Warnings : Yaoi, angst, sap, OOC, Heero POV, limey stuff, language and some major butchering of the original time-line. This is a direct sequel to the 'Road Trip' series.
Thanks to Christy for another super-fast beta job.
Congratulations to Aya on her two-year anniversary!
Feed-back would be wonderful... unless you hate it.
I suppose I own the computer this was written on... does that count for anything?
by: Sunhawk

Tides of Change

I didn't think of Duo. I couldn't think of Duo. I could not allow it, for if I did... I am not sure I could have made myself do what I had to, when I threw myself in front of that piece of the Libra. But when I placed our lives, his and mine, in the scale against most of the northern hemisphere of the entire planet... it didn't balance. When I weighed our deaths against the destruction of the ecosystem of the Earth, against the lives of countless millions... men, women, children... it just didn't balance.

I am not stupid. I knew both our lives were at stake, I knew that if I didn't make it, if I ended up plummeting through the atmosphere and rode that fireball straight down to hell... that he would be right behind me. We'd sworn that to each other once, in a moment's passion, and I knew that he had meant it every bit as much as I had. If I failed and died... Duo died with me. But I couldn't let myself think of that. Because when everything else failed to stop Zechs and his insane plan, I knew that my moment of truth had come. That, somehow, it was my place to counter that madman's desperate move. Call it destiny. Call it Karma.

It seemed there were a dozen voices screaming at me over the cockpit speakers. A dozen voices urging me on... calling warnings... calling instructions. There was a voice giving a running count down. Another one calling for Zechs. I heard Quatre cry out what sounded like a prayer. Wufei cursing Zechs to the seventh level of hell. Trowa just cursing. I didn't really hear them. I had my target, had plotted my trajectory, was piloting like I had never piloted before. I didn't need their warnings and I didn't care about their encouragements. I listened for only one voice.

When I could spare my screens a glance, I saw Duo's Gundam, pinned and held fast by our three friends. He was trying to come after me... and they wouldn't let him. I could see their faces on each of the open comms, and I saw Duo's, twisted in anguished rage. I heard him shouting, "Heero!" It was... a recrimination. A plea. A curse. It was full of despair and anger, that single word. Full of disbelief and pain. Gods... such pain. Then his image flickered and was gone.

I couldn't think of Duo... but I did. How could I not? I didn't falter in my resolve, but I hurt for him. I ached to think what I was doing to him. I wondered if he had cut the visual feed for my sake, or his own. Then I wondered if he'd cut it completely... or only cut my visual.

My Gundam was shaking fit to rattle apart. My vector was all wrong for reentry, but then... I wasn't on a reentry course. I was on an intercept course. I couldn't get a damn lock on the target, and I knew I would only have one shot at this. Heat was building around me as the piece of Libra and I hit the atmosphere. It was now... it was now or never, damn it, and all I could think about was Duo. My Duo. No matter how hard I tried not to.

So many things to say. How do you tell the one you love goodbye when you only have a matter of minutes? Only minutes and an audience that consists of the entire Earth sphere? When the person you wanted most to hear you, might not even be listening?

But I knew better. I knew in that heartbeat that he was still there with me... he might have killed my communication feed so that I wouldn't have to watch his agony, but he would not spare himself. Never himself.

I fought with my targeting system, wrestled it with nothing but brute strength, and screamed the only message I could give him in the moment we had left. "I will survive!"

It was a promise, a promise that I meant with all my being to keep. This would be the end of it... after all that we had come through together, this would be the end of the war and I would be damned if I wasn't going to live to see it through to the other side.

As if sensing, somehow, that there was just no fighting against me, it all suddenly came together, computer targeting locked on, and I took my shot. Fired my buster rifle at that massive, damn chunk of destruction... and prayed. For the first time in my life, I begged the indifferent Gods for something less than a blind eye.

Let me do this... just let me live and I will make him happy. I will keep him safe and protected for the rest of our lives. I will love him like he deserves to be loved and I will stay by his side forever... just let me live through this. Please, Gods, please... for Duo.

There was a moment of twisted confusion, while the blast flare sent my sensors to white, that I wasn't sure. Could not confirm that I'd made the hit; stopped the end of the world. It was the ragged cheer of the rebel troops that told me I'd done it, coming across my speakers in a tinny burst of static. I trusted in that sound and broke my dive, knowing I was mere seconds away from the point of no return. I realized with a sudden, sharp pang that there had been a time when I would have stayed the course, would have refused to pull up until I had confirmation from my own senses that the mission was accomplished. And I would have died. Would have held my course and position until it was far too late. It was almost too late as it was, and I had a heart-stopping moment when I thought the boosters weren't going to do the job. A moment when I thought the harness or the g-forces were going to cut me in half. Then I was out and clear and I heard the exultant cries of my friends as they came to meet me.

"He did it!" Quatre shouted, his voice the first one that came clear to my ears. "He made it!"

"Of course," Wufei replied coolly, but I could hear the relieved smile in his voice.

I waited for the joyous call of my lover. I let the sound of the other voices wash over me without really hearing them. I was listening for only one thing. But it didn't come. His video feed didn't come back on-line. His voice didn't call out to me.

I hadn't been afraid until that moment. Throwing my Gundam into a power dive and risking the siren pull of the Earth's gravity had not truly stirred fear in my heart. I had been... anguished, perhaps, would best describe the feeling. Had been sorry under the resignation... but not afraid.

Fear stole its icy way into my gut then, ate at me with its bitter cold teeth.

"Duo?" I called, and didn't care who heard me.

There was no answer and I began to panic. Had he broken away from the others? Had he followed my path and been caught in the trap I had escaped?

"Where's Duo?" I barked, and my voice cut across all the chatter, silencing the cheers and the yelling.

"Calm down, Yuy," Wufei chuckled in amusement. "He's right..." But his voice faltered and I knew that Duo was not right where he had expected him to be. "What the hell?" he murmured.

I frantically punched the comm. unit up to Duo's private frequency and hit the call button, my hands shaking in reaction. I cut off all the rest of them, sitting in my suddenly cold Gundam in a biting silence.

"Hey," his voice finally came, sounding thin and battered, old and worn. There was music in the background, something I didn't recognize, sounding melancholy and dark.

"Damnit!" I barked before the irony of it caught up with me. "You scared the hell out of me! Where are you?"

His laugh was bitter and flat. I punched for visual, but he wouldn't give it to me.

"I can't do this... with the world watching," he said and I couldn't fathom the depth of emotion I heard in his voice, twisted round and wrapped tight enough to strangle. "I love you."

Then he was gone. Cut the link and left me there, in the cold. I scanned for long minutes, looking for him while my brain tried to make sense of what he had said. But you don't find the Gundam Deathscythe when his pilot doesn't want to be found.

It took Wufei calling me on my own private channel to shake me free; to make me follow the others back to what was left of the Peacemillion.

We were given a hero's welcome. Cheered and applauded. It was all I could do not to snap and snarl at the people who approached me. I wanted to tell them to leave me the hell alone. Trowa and Quatre disappeared fairly quickly and later, much later, I was to discover that Quatre had been gravely wounded aboard the Libra before the final battle had even started. Wufei stayed by my side and deflected the well-wishers as best he could, eventually using my recent battle as an excuse to 'take me to sick-bay'.

Instead, he found an empty conference room and took me there; away from the prying eyes of people I didn't know how to deal with. People who were too elated to react to my icy glare the way they should have... the way they usually did.

I let Wufei lead me into the quiet room; lights dim with only the emergency generators running. I let him push me down into a chair and I barely registered that he perched himself on the table near at hand. There was a port in the room and I sat staring out it, wondering if Duo were somewhere within that rectangle of stars.

"Did he talk to you?" Wufei prodded gently, going straight to the heart of the matter, as always.

I grunted darkly, a slightly affirmative sound and there was a faint sigh.

"What did he say?" he asked, the soul of patience, and I had to glance at him.

"Only that he couldn't do this with the whole world watching," I told him. I went back to looking out the port, not able to meet the quiet concern in his eyes.

"That doesn't sound...final," he ventured.

"Well, what the fuck does it mean, then?" I snapped at him and was instantly sorry, but couldn't contain the frustration writhing around in my gut.

"Perhaps he realized what kind of reception we were going to encounter when we came aboard," Wufei said gently. "You know how he hates crowds..."

"He hates crowds, so he just runs away?" I blurted, glaring up at him, finding that his calm was irritating me even further.

"Heero, he was pretty angry with us, for not letting him... for holding him back," he tried again, and I saw his hand start to reach out toward me, but then he thought better of it.

I threw myself to my feet and stalked to the port to get away from that touch, I wasn't ready for it. "I almost died out there," I growled, defensively, finding that I was hurt a great deal by the fact that Duo wasn't here holding me tight... that he didn't need to be here to see that I was all right. I would have needed that, had our positions been reversed.

"And he didn't?" Wufei said softly.

I whirled to look at him in surprise, my mouth falling open as I saw in his face that he understood something about the pact we'd made. Or perhaps he just understood the depth of our feelings.

"Deny it," he demanded, and I couldn't. "Give him a little time, Heero," he chided softly. "You act like he's leaving you... he'll be back."

"How do I know that?" I breathed, looking at him searchingly, maybe hoping that he had some information that I didn't have. Hoping that maybe he knew something he hadn't told me. That he would pull something out of the air for me, like he so often had before.

"Because if there is one thing through this whole damn mess that has been as constant as the North Star," he told me intently, his face flushing slightly, "it's Duo's love for you. You can't doubt that... I don't doubt that."

"Then where the hell is he?" I whispered, suddenly very tired.

A little of his confidence slipped away for a second and I saw his own uncertainty. "I don't know... but I know he won't stay away for long. You know that, too, if you'll let yourself see it passed your hurt feelings."

I growled darkly at him and turned away. I'd indulge my hurt feelings if I wanted to. "Leave me alone."

I was surprised when he did; surprised and a little bit sorry.

"Where are you, love?" I whispered to the stars after Wufei was gone. "Why did you go?" The stars offered very little comfort.

After a while, with the loss of the distraction of Wufei's company, I realized just how tired and achy my body was, and went back to sit on the conference table. I propped my feet in the chair and my elbows on my knees, just sitting and staring out the port. I was loath to leave this place of quiet and solitude; I didn't think I could deal with any more of the congratulations and teary-eyed handshakes. Not without my friends to run interference for me, and I'd just driven the last one away.

Gods, but I was wallowing in self-pity. What in the hell was the matter with me? Duo hadn't told me he was never coming back. He'd said he loved me. But I couldn't help but worry... now that Treize was dead, now that the Earth and the colonies were in talks to end this damn war, what if he decided he didn't want to stay with me after all? What if he found he didn't love me as much as he had thought he did?

My head was trying to tell me that he was all right, that he had just needed a little time before he could deal with this rush of humanity and that it wasn't me he was avoiding. But my gut was cringing in fear, babbling incoherently about abandonment, about the absurdity of trying to start a damn relationship in the middle of a Gods forsaken war. My heart was a leaden thing in my chest, whispering to me softly about how I obviously hadn't loved enough, hadn't been strong enough, had let him down one too many times. And, of course, that other voice... the one that only had the one point to make, the one about this being a bad idea right from the beginning. I wasn't at all sure which one to listen to.

We'd come so far. Come through so much together. It couldn't be over... could it? When I tried to think about a future without him there with me, all I saw was a blank. I couldn't envision a life without Duo in it. Didn't really want to try. There had been a time, not all that long ago, when I would have sold my life in the blink of an eye for whatever cause I had been handed. There was a time that I had tried just that; had self-destructed my Gundam without even trying to think of another way out of the mess we had been in. I had, somewhere down in the depths of my dark soul, wanted to die.

Before Duo. Before he had found my heart and my soul locked away the Gods only know where, dusted them off, and brought them back to me. Made me whole again. Maybe made me whole for the first time in my life.

Oh my sweet Duo...don't leave me here alone.

Where could he have gone? Why wasn't he here with me? Was he... was he all right? Was he hiding something from me? Had he been hurt in that last battle? He wouldn't be afraid to let me know, would he? He hated being vulnerable and incapacitated so badly... would he have run rather than let me know he'd been injured? Gods; I was being absurd. I wished, just a little too late that I hadn't sent Wufei away; I needed his calm, rational voice right now.

Just sitting there, doing nothing but brooding, I began to feel the ache and the soreness. Began to understand what a beating I had taken from Zechs, from the wrestling match with the Libra. I wanted nothing so much as I wanted to find a dark hole to crawl into where I could curl up and sleep. But I wanted to curl up with Duo safe in my arms. I wanted it so suddenly and so sharply that it sang through my veins... that need to have Duo there with me. It was a pain that eclipsed all the rest of it, that started in my chest and spread through me until I felt I would crumble away under the weight of it. I lowered my head into my hands, sat and... wept. I tried to remember the last time I'd cried and it seemed to me that it had been in Duo's arms and that I had wept for his sake. Most of the tears I'd cried in my lifetime had been on his behalf... had been for his pain. I couldn't even be angry with him... there wasn't room in my heart for more than the fear.

Where are you, my love... and what's wrong?

If I held very still, I could imagine him sitting close beside me, could almost hear his soft voice... don't cry love, its all right... everything is all right. I tried to imagine the feel of his arms wrapping around me in comfort, in support. It only made me feel cold and I shivered.

I tried to think about the promises he had made to me, tried to make myself hear his voice whispering to me in passion... in love. But all I could hear was him screaming my name in horror as I dove after that piece of Armageddon on what must have seemed a suicide mission.

I hadn't hesitated. I had seen the danger and launched my attack. It must have seemed that I hadn't given him a second thought. It must have seemed that I had taken our future together and thrown it on the table like a pair of dice. I had let the presence of all those listeners, all those watchers, keep me from telling him anything close to what I had been feeling.

He still wakes at night, sometimes, screaming in denial from nightmares of my self-destruction. He clings to me on those nights as though his arms are all that hold me to life. As though he would fight the devil himself and all his minions for my possession. He never goes back to sleep afterward. Never.

Today must have seemed very like his worst nightmare come to screaming, bleeding life.

Oh my heart... what have I done to you?

If I was honest with myself, I had to admit that there really, truly wasn't a hell of a lot I could have done differently, if I had this day to do over. But I wished I could. I wished with all my heart that I could have spared him those long, long moments of terror. Could have let someone else bear the sword for a change. It just hadn't happened that way.

Behind me, I heard the door open and I wiped roughly at my eyes, looking at the reflection of that rectangle of light in the window to see that it was Wufei standing there.

"Heero?" he called softly and I could tell from his tone that he wasn't there with any news that I cared to hear. I grunted at his reflection, not turning around. "Quatre is asking for you."

"Not now," I growled at him, utterly horrified that he had found me like this.

He hesitated in the doorway for a moment, perhaps hearing the roughness of my voice. "Heero?"

"Leave me the hell alone," I snapped, refusing to turn and face him. "I'll hunt him up... later."

He began to make his way around the room to me and I thought I would scream. All I could do was hang my head to hide my face. I saw his feet stop their movement when he reached my side and he just stood there for a moment. Then a warm hand settled on my shoulder and I think I shivered.

"He'll be back," he soothed and the anger just melted out of me.

"How can you know that?" I asked; again half hoping he did know something.

"I know Duo," he said simply, and I could hear that tight little smile of his.

"Then tell me what's wrong," I demanded. "If you know him so damn well... tell me why he ran away. Tell me why he left."

There was the sound of a heavy sigh. "I don't know, Heero... I can only make guesses." The hand on my shoulder squeezed tight. "Come on... Quatre's in the infirmary and he wants to see you."

That revelation came as such a shock that I jerked my head up to look at him, not thinking about what I was revealing. I saw his eyes fly open wide and I flushed to the roots of my hair, turning quickly away again.

"Heero?" he whispered, his voice full of disbelief and oddly... tender. I couldn't bear that right now.

"Don't," I commanded.

He sighed. "Come," he told me. "There's a lavatory across the corridor... you can clean up there. Quatre needs to get some rest, but is insistent that he talk to us first."

"What happened?" I finally thought to ask.

"That Catelonia woman..." he growled angrily, "somehow managed to take him by surprise with a damn fencing foil, of all things."

His irritation with the woman who had seemed only a hanger-on, but had turned out to be so much more, served to make him forget the state I was in. He led me across the corridor, muttering about the ludicrousness of the statement "war is beautiful", and the questionable mental state of a person who would actually say such a thing.

"Damn, stupid idealistic woman," he continued, leaning in the doorway while I washed my face in cold water. "Obviously she's never seen a real battlefield. Sits in her ivory tower and reads books on the subject." He snorted derisively. "I'd like to see her spout that crap to someone like Sally Po. She'd get laughed right off the ship."

"Where is she now?" I ventured, giving my face a critical glance in the mirror. I could only hope that the walk to sickbay would be sufficiently long enough that some of the redness would leave my eyes before we got there.

"Trowa said he left her to her own devices," he informed me, making a point of picking at an imaginary hangnail. I realized that he was only making small talk to help me get my head back together. "The only reason he didn't kill her where she stood was because Quatre wouldn't let him." He shook his head ruefully. "I'm not at all sure they made the right choice."

I grunted and waved him out of the room, indicating that I was done. He pushed off the wall and led the way. I fell into step beside him, trying to focus on what he was talking about and not on what my thoughts wanted to dwell on.

"Quatre is going to be all right, isn't he?" I asked when it finally occurred to me.

Wufei gave me a sidelong glance and I felt ashamed that it had taken me so long to get my head out of my ass and think to question that fact. "He'll be fine if he will stop arguing with the Doctor and do as he is told."

I snorted softly; there wasn't one of us that hadn't been guilty of that at one time or another. Wufei included. He spared me one of those tight little smiles, but I couldn't find it in me to return it. He sighed and we just stopped talking.

The ship was heavily damaged and we passed through sections where the artificial gravity was completely out of commission. We kicked off and drifted through those areas like strange, deep-sea swimmers. Like everything else in the last couple of hours, it only served to remind me of Duo. I couldn't help but think how at home he was in zero gravity, how lithe and graceful. We passed crew members of the Peacemillion, doing critical repairs and looking for wounded. I found my eyes raking over each one, searching for a long tail of a braid, for soulful amethyst eyes. Several of them turned as we passed and when we were recognized, gave us a solemn little salute. Wufei nodded to them in acknowledgment.

"Heero," he murmured to me when there was a moment of privacy, "he was fine when I last saw him."

"How do you know that?" I scowled. "We didn't know there was anything wrong with Quatre."

He grunted and had the decency to look a little taken aback. "He was fighting against us like a damn demon... he certainly didn't act injured."

[cont] [back to Sunhawk's fic]