Author: Merula
Disclaimer: I do not own Gundam Wing.

Yes, I played merry hell with the end EW. Just go with it.

Afterwards + Part 1

Impossible as it is to believe, I wanted him from the first moment I saw him. As he stood on the bow of that submarine, scolding me for trying to kill Relena, I looked and wanted him. Otherwise, I would've just shot the both of them and got the hell out of there. The Perfect Soldier half of me was furious that I had let myself become so distracted.

Of course, at the time, the rest of me was beyond annoyed too. Why was he sticking up for that silly girl?

I was happy when he showed up at the hospital, even though I shouldn't have been. I knew he was there to get the other gundam pilot, not out of any particular concern for me. No one cared for me. The Perfect Soldier almost won that round. No reason to stay alive after a failed mission, right? Especially not for some lovely braided idiot who apparently really liked to blow things up.

Now I know better of course. Duo isn't an idiot. He didn't come to the hospital just for the other gundam pilot. Duo does care- about everyone and everything. He also has a sense of honor and justice. He put me in that danger, so he got me out of it. He's just that kind of person. It's one of the things that I love about him.

Why didn't I do something? Say something? Are you kidding me? Not only were we in the middle of a war, but also J would've had a fit. Soldiers do NOT get distracted in the middle of a war- there's time for that afterwards- if you make it. Which I nearly didn't. Sometimes I wish I hadn't managed to pull up and out of the Earth's gravity in time. Things would've been a lot easier.

We all made it to the end, but he left with Hilde. It wasn't a surprise. I had figured by then that I never had a chance anyway. Duo was obviously into girls, not guys. That realization didn't make me hurt any less, or make me stop wanting him. Sometimes I wondered if anything could. Believe me, I tried. I know how stupid it is to pine after something that you can't ever have. But I couldn't help it, no matter what I did.

I roamed around for awhile after the first war, trying to find a place for me, but then Relena got herself in trouble again.

Relena is a sweetheart and I am fond of her- but she has no common sense whatsoever. None. As much as I admire and fight for her ideals, let's face it- she's a bit too idealistic. It drives me insane sometimes. Maybe it was J's training- maybe it was Odin's, but I still see fighting for what you believe in as an option. Not the optimal one perhaps, but then I was created to fight.

I still went to rescue our 'princess' anyway. It was the right thing to do. Relena was the key to peace, and I had lost a hell of a lot to the fight for her peace. I wasn't going to let it all go without a struggle. Besides, I got to see all the pilots again.

After all that mess was over, I woke up in the hospital, with Relena hanging all over me. Luckily, Duo and Trowa were there as well, for which I was very grateful.

Especially since Relena launched into one of her little fits of rapture the moment I opened my eyes, which frankly I wasn't up for at all. I don't have a lot of patience and at that moment, I had none. I hate hospitals. I hate being in them, and I hate being fussed over. Poor Relena was an easy target.

"Oh Heero, thank goodness you're awake! We thought we'd never get you out of there! I've been so worried, I thought you were going to..."

"Relena," I cut her off a bit sharply. "My head is pounding, could you please stop chattering?" She stopped, and looked a bit upset. Apparently the knight isn't supposed to tell the princess to shut up- even in a polite way. I looked towards Duo and Trowa so I wouldn't have to see the hurt in Relena's eyes. Duo's eyes were wide with surprise, but Trowa's were amused. "How are the others?" I asked them.

"They're fine," Trowa answered in his honey smooth voice, a relief after Relena's higher pitch. "Quatre is working with Une to secure a deal for Wufei." He added a bit hesitantly, obviously unsure of my response.

"Good," I replied. Duo grinned at me.

"I thought you'd want to hunt him down," he remarked with a lift of his eyebrows.

"No," I replied calmly, as I levered myself up. I ran an internal check- everything seemed to be healing nicely.

"Heero!" Relena began her hover again. "You can't just sit up, you've been injured! You need to stay down until.." I wished with all my heart for a gag. Or duck tape. Or anything to make her shut up. "You need your rest! Don't worry! I'll be here..."

"Relena," I snapped again. "You're giving me a headache! Be quiet!" This time those big blue eyes filled with tears. Ah gods. I hate when she does this. Luckily, Duo came to my rescue.

"Hey Miss Relena, don't be upset," he stepped towards her and patted her shoulder comfortingly. "Heero is an awful patient- as I know from experience." He gave her one of those beautiful smiles and she stopped sniffling. "Why don't you go home and we'll call you when he's less grumpy?" I frowned at him, but he ignored me.

"Promise, Duo?" She asked, turning those big blue eyes on him. Duo has always been a sucker for a damsel in distress and Relena knows it. And uses it to her advantage frequently. The girl is a born politician.

"Of course," he nodded agreeably. Relena got to her feet, and for an awful moment I thought she was going to lean down and kiss me. Instead, she just touched my hand with a wistful look and left the room. I sighed in relief when the door closed behind her. "You weren't very nice to her, Heero." Duo looked at me reproachfully.

"Was I supposed to be?" I growled back. I hated hearing him defend her. Almost as much as I had hated listening to his admiring comments about her during the war. At least he had had brains enough to hook up with Hilde, nice, sensible girl that she was. You wouldn't catch Hilde driving a pink car.

"You are supposed to be nice to the girl you love," he scolded. "Don't you know that?"

"Great. When I fall in love with a girl, I'll be nice to her." Duo blinked and looked surprised. I continued, not wanting to go into that subject at that moment. "How long am I supposed to be in here for?" Trowa stepped forward a bit, and I saw that his grin had widened.

"Days, the doctors said. Of course, you weren't supposed to wake up this quickly either."


"I'll go find a doctor to look at you," he added. "Duo, make sure he stays in bed til I get back." Trowa left and Duo sat down in the chair Relena had abandoned. He was quiet, and I was amazed. After a moment, I frowned at him.

"Why aren't you talking, baka?"

"I didn't want to make your headache worse," he said easily.

"Your voice doesn't bother me," I told him truthfully enough, "but you sitting there quietly does. It's unnatural." He grinned.

"Were you serious, a moment ago?" He asked, curiosity obviously aroused. I knew it would be. He's worse than any cat.

"About Relena?" He nodded, braid bouncing. "Of course. She's a nice girl and important to this world, but I don't care for her that way."

"Really?" His eyebrows shot upwards.

"Yes, idiot. If I did love her I wouldn't have left her after the first war." He smiled.

"Not the kind of guy to leave the one you love behind?" Duo teased, not realizing how much his words stung me. I had left the one I loved behind.

"Not if they love me back. If they loved someone else, then I'd have to leave them behind." I said thoughtlessly. A stupid move on my part. His gaze turned speculative.

"Personal experience talking there pal?" Damn, sometimes he sees me a bit too clearly.

"Obviously," I snapped back.

"Want to talk about it?"

"No." Not ever. Not with you! I added mentally.

"Hopeless case, huh?" Duo was looking at me with a trace of pity in his expression. I didn't want it. Why had I let my mouth run away with me? Good gods, I was getting as bad as he was. I fell back on the familiar.

"Hn." He leaned back in his chair.

"Is it that girl Sylvia? Or Dorothy? Maybe Catherine?" His voice had turned wheedling and I knew he wasn't going to stop. "I know, it's some gorgeous babe you met on a mission somewhere. Your eyes met across a crowded classroom- or maybe at a dance. I'll bet she's a leggy redhead. Or maybe it's one of Quatre's gorgeous siblings?" He raised his eyebrows questioningly. "Or do you prefer older women? Like Sally or Noin?" His eyes narrowed a bit. "Or is it Hilde?" Oh great. I so did not need this!

"Idiot. Who said it was a girl?" That made him close his mouth. Finally! I nearly laughed at the shocked expression on his face, before realizing that telling him that might not have been the best of ideas. What the hell was wrong with me today? Why couldn't I just ignore him?

Thankfully, at that moment, Trowa came in with the doctor. Duo moved out of the way automatically, still looking stunned. I had actually managed to shock my unshockable friend. I nearly laughed out loud.

The doctor checked me over and I could see his amazement. "No one can heal this fast."

"I can," I informed him briskly. "Can I go now?"

"I guess so- but how is this possible?"

"I've always been a fast healer," I answered shortly, not willing to explain about the nanites J had installed me with. The doctor gave in and went to get my release papers started. Duo, of course, could not drop the subject.

"You're gay?" He burst out with that question the moment the doctor left the room. Trowa's eyes widened and he blinked at Duo, before he realized that Duo was talking to me.

"Amazing deduction," I said dryly as I got up from the bed and headed towards the bathroom with my clothes. I got dressed quickly, door ajar and listened to Duo tell Trowa about his conversation with me.

"And you're surprised by this?" Trowa drawled when Duo had finished. I opened the door all the way at that moment and had to laugh at the expression on Duo's face.

"You knew?!" Duo managed to get out.

"As you would say, Maxwell- duh." Trowa turned to face me. "Are you ready to go, Heero?"

"How come you knew?" Duo had pushed himself away from the wall and I had to stop laughing at the hurt expression on his face as he turned to me. "You told him and not me?"

"Duo." I shook my head at him. "You know better than that." I looked at our green-eyed partner. "Quatre told you?"

"Yes," Trowa replied calmly as he handed me my jacket. The nurse came in at that moment and I quickly signed the release papers and growled at her when she suggested a wheelchair.

"Where are you headed, Heero?" Trowa changed the subject as we left the room, Duo trailing in our wake, muttering under his breath about friends that never told him anything important. At least the hurt look was off his face. Quatre was everyone's confidant, even Wufei's.

"Don't know," I replied truthfully.

"You can come stay with Quatre and I," Trowa offered.

"Thanks Trowa, but I'll manage."

"You could come stay with me," Duo hit the elevator button and grinned at me. "We can always use a hand in the salvage yard."

"Shouldn't you ask Hilde before you make an offer like that?" I rolled my eyes at him as we got in the elevator.

"No. Why?"

"And he says I'm clueless about girls?" I asked Trowa. Trowa chuckled and Duo frowned.

"Hilde wouldn't mind." Duo put an arm around my shoulders briefly. "Any friend of mine is a friend of hers." I smiled and shook my head.

"Thanks anyway, Duo, but no."

"Why not?" We got out of the elevator and headed towards the hospital doors. "You said yourself you don't know where you're going. You can move in with us and have a job at the salvage yard. It would be something, right?" I stopped when we reached the sidewalk and smiled at Duo. He grinned at me and I gazed at him for a moment, memorizing the way he looked right then. The sun was shining down on his hair, making it glint with red and gold. His violet eyes were wide and crinkled at the corners, his mouth curved in that smile of his. He was simply gorgeous.

I was tempted to take him up on his offer- to see him everyday would be wonderful. But, he belonged to someone else. Someone as nice and lovely as he himself was. Duo hadn't been kidding when he said Hilde would welcome me- she would. She was as kind and loving as Duo was. They were perfect for each other.

I couldn't live around that. No way in hell. I smiled back at him apologetically.

"I appreciate it, Duo, I really do. But I can't." I turned to Trowa and offered him my hand. "See you around."

"I hope so, Heero." Trowa took my hand and squeezed it gently. "You know you always have a place with us when you want it."

"Thank you. Tell Wufei and Quatre goodbye for me?"

"Of course." Duo was bouncing on the balls of his feet as I turned to him.

"Good-bye Duo," I offered him my hand and he hauled me into a bone- crushing hug.

"Why won't you stay, Heero?" He whispered in my ear.

"I just can't." I let him go and gave him a smile. Then I turned around and walked down the street, not looking back. I should've known better. A few moments later, feet came pounding down the sidewalk after me. Duo does not give up easily.

"Heero," Duo caught up and reached out a hand to stop me. "I left Trowa back there. He won't know if you come stay with me." Huh? What was Duo thinking now?

"Duo, what does it matter if Trowa knows where I am?" I raised an eyebrow at him.

"Because it's Quatre you're in love with. That's why he knew you were gay- right?" I blinked at him and then burst into laughter. Second time today. Duo has that effect on me.

"No," I managed when I got my voice back. "I'm not in love with Quatre- or Trowa," I added, seeing him open his mouth again. "Quatre knows because of his space heart. He asked me about it ages ago- at the end of the last war." I started walking again and he paced beside me. "It's impossible to hide anything like that from Quatre."

"Ah," Duo frowned and I started to get worried. With my luck he'd guess and that was the last thing I wanted to happen. I needed to lose him- fast. I glanced around. There was a large outdoor mall a street or so away. The best place to lose someone was in a crowd.

"Then who is it?" He asked me quietly.

"Just drop it Duo." I snapped.

"But I want to help you," he persisted.

"And you knowing who I'm in love with will help me?" I stopped again and looked him in the eye. "You can't help me Duo. Not with this." He looked straight back at me.

"Why not? Have you told him?"

"I told you- he's in love with somebody else."

"So it's hopeless?"

"Completely so."

"Then maybe you should try to get over whoever-this-is and find someone else."

"That's what I'm trying to do," I said exasperatedly and started walking again. The sidewalks were getting more crowded. "So just let me go do it, okay?"

"Maybe I could help you find someone else- I know lots of nice guys..." Duo suggested and I felt like screaming. Have Duo help me find someone else? No, no, no!! "Heero, please, you're my best friend! Let me help you. I don't want you disappearing again. Hilde and I would love to have you stay with us..." I took his arm and yanked him over to the side, next to a big column in front of a department store. I tried glaring at him, but he just glared stubbornly back. He wasn't going to give up. Damn it!

"Duo." I was resorting to begging at this point. Pathetic. "Stop. Please. You can't help me, okay? No one can help me but me. I promise I won't disappear on you- I'll send you e-mail or something. You'll always be my friend- you know that."

"Why can't you let me help you? If I am your friend you should be able to trust me with this." He looked at me pleadingly. I couldn't do this. Duo wasn't going to give up- I could see it in his eyes. He was looking at me steadily, seriously and I knew he was going to track me down to the ends of the Earth if necessary trying to 'help' me. I loved him more than ever at that moment- and knew that he was going to hate me in the next.

"Because, baka, you're the one I'm trying to get over!" His eyes widened and he looked completely shocked. Second time today. I had reached a new record. At least he didn't try to kill me. He just stood there blinking at me, completely dumbfounded.

I took advantage of his state and headed into the crowd, vanishing the best way I knew how, cursing at myself all the while. What the hell had happened to me? Why did my Perfect Soldier mask slip so badly?

I knew why. Duo had happened.

And now I had lost even his friendship.

[part 2] [back to Merula's fic]