Author: Merula
Disclaimer: I do not own Gundam Wing.

Afterwards + Part 2

It was about eight months later that I got tired of wandering and found work at a small video game developer. It let me use my knowledge of computers in a way that had very little to do with my wartime activities. Not completely- let's face it, most video games are fighting based, and I knew more than enough about that! More than once I got into debates over 'realism' in the games I helped design. It was a small firm like I said, and for the most part I got along with my co-workers.

I got myself a small house by the ocean and spent my free time catching up with the world. It's what I had started to do last time, before Relena got herself kidnapped. I was financially secure- thanks to J, and my job was challenging without being too demanding. I had plenty of time to get up to pace with the things I should've been learning earlier. I watched movies, read books, did all the things that I had never had the free time to do when I was the 'Perfect Soldier'.

It was hard to leave the 'Perfect Soldier' part of me behind, and after awhile I realized that I never would. He would always be a part of me, but he didn't have to be the only part. Things got- easier- when I stopped trying to abandon that part of me.

I got myself a dog. My house was too empty, tiny as it was, with just me in it. Valkyrie was a mutt- a samoyed-lab mix with a nice white coat and big brown eyes. She was perfect company- someone who loved me unconditionally even when I ignored her for my computer.

I let my hair grow longer, down to my shoulders, and kept in back neatly in a ponytail most days. I never tied it up without thinking of Wufei and Duo. Maybe that's why I grew it out- as a reminder. I wondered why Duo had grown his, and wondered if it was for a similar reason.

I changed my name. Heero Yuy was only a code name after all, and I thought something different would be more appropriate. Time changed me as well. I finally got a bit taller, my shoulders broadened more. I spent a lot of time on the beach, so my skin turned a dark shade of gold and my hair got light streaked. Anyone that had known Heero Yuy well would recognize me, but those who had only seen the grainy news footage of pilot 01 wouldn't.

Life was calm and peaceful and I enjoyed it. It wasn't everything I wanted, but I knew better than to hope for that. I had a home, a dog, a job, and some people I could call friends- though not close ones. I told myself that it was enough, and I believed it.

Sometimes at night though, the silence would get to me and I have to go sit outside on my porch. I'd look up to where L2 hung in the sky, out of my reach.

I didn't contact the others, despite my promise to Duo. I didn't think he'd want to hear from me and I didn't want to force the others to choose between us.

I had been living peacefully in my new life for over a year when one Sunday I opened up my news file and saw a picture of Quatre. Mr. Winner, head of WEI, former gundam pilot, was in the news all the time. It wasn't unusual to see his picture in my news reports. This time however the story was disturbing. Apparently someone had tried to kill him. He was fine, uninjured and all that, but it was enough to make me take some action.

I didn't want to show up on his doorstep, (Quatre hated being hovered over more than I did). Still I needed to know that he was really okay. One phone call couldn't hurt. I didn't even have to talk to him- whoever answered the phone could tell me what I needed to know. I went to my vidphone, engaged my scrambler, and called his private line.

Rashid answered with a frown that lightened when he saw me. "Heero? Is that you? It has been ages! How are you?" I shook my hair out of my eyes and smiled for him.

"I'm well, Rashid. How is Quatre? The news this morning was disturbing." Rashid frowned again.

"He is safe- for the moment. We have put extra measures in place and some of the Preventers have shown up as well."

"That's good." I leaned forward slightly. "Any idea who?"

"Nothing yet." Rashid's frown deepened. We were both silent for a moment, before I spoke again. Rashid had said 'safe', not 'well'. It would be like Quatre to put out false news reports. He'd done it before. (1)

"He's really all right?" Rashid gave me an understanding smile.

"He is upset and furious of course, and unhappy with the increase in security, but physically, he is fine. If you will wait a moment, I will get Master Quatre for you and you can see for yourself."

"I trust your word," I told Rashid. "I don't wish to disturb him. I know how busy he is." The maguanac leader frowned at me.

"He is never too busy for his friends. You will hold." It wasn't a question. Despite my better instincts, I stayed on the line. It had been so long since I had actually spoken to any of my old friends. The old Heero would've hung up, but I found that I didn't want to. The screen went to a holding pattern and a few moments later, Trowa was looking at me with a faint smile.

"I thought we'd be hearing from you."

"Of course," I smiled back. "He's okay?"

"He's fine. I'm the nervous wreck." Trowa's smile widened a bit. "You look good Heero- I like the ponytail." I laughed, relieved at his tone.

"You're looking good too Trowa. Aren't you ever going to get tired of all that hair in your face though?"

"Like you should talk." Trowa raised his visible eyebrow at me. "Quatre's on a long-distance call, he'll be here in a moment."

"It's no problem," I assured him, "I just wanted to make sure he was all right."

"And he wants to make sure you are. It's been over two years since we've heard from you, Heero. Does it always take something drastic to make you call?" I laughed again.

"I guess it does. That's not good, is it?" Trowa's tone turned scolding:

"No it's not. We've been worried about you. What have you been doing?"

"Found a place to settle down, got a job," Valkyrie put her head in my lap. I looked down at her and grinned. "Got a dog. I'll come feed you in a minute girl, go sit."

"A dog?" I tilted the camera down so Trowa could get a look at Valkyrie. "She's lovely." I put the camera back in place. "Though it's kind of odd to see you with a dog, Heero."

"She's company," I patted the beautiful head on my leg. When I looked back up, Trowa was gazing at me understandingly. Then his gaze moved up over the top of the screen.

"Quatre's here," he said quietly and moved to the side. Quatre's face appeared on the screen.

"Heero!" Quatre gave me one of his bright smiles. "We've missed you! How are you? You look great."

"I've missed you too," I smiled back. "I'm fine and I've been told twice that you're okay, so I won't ask again." He grinned.

"I'm perfectly fine."

"Trowa said you increased your security?" Quatre rolled his eyes.

"Not that I needed to, but yes." I heard Trowa cough and Quatre gave him a brief glare. "We've increased the number of people on at a time and the Preventers sent me two watchdogs as well." He leaned close to the screen. "In all honesty, I feel like screaming."

"Poor Quatre," I teased. "At least the 'perfect soldier' didn't show up too. I just called."

"You would've been more than welcome," he told me quickly, his eyes meeting mine.

"I know. But I also know how much you dislike hovering. I figured Trowa had it covered." I answered lightly.

"That's for sure!"

"Hey!" A moment of playful wrestling occurred on the other end of the phone. I cleared my throat.

"I'm glad to see things are still going well over there." I said meaningfully. Quatre blushed while Trowa laughed.

"Ah, you know us, Heero."

Val chose that moment to whine and I looked over at her where she was curled up on the couch. "I'll be there in a minute, love, be patient." I looked back up and saw that Quatre was looking at me in shock.

"Heero has a dog," Trowa explained and Quatre grinned.

"Ah, I see."

"She's getting a bit fussy," I explained. "I should go feed her."

"Then we'll let you go," Quatre paused and then asked quietly: "I don't suppose you'll give us your number?"

"You mean you don't have it?" I raised my eyebrows at him. We had been on the phone long enough for him to find a way around my scrambler.

"You're unlisted. You haven't registered anywhere in the Earth Sphere under your real name or in any of the aliases I've known you to use." He smiled sheepishly. "And whatever system you're using is blocking my attempts to discover where you are calling from right now."

"I'm glad it works." I looked closely at him. "You've been looking for me? Did something happen?"

"Of course we've been looking for you, idiot." His smile vanished and his expression turned serious. "You're our friend- remember? Even if you do only call when one of us is in danger, we still consider you one of our 'nearest and dearest'." I didn't know quite what to say to that. So I went for honesty.

"I have missed you." I got another one of those meaningful looks.

"We've missed you too." He looked up over the top of his screen, his smile widening into a smirk. "I'd hand over that number, Yuy or else," he whispered and I raised my eyebrows. What was going on?

"Or else what?"

"Your assistant is looking for you Quatre." I heard a very familiar voice say.

"Thanks Duo," Quatre gave me a mischievous smirk. "Just let me finish up with Heero and I'll be right there." I frowned at him as he smirked back. I saw Duo appear over Quatre's shoulder. He was in a Preventers uniform and I realized Une must've roped him in to watch Quatre. He looked wonderful. His eyes widened as he looked at the screen.

"Heero?" His voice was tentative.

"Duo. Keeping an eye on Quatre?"

"I'm trying." The grin he gave me was faint and I wished with all my heart that I had never told him anything. Then the smile was gone and he was focused intently on me. "Where are you?"

"Home," I answered shortly and heard Quatre snort.

"That's not informative. Where's home?" Duo frowned.

"I'm trying to get Heero to give us his number." Quatre interjected helpfully.

"Why won't you give us the number Heero?" Duo's eyes narrowed and I recognized the look. It was the do what I say or Shinigami will kick your ass look. Quatre was still smirking. I knew when I was beaten.

"I never said I wouldn't give it," I replied quickly. "I just didn't think Quatre needed me to give it to him. His systems have to be more advanced than mine."

"Nope, you've got me blocked," the blond smiled cheerfully waving a pen at the screen. "So- number?" I rattled off my number quickly.

"Satisfied?" I asked when I finished.

"Yes," Quatre replied.

"No," Duo answered at the same moment, eyes still narrowed. "Where the hell have you been Yuy?" Before I could answer, all three of them looked up. Quatre's assistant had come to the door.

"Sounds like you have to go. I'll call later. Try not to get killed in the meantime?" I focused on Quatre.

"I'll try not to," he replied.

"Hn," I snorted at him and hung up. I got up from the phone and went to join Val on the sofa. She curled up with me uncomplainingly, despite it being past her breakfast time. I put my head against hers. Gods I had missed him. I thought I was forgetting him, putting it behind me, but just that brief glimpse was enough to make my heart ache again.

I got up after a few moments and fed Val. Then I went through my normal Sunday routine, cleaned my little house, did the laundry, worked out, tended to the garden. I tried to regain some of my peace. It was late afternoon and Val and I had curled back up on the sofa when the phone buzzed at me. I glanced at it and wondered if I should answer it. It might be Quatre again, or it might be my boss with another car problem. Sometimes I think she hired me because I proved, on the same day of my interview, that I could also fix cars.

I sat down in front of the phone and hit the button. To my infinite surprise, it was Wufei.

"Chang?"

"Yuy." He looked tired. "I have a favor to ask."

"What is it?"

"It happened again."

"What?"

"Check your news. They tried again."

"Quatre?"

"He's fine. No one got hurt. But I don't feel comfortable leaving him here. Whoever it is, they know all the Winner houses."

"An employee?"

"Maybe. We don't know. How safe is your place?"

"Very," I smiled slightly. "But Wufei, I don't have the space to take in Quatre and all the magunancs." I picked up the camera and swung it so that he could see that my house was really just one big room. The bathroom and laundry were sectioned off but my kitchen, bedroom and living area were all just one large room.

"Hm," Wufei sighed. "Looks like you could fit Quatre and that'd be it."

"I wouldn't mind, but it wouldn't be the ideal situation."

"It might if they don't figure out that he's left to go with you."

"Bait and switch?" I tapped my fingers thoughtfully. "That might work. My job is flexible- I could easily stay home with him."

"I don't want to impose on you that much Yuy. I could send one other guard with him. They could sleep on your floor. If that's okay with you?"

"I don't mind. Which house is he at now?"

"243niner," Wufei told me in our old code. Well, that was convenient.

"I could be there in about two hours," I told him. "It's not that long a drive."

"You're that close?!" He looked startled.

"Winner has houses everywhere, Chang. Like there was anyplace on Earth or the colonies I could go and not be near one."

"All right, Yuy. So, we can expect you soon?"

"Two hours," I told him and went to get my keys. Val followed me out. She loves riding in the car and I wasn't going to say no to her. Besides, she's had her own special training- she might be useful.

I tuned the station in my jeep to the news. Sure enough, the second attempt was all over the airwaves. A car bomb this time- but it had exploded too early. No one had been injured in the explosion. They interviewed both Lady Une and Rashid, and I was amused listening to the stern Maguanac assure the reporter that no one was going to kill Quatre while he was around.

++

(1) In the awful GW manga Quatre fakes his death.

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