6-11-2003

Disclaimer: Bandai, Sunrise and the Sotsu Agency own Gundam Wing and its characters not me *sighs* but this story is mine!
Title: Waiting
Author: Tai (tai01@tiscali.co.uk)
Pairings: 1+2+1
Rating: PG-13
Warnings: Shounen-ai, lime, angst, OOC, POV, mild violence & language plus death & replacement by alternate version from a parallel universe
Spoilers: A snippet of Duo's chapter in Episode Zero and the end of GW series.
Notes: *arrghhh* This fic has been driving me crazy for months! It's been through numerous rewrites and I'm still not happy with it! So I'm just gonna post it to stop me tinkering with it any more and just forget about it *shrugs*!

*********

"My dreams..." I thought as I gazed at the boy standing in front of me, he was my twin in every way, "...are just getting way too weird," I concluded. He walked towards my bed and knelt down beside me, whispering so as not to wake the other boys in my dorm. "Typical," I thought, "can't even escape the orphanage in my dreams." I looked at my twin captivated as he spoke to me. Without thinking, I reached out my hand and stroked his cheek, he smiled and continued, "... so you can see, I need your help."

"Hmmm, really should have been paying attention," I thought but out loud, I said, "'Kay," this dream had potential! "Cool!" my twin replied, grabbing my hand, pulling me out of bed towards a huge portal of swirling light. "Lots of potential," I said as we passed into the portal and everything faded to black.

*********

As I slowly drifted into consciousness the next morning, I felt disappointed nothing had come of my dream. "Ah well, never mind," I thought as I snuggled under the soft covers, grateful it was the weekend. "Mmm, no school!" I thought and smiled. Slowly it dawned on me that I could hear two people arguing. "Duo, this is crazy! You can't just replace yourself with your twin from a parallel universe!"

"Quatre, I'm dying - you know that. All of your specialists have told us the same thing, but I will be damned if I am gonna leave you guys in the lurch. I explained the situation to him and he agreed to help."

"I don't know, Duo." Gradually the voices grew quieter.

I opened my eyes and stared at the ceiling before slowly sitting up then leaning back heavily against the headboard. I looked around the unfamiliar room with a sick-sinking feeling as I realised that this wasn't a dream after all. "Oh crap!" I said out loud, wondering what the hell I had gotten myself into this time. My thoughts were interrupted by, "Cool! You're awake!" I turned to see Duo's head peering round the door. "Hungry?" he asked. "Always!" I replied and his smile got wider. "Then follow me!" he instructed.

*********

Five minutes later I was seated at a table in a huge kitchen, wearing nothing but the pyjama bottoms I had been wearing last night and tucking into warm chocolate croissants. As I licked the last of the chocolate off my fingers, I could see Duo watching me intently. "What?" I asked. "Oh nothing," he replied then changed his mind adding, "Look, I need to know if you're still okay with this?"

"You mean transported to a parallel universe and taking the place of the alternate version of me," I laughed, adding more seriously, "I must admit it was easier when I thought this was a dream..." He interrupted me by saying quietly, "S'okay I can take you back," he looked down crestfallen. "To what?" I asked leaning over and lifting his head to make him look at me again. I saw hope flare in his eyes as I continued, "Duo, I have *nothing* to go back to. I wanna to help if I can." Duo smiled, the relief evident in his face and said, "That means a lot, thanks."

*********

Next step was a shower and clean clothes borrowed from Duo. During my shower, Duo sat on the toilet seat chatting nineteen to the dozen about the recent history of this Earth. "Anyway, so the space colonies ..."

"What!" I exclaimed and poked my head round the shower curtain, "You have people living in space!"

Duo nodded, adding, "For almost two hundred years now." Duo went on to explain how the colonies were located at La Grange points in space. "Wow! Sci-fi writers on my Earth would kill for this stuff!" I shouted to him over the sound of the shower and he laughed. He continued while I washed the last of the conditioner out of my long hair. He told me about the war that was being waged and how he, the other Gundam pilots and other major players such as Oz fitted in. "I am never gonna remember all this!" I exclaimed. "You won't have to. Once you have my memory chip implanted you'll know everything you need to!" Duo replied. Angrily I flung back the shower curtain almost ripping it off, spraying water everywhere, not caring that I was completely naked as I was sure it was nothing he hadn't seen before - literally! Duo looked up surprised. "What?!" I shouted, "If you think I'm gonna let you mess with my head you have got another thing coming buddy!" Duo stood up and walked over to me. He looked so vulnerable as put his hand on my shoulder and said softly, "It's the only way that we have any chance of pulling this off." Then he turned and grabbed me a couple of towels. Chastised, I took them saying, "Look I'm *not* happy about this but if it really is the only way then okay."

I followed Duo back to his room, which looked the same as the one I had woken up in this morning. The walls were whitewashed, the floor tiled and covered with large brightly coloured rugs. The sun blazed through a large window illuminating several large vases filled with fresh flowers. Duo lay down on the huge four-poster bed that dominated the room and said, "Help yourself to clothes. I think you might be my size," and winked. I smiled and walked over the chest of drawers. On top sat one photo in a frame of five boys including Duo. I recognised the blonde one as pilot 04, Quatre Raberba Winner to whom Duo had introduced me briefly after breakfast. "Are these the other Gundam pilots?" I asked. "Yeah," Duo replied. My eyes were drawn to one of the boys in particular with an intense deep blue gaze looking out from under unruly brown hair. "He's beautiful," I breathed and jumped when Duo said, "Who?" as I'd not realised I'd spoken out loud. I grabbed the photo and went and sat next to him on the bed. "Him," I said as I pointed to the boy in question. "That's pilot 01, Heero Yuy," Duo told me then he chuckled and I wrenched my gaze away from the photo to look at him. "What?" I asked. "You like boys," he said matter of factly. "Yes," I replied nodding, adding as realisation hit me, "Oh! You don't?" Duo nodded. "Oh," I said again, my heart sinking. "It doesn't matter though 'cause I can't say it has ever come up in conversation with the guys," he said grinning, "Good luck with Yuy though," he added gesturing at the photo, "He's a cold fish." I must have looked disappointed because he continued, "He has a kind heart though. Now are you planning on wearing that towel all day or are you gonna put some clothes on?" I grinned as I walked back to the chest of drawers and pulled out jeans and a t-shirt.

*********

"...and this is a Gundam or more precisely my buddy, Deathscythe." Duo finished with a proud grin. We were standing on a metal walkway suspended about ten metres off the ground in a huge underground hangar. In front of us was what I can only describe as a giant robot just over sixteen metres tall, mainly dark grey and white in colour with yellow flashing. "You want *me* to pilot that!" I asked incredulously. Duo nodded, "Once you have my memory chip it'll seem as easy as riding a bike!" I stared at him in disbelief, once again wondering what the hell I had let myself in for.

*********

That night I was exhausted but my mind was in a whirl so I couldn't sleep. With a sigh I gave up trying and snuck down to the kitchen. I made some hot chocolate and sat at the table mulling over the day and how I felt about it all.

My musings were interrupted by Quatre. I smiled at him and asked, "Couldn't sleep either?" He shook his head. "Hot chocolate?" I asked. "That would be nice, thank you," he replied. As he sat down at the table he gave me a long look and then asked, "So how was your first day?" I heated up some more milk on the stove and replied, "Daunting." Then I stopped and turned to face him as I realised that he could tell Duo and me apart. "How did you know it was me?" Quatre smiled but it didn't reach his eyes, "I can sense people's pain whether emotional, through injury or disease ..." his voice trailing off to a whisper. "Oh," I said, "What is wrong with him?" Quatre looked at me, tears welling up in his eyes, "Duo has a mutated form of TB that is contracted through contact with infected body fluids. Children living in unsanitary conditions are most at risk."

"You mean kids living rough on the streets," I said using my history to fill in the gaps. Quatre nodded, "It lays dormant for up to ten years but once it has become active in the body, taken its virulent form - there's no cure." Quatre cried, "All my money and I can do nothing for him." I put his hot chocolate on the table and then enveloped him in a hug. I could feel the sobs wracking his body so I reassured him, "It sounds like you've done everything you can Quatre. Duo wouldn't want you to blame yourself plus I'm willing to bet that he is very grateful to have as good a friend as you." Quatre looked up at me and gave me a weak smile, "I'm glad you decided to stay," he said hugging me tighter. Quatre and I became firm friends from that night on.

*********

Two weeks later I had settled into my new life and my old one, in the strange way that time works, had already started to seem like a lifetime ago. The memory chip had taken a bit of getting used to as I now had two sets of memories for the last three years. I mean I could remember being on the Sweepers ship and Professor G training me to be a Gundam pilot as if it *were* me and yet I knew what I had *really* been doing was living rough before being taken in by the orphanage. Duo had explained to me that all of the Gundam pilots had memory chips for just this sort of eventuality. It meant that if a pilot was killed or permanently incapacitated, a replacement could be back out fighting in a matter of days instead of the years that it would take to train someone from scratch. Duo had been right about piloting Deathscythe. It had become second nature to me now, just like riding a bike.

Today we were out in the desert, I was fighting Sandrock in Deathscythe and winning. After the mock battle, I got down from Deathscythe and walked over to where Duo was sitting in the jeep watching. Quatre joined us smiling and Duo nodded as if deciding something. "You're ready," he told me, "Any missions that come in from Professor G from now on, you will go." With that he headed back to the house. Quatre and I headed back to the Gundams to move them back to the underground hangar. As I started Deathscythe up, my hands were trembling violently. I really didn't feel ready.

*********

A week later, I got back from my first mission. It had been standard recon, followed by the retrieval of vital data for the scientists before blowing everything to hell and getting out. My partners had been pilot 03, Trowa Barton and pilot 05, Chang Wufei.

"So how was the mission?" Quatre asked as I walked in and dumped my stuff on the kitchen table. "Oh fine," I replied. "Trowa or Wufei suspect anything?" Quatre continued. "No, I don't think so," I told him, "But it was hard to tell though as they didn't say much to me or each other unless it was about the mission." Quatre nodded, saying, "Sounds about right."

"So how's Duo?" I asked and Quatre's face fell. "Not so good, my doctor reckons he only has a few days at most. It's like he has given up." My heart was in my mouth as I turned tail and raced up to his room.

I was totally unprepared for what I saw when I burst into Duo's room. "Quatre is right," I thought, "he has given up." Duo smiled when he saw me. "Mission went okay?" he asked. I nodded. "I knew I made a good choice in you," he added and closed his eyes as if just talking exhausted him. I sat down beside him on the bed unsure of what to do but finally I asked him something that had been troubling me for a while. "Duo, there must be an infinite number of alternate versions of us," I said gesturing toward us both, "So why'd you choose me?" Duo opened his eyes, "You matched my search criteria." I looked at him blankly. He sighed, "Okay from the beginning. Professor G is an inventor and he devised a way of sending a person from this reality to alternate ones. When I came across the blueprints for this machine by accident a few months ago I stole them as I already knew that I didn't have long left and I persuaded Quat to build it."

He broke off into a coughing fit that wracked his small frame. It eased and I could see his hand was covered in blood before he shoved it under the cover. "Are you okay?" I asked concerned, "Should I get Quatre?" Duo shook his head saying, "Please don't, he'll only fuss." I felt so helpless, "Okay," I said slowly. "Anyway I haven't finished my story," he admonished, "So Quat had the machine built and we ran the search programme to find an alternate version of myself who was male, looked like me," he caught the end of my long chestnut braid in his hand, "And had a similar history to me. You were the closest match and then when I saw you in that orphanage, I felt like I'd found half of me that I never knew was missing. I knew here," he said placing his hand over his heart, "that I had found the right person to replace me." My chest tightened as he took off his crucifix and placed it around my neck. I fondly stroked the worn metal saying, "I used to have one just like this but ..." I stopped, not able to go on and when I looked up at him, tears filled my eyes from all the memories flooding my mind. He nodded slightly as if he understood before saying, "I'm tired."

"Oh, sorry I didn't think, I'll go," I replied making a move to get off the bed. "No, please stay," he asked and grabbed my wrist. I got into the bed and held his frail feverish body close. I whispered into his hair, "I love you, you know, you are the closest thing I ever had to a brother, please I don't want to let you go."

"'Brother' I like the sound of that, I wish I *could* stay but it's not up to me," Duo answered snuggling into my embrace. I lay awake for a long time.

*********

I knew as soon as I woke to Quatre's gentle knock. Quatre walked into the room, looked at Duo and then looked to me for confirmation. I nodded, "He's gone," I added. Quatre closed his eyes and I thought for a moment he was going to cry but instead he opened them again and walked over to Duo. He kissed him on the forehead and said, "Goodbye, my friend, rest now with your loved ones." And the reality sank in and I began to cry.

*********

We buried him in his favourite part of the garden under a large palm tree and then covered the area with flowers. When we were done Quatre took my hand and said, "C'mon Duo, let's get something to eat." As he pulled me back to the house I realised absently that that was the first time he had used my name.

*********

A week later I was creeping along a back alley with pilot 01, Heero Yuy tailing one of Dr J's assistants that Dr J suspected was an Oz spy. I sighed silently because after four hours we were still no nearer to finding out whether Dr J was right or not, Heero had hardly spoken to me and I was, well to be honest, bored.

Suddenly we heard footsteps approaching, thinking fast as to how to we could evade detection, I decided that I might be able to pass myself off as a girl as we were both casually dressed in jeans. I pulled my hair out of its loose ponytail, grabbed the front of Heero's shirt and brought his lips crashing down on my own. It was just a diversionary tactic even though I had been dreaming of doing this since the day I had first seen Heero's picture. What I wasn't expecting was for Heero to return the kiss. He wound the fingers of one hand into my hair at the nape of my neck while the other wrapped itself around my waist. He pulled me closer to him as he pushed me against the wall of the alley. His lips were as soft as velvet, crushing mine with such unrestrained passion it made me tingle all over. The footsteps moved away and I reluctantly broke the kiss. I looked up at Heero to say it was all clear but the words died in my mouth as I saw the anger glittering in Heero's eyes. The next thing I felt was pain as his fist hit me full in the face and my head ricocheted off the wall. "Heero...? I questioned, not sure what I was asking. Heero growled out, "Who *are* you and where is Duo Maxwell?"

I looked at him in disbelief, "How the hell does he know?" I wondered tasting blood from my split lip. "He's dead ..." I started but never finished because Heero shouted, "You BASTARD!" and punched me again. This time I saw stars and my vision started fading out around the edges. I fought to stay conscious to try to explain, "Oh god, Heero! It wasn't me! Ask Quatre..." My voice was sounding very far away. I looked at him to make sure he understood before I gave into the darkness when I saw the suspected Oz spy creeping up behind Heero with a gun. He aimed and I knocked Heero to the ground with all my remaining strength. Intense pain flared through my shoulder and this time I gratefully let the blackness of unconsciousness envelope me.

*********

I opened my eyes to see that I was back in my room at Quatre's. "Heero?" I asked. "You're awake, thank Allah!" Quatre's face swam into view, he gave my hand a gentle squeeze, "I couldn't bear to lose you again." I started to smile before the pain of my swollen lip stopped me, "Is Heero okay?" I asked, raising a hand to tenderly explore my bandaged shoulder. "He's fine, thanks to you," Quatre replied batting my hand away from my injury. "The bullet has been removed and fortunately there was no major damage. You should be fine in a few weeks," Quatre informed me. "What happened to the spy?" I asked. "Heero took care of him," Quatre paused. "And?" I asked looking for more information, Quatre looked down as he continued, "He didn't go into details."

At that moment Heero walked in, Quatre gave him a meaningful look and said, "I'll leave you two to talk." Heero sat down on a chair beside my bed and began, "I'm sorry, Duo." My heart leapt at those words but I interrupted him saying, "Heero, s'okay I understand why and I don't blame you, you were just acting on your emotions." Heero's eyes widened slightly then he stood saying, "I can't stay I've got a mission," before he quickly headed for the door. However there was something I needed to find out before he left so I asked, "Heero, how did you know?" He turned briefly and said sadly, "Because he never looked at me the way you look at me ... the way I *wanted* him to look at me." Then he was gone.

*********

Six months later all five of us Gundam pilots were at Quatre's estate celebrating the end of the Eve wars. I had told Trowa and Wufei the truth not long after Heero had found out and to my relief, they had completely accepted me. Now, I had almost forgotten what my old life was like. Heero and I had become good friends but nothing more had developed much to my disappointment.

As soon as I was able I snagged a bottle of champagne and walked down to Duo's grave. I was finding it hard to celebrate the end of what Duo and the others had instigated without him being here to join in. I took a long swig of the fizzy liquid before I lay down in the cool grass, looking up at the stars and began to tell my brother all that he had missed. "You should have seen him he flew Wing Zero in front of the last block of Libra and disintegrated it with a blast from his buster rifle. My heart was in my mouth, as I was sure he was going to burn up from re-entering the atmosphere so fast but no, Mister Indestructible lives to see another day. I can just imagine you laughing at me for falling in love with him after everything that has happened. Anyway so here we all are celebrating peace, which is what I came to tell you - mission complete and that I miss you so much..." I closed my eyes and I felt hot tears running down my cheeks.

I jumped as I felt a hand on my shoulder. "I'm getting soft," I told myself, "letting someone sneak up on me!" I looked up into Heero's deep blue eyes. "It's rude to eavesdrop, ya'know," I snapped annoyed that I'd been found. "Quatre was worried about you so I came to see if you were okay," he told me. "So how much did you hear?" I asked, scrubbing my face with my hands. "Enough," was the succinct reply. I looked up at him, his gaze even more intense than usual in the soft moonlight. He held out his hand to help me up and I grabbed it. As he pulled me off the ground and on to my feet with ease, he asked, "Do you fancy going to the cinema tomorrow night?"

"Just us?" I queried. At Heero's nod, I added, "As in a date?" Heero nodded again and I smiled as I replied, "I'd like that." Then as he still had a firm grip of my hand, he dragged me back to where the others were celebrating.

~owari~