Back to Index.
Back to Part 2.
On to Part 4.

Title: The Bone Gate
Authors: Nix Winter and LunarGeography (Amy the Evitable)
Pairings: 1x2, 3x4
Rating: Mature adults only
Warnings: Angst, spooky occult stuff, and boys who are not what they seemed to be. Post EW
Archive: fanfiction.net,  http://www.therck.org, all others please ask.
Disclaimer: No infringement of the copyright of Gundam Wing is intended. This story is purely for entertainment purposes.
Date: Posted 2 December 2006

Summary: After Endless Waltz, the pilots are separated by the fears of the new government. But all is not well with the G-boys. Old enemies may be pulling strings from somewhere unimaginably far behind the scenes, and old friends may not be what they seem.

*xxx*: Thoughts
[xxx]: Text on screen

Chapter 3

~*Heero *~

The shuttle ride to L2 was another circle of Hell. As his laptop churned away, breaking the encryption on Une's most private, well-defended files, Heero was cut off from all news, unable to take action. It was a Hell of helpless waiting.

Not that Heero particularly believed in Hell, but it was an image that Duo had shared with him at one of the boarding schools  they'd attended. Duo's class had been studying Dante's Inferno, and Duo had demonstrated an almost morbid fascination for the work, trying to discern exactly where in Hell he could anticipate arriving.

In the end, Duo had decided it was almost certain that he -- and his fellow pilots -- would end up in the Seventh Circle, Hell for the violent. Probably immersed in a river of boiling blood, although Duo had speculated that he himself might end up wandering in a desert of flaming sand. It wasn't until much later that Heero had looked up the reference and realized that Duo was probably trying to tell him he was gay.

Now Heero's stomach churned, remembering that the Seventh Circle also hosted suicides.

*But Duo wouldn't.... would he?*

Heero cursed the accuracy of his memory for even the smallest of details concerning Duo and Duo's interests. According to Dante, suicides were transformed into thorn bushes, ripped at by harpies, condemned to silence until someone broke off one of the branches.

Condemned to silence until something broke him...

His Duo should never be condemned to silence. It was a fitting sentence for he himself, but not for his Duo.

*But isn't that exactly what I allowed Une to do? Take him away from everyone he might have poured his heart out to? Told him to watch what he said, who he talked to.*

*Did he break?*

*Whether he broke or not – I failed him.*

*I condemned him. I told him to silence himself, and he obeyed me, and it might have killed him and I did nothing to protect him.*

*He followed my orders, he was mine to protect, and I failed him.*

He curled in on himself, face hidden in his hands as much to keep trapped the misery twisting through his chest that wanted to escape through his mouth, as to hide his face. Yes, this was hell. And he deserved to be here.


~*Wufei*~

"Agent Chang?"

Wufei turned at the soft call, biting back a curse as hot coffee sloshed over the rim of his cup onto his fingers.

"Yes?" His tone was more curt than he'd intended, and he regretted it as Une's secretary flushed and tilted her head down even further, hiding behind her overgrown bangs. Damn it, did the woman have to behave as though she expected him to backhand her at any moment? He tried to curb his irritation, or at least keep it out of his voice. "Can I help you, Katrine?"

"I... I mean, the Lady is..."

It would be easier to interpret the stammering if the woman would just look at him when she spoke, instead of at the floor.

"Please, can you come with me? I don't know who else to ask."

Well, that clarified the matter. Clear as mud. Still, Katrine's distress seemed worse than her usual perpetual verge-of-panic attitude, so he began walking to the elevator that would take him to Une's office. Katrine ghosted along behind him, standing as far away from him as he confines of the elevator would  permit.  She looked at him from the corner of her eyes, and asked, "Have you seen the news?"

"Not since I arrived at the office this morning. Is there something I should know about?"

Her face fell, gaze redirecting to the floor, but she took a deep breath and clenched her fists. "It's Agent Maxwell. He... It looks like he jumped. From his balcony."

Maxwell? Jumped? His stomach churned. If this was all over the media, that didn't bode well... What had the idiot done now?

"I'm sorry."

The whispered condolence was a punch in the gut. It confirmed everything he didn't want to think about.

"I'm so sorry to have to tell you this way, but she's taking this really hard. She'd been so worried about him, and she's just sitting there staring at the screen, and I didn't know who else to ask for help."

Une had been worried about Maxwell? That was news to him. He'd been working very closely with Une, closer, he suspected, than anyone else in the organization. She'd come to him in the hotel room where he was under house arrest after Mariemaia had surrendered, and he'd been able to listen to her when he couldn't bear to hear the words of anyone else. Not his fellow pilots, who were  almost sadistic in their insistence upon immediately forgiving him. Not any of the Earth Sphere authorities who treated him as though he might explode at any moment, doing more damage than the Libra. Not the psychiatrist who assured him over and over that it wasn't his fault.

He was an adult. He'd made the decision that the 'peace' that had been won by he and many, many others was a sham utterly without value. Instead of facing the hard questions about what he'd expected peace to look like and what he could do to help craft the new order into something worthy of the sacrifices paid for it, he'd chosen the easy route. He'd fallen back on the fighting skills that had become second nature to him. He'd retreated to the safety of following orders, finding comfort in Barton's oversimplified rhetoric instead of facing the ambiguities of the real world. In trying to become someone Meiran would approve of, he'd lost everything he had so painstakingly learned and became a cardboard cutout of a soldier.

He had, to borrow a phrase, royally screwed up.

He'd needed to face the justified anger of his fellow pilots. Honor demanded that he face them, listen to their words, accept whatever punishment they deemed necessary. A man faced the consequences of his choices. Winner and the psychiatrists seemed to be saying that there weren't even choices, that he had been a helpless pawn in the face of postwar trauma.

That was an insult to him, as a scholar, as a warrior, and as a man.

Above and beyond anyone else, the pilots had had the right to expect better of him. It seemed, though, that they hadn't. Each time they assured him what he had done was so easily overlooked and forgiven, his pride burned.

In the middle of his pain and anger, Une had come to him. Told him about the plans for a force to protect the peace. Told him she needed warriors. Needed him, specifically.

He'd scoffed.

He still remembered her answer. "Chang. More than people who know how to fight, I need people who know they can screw up. People who  will question themselves, question me, and not be blindly certain that what they think is right is actually right. We're going to be the only real military force in the Earth Sphere. The potential for abuse terrifies me. I need someone with your absolute integrity – and honest awareness of his own fallibility."

He'd done his best to be that person for his Commander. For Une, who had also screwed up on a planetary scale, and who shamed him with her strength to continue on, knowing she might screw up again, striving to make recompense to the entire Earth Sphere for her error.

He strove to do the same. And to make recompense in a more personal fashion to those who had had a right to expect better from him. The debt was even larger now, as only the effort of the Gundam pilots had saved the world from the terrible consequences of Wufei's error.

It was possible that only Heero -- who himself had shot down a shuttle bearing the best hope for peace -- could have reached him that day. Heero's skill as a warrior demanded that Wufei listen to his words, and if this fighter who was his equal – perhaps more – could make such a colossal mistake, perhaps Wufei's own judgment could be in error.

Yes, he'd come to be aware of his own fallibility. More accurately, perhaps, come to accept it.

He had been at Une's right hand ever since, and he had not known she was concerned about Maxwell.

Though come to think of it, over the past few weeks, she had asked him questions concerning Maxwell. Questions concerning Maxwell's moniker of "Shinigami," about his interactions with the other pilots, and about his background before becoming a pilot.

But if she'd been concerned about Maxwell's condition, he would have expected her to say so forthrightly. She'd told him about Heero's demand to be kept up-to-date on the status of the other pilots, and had copied Wufei on the reports she sent to Heero concerning him. She had even shared her concerns about Barton's mental stability given his history of long-term deep cover assignments. She worried that Barton's chameleon-like ability to assume other personalities indicated a lack of a core self.

Wufei had found the concern to be valid, and had advocated cautiously opening a dialog with Winner on the topic.

But concerns about Maxwell were news to Wufei. So far as he'd known, Maxwell was, for all his infuriating personal style, performing excellently as an agent.

Katrine led him into her office, which was the gateway to Une's office. The blinds on her windows had been closed already, and the secretary locked the door behind her. She stood in front of her desk, hands twisting together nervously.

Wufei rapped on Une's door.

There was no reply.

"It's not locked," murmured Katrine. "At least it wasn't before. I closed it before I came to get you. I didn't want anyone else coming in while I was gone..."

"That was probably a good idea." The knob twisted easily in his hand. "I'll take it from here. Please don't allow any calls or visitors until I tell you otherwise."

Wufei let himself into his Commander's office, and closed the door behind him.


~*Trowa*~

Trowa sat cross-legged on the wall. Palm to palm, back straight, he drew breath in calm, fulfilling meditation. He was a tall man, chocolate brown hair, emerald eyes, quiet. He had two loves and both were kin, of sorts, tawny lions that paced in their cages, sharp teeth that rarely remembered the power to kill.

He had his own cage, but his mattered less to him. He could leave his cage when he wished. He was no one. No Name. The moment he wished to walk away from this life, he would. But he would not go without Quatre.

Quatre. Every moment was waiting to hear from him, waiting to see him, waiting to touch the sweater he had of Quatre's, waiting until Quatre was willing to disappear with him. He'd know when his lion was ready, even if he wasn't sure how he'd know.

Duo had once talked about joining the sweepers, going far out, living in the asteroid belt. There were a lot of resources out there.

In the meantime, he trained lions. He worked for Preventers like a good minion. He'd never imagined what peace felt like or would look like, but it wasn't this. He hadn't even conceived of this hole in his
soul. If he had more of a self, it might have hurt more.

"Trowa," Catherine said softly, interrupting his ineffective meditation.

"Catherine," he acknowledged.

"There is something on the news. It's about Duo Maxwell."

"Did he blow something up?" Trowa asked, glad his back was turned and no one could see his smirk. He always knew Duo was going to be the first one to blow his mind over this separation crap. Duo was always more about family than even Quatre. Duo was a space gypsy and Trowa was secretly hoping Maxwell had blown up Preventer headquarters or something memorable. They could all go on the run. Get this fake peace and normalcy over with.

"In a manner of speaking," Catherine said gently. "He killed himself. There is footage on the vid of him falling backwards from his balcony. It almost looks like he's doing a trapeze stunt, until he hits. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to go on."

"He's not dead," Trowa said firmly, the smile gone from his face.

"Trowa."

"He's not dead. Do you think I haven't thought about faking my death? He just beat me to it."

"That was a mean thing to say," Catherine said.

Trowa could hear the tears in her voice and he turned, lifting himself up so that he was squatting rather than sitting. If Quatre was a noble lion, Trowa was more like a sable dragon, lithe and deadly, heartless in many ways. "I'm sorry."

She smiled. "You better be. It would break my heart if I thought you were dead."

He stepped down from the wall he'd been sitting on, all graceful strength.

"Let's take a look at what Maxwell did to himself, shall we?" He offered his sister his arm and she wrapped her arm around his, hugging him close.

"Do you think there will be a big funeral? They'll let you go?"

"I don't know. Maybe they'll hush it up." Trowa wouldn't put it past the current government.

Three steps into the tent Trowa stopped, head tilted, and watched the blade go through Duo's braid, hacking, watched the thick brown rope fall. That. That hit Trowa and set his alarms screaming. It reassured him, too, though. If Duo were going to go under cover, he couldn't very well do it with three feet of hair swaying behind him.

Muscular arms stretched out to his sides. A breeze blew over his now short hair and whatever deep core self Trowa had doubled over in pain as Duo let himself fall backwards. It was as though he'd committed himself to whatever fate and then, falling, head first; he was like a rag doll.

Trowa couldn't feel his body. He could hear Catherine calling his name and it took all his control not to backhand her to get her to be quiet. This part of himself was as old a self as he had and it wasn't very mature. His true self had only made an effort to stay present in this waiting part of his life at all for fear of missing a communication from Quatre. That same deep self of his, that self wanted Duo. His friend.

Tears hot down his cheeks, he did not believe it. Duo didn't kill himself and if he did, he was manipulated into it.

Enough.

"I am going to Quatre."

"But you can't!"

"Yes, I can." Trowa turned on his heel and strode this his room, his computer. He needed to tell Une, and Quatre. Hell had just frozen over and Trowa wanted to go skating.


~*Duo*~

The moment his feet hit the floor, he was free!

His hair tangled against his face, short and light. On his knees, both hands went to his face, smearing sweat and tears back into chestnut brown silk.

Short.
Free.
No matter how it came out, if they caught him or if he died in some other way, he was free.

"We have to go," Cassia said, holding out her hand. "Damn impressive dive, Duo. You're one hell of a black swan. You hurt?"

He took her hand and rose, barefooted, torn jeans, bare-chested, "I'm better than I have been in a long time! Damn!"

Grinning, she touched the headset on one ear, "Yup, Pops, I found that book you wanted. You need anything else? I think it's gonna need a new cover though. Yeah, Pops, saw that on the vid. I'll be back to the ship in thirty." Another touch to the little black clip on her ear and she ended the call. "Okay, Pops' favorite book, into the bag. It's lined, just like we talked about and I got you a pillow and some water."

The bag in question was a golf club bag, very fancy, with nice clubs sticking out the top. It was not his favorite way to get out of the building, not at all. He sat down, legs stretched out and leaned all the way over. She reached to the top, triggered on the small oxygen supply and pulled mask out for him. "It's half an hour and we'll have you in the ship, were we hide all our contraband. Just take a nap, 'kay?"

Duo nodded, pulled the elastic around his head and held on to his feet as she zipped him up. They'd planned it carefully and the bag was lined. If he was chipped, which he was sure he was, the distance between the sign, where parts of his 'body' still clung and this apartment was too minimal for any tracker to sense, and well, no matter what they'd chipped him with, the amount of damage his 'body' had taken was enough to put the finish to it.

He closed his eyes and relaxed as much as he could as Cassia wheeled him out.

Heero. He'd be able to see Heero soon, able to talk to him, to smile at him, and Duo felt… happy, relieved. He hadn't felt that since, for so long he couldn't remember. He hadn't meant to take a nap, hadn't meant to fall asleep, but blackness was over him before he could realize that he was going out.


Back to Index.
Back to Part 2.
On to Part 4.
Send feedback to Amy the Evitable.
Send feedback to Nix Winter.