10-22-2001

Title: Innocence Faded 6/16 (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.

*********************
Callow and vain
fixed like a fossil, shrouding pain
Passionless stage
Distant like brothers
*********************

Blue. Endless blue, undulating in rhythmic ribbons below and stretching in expansive emptiness above. Over the ocean, the eye can perceive nothing save the infinite azurine spectrum, and only the occasional, faint reflection, rather like a tiny, persistent radar echo, of interspersed amethyst from the window hinted at existence beyond the reigning shades. I blinked, and the reflection dissipated back into blues.

Ocean. Sky. Two things I thought I would never truly see growing up on L2. Yeah, the colony matrix generated something approximating the reflective properties of Earth's atmosphere, but the slightly grey-kissed heavens had always vibrated with a subtle tang of wrongness. Even if we're born in space, do we long for home? Real home? Is it indelibly written in the infinite mystery that defines us as human? Or stamped right into our very genetic code? Fighting a war and piloting a Gundam had left little time for sightseeing and otherwise experiencing the wonder of the home planet.

Admittedly, during the times Heero and I were masquerading in schools and that too-tiny room simply couldn't contain me, I wandered quite a bit, but it was never enough. The mission always called me away from what I wanted to do most.

Live.

I had embraced nothing but Death since I was a child. Death was the only thing I believed in. It was the only certainty a boy with no family and broken faith could cling to. And in believing, I became Death. Bringer of Death. Shinigami.

Imagine, then, the irony of an attempted suicide breathing life into me. The day Heero flung himself out that window, ready to fall to his death or to become so much human refuse cast on the cliffs...awoke something in me. Desire might be a good word for it. Passion. Fire. Lust. Not for his body--not yet, at least--but for his soul. For the utter, unswerving commitment he possessed. A fierce, powerful phoenix rose ascendant from the blackened ashes of Shinigami in my heart. A will, a need, to live; not merely to exist and be classified as alive, but to truly live.

Since then, I've tried to minimize and simplify it in my mind as merely the infinite force of the universe striving for balance; this psycho seemed destined to be my partner in crime and warfare, and thus my urge to survive must stand fast against his to perish.

But Duo Maxwell doesn't lie, even to himself. Something in me dedicated itself from that moment to living for him. To showing him that there was more to life than dying. At first, I think it was sheer stubbornness; I wasn't about to let Mister Congeniality get the better of me. I persisted, I pestered, I dragged him places whenever I could, never receiving any sign of progress but unwilling to admit defeat. When it made him mad, or irritated, or anything but indifferent, I celebrated, for it meant I was winning. I had made him feel.

Some days I don't think I really believe in God. Or Shinigami. But oddly enough I find myself with far more faith in that mythical, half-baked notion of an infinite force in the universe, one that demands balance. Why wasn't Heero able to pull that trigger and put a bullet in my brain? Why didn't I suffocate on the moon? Why didn't Deathscythe self-destruct for me? Simple; the balance hadn't yet been achieved. I don't think I'll die until it has. Heero's still alive; I'm still winning the battle.

Suddenly weary, I closed my eyes. *But this war is far from over.*

***

Upon reflection, I realized that I was preparing myself for this as I would a mission. It was either that or be terrified. I don't do well with terrified, and I'd been feeling that way a little too much for my comfort of late. My own insecurities had been laid to rest, thankfully, so I spent the time on the plane going over the remaining possible strategies in my mind. Duo was hell-bent on this plan, to the point of playing less than fairly when it came to securing my approval for it. It didn't bode well for the possibility of deterring him from it.

Therefore I dismissed that course of action as being inefficient. The remainder of the choices involved damage control. Exerting my influence over the choice being made seemed the only real answer. I think it was a means to find a little control when my life had spiraled so violently out of control.

That begged the question, why did this disturb me so much? I felt a twinge of shame at being so unnerved by what should have been an irrelevant subject. A house was nothing more than a place of shelter. Duo's demand for permanence was a potential security hazard, but the hazard could be minimized with caution. I kept finding little answers like that, they weren't necessarily the most efficient answers, but they fell within acceptable levels.

Realization came slowly, mostly because I didn't want to accept what I already knew to be true. Dying would have been easy. The book would have been closed on the tragic affairs of Heero Yuy, and I never would have needed to be more than a soldier. A soldier forged of cold steel and ice.

Living was the hard part. I had my reason for staying alive and I would not forsake it, but a soldier was not required to be happy, to know joy or peace or...love. Part of me knew that this was what his desire for a house was all about. He considered it the first step on a long road, a path designed to teach me what he knew by instinct, and had been beaten out of me long ago.

I closed my eyes, searching for an answer. The question being, of course, was I willing to learn?

***

I woke up when Heero shook me awake, the sudden influx of sunshine painfully bright against my eyes. I scrunched them shut and with a protesting moan tried to curl back against my pillow. It moved, rising and falling in what sounded rather like an impatient sigh. One eye cracked back open, giving me a bleary view of Heero's shirt. Added to that was the growing awareness of a not-unpleasant weight across my shoulders and a feathery flirtation by something with the fine baby-hairs on the back of my neck, the ones that didn't fit into my braid. Try as I might, none of these disconnected sensations seemed to come together into a cohesive thought. I closed my eye again and took a deep, luxurious breath.

Both eyes snapped open this time. Every inch of my being knew that scent. I must have made to jerk upright, for that weight held fast, securing me in place. I felt a rumbling beneath my cheek--vibrations traveling up from the chest, some semi-conscious part of me chimed in--and the touch of strong, agile fingers against the top of my head, stroking my sleep-tousled hair back into order. Carefully. Gently.

Reverently?

A warm sensation started just below my rib cage, rising like bread dough to fill every space inside me with shining joy. Heero had let me sleep on his shoulder, draped an arm around me and played with my hair. All incredibly tender things simultaneously incongruous with and appropriate to him. I glanced up at him, found his eyes beneath the lowered shades of his lashes. "How long?" I asked, my voice rather sleep-scratchy.

He shrugged with his other shoulder. "Not quite two hours. You should sleep more," Heero added, and I had the distinct impression he was filing that thought away like a mission parameter. "The agent is checking on the car. Can you walk?"

Walk? If he'd asked, I could fly. Grinning crookedly, I nodded, drawing in one more greedy breath from his shirt before sitting up completely and slowly unfurling to my feet. Heero caught my elbow, as though to steady me. "What part of America are we in?"

"West. Far west. She said something about it once being called California." Still steering me by my elbow, Heero produced a pair of sunglasses--apparently, that sleight-of-hand phenomenon wasn't limited to his spandex-wearing days--and slipped them on my face, careful not to poke me with them. A warm wind feathered our clothes when we stepped outside, comfortably warm and with a heavy, refreshing tang of salt that lingered on my tongue.

As expertly as if he did such things every day, Heero guided me down the stairs from the plane and into the back seat of a charcoal-grey limousine. Sinking back against the plush upholstery, I made a mental note that asking Quatre for help equaled traveling in style. And yawned.

"Feeling better now, Mr. Maxwell?" Becky asked politely, peering at me over the rims of her glasses. She sat facing the rear, the deep royal purple of her trendy yet feminine pantsuit a bright splotch of color against the creamy seat. With a brief, envious glance at Heero's comfortable shoulder, I stretched my arms over my head and nodded. "Mr. Yuy said you hadn't slept well the past couple of days and that it was best if we let you be." Translation: she'd observed as much to Heero and he'd responded with the appropriate noise.

The car lurched forwards, and she grabbed at the paperwork in her lap to keep it from falling. "This will be old to him, since we talked about it on the plane," which again meant she'd talked and he'd pretended to listen, and I prepared myself to do the same. "But, we've got a short ride from here to the house, and there's a little bit of history behind everything here."

"First of all, southern California was where all the film and TV stars lived." The motor rumbled beneath us, the air-cushioned shocks making for such a comfortable ride my eyes nearly closed again. History was never my favorite subject in school. "Original resistance against OZ destroyed a lot of it, the early days of the war finished it, and the industry never really recovered. Most everyone moved away to someplace safer; even though this area is to the north, it's reverted to a very small-town lifestyle."

She crossed her legs in the other direction; the ease with which women can do that never ceased to amaze me. "These days, the coast is largely quiet fishing towns. This one," and Becky adjusted her glasses on the end of her nose, peering intently down at the folio in her lap, "was renamed 'Esperanza por el Mar.' The locals tend to call it just Esperanza." [1] Her tongue effortlessly floated over the words; at full consciousness I have a decent understanding of Romance languages--they're all bastardized dialects of Latin--but still groggy it meant nothing to me. That firm shoulder in my peripheral vision was looking better all the time. Until I followed his gaze out the smoked-glass window, all further thoughts of sleep vanishing like the morning mist.

***

It was the kind of place that only existed in picture books and on glossy postcards. The kind of place that filled the dreams of the masses as they trudged to their means of employment and made another day pass by. I'd never dreamed of such a place simply because I never would have dared to believe that it existed. Glass, steel, plastic, the faded attempts to make the colonies into a likeness of Earth, that was all I knew. It was rather like trying to make a prostitute into a princess. With the right clothes it could almost be believable...but you can't change the truth underneath.

The town was small, quiet. The main street was lined with white houses and brick sidewalks, the local fire station manned by a few whistling men washing their rig with a spotted dog in attendance. The car pulled away from that idyllic scene after a few moments, finally turning onto a road that ultimately put us parallel to the water.

I've seen the ocean before. Much like space, it inspires a sense of mortality, of being but one small part of a puzzle of which there were infinite pieces. After that first, humbling glimpse, it was framed in the less expansive sight of the docks. The water swarmed with small fishing boats, the barren forest of their masts occasionally broken by the brightly colored sail of a pleasure boat.

I glanced at Duo and had to suppress a smile at the sight of him. After a moment, I let the smile have its way.

***

The road was winding, following with ease the curvature of coastline. Pressing my face to the glass, I felt rather like an excited kid--or like how I suspected a kid should feel--watching the wondrous scenery streak by. The sun, only about noontime now, glittered over the water like a spill of tiny diamonds, lighting the entire path to the shore in sparkling motes. "How many places are we going to look at?" I asked, reluctantly tearing myself away and rubbing at the smudge my nose had left on the window.

"Here?" Becky glanced down at that folio in her lap again. "Just one. Mr. Barton was very specific about the type of home you were to be shown."

Barton? "I thought Mr. Winner contacted you." I exchanged a glance with Heero; Trowa wasn't exactly known for love of aesthetic design. Form followed function in the extreme for him; 'utilitarian' was a kind description of his tastes.

"Mr. Winner did," she confirmed, "but the selection was conducted by Mr. Barton. Lanky gentleman, quiet...unusual hair?" The agent raised a questioning brow. "In fact, he was quite certain you would be joining Mr. Maxwell, Mr. Yuy. I was rather surprised that he was right."

Quatre put Trowa in charge of finding a house for us? Frankly, I was a bit miffed; out of all the people who should have understood exactly how much this meant to me, Quatre fell at the top of the list.

Then again, to be fair all I had said was that I wanted something near water, and there was an ocean of that out the window.

The car rolled to a stop, giving us all the slight inertia-jerk that verified at least one of Newton's laws still applied. "We're here," Becky said, gesturing with one slender hand towards the car door. Being closest, I climbed out first and then helped her from the car, leaving Heero to bring up the rear. Even with the sunglasses, I shaded my eyes and glanced across the street at Mr. Barton's expert selection.

Indeed, the house was Spartan, simplistic in line and design and painted a light slate-blue. Exactly what I expected from the master of minimalism. I felt almost disloyal for my disappointment, because Trowa, for all his reticence, is a steady, stable friend. Trowa is like gravity...you can't always see him, usually just the effects of him, but you always know he's there, and he keeps us from flying off into space. "Is this it?" I asked unnecessarily, jerking a thumb in the direction of the house.

"Oh, no!" Her voice was so shocked I wondered if perhaps I'd insulted her. "No, yours backs up to the beach." She put her hands on my shoulders and turned me around, pointing past me, her girlish voice dropping an octave in whisper. "This is your home."

The first thing I saw was light, glinting white and brilliant and unashamed in its pristine invitation. With the exception of my Gundam, I have never been one to attribute human, living characteristics to inanimate objects, but I have no other words for it. This house...called me. Spoke my name with the kind of intimacy only a lifetime lover should have. Reached possessive tendrils into my heart and, finding it already occupied, opened wide to embrace us both.

It was made almost entirely of glass; at least, it appeared so...closer inspection found metal and wood and plastic interspersed infrequently enough to preserve its illusion. The front staircase ascended to a landing, then turned the other direction to lead unerringly to another landing, a small porch and the front door. The door was the only spot of immediate color, painted a deep, marine blue with a glittering crystal doorknocker at just the right height. In fact, I'd lifted my hand to grasp it when Becky Peterson gently brushed past me with the key.

Biting my lower lip, I dropped my hand, feeling my fingers nudge Heero's. Neither of us said a word nor exchanged glances, but with the certainty of a pigeon coming home, our fingers found one another and laced together.

Together, we took a breath and walked inside.

***

[1] "Esperanza por el Mar" is Spanish for "hope by the sea".

TBC...