Author: pyrzm

Lost Souls + Chapter 23
Loose Ends

Wufei was proud that his colony refused to buckle to the Romefeller's lies. When all the other colonies turned their backs on their Gundam pilots, placing them under sentence of death, his people welcomed him back and sheltered him and his new Nataku, the Altron.

It was a magnificent suit, and he strove to be worthy of it, of the sacrifices the scientists had made to produce it, and of the risks his people took in hiding him here with it.

He returned to practice at Master Long's school, and there, at least, he proved himself worthy beyond all doubt. Battle had honed his natural instincts and none of the older students could stand against him on the practice mat or with any weapon. He found himself going almost too far and really hurting someone. What was the point of fighting, some part of him whispered, if you did not win the ultimate victory?

Meditation was a greater challenge, however. What he'd experienced in a few brief months of battle had disrupted his former abilities in that regard. He came to the meditation cushion willingly enough, but once there, his rebellious mind wandered, making it nearly impossible at times to find the inner silence he so badly needed. It wasn't the fighting that haunted him, but the people. Trieze Kushreneda was the most common intrusion, and always as he'd been at the moment of Wufei's most shameful defeat. He'd towered over him in that spotless uniform, smiling that serene smile as he spared Wufei's life and stole his honor at the end of his blade. Such strength. Such control. Wufei still cringed at the memory. No one had ever had such an impact on him; he both hated and admired the man. He would not forgive himself until he met him in combat once again.

And almost always, hard on the heels of such thoughts, came Maxwell's incredulous question: Why the hell didn't you just blast his ass?

Wufei had tried to explain it to him, but Duo had no background for such discussions. The answer had been perfectly clear to Wufei. He had no doubt that he'd done the right thing, challenging him as he had. So why did Maxwell's question haunt him now? Or Maxwell himself, for that matter.

The other pilots also intruded on Wufei's thoughts, even into his dreams. Heero Yuy was something of an icon, so fearless, so determined. Wufei knew in his heart that it should have been Yuy who'd fought Kushreneda. He would have won that battle. Wufei's time with Yuy in that prison cell was quite precious in his memory.

His feelings for Barton were more comlex. They'd spent a bit of time together before Barton had gone under cover, and that brief association had nearly been their undoing when Barton had been forced into the role of his interrogator at that OZ base. He'd been very convincing, in fact, and Wufei had believed that he'd really gone over to the enemy, until Barton had passed Maxwell those plans the day of their escape. He wondered what had become of him, if he'd survived the attack on the base?

And then there was Maxwell again. He'd been crude and annoying, and spouted the vilest excuses for poetry Wufei had ever heard in his life. He had a talent for getting captured and had broken under stress that day in the cell. And yet underneath all that was a strange strength that Wufei could not dismiss. Odder still was the way his mind returned, if not reined in, to the time he'd spent holding and offering his awkward comfort to Duo in the darkness of the cell. He even dreamed of it, feeling again the warmth and weight of another body in his lap, and the cool caress of that silly braid as it fell across the back of his hand. Worse yet, he sometimes woke to find his body in a state of shameful arousal after such dreams. Even if he had been a homosexual-- which he most certainly was not-- Maxwell would hardly be the sort of companion he would choose.

// Yuy, perhaps? // his traitorous mind sometimes answered, but that was too laughable to even feel guilty about. Mercilessly cold showers and extra time at the most strenuous katas soon cleared such absurdities away, at least until the next time his dreams betrayed him. He could not even bring himself to ask Master Long about his problems. It was too shameful, and too ridiculous. He could not think of anything more dishonorable than finding himself attracted to men. He was the last of his clan. It was his duty and his honor to carry on the Chang name. He would never do anything to tarnish it, if he could help it.

And he most certainly was not a homosexual!

+

Such frivolous concerns were burned away the day that Romefeller forces finally closed in around his beloved colony.

"Go and fight," Master Long ordered. "You are our greatest hope. I am very proud of you, Wufei. You will do as you must, and so shall we who remain behind."

Too late did Wufei realize what Master Long had really been telling him. He fought, oh, how he fought! And Nataku had never been more responsive. But there were too many of the enemy, and even his death would not have stopped them. No, he was left to watch in horror as L-5, faced with immanent capture, chose instead to self-destruct. Wufei wept in shock and horror at the sight, then fought on, facing even the Lightning Count himself, who appeared with lies about wanting to join forces with him.

Pain and rage gave Wufei strength, and he drove the traitor off. He had nothing left now but his pain and the will to fight on. He would be guided by nothing but his own integrity, as he'd been taught. Alone in space, he would fight until he found his redemption in death's arms.

When Lucretzia Noin found him in the midst of another battle, he coldly turned away from her offer to join with her and Winner. He had no need for friends or allies now, only battle, on his own terms.

+

Zechs witnessed his sister's surrender with horror, standing with Howard and his resistance fighters aboard the Peacemillion. He ran to Wing Zero and streaked to Earth. Sanque couldn't fall, not again! Not while he had the strength to prevent it.

But once again, he was helpless to stop it. The battle was over, and the only warrior left to fight him was none other than Heero Yuy, piloting a strange new Zero-class Gundam Zechs had never seen before.

By unspoken consent they resumed the dual they'd left unfinished in Antarctica, but this time it was the Zero systems that ended it unresolved. Yuy was too strong, and fighting him on equal terms. They could not defeat one another and the Zero systems overloaded, sending both suits crashing to the ground.

Stunned and disoriented, Zechs crawled from Wing Zero to find Heero lying panting beside his collapsed suit. Zechs had a gun. He could have dispatched him easily, but there was no point.

Yuy looked up and gave him a dark grin, then tossed him his own helmet.

"What are you doing?" Zechs demanded, lowering his pistol.

"Giving you the Epyon," Yuy answered in that strange, flat monotone of his. "Kushreneda built it. I don't understand this suit. You knew him. Maybe you can fly the damn thing."

Zechs stared at him, then laughed. "All right then, I accept. What will you do now?"

"Take Wing and fight for the colonies. Fight Romefeller."

"You're returning to space? Go on then, I'll take on the force they're sending here."

Yuy gave him one last, appraising glance that might almost be interpreted as approval, then nodded. Then he was gone, piloting the Wing Zero as if he'd been flying it all his life.

Zechs climbed into the Epyon's cockpit and put on the helmet. For the first time in many months, he let himself think of Trieze. "I swore we were no longer friends, but now it seems I owe you for this fine suit," he murmured, touching the controls and imagining his old friend and almost lover sitting here, perfecting this elegant suit. Fighting down a pang of longing for his lost friend, he powered up and turned to face the new enemy approaching by sea. He would fight one, because there was nothing else for a warrior like him to do.

+

"I am one lucky son of a bitch," Duo thought, looking around the L-2 junkyard. Hilde, the colonial recruit he'd met and turned on the moon, had proven a very handy ally and a good friend, too. She'd hidden him here at the junkyard she ran, letting him use her place as a cover between raids with Deathscythe. It was the perfect cover. He worked the yard like a legitimate junk man, and knew how to fit in on his home colony. No one thought twice about the way he looked or talked. Street trash like him were everywhere; he was just one who'd gone legit.

The yard was also a great source of parts for Scythe. He fought hard, and even though he won, he seldom came away without a scratch or two. But the new Scythe? Baby, what a ride! He'd completed the final modifications, thanks to the plans Trowa had slipped him, and this new suit was damn fine. Trowa had shown up here, too, but that had been a depressing reunion. Hilde had dragged Duo off to some travelling circus and he'd spotted Trowa there, working as an acrobat. He was fucking amazing at it, too, but when Duo went backstage to say hello, he discovered that the Trowa he'd known had flamed out and gone bye-bye. He didn't have a clue who Duo was, and clung to some red-haired circus babe like a scared little kid. It hurt to see him like that, after what he'd been. Duo had always figured him to be stronger than that. The babe told him off and Duo backed off and left, knowing it was the kindest thing to do. He went back to being the best kept secret on L-2. Despite the spinelessness of the governing council, who'd decided to bend over and take it from Romefeller, there were plenty of resistance fighters, or at least those who wanted to be. Duo appreciated them, but wasn't ready to trust anyone who wasn't ready to put their life on the line. These guys talked big, and tried to rope him in, but he held back, relying on their idealism and anger to shield him, but not trusting them to fight with him. Not yet. Not even when the new rumor started, of a widespread movement calling themselves White Fang cropped up. No, things were falling apart, both here in space and back in Earth; for now, the God of Death fought alone, and liked it that way. Of course if another Gundam pilot had shown up, that would have been OK, but no one did.

His luck, such as it ever was, had held out so far. He'd been caught only once, but it had been by that renegade, Trant, who'd wanted a pilot for the Wing Zero. Duo had weirded out, just like Heero and Quatre had, and watched in horror as he was shown the possibility of a misfire destroying his home colony and Hilde with it. The shock of it had been enough to free him just long enough to bail and Hilde had been there to pick him up while Trant flamed out.

Yeah, she was a real good friend, and he felt like a total louse, knowing she wanted them to be more than that. The signals were pretty damn clear. These were scary times, and he didn't blame her for wanting a warm body with her in bed at night, but Duo had his own kind of honor and he just couldn't let things go that direction. Not with her. He knew first hand what it was like, to get hurt when you pinned your feelings on the wrong guy and he didn't want you.

Heero Yuy had been damn cute, and for a little while Duo was stupid enough to get a crush on that hard-assed, thick skulled, suicidal bastard, but Duo had managed to screw it up all by himself. He told himself every day that he was better off fighting on his own, without Heero or any of the others. But that didn't stop him from missing all of them, even Wufei, who'd surprisingly had a few good points after all.

Weed wasn't hard to come by here on L-2, along with a few harder substances he found useful on occasion. No, he didn't have a problem, just used enough to take the edge off. Of course, he seemed to need to do that more often than he used to. It was real hard to forget certain unpleasant events if you kept dreaming about them every fucking night.

Some nights it was what had happened to him as a child here on L-d, others it was the rape at the hand of those drunk Ozzy's and in those dreams Trowa never showed up. Other nights it was the massacre, or holding Solo while he died.

Heero showed up a lot in his dreams, too, not that he hadn't from the moment they met, but now it was someone who looked like Heero, but was a helluva lot friendlier and cuddlier than the real thing. If Duo was lucky, the dream mixed Heero up with his time in Arabia with Kat, and he woke with wet boxers from the good ones. The hard part was waking up alone and knowing it was something that wasn't ever going to happen. But more often, he was back in Finland, and everything was hot and heavy right up until the point where he blew it and drove Heero away. Those weren't so much fun to wake up from, either, because those were true. That had sure been one bone-headed fatal error. Heero had never touched him again. Well, he'd been there for him in jail, but not the way Duo really wanted him to be. He sometimes wondered what might have happened if Wufei hadn't been there, but there wasn't much point in torturing himself with what-ifs. No, he'd blown it big time, and if he could just turn off the wet dreams and smoke enough shit or snort enough blow or score enough THC-38, maybe he could snap out of it and move the fuck on.

But not with Hilde.

She was a good sport, a good friend, but Duo couldn't help feeling guilty. Finally he decided that the best thing to do was to look for other work. At least that way he could start paying her back for all the free room and board she'd given him.

"Check this out," Hilde said, showing him a help wanted ad online one day. "They're looking for suit pilots on this natural resource satellite."

"What's the company name?"

"It's run by the Winner Enterprises International," Hilde said, checking the listing. "Huh, I thought they'd shut down. The owner was killed, you know."

"Yeah, I know," Duo mumbled, overcome by a sudden flash of hope. "If they're up and running again, then maybe the son's come home!"

A day later his hopes were confirmed. He flew to L-4 and talked his way into the gleaming high-rise that housed the headquarters of the multinational WEI. Directed to the fifty-first floor, he found Quatre, just as cute and serious as ever, talking intently with a bunch of guys in suits old enough to be his dad. It was the same old Quatre, all right, though. The minute he caught sight of Duo he broke away from the bigwigs and ran straight into Duo's waiting arms, hugging the breath out of him.

"Duo, it's really you!"

"Yep, big as life and twice as ugly," Duo said loudly, for the sake of the suits, who were looking at him like something they'd scraped off the bottom of their shoes. Kat picked up on it and hustled Duo into his office for tea. As soon as the door was safely closed, Duo pulled out the present he'd brought and tossed it to Quatre with a grin, waiting to see how he'd react.

Quatre opened the crumpled paper bag and pulled out the plastic bag of expertly rolled joints. He blushed, grinned, and stuck it away in a desk drawer. "Thanks! I haven't-um, indulged, since we left that base in Arabia."

"No shit?" Duo laughed. "That's what gets me through the night. Oh well, I'm glad I can still be a bad influence." He turned and looked out at the huge, glittering colony spread out before him. "This is some fancy place. And you're the boss of all this?"

"Not really. My sisters are still managing all the assets of the corporation. As far as the world knows, I'm still missing."

"Because you're a Gundman pilot. Where were you, anyway?"

"On Earth, fighting with Heero, until Sanque fell."

Duo found it hard to breath for a moment, and caught Quatre watching him in a way that said he was picking up way too easy on some of what he was feeling. Duo squashed those feelings but quick and Kat was sharp enough not to ask.

"So, did you and Heero come up with any ideas?"

"I think we've got to keep fighting," said Quatre. "That's why I came looking for you guys. There are lots of kind people on Earth, Duo, and here in the colonies. I want to help build a better world for everyone. I want to protect the total pacifism upheld by the Sanque Kingdom."

"Total pacifism?" Duo scoffed. "You don't really believe that, do you?"

"Can't you, Duo?"

"Naw, I've been fighting for the colonies all this time. They should leave that kind of thing to me. I'm used to suffering. But now this White Fang bunch have decided to start up a real war and even more people are going to suffer and die, no matter what I do. I dunno, Kat. I'm tired and maybe I've lost faith in what we thought we were fighting for. Maybe peace is an impossible dream."

Quatre stared sadly down at his hands for a moment, and then said softly, "I made a grave mistake once. I don't expect to ever be given forgiven, but I'll risk everything to show my remorse. And I'll do that by fostering my dream of peace. Because once a dream is lost, then everything is lost."

Duo shook his head. He'd never seen this side of Kat. What the hell could he have done that was so bad, except maybe go against his own family's pacifist beliefs? "You may be right," he said, "although a dismal future might be more fitting for a God of Death like me, eh?" He pretended not to notice his friend's stricken look. Better get out, before he dragged him down any more than he already had. It looked like Quatre had something good going on here, and all jokes aside, Duo didn't want to drag his dirt over Quatre's shiny nice life.

He faked a yawn and stretched. "Well," he said with a fake smile, "this place is just a little too high class for the likes of me. See you 'round, buddy boy."

He almost made it out, but he made the mistake of glancing back and seeing how terribly sad and alone Quatre looked. Duo sighed, kicked himself mentally in the ass, and, knowing it was probably only going to cause his friend more heartbreak, said, "Look, if you're trying to find the rest of us, I guess you might want to know where I saw what's his name, that one-eyed wonder of yours. He's with this traveling circus. I forget the name, but they were on L-2 a couple months ago. Shouldn't be too hard for someone like you to track down again."

Quatre gripped the edge of his desk, looking like he was going to faint, but there was hope in those big blue eyes that made Duo's heart ache for him. "Trowa?" he whispered. "He's alive? You actually saw him?"

"Yeah, but I gotta warn you, he ain't the guy he was."

One look at Quatre's face told him that that wasn't going to make any difference. Quatre was going to go find him, and see that empty face and get hurt all over again. Duo left the building wishing he'd brought Quatre something stronger than weed.

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