10-22-2001 (revised)

Title: Innocence Faded 4/16 (revised)
Authors: Jenn & Kea (Dreamscape Studios)
Email: HeeroYuy1x2@aol.com and DuoMaxwell1x2@aol.com , respectively
Archive: Dreamscape Studios Ltd (www.dreamscapestudios.net) ; anyone else please email and permission will be gladly given
Feedback: Absolutely. ^_^
Rating: R throughout, pushing NC-17 in parts
Warnings: Angst, hurt, despair and heartache with spoonfuls of hope to make them go down smoother. Mild lemon and strong lime in some parts. This fic takes place following the events in Endless Waltz (movie version). This is a completed multipart fic.
Pairings:1x2/2x1, implied 3x4
Disclaimer: Gundam Wing is owned by a bunch of companies in Japan (Bandai, Sunrise, Sotsu Agency), and their sandbox is only on unsanctioned loan for us to play in. ^_^ The song "Innocence Faded" belongs to John Petrucci and Dream Theater, lyrics used without permission.

Authors' notes: Innocence Faded is written completely in alternating first-person perspective. The three asterisks usually denote a shift in POV, with thoughts or emphasis indicated by single asterisks. In-monologue flashbacks will be denoted by slashes, complete ones or scene changes with
the asterisks.

This is also known as the fic that ate our lives. Or was it our lives that ate the fic? I believe we started this in June of 2000, and when Jenn moved out here in November, we got kind of distracted for several months. I'm certain there are a lot of people who have long ago given up this fic for dead; I'll admit to being one of them. ^^; But some stories simply won't go away until they're fully told.

Huge thanks and worshipful adoration go out to Moe-chan, the best beta reader anyone could ask for, and the constant motivating force behind the rest of this fic. When I sent her a pathetically rough draft of the monster known as IF6 (that became IF 10-15 after chapter breaks), asking her to read it and let me know if it should be finished or scrapped, I never knew what a friend I'd be gaining. Without her help, this very well might have lingered unfinished and certainly would have had lots of inconsistencies and stupid errors.

Background music, title and constant source of inspiration: Innocence Faded, by Dream Theater...from the "Awake" CD.

**************
Some will transcend spinning years
One as if time disappears
**************

*Breathe.* It seemed an age since I had taken a breath.

Manic desperation didn't lend itself to just breathing, just existing. It demanded action, some attempt to resolve or escape from its cause. I couldn't stop trembling, my body aching with the inner struggle that was tearing me apart.

I want...to get... away... I want it to stop. Stop hurting me, please just stop. I'm lost, I'm dying inside.

I need...Something to hold on to.

Default programming snapped into place abruptly and without warning. I bit my lip so hard it drew blood, struggling between accepting the clarity offered by my training and fighting it down again. That's not me, not really.

No... I guess that's not true, it's a much a part of me as anything else. And maybe if I could lock myself down to that again... maybe I could find a way to survive this. I breathed deeply, looking up at him through my bangs. "Ninmu wa nan desu ka?" I asked him softly, giving in to the soldier.

'What is my mission?'

***

What could I say? If his universe had a center, it was the mission. Make that Mission with a capital M. He felt ready to shake apart in my arms, a ship tossed in violent, stormy waters with nothing for anchor. Existence depended on and revolved around the mission. Without the mission, there was no stability, no constant by which to measure.

Eerily, it reminded me of this guy I'd known in the Sweepers, a mechanic everybody called Tiger. Wasn't his real name, but who was I to judge on that score? There wasn't anything he couldn't fix, couldn't hack apart and put back together so it ran better than ever. Most of what I learned about parts, salvage and engineering was from him.

Tiger had this knack for everything being in its proper place. With one look, he could tell you what bolts were missing out of a wrecked suit, every little place it had taken damage. He was a walking diagnostic computer, with the steady and sharp personality to match. The first couple weeks after I met him, I went around in awe, imagining rounds of the Hallelujah Chorus whenever he walked by, he was that good.

One day I borrowed a wrench from him to pop open a comm box we'd snagged out of space. From the signal we'd been picking up, the transmitter was still good, and would fit nicely in the busted one from yesterday. If I didn't finish quick, I'd miss lunch, and now that I had food available, I wasn't about to shortchange myself. He'd already gone to the mess by the time I'd finished, so I tossed it back in the box and hurried off to grab some soup and bread.

Three bowls and a loaf later, I sauntered into the hangar and into what sounded like an argument or something. Tiger--dependable, brilliant Tiger--was huddled on the floor, screaming, hands over his ears, and two of the other guys were frantically sorting tools while G tried to calm him down.

"Duo!" The old guy's eyes tracked to me almost instantly. "Did you have the 5/8" wrench earlier?" Tiger howled, and the doc grabbed his shoulders tighter.

"Uh, yeah. I put it back in the box." I pointed towards the green one, not sure if he could hear me over the shrieking. "What's going on, anyways?"

Suddenly, I had everyone's attention, except for Tiger, who still wailed like a banshee. Pete flipped open the box and hauled out the wrench, putting it in place with the rest of them; I noticed that they were all laid out across the top of a rolling cart, in order by size from left to right.

"There, there," G said in the kindest voice I'd ever heard from him. "It's not missing. They're all there, all in their proper places. See?" He patted Tiger's hair like a mother would a child, soothing and comforting. And without so much as a by your leave, he stopped caterwauling and calm fell on him like rain. He stood up, pulled G to his feet, and smiled. It was like nothing had happened.

G smiled back and turned to go, heading straight towards me. He snagged my braid in one spindly fist and dragged me out of the hangar. Didn't think the old scarecrow was that strong. Thrusting me into a chair in his small office, he explained what had happened. I didn't have enough formal education yet to really understand words like 'autism,' but he hammered one important thing into my head: Tiger functioned perfectly well as long as nothing upset his routine. By putting that wrench in the wrong place, I'd collapsed his world around him. It was easily fixed then, just a matter of returning the necessary structure, but now...with Heero...

But now there was no next to move on to. No wrench to put in the right place. And with no one else to fight, no mission for the soldier, Heero Yuy's reason to live ceased to exist. I wanted desperately to tell him what to do, to fix things as easily as they had been before. I could do it. I could give him some sort of mission or reason to live--even something as simple as 'help me decide what to wear', I thought, glancing down at my absent apparel.

The air around me went cold as I realized to do that would make me no better than the scientists who tried to play God with a little boy, who sought to train and shape and mold him into a soulless killing machine that peace rendered useless.

It carved my heart up to say the words, but Duo Maxwell doesn't lie.

"The war is over, Heero," I whispered quietly, the full gravity of the phrase weighing my voice almost into baritone range. "There are no more orders." I swallowed hard, hating myself for being unable to give him the one thing he most needed. "No more missions."

***

I have no other words for it, something inside of me snapped. Those words were like a spark to dry tinder, and the resulting explosion left nothing but wasteland for miles around. My body jerked, a physical response to what amounted to a verbal attack, but my mind was nowhere to be found.

I remember the rest only in bits and pieces, almost like a bad movie not worth remembering.

I think the soldier took full control, assessing a threat and acting on it. One moment Duo sat on my lap, our bodies mere inches apart, the next he sprawled on the floor, half a room away. I'd struck instinctively, grabbing for something familiar, something real. With catlike reflexes, I spun, sighting along the slim barrel of my handgun... training it on Duo's forehead.

Destroy the threat... That one thought hammered like a pulsebeat inside me. Simple logic began forming again, without the benefit of higher functions to knock it down. If I had to continue, I would require parameters. Right? I shook my head, clenching my teeth against a wave of pain. Duo was a threat, he was lying to me...

Duo doesn't lie. Ever.

"Omae o korosu," I heard it distantly, as though someone else were saying it.

Kill him, the soldier urged ruthlessly. Kill him, and then you can complete final mission objectives. He's in your way.

But... there are no more missions... I started shaking again, and I had to jerk my arm back into alignment to keep the gun on target.

That's not true... it can't be. I felt like a black hole was opening up inside of me, sweeping everything I was, everything around me into its depths. What was worse? The fact that Duo might be lying to me, or that he was telling the truth?

The click of the hammer sliding home was my only answer.

***

One moment I was close enough to kiss him, the next I was smooching the floor none too gently. What is it about him that drops my guard every time? I bit back my body's grunt of protest and pushed into a sitting position, wincing because my bare elbows definitely felt rugburned. *Me and my commitment to the truth. Maybe I should have gone with sex after all.*

Heero whirled around, moving so fast he was almost in slow motion, restored to real time only by the unforgiving click-click of the gun being cocked. *Uh, check that.* The cold, cycloptic eye of the pistol stared mockingly at me and a sharp, haunting chill shot through the room. *He's pulled that gun on me more times than I can count, but this time it's different. This time he means it.* The wild, desperate statement was a vivid reminder of yesterday.

Yesterday... *but this time it's different.* Vivid images of yesterday surged into my mind like still photographs and I felt my eyes widen in shock. Of the two of us, only I realized how different today was.

I held my hands up slightly, as if by some miracle Shinigami could forestall or duck a bullet in mid-air. Yeah, right; I'm fast, but I'm not that fast. "My life has been yours to have or take away for a long time, Heero," I admitted, my throat catching on the words; it wasn't quite a confession, but I'd come farther in twenty-four hours towards telling him my real feelings than I ever had.

Still keeping my hands in the universal gesture for surrender, I got my feet under me and inched into a standing position.

***

My eyes flicked to the gun I held, and then shuttered briefly closed.

Realization slashed into me like a knife. What I meant to do, why I was doing it... combined with the rest of the pain it became nearly unbearable. I clenched my jaw, my face contorted into a grimace of pure agony... But I couldn't put the gun down.

"I don't have to kill anymore," I grated, feeling as though every word were carved from my flesh. I'm not sure who I said them for, although I suspect they were directed to my inner demons as much as to the person I was currently trying to kill. I'd made a choice, had been prepared to die to ensure that decision was carried through. Didn't that mean something?

No. It meant nothing. Nothing at all.

I could feel ghosts in the air around me, burning holes in my skin with their accusing stares. They gathered closer, enjoying the show. Either way they'd have satisfaction, ne? This was a tragedy unfolding, for which they held front-row seats.

I felt the specter of Wing Zero at my back, spreading deceptively angelic wings around me, holding me in death's embrace. It was my escort across that final border crossing between sanity and chaos. *You'll never escape,* it whispered softly, and I realized that it had always been watching, savoring the lives I fed to it. Now that I'd tried to free myself, this pain, this torture, was my punishment. And now... it wanted Duo, too.

Wings of shattered glass sealed me in their cocoon, and I gasped as it showed me the future.

Nothing.

***

Misery burned through me like acid. Heero's misery. He was in an horrifying downward spiral and I wasn't falling fast enough to catch him. Yesterday he had been unstable and weary, but despite the rock-solid sighting of the gun trained on me, I felt today's Heero was infinitely more fragile, more brittle than yesterday's. Sweat trickled down the back of my neck to skate between my shoulder blades as ex-Gundam pilot and gun stared at me.

Steadying my legs, I nodded slow agreement, covertly inching forward towards him. Stealth, after all, was my tactic of choice. "Hai, you don't have to kill anymore, Heero." God, I wanted to lock him in a fierce, protective embrace for eternity, to take all his pain for my own so he wouldn't have to suffer any more. The urge choked through me; I've never felt this way about anyone or anything. *It kills me to see you like this, powerless to stop what's hurting you.*

His eyes were wild, tumultuous seas, rolling and tossing in an elemental battle. In a desperate attempt to calm the storm, I took what he said a step farther, willing him to understand it wasn't too late. We could do this together. "You don't have to be a weapon anymore."

***

I don't have to kill anymore.

'My life is my own. I won't be controlled.' The thoughts welled up from the darkness, spoken in a still, quiet voice that I slowly recognized as my own. The owner of that voice looked out through my eyes, locked onto the one thing in the world that meant something to me.

I gathered strength from that contact, wearily made a last-ditch effort to fight.

"All I am is a weapon," I said softly. "I don't know how to be anything else." Another breath, another few heartbeats. "There has to be peace sometime." I swallowed convulsively. "We fought so hard...killed so many. It can't be for nothing. I won't let it." A renewed wave of anguish washed over me, reflecting in my eyes. It nearly killed my effort to fight... and then I realized that I just didn't have the strength to hold on any longer.

"The weapons have to be destroyed," I whispered hoarsely.

"Their only purpose is to kill."

***

"Chigau." *You're wrong.* The breathless denial passed my lips. *You're not just a weapon! You're so much more than that!* my mind screamed as my heart kept crumbling. I'd lost count of the atrocities I owed J for planting these beliefs so deeply in Heero's psyche.

*You don't have to know how. I'll show you, I'll teach you. We'll learn it all together. Just don't let go.*

"Listen to me." Was that calm voice mine? I didn't recognize it. "The weapons have already been destroyed. You, me, Wufei, Trowa, Quatre....we were only weapons because of our Gundams." I had scooted almost within touching distance of him; the gun still stared at me, but I wasn't afraid. He needed me. What was a gun compared to that?

"We were weapons because our colonies needed us to be. They didn't have the strength or means to resist on their own." Unbidden, as though summoned by the word 'colonies', images arose of young children on the streets of L2. War orphans. How many more kids like me did I create? I swallowed tightly at that thought, but now wasn't the time to dwell on my own reckonings. Not with Heero teetering so close to the brink. He was worth any cost, even my soul and its hope of redemption.

"Now, the Earth and the colonies have peace. Together. It's here, we have peace." No matter the cost, peace had been achieved for the rest of humanity. And I would fight Hell itself to bring it to Heero at last.

"The Gundams have been destroyed, Heero. What made us weapons is gone. That part of our lives is over," I insisted. Pouring my gaze unwaveringly into his, I stretched out one hand and closed it around the cool, hard barrel of the gun. "We're not weapons any more."

I shook the gun just slightly; no ammunition rattled in it. He'd asked me for bullets yesterday because he had none. The gun hadn't been loaded. It hadn't been a weapon.

"We're just like this," I whispered, willing him to understand. "Empty. We can't hurt anyone anymore."

I waited for the thoughts to process, for something from him, but he just kept staring at the gun, at my lean fingers curled around it. My hand not in shared possession of the pistol tightened into a frustrated fist. *Dammit, Heero, say something!* "What else can I do to make you understand how fucking important you are?"

Amazingly, he flinched...for Heero, that meant he blinked. My voice was rising, God only knew what the rest of the people in the hotel must think, but I didn't care. "Killing has never been your only purpose! As long as someone needs you, Yuy, you have purpose!" My voice was raw, agonized, but I didn't care. All I cared about was him.

"Don't you get it? I need you!"

***

Need. God, I need something. I stared at him blindly, my mind racing, trying to understand, to comprehend. Need. What did it mean? Why did it kindle this sudden pain that was not pain... why did I want to hear him say it again?

I need you.

Duo... I recoiled from the gun as though burned by its frigid metal. I need Duo.

*I've always...needed you.* I continued to stare, struggling for a foothold in this new revelation.

*My life is my own...*

I'd known the moment I saw him in that prison cell, as soon as I found him alive, that nothing would ever be the same again. I'd struggled with it, rejected it, but whether I liked it or not, the world had changed. I guess this was the moment I could let go of that denial for good, if I chose.

*I won't be controlled...*

Needing him wasn't enough, but it had never occurred to me that he might need me too. Something so simple, seemingly insignificant... and yet it was like the touch of water to the lips of a dying man. My world would never be the same, because in that brief moment I found a reason to live, one that gazed back at me with impassioned violet eyes. Eyes I could drown in, that I could deny nothing. Especially now, when I had nothing in the world but those eyes.

They held me, refused to let me go... and with a slow, shuddering breath, I made a choice not to. More than that, I made a promise to stay, to try and find a way to keep going. There was something to fight for here, something important, if not to the world... then to us. I would stay, and protect him, with my last breath.

"Wakatta," I said softly. I reached out, hesitantly, like I couldn't believe this moment was real and not some interlude of a waking nightmare. Then our hands met, and I knew. It was real.

***

"Baka," I half-whispered, feeling one corner of my mouth turn up in an involuntary, crooked smile. "I need you." The gun wobbled in my hand and I dropped it, kicking the vile thing under the bed. I didn't want to see it, I didn't want him to see it. I didn't think I could go through this again.

I couldn't begin to describe what happened next. I felt like a sleeper waking from a long dream, only to find reality sweeter than any fantasy. Heero Yuy...reached out to me. He stretched out a sinewy, tanned hand towards me, this time awaiting my response with oddly tentative eyes.

I have looked into, far into, those eyes of his many, many times, but they have never returned my gaze quite the same way before. My heart throbbed with conflicting emotions, exposing and affirming all at once. I felt defenseless and vulnerable and...and wonderful. It reminded me of how snakes shed their old, dull skin to reveal brilliant new colors beneath. There were things in that look that seemed to reach right down inside me and tickle my soul.

I lifted my hand to his and laced my fingers through Heero's, closing my eyes as the skin-on-skin contact burned. I folded them down and gripped tightly; his hands are so strong they are almost marvels of science, but wrapped around mine they were the soul of gentleness. The soul of Heero. More than anything, the touch reinforced what I had told him. He wasn't a weapon, wasn't a killer anymore. Nothing with hands fit only for death could have so tender a touch.

"Wakatta," I repeated. I had no idea what would happen between us from this point, but I found myself not entirely caring. We had a beginning, a real beginning, at last.

***

I felt...exhausted. Nightmares had chased me into sleep, keeping me from any real peace. That in combination with the tension and turmoil of the last few minutes made staying on my feet difficult. I managed it, I also managed to keep the fatigue from showing. Broken or not, I think I will always be a soldier to the core.

I reached, captured a strand of Duo's hair. The sensations stirred up by that simple contact was only confirmation that I was well and truly insane. My thoughts only moments ago had been of death, now they centered on the boy whose hand clasped tightly with mine. One moment I was at the brink, the next I felt surprisingly calm, unexpectedly buoyed up out of the grasp of chaos by Duo's offhand admission. *He needs me.* That inner voice was soft, wondering...awed.

I'm not stupid, nor am I blind. I've known there was something between us for a long time, I just didn't know what to call it. I still don't. I do have feelings, but they're too fledgling and new to have a name or a real meaning. In war they were a dangerous liability. I never expected them to be the key that held me to life.

I still didn't know what any of it meant. I only knew that I meant what I'd said. He gave me what I needed, a reason to cling to life, to find my way out of the shadows in which I still stood. It wasn't over, I had demons to fight that had yet to show their faces... but he needed me, and I accepted that charge. No one and nothing gets in my way once I have accepted a mission. There is reassurance in that absolute.

"Can I hold you?" I asked hesitantly, suddenly feeling shy. It was as though I walked a path that seemed familiar, but in a half-remembered way that made me afraid of making a wrong step. "I need to..." I swallowed hard, closed my eyes. "I need to feel alive again."

***

He touched my hair, and I nearly lost it then. Biology tells us that our hair is essentially dead--it grows, sure, but in actuality it's merely a keratin byproduct like fingernails--but I don't think that's entirely accurate. How else could sensation funnel up the strands, permeate into my scalp, and quiver down my neck to jettison out through every nerve ending in my body like a tazer blast? I love having my hair touched--to me, it's more arousing than actual sex. Having Heero touch my hair...I wondered why I hadn't completely lost molecular cohesion.

I didn't think I was dreaming, but if I was, I wanted to never wake. Joy--true joy--has been such a rarity in my life, every precious moment stolen. As good a thief as I am, one would think I'd have been able to steal more of them.

I couldn't steal this one; it could only be freely given. Clumsy and unsure, Heero reached out and placed a trembling soul into equally-trembling hands with a single question. Slowly, I realized that his body wasn't the only thing he'd bared to me in the past twenty-four hours. Nor was it the most important.

I tried to laugh; I think I sobbed. "Please..."

Since I saw him yesterday, he had begged for death. Now, ironically, Death begged for him.

***

I pulled him to me, untangling our fingers so that I could slip my arms around his waist. He was slight and strong all at once, vibrant life radiating from him like sunlight. Duo calls himself Death, for me he was life incarnate. He was my life, in a way I'd never realized or accepted until that moment. Maybe because, until now, I'd been unable to let anything, even him, come between me and my role in the war. Now there was nothing between us.

I ceased to think, letting the gentle buffer of fatigue settle over me and put my searching mind at rest. Turning my head, I breathed in his scent, rubbing my cheek against the silk of his hair. Drifting lower, I pressed my lips to the curve of his ear, then the line of his jaw, slowly making my way to his lips. Then I kissed him.

***

His mouth was warm, inviting, and with a slight intake of breath, as though courage were something that could be inhaled, I kissed him back, forgetting pretense and consequences and a wealth of other things that, strangely, no longer mattered. Muscles rippled under my fingers, strong and powerful. In so many ways, I had always felt weak next to him, training and possible genetically-enhanced abilities aside. Weak because I didn't have that same ability to see life only in terms of the mission.

But now there was no more mission. Nothing but the beat of two hearts and the gasp of two breaths.

In that spiderwebbed silence, Sister's favorite verse rose to my mind like a gentle, comforting breeze, as though she were whispering her approval to me. 'Two are better than one; for they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, the one will lift the other up: but pity the man who is alone when he falls and has no one to help him up. Again, if two lie together, they have heat: but how can one be warm alone? And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; a threefold cord is not quickly broken.' [1]

A sort of desperate hope bloomed in me, unfurling and flooding over the score of broken dreams that littered the landscape of my soul. A strong wind could have blown either of us over, but not both.

Apart, we had been nothing; together, a fragile sense of something was awakening.

***

[1] The Bible, Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, New King James Version

TBC...