By TJ Dragonblade
Pairings: 2x5x2; passing mention of past 3x4, current 1+3, 4+Abdul, 6x9, AudaxSally & possibly others...
Rated: R
Warnings: Various spoilers for series, EW, & Preventer 5; language, yaoi citrus, angst & sap...
Disclaimer: Gundam Wing is created by Hajime Yatate and Yoshiyuki Tomino, copyrighted by Sunrise/SOTSU Agency, and distributed by Bandai entertainment. In other words, I am merely playing with the boys for the entertainment of myself and hopefully others; in so doing I mean no disrespect or copyright infringement.
Credits: Inspired by four lines from 'Mary Jane's Last Dance', by Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, available on their 1994 Greatest Hits album. Lyrics appear at the beginning of chapters I & II.
Feedback: Greatly appreciated, as always
Setting: July AC201, roughly four years after the Preventer 5 Manga & four and a half years after Endless Waltz.
Notes: This is a project I undertook last December; I'm going against force of habit and posting chapter one before the story is complete. Why? Well, 'cause I've been at it for 'bout a year now; I'm eager to share and I'm hoping that it'll help push me to finish the fic. Why are they in Phoenix? Eh, I dunno--guess I was feeling homesick.

Lost & Found + Chapter 1

//I don't know, but I've been told
You never slow down, you never grow old//

Duo Maxwell sighed in acute relief as the sun finally sank below the western horizon. Whatever had possessed him to visit this place in the dead of summer, he didn't know. Phoenix was a nice enough city, but the heat was something else entirely. Yet here he was anyway, and for what? 'Cause he'd gotten sick & tired of his mundane life.

It had started about four years ago, a couple months after he'd joined his former teammates as a Preventer to retake the Sank Kingdom palace. With that skirmish resolved, Heero and Trowa had stayed on as Preventers while he'd gone back to the salvage yard and Hilde, his business partner for all intents and purposes. But he'd grown steadily more restless as the years passed; a few months ago, he'd finally gotten too restless to stay. He was young, after all; and life seemed to be passing him by all too swiftly. His childhood had been shot to hell long ago; he'd fought in and survived a year-long war and found peace only to have it briefly taken again. In the years since that conflict had ended, growing old had become a much more probable possibility than it ever had been before; he was beginning to realize that there were things he wanted to do before he actually became a senior citizen.

So Hilde, who had recently come into a rather sizable inheritance, had bought out his half of the business quite generously and sent him off to chase his dreams. He'd decided to begin by traveling the world, seeing everything Earth had to offer. Being of American descent, he'd started in the land of his ancestry, beginning on the east coast and working his way west.

Which is how he came to be standing on a street corner in Phoenix, marveling at the fact that even though it was dusk, the temperature was still at least a hundred and ten.

Removing his sunglasses, Duo wiped the sweat from his brow with the back of his hand and looked around him, searching. Someplace to get a cold beer, that's what he needed. Someplace with air conditioning. Evening or not, it still felt like a furnace out here, especially in the middle of downtown where there was plenty of concrete and metal to reflect the heat. It didn't seem to phase the few passers-by he saw; but he figured they were more accustomed to such temperatures than he was.

Good thing he'd slathered on plenty of sunblock before he left the hotel or he'd be a nice shade of shiny red right now instead of his usual creamy white. And that would be painful.

Damn, but this place truly was hotter than hell.

Beer. He was after a beer.

Looking across the street in hopes of spotting a pub, Duo was surprised to see a familiar insignia on a small office building.

"A Preventers branch office," he mused aloud. "I wonder..."

On a whim, he crossed the street and stepped through the front doors. The evening receptionist glanced up and flashed him a smile. "May I help you?" she asked politely.

"Could you tell me if you've got an agent named Heero Yuy workin' here?" It was a slim chance, he knew. He hadn't been in contact with anyone since he'd begun traveling; but both Heero and Trowa had previously mentioned upcoming transfers out of HQ though they hadn't known where they were going.

But it'd be nice to see his old friends again; there was no harm in asking.

"Yuy? Like the famous pacifist?"

Duo nodded. "Uh huh."

The girl frowned slightly and brought up what Duo assumed was a personnel roster on her monitor. "No; I'm sorry, sir, no Heero Yuy."

He hadn't thought so. "How 'bout Trowa Barton?"

The girl checked her screen again. "No; no Barton, either. If you needed to see someone, I could set you up with one of our available agents...?" Her eyebrows and her voice lifted at the end of her statement, turning it into a question.

Duo shook his head, offering up his own smile. "Naah. Thanks anyway; I was just lookin' for a couple of old friends. Goodnight."

He turned and stepped back into the oven outside, letting the double doors close behind him, and started walking down the street again.

"Old friends, huh?" he said quietly, talking to himself. "So why didn't you ask her 'bout 'Fei?"

Duo's smile turned softly bitter.

For one thing, Wufei was no more likely to be here than Heero or Trowa. He was probably running a branch office out in the colonies by now. And Duo wasn't really sure Wufei would welcome a visit from him anyway. The last time they'd met had left him with the distinct impression that the Chinese boy considered him to be lazy and unmotivated in addition to being a general pain in the ass. Which hurt. A lot.

All the more so because at that point, Duo had finally come to realize that the sun did indeed rise and set on Wufei. Thank god he hadn't told the boy; it would have been just one more thing to earn him Wufei's disdain. And there he'd thought they'd been developing a very pleasant friendship.

Duo didn't see how they ever could have worked out as a couple given how Wufei seemed to feel about him. But he wished that he had been given the chance to change the other's mind. It hurt to love with no hope of return. The steady passing of time had muted the immediacy of his feelings, but they persisted nonetheless. Somehow, Duo knew, they would never truly go away. Even after four years, hardly a day went by that thoughts of Wufei--however fleeting or lingering they might be--did not cross his mind. He did a lot of wondering--where was Wufei now, and what was he doing? Did Wufei ever think about him? ("Ha--not likely!" his inner voice would interject) What might he have done, should he have done, to earn the other's admiration and respect instead of his dislike?

He scowled and kicked at a loose pebble on the sidewalk, remembering for the billionth time what Wufei had said back then. The conversation was branded on his memory, each word a tiny little scar in his psyche.

~"You should have joined the Preventers, Duo. It's the best place for people like us."

~"Mebbe you're right, Wu; but right now I'm damn tired of this whole peacekeeping gig. I just wanna do something
normal for awhile."

~"So you plan to spend the rest of your life blissfully buried in scrap metal and junk on a backwater colony at L2?" The rich voice was ripe with disapproval.

~"I dunno. Maybe. It's working so far, and Hilde sure does like it." Duo tried to keep the defense in his tone under control.

~"And I suppose that girl's happiness should dictate yours? That you should be willing to settle for whatever pleases her?" Wufei snorted and shook his head. "What a waste, Maxwell. I thought you had more sense than that."~

He hadn't spoken to Wufei since.

Four years later, the words still stung. Particularly since they'd come from Wufei. Duo sighed and looked up, finally spotting a bar on the corner up ahead. "Sorry, 'Fei, that was such a disappointment to ya," he said softly aloud. "You'd probably still think I'm wastin' my life, but at least I'm doin' what I wanna do. I hope you can say the same, wherever you are." Rounding the corner, he pulled open the door and stepped into the blessedly sweet coolness of the pub.

God, did that ever feel good.

He made his way through the crush of people at one end of the bar and stepped up to the counter. Ordering his drink, he scanned the crowded room for a place to sit. There--an empty seat a bit further down, next to a man in a black ponytail and Preventers jacket...

Duo did a double-take.

Christ, but that guy looked almost like 'Fei at glance. Musta just been the hair and the uniform; Duo knew he'd never find Wufei in a bar, of all places. Besides, like he'd figured earlier, Wu was probably out in the colonies somewhere. ~Get a grip, Duo,~ he told himself firmly as he paid the bartender and downed most of the beer in one gulp. ~You've gotta get over that boy. You're startin' to see him everywhere you go. You'll ever find happiness with anyone else if you can't let go of what never was, what never would have been.~ He slid into the empty seat, frowning, moody, and did his best to ignore the look-alike next to him.

[chap. 2] [back to TJ Dragonblade's fic]