The Beginning's End + Part 5
As I knock on the door, I hear a loud clattering in the apartment, as though someone is recklessly destroying things in the rush to get to the door.
The door swings open, revealing a rumpled, red-eyed Duo Maxwell.
"Trowa!" he shouts as he yanks the door open. "I knew you'd…" He stops short when he sees me. "Oh," he mumbles, obviously confused. "I thought you were…"
"May I come in?" I ask in my most businesslike manner.
"I…um…Sure, Fei," he replies weakly, stepping away from the door and motioning me in.
I step in and look around the apartment. Maxwell has obviously not been huddled in a corner unable to move. The place is a wreck - pillows and magazines and other debris are strewn everywhere. Small pieces of furniture are overturned. Glancing in the direction of the kitchen, I see broken glass on the floor. Sitting on the couch is a large framed picture of Duo and Trowa. I sit on the couch next to the photograph - the seat is warm.
I look up at Maxwell. "I see you are employing constructive means of correcting this situation," I remark. "Were you staring at it and weeping or clutching it to you and weeping?"
He flushes angrily and darts forward to grab the picture out of my hands. My deliberate rudeness seems to have had the proper effect. I settle back and wait for the explosion.
Slowly, his shoulders sag, though, and the angry color leaves his face. "Both," he admits in a rueful voice, his mouth twisting in angry self-loathing.
I frown, somewhat at a loss. Maxwell is supposed to defend himself. I could then puncture his ridiculous arguments with logic, pointing out to him how he has erred. What is my part if he doesn't play his?
"I guess you've seen Trowa?" he asks abruptly, dropping to the floor and drawing his knees to his chest with his usual lithesome grace.
I nod. "He came to say good-bye to Quatre," I say slowly.
Duo raises a brow at me, a spark of interest kindling in his violet eyes. "Good-bye?" he repeats, his voice tense. He is silent for a moment. "He went to the mansion?"
I stop myself from squirming. Sometimes Maxwell is too damn perceptive. "No," I answer shortly.
"Quatre was at his apartment?"
Duo starts to smile. "You were there?" he asks meaningfully.
Now it is my turn to flush. "I am frequently there," I manage finally, attempting to hold on to my dignity.
The expression turns into a full-fledged grin. "Wu-man, you dog," he teases, a sly edge to his voice.
"I understand that that term can apply to you as well," I answer coldly.
When I see the change in his face, the look that flashes into his eyes, I almost regret my deliberately cruel words. Almost.
"You and Quatre must hate me, huh?" he asks defeatedly, dropping his gaze to the floor.
I frown. He has phrased his question in the most difficult way possible. If I say yes, he wallows in misery and self-hatred. If I say no, I condone his actions.
He did that on purpose. I know he did.
But he miscalculated. The touch of pity I had begun to feel disappears. I don't like being manipulated.
"What happened?" I ask abruptly. Quatre said we needed his side; I'll ask for his side.
Duo looks up, a slight frown on his face. Now I'm not playing by the script, and he doesn't like that any better than I do.
"Heero was drunk," he says finally. "He had a nightmare. I heard him and came out; I didn't want to wake Trowa."
He looks at me, but I make no comment. Somehow, I don't feel that this is the day to be congratulating him on his consideration toward Barton.
"Well, he woke up and told me about the dream. It was about the war."
I almost wince. I know from painful experience what it is to dream about the war. I have lost count of how often I have been forced to watch helplessly as my colony was destroyed so that I would be free to fight. I can no longer recall how many times I have killed Treize Kushrenada.
"He was…I don't know how to explain it, Fei. He asked me to…"
He pauses, but I can guess what Heero asked him to do. That is surprising; it is definitely unlike Yuy to initiate such an encounter.
"What could I do, Wufei?" he demands, looking at me angrily as I still fail to reply. "I couldn't reject him, not the way he was. It would have destroyed him."
I can't help it - I snort.
"What?" Maxwell demands angrily.
"It would take more than a sexual refusal to ‘destroy' Heero Yuy," I say bluntly. "You'll need to come up with a better excuse than that."
That particular deliberate rudeness seems to have worked better. Maxwell leaps to his feet, and clenches his fists angrily.
"Are you accusing me of lying?" he demands ominously.
I pause to think. Whatever his other faults, Maxwell does not lie. "Perhaps you are lying to yourself," I amend after a moment. "I can't believe that you were so altruistic in your motives."
He turns his back on me and stalks across the apartment. "Not that I see what business it is of yours, Chang," he spits angrily over his shoulder.
I nod. "As you say," I concede. "Quatre just believed that we should know your side of the story."
"So, now what?" he asks, glaring balefully across the room at me. "Now you've heard it from the lion's mouth - I, Duo Maxwell, am a fornicator and an adulterer," he shouts, throwing his arms wide in an unnecessarily dramatic gesture. "Now what - you're free to punish and condemn me?"
I regard him thoughtfully. "It seems you're doing that well enough yourself," I comment.
He continues to glare at me, obviously frustrated I didn't say something else he could take offense to. Finally, with a low growl of exasperation, he comes back and throws himself back onto the floor, hiding his head in his hands.
"How's Trowa?" he asks after a moment, lifting his head to look at me.
I think for a moment. "Hurt," I say finally.
He grimaces, a small groan of remorse escaping his lips.
"Betrayed," I continue.
This time the sound is louder, the grimace more pronounced.
"Angry," I proceed.
"At me?" he asks quickly, his expression…hopeful?
I shake my head slowly. "At himself, I think," I say, frowning as I try to clarify the thought in my mind.
"Himself?" Duo repeats incredulously. "For what?"
I look steadily at Maxwell. "For believing you when you said you loved him," I say. I'm very proud of myself. I got through that entire womanish statement without gagging. It must be Quatre's influence.
This seems to hit Maxwell harder than anything else I have said. He starts, his deep eyes filling with fresh tears. I turn my head to one side, not wishing to see another warrior weep.
"How can he think that?" he whispers brokenly.
My head jerks back in his direction and I snarl at him, suddenly and completely out of patience. "What did you expect, Maxwell?" I snap. "You betrayed him. With someone who is also his friend. That is an unconscionable act."
"Fei…I know," he says quietly. "I can't change it, though. I'm sorry, and I wish he'd…"
"You're in no position to be wanting things from him," I say bluntly.
"So what should I do?" he fires back. "You seem to know all the answers here - how should I proceed? Enlighten me, Master Chang," he drawls sarcastically.
I frown. "I…don't know," I confess, scowling over the admission. "I will ask Quatre." I stand up. I don't want to be here anymore. I am feeling strained, trapped in this morass of melodrama.
Duo stares at me with haunted eyes. He doesn't want me to leave; doesn't want to be alone. I know it, and I am leaving him anyway. I feel a twinge of remorse, but quickly silence it. It will not harm Maxwell to experience some of the sense of isolation Barton is feeling.
"Have Quatre call me, ok Fei?" he asks tonelessly.
I nod, and move to the door. I open it and walk through, starting to pull it shut behind me. But I stop. Whatever he's done, I can't leave him sitting there on the floor without a parting word.
I turn around, and look back into the room. "Maxwell," I call sharply.
He looks up at me in surprise.
"I…I hope that it all…I hope that you can fix this," I flounder.
He stares at me slightly, then smiles, relief in his eyes.
"Thank you, Wufei," he says meaningfully.
I flush. I guess I am that easy to read.
Today is the day.
Today I will cease vacillating.
Today I will leave the quagmire of weak indecision that has become my life.
I sit bolt upright in the bed, swing my legs over the side and stand up. I stride to one side of the room, and open the door to my closet.
My closet. It's bigger than some places that house whole families.
I have to dig deep in the back to uncover what I'm looking for. Finally, I find them, and grunt in satisfaction as I pull them on.
I come back out into the bedroom and see that Relena is awake. She squints and me, and scowls when she sees what I'm wearing.
"Taking a trip down memory lane?" she asks nastily.
Not even Relena can destroy my mood today. Finally, finally I am completing a mission.
I don't respond to her, don't even acknowledge her as I sit on the edge of the bed and put on my sneakers.
I tug the hem of the tank top down. It isn't the one I wore in the wars - that was six years ago. I was fifteen. I've grown. But it's the same green, and the spandex shorts are of the same style as the ones I wore all those years ago.
Relena used to tease me about them right after we were married. She bought me new ones regularly, for a while. Then she stopped buying them.
But then, I'd stopped wearing them, so I suppose it isn't surprising.
I don't know if the blame for what has happened to our marriage rests with one or the other of us. Neither of us is really suited to be married to anyone, much less to each other. I suppose we did what we could with what we had.
But it's not enough, not anymore. I finish tying my sneakers, and stand up and head for the door. I still haven't spoken to her.
"Heero!" she demands peremptorily. "What are you doing?"
I pause in the doorway and turn to look at her. She's flushed and petulant, flouncing up from the bed, tangled in the folds of her pink nightgown. I smile slightly, then turn and leave.
I ignore the sound of her outraged protests as I stride down the hall and down the stairs. She'll be after me any minute. I don't care.
Soon, I'm descending the steep stairs into the cellars of the palace. I move surely through the dim series of rooms, past nailed-shut crates and old furniture, through the wine cellars. When I reach the furthest room, I stop. I kneel down on the floor in the far corner, and gently tug on one of the large stones in the bottom row.
After a moment, it grudgingly gives and I pull it aside, revealing the small space behind it.
It wasn't easy to make this space. It took a long time. I needed a secure hiding spot, though, and they aren't easy to find in the Sank Palace.
The only things in the space are the two objects I'd placed in there. One small, cylindrical object. The other, a small, square box..
Both look perfectly innocuous. Together, they could probably destroy the palace.
After the events of yesterday morning, I realize that I've probably destroyed Duo and Trowa's lives. The past three years have been bad enough, wallowing in my own misery, watching my own life be wasted. Now, it seems that, through my misery, I'm starting to destroy the lives of others.
I can't allow that to happen. It's time I take action.
I'm taking action now.
I standing up, blowing gently on the small box, raising a slight cloud of dust. I run my fingers over it lightly, finding a small switch on the side. Lightly, I flick it to the ‘on' position. A red light begins to glow on the top of the box.
I feel myself smirk. Five years in a hole in the wall isn't enough to break this.
I quickly make my way back through the cellars, not bothering to replace the stone in the wall. I won't be needing a hiding place here any more.
I climb the stairs, and run right into Relena. She scowls at me, and opens her mouth to say something biting. She interrupts herself with a startled gasp, however, when she sees the objects in my hands.
"What are those?" she demands angrily.
I don't answer her. I turn around and head for the front door.
"Heero Yuy!" she shouts behind me. "What do you have in your hands?"
I reach the door, Relena still trailing behind me.
"Are you telling me that all these years you've had a bomb hidden in my own house?" she shrieks.
I turn and give her a withering stare. "It isn't a bomb," I say shortly, the scorn I feel apparent in my tone.
All the time she spent around armies during various wars, and she can't even tell what this is.
The door slams on her furious recriminations.
Still holding my hoard, I walk into the garage. I walk past the chauffeur, nod at him, take a set of keys from the wall and step into a car.
Not that horrible pink limousine Relena drives. Thank God, I'll never have to ride in that again.
"Sir!" the chauffeur stammers, running to the side of the car. "Can I drive you somewhere, sir?"
I put the key in the ignition. I turn my head and regard the man steadily. "No," I reply flatly as I turn the key, shift the car into gear, and drive out of the garage.
A few moments later, I've arrived at Preventer Headquarters. I stride through the familiar halls, ignoring the various greetings directed at me. I go directly to the upper floor, where the mobile suits are held.
As I enter, I see Lady Une standing there, deep in discussion with a bored mechanic. I nod to her, and cross to a row of mobile suits. I contemplate them for a moment, then decide on an old OZ Aires. I tuck the objects under my arm, and begin to climb up the suit.
"Heero!" I turn my head and see Une bearing down on me. I continue to climb.
"What are you doing?" she shouts.
I sigh. She shouts louder than Relena.
"I'm taking this suit," I call down.
"What?!" she shrieks.
I roll my eyes. "I'm not attacking anyone with it," I snap impatiently, easing the door to the cockpit open. "I just need to get somewhere in a hurry."
"Heero, would you please come down here?" she asks in a cold voice. "I would like to discuss this with you."
"No time, Une!" I shout. "Open the doors!"
"I am not opening them until you come down here," she orders. "My office. Now!"
"I'll just break through them," I warn.
"You'll then be classed as an enemy and shot down," she informs me crisply, turning and striding away. "Your choice."
I've got to give her one thing. She doesn't bluff.
I shrug to myself. I guess a small delay is unavoidable. I gently deposit my burden on the pilot's seat, then casually jump off the entry hatch. The wind ruffles through my hair, and I feel the jarring impact in my knees as my feet slam into the ground. Some things you never forget, I guess.
I walk casually into Une's office. It has annoyed legions of people that she insists on having her office in such a difficult to access place, but she insists on being near the mobile suits so she can keep an eye on them herself. I've always approved of that decision.
As I go into her office, I can see that she's already sitting in her leather desk chair. It isn't big and ostentatious like Relena's - it's built for comfort and efficiency, not show. I throw myself casually into one of the two straight chairs on the other side of the desk.
"What's this about, Heero?" she asks, getting right to the point.
"I need to borrow a suit," I reply simply. "I promise I will not kill, shoot, wound, attack or otherwise destroy anyone with it."
"What about with the things you were carrying when you came in?" she asks.
I smile slightly. Une isn't as unschooled in armaments as Relena. "I'm not going to hurt anyone," I repeat.
She shakes her head. "I can't let you take out a mobile suit," she decides.
"Respectfully, Commander, you can't stop me," I tell her, standing up and stretching.
Her eyes narrow. "Oh really, Mr. Yuy, and what do you think…"
"I could fire you," I tell her calmly.
She laughs scornfully. "You could not," she replies. "Neither could Relena, though she likes to think so. It would take…"
"I know," I interrupt. "I know it would never stand. But it would cause a lot of confusion here, wouldn't it? I go out of this office, announce that I've fired you, and take off in the suit. You order me shot down. The gunners have just been informed by the Prince Consort that you've been fired. What do they do? Maybe they obey eventually, but by then I'm gone."
Une stares at me, her eyes glittering angrily and her cheeks pink. I stare steadily at her.
"I just want the suit, Une," I say quietly. "I won't do anything bad with it."
"Where are you going?" she asks tightly.
I'm quiet for a moment, then I smile sadly. "Back to the end," I say, and turn around and leave the office.
I hear footsteps hurrying behind me, and sigh. "Une, please, just…"
"All right, Heero," she says, falling into step with me. "You can take the suit. But -," here she stops walking, and reaches up and grips my shoulders, "if you do anything with it that falls back on me, I'll kill you myself. Got it?"
I nod. "Thank you," I say simply.
"Get lost before I change my mind," she says grimly.
I nod, scale the suit again, and strap myself into the pilot's seat, carefully placing the cylindrical object in my pocket and the box on the seat between my legs. I punch the appropriate buttons, and feel the suit come to life beneath me.
The viewscreen flickers, and Une's face appears on it. "You are clear to go," she informs me briefly. "Don't do anything I'll regret," she warns again, before signing out.
I pull the control, and feel the suit soar into the air. I clear the roof and lean on the control, picking up speed as fast as I can, glorying in the feel of the suit carrying me to my destination.