Of Life and Death . . .
Author's note: This takes place about 7 or 8 months after Endless Waltz.
A sudden knock on his bedroom door snapped his attention back to his surroundings. "Hey Duo, we're back with dinner." Quatre's voice sounded normal, but the fact that he had been here for several days was unusual. Duo couldn't think of any reason for him to stay here when he was one of the richest guys around. True, he was shacked up at a really nice hotel, but he sure seemed to be spending a lot of time here, in one of the poorer sections of L2.
"Yeah, I'm coming in a sec.!" Duo answered, trying to sound enthusiastic. There was no reason to worry Quatre. Besides, that didn't take near as long as he thought it would. He headed into the kitchen to see Heero and Quatre opening bags of fast food. "Geez, did ya'll raid every fast food stand in the neighborhood?" he asked with a grin.
Heero gave him a level look. "You were the one who said he was hungry. And if I remember correctly, last time we ate out, you ate enough to supply a small army."
Quatre laughed at that. "Besides, it's not like you have food here," he said, taking out a bag of fries. "I know you live alone, but I don't see how you stay alive."
"Ah, that's easy. I go raid Heero's fridge! After all, that's what he gets for getting an apartment in the same building as me!"
Heero only rolled his eyes at that, which caused Duo to laugh. It was amazing how much Heero had relaxed after the wars had ended. He even seemed human at times. The three of them settled around the table and began eating.
"I heard from Sally the other day," Quatre said after finishing off his hamburger.
"What'd she say?" asked Duo.
"She said that the Preventers have been having trouble lately. It seems a small revolution has been trying to catch on in on of the Middle Eastern countries."
Duo sighed. "Always seems to happen. Just when things are looking good, some group's got to go and mess it all up. How're they handling it?"
"So far, she said they've been able to keep things under control. Wufei has been very helpful with keeping the fighting from spreading. But she was wondering if I would ask the rest of you..." Quatre paused for a moment at the odd look on Duo's face.
"Ask us what?" Heero supplied.
"If we would be willing to help. Small fights have been breaking out, and so far, nothing serious has happened. They want to keep a lid on things so that another incident doesn't happen, and Sally believes that we could help. Even Wufei suggested contacting us."
"But how are we supposed to help without our Gundams?" Duo asked, leaning back in his chair.
"Even though we don't have our Gundams anymore, we're still Gundam pilots. People remember that."
"So we'd have to back in and fight again?"
Quatre looked in Duo in mild surprise. "I thought that would be something you would want to help with. After all, you were one of the first of us to fight against Marimeia."
"Well, maybe I don't want to anymore! Did you ever think about that?" Heero and Quatre both looked at him in shock. "They don't need us to fight their battles," Duo continued. "We shouldn't have to do this anymore!"
Heero frowned. "Maybe not, but someone's got to do something. Besides, aren't you the 'God of Death'?"
Duo scowled at Heero. "Not anymore, buddy. Not anymore!" He stalked out of the apartment, only pausing long enough to grab his coat. As he slammed the door behind him, Quatre glared at Heero.
"Could you be any less sensitive, Heero?"
Heero sighed. "I didn't realize he would react that way."
Quatre shook his head. "We knew something has been bothering him lately. I think we just found out what."
Duo walked along the street with his hands deep in his coat pocket. 'I wonder what happened back there?' he thought to himself. He didn't want to fight anymore, but it was no reason to snap at his two best friends. He gave an ironic chuckle at that. Quatre of course was everyone's friend, but Heero was something else. Even though things had more or less normalized, the guy almost never opened up. He was a bit more relaxed, but he was still rather anti-social. Why he even choose to rent an apartment when he wasn't on L2 very often was a mystery. Still, Duo couldn't help trying to get him to loosen up. After all, the guy just never had practice. It wasn't his fault he didn't know how to act like a normal human being. Duo leaned against a nearby railing with a sigh. He wondered if Heero even considered him a friend. He thought again about the gun under his pillow, then took a bullet out of his pocket and held it up for a moment. 'I guess I was wrong back there. I will have to be the God of Death again.' Just as he slipped it back in his pocket, he realized someone was next to him. Turning his head, he saw a familiar figure leaning against the railing close by.
"Out for a night walk?" Trowa asked casually.
"Yeah, you could say that. What are you doing out this way?"
Trowa shrugged. "We're in the area for a few days, and I just wanted some fresh air."
Duo chuckled at that. The air might seem fresh to someone who spent most of their time around animals, but it smelled the same just about everywhere on the colonies. Recycled air just didn't have the same quality as real fresh air. "I suppose you're gonna want us to come by and see the show?" Duo asked, carefully putting on a grin.
"If you want to." Trowa looked up at the buildings around them. "It seems somehow different now, have you noticed?" he asked quietly.
Duo looked around. "I dunno. Seems the same to me." He shrugged, and turned his back against the rail. He never could figure Trowa out. The guy seemed nice and all, but even Heero seemed to have more emotion in him. Though Trowa was a fellow Gundam pilot, and he respected him for that, he could never seem to talk with him. To him, yes. But not with him. "So what's so different about it?"
"The whole atmosphere. People laugh because they're enjoying themselves, not just because they need to escape." He smiled slightly. "It's rather nice."
"I suppose so," Duo replied. He sighed. "Guess I better get back if I want any food. By now, Heero's probably eaten my sandwich just to get back at me for raiding his fridge last night!" He chuckled lightly, and started off.
"Duo..." Trowa straightened up and looked at him seriously.
Duo turned around. "Yeah?"
"Don't do anything rash."
Duo plastered a grin on his face. "What are you talkin' about? I always know what I'm doing!"
Trowa shook his head. "Maybe so, but just in case, be careful. You don't want to do anything you'll regret later. I almost did, and if I hadn't been stopped, I wouldn't have had the opportunity for a life."
"Huh?" Duo looked at him quizzically.
"I have family now, and friends. If I had died, I would have missed it. And it would have made her sad. It's funny somehow. Even though you don't always realize it, people do care."
Duo shrugged. "Yeah, I suppose so. Well, gotta get back. Maybe I'll see ya 'round!" He waived and headed back towards his apartment building.
Trowa stood there for a few moments more, watching him disappear down the street. 'I hope that we do.' he thought to himself. He was beginning to realize just what it means to have friends. He could only hope Duo would remember too.
Duo closed his apartment door quietly behind him with a sigh. He could hear Quatre and Heero talking in the kitchen. Or more accurately, Quatre talking with an occasional comment from Heero. He quietly stuffed his keys in his coat pocket, then slung his coat over the nearest chair. He then walked into the kitchen, pausing at the doorway. Heero and Quatre looked up. "Hey guys. Sorry 'bout before. Don't know what got into me!" He plastered a sincere looking grin on his face, and sat back down at the table.
Heero glanced over at Quatre for a moment, then returned his gaze to Duo. "Duo, ummm....Listen, I'm sorry for what I said."
Duo looked at him in mock amazement. "Heero Yuy, apologizing?? Someone mark the date!"
"You're pushing it, Maxwell," said Heero with a glare.
"Yeah, yeah," Duo laughed. He feigned shrinking away from a blow. "No problems here! Got any food left?"
Quatre nodded. "We put some in the refrigerator for you for later. I have to go though. I have a meeting in the morning."
"Hey, no problem! I got a ton of work to do tomorrow anyways." Duo leaned back in his chair. "In fact, I'll probably be busy for a couple of days. With Hilde moving back to L3 to be near her parents, there's a lot more stuff I gotta take care of!"
"Well, don't get so busy you don't stop by for lunch sometime." Quatre smiled as he pulled his coat on. "Heero, can you give me a ride? It looks like it's raining again."
Heero shrugged and nodded. "Catch ya later, guys!" Duo said with a smile. He watched as the two of them left. After the door closed, he dropped his smile. Hopefully, the two of them wouldn't think to stop by for a few days. He took the bullet out of his pocket again and held it cradled in his hands for a few minutes. 'I guess it's just you and me now,' he thought to himself. It was time to end it. Time to end the pain and the guilt. Time to stop the voices and the nightmares. Time to see if God really did exist, like he had be taught so long ago...
Quatre paused outside Duo's apartment building. "I can't believe this. I forgot my key." He turned to Heero, who was standing behind him. "I guess you need to let me back in."
Heero rolled his eyes at that, but unlocked the door and followed Quatre back upstairs, a tiny smile tugging at his lips. He was constantly amazed with Quatre. The kid seemed so young and so naive, but could pull himself and others out of the worst situations. He couldn't help but admire that, just as he couldn't stay annoyed with Duo's cheerfulness for too long. And now that he had the luxury to become friends, he was beginning to realize that he enjoyed their friendships.
They paused outside Duo's door while Quatre knocked. With no answer coming from inside, he knocked a couple more times, then turned to Heero. "Don't you have his key?"
"You know, they can let you into your room from the hotel," Heero replied.
"I know, but something's wrong. I can't explain it, but I just think we need to get in there. Now."
Heero looked at him oddly for a moment, then dug in his pocket for Duo's spare key. He had learned to trust Quatre's instincts a long time ago, even though he rarely showed it. The two went inside and looked around. "He didn't eat anything," was Heero's first comment. Quatre looked startled at that, then headed into the bedroom. He stood with the door open, a look of shock and horror on his face. "Duo..."
Duo heard the door open just as he started the pull the trigger, and his eyes met a very shocked Quatre's eyes. "Duo..." Heero came up behind him and the first real look of surprise Duo had ever seen from Heero crossed his face.
Duo lowered the gun with a shaky smile. "Guess you weren't expecting this, were ya?" he said with a weak laugh.
"What do you think you're doing?" Quatre asked in horror.
"I can't take it anymore, Quatre," Duo answered with a sigh. "You can only run so far, after all."
"What are you talking about?" Heero asked, coming into the room.
Duo chuckled softly. "Heero Yuy, actually sounding concerned?"
"Just answer me, Duo."
"Haven't you had nightmares, Heero? The kind you wake up screaming from?"
"Have you had the ones where you can't wake up from?"
Heero looked confused at that.
Duo sighed. "I guess not. That what all this seems like sometimes. Sometimes, I'm fine. But then I remember. I know we did the right thing, but now it just seems to come back to haunt me. I can still hear their voices, ya know."
Heero sat down at the desk. "Who’s voices?"
"The ones I killed, of course. They're always asking me not to do it. But I was the God of Death. I had to. Even though I didn't want to. I had to."
"But why did you have to be the God of Death, Duo?" Quatre asked softly from the doorway.
Duo looked at him in surprise. "Well, someone has to decide who lives and who dies. I thought if I was the God of Death, then maybe more innocent people wouldn't have to die. But it didn't work. Hell, I don't even remember some of the battles we fought, because I was the God of Death, not me. A lot of people died that shouldn't have. You know I realized, some of the solders we fought, who's to say they weren't innocent too? After all, maybe they only fought because they felt they had to. Just as we did. I thought it was the right thing to do. But now I can't get rid of them. They follow me around. The funny thing is, I never see their faces. I can only hear their voices." Duo sighed and closed his eyes. "When Hilde was here, that helped. I knew she cared about me, and she gave me something to anchor to I guess. But now she's gone..."
Before he could go on, he was shocked out of rambling by a solid right cross from Quatre. Heero and Duo both looked at him in shock. Quatre sighed. "Do you think you're the only one that feels guilty, Duo?"
Duo rubbed his chin and slowly shook his head. "I guess not. I just, don't want to be alone anymore."
"You're not alone, Duo," Quatre replied, tears rimming his eyes. "We've all been through this. We've all had our doubts. And we've all felt guilty. But we're all five together in this. Even Wufei, though we don't see him very often anymore."
"But how do you get rid of it? How the hell can you just not feel guilty anymore?"
"You don't," was Heero's reply. "There is no way. At times, I wish there was too. But we were chosen as Gundam pilots for a reason. If we hadn't been there, a lot more people would have died. A lot more innocent people would have suffered. I believe that."
Quatre nodded, rubbing his knuckles. "And so do I. We've all at one point become something we hate and fear. But we go on because life goes on. We all have lives now, and they're all worth being alive for."
Duo got up and strode quickly to the other side of the room. "But what if you don't have a life? What if you're just as lost as you were before?"
"You do have a life, Duo! You have friends, even if you don't see it. Trowa called me right before you got back because he was worried about you."
"And why do you think I moved into this hell-hole building?" Heero asked him.
Duo looked at him in surprise. "I just thought it was because it's cheap here."
Heero shook his head. "It's because even though your incessant cheerfulness bugs the hell out of me, you're my friend," he said with a slight smile. Duo's eyes widened at that. "Why do you think I let you raid my fridge?" he continued. "And why do you think I'm here, talking to you now? I'm the one that told Quatre to come here, after all."
Duo sat back down. "You really did that?"
Quatre nodded. "Even Wufei called a while back because he had talked to you and he thought something was up. Then when Heero called, I knew something was very wrong. You see, even though we're all separated by thousands of miles, we're still connected. We five share a bond that's unique. We all went through the same thing. And that has changed us."
Duo sat quietly on the bed in thought. After a few minutes, he managed a tiny smile, his first real one in quite a while. "Maybe you guys are right. After all, we did make a great team, right?" Heero and Quatre both nodded. Duo sighed, and looked up at Heero. "You'd better drive him back to his hotel. He's got stuff to do in the morning."
"We're not leaving you here alone, Maxwell!" Heero replied.
"Don't worry. I'm not going to try anything."
Heero just crossed his arms and remained in the chair. Duo chuckled softly, then unloaded the pistol in his hand. He handed the empty weapon to Quatre, then looked back over at Heero. "Better? I promise you that's the only gun I have here."
Quatre sighed. "We'll leave on one condition: you promise not to try and kill yourself unless you talk to one of us first, got it?"
Duo held up his right hand. "Yes sir, Master Quatre!"
After making Duo swear several more times, the two finally left. Duo laid back on his couch with one hand under his head, and the other cradling the bullet. 'Well, what do ya know?' he thought to himself. 'I never figured that Heero would be able to talk me out of that. But now what do I do? I can still hear them...'
Trowa left his trailer after changing out of his costume for the last show. Catherine had made some chili, and he promised he'd try it out. She may not be the best cook in the world, but she did try hard, and he wouldn't hurt her for the world. Besides, she had gotten a lot better with practice. He chuckled quietly to himself. Having someone around for a guinea pig probably helped. She took great pleasure in making sure he had something to eat. 'I guess big sisters are supposed to do that' he thought to himself as he paused outside the lion's cage. The lion, sensing he was near, started purring, a low, growling sound that would scare someone who didn't know the difference. "Well, you have a sister, don't you?" The lion growled softly at that, and it took him a moment to realize there was someone behind him. He turned to see a somewhat nervous Duo standing behind him. "Hey Trowa. Got a sec?"
Trowa nodded. Duo sighed. "I've got something to get off my chest. You see, you were right. People do care."
"Is everything ok?"
"I think it is now. But I've got something I want you to have." He reached out and placed a bullet in Trowa's hand. "Somehow, I don't think I'll need this now. At least, I hope not."
Trowa closed his hand over it. "I understand, Duo."
Duo grinned. "I thought ya might. Well, it's starting to rain again, so I'll head back. I'll probably catch a show before ya'll leave. Later!" He tossed a wave over one shoulder and strolled off. Trowa just shook his head. He didn't know what all had happened, but whatever it was, he was glad of it.
As Duo sauntered past a small park, he paused for a moment. He could hear a couple of children in an apartment nearby laughing. For no other reason then just to laugh. That's when he realized that their laughter was all he heard. 'I don't believe it,' he thought to himself. A few tears rolled down his cheek unnoticed. 'They're finally gone. No more voices...' He smiled, a real smile, and headed back to his apartment with a lighter step. It wasn't the end, he realized, but at least he knew that people cared about him. He felt as long as he had that, he could get through anything.