Author: pyrzm
see chap. 1 for warnings, notes, disclaimer

Summary: The five Gundam boys finally meet up again, in the middle of space and the war.

Lost Souls + Chapter 30
Together Again, Sort Of

Milliardo Peacecraft soon answered Treize Khushreneda's proclamation of war with one of his own. It was broadcast on all levels, and was heard by every colony and earth-based station. Quatre, Trowa, Duo, Howard, and Noin gathered in the com room to watch in disbelief.

"The Earth's World Nation claims that unity will achieve peace. I never dreamed that I would hear such rubbish from Treize," Peacecraft announced. "I'm sure that none of you have forgotten about an organization that existed on Earth, called the Allied Forces of the United Earth Sphere Alliance. Now did that ridiculous organization eliminate war or make world peace a reality? Of course it didn't. Under the guise of peace and justice, the Alliance came to the colonies with overwhelming military force. If we truly want to eradicate wars it cannot be achieved by simply uniting nations. It's a problem that requires an end to earthlings, because as we know, earthlings have fought since ancient times, since our ancestors first stood upright."

Quatre clutched his heart, unable to believe what he was hearing. Trowa moved in beside him and laid a hand on his shoulder, but for once it didn't help.

"Fuck!" Duo muttered. "Did he just say he's gonna wipe out all the people on Earth?"

"Hush up, kid," Howard told him. "He's crazier than a shithouse rat, but I think we'd better listen."

". . . we've continued to write our blood stained history. There's no reason for this, except the simple fact that fighting is a part of human nature."

+

"Milliardo, you're not mistaken." Kushreneda was in the assembly, and listened with approval, glad to see his old friend's handsome face once more, even under such circumstances. Despite their opposite sides, it was clear they both still shared the same old fashioned sense of honor and war craft. "There are some human beings who possess the power to overcome their own base instincts."

+

"No way, I want to keep fighting!" Wufei declared, lost in the heat of battle with a phalanx of White Fang dolls. Merquise was already on his list of people to kill.

Sitting on the transport nearby with Sally and Heero listened with satisfaction.

"I'm sure you've noticed by now that the citizens of the colonies are a new breed of humans, with the ability to gain true peace by controlling their instincts to battle. These colony citizens have lived their lives in space, where earthlings are no longer welcome. The people of space know first hand how meaningless these battles are. The people of space are just trying to survive, and don't have the ability to fight. Then why did we stand up on their behalf? Because the old breed of human remains on their comfortable Earth, and tried to conquer the defenseless colonies. It has been two centuries since our people started living in space. Isn't it about time we put an end to this history filled with disputes? To accomplish this, we have to eliminate the hotbed of all these conflicts, the place we call Earth." "We have no choice but to fight him," sighed Sally. "At the very least, we rate humanity a little higher than he does."

Peacecraft continued. "With this in mind, I once again announce to Treize Kushreneda, sovereign of the World Nation, that we demand that the Earth be eliminated from the universe. If you do not agree, we will have no choice but to start a war to end all wars."

+

Aboard Peacemillion, the other pilots silently added up forces for the real, and perhaps final fight that was about to commence.

+

Only one person listened with sorrow. Relena Peacecraft saw the broadcast as she made her way through space, to stand at her brother's side and try to talk sense into him. After all, she had been Queen of the World.

+

No one listened with more delight than Dorothy Catalonia, now standing at Peacecraft's side.

+

Howard set a course to intercept the Libra, but there were plenty of OZ and Treize Faction groups on the same mission. The pilots kept careful watch so as not to be surprised, but conserved their strength and hid their position as long as they could.

Howard as manning the radar chair when an alarm went off. "Looks like we've got some company coming up from behind."

"Is it the enemy?" asked Noin.

"Naw, if it was, they'd be shootin' at us already. Open a channel."

Noin hailed the ship and let out a happy shout as Sally Po's face came into view.

"Permission to join you?" she asked, grinning. "And I've brought a couple of good fighters with me, too."

+

They all gathered in the bay and were there to greet the newcomers.

"Heero! And Wufei!" Quatre launched himself through the zero gee to meet them first. "I'm so glad to see you, and to have us all together again."

Duo was right behind him, and only had eyes for Heero. He looked terrible, all thin and tired, but he still sent Duo's heart reeling.

Heero glanced at him, gave him a curt grunt and a nod, and floated past to shake hands with Trowa. "Got your memory back yet?"

"No, not yet. It's good to see you again, though.

Duo was crushed, but pasted on the grinning mask in an instant to cover it. What the hell? He felt like he'd been kicked in the gut. And he almost jumped out of his skin when a hand closed over his shoulder.

"Duo, it's good to see you still alive." Wufei, unlike Heero, seemed genuinely glad to see him.

"Hey Wuffie!" Duo crowed with false cheer, forcing a hug on the unwilling boy. "You're a sight for sore eyes."

"So are you. I've thought of you often, and your terrible poetry."

Duo gave him a lopsided grin, wondering if the world was upside down, Heero ignoring him, and Wufei cracking jokes. "Where'd you find our Perfect Soldier, anyway?"

"He and Sally found me, actually. My Gundam was dead in space, out of supplies."

"Seems like fate just means for us to stick together, don't it?"

"Something like that."

Duo held it together as they all sat down in the galley for a hot meal. Everyone was talking about Kushreneda and Peacecraft's crazy standoff and Duo did his best to concentrate on that, but every time he let himself look at Heero, and saw the way that Heero immediately looked away from him, it was like a slap in the face. What the hell had he done to piss him off? They hadn't even seen each other since that prison cell, and Heero had been nice to him, in his own dysfunctional way.

In the midst of his confusion, he overheard Howard talking about accommodations for the newcomers.

"Hey, you can room with me, buddy. Just like old times?" Duo offered.

Heero stared down at his plate as he muttered, "Thanks, but I'm better off alone."

The food in Duo's belly turned to acid. He tossed the rejection off with a shrug, forced himself to sit still long enough to finish the food that was now tasteless as sand, then excused himself.

He held on until he was out of the room, and then the world went all sort of blurry. Dashing the tears away, he hurried to his room and made it inside before he came completely apart at the seams. Maybe he'd built up his friendship with Heero too much in his head, all this time they'd been apart. Maybe it was from listening to Quatre and Tro get it on all the time. Whatever it was, he'd been soooooo very wrong about Heero's feelings toward him. He'd probably misread his concern after the rap---after the beating he'd taken in prison, too.

Wrapping himself around his pillow, he jammed his face into it to muffle the sobs that wouldn't stop. It shocked the hell out of him. Duo Maxwell didn't cry! And sure as hell not over some stuck-up, sour-faced fuck of a pilot who thought said Maxwell wasn't even worth a decent hello!

"This is so fucked up!" he whispered, appalled at himself. "This shouldn't bother me like this!"

But it sure as hell did.

+

What should have been a happy reunion dinner was hell for Quatre, too. Duo was practically radioactive with emotion from the moment he'd laid eyes on Heero in the bay, and Quatre had suffered with him as his elation turned to pain. Heero's emotions were still muted from the reconditioning and too muddled for Quatre to make out anything but an overriding discomfort.

Duo did his best, but by the end of the meal it was obvious to everyone--well, everyone except Heero, probably--that something was wrong with the normally cheerful pilot. When Duo excused himself Quatre gave him time to get back to his cabin, then followed, hoping he'd be there.

The door was locked, but Quatre could sense Duo inside by the pulsing misery emanating from the room beyond.

"Duo, it's me. Please let me in."

A moment passed, then the lock released and Duo, eyes red, face all puffy and tear-stained, let him in. Quatre took one look at him, shut the door and locked it, and wrapped Duo in a floating hug.

Duo broke down completely, sobbing against his neck. "Why? Why does he hate me? What did I do?"

Quatre held him tighter and rubbed his shaking back. "You didn't do anything! It's something that happened to Heero. I should have told you sooner, but I didn't expect to see him so soon. After Heero and I were captured together, J put him through more conditioning. It was horrible, like feeling Heero drown. Afterwards, all his emotions were suppressed. It's still affecting him. Just give him some time."

"It didn't stop him from saying hey to the rest of you!" Duo sobbed, and Quatre felt a stab of jealousy, aimed in part at him.

"I can't explain Heero, Duo, but I know he doesn't hate you! He's just-suppressed and a little confused, I think."

Duo quieted a little, cried out for now, but there was still a pathetic hitch in his voice when he whispered, "I just wanted to see him again so fucking bad! I just want to be his friend, y'know?"

"I know," Quatre soothed. "Give him a little time to get used to us again, OK? I'll talk to him---"

"No! No fucking way!" Duo pulled back and glared at him. "Thanks buddy, I know you mean well, but this is between Yuy and me. If he doesn't want anything to do with me, then to hell with him!" He was fighting to get the mask up again, but a new flood of tears belied it. "This is so fucking stupid!" he gasped, clinging to Quatre like his life depended on him. "We've got a war to fight, and lots of ass to kick. I don't got time for this kind of shit."

Quatre stroked his braid, silent for a moment as he considered what he was about to say, then just rammed ahead. "You're really in love with him, aren't you? I don't think he understood that before the conditioning. I'm not sure if he can now. But I think it does wear off, otherwise J wouldn't have to keep doing it. In fact, I heard the scientists talking about it, and about you. J wanted you kept away from Heero because you seem to the only person who could get through all that and make Heero feel human again. He called you a 'dangerous trigger.'"

Duo calmed slightly at that. "He said that? Really?"

"Really."

Duo wiped his face inelegantly on his sleeve, leaving a trail of tears and snot on the black cloth. "So, maybe Heero is still in there somewhere, trying to get out?"

"I really believe that. And I think you may be the only person who can save him, but it's bound to be difficult. You'll have to be really strong."

Duo wiped his eyes again with the heels of his hands. "Strong? Shit, remember who you're talkin' to, Q-Ball. I'm fucking Shinigami! If this means a fight, then hell, I'm in!"

"A very gentle, careful fight," Quatre warned. "J messed with his brain. You can't just change him overnight. He may never be quite the same. I just don't know. I guess the best advice is just be his friend, even if he acts like an ass."

Duo grabbed him into another hug, this one warm and less desperate. "Mission accepted, buddy. And Quatre?"

"Yes?"

"You're my number one best friend."

"That you don't want to sleep with," Quatre amended.

"Shut up!" Duo growled, but he hugged him tighter.

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