The characters, copyrights, Gundams, and way cool hair portrayed herein do not belong to me, though I dearly wish they did. No attempt to infringe copyright is intended. Please don't sue me, I have no money, I spend it all on anime.
It had been six months since the end of hostilities, and in the peace which followed, Duo Maxwell had had plenty of time to rest, recuperate, enjoy the quiet, and watch as his friend Heero slowly descended into hell.
It had been a week since Heero ate, and three days since he'd slept - and before then he hadn't slept a night through since the war ended. He looked awful, and his eyes... His eyes were burnt pits in his head. Duo felt that if you stared into them long enough you could hear the screams of the damned.
And the worst part of it was that there didn't seem to be anything he could do to help. Heero seemed intent on following the souls of those he'd killed in combat. The only question was how he would go - suicide, murderous rampage, or simply keeling over when the pressure of it all finally became too much for him. Duo had heard of killer stress, but had never seen it in action. He bit his lip as Heero staggered to his Gundam again, checking it over for anything to repair.
The Gundam was in much better shape than Heero, that much was for sure. Over the past six months it had been repaired, tuned, fine-tuned, checked over, tested, even more finely tuned, polished till it gleamed and then dulled a little so that the gleaming wouldn't draw enemy eyes to its hiding place in the forest.
Duo was sick of the sight of the cursed thing and was willing to bet hard cash that it was in better condition than when it had been brand new. If Heero ever snapped out of this he had a wonderful future ahead of him as a mechanic, he thought. Then he sighed. Future. That was the big problem word. For as far as Heero was concerned, he _had_ no future left.
The other Gundam pilots had always admired Heero for his total dedication to the cause. However, even Trowa and Wu Fei, normally two of the most obsessively compulsive people Duo had ever met, after Heero anyway, had had _hobbies_. Heero had...
Well, he had Duo of course. Unfortunately, it didn't seem to be enough. Duo had done everything he could think of to try and snap Heero out of this dangerous mood. He'd been there for him, brought him snacks, worked on the Gundam till he'd been ready to scream, teased and irritated Heero endlessly, and provided as much solace as he could, but now he was prepared to finally admit defeat. He rubbed at his eyes and sighed again, then fixed his worried gaze on his ex-teammate.
Heero stared at his Gundam, and dredged his memory for something, ANYTHING, that he might have forgotten. After all, the slightest flaw could cause failure in a mission. Not that he HAD any missions, but he couldn't overcome his training. He had spent all his young life preparing for, and fighting, the war for the colonies. And now the war was over. They'd even won! It was almost inconceivable. Somehow, Heero had never really gotten around to thinking past the moment when he would triumph over his enemies. Peace in his own lifetime. It was... nice. It was... good. And now... now he had nothing to do. Nothing to fight for. Nothing to die for.
Nothing to live for.
He rubbed his eyes again. If he could just _rest_ he knew he could rally himself to fight this last battle. Unfortunately he couldn't. Every time he closed his eyes he saw flames and destruction. Every time he breathed he could smell the death. And the screams. The screams never left him. He was a soldier! It had been war! This kind of self-recrimination was doing noone any good. He had to get it together. He _had_ to, for he was going into his final battle now - against his strongest opponent ever! He, Heero Yuy, was going up against himself. Noone had ever defeated Heero, and few had survived engaging him in combat. Heero had a bad feeling that he was doomed to lose this one, no matter how it went.
Heero took some time to focus in on the source of the odd noise. That was no good - now he was losing his reactions as well.
It was coming from the communicator console. The beeping stopped and a clacking noise emanated. A mechanical claw appeared on the screen and opened and closed. Heero didn't even remember moving, but he found himself in front of the screen pressing the combination to unlock it.
"This is your new mission..."
Heero devoured every word hungrily, almost panting in his desire to go, to _do_. It wasn't a minute later that he realised the true nature of his mission.
Heero blinked, waiting for the rest. There must be more, there must! He checked the volume on the communicator. No, it was working fine. Then, that was it. That was all there was.
"Mission..." he husked. "Mission... acknowledged."
Heero slipped through the fence and ghosted up to the main building. He cautiously picked his way through the infra-red alarms and carefully jimmied open a window. Silently he moved from shadow to shadow down the long corridor. Twice he had to freeze to avoid detection by roaming guards. His eyes were steely as for the first time in six months they focused on a mission. Inwardly he rejoiced. His purpose in life was once again clear and set. He was again fulfilling his calling in life. He was... happy. Satisfied. Calm and purposeful.
And also, underneath all of this, horrified and scared. If he succeeded in this mission, the war would almost certainly flare up again, and he would continue to have purpose as a soldier. On the other hand, if he succeeded, he risked losing... something. He couldn't think what it was.
Holding his breath, he lightly nudged open the door he had studied on the building blueprints this morning. This should be where his target was located. And indeed... the bed was set against the wall on the opposite end of the room. Carefully he pulled a gun from a shoulder holster. Fitting a silencer to it, he moved towards the bed.
Standing over it, he felt the exhilaration of purpose beginning to fill him, alongside with his usual regret at the taking of another's life, and a growing nausea. He aimed the gun at his target.
The target stirred. It was awake!
No. _She_ was awake. Heero faltered as she sat up and gazed steadily into his eyes.
"Heero." said Relena Peacecraft. "I've been waiting for you to come back and kill me. What took you so long?"
Heero's hand shook on the trigger. All he had to do was pull it - fulfil the mission. And it wasn't even as though it was a tough mission. Truth be told, it was more like tying up loose ends, he should have killed her almost as soon as he saw her, but somehow he always found himself freezing.
Just like he was doing now. He licked some of the sweat off his upper lip. Sweat? He never sweated on missions, at least not from apprehension. It wasn't as though she was a danger to him - she was obviously unarmed. His eyes swept her body, clad in a white cotton nightgown, and then hurriedly found their way back up to her face and eyes. They didn't find any safety there either, her eyes bore into his, and when he looked away he found himself transfixed by her loose, blonde hair, which spilled over her shoulders in a glorious golden wave.
The gun was trembling visibly now and Heero tried to focus on his mission. He shuddered and shook as his insides went to war with his reflexes.
Relena gazed upon this battle with compassion and love. "It's alright Heero," she whispered to him. "Whatever you choose - it's alright." She pushed back the sheets and knelt on the bed. She reached out her hands and, clasping them around the gun, drew it towards her, until it rested gently on her nightgown, directly above her heart.
"Whatever you do, whatever you choose - it's alright."
Heero was gasping now, his breath coming in chokes and sobs. "Relena..." he managed to grit out. She waited.
He had to fulfil his mission, his purpose, his life! He had to get his life started again - by ending hers. He was a soldier! He had killed many people, women and men both, in battle. Surely he could kill this one girl and once more find his place in the Universe. Tears spilled down his cheeks. To once more know who he was and where he stood. To be at peace with his inner demons - or at least to be able to shut them out. To be at peace. To be at peace.
The gun dropped from his hands and he tried to move away, but Relena would not release his cold fingers and no matter how hard he tried he couldn't break her grip as she gradually pulled him towards her.
"Sssshhhh... my Heero. It's all going to be alright. You fulfilled your mission, 'Either you or Relena Peacecraft must die this night'. The you that began this mission is no more, but I can help the person he left behind." She opened her arms wide and embraced him as he clung to her, sobbing. She rested his head on her breasts and murmured soothing words as he cried out his loss.
During a break in the sobbing, she looked up and smiled across the room. Duo, sitting on the windowsill, smiled back. It had been a risk, but fortunately it had all worked out. Now, at last, Heero could begin to heal.
The war was finally over. For _all_ of them.
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