3-26-2003

Number: #4 One for All and All for One
Arc: Sweeper Three
Author: Calic0cat
Story Completed: Mar. 25, 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. Wufei 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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Wufei tucked the sheet in neatly on his bunk and glanced across the small room to where Duo and Heero were starting to make up theirs. Howard had apologized for dragging them off to space again like this, but there was a great deal of cleanup work yet to be done from the final battle with Libra. He had dropped everything and headed for Earth when word about the pilots' situation had reached him.

Duo had previously mentioned wondering how Howard had found out so quickly - it wasn't like news of the pilots being taken into custody as minors had been leaked to the news media as so many other details had been. Apparently, they all had Quatre to thank for Howard's sudden appearance. Quatre had persuaded his sisters that he owed Howard a formal personal thank you for all his assistance and their shuttle had detoured to meet the salvage vessel that Howard was supervising the cleanup operations from. Howard had been on his way to Earth less than an hour after Quatre's visit, thoroughly pissed off by the government's treatment of the pilots they owed their new peace to and particularly at Quatre's news that they were considering sending *his* kid to a *reform school* of all places.

It had taken a while for Howard to get approved as a foster parent - he'd had to pick a Sweeper base to call "home" and have it approved by the local authorities, then pass the interview and background check and so forth, though most of that had been a formality, a rubber-stamp to cover the ass of whichever official Howard had called in the favours from. Wufei wasn't sure exactly how hard it had been for Howard to get himself and Heero; Howard had avoided the question, merely commenting that it hadn't taken as long because he'd already passed the foster parent approval process. The very fact that Howard had dodged the question made him suspect it hadn't been particularly easy even though it hadn't taken as long. That only made him even more determined not to cause any problems for Howard. The man had been more than generous already.

This morning, for example, after spending the night at a Sweeper base, Howard had taken them all to the mall, handed them each a wad of cash, and told them to get themselves outfitted. Anything and everything they needed, from clothes to books to electronics. He would wait near the entrance for them and they should come get him if they had any problems or if they needed more money. All three of them had protested, but he had been insistent.

It had taken mere minutes inside the mall to discover that they were going to have difficulties. Heero's picture had - 'Thank you *so* much, Relena,' Wufei thought sarcastically - been widely circulated as the "saviour of the Earth". They couldn't go anywhere without him being plagued by people who either wanted his autograph or wanted to lynch him. A few people had recognized Duo and himself, but Heero was by far the most widely recognized. They had made a strategic retreat to the mall entrance to find Howard. He had ended up taking them back to the base and returning to the mall himself, equipped with their sizes. Wufei wasn't sure exactly what he had bought for them; Howard had loaded the bags straight onto the shuttle when he got back and they hadn't had a chance to go through them yet. But he was pretty sure that they amounted to considerably more than a couple of outfits each judging by the number of shopping bags.

Howard suddenly poked his head through the open door. "Oh, almost forgot. Since me having these things is all your idea, Heero, you might as well give'em out." He tossed a long bundle to Heero, who caught it easily. "I might be officially responsible for'em but I sure as hell ain't looking after them myself. You lot can consider your first assignment as Sweepers to be taking care of those for me." He withdrew from the room, then stuck his head back in again momentarily to add, "You're on your own for tonight. I need to get a few things taken care of now I'm back.

"Duo's been on this ship before, I'll leave it to him to show you around and make sure you get fed. Think a little too about whether you want to stay on Earth, mebbe go to school, or whether you'd rather stay out in space. I can run things either way, so what I want from you three is your own preference."

"But Howie..." Duo started.

Howard held up his hand and wagged an admonishing finger at Duo. "No 'buts', Kid. You three have been kicked and dragged from pillar to post without so much as a 'by your leave'. That's over and done with. Now I ain't saying that I'll let you have your own way all the time - but if you've got a preference, speak up. No reason you three shouldn't have some say in your own futures. You might just be kids in age, but I know damn well none of you've had the chance to really *be* kids in a long time, if ever. What I'm lookin' for is a compromise. A way you three can have a chance to be kids for a while if you want but still have enough responsibility and things to do to keep you from chafing at the indignity of goin' from making life and death decisions to having to follow somebody else's rules. You're not ordinary teenagers. I know that and you know that.

"Now, I'll leave you lot to do your own thing while I go bust some heads together for the nonsense they've been up to while I was gone."

And with that, Howard was gone again, leaving the three of them staring at the open door for a moment before turning towards each other.

"So, what's in the bundle, Ro?" Duo asked curiously.

Heero simply laid it on his bunk and started to unwrap it in response to the question.

Wufei's eyes went wide as Heero removed the layers of padding, exposing his katana and two smaller wrapped packages. Heero handed the katana to him wordlessly, then weighed the two smaller bundles in his hands for a moment before tossing one to Duo.

In an instant, Wufei was busy examining the blade and hilt, checking for any sort of damage to it. It was not entirely flawless - it was too old and had been through too much for that. But there were no new scratches or nicks on it. 'I thought that I would never see this again...' he thought as he held the blade out, testing its balance. 'Unless someday I can find and buy back the Altron statue, this is the only memento of my clan that I will ever have... Retrieving this for me is an act that I cannot even begin to repay...' Finally satisfied that the katana was in the exact same condition it had been in when he last saw it, he looked up to see Duo laying his knives down on the bunk, obviously having completed the same task himself.

Heero was staring disbelievingly at the gun in his hands. "I didn't mention my gun," he said softly. "But he got it back anyway..."

"That's what Howie's like," Duo offered quietly. "He won't necessarily make a big fuss over you all the time, but anything you really need and most stuff you want just," he shrugged, "shows up. And even though he claims he's not good at guessing games, he's pretty damn good at reading between the lines and figuring out what's wrong. Ran interference for me with G a few times even; backed me up about the braid..." Duo drew his braid over his shoulder and stroked the tip of it over his palm a few times, gazing at it reflectively. "G thought it was too distinctive and wanted it gone. Howard wouldn't let him do it. Said there wasn't much I had control of, G should leave be the one thing I did.

"Thanks for tellin' him about Wu's sword, Heero. I was so surprised at him takin' us all that I never even thought to ask. I coulda lived without my knives - wouldn't have ever asked Howie to try and get'em - but I'm glad to have them back too."

"Heero," Wufei said, then waited until Heero's eyes met his. "Thank you," he said simply. Heero nodded very slightly in response, and that was the end of the subject for all three of them. People who owed one another their very lives many times over did not waste a great deal of words on thanks. A simple thank you to affirm that the favour was noticed and appreciated was enough.

"So," Duo spoke up, breaking the silence that had descended, "what first? Food, tour, or," he waved towards the pile of shopping bags in the corner, "unpacking?"

"It's a bit early for supper," Wufei ventured, "So perhaps start with the tour?"

"Heero?" Duo asked.

"Agreed," he nodded in response.

"Okay," Duo grinned. Waving one hand broadly to indicate the ship, he began, "This little baby's called _Early Dawn_, don't ask me why, she's old and that's been her name since before I was even born. She's smaller than _Peacemillion_, but there's still a decent sized crew on her." He led them out and down the hallway, pointing out various facilities as he went. The majority of the ship was given over to her holds, obviously, but there was a rec room and a gym along with two galleys - one in the large crew mess hall and a second small one between their room, which was usually saved for visitors, and Howard's quarters. They and Howard each had a small bathroom located in their room, but the majority of the crew used communal facilities located towards the midsection of the long hall lined with the crew quarters.

"And these here are privacy rooms," Duo said, waving towards several rooms with small signs on the doors. Most read "Available", but one was set to "Do Not Disturb". "Anybody who just needs a little private downtime can use one," Duo explained. "Not much in them - most just have a couch, a chair, and a small table, though they've all got a vid-screen linked to the main ship communications system. There's not much privacy on a ship like this one, the captain's quarters are the only place that doesn't have multiple bunks in a room. So the Sweepers came up with the idea of setting aside a few rooms for use by anyone who just needed a little privacy to relax or make a private vid-call or whatever. It *really* helps shipboard morale. _Peacemillion_ was too crowded to allow rooms to be set aside like this, but most other Sweeper ships have'em."

The idea made sense, and made Wufei feel much more at ease. He was not used to being in constant contact with other people, having always had at least the privacy of his own room up until this past year when he had sometimes had to share with one of the other pilots. At least on Earth, he'd always had the option of going outside for a while. Knowing that there was somewhere here that he could go and be guaranteed his privacy would help a great deal.

In very little time, they were back in the hall outside their room again. Duo said uncomfortably, "I'd show you guys the bridge too, but if Howie's got a lot of stuff to straighten out now that he's back, it's probably pretty busy and I'd rather not get in the way..."

"That's fine, Duo. You can show us some other time when things have settled down," Wufei suggested. 'When things have settled down... Now *that* is definitely a new concept. As is the simple fact that he will have the *chance* to show us later. That we'll still be together then...' It was going to take a while to get used to that. To get used to the fact that they were going to *stay* together for at least the next two years. That they weren't suddenly going to have to scatter in different directions to avoid Oz or be sent on missions in totally different locations or... Or be sent off to boarding school or reform school or wherever the hell else the government chose to ship them off to. Wufei couldn't help but feel a bit resentful over that, even though things had worked out okay in the end. He had no idea what they were going to *do* now, but - well, as long as they were together, things would work out okay. Together, he and his friends could *make* that happen.

Really, the other Gundam pilots were the only *true* friends he'd ever had, and of them, Duo and Heero were by far the closest to him. While at boarding school before his marriage, he'd had a few - well, "acquaintances" was probably more accurate than "friends", but at any rate, they hadn't been particularly close. He hadn't been very popular, period. 'Too arrogant. Too proud of my own intelligence. My own strength and skill. It took Meiran's death to *start* to change that...'

And it had taken Duo, with his street fighting skills that Wufei had initially sneered at, to continue the process. After being dumped rather painfully on his ass for the fifth time in a row (the first four having *obviously* been mere flukes...), he'd stopped believing all the things he'd been told about how wonderfully perfect his form was and started figuring out that results were what counted, not how well he'd learned his katas. Then he'd been sent on a school mission with Heero and had his nose thoroughly rubbed in the fact that he wasn't the only well-educated pilot either. 'By then, I was ready to admit that we all had something useful to teach the others. And that's what we all did...' And somewhere along the line, the three of them had become friends. Best friends.

"Did Howard mean what he said?" Heero asked abruptly as they moved into the small galley and began to fix some supper for themselves. "About us having some say in our futures?"

Duo paused in the midst of digging through a cupboard, answering, "Yeah. He did. Howard doesn't say stuff he doesn't mean. Ever. That's one of the things I think is so great about him. He won't say a bunch of stuff just to make you feel better or whatever." He resumed his search, producing a couple of cans of soup and a package of crackers before adding, "I don't know about you guys, but - well, I'd kinda like to do a little of both. Spend some time on Earth and some in space, I mean. I like lots of things about Earth, sure, but I think I'd miss space if we stayed there all the time. And I'd miss piloting too..." Duo's voice trailed off wistfully, then he shrugged and continued, "But if you guys would rather stay Earthside, I can live with that. Stayin' together's more important than where. Though I think it might be a good idea to stay in space till some of the publicity dies down... And I don't think I want to go back to school again, especially not with everybody knowin' who we are. I know we've gotta get our diplomas, that's one of those 'requirements' that the government set out, but we should be able to manage that through the net if we help each other out. We're pretty much set in math and physics and stuff anyway. We just need to catch up in some of the other subjects that good little Gundam pilots weren't required to learn."

"I would miss space too," Heero admitted. "And piloting... And I agree on the school issue as well. But I would like to see a bit more of Earth. Maybe visit a beach without *someone* shooting me or making me break any bones..." he added with a smirk and a pointed look, earning himself an indignant "Oi! And just whose fault was that anyway?!" from Duo.

Wufei really didn't care where they went. Space or Earth, it was all the same. Home would be wherever his friends were. He wasn't particularly fond of piloting and didn't think he'd miss either it or space, but if Duo and Heero wanted to spend at least part of their time out here, that was fine by him. It wasn't like he *disliked* space. He just had never spent any time in it without being either preparing for or in the midst of a battle, really. "It doesn't matter to me which we do," he contributed. "As Duo said, it's more important that we're all together."

Duo snickered and grinned, "Yeah, like the three Musketeers - one for all and all for one..."

Wufei smiled slightly and agreed, Heero echoing his agreement. "One for all and all for one" sounded like a pretty good motto for them. Together, they could handle whatever the future sent their way.

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- tbc -