Disclaimer: Gundam Wing is not mine. Duh.
He knew that Wufei was watching him watch Duo, and he knew that Wufei would be giving him another ass-reaming, so he didn't
look at his partner. Wufei was getting tired of his antics. The Chinese man would soon speak up about Heero's obsession with
a certain “braided baka.”
He just couldn't seem to be calm now. He'd be better off knowing Duo was at home, bored and finding a REAL job. Instead, the
idiot was here, with them, and they didn't have time to drop him off.
“Oh, yes,” he heard Duo whisper and focused his attention on what Duo was happy about. The American was staring
out the plane's window. He looked out, as well. Ah. So that was it. Apparently, the braided ex-pilot was as tired of the cabins
as he'd been when he'd sent orders to Headquarters. He'd told them that if they were given another cabin, he would blow it
up himself. They had agreed on a “summer home” in the mountains. They were near enough that he realized they were
about to land.
Immediately, he went on alert. He didn't see the enemy, but that didn't mean they weren't there. Duo and Wufei were both scanning
the sparse mish-mash of trees and shrubs. They would be landing 3.5 miles away from the house, which was close to a summit.
The cliff would be at the back of the house, a mere ten feet from the back porch. The front wouldn't have trees until about
three meters from the porch. There, though there were trees, they were sparse. The enemy would have a VERY difficult time
getting near the house.
Which sort of made Heero wonder why they hadn't been sent there earlier.
“Wait a minute,” Duo piped up. “I remember this place. We came here once before – Quatre and me. After...”
Duo shot Heero a look. “After the time we were first told to give up our Gundams. When Oz targeted the colonies.”
When I blew myself up for the first time, Heero added to himself. Was that what you were thinking, Duo? Was that
what brought that sudden flash of pain to your eyes?
Duo's arm, he noticed, had tightened on Diana. “What did you do here?” he asked and watched as Duo's eyes darkened.
“We holed ourselves up and hid. Duh. Not much else we could do. We continued hacking into enemy software. I messed it
up a bit, more for spite than anything. Went on a few undercover ops where it couldn't be linked to the Gundams.” Duo
took a deep breath, as if steeling himself. “And drunk myself into a stupor every night.”
Heero cocked an eyebrow in bemusement. Drunk himself into a stupor? Duo? It burned in him to ask about it. He didn't when
he saw the sad look on Duo's face. Whatever memories Duo had here, they weren't ones he wanted to remember.
When the plane landed, Wufei got off first and searched the area, as usual. Diana had been woken up by Duo a bit earlier.
Heero was almost certain that Duo woke the woman only because his arm was broken. If he could have carried Diana, he would
have. For now, she was rubbing her eyes and yawning hugely, staying by Duo's side.
When the plane left them behind, it was with a collective sigh that they all began their march. The same order was used –
Wufei, Duo, Diana, then Heero. Heero took a small pleasure from the fact that there were no thorns here. Duo couldn't hurt
his hands being a heroic gentleman this time. Maybe he could start to heal.
Maybe, Heero mused, but her doubted it.
[Insight into Heero's mind. There. The end.]
Duo listened intently to Diana. She seemed to be traveling well. She also seemed immensely sad and scared. What could he possibly
do to help her? He didn't even know what was going on!
He thought about what Heero had told him before the helicopter had come. About how the enemy was insane. About what was...
left over. Had Diana seen that? But that wouldn't frighten her too much, would it? Maybe he was overestimating her. It was
an extreme that a man would fear. Yet, even though it frightened him, he was used to such things. Maybe that was all she had
seen. That was enough.
But, somehow... it didn't seem right.
And, unsurprisingly, his thoughts were depressed at the moment. He'd been more honest than he'd planned to be when Heero had
asked him about what he'd done after Heero had... had... attempted suicide. Blown himself up.
He had attacked Oz secretly. His attacks had been labeled as rogue ops by Po and others. He didn't care. He killed and killed
and killed, then destroyed and scammed and otherwise did all he could while not allowed to do anything. Then he would come
back to this house and drink until he couldn't breathe. But it never rid him of the memories. Never. He could still see it.
Heero coming out of his cockpit, stone-faced, holding out the self-destruct button and... callously pressing it. The way,
for just an instant, he shone, and then-
Duo put a hand to his mouth and folded over slightly. Heero had flown then, and...
Shit. He had to get himself under control. He had to will away the memories. He had to stay focused. For Diana. If for nothing
else, then for Diana. Besides, if this place hadn't changed, then there would be plenty of liquor. Hopefully, it wouldn't
come to that. Hopefully, he wouldn't remember too much of those days once he entered this building.
He doubted it.
“Duo?!” Diana sounded almost panicked. She undoubtedly thought someone had hurt him. Maybe Heero had that day.
Lord knew he'd cursed the Japanese teen enough.
He flinched at Heero's voice. But it was enough, he told himself firmly. Enough to see Heero alive. Alive and... living. Heero
had changed. He wouldn't mindlessly attempt to kill himself anymore. He was supremely strong. Heero would be all right, no
matter what. Staying here, with these three, was doing nothing but hurting him more.
“Fine. I'm fine,” Duo muttered, standing straight once again. “Sorry.” He started forward.
Damn that cold voice. Heero now had the power to speak kindly, yet he only spoke in a harsh voice to Duo. Why? When necessary,
he was kind. But at other times...
He pasted on the Jester's Mask with enough force to give him whiplash and turned to Heero. “What is it, Heero? Sorry
I slowed us down just now, but we can keep going.”
“Change places with Diana.”
“What?” Duo asked stupidly, surprised. “Isn't that an... undisciplined tactical decision?”
Heero's mouth twitched. “Just do it.”
Duo felt the juvenile urge to salute. He tried to hide it and his trepidation in a nonchalant shrug. “Okay, dude. I
warned you.” He moved behind Diana and urged her to move up. He had a feeling that whatever Heero had to say would not
be something she would wish to listen – or he would wish for her to hear.
“Whatever it is that bothers you about this safehouse, it's in the past.” Oddly, Heero's voice seemed to have...
calmed. Like he was attempting to reassure. “You needn't worry about it anymore.”
Duo watched Heero as he walked, walking backwards. “No,” he said softly, “I don't think I need to worry
anymore, either.” But that won't stop me from remembering, he added silently to himself.
And wasn't it just a kick that it wasn't at all because of him? Quatre and Relena...
Heero's face got... concerned. Duo's eyes widened in shock. This wasn't a... a concealed emotion, like Duo was used to seeing.
This was TRUE concern. It showed itself all over Heero's face, bursting through every single pore... his eyes, his brows,
his lips... it changed Heero completely. He became... something even more beautiful than before. Duo couldn't possibly explain.
But... the love and the pain that welled up inside him nearly killed him. And the hope – damn that irrepressible hope
– rose, as well. Then Heero spoke.
“Did something happen to Quatre while the two of you stayed here?”
Duo laughed. He laughed until he felt the tears about to spill, then he turned around and bent his head down to hide what
he couldn't prevent. Desperately, desperately he tried to stop. He wouldn't cry. Men don't cry. They never cry, and certainly
not in front of Heero and Wufei and Diana. Diana, who would be concerned, and Heero and Wufei, who... would be annoyed.
Heero concerned himself about Relena or Quatre or whoever else had opened him up to emotions. Quatre. Never had he wanted
to be Quatre as much as he did in that instant. At least Heero cared about Quatre. At least...
Oh, God. Now Heero was going to know how pathetic he was. No. He had to get himself under control, or else Heero-
“Yuy! Behind you!”
Duo turned immediately, mindless of his tears, but no one was paying attention to his face. He just barely saw the man from
earlier, now holding a gun, before-
Duo reached out to slam Heero to the ground without thought, but Heero had already moved. Duo landed on the ground and rolled,
pulling himself up instantaneously. He ignored the slight pain from his arm and turned to Wufei and Diana. Wufei was trying
to assist Heero, but Diana was getting in the way. Gunfire had suddenly rocked itself through the landscaping – the
few birds in the few trees flew off, casting shadows of demons over Heero as he attacked the enemy. Duo's heart skipped, and
he hesitated for a millisecond before turning to Diana. “Diana! To me! Now!” He beckoned her over with his good
hand. When she got near, he grabbed her arm and pulled her away from the battle. Wufei went straight to Heero's aid.
“Duo,” she choked, “how did they-”
“I dunno. Let's not worry about that right now. We need to get out of their way.” Duo's entire body clenched.
“We have to trust them to win.”
Diana looked at him with intensity then. “You're worried. Just as I thought.”
Duo was too busy scanning the area to look at her anymore. “Huh? You thought what?”
“That you love Mr. Yuy.”
Duo froze then. When he turned to her, it was in fear. “Diana... please...”
Her eyes grew sad. “I knew it,” she whispered. “You love him, and so you suffer.”
He felt his breath rush. “Don't... you can't-”
“Duo! Pay attention, baka!”
Duo flinched at Heero's tone, but he reacted, by Shinigami. He pulled Diana to the ground and placed his body over hers. Bullets
flew around them. “Shit!” Duo cursed, then grabbed Diana again and leapt up with her. He kept himself between
her and the bullets. There was no way they were escaping. There was hardly any cover.
But he had to protect Diana. He looked at his cast – it was a hindrance.
In less than a second, the hunter's knife on his leg was out. The same amount of time saw his cast fall to the ground. “Diana!
Get behind me!”
Immediately, the small blond was hidden behind Duo's body. He saw two men after him. Wufei and Heero were trying to take down
the man with the dead ice-blue eyes.
“Shit,” Duo muttered. He quickly got into a fighting stance and prayed that there were no more pursuers than this.
But Diana had brought up a good point: how had they been found? And even before they reached the safehouse. It was
“Diana, get behind that pine,” he instructed tersely and indicated the spruce tree to their far right. “I'll
distract them. Don't ask questions,” he ordered, “just do it!”
He raced forward, the knife in his left hand. The enemies pointed their guns at him, taking him for the greater threat that
he was. He calculated the trajectories of the gun's angle and adjusted his stance right before the gun blasts.
He managed to reach them during the interlude when they stood in shock and knocked the gun from one of the enemies' hands.
Both were big and burly – normal thugs, unlike the other. This would be a cakewalk.
With a flick of his wrist, the knife slashed across the enemy's throat in a killing slice. The next instant had him moving
again, swerving around the dropping body to attack again. The adrenaline rush racing through his system was familiar and welcome
in its intensity. The God of Death was born again.
The survivor, a hulking guy with long auburn hair was now aiming his gun almost wildly. Duo easily dodged the bullets. “You
monster!” he screamed. “Stay away! Stay away from me!”
“I'm not a monster,” Duo whispered, his lips curling back into a smile that belonged to his god. He neared the
man. “I'm Shinigami.” He grabbed the man's gun and ripped it from his hand. With a crash, the butt hit the man's
right temple. “Unfortunately, I won't take you yet. You're for the Preventors.”
Duo heard Diana's scream from a distance. He turned on a dime. There were three more men gathered around her. They looked
vastly different from the two thugs. They looked more like... the man before. Thin and lithe, like him and the other ex-Gundam
“Duo Maxwell. Oh-two. The Deathscythe pilot.” One of the three addressed him as he pulled Diana's arms behind
her back. His hair was shoulder-length and brunette. “Excellent in stealth operations, hacking, and undercover ops.
Weapons of choice – knives, scythes, daggers. Best in close combat, but still exceptional at far range.” The brown-haired
terrorist smirked. “We know all about your combat strategies, Gundam pilot.”
Duo glanced at Diana's terrified face. “And just how do you know so much about me?”
“Oh, not just you,” the man said. “We've been taught about all of you. After all,” he chuckled, “we
are your replacements.”
Duo's brows furrowed in confusion. “Replacements?”
“Just in case you failed,” the terrorist explained. “The doctors had faith, of course, but not enough to
exclude a back-up plan. We were cloned from your DNA – your skills, your thought patterns. To save themselves from confusion,
our physical DNA was altered. To make us more efficient, our personalities were changed.” His head lifted in a way meant
to point at himself. “I was stemmed from Quatre Raberba Winner.”
“From Quatre?” Duo struggled to keep up. “Impossible. You're nothing like Quatre. You're nothing like any
The man shrugged. “It does not matter to me whether you believe it or not. What matters is this.” He pulled out
his gun. “The chase is over.”
“Wait!” Duo shouted, panicked. If these guys were half as good as they said they were, he and Heero and Wufei
and Diana were all screwed. Especially in this situation. “Why are you doing this? Peace has been obtained! We have
no more reason to fight!” Duo spread his arms out. “Look around! There's no one left to fight!”
“No one?” The gun he held was aimed at Duo. “I can think of five.”
The two men with him finally spoke up. “Agreed,” one said simply – a tall, bald guy – and the other
nodded enthusiastically – a guy with short-cropped red hair.
Duo cursed and moved. The shot that was fired missed, but the other two now had their guns out. Somehow, he had to
get Diana out of there. He was confused about how all of this was fitting together, but he definitely knew that Diana was
somehow important. He had to get her safe.
Gunshots exploded around him. He scrambled, hoping desperately that he wouldn't roll right into a bullet. These guys were
better at quickly altering the aim of their guns. His arm began to protest heatedly to every movement he made. He clenched
his teeth and used the pain to sharpen his senses.
Heero and Wufei could still be heard fighting, so he wouldn't be getting any help from there. He had to focus on his allies'
skills and try to figure out which clones he was dealing with. Quatre. A natural-born leader. Quick-witted, efficient. Sandrock
had used short weapons with a wide range of uses. He could handle Zero. Shit. He knew Quatre's fighting style well enough
– adaptable, in a word. He should be ready for almost anything – smart moves, tactics... he trusted his knowledge
on Quatre to help him. As for the other two... Mr. Baldy was either Wufei or Trowa. Couldn't be Heero. Heero wouldn't have
been interested in the outcome enough to speak. At that point, if he had said anything, it would have been “hn.”
And the excited one was... himself. Oh God.
He ducked behind a bush. “What the hell do you want with the woman?” He threw himself out of it just as three
bullets ripped holes through the leaves. “Well?!”
The three seemed to be taking great amusement in his little dance. “We don't want her. Jocker does. He said he'll get
one last dance with her before he kills her.”
“Dance?” His eyes once again moved to Diana, who now stood as if paralyzed. He only knew of one dance he could
be referring to, and by the look on her face...
“No...” she whispered, her voice breaking. “No! I won't let you!” Diana started struggling like a
thing possessed. She twisted around herself and began clawing at the man's arms. “No!” She screeched the word
over and over like a mantra. “No no no no no!!!”
Duo moved like lightning. In an instant, he'd grabbed Diana and, ignoring the scratches she mindlessly gave him, grabbed the
Quatre-clone's gun. He aimed wildly, keeping the clone back long enough to retreat a few feet. He looked around, but only
saw the Quatre-clone and Duo-clone. Where was the other one?
He closed his eyes and felt the air against his skin. Above!
He threw himself to the side, dragging a squirming Diana with him. He turned and saw the bald one watching him impassively.
The exact place where Duo's been standing was now Baldy's. Trowa. The genius at acrobatics. “Holy shit,” he murmured,
feeling his body jerk in fear. Against Trowa, Quatre, and himself... he was dead. He prayed that Heero and Wufei were faring
better than he.
“Yuy! Three o'clock!”
Heero turned without thought and studied the newcomer. The hair was silver and long, pulled back into a severe ponytail. He
held a sword in his hand. “Heero Yuy. It is an honor.” The man made a short but elaborate bow.
Heero cocked an eyebrow. “And who might you be?”
“Why, I am your partner.” The man grinned. “I am the genetic copy of the Dragon Clan's Chang Wufei.”
Both eyebrows rose now. “What?”
“Come now, Yuy. Surely you are not so ignorant as to use Maxwell's words.” Yes, he did sound similar to Wufei
there. “I wished to fight you because only you are a worthy opponent.” His eyes flicked to Wufei, who was trying
to dodge the black-haired man's attacks. “It is injustice, being borne from one so weak.” He shrugged. “Well,
by now, Maxwell should have been taken care of by the others.”
Heero's heart froze. “What are you saying?”
The man tsked. “I am saying he is dead. He cannot fight three of us clones. Even for one of you, it is impossible, and
we both know that Maxwell and Winner are the weakest of all of us.”
“You're wrong,” Heero declared and pointed his gun at the man's temple. “Duo is not weak.” He emphasized
his words with a gunshot.
“Duo, watch out!”
“Dammit, I'm trying!” He knew he had no right to curse at Diana. The woman was only trying to help. The problem?
She wasn't. And he had to not only save his own skin, but hers, as well. Against three guys who were supposed to be
the same as the him and the others – only better.
He felt warm liquid trickling down his arm and grimaced. Dammit, not again. Not now!
The gun in his injured arm's hand was as useless as the knife. All of the clones were coming after him, following motions
that he knew had been practiced with one another – formations. And they were perfect for the three. He figured he had
the Quatre-clone to thank for that. More often than not, Fake Duo would disappear at times, only to show up right behind or
beside him, just as Fake Quatre closed in from his other side and Fake Trowa crashed in from above. At those times, it was
more luck than skill that made him successfully evade.
Fake Quatre took position a good distance from him, aiming his gun directly at Diana, not him. It was an obvious trap, a new
formation. Without a choice, he bulldozed into it.
He and Diana fell to the ground as three bullets whizzed by his body. He lifted his head – a gun was planted right in
his face – and a cold smile, a smile he remembered had once belonged to only him, asked, “Can the God of Death
truly die?” And then Fake Duo pulled the trigger.
A clang told Heero that the enemy's sword had blocked the bullet.
“Come now, Yuy, that cannot be all you have.” The man's smirk was superior and too familiar for Heero's comfort.
“I was hoping for a challenging battle. It seems you will disappoint me.”
“Hn.” Heero shot at the man, rolled to the side, and shot again. To his shock, the man easily blocked both of
his bullets with his scimitar, then flew after Heero before the shock fully swept up his spine.
The dead-faced opponent Wufei faced was somehow familiar in his fighting style. A battle and a full year with the man he mimicked
made it much easier for Wufei to dodge his opponent's attacks. The question was – how did he know Heero's attack patterns,
and how had he learned to do them better?
Impossible, Wufei told himself, pushing the man's fist away and attempting to knee him in the gut. The attacks weren't performed
better as much as they were... faster and harder. But that, too, was impossible. He knew no one else
except perhaps himself and the other Gundam pilots who had so much skill. These people would also need to have been trained
since childhood. That would not only be unnecessary, but highly improbably.
Improbably. But not impossible.
The man before him paid no attention to his tousled hair, nor his unreasonable speed. The ice-blue eyes were locked completely
onto his every movement. With an ungraceful snarl uncommon on his lips, Wufei snaked to the right – the opposite of
where his instincts told him to go. The man had moved slightly to where he'd been about to go.
As I thought, Wufei nodded, they know our moves. Come on, Yuy – figure it out!
Heero shot two bullets at the sword, swerving it away from him. He quickly reloaded and dodged again. He recognized the way
the man turned. Now the sword would come up from the ground at an 80 degree angle-
He easily dodged the attack, completely prepared for the backlash that came to chop off his neck. His many training exercises
with the original had prepared him well. He would have to create a new discipline in the middle of a battle.
He felt his mouth turn a bit upwards in excitement. This could be an interesting battle, after all.
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