and not once had he actually used the term 'I'.
He shook his head abruptly. This was heading into familiar territory. His lack of self-definition, born of having been raised for the single purpose of battle, and now facing a peace that made him obsolete. That...was a question for another time. He left the word 'I' in place so that the program wouldn't cough up a hairball - it's presence was a requirement for the first field - but decided to leave the tougher question for another day and concentrate on the issue at hand.
The program was prompting him for the next header. Now, what was the problem here? Ah well that was easy wasn't it?
How can I understand and manipulate something that I do not have any experience in? I thought I could train myself, understand its parameters. I should be able to. Why do I feel like I know even less about it than before? Why is the attraction between two people such a mystery?? And why is it so hard to get it right??? //
Heero calmed down and stopped pounding on the keyboard. Love was very annoying. It seemed easy to pin down and then you found you'd nailed your sleeve to the floor and this love thing was ten feet away, smirking and playing with the hammer. He took a deep breath and continued.
//I am highly intelligent, I have more experience than most people three times my age, I have faced my own death many times over, I have taken life and I have let people live. I know so much why does this escape me? It didn't take me this long or this much effort to understand friendship. I was relying on the others to do their job even during the war so//
Heero paused and shook his head abruptly. He deleted the last two sentences.
// It did take me awhile to figure out what true friendship was. It was only when we all moved in together that I understood that friendship is more than just having competent allies you can trust. I found that, far from being a weakness as I feared, it could be a source of strength. Someone to rely on, to share the burden, the nightmares, the fears and doubt. Someone to help me. Someone to get me to laugh when I needed to, mourn when I needed to. Someone at my side. Someone //
Heero frowned. This was surprisingly lyrical for him - it seemed easier to talk to his laptop than another person sometimes - but it was going nowhere. This had nothing to do with his friends. Love was a problem, true, but nothing he'd written even nibbled at it. Damn.
...nothing to do with his friends? This had everything to do with his friends...one in particular...Heero deleted everything he'd written, apart from the paragraph header. Yes, love was the issue here, but he'd get back to it once he'd be able to write something other than drivel.
I managed to hurt my best friend. Way to go, Yuy. What should I do? He seems to be getting close to Trowa as a result //
Heero paused. His hands had trembled each time he'd written the letters of their names. He'd been using codes in his mission planner, numbers. Was that for discretion? No, anybody who had the ability to break into his laptop would be one of four people who would instantly know what those numbers stood for. No that wasn't the reason. He'd been trying to distance himself again.
He deleted a few of his words.
I managed to hurt my best friend. Is this because I wasn't treating him as my best friend, but as a parameter in a mission? But how else was I supposed to behave? How else can I help him? I have to help him. Duo deserves to be happy. He helped me so much during the war and after it. He was always there for me. He understands me better than any of them, I think, and I thought I understood him but I managed to hurt him. Badly. Why//
Heero blinked, then laughed. It was a cold sound, one he'd not heard since the start of the war.
//Well that's not hard to understand. That's what I do; I hurt people. I kill them. I'm an assassin, a soldier, I was raised for it, I thrive on it. //
The laughter bubbled up again.
//If Dr J could see me now, using his mission training and analytical thinking to make people happy, to deal with love of all things...the particles of his body must be spinning in their earth-bound orbit. Why did I ever think I could do this? Why did I even think it mattered? I've never known happiness, or love, no wonder I can't work with these things. Why am I so impatient to inflict these unknown quantities, these potential weaknesses, on my friends? On Duo? My aim should be to keep them safe and fit in case they are needed for another war. Not lose them in domesticity, or break their hearts for that matter. What madness possessed me to even try this? Why does it matter to me?//
Heero could feel it burning, deep down where his emotions were rioting and breaking the furniture. This mattered more to him than almost anything ever had before but why?
He snarled and deleted almost all he'd written, though he kept the header. Duo was still the issue, he had to correct his mistake, before taking an oath to never ever meddle in his friend's life again. But before he could deal with that, he had to figure this out. There was something within him. Now that he thought of it, it felt it might have been growing within him ever since the end of the war, as he became slowly used to the presence of others; losing his edge, as Dr J would say. There was some motivating force in him, in his feelings, and it was so big he'd not been able to entirely grasp it. Now what...was...it...
Heero had felt the cold of space nip at him through Wing's protective envelope. He'd fought the freezing ocean currents ripping at him. He'd fallen with the wind screaming past him, chilling him to the bone.
He'd never felt so cold before.
He was looking at his laptop. Strangely enough, it had given him the answer to his problem, without even having to run the program. At least he could always rely on his laptop, a sad little voice said within him. He heard a whimper from very far away, it had sounded like his own voice.
He'd deleted all the useless, self-deceiving crap he'd entered into the fields of his program, leaving only the headers each time.
They read out loud and clear.
Heero shoved the laptop from him in a useless gesture of defense but it was too late.
Some doors, once opened, could not be closed that easily.
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