6-1-2003

Title: #6 Confusion
Arc: Sweeper Three
Author: Calic0cat
Story Completed: June 1, 2003
Genre: Shonen Ai/Yaoi, Friendship
Pairings: None yet
Rated: PG
Warnings: Slightly AU, OOC, Swearing
Archives: Also at Lev's Lair http://www.gwaddiction.com/levlair/ and at http://calic0cat.freeservers.com/ (my site) and 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: See previous parts for notes on the arc as a whole. Feedback is appreciated.

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More black strands of silk slid free to interfere with Wufei's view of the suit's instrumentation. Impatiently, Wufei tugged the band off his hair and redid the ponytail. Sometimes he seriously thought it might be easier to just hack the damn hair off. He hesitated for a moment, tugging lightly on the short tail, abruptly recalling the way that Howard had given it playful - almost affectionate - tugs earlier.

He couldn't quite decide what to make of the man. Howard had been an eccentric but competent ally during the war; a supporter of the colonies yet also someone who was clearly close to Duo in an almost fatherly way. But the sudden extension of that fatherly - or perhaps avuncular would be more accurate - behaviour to Heero and himself was both confusing and surprising. As if in choosing to take them in along with Duo, Howard had genuinely accepted them for *themselves*, not merely as Duo's friends.

'But why? Why would he care about us beyond the fact that we are Duo's friends?' It was hard to understand. Neither of them went out of their way to be friendly. Heero was - well, "rude" was too strong a word, "curt" and "distant" were perhaps more accurate. And while Wufei himself was certainly polite - Howard might be eccentric but he *was* his elder and therefore deserving of respect, even more so because he had performed such a great favour first by taking Wufei in then by restoring his clan's heirloom sword to him - he had never made any real effort to actually get to know Howard better. To make friends with the man.

He wasn't particularly good at making friends in the first place; becoming friends with the other pilots had been a big surprise to him. A nice one - but a surprise nevertheless. Particularly when both Heero and Duo had become his best friends. People that understood him even when they disagreed with him. People that he *knew* he could talk to about absolutely anything. Including his guilt about killing Treize during that final battle.

Or rather, his guilt about letting Treize commit suicide at his hands which was really a more accurate assessment of the situation. Treize had *deliberately* left himself open to that killing blow, Wufei was sure of it. 'Dramatic to the very end...' he thought half-scornfully.

He wasn't sure exactly how he felt about the whole thing other than guilty. He was glad that Treize wasn't here to play a crucial role in the new government. He didn't trust the Oz General the least bit; the man was a manipulative egomaniac who had an ulterior motive and a backup plan for absolutely everything. But part of him had to respect the man's dedication to his cause.

Wufei just wasn't entirely certain what that "cause" was. Whether it was the achievement of peace as Treize had claimed and Une continued to insist. Or whether it was his personal aggrandizement and thirst for power. His desire to become a legend.

Either way, Wufei didn't trust him. And that was why he was out here in a suit, ostensibly marking out areas for ordnance pickup and mine disarming. He *was* doing those tasks too, marking areas for Heero and Duo's attention as they followed and tended to the explosive devices that were far more their area of expertise than his own. But he was also searching for a certain specific suit. One that had not yet been found.

Wufei wanted to find Treize's suit for several reasons. For one thing, he felt the need to be sure that the man was genuinely dead. And the suit itself, while not quite a true Gundam, contained some very advanced technology that should not remain unaccounted for. He was sure that those two reasons had a lot to do with Duo and Heero's agreement to this arrangement too.

But he also felt that he owed Treize that much respect as a fellow warrior. The recovery of the body in order for it to receive a proper burial in the plot reserved for it on one of the Kushrenada properties. Finding it, however, was proving more difficult than he had expected. He had thought that he would be able to retrace the path he had followed during the battle closely enough to narrow things down a bit but that narrowing down still left a very large area to be searched.

A lot of destroyed suits to see.

Wufei swallowed and averted his eyes from a cluster of suits that bore the distinctive markings of having faced Gundams. The scars of thermal scythe and heat shotels, of Heavyarms's bullets and his own suit's dragon fangs and trident. Many suits were merely dolls - but not all. Not nearly all.

Zero's distinctive battle signature was the only one missing from the battlefield; Heero had not been involved in the majority of that final battle in the same way that they had. 'He had his own role to play. A different one - but no less critical in the end...'

Much as Wufei hated to admit it, Relena's presence and the truce forged on both a personal and political level between her and Lady Une had probably been essential to the peaceful resolution of the conflict. There was something distinctly disturbing about that fact - no single person, particularly not an idealistic, naive teenage girl, should have so much influence - but it was the simple truth. Wufei was extremely grateful that at least the new government had realized the dangers of allowing her too much power and had reduced Relena's role to that of a mere figurehead. He hoped that they would continue to reduce her role; to gradually eliminate the importance of the figurehead. Not because he disliked Relena personally - though he wasn't overly fond of her and he sympathized with Heero's irritation at her clinging tendencies and persistence - but because he disliked the power and influence she seemed to gather so effortlessly. 'Too much like Treize...'

Shit. And here he was, back to Treize again. Wufei snorted in exasperation. The man confused and disturbed him on a very basic level. He appealed to the codes of warfare that had been drilled into Wufei from infancy onwards. Appealed to the codes of birthright and aristocracy that had been taught alongside of them. Yet at the same time, Wufei rebelled against those codes. Against the impracticality of traditional codes of warfare in a post-colony universe. Against notions of birthright and aristocracy and all the injustices that those things implied, injustices that his friendship with Duo and Trowa and Heero had brought to his attention.

Against the idea that any one person had the right to decide the fates of countless others. The right to start a war purportedly for the sake of ending war once and for all as Treize so proudly proclaimed he had done.

And then to have the unmitigated gall to act as if knowing the number of lives lost and the names that went with that number made everything okay. As if that somehow justified all the lives ruined. All the pain and suffering created.

'As if it somehow washed away the blood on his hands...' Wufei shook his head slightly, still annoyed by the man's whole attitude. 'I do not know whether to consider him merely very misguided or outright delusional. Power monger or confused pacifist.'

And his ambivalence towards Treize was only increased by the harm caused to his "family" by Treize's actions, both direct and indirect. The burden of guilt that Heero carried for the New Edwards debacle. Heero's near death when he self-destructed Wing in the face of Une's threat to the colonies. The beatings and injuries and intended execution of Duo. The countless other injuries to body and heart and soul of all five of them. And that was only counting the things that could be attributed to Treize within the past year. How much of what had happened in their more distant pasts could ultimately be laid at the manipulative man's feet?

Yet at the same time, Treize had been a worthy opponent in many ways. He had not taken advantage of Wufei's hot-headed impulsiveness to kill or capture him after their shipboard duel. And some parts of what the Oz General had said during their final fight made sense. He did not agree with the way that Treize had gone about achieving his goals - but he could see the logic behind it. A logic that seemed flawed on some deep, intrinsic moral level, but logic none the less. Wufei shook his head again in frustration. 'I am confused by the whole thing. Confused by Treize. By his claims. By *everything* about this damn war...' Up to and including the way that the Gundam pilots themselves were being treated by the government that they paved the way for.

Sighing, Wufei dropped another beacon to mark the location of a small minefield. 'I need to talk to Duo and Heero about Treize. And the rest of it. Maybe between the three of us we can make some sense out of the whole thing.' It wasn't that he expected some sort of easy, clear answer regarding the truth of Treize's role. He just needed to reach some personal conclusions about the man in order to deal with his own guilt over killing him. He wasn't even entirely sure why he *did* feel particularly guilty about Treize's death; when it came right down to it, Treize was nothing more than another mobile suit pilot under the particular circumstances in which his death occurred.

Perhaps it was simply because he had known Treize. Not very well, but still more than he knew any of the countless others that he had fought and killed during the course of the war. Or perhaps it was because he had wanted him - Treize Kushrenada *personally*, not merely the Oz General - dead so many times over the past year, beginning with that first time he faced Treize onboard his ship following the New Edwards incident. 'Fighting Treize was - personal. Not merely a necessity of war. Is that why his death at my hands has affected me so strongly?'

Maybe.

But why *had* the fight against Treize been so personal? Was it entirely because his warning at New Edwards had been too late - because *he* had been too late, yet again - and he had turned his anger and frustration at his own failure towards the one who engineered the entire thing to begin with? Or... was it because he had seen traces of the person that he himself could have become in Treize. The arrogance. The aristocratic background and patronizing attitude. The conviction that he was so much more intelligent than everyone else, so much wiser, so much better suited to make important decisions than anyone else...

"*No!*" Wufei said angrily, his voice echoing in the quiet of the cockpit. "I'm *not* like him. Maybe once I was heading in that direction but I'm not anymore. Not with friends like Duo and Heero; they won't let me. I *won't* be like him." The suit he was piloting hung motionless in space for a few minutes while he forced himself to calm down again. Forced the futile anger away.

"I won't," he repeated softly. "I *won't* be like Treize. Arrogant and manipulative and patronizing... No matter how much honour he showed at times, no man of honour could do what he did...."

New Edwards alone was proof that Treize's idea of honour was a slippery thing, a thing of convenience. The deaths of all those peace-seeking leaders was bad enough but the way that Treize had manipulated the Gundam pilots, Heero in particular, into *causing* those deaths proved that Treize did not know the true meaning of honour. The honourable approach - if such a thing could be said to exist in that situation - would have been for Treize to kill the leaders himself if he wished to overthrow them and take power. Not to manipulate others into doing the dirty work for him and taking advantage of the tragedy to seize power for himself.

'Knowing the names of those he doomed does not excuse what he did,' Wufei thought angrily. 'Heero has nightmares about New Edwards on a regular basis; he will never be free of that guilt. And I will never cease to wonder whether things would have turned out any differently had I arrived just a few minutes earlier that day... Whether the survival of those people would have brought the war to an end sooner...'

Yet despite all the wrongdoing that Treize was responsible for, the man seemed to have succeeded in his self-proclaimed goal. Earth and the colonies were now at peace. And Treize had himself said and done various things along the way that forced Wufei into a grudging semi-respect for him. 'Like his revulsion towards the mobile dolls. And turning Epyon over to Heero... Despite Heero's dislike for the suit, it did serve him well while he had nothing better at his disposal.'

Wufei sighed wearily and acknowledged that, despite all his thinking, he was still confused. Confused by Treize's actions, by his own guilt at Treize's death, by the whole damn *war*, by everything that had happened since the war ended...

'Later. Think about it later,' he admonished himself. Dragging his thoughts back to the task at hand, Wufei resumed his search pattern, continuing to mark areas for Duo and Heero's future attention. Somewhere out here, he would find that missing suit or whatever remained of it. Then perhaps once he had discharged his duty towards an opponent who had been at least challenging if not entirely honourable, he would be able to figure things out more clearly. To eliminate some of the confusion. If not alone, then with a little help from his friends.

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- tbc -