Author: Ravengirl
see part 1 for warnings, notes, disclaimer

single quotes ' ' around speech = a past conversation
// = direct thought
{} = lyrics

Remember + Part 4: inevitable chaos...

Unlike the trauma victims peppering any number of sensationalized amnesia stories he'd heard or read of, his memory didn't come back all at once.

It trickled in by way of dreams and disorienting flashbacks that seemed to get stronger with every episode. It didn't matter where he was or what he was doing... the past would seize him in its iron grip, only releasing him once he'd relived whichever event was on his menu for the day.

There was no sequence to the memories, either. No rhyme or reason. They exploded randomly across his consciousness, allowing him only glimpses of his former life, surrounded by great, gaping holes.

Bits of his childhood, punctuated by blood, violence and hunger... the rage of his teens... the feel of a pilot's controls under his hands... and Heero. All these he'd seen and felt. All these he knew with a surety that went soul-deep.

What he didn't know, was why he and Heero had separated. Had no clue as to how they'd ended up here, together, their identities so radically altered. He wasn't even sure what they'd meant to each other in their previous life, only that for him, the dark-haired boy had been the most important part of that hellish existence.

He no longer questioned his sanity, one way or the other. He just hoped he'd have some left after his brain righted itself. At the moment, the odds weren't looking too good.

After all, how sane could a guy be if he could look at an MS and instinctively know how to operate it, and yet still not remember his real name?

Yep... the odds were looking pretty shitty, indeed.

Zoe had told him to give it time... had slipped him a card with some doctor's com-code on it. He'd trashed it the minute she was out of sight. The last thing he needed was someone else prying at the fucked-up mess inside his skull.

And Heero? As far as Max was concerned, the less his former partner knew about said mess, the better, since he didn't seem to be sharing Max's mental schism.

Partner...

Max's eyes snapped open to stare through his skylight up into starry dark. Heero was -- had been -- his partner. But in what?

The now-familiar sense of displacement followed hard on the heels of thought. Reality shredded itself to pieces before his eyes, and then he was... somewhere else.

["What the fucking hell!?!"

"Get up. Orders just came in."

Sitting up in bed, Duo glared sleepily at the dark-haired automaton who'd just brained him with his own dictionary. Gave new meaning to throwing the book at someone.

"Oh yeah? Since when do you and J tell me what to do?"

"Cooperation between us is necessary for this mission."

"Like I give a fuck. I don't need some stuck-up brat orderin' me around. Hell, Yuy, you think you're such hot shit... take care of it yourself."

Flipping onto his side, he lay back down, waiting for the inevitable. When he felt movement behind him, he rolled, throwing himself off the bed and taking Yuy with him to the ground. The other boy was inhumanly fast, but not fast enough for a kid who'd survived L2's mean streets through sheer grit and gundanium-hard will.

Duo's fingers dug into the other pilot's right wrist, slamming it viciously down on the hard floor. The Sig flew from Yuy's grip and he grabbed for Duo with his left hand, going for the throat, mouth set in a silent snarl.

The press of Duo's blade against his larynx stopped him cold.

"You're good, Hot Shot, but you ain't that good." The angry sibilants seemed to fill the room. "You think 'cause you played me once, I'm easy prey. Doesn't work that way."

Retrieving the gun, Duo pointed it at his prisoner and stood slowly. Stepping carefully out of Yuy's reach, he lowered both weapons, but kept his eyes on the boy sprawled at his feet.

Yuy's typical expressionless mask had settled over his features, but the glittery anger in deep blue eyes gave him away. Oh yeah... he was pissed as all hell.

Duo smiled into that furious gaze.

"What do you want from me, Duo Maxwell?"

Pissed and... confused? Duo studied the other pilot. Yuy was confused. He really had no idea how to go about interacting with normal -- well, sorta normal -- people. Heaving a mental sigh, Duo prepared to give Heero Yuy a few insights into becoming a semi-functional human being as opposed to his present borderline sociopathic tendencies.

Not that Duo was any great shakes at the humanity thing himself, but at least he could pass for one most days. Yuy didn't even have a clue.

"You'll find most people prefer being asked rather than told. A small thing, but it makes life easier all around. You want to work with me... fine. But it's partners or nothing. I ain't your minion, and I answer to G, not you and Doctor Freak. Get me?"

As he watched, comprehension dawned in cobalt eyes. He could almost hear the rapid processing of new information within that frighteningly efficient brain. When Yuy's gaze cleared, it fixed steadily on Duo.

"I understand. Your skills would be very helpful on this mission, should you decide to take it. Will you need to contact your handler first? If so, right now would be optimal... the information is potentially time sensitive."

Repressing his laughter at Yuy's attempted diplomacy, Duo flicked the Sig's safety on before tossing the weapon to its owner.

"Nah. Already heard from him... said I should lend a hand whenever it seemed like you needed one."

Pushing to his feet, Yuy tucked his gun into the holster at his lower back.

"Very well. This is a search and destroy. An intelligence compound. We're to make it look like an accident... fuel explosion, preferably."

"Ah." Duo nodded sagely. "I begin to see why you want little 'ol me. I do enjoy a good explosion, now and again."

He could feel the manic energy of his battle persona building, just at the thought. Yuy was giving him an odd look, and he realized he was grinning widely. Turning it full-force on his companion, he laughed when the other boy took an involuntary step back.

" 'S all good, Yuy... I'm in the mood for barbecue and OZzie facilities burn nice and hot."

"Maxwell."

He looked up from tugging on his boots to see Yuy standing ramrod straight, fists clenched, eyes focused intently on nothing in particular and a very uncomfortable look on his face. Duo grinned again, inwardly this time. Here it came...

"I... apologize if my words seemed... too forceful. I meant no disrespect."

"Like I said, it's fine. Just don't do it again."

Springing energetically to his feet, he grabbed a duffle from under his bed, unzipped it and checked over the contents. Well, he thought, sharp eyes examining his bag of tricks, that oughta do 'er. Yee-haw.

Slinging the duffle over one shoulder, he headed briskly for the door, Yuy trailing in his wake.

"Step it up, Hee-man. Wanna get this done so I can go back to sleep."

When something tugged sharply at his hair, he whirled like an angry cat to see Yuy right behind him, a satisfied smirk on the too-pretty face.

"I TOLD you... do NOT touch the BRAID!"

Yuy shrugged.

"You called me Hee-man. If you say something like that, the braid is fair game."

That pulled him up short. Mr. Self-Righteous had a definite point there.

"Yeah, you're right. I deserved it." His eyes narrowed. "But only the name thing. I'm a smartass. Deal."

Yuy nodded a grave agreement then followed him out into the night.

The mission went down smoothly, not a single hitch. Security had been laughable, the guards grown lax with a lack of training and action. The only surprise was discovering how well he and Yuy worked together when they weren't trying to one-up each other. Sure shocked the hell out of Duo.

Later, watching billowing flame and massive dust-clouds from a distance, Yuy a silent presence at his back, Duo drew in a satisfied breath of smoke-tinged air.

"Could get used to this," he said to the boy at his shoulder, trying to tell Yuy he was willing to keep their arrangement going without actually saying so.

After a very long while a low voice answered him.

"Yes."]


Shaking hands fought with clinging covers as he toppled awkwardly from his bed. Dragging himself over to the wastebasket, he retched endlessly, bitter bile and horror searing his esophagus and mouth.

When the nausea finally subsided, he flopped backwards on the floor, body limp and wrung out.

Had he thought he wanted to know? Had he really desired to find his old self hiding somewhere within the maze of his mind? Now he wondered why. Wondered if, perhaps, he'd deliberately had his memory wiped simply to eradicate the smell of burning.

The church.

The military annex.

And the people. Oh jesus-god, the scent of cooked flesh and destruction would never leave his nostrils. It lingered still.

His stomach twisted painfully and his gorge rose, threatening another violent heaving session, but he choked it down, shutting his eyes and breathing through his nose. Refusing to think.

The voices crept back, though... his own so young and cocky, Heero's almost unrecognizable in its flat monotone.

My Heero doesn't sound like that. He doesn't act like that. He couldn't...

They wouldn't stop, two words repeated endlessly in that low, emotionless tone.

Maxwell.

Duo.

Duo Maxwell.

Violet eyes flickered open, seeing only freezing cobalt within an unfeeling visage.

I am...

I am... not insane.

I am... Duo Maxwell.

Hands trembling so badly he nearly dropped it, Duo grabbed his com and pressed Zoe's pre-programmed key.

"Wha-? Max? Whuzzamatter?"

Slurred with sleep, her voice instilled momentary guilt that quickly vanished under the weight of mounting hysteria.

"It's me Zoe. I need to know... does the name Duo Maxwell mean anything to you?"

Silence.

"Zoe?"

"Christ." It was said reverently, no blasphemy involved. "I can't fucking believe I didn't see it. What the hell is wrong with me?" she moaned.

Duo, who felt like he was going to fly into a thousand pieces any second, lost his single remaining thread of patience.

"Zoe, for god's sake, just fucking tell me already!"

"I can't. Not really. But I'm going to send you several image files and a couple of vids. Check your in-box." She sounded alert now, energized. "Max... Duo?"

"Yeah," he croaked.

"Jesus... I still can't believe it. Your memory... it's all there?"

"No. No, just... still pieces. But a lot more of them. The name... that came a few minutes ago."

"Yeah. Yeah, okay. Look, I sent the files. If you can meet me somewhere tomorrow, I'll probably have more for you."

"Tomorrow's graduation. I promised I'd go, but I'll come by your place later."

"Works for me. And Duo..."

"Yeah?"

"Some of the stuff you're going to see... well, I just want you to know that not everybody felt that way, okay? You're a great guy and a damn good friend. Remember that."

"O--kay."

"See you tomorrow, kid."

"Night Zo."

Dropping the com on his bed, he shoved to his feet and walked to his terminal, trepidation and curiosity a sickening churn inside him.

By the time he witnessed himself hanging limply in the grasp of two OZ soldiers, he was shaking uncontrollably. As he watched 'Scythe's death, reliving his younger self's agonized fury, tears began to track slowly from his eyes.

The end of the Eve War, the Barton Insurrection... it was all there.

There, too, the accusations and inquests. Five histories exposed and dissected by a government intent on destroying them.

The possibility of imprisonment. And finally, that meeting with Tregarth and the Council.

Had he brought this on himself? Had Heero? Yes, he'd killed -- they both had. Yes, he'd done so without remorse. Then.

If you had to do this, why didn't you make damn sure it worked, he screamed silently at the doctor who'd rebuilt him. He felt as though the dichotomy of his dual realities would rip asunder the fabric of his mind.

Looking back up at the screen, his eyes fixed on a picture of his towering black mecha.

Some ship's sensors had caught Deathscythe Hell in action, slicing through a squad of attacking mobile dolls. A killing machine built to wield terror like his glowing blade, Deathscythe's path and purpose were chaos. Back then, Duo had believed that Scythe's pilot shared his destiny.

I am become death... the destroyer of worlds.

The several-thousand-years-old words of a dead god rang just as true in an unstable future as they had millennia ago.

Laying his head on the cool surface of his desk, Duo Maxwell wept.

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