Ch 6: "Mission Impossible"
WARNING: This chapter contains huge spoilers on the pasts of Wufei and Duo, taken from "Episode Zero"
Something in Wufei's eyes flickered, too fast for the other boy to identify. He kept his expression carefully neutral as he regarded the braided pilot before him for a long moment. "It started out as revenge," he said at last. "Now it's just something I do for honor."
"Revenge?" Duo repeated, a little startled. Then Wufei was fighting for the same reasons he was? "For who?"
Wufei's face was unreadable. "My people, in part. But mostly... for Meilan."
A chill ran up Duo's spine, and he tried not to let the surprise show on his face. "Who's Meilan?"
"Meilan was.. my wife."
Duo's jaw dropped. "You.. you were married??" he squeaked incredulously. "But- you're my age!" Wufei.. married?? No way.
"I was thirteen," Wufei said in a level tone, eyes turning away as he contemplated the woodlands. "Neither of us had a choice in the matter. We fought all the time- literally. She was supposedly the clan's strongest fighter, and was ashamed to have me as a husband because I was just a scholar who didn't fight."
Duo stared at the other boy in growing surprise.
"But I beat her. I always beat her..when we fought." Wufei's voice drifted off, and for a second Duo thought he wasn't going to continue. "She lived for justice and honor. She called herself 'Nataku'- I saw her as arrogant for picking the name of a god, and told her as much several times. I think we hated each other." He took in a quiet breath of air. "The day OZ came to destroy my colony, Meilan went to fight them. The fight ranged onto the flower field I often sat in to study, so she.. led them off, into space. She saved my field." He gave a short laugh, an ugly noise, his lip curling in a sneer. His eyes were haunted. "I went after them in Shenlong for the first time. I refused to be the kind of coward who let my own wife die, despite the fact that the Gundam didn't have weapons, yet. I saw OZ planting biological weapons on the colony's surface and snapped. I killed them and defended Meilan. But in the end she jumped in front of my Gundam to protect me." He was looking off into the sky now, so that Duo couldn't see his eyes. Duo stood transfixed, unable to utter a word. "I took her to my field, where we finally seemed to be making amends. Respecting each other. Then... she died in my arms."
Duo opened his mouth, but no sound would come out.
Wufei finally turned his face to look at Duo, his face red with suppressed emotion and an old rage that refused to die. His eyes were burning and just a little too shiny. "I named my Gundam Nataku and swore to live for justice. I said I would change the world... I wanted Nataku to watch me do what she died trying to do..." his voice trailed off weakly, and he looked quickly away, his body stiff, his clenched fists shaking slightly by his sides.
"Wufei," Duo murmured, overcome with pity, wishing now that he had never asked. It had visibly hurt the other boy to bring up old wounds. "I'm- I'm sorry. I shouldn't have asked..." He stepped forward, and before Wufei could move, slid his arms around the startled boy's shoulders in a tight, protective embrace, resting his cheek against the side of the warrior's neck. "Gomen nasai. I never understood why you fought for something as petty as justice. Gomen nasai..."
Wufei was frozen to the spot, stunned by Duo's sorrowful actions. He hesitated, then lifted his hands, placing his fingertips gingerly on the other boy's shoulders and pushing him back gently. He gazed at the braided pilot, knowing there was still a haunted look to his eyes, lost in the sympathetic eyes of his partner. "Never mind," he muttered. "It doesn't matter. Now you know."
"You didn't have to tell me," Duo whispered.
Wufei shrugged and dropped his arms by his sides again. "I wanted to."
'Ask him about Meilan.'
So Meilan had been Wufei's wife. She was who he fought for, she was the reason Shenlong had two names.
How had his reflection known about her? And why would it ask him to bring up the subject if it obviously caused the soldier so much pain?
Duo cocked his head at Wufei as the other pilot looked at him steadily. "Ah," he said. "I promised to return the favor, didn't I?"
Wufei nodded silently.
Duo steeled himself. "All right. What did you want to ask me?"
Wufei's eyes drifted down Duo's body, and Duo flushed before realizing the other boy was taking in his clothes. Suddenly he knew what was coming and went tense.
"Why do you wear a priest outfit?"
Wufei, just as Duo had done, had known exactly what question to ask to get the most detailed answers. He clenched his teeth. He had known it was coming, but part of him was struggling with the idea of telling another his story. His secret.
Wufei gazed at him steadily. "You don't have to answer," he said, almost gently.
"No." Duo shook his head stubbornly, his mind made up. "If you have to open your old wounds, I suppose I should tell you my story, as well." He tried to crack a grin. "They say you shouldn't hide your pain forever or it will only eat you up from the inside." He chuckled nervously. "I guess that's why we're all so fucked up. We've been harboring painful secrets for too long."
Wufei nodded slightly and waited.
Duo sighed gustily and slapped on his black hat, tugging at the brim in a nervous gesture that covered his eyes. "I was an orphan," he said bluntly. "I used to live on the streets with a pack of other orphans like myself when I was a little kid on L2. We had to steal to survive- food, sometimes money. Some of the people felt sorry for us and looked the other way. They knew the war was the reason so many of us were orphans, but no one could take us in at the time. Then one day we decided to raid the Alliance's food stores. The soldiers chased us and shot at us. They rounded us up in our hideout, all of us. They told us the Maxwell Church had offered to take all of us in."
Wufei's eyes narrowed slightly in surprised realization.
"That's right." Duo offered a crooked grin. "That's where I adopted my last name. I don't even know what my real name is. I named myself Duo after a friend I had when I was little. An older boy, who called himself Solo, took care of me when I was too little to look after myself. He taught me street-smarts and protected me. I really looked up to him. He died saving me from some trigger-happy soldiers." His voice was bitter, eyes hidden in the shadow of his brim, mouth a tight line. "Anyway, there was a Sister at the church that was always nagging me because I was such a handful. Sister Helen. She was almost like a mother to me, though I was too little and independant to appreciate it back then. The Father there was very kind, and used to laugh at the weird ideas I had in my head." He reached up to touch his hair. "He was the one who suggested I keep my hair braided. It was so long and always getting in my way. The Sister wanted to cut it, but instead she taught me how to braid it. Soon all the other kids got adopted. All but me. Father Maxwell and Sister Helen took care of me- sent me to school, fed me, clothed me in church clothes.." He plucked at the front of his shirt, his grin mirthless. "That was when I told them I believed in Shinigami. I told them there couldn't be a God because all I had seen was death, not miracles."
Wufei stood silently and watched him, wishing he could see the boy's eyes.
Duo took in a deep breath. "The war eventually reached L2 again, and there were wounded soldiers all over the place. The church opened its doors to them and the sisters and the priest took care of them. A fight broke out when the soldiers began talking about capturing a mobile suit from a base. Father Maxwell tried to convince them not to fight and one of them hit him." He sneered. "Hit a priest. Can you believe it? When Sister Helen tried to protect him, they hit her and and accused them of being spies." He shrugged. "So me, being the stupid little kid I was, told them if I stole a mobile suit for them, then they had to get out. I did it. I snuck onto the base and stole a mobile suit for them. But by the time I got back..." He crammed his hands in his pockets, lowering his face to hide his expression. "The church had been destroyed. Demolished. The Alliance had attacked. Everywhere there were bodies. I found Sister Helen, near death, and all she could say to me was how glad she was that I was safe, and how Father had worried about me until the end. She asked God for my blessing, and then she died right there in the rubble. Just like that, I was homeless again, and the only family I knew was taken away from me. I took on the name Shinigami and swore to avenge them and to live life according to what I thought was right. I wanted to make sure there were no more orphans. I guess in that respect we're alike. I suppose I was searching for justice, as well." He threw back his head suddenly and began to laugh loudly. "A fucked up story, like yours, ne? One little church explains a lot about me- my name, my clothes... even Shinigami." He reached up and tilted back the rim of his cap with his thumb, staring at Wufei. "Ore wa Shinigami," he intoned. "I run, I hide, but I never lie." His voice dropped to a whisper. "I am Duo Maxwell."
Wufei was stunned by the amount of tortured anguish so clearly visible in the eyes and face of Deathscythe's maniacal pilot. He had never seen Duo with such a look of pain before, and it cut him to the core. A tear slipped unnoticed down one rounded cheek as the self-proclaimed God of Death locked gazes with the dragon warrior, his body rigid and his mouth set in a tight, humorless grin.
"Now that we've been properly acquainted," Duo said with a hint of his old flippancy, "we should probably get going. It's almost one o' clock." He wiped the tear away and stuck his hands in his pockets once more, strolling nonchalantly back towards the shed.
A swell of emotion for the other boy rose in Wufei's breast. He had never felt such respect, such sorrow, for the other boy as he did that afternoon, standing in the grassy lawn outside the safehouse. Duo had lost everything. He had lost everything dear to him and still he could walk around with that splitting grin of his and laugh everyday. His glib comments, his sunny smile... were all, in the end, a mask to hide the pain that had been eating at him for years. "Duo..." he called softly after the other boy.
Duo paused, glancing at him over his shoulder, face unreadable, eyes hidden in the shadow of his hat. "More questions, Wufei?"
"I-Iie," Wufei denied, unable to move.
Duo shrugged a shoulder. "Come on, then. Nataku." And he disappeared into the shed to get the bike ready.
The two boys understood each other now more than they ever had before. They understood and respected each other on a level that none of the other pilots shared, including Heero and Trowa, who were probably both too quiet to have shared their own secrets with each other, yet.
As Duo shot through the afternoon sky in Deathscythe, Shenlong close behind, he felt more connected to the other pilot than he had to anyone in a very long time. It had been like this with Solo, in a little kid kind of way. They had practically been brothers.
Wufei knew his darkest secrets, the source of his pain, and he knew Wufei's.
Whatever happened from now on, there was no turning back from this. There was no way of going back to the way they had been and the way they had regarded each other.
He felt strangely detatched, as if he wasn't really here, getting ready to destroy an OZ base. As if he was a puppet, moving automatically, his mind a blank.
"There it is, up ahead," Wufei pointed out, his face flickering into view on the monitor, expression calm.
Duo squinted ahead. "Hai, I see it." As they got closer and began to look for a spot to land, he realized there was a noticable lack of mobile dolls. "Looks like they're out doing an exercise or a fight or something," he noted. "Half the dolls are gone. Not too many people left to hold down the fort." He grinned fiercely. "All the better for us."
"Except that means half the dolls will survive," Wufei grunted, aiming towards the trees a mile from the base. "But if that's the case, we're going to plan B. Our main objective is to destroy this base. You stay in Deathscythe and keep an eye out for any returning dolls, I'll go plant the bombs."
"Will do, Wu-man," Duo said cheerfully, and spiralled higher into the sky, where he could be mistaken as a plane or a mobile doll from the casual observer below.
He sighed in boredom as slowly he circled his great Gundam, always on the lookout for the returning dolls. It would take Wufei about half an hour to sneak onto the base, set all the bombs, and get back out again. That gave him time to kill. Literally, if any soldiers showed up. Humming softly to himself, he drifted Deathscythe in slow circles and allowed his mind to wander, though his sharp eyes were glued to the radar.
About twenty minutes into the mission an explosion about half a mile from the base caught his attention. He wheeled Deathscythe around to peer down at the smoke coming from the road leading to the fort. 'Here comes the calvary,' Duo thought with a grim smile, and pressed down on the controls. Might as well have a little fun while he was waiting. It wouldn't do for Wufei to get trapped in the base by the returning soldiers. Deathscythe plummeted downwards, and soon he could see the dolls and tanks below, marching towards the base. Wait. Tanks?
He jerked up on the controls just as some of the soldiers below spotted him and began shouting. One of the tank's cannons turned ponderously upwards, and he just managed to dodge its booming shot. "Kisama," he growled, whipping out his own cannon. "Eat laser!"
He fired into the thick of the group of dolls and soldiers, and the explosion was deafening. Screaming soldiers, hunks of scrap metal, and twisted mobile dolls scattered like leaves. Duo began to laugh hysterically. "Come and meet Shinigami!" he cried in challenge, diving once again, the great scythe snapping into his Gundam's hands.
Wufei dropped from the walltop and glanced around furtively to make sure none of the guards had seen him. He spotted two soldiers running in his direction and dove behind a bush, holding his breath as they dashed by, shouting.
"We just got word from the returning troops- they're under attack!"
"It's a Gundam! Quick, get reinforcements! They're about half a mile off!"
Gundam? Kuso... Wufei leapt from his cover and sped after the two guards on silent feet, drawing his saber. He swung his weapon in a deadly arch, cutting them down as they ran. No need for them to get help. Hopefully no one else had gotten the news, yet. Wiping off his blade hastily, he sheathed it and looked around wildly. His Gundam was over a mile away, it would take too long to get to it. He spotted a jeep and raced towards it. What had that idiot Duo gotten himself into this time??
"Damn iiiit!" Duo screamed in frustration as he kicked back on Deathscythe's thrusters, zooming backwards out of reach just as a platoon of dolls rocketed into the air after him. "You stupid tin cans! Take this!" He swept with his scythe, destroying two of them in a flaming explosion. He took them down as they came at him, wheeling, chopping, smashing, and bulling into them. He fought fiercely and with blurring speed, cutting them down one by one, sometimes in pairs. If he could keep this up, he realized, he actually had a chance of winning, even if it was one against twenty.
He'd forgotten about the tanks.
"Gyaa!!" Duo's head almost cracked into the console as the blow from a cannon below clipped his Gundam's side. "Bastards-! Waah!" A doll appeared before him as if from nowhere, aiming its laser cannon at him. Duo swept upward frantically, slashing through the doll with his scythe. The resulting explosion blew his Gundam back like a rag doll, and he grunted in pain as he was rattled, the tight harness all that kept him from serious injury. He was forced to manuever wildly as the cannons began firing at him below, the dolls closing in for the kill. "You motherfuckers," Duo growled, whirling around to slam Deathscythe's elbow into one of them. "If you think you'll take me alive, you've lost your damn minds! OOF!" A laser cannon from one of the dolls struck Deathscythe's arm, and his scythe's blade was extinguished as it spun from the Gundam's hand and went spinning to crash on the ground down the road from the fight. "SHIT!" He twisted the controls, aiming his laser cannon in a last show of defiance. He couldn't die here. At least not without a fight. He wanted, he realized with painful clarity, to see Wufei again. He couldn't die. He had to see Wufei. "Go to hell!" Soldiers screamed in terror as once again they were struck in the midst of their group, explosions going off as the tanks were destroyed in rapid succession.
Then one of the doll's guns took him in the back and the cockpit, and Duo had time for one strangled gasp as he watched the glass before him crack. Then he was wheeling out of control under an onslaught of cannon blasts. 'I'm going to crash,' Duo thought wildly, and frantically levered his own cannon as the remaining dolls swept towards him in a menacing cloud. "You just made a big mistake," he growled, and fired.
The remaining dolls exploded with ground-shaking force, hurling the black Gundam head over heels to crash on a hillside and roll heavily downwards, landing at the bottom with a dull crash.
"Ohh.." Duo shook his head weakly, fighting off unconsciousness as he fumbled with his harness. Even as he looked up through the cockpit at the remaining soldiers dashing down the hill after him yelling for blood, a sneer touched his lips. The tanks were destroyed, he'd taken out the dolls, and now all that stood between him and escape was a busted Gundam and a dozen OZ soldiers carrying guns. One of them was yelling into a walky talky as he ran, no doubt calling for backup. Just great.
"Looks like this is it, old buddy," Duo grunted as the cockpit opened with a hiss. "Wish it didn't have to be this way." He groped for the secret compartment, found the object he was looking for, and wrapped his hand around it. Wriggling out of his seat, he half fell, half jumped from the cockpit and landed in a heap on the ground, his body bruised and battered. Panting, he scrambled to his feet and watched the soldiers dashing down towards him, a cocky grin on his face. He looked down at the object in his hand before holding it out in front of him, laughing in the face of death as he waited for the soldiers to get closer.
"I am Shinigami," he called his challenge. "All who see me must die!" His thumb moved to cover the button of the self destruction trigger. "Sayonara."
Back to Amiko's fics