Title: Those Left Behind
Rating: Angst! (I hope)
Warnings: Angstness ^_^
Notes: This song, Must be Something, is by somebody I don't know from some anime I've never seen. (In other words, I couldn't find out. If someone could tell me the answer I shall glomp them) But I don't own either.
Disclaimers: GW isn't mine, go figure. So don't sue, k?
//Sometimes it gets
so hard without you
It seems to me
the whole world's away//
Relena leaned her head against the cool window of the limousine, struggling to ignore the mass of reporters as the bright flash of their cameras illuminated her wan face. The new Vice Minister made no attempt to hide her tearstained cheeks, nor the dark circles that now seemed to permanently reside under her sorrowful cerulean eyes.
The dark limo drove through the black iron gates and into the park. They drove past small white stones nestled among budding saplings and up a small rise before slowing to a stop. Pargan shifted in the driver's seat to peer at her solemnly. "Do you need any assistance, Miss Relena?"
The blond girl glanced behind her uncertainly. The mob of people seemed to have been halted at the park's entrance. The iron gate itself was open, but a small black-clad figure stood determinedly before the crowd, keeping anyone from entering.
The figure tilted its head slightly to stare up at her. The blonde bit her lip as a flash of pain seemed to constrict her heart. Dark sunglasses prevented Relena from looking into the figure's eyes, but she summoned a small smile of thanks anyway.
The dark-clad figure nodded back gravely and turned back to face the angry crowd. A strong wind rose up suddenly, causing his braid to fly around wildly. Relena swiftly swallowed her tears and looked back at her old retainer and friend.
"Thank you, Pargan. But I need to do this alone."
The old man nodded, his wrinkled face drawn with sympathy, as the blonde girl stepped gingerly out of the limo. Her hands swept over her dress self-consciously, attempting to smooth the wrinkles out of the black cotton fabric.
Relena hesitantly made her way to the top of the hill, reluctant to reach her destination. The bright green grass and the clear blue sky seemed out of place for such an occasion. As she topped the rise, a small stone statue came into view and she nearly lost her nerve.
"Now what would the world think if they saw their Vice Minister fall wailing to the ground?" she asked herself. "You're stronger than that, Relena."
Taking a deep breath, she closed the distance between herself and that small chunk of marble. The statuette was expertly carved into the likeness of a peregrine falcon in mid-flight. The bird's wings were spread out majestically and looked as though any minute they would stir, bringing the cold stone to life as it soared through the heavens.
The Peregrine falcon was the world's swiftest bird before it became extinct so many years ago. The stone bird's eyes reflected an inborn fierceness, but Relena saw the nobility and gentleness hiding underneath. "So like you..." she murmured.
There was no name on the statue, no inscription to tell the passing visitor whom this magnificent bird represented. But there was no need for one. His name was engraved in their hearts.
//Do you know that
do you have a clue
Why I was born
to live this windy day?//
Ignoring the fact that she might be seen, damaging both her image and her dress, Relena lowered herself onto the cool green grass before the monument. Resting her chin on her knees, she finally allowed the tears to fall as she cried out all the anguish in her heart.
"Why can't it be over?" she sobbed. "I can't bear the world's burdens forever!"
Calming down slightly, she stared at the small statue. "I envy you. You finally get the rest you deserved. Your mission was accomplished: the colonies were avenged. But what about the war? Where is the peace I preached about? Blood is still being shed, Heero! And you have abandoned us."
A few more tears slipped down her cheeks and she wiped them away absently. "I didn't mean to blame you. You did more than anyone could ask for. I--I just...why do I have to lose you both?"
The wind swept over her gently, blowing her hair out behind her in a golden curtain. Two small birds flew overhead, singing happily. And the sun shone down brightly, mocking her pain.
"Why is it up to me to live on? Why must I be the one to stay in this harsh world day after day, no matter what I feel? Why is my life ordained to hold such a heavy burden as peace?"
Sighing, Relena slowly rose from the ground. The wind danced around her, caressing her face and causing her dress to flutter around her. Clear blue eyes gazed once more down at the statue, and she nodded. "I understand. It's because there is no one else."
Her fingers reached out to gently caress the marble falcon's outstretched wing. Reaching into her pocket, she carefully pulled out a small yellow flower that she had found as they were driving down the road. She laid it down beside the memorial with a smile.
"Rest in peace, Heero. It's a peace that you worked so hard to achieve."
//See the clouds spin
In the darkening
sky as if it's alive//
The sun had set, taking the media and the young princess with it. Night had fallen, blanketing the earth in obscurity. But the darkness kept one of its denizens, as he slowly climbed the moonlit hill to the monument's shadowy form.
Duo stood in front of the statue quietly, his trench coat billowing out around him as the wind picked up, bringing with it swirling black clouds signifying an approaching storm. He closed his eyes for a moment, inhaling the rich atmosphere that had so struck his senses when he first came to earth.
But it was a small comfort, for when Duo reopened his eyes, the statue still stood. The braided boy opened his mouth, but no sound came forth. The fading moonlight caught his uncovered eyes, making them shine with unshed tears. His fists were clenched tightly at his sides, his nails digging small crescents into his flesh.
He frowned, words still refusing to squeeze past the lump in his throat. Clenching his eyes shut in agony, Duo slammed his fist into the sculpture, snapping one of the delicate wings.
Duo fell to his knees, cradling his bloody hand. The boy's shoulders heaved with dry sobs as he pressed his forehead against the damp grass. Above him, in the darkened sky, rain began to fall to the earth, gently at first but then flying to the ground in sheets.
The huddled figure shivered as the rain pounded against him, soaking him to the skin. He flinched as lightning illuminated the sky, followed by the deafening boom of thunder. Duo's hands clawed into the wet earth as he wished to bury himself from the fury raging both outside of him and within.
His mud-covered fingers hit something solid and Duo slowly raised his head. A trembling hand slowly picked the object up as the braided boy scrutinized it in the darkness.
It was the wing-tip that he had broken off the marble statue. Duo's fingers lightly caressed the stone surface, feeling the ridges of each carven feather. Clutching the small broken piece to his chest, he smiled bitterly.
//And I think of you.
Oh, you holding me tight//
Closing his eyes, Duo let the memories wash over him. From the time they first met, to the first time they kissed, to the last time they had made love. All these memories swirled around him, warming his frozen heart.
Tears finally slipped down Duo's cheeks, mingling unnoticed with the rain as he imagined warm arms wrapping around him, holding him against a sturdy chest. He could almost hear the other's heartbeat in his mind. The rain hit his lips like the most tender of kisses and the wind whispered softly into his ear.
//'Ai shiteru.' //
Smiling sadly, Duo stuffed the small chunk of marble into his pocket and rose to leave. The rain had lightened slightly, no longer a pounding force. Lightning flickered in the distance, but the worst of the storm was over.
After taking a few steps, he paused. Reaching around his neck, he carefully removed his small silver cross. Kissing the warm metal surface, he reached over and hung the chain from the falcon's broken wing, right above a small, rain-battered flower.
"I leave tomorrow..." Duo finally whispered. "Wait for me."
//Now feel your warmth revive... //
The braided boy walked away, his shoulders hunched against the storm. Behind him, the cross gleamed briefly in the darkness as the wind swirled around it.
//It must be something
flooding into my heart//
Relena rushed to meet the soaking figure as it stumbled through the door. Her heart clenched as his face tilted slightly towards her, allowing her to see the warm smile that graced his handsome features.
"Hey, good looking. What are you doing up so late?" Duo gracefully kicked off his shoes and hung his jacket on the coat rack. Pushing his wet bangs out of his eyes, he gazed down at the petite blonde in her modest pajamas. Beautiful, as always.
Relena blushed and stammered out an excuse. "I--I was worried about you, the weather and all, and besides that I couldn't sleep so I thought I'd just stay down here and wait--"
Duo shushed her by placing a calloused finger to her lips. "Thank you." He became aware of how close they were and pulled away suddenly, staring fixedly at the small puddles he made on the wooden floor.
"I'm going to go take a hot shower and then turn in. You should do the same, Princess. You've got a busy day tomorrow."
Relena bit her lip. "It's the final battle, isn't it? Our future will be decided by tomorrow's events."
Duo shook his head. "The Earth's future will begin tomorrow, as well as the colonies. Your future will start." He looked up, a soft light shining in his dark cobalt eyes. "Good night, Relena."
As he moved to ascend the stairs he felt surprisingly strong arms grab him from behind. Relena clutched at him, sobbing.
"Oh, Duo! I don't want to lose you too!"
//There must be something
That leads me
through the space between.//
Duo turned around gently, his arms coming to wrap around the distraught girl. He smoothed back the luxurious golden hair and pressed a chaste kiss upon Relena's forehead.
"Shh...it's okay...I know."
Clutching his damp clothing, Relena refused to let go. As if he would stay by her will alone. But as she learned long ago, being rich and powerful didn't always get her everything she wanted. After holding her close for a moment, Duo's arms dropped to his sides.
"Relena, look at me." he commanded.
The blonde slowly raised her red and swollen eyes to meet Duo's serene ones. Staring into those indigo orbs she saw a small flash of sorrow. But that sorrow was quickly engulfed by calm acceptance.
"I have lived my whole life watching others leave me behind," Duo whispered softly. "It's time I caught up with them."
Relena shook her head. "But you can't! Then you'll leave me in exactly the same position that you were in! I don't want to be left behind any more than you do!"
//It seems so far away
but it's only a start//
"Relena..." Duo tenderly caressed her soft cheek. "I wanted to die many years ago, but I knew there were things I still needed to do. Now my work is done, and I want to rest. But you," He placed a finger teasingly on her small nose. "Still have lots of stuff to do. Don't give up all the good you can do. The Relena I know isn't that selfish."
The blonde bowed her head. "I realize that. But..." She sighed in defeat.
"That's my girl." Duo lightly squeezed her arm. "Now get yourself up to bed before Pargan comes down to beat me silly."
Relena quickly latched onto his arms. "Stay with me."
"What?" Duo's eyes widened.
The young girl blushed but did not lower her gaze. "There were only two men I ever wanted to give myself to. Now one is...is dead and the other is going off to fight tomorrow, probably never to return." Relena's crystal blue eyes bored pleadingly into his own "Please, Duo. Give me just this one night."
"I..." Finding no words suitable, Duo swept the blonde into his arms, kissing her fervently.
//Tonight for you I pray
To the brightest star
on the heavenly screen...//
The two lay together quietly in Relena's bed, staring into each other's eyes. Duo reached over and pulled the sheet more snugly around their nakedness before cradling Relena in his warm embrace.
"You know, this will only make it harder for you." Duo warned softly.
Relena kissed him delicately before shaking her head. "It is always better to take a chance then spending your whole life in regret."
"But you made it harder for me," Duo murmured, caressing her uncovered hip. "A man would have to be a fool to leave you."
Relena smirked. "Well, the Duo I know was never a fool."
Duo's expression turned serious. "Relena, you know-" Soft lips silenced him.
"I love you." Relena whispered, before resting her head once more against his bare chest.
Duo stared down at the bundle in his arms as it snuggled closer. He gently kissed Relena's crown of golden hair.
"I love you too. Ai shiteru, Relena. From both of us." Gazing at the angel before him, Duo slowly surrendered to sleep.
//This time I hope you
won't be brave
Oh, please don't sail
out to the stormy sea//
Relena slipped silently off Duo as dawn's light broke through the heavy curtains. The braided boy muttered something and then flung his arm across the bare bed, a small smile creasing his lips. Relena froze, her breath held as she waited for him to relax.
The blonde smiled in relief as Duo snuggled down more firmly under the covers and began snoring softly. She didn't know what she would do if he caught her. Slipping her hand under the mattress, Relena pulled out a small bag.
Gently grabbing her lover's outstretched arm, she quickly but carefully tied a rubber band around it just above the elbow. Trembling fingers reached into the plastic bag and withdrew a syringe and a small glass bottle labeled Propofol.
Relena swiftly filled the syringe with the anesthetic, careful not to get more than the amount that was written on a small piece of notebook paper. She tapped the syringe clumsily, making sure to get rid of any air bubbles. Looking down nervously, she made sure Duo was still sleeping soundly.
Taking a small, shuddering breath, she stabbed the needle into Duo's arm and swiftly pushed the plunger, injecting the drug into the braided boy's vein. "I'm sorry..." she whispered.
Relena gasped as a strong hand grabbed her wrist like a vise. Blinking up at her, Duo shook his head, trying to clear it. "W-why, Relena?"
The blonde looked down at him, tears choking her voice. "I don't want you to fight anymore."
Duo fell back on the pillow as his eyes drooped shut. "You aren't....that selfish..."
His hand fell limply to the bed as his body slumped into unconsciousness. Tears of regret trailed down Relena's cheeks, but she brushed them away determinedly and moved across the room, dressing quickly.
//No more flowers
For a hero's grave
But only grass will hide
It all in green//
Relena walked up the park hill, showing none of the hesitation from her first visit. In her hand she carried a small yellow flower, identical to the one she had brought before. Reaching the top of the small rise, she paused. Heero's memorial, the soaring falcon statue, was broken: part of its right wing missing.
"Is this the work of vandals?"
Stepping closer, a small metallic flash caught her eye. Her breath caught as she stared at the small silver cross hanging from the damaged wing. She reached out hesitantly and removed it. Holding it in her hands, she closed her eyes, remembering.
//"This cross was given to me by the closest thing that I ever had to a father." Duo showed her the small necklace. "It is my most cherished possession. I only wore it on special occasions. I was too worried that I'd lose it during battle."
Relena nodded. Reaching under her shirt, she pulled out a braided gold chain. Hanging from it was a large ring, which looked to be some sign of office. "This was my...my father's. When he died, I took it when no one was looking. It's way too big for me, but...it reminds me of him. Of how his hands always seemed so big compared to mine."//
Sniffing slightly, Relena opened her eyes. Her hand came to her chest, where she felt the ring's weight settle comfortably between her breasts. Coming to a decision, she quickly reached into her shirt and grabbed it, snapping the chain. Holding the ring one last time, she threaded it through the silver chain holding Duo's cross.
The necklace was quickly repositioned on the broken wing. Sliding her hand down the falcon's marble head, she set her little flower down at the base, across the one from yesterday.
"This is the last flower I'll bring you, Heero. I have mourned your death long enough, and I won't be back here again."
Wiping her eyes, Relena walked away, never looking back.
//I saw you hurt in my dream//
Duo tossed his head back and forth, moaning. He didn't want to have this nightmare again! He wanted to wake up, to hide away from the terrible ache in his chest. But consciousness was far away and he could only replay the last battle over and over again in his mind. Tears squeezed past his closed eyelids as it felt as though his heart were being ripped out once more.
"Heero! What do you think you're doing?" Duo screamed into the com-unit as he blasted away from the hunk of falling rubble that was once the Libra. He carefully avoided the flotsam in his path as he struggled out of the atmosphere's pull.
"Libra is still falling to Earth!" Heero's voice was distorted by static, but to Duo it seemed like an angel singing. "If I don't stop it, the wreckage could kill millions of people!" Blasting a hole into Libra's side, Wing Zero flew inside.
Duo quickly banked DeathScythe Hell, turning to follow his lover. The cockpit shook with the pure force emitted by the Gundam's speed. "There is nothing more we can do, Heero! Get out of there!"
"I'm going to blow up the core. That should break it into fragments small enough to burn up in the atmosphere." Heero paused, breathing heavily. "I'm going to self-detonate, Duo. I want you to get out of here."
Duo's fist slammed into his control panel. "Damn it, I'm not
leaving you! There has to be some other way!"
"There isn't. I'm sorry, Duo. WuFei! Get him out of range."
"No!" Duo tried to fly away, but Altron's strong arms were already wrapped around DeathScythe's chest, dragging him away. "Damn it, WuFei! Let me go! Heero!"
"Goodbye, Duo. Ai shiteru."
//I saw you bleed and I'm awake//
Duo was quickly dragged back to the others, where they helped restrain the black Gundam. For long minutes, the only sounds over the communications unit were Duo's ragged cries and the other pilots' frantic attempts to calm him. Then a husky voice drifted though.
Then Libra was engulfed in a blinding light, before it exploded outward into a million sparkling fragments. Finally freeing himself from the others, Duo screamed in agony, his cry echoed over the intercom by a sobbing female's voice.
//I think I heard
Still screaming, Duo bolted upright in Relena's plush bed. Sweat poured down his face in rivers as he gasped desperately for breath. The minutes stretched by as Duo just sat there, dead eyes staring through the wall. Blinking, the braided boy pulled himself together.
Running a shaky hand through his bangs, Duo winced as something pinched his arm. Looking down, he stared numbly at the small rubber band tied around his elbow. A dark bruise was forming under it, a needle mark clearly visible.
Duo struggled to stand, but fell to the floor as the room seemed to spin around him. Clenching his fists, he stood again, reaching for his clothes.
//Right through my heart
With an ache...//
The braided boy stumbled out of the bedroom on wobbly legs. Leaning against the wall for support, he looked down the long flight of steps. He knew he was to weak too make it without falling. But he wouldn't let that stop him.
Turning, Duo faced the distraught form of Relena's servant. "Pargan..." Duo closed his eyes as another wave of dizziness washed over him.
The old retainer bowed. "I thought I heard a scream. Is everything all right?"
"Where...where is Relena?"
The old man's brow furrowed. "Why, she said she had something she had to do. She didn't tell me what, but I thought it was odd that she asked one of the other servants to drive her." Pargan wrung his hands nervously. "Is Miss Relena in trouble?"
Feeling fear clutch his heart for the first time in days, Duo pushed himself off the wall. "I need a ride to the spaceport. My carrier."
Pargan bowed again. "I will drive you there personally, sir."
//It must be something
Flooding into my heart//
The OZ soldiers milled around the hangar nervously, preparing for what was probably the final battle of their career. Treize was gone, and without him his army was falling apart at the seams. Now all that was left were small factions, reluctant for the war to be over.
An old burly officer sat on a rusted chunk of metal, polishing his pistol thoughtfully. He glanced up at a younger man who was scurrying around a battered Leo.
"You think she'll be ready for this afternoon?"
The young lieutenant saluted. "Yes, Captain. She's held up pretty good, considering. There seems to be some problem with the hydraulics in the right knee, but you said we probably wouldn't fight anyway."
The old Captain nodded. "The face of the enemy has been scuffed into obscurity. The Gundams fought on the side of OZ in that last battle, but they also fought against us." He shook his head. "All everyone wants is peace. Our few broken-down Leos aren't going to stop them."
The old man rose to his feet. "Get ready, lad. Today we make our final stand, in memory of General Treize."
//There must be something
That leads me
Through the space between.//
Relena gazed sadly at the enemy before her. Thirteen battle weary-Leos stood before the hundreds of fresh mobile suits behind her. The tension was palpable in the heavy air around them, but for some reason, the only thought that kept running through the Vice Minister's head was how hungry she was. Laughing at herself, Relena shook her head. Here she was in the middle of the last battle of the war, and all she could do was mourn over a lost meal.
"You look hungry."
WuFei sat down next to her, tossing her a bright red apple. Catching it, Relena smiled in thanks. The Chinese boy's dark eyes pierced her with their steady gaze. "I received a call from Noin. She wanted to know if you were sure about sending her away along with the pilots of Gundam Sandrock and HeavyArms."
Relena nodded firmly. "There is nothing for them to do here save frighten a few rebel soldiers. It was the right choice to send them away from the battlefield. Their fight is over."
"It's odd." WuFei murmured. "When this war first started it was we who were the rebels." Shaking his head, the dark haired boy rose. "I will send Noin and the others your message. Are you sure you wish for me to stay?"
"Yes. We'll need your strength."
WuFei paused. "The strength not to stop you." He turned slightly, looking at her out of the corner of his eye. "This last battle will kill him, no matter what you do."
Relena watched as the proud Chinese boy disappeared in the crowd of soldiers around her. She gazed down at the apple in her hands, having almost forgotten about it. But looking at the fruit's unmarred surface, she found she could not eat it.
Smiling sadly, she rose, setting the apple down where she had been sitting. Straightening, she cast one last look at the army surrounding her. It was time. Taking a deep, shuddering breath, Relena walked out onto the field until she was standing right between the two warring armies.
//It seems so far away
But it's only a start//
Pushing the engine to its limits, Duo cursed for the tenth time about mobile suit carriers not being meant for speed. But it was still faster than his Gundam could travel. Biting his lip, the braided boy counted silently as the minutes ticked by.
Finally, the radar showed an amassing of mobile suits up ahead. Pulling back on the throttle, Duo slowed his advance. Turning his head, he peered out the window to the ground below.
Ant-like specks grew larger as the plane began its descent. The braided boy identified the ally mobile suits surrounding about a dozen enemy Leos. They looked to be in bad shape; the battle should be quick, if the rebels could be made to see reason. Flying lower, Duo prepared to land behind the ally lines.
A flash of white caught his eye and Duo's eyes widened. Relena stood defiantly in front of the enemy mobile suits, her arms spread wide. She seemed to be saying something, but the braided boy couldn't make it out due to the distance between them. But he clearly saw one of the Leos point its machine gun threateningly at the young girl.
"Damn it, Relena." Growling, Duo pulled up swiftly, banking to head straight towards the fray.
//Tonight for you I pray
To the brightest star
On the heavenly screen...//
"You can kill me if you wish, but that won't stop the people who wish for peace!"
"Missiles locked." The Captain muttered gravely. "Your status, Lieutenant?"
"I've got my guns on her." The young man's voice cracked slightly.
"Don't shoot her. I'm hoping we can just scare her away."
"Aye, sir." The Lieutenant breathed a sigh of relief just as a warning light flashed on his screen. "Captain! We've got an unidentified mobile suit carrier headed straight for us!"
"What?" The old man's hand twitched over the button that would trigger the missiles. "What type of suit is it holding?"
"Checking now, sir. It's a Gundam!"
"Fire on that carrier!"
Relena's eyes widened as a plane flew swiftly overhead. Instinct gave her sudden insight on who that aircraft's pilot was, and fear knotted her stomach. He wasn't supposed to awaken yet! Glancing about, she caught WuFei's eye.
"You've got to stop him before he kills himself!" she cried.
But the roar of enemy gunfire engulfed her words. Around her, the ally mobile suits began to return fire. "No!" Relena shouted at them desperately. "Stop!"
In front of her, a Leo's machine gun rumbled to life and the wing of Duo's plane exploded. Unable to control its descent, the plane crashed in the midst of the allies ranks, damaged, but mostly intact.
"Duo!" Turning to face the fallen craft, Relena failed to notice the knee give out on the mobile suit that shot down the braided boy's craft. The suit suddenly collapsed onto the Leo in front of it, jarring the pilot inside and causing him to launch a volley of missiles aimed directly for her.
//It must be something
Flooding into my heart//
Duo groaned, and stared out of the cracked windshield blankly as blood poured down his face. Cobalt eyes bright with pain fastened on worried cerulean orbs.
Glancing past her, he saw the oncoming missiles. His heart seemed to stop beating as time slowed to a crawl. He heard his own screams ring in his ears as he struggled out of his harness, his right arm hanging lifelessly at his side. He rose quickly, only to fall heavily against the control panel as searing pain shot through his side.
He stared at the young girl in torment, knowing there was no way to reach her in time. Relena gazed at him steadily, never looking behind her. Smiling softly, she raised one hand in farewell as the missiles struck, and fire and smoke surrounded her.
Panting, Duo shook his head in disbelief as the smoke cleared, revealing
nothing. The land before him was charred and blackened, completely devoid
of life. Tears streamed down his face as one word was torn from his ragged
//There must be something
That leads me
Through the space between.//
"Why?" Duo whispered. "Why did you do it?"
Staying inside the carrier was dangerous since it could explode any minute. But Duo couldn't have moved if he had wanted to. The sheer reality of Relena's death had left him paralyzed by the anguish flowing through him. He could only lay there, slumped in the cockpit, as tears fell like rain from unblinking blue orbs.
"Are you all right?" A low voice called. "Duo?"
WuFei carefully crawled through the wreckage until he reached the braided boy. "You've got to get out of here before this thing explodes."
Duo sat, unmoving.
"Maxwell! I know you're alive, so let's go."
Duo shook his head. "I was supposed to die..." He looked at the Chinese boy. "Why? Why am I alive?!" He shouted.
Studying the hysterical boy before him, making careful note of his numerous injuries, WuFei drew back his fist and punched Duo, rendering him unconscious. Gently throwing the American over his shoulder, the ebony-haired boy began to navigate his way out of the shattered aircraft.
"You're alive because she wanted it that way. And I swore on my honor that I would ensure that you stay that way."
//It must be something
Flooding into my heart//
WuFei kept a constant vigil as Duo recovered from his wounds. The braided boy had to have three operations, including a liver transplant, after a broken rib had punctured the organ. The doctors had assured that the Chinese boy that Duo would recover quickly, although he would never regain full use of his right arm.
It was almost two days later when the American finally returned to consciousness. The doctors, fearing he might attempt to commit suicide, had kept him under heavy sedation until WuFei commanded them to stop.
Opening his eyes, Duo tensed. "Relena. Is she-?"
"She's still dead, Maxwell." WuFei spoke from across the room.
Duo slumped against the bed as tears clouded his vision. So he had survived. Again. And just like all the other times, he was alone. Everyone who had loved him was gone.
"Those who are left behind are left for a reason, Duo," WuFei said softly, as he came closer to the braided boy. In his hand he held a small recorder. He slipped it into Duo's limp hands.
"This was shown to both the Earth and the Colonies less than fourteen hours ago. The world now knows the reason you are here; it's past time you found out."
Bowing slightly, WuFei left the room.
//It must be something//
Using his good arm, Duo forced his trembling fingers to press the play button. A small figure appeared on the screen and Duo choked back a fresh wave of tears as he listened to Relena's goodbye.
"This is a prerecorded message, as when you receive it, I will be dead." The young woman on the screen spoke calmly, with no hint of trepidation. "I am so happy to have been able to serve you all and to help bring about peace to both the Earth and the Colonies. Please do not take this peace for granted. It was bought with blood."
At this, the Relena bowed her head. But she raised it quickly and with the determination that so characterized her in life.
"I know many of you are surprised and upset about my death; please don't be. I have lived my life to the fullest, and I have few regrets. For my last act as Vice Minister, I would like to appoint my successor."
The figure's visage on the recording turned firm; all who viewed her knew they were staring at the face of a queen.
"I, Relena Darlian, hereby appoint Duo Maxwell as Vice Minister. I believe that no one else on Earth or in the Colonies is more suitable for the job. He has saved so many lives already, and he truly knows the horrors war can bring. Please treat him with every respect and courtesy that is due to him."
The words hit Duo like a blow, and he blinked, struggling to absorb them. Relena's pale face seemed to look directly into his widened eyes, as she spoke the final and most personal part of the message.
"And Duo. Please forgive me for my selfishness. I just wasn't as strong as you. I..." Tears streams freely down her face. "Ai shiteru Duo, from the both of us."
//It must be something.//
The screen went black and Duo stared at it blankly. He stayed that way for a long time, refusing to look up when the first round of reporters broke through WuFei's defenses and into the braided boy's room.