Growing Wings, Prolog
Disclaimer: Gundam Wing is owned by Bandai, Sunrise and Sotsu Agency and probably a host of other folks I know nothing about.
Pairings: 2x1 (there will be some serious lemon and NC later, but I'll warn you when they come up)
Comments: This fic takes place four years after Endless Waltz, so the pilots are all about 20 now.
Merry Christmas, Brighnasa-san!
The day he finally accepted that Heero wasn't coming back, might even be dead, was a warm and sunny late spring day. It was the sort of day that made a man glad he had survived the wars and hadn't forgotten that Earth was beautiful, both from space and from her surface. It made him wish he'd learned how to fish when Trowa had offered to teach him. It made him wish, as he rarely did, that he hadn't become a Preventer and instead had taken up a wandering life, seeing the world by day, sleeping under the stars at night, watching the moon come and go in bits and slivers.
"Lady Une, no disrespect intended, but I'm not going to sign those papers."
It made him remember that sleeping under the stars was often a cold, lonely business. No one but him watched the moon anymore anyway.
The woman sighed, rubbing the bridge of her nose in a gesture that spoke of endless long shifts coupled with sleepless nights and no relief in sight. "Duo, this is just a formality. Wufei has agreed. Trowa and Quatre are deferring to you on this one. They believe that--"
He knew what they believed. Wufei had told him last time they'd crossed paths. It was why he'd put in a transfer to the moon--so he wouldn't have to face the Chinese man's judgement again. Duo Maxwell runs and hides... Duo cut her off with a sharp sweep of his hand. "That because I was the one that worked closest with him, I'd know. That it should be my call." His let anger fade into his voice so she could hear it, and he shook his head. "But you know what? It's not. Heero Yuy is a law unto himself. He's been gone for two years. Completely out of touch. No one can find him. So what? With all of the resources Oz and the Romefeller foundation once had, they couldn't find him--one fifteen-year-old kid with a boarding school obsession and a Gundam. Now he's grown up, Une, and just 'cause he doesn't have a mobile suit doesn't mean that he isn't just as capable of hiding from whatever you've got looking for him."
Her eyes searched his, and when she spoke, her voice was soft, "Is that what you believe, Duo? Do you really think he could be out there, hiding from us for whatever reasons of his own?"
He met her eyes for a moment, his own dark with something unnamable, something he wouldn't have believed if he himself had seen it. Opening his mouth to speak, he stopped, swallowed, started again. "Lady Une, you want to close your files on Heero, you go right ahead. The file's not going to make any difference. But don't go asking me to tidy up your paperwork by having me sign off on my partner's death. I won't do it." He drew himself up, assumed as close as he ever did to a full attention, and saluted her. Without her permission or protest, he walked out of Lady Une's office in Preventer Headquarters.
He didn't even start shaking until he was out of the building. On the day he believed Heero was finally really gone, he didn't even cry.
In the three months since, things between them had smoothed over. Une never brought up Heero, and he didn't walk out of her office without being dismissed. It was a good thing, too, because the moon base was small, and it seemed like Une spent most of her time there since his transfer. She watched him oddly when she passed him in the halls, but most of them did. Duo Maxwell became something of a base-wide mystery without even intending to--a strange, tall man with hair to his knees, the face of an angel, and eyes that couldn't hide how often he'd killed. He tried, in an offhand way, to make connections with some of the newer recruits. He told jokes, smiled a lot, sang mean karaoke, but none of the others were willing to spend more time around him than they had to. On earth, where more of the Preventer personnel had seen action, he didn't stand out so badly, but here he was on display. After a few weeks of it, he'd given up. He spent most of his time working, even on off-shift time, trying not to feel old wounds that were somehow open again.
At least he liked working as a Preventer. Where else could he use most of the skills he'd trained so long to get? Certainly it was his specialized expertise that got him plum jobs like this one: an unexplained shuttle crash on the moon, near the Preventer base. Everyone else was busy checking shipping manifests, making sure that nothing too strange was being shipped to one of the colonies, or (God help them all) to Earth. It was a routine, endless, thankless task. He hated it, and the crash gave him reason to leave it behind for a few weeks at least, maybe even a month.
The crash, a shuttle named "Uma", had been unmanned, unclaimed, empty of cargo, and had crashed basically intact. Unmanned shuttles were rare, but they never ran without cargo. Even if for some reason one of the mining concerns in the colonies had run Uma empty, then surely they would have claimed it--ships weren't exactly cheap, and Uma was a prime little ship. And the intact part--that was probably the weirdest. If the ship had been out of control enough to crash, why hadn't it been obliterated? He shouldn't have been able to collect so much as a grocery bag of singed parts. Instead, it was like it had taken a controlled dive into the grainy sediment of the moon's surface. The entire fuselage was intact; the engines weren't functioning, but they needed very little in the way of repair; hell, the electrical systems were even working. Guidance was shot--maybe that was part of the problem, but he was almost certain that was the result of the crash, not the cause of it.
It was a Bermuda Triangle of a crash, and it was exactly the kind of thing that no one but Duo had the expertise to handle. Hell, if you've damaged enough systems, blown up enough transports and suits, then you had a real idea how things came apart and why. There were advantages to being a former terrorist.
After he'd been assigned to the case, he had scavenged the site, taking photographs and digital recordings of anything he could get data on. These, he sent straight to the Preventer lab, and only after he'd gone over the site a second and third time to make sure he hadn't missed anything, he'd had the wreck towed to a remote hanger so he could begin the real work. He'd already hacked the navigational systems and the flight data recorder. Nothing in either of them explained the crash, or the basic integrity of the wreckage. So he dusted off his old salvaging skills and prepared to strip the ship down, one layer at a time.
And that was where the real fun began, because the moment he removed the rear port plating, he knew his life was changing again. There, under the mass of engine soot and grease smears, tucked almost completely behind the manifold, were wires that didn't belong, wires that tracked intricately back into the guts of the ship--wires that should have been labelled "Work of Heero Yuy". Staring at them in the cool hold, Duo felt like something in him took a deep breath and lived again.