Title: Replacing Shinigami
Pairing: 1+2 (friendship or more, take your pick)
GW500 Challenge: #26 Identity
Notes: This is set just after the events of "Preventer 5" in the Episode Zero manga.
"Thank you, but no."
"Don't be foolish, Maxwell. You won't get a better offer," Wufei warned. "Commander Une is being extremely generous..."
"I said *no*, Chang," Duo repeated sharply. To Une, he said respectfully, "I appreciate the offer, Commander, but I'm done fighting."
He had to walk away now, while he still could. If he let himself be drawn into the Preventers, even briefly, he knew that he would be stuck there permanently. There would always be just one more situation where his expertise would come in handy, one more reason why he couldn't leave. And he could *not* keep doing this.
The previous return to battle against Mariemaia's troops had destroyed what little peace of mind he'd managed to find since the war ended. But when he'd blown up his Gundam, he'd thought that was the end of it all. That he could start the healing process all over with the assurance that he would never be called on to fight again. To kill again. To stir up all the old hatred and anger that still seethed deep inside him. To release the dark rage of Shinigami.
He'd been wrong.
Sally Po's appearance mere days ago to summon him to duty had been decidedly unwelcome. And now that this latest crisis was over with, he had no intention of hanging around.
"Commander, I don't want to be Shinigami. Not anymore. So thank you for the offer, but no thanks." Duo inclined his head respectfully, then turned to leave.
Duo stopped in response to Wufei's shout. He sighed in resignation, then answered, "Yeah, Chang?"
"What else can you do? You can't possibly intend to waste your life working at that scrapyard..."
"What else *can* I do?" Duo laughed and shook his head in disbelief. "Whatever I want to, Wufei. Whatever the hell I want to."
Even if he didn't yet know what that might be.
"Hey, Ro, it's not like we're never gonna see each other again or anything," Duo said reassuringly. Heero had taken the news that Duo wasn't accepting Une's offer pretty well. But that wasn't the case when he'd also turned down Relena's offer of a position working with Heero on her security staff. "We're still best friends. I'll stay in touch with you, promise. I just - need to find a little peace in *here*..." he said, pressing one hand over his heart before gesturing broadly as he finished, "...to match the peace out *there*."
Heero turned away, an expression on his face that Duo would have called downright sulky on anyone else. "Go then. I don't care."
Duo winced. He knew that wasn't true. The truth was that Heero cared all too much. Before, he'd known that he could always find Duo at the scrapyard. Now, Duo was planning to head off into the wild blue yonder and just take things one day at a time. There would be no guaranteed way to reach him.
Stepping up behind Heero, Duo wrapped his arms around him in a hug and hooked his chin over Heero's shoulder. Heero didn't struggle against the friendly embrace but he remained tense and unyielding in Duo's hold. Duo sighed unhappily. "I'm sorry, Ro. I don't want to leave you behind but I know you feel your place is here. Mine isn't. I don't know where it is - but it's not holding onto a gun. That much I do know. I swear I'll stay in touch and if you need me - not Relena, not Une, not Preventers, just *you*, Heero Yuy, my best friend - I'll be there as fast as I can."
Duo swallowed hard, hurting and knowing damn well that Heero was hurting too. Part of him wanted to give in. Tell Heero that he'd take the job with Relena's security. But he honestly didn't think that he dared. He didn't much like the person he became when he picked up a gun. Didn't like the feelings it stirred up. The war had been far too personal for him; he couldn't seem to separate that dark, angry drive for vengeance from the skills he'd used in its pursuit.
"I'm sorry," Duo repeated softly as he pulled away from Heero. "Ro, I'd stay if I could. But I can't. Not and still be me, Duo. If I keep carrying a gun, keep fighting, Shinigami will just keep taking over a little more and a little more till there's nothing left but the bitterness and rage."
Still no response from Heero. Duo closed his eyes and hoped desperately that his best friend would eventually understand and forgive him. Opening them, he blinked back the burning sensation gathering in his eyes and said one last time, "I'm sorry, Ro. I'll be in touch..."
And then Duo turned and fled before he could weaken and change his mind. He had to leave. He needed to replace the part of him that was Shinigami with something more suited to peace and that just wasn't going to happen if he stayed.