3-24-2003

Number: #3 Escaping
Arc: Sweeper Three
Author: Calic0cat
Story Completed: Mar. 23, 2003
Genre: Shonen Ai/Yaoi, Friendship
Pairings: None yet
Rated: PG
Warnings: Slightly AU, OOC, Swearing
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 arc begins right after the war ends so the guys are all 16. Heero 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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Heero felt a tiny hint of a smile tug at the corners of his mouth as Duo caught up to Wufei and himself, flinging an arm over each one's shoulders exuberantly. He automatically suppressed the smile, keeping a noncommittal expression on his face. He might let a smile sneak out in private, in the company of only the other Gundam pilots - *former* Gundam pilots, he reminded himself - but not here, in this huge mansion filled with strangers.

"Howard's the greatest," Duo sighed. "I can't believe he's willing to take all three of us..." he continued, letting his voice trail off.

Heero made a soft sound of acknowledgement. It was hard for him to believe, too. Oh, he knew damn well that Howard wouldn't be taking either Wufei or himself if they weren't Duo's friends. Knew that Howard had obviously realized how unhappy Duo was at their separation and had taken steps to correct that. But even if he was only being accepted for Duo's sake, he'd far rather have that than being accepted - or rather, tolerated - for *Relena's* sake. Duo was a friend, one he'd be glad to stay with; Relena was - a damn nuisance.

At least she'd proven to be a *useful* nuisance, providing a rallying point to help bring peace. But frankly, he was glad that the government had reduced her role to that of a mere figurehead. He couldn't see how an almost-sixteen-year-old girl would be a good choice to head up a government.

Particularly a girl as sheltered, naive, and spoilt as Relena. She meant well enough, he supposed, but she simply had no understanding of anything the least bit practical. 'Head full of fairy tales and happily-ever-afters,' he thought derisively. And the worst part was that she had this unshakeable notion that *he* was *her* happily-ever-after. The mere *thought* was enough to make him want to shudder.

That shudder became reality an instant later as a shrill "Heero!!" rang down the corridor. Heero allowed himself the shudder, but suppressed the instinctive cringe that followed it. He didn't know if Relena knew yet that he was leaving with Howard, Duo, and Wufei rather than with her or not, but he didn't want to deal with her either way.

Duo slid his arms off of Heero and Wufei's shoulders and told them, "Go pack, I'll keep her out of your hair for a bit."

"Arigato, Duo," Heero said thankfully. Duo had far more patience with Relena than he did, insisting that she *would* eventually outgrow her schoolgirl crush. Though lately Duo sounded as if he was trying to convince himself as much as Heero when he said that. Wufei vanished further down the corridor as Heero hurriedly slipped inside his room, locking the door behind him. Duo would keep Relena occupied if possible, but sometimes she was pretty much unstoppable.

It was the work of mere minutes to pack his few things. None of them really *had* much to begin with, after all. Life on the run didn't lend itself to collecting very many belongings. A few changes of clothes, his laptop, and a few books. That was it. Heero hesitated, then slowly pulled his empty holster from the drawer and added it to his duffel bag.

He wished that he'd hidden that particular item before its contents were confiscated. Odin had given him that gun all those years ago and he'd always managed to hold onto it, one way or another. It had even stayed with him through self-detonating Wing. It wasn't a particularly cheery memento of his past, but like Duo's cross and Wufei's katana, it was all he had. Duo was the only one still in possession of his memento, though he'd lost his perfectly balanced set of throwing knives. The sudden confiscation of weapons had taken them all by surprise. Wufei had taken it hardest. That katana was a clan heirloom as well as being a personal memento.

Heero hesitated, his hand on the doorknob. He could still hear Relena talking to Duo in the hallway. From the sounds of things, she must not realize that he was leaving with Duo. He did an abrupt about-face, heading for the window. They were only on the third floor and the building had lots of ornamental ledges and so forth to hang on to, he'd just go out that way.

And maybe - well, he wouldn't ask for himself, just taking him in was an incredibly huge favour, but maybe if he told Howard about Wufei's katana, Howard could get it back for him. Even if Howard had to agree to lock it away till he turned eighteen, at least Wufei would get it back eventually. 'The whole thing is ridiculous anyway,' Heero thought with a derisive snort as he set the window screen aside and climbed out. As if taking weapons away from them made them any less dangerous. They *were* weapons; any one of them, even "sweet innocent little Quatre" - Heero snorted again at the description one of Quatre's sisters had used - could kill with his bare hands.

Climbing partway down the wall, Heero pushed off and dropped the rest of the way to the ground, landing easily in an impact-absorbing crouch. He straightened and shifted the duffle from his back to his shoulder, smirking slightly as realized that he still had over fifteen minutes to spare. Plenty of time to find Howard and fill him in on what happened to Wufei's katana and Duo's throwing knives before the others showed up.

It would take Duo that long just to politely excuse himself from Relena's one-sided conversation. Heero had a sneaking suspicion that the only reason Relena bothered to be nice to Duo was that he and Quatre were the only two that would listen to her for more than a couple of minutes at a time. Duo did the whole "listen thoughtfully, nod, and say mm-hmm" bit even better than Quatre.

And it would take Wufei just as long since he would end up having to rescue Duo by showing up and berating him for "standing around babbling like an idiot" and being "late as usual". Heero shook his head in silent disbelief at the lengths they would go through to keep from flat-out insulting Relena. He still thought it would be simpler to just shove her out of the way and keep walking. Of course, he supposed that was the sort of behaviour that made the government shrinks squint, shake their heads, and start talking about reform school.

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- tbc -