3-21-2003

Number: #1 Endings
Arc: Sweeper Three
Author: Calic0cat
Story Completed: Mar. 21, 2003
Genre: Shonen Ai/Yaoi, Friendship
Pairings: None yet
Rated: PG
Warnings: Slightly AU, OOC, Swearing, Shifting POV
Archives: Also at Mediaminer.org under Calic0cat.
Disclaimer: Duo and Heero and the rest of the GW gang aren't mine. This story is. Nuff said.

Notes: The fic begins right after the war ends so the guys are all 16. Duo POV in this fic.

'Thinking'
"Speaking"
************ Time passing or scene change

Author's Notes: I'm not sure exactly where this is heading; it's totally open-ended at the moment. Pairings *will* eventually work their way in - but it'll be a while. Endless Waltz hasn't happened yet and *if* it does eventually, it won't follow the exact storyline from the movie because of the things that I've changed. Ratings will probably vary from fic to fic in the arc as will POV. Feedback is appreciated.

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The war was over. Really and truly *over*. That fact had barely begun to sink in when several more facts presented themselves.

All five of them - well, six if you counted Relena - were underage. Five of them were deadly terrorists in possession of dangerous killing machines. The new government wasn't going to just let them walk away. The Gundams had already been impounded. It had taken mere days for Relena's role to be reduced to figurehead. And then the question of what to do with the five of them came up.

And for the first time in a very long time, all five of them were worried. Maybe even a little bit scared. If things went too badly, they *could* run, with or without the Gundams. Probably without would be easiest - the big machines were just too damn hard to hide. And hopefully they wouldn't need them again. But that wasn't their preferred option. They hadn't gone through everything they had, made all the sacrifices they had, just to spend their lives running and hiding instead of getting to enjoy the peace they'd helped earn. So they agreed to wait and see what happened, trusting that they could get themselves out if things started to go bad. And while they weren't all particularly *happy* with the decisions being made regarding their futures, things hadn't reached the point where any of them were willing to cut and run either.

Quatre's future had been the first and easiest to be handled. He had family. Wealthy, influential family. Family to take legal responsibility for him for the next two years until he turned eighteen. The government had no objections to said family reclaiming him. No less than three of his sisters had showed up five days ago to pick him up and take him home to L4. He had left with many promises to keep in touch, but Duo had no illusions in that respect. Quatre would certainly *try* to do so, but he had a great many responsibilities waiting for him. Responsibilities that would, of necessity, rank far higher than keeping in touch with his fellow Gundam pilots.

As things turned out, Trowa had family too. With the war over with, Catherine had wasted no time in having DNA tests done, proving that he was indeed her brother. The government had been reluctant to give her custody of Trowa, claiming that she was too young, barely of age herself having just had her eighteenth birthday. But the ringmaster and several circus performers had rallied to her support, signing documents to take responsibility for Trowa through the rest of his minority. And two days ago they had left, taking Trowa with them.

Duo had no illusions about Trowa staying in touch either. Catherine resented the other Gundam pilots, particularly Quatre and him, for drawing Trowa back into the war after his amnesia. She would be sure to keep Trowa far too busy to spend much time thinking about them. And Trowa wasn't much of a one for correspondence anyway. If they heard from him once every few months, Duo would be surprised.

That left the three of them. Heero, Wufei, and him. The three with no family to claim them. No "family" but each other. So other - arrangements - were being made.

Wufei's clan had had some assets off-colony and there were plans underway to send him to boarding school using those funds. But while that might have suited Wufei two years ago, the thought of returning to a highly regimented, strict lifestyle - one in which all his decisions would be made for him, even the selection of his courses being determined by someone else - disturbed him enough now that he had actually admitted his unhappiness to Heero and Duo. Had admitted too that the thought of being separated from the rest of them, of being sent to school with "normal" teenagers with their worries about acne and grades and dating, of having only occasional long-distance contact with the only people who really understood what they'd all just been through, bothered him.

And Heero... Heero, who had just started to open up to the rest of them and was now faced with being cut off from them - he was in all likelihood going to end up going home with Relena. She had coaxed and cajoled and whined until Mrs. Darlian finally gave in and reluctantly agreed to take Heero. Agreed to take in a boy she was uncomfortable around; a boy she showed every indication of being frightened of. Agreed - but with a list of conditions a mile long. Conditions that Heero would have to abide by or be turned over to the government to be dealt with as they had originally planned. By sending him to a "perfectly good reform school". The theory being that the government was *already* paying for those facilities and that they were fully equipped with counsellors and others capable of dealing with youths with "violent" pasts.

Heero had admitted that he wasn't sure which would be worse. Staying with the Darlians where he would be expected to follow a million petty rules and to obey Relena's every whim out of gratitude for the family's generosity or going to a reform school where he would probably go from one fight to another, constantly having to prove himself against a bunch of "toughs" with attitudes, and inevitably landing in even more trouble as a result.

Duo swallowed hard and turned the page of his book, preserving the pretense of actually reading. He, on the other hand, was lucky. Incredibly, unbelievably, my-god-I-must-be-dreaming, lucky. The first mention of reform school had barely come up - he hadn't even had time to panic at the thought of uniforms and regulation haircuts - before Howard had turned up, breathing fire at the very notion that Duo was going *anywhere* other than home with him. It had taken awhile to jump through all the necessary legal hoops, but it was official now. Howard was his legal guardian and in just a few more hours, they would be leaving.

Duo blinked and swiped at his burning eyes impatiently. On either side of him, his two best friends sat, also pretending to read. All three of them pretending that they weren't going to be split up in mere hours, only able to keep contact through occasional phone calls and e-mail. And it would be *very* occasional.

In Heero's case, Mrs. Darlian had already made that quite clear. She distrusted Heero's constant use of his laptop, not being very computer-savvy herself. He was only to use it for schoolwork and only under supervision. She seemed to think that he would be busy hacking funds or disrupting the government in some way if he was allowed to use it beyond that. And she was not particularly fond of *any* of the pilots, so it was doubtful that she would let him call them very often.

Wufei's boarding school was much the same. He would be allowed to use the phone or computer once per week for outside communication. No more. And it would be monitored, as would any written letters he chose to send. Since he would not have an individual guardian, the government itself would fill that role and absolute control together with constant monitoring appeared to be its preferred method.

Sure, they were capable of getting around the restrictions - *if* they wanted to run the risk of officially going from freedom fighter to terrorist by disobeying the regulations set out for them. And it had been made quite clear that if that happened, the pardons and clean slates promised when they reached eighteen would be withdrawn. Instead, they would be subject to war crimes tribunals, held accountable for the loss of civilian lives in certain specific instances. Held accountable for the billions of credits they had stolen to finance the fighting. Which in the end would leave them with the choice of imprisonment or a life on the run, dodging the very government they had helped put in power.

'It's not *fair*,' Duo thought rebelliously. 'After everything we've done, all the sacrifices we've made, why couldn't they at least give us all a fair deal?' But then, he should be used to unfair by now. When had anything in life ever *been* fair? 'Never, that's when...'

'If only...' Duo cut the thought off sharply. No, Howard taking *him* in was more than he'd ever dared hope for. Asking for more would be ungrateful in the extreme. He *couldn't*. No matter how much it hurt to lose his best friends.

And he couldn't help but feel that he *was* losing them. Sure, they were all supposed to be free and clear once they turned eighteen; they could all find each other again then. But they'd only known each other for a year, had been friends for slightly less than that. It was hard to believe they'd come through a two-year separation and still want to be friends. That they wouldn't move on, make new friends and forget about him.

Even if they *did* still want to be friends... Two years was a hell of a long time. He was going to miss them so damn bad that the mere thought made his throat hurt and his eyes sting. They were the first real friends he'd had since Solo... Duo's eyes burned and he blinked rapidly.

'Don't be so damn ungrateful,' he scolded himself angrily. 'Howard's giving you a *home*. He didn't hafta do that. You sure as hell never *expected* him to do that. Never expected *anyone* to. You've gotta get your head together before it's time to leave. Can't be moping around then; Howard's gonna expect you to be excited and happy. And you *should* be... Accept what you're given and be glad you've got it, Maxwell. It's more than you ever thought you'd have.'

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- tbc -