Another Version of Events
by Karan Seraph
Heero was not unintelligent or uneducated and so he had known that it should be understandable, perhaps even necessary, that someone who had suffered as he had would need time to feel well. All he had done, the destruction rationalized by words he had been taught by a mad old man: "Our Leader risked himself when he preached peace and he was assassinated; to continue his work an individual must be willing to sacrifice themselves so that many may live in peace," and a motto out of science fiction: "the good of the many outweighs the good of the one," and the good that had come out of all that destruction, along with the pain inside him, was done. The memories were still with him.
Instinctively he had tried to file the memories away in his mind, like he might in the virtual directories of one of his machines. Mentally Heero created readmes that instructed him not to look there and built layers of passwording to keep himself out. It had seemed it had worked, for a while. He did it all without consciousness. Then Heero had faded into the masses of people recovering from the past succession of wars and trying to live in peace. He had wandered. He had repressed the memories and tried to feel nothing.
To onlookers it might have seemed there was nothing wrong. As Heero traveled he went about his activities as if on a mission. Only, this mission he gave himself. He planned out where he would go and in what building he would stay and what mode of transportation he would take. He acquired and wore clothes that appeared most similar to the natives. He memorized at least one local dish and how to order it specifically. Heero blended by always appearing he knew what he was doing and by keeping to himself and drawing little attention with his appearance. He thought about many things, mostly trivial things, such as which toothpaste he would prefer to buy when he ran out. Heero no longer believed he was a weak person who had no opinions of their own and he found some small satisfaction in controlling what he did, even if it was only buying toothpaste. Heero did not think very much about the fighting itself, though he knew he had been involved in the war. He went on, traveling and feeling nothing very much about what he had done and what had been done to him.
But Heero had never been able to rid himself of emotion, even when he wished he might. He might manage not to express the feeling so that anyone noticed, but he felt.
One day, in New York, everything had come back. Everything in rapid flashes, in a subway car, in a tunnel as lights flickered. Truly, it felt like some precognitive ZERO effect; only it was post-cognitive, as they were memories. Afterward he thought he'd screamed and appeared spastic. He was not able to determine the most accurate version of events. The car's camera had previously been vandalized and once he'd started screaming the car had cleared out quickly. There were no witnesses to question.
After that he'd holed-up, as they say, in a motel on St. Marks that had hourly rates. Not even rest rates, hourly, as if to advertise the range of non-sleep-related activities that were conducted within. Heero was learning, now he might call himself civilian and was growing older, that plotting revolutions made up a small fraction of the activities that went on in inexpensive urban hotel rooms. Heero himself hadn't wandered there because it was cheap, but for the New York version of paper wall etiquette that meant that no one ever witnessed anything. He had more money than he knew what to do with now. (So if someone could have been bribed enough to forget etiquette, he surely could have raised the amount when he paid them not to say the shaking young man had looked anything like Heero Yuy whose face was yearly in news retrospectives and up in the 'net's historical archives.) Some of the money was a secret gift from an old man now passed, the rest he had acquired from people about to use it foolishly; illegal means and honorable intentions summed up much of Heero's past and present activities.
In the hotel room he'd shivered and tossed and felt edgy for many hours at a time. He had opened his current mobile computer and accessed libraries, re-read articles and true accounts about shell shock and PTSD and veterans of every war; he looked at charts depicting clearly correlation between ages of individuals exposed to war and the psychiatric disorders they acquired. He saw the pictures that should have been shocking, the six-year-olds with machine rifles 'rescued' from serving military bands or rebel groups, but he wasn't shocked at all. Heero was that child. He had studied all of this when he was even younger. He was supposed to be prepared somehow, guarded with logic. He was supposed to tell himself that he had saved the world twice and rescued its sweetheart more times than that and he and everyone and The Powers That May Be should forgive him for accidentally killing a few innocents along with the soldiers.
He was supposed to tell himself that it was not unjust or dishonorable to kill soldiers of an opposing force. They were the enemy. Heero told himself these things, but he did not feel just and honorable. He thought he felt worse about killing the innocents and the born-again pacifists than he did the soldiers, but he still felt sick now when he pictured their bodies. He had seen all kinds of death. Flesh that was 'cooked' by beam weaponry. Freeze dried corpses that floated from torn space mecha. The blue-violet haze of blood that marked a battle site in space as much as the debris field. Bodies knocked out and blistered by concussive and heat waves from large scale explosive devices. There were many kinds of death. In Japanese they had so many words for it, nakunara, seikyo suru, shinu, or just owari. That didn't even include all the words for suicide and homicide. Minage... it did seem Heero had nearly done that some number of times.
After New York Heero had not consciously tried to repress anything and it did not seem that his mind had done so subconsciously. He made himself aware of the pros and cons of the situation. He busied his mind with mathematical calculations. Cause a death: subtract one. Save a life: add one. So long as he kept with this math and the end result was positive he would not have to kill himself.
He had thought about killing himself, but then he would remember that his life was still a life and he had learned somewhere in all that fighting that any life was worth something, even his, though he had thought it worthless once.
Sometimes Heero wondered if an innocent might be worth more. He wondered if a child was worth more 'points' because they had more potential. He wondered if other people, like him, were worth less. When he did the math taking those values into account the end result was not always in the positive. Yet, rather than end his life, which would mean killing again, or seeking death, which would just be weak, Heero decided to concentrate on the future. So long as he was alive, he might yet save more lives and thus change the sum of his calculations. The memories stayed with him, and sometimes nightmares and flashbacks, but when they got to him Heero reminded himself that he was yet alive and might try to do better in the future. In the past he had felt driven to express his regrets when he felt regret and Heero resolved that if he discovered a particular means of expressing regret for a past action he would do so.
He had visions of old women slapping him and informing him that he had caused a mobile suit to fall on her house and her husband had died. Of course, it would do little good to take the blame for the particular crashes that other pilots had caused, but if Heero was convinced he had caused her husband's death he might very well offer the woman his life... or whatever she demanded.
After New York there had been many cities. He always traveled under assumed names. It had always been his habit, even when he was traveling under the name of Heero Yuy. Though, somewhere Heero had begun to consider that his name. He'd just been Boy or Mal'chick or Danshi before. He'd been instructed to call certain men 'father' in public and to answer to the name on his ID. More than once the name on the ID had been Ichiro Lowe, when he had called Adin Father, but Heero knew they had forged those IDs.
Heero would do. The name had belonged to a good man and Heero only wished he could live up to that reputation. He certainly had no inclination to be thought of as anything other than good. Even if he sometimes failed in this, his goal remained being a good person.
Heero had traveled across America, into Spanish-speaking countries, across to Africa, into Europe, to India, to Australia and to Japan. They called it that in the Colonies and not Nihon. Heero realized there, as he had in other cities, that although they were not at war people still thought of themselves as Colonial or Earthling and some identified with nations that no longer existed. He would sometimes feel a gaze and turn and feel as if he could hear them saying 'Colonial' while they considered themselves Nihonjin, thinking of him in terms of loan words rather than Shokuminchijin. Heero didn't suppose it was everyone on the islands, only the ones that dared that heated gaze to begin with.
There wasn't really a word that meant 'everyone who lives in the sphere consisting of Earth and all its Colonies.' Heero didn't think Kyujin would catch on, because regardless of kanji used it would just sound too much like other words. He didn't think Spherists sounded very impressive. Heero tried to think of other languages he knew. He knew many languages, but he did not know them all well. His vocabulary was often restricted to giving and receiving orders, in restaurants as well as combat. Except for the Russian when he was very young much of his training and lessons had been in Japanese or English, and in Colonial dialects at that.
As Heero traveled he tried his best to figure out how to live. As much as the memories could pain him he learned to accept that they were his memories and that even if he could not deny or repress them he could try not to dwell on them very much. Better to find ways to continue in the best way possible.
There were the nightmares and a few episodes of intense flashback and some paranoia, but it helped to understand what was happening to his mind and body and to note his symptoms clinically rather than to feel victimized. It helped to survive every next day without killing or becoming mortally wounded.
After Japan Heero took an island hopper to Sakhalin and soon after purchased a very small house in the northwest. He felt he had some small measure of sanity and his body had long since recovered from its wounds. Then, his body always had recovered quickly. Having even a tenuous hold on life Heero decided he needed a short break from his wandering to focus. When he traveled his mind wandered as well as his body. Also, he had proven to himself that he was strong enough to that he could make his own decisions and had self-control enough that he did not take out the frustrations he had and his anger in destructive manner. It seemed time to make larger decisions. It seemed time to attempt to actually be adult, after being a child forced into adult roles.
Christmas came again while Heero was on Sakhalin. He had laid a futon on the bare, old wood flooring before the fireplace and ran a cord from one of the few power outlets, through converters and surge protector to his mobile computer open at the head of the mattress. Lying prone on the futon the buckwheat pillow he had acquired served just as well as a wrist pad while typing as it did to support his neck in sleep and Heero settled in to discover what had really been going on while he had been wandering and distracted by thoughts. Heero understood that many services could be bought for a price and quickly used his 'net connection to order groceries. He realized, while selecting the food, that he wasn't at a public restaurant trying to blend in, nor was he living with someone who insisted he restrict himself to a certain diet in order to maintain physical abilities. He was in his own home. He really might choose to eat anything at all. He might do almost anything at all.
Heero didn't think he wanted this to be his home forever, but it was a home for now and it was his. He made sure to order kvas and pocky, potato chips, cola, chocolate bars, in short everything he had been denied while in training. Heero understood it would be foolish to not eat these things in moderation, so he added to his list some things he thought he would be able to cook and that had further nutritional value.
It was a good Christmas, Heero thought, not that he subscribed to any religion. He sometimes pondered The Powers That May Be, but the key to the PTMBs was that 'May' was in their name. At the time, Heero was more agnostic than atheist. Christmas or not, he thought he was genuinely happy to find that on the second anniversary of the Eve Wars no one tried to drop anything on Earth or kidnap their Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs. He lay in bed, watching a news retrospective on his mobile's screen while also ordering new clothing for himself over the 'net.
He had grown, more. Now and then Heero had found means to measure himself or dared to glance at a mirror. He estimated he was 170 centimeters tall and weighed 55 kilos. Without trying to build muscle the last bit of childhood fat had burned away so that Heero was aware that the muscle on his body appeared even more defined. His face looked different too. His cheeks had hollowed, or else his cheekbones had somehow become more prominent. Heero thought his jaw had altered over the last few years, gradually.
He was not the only one who had grown. He noticed in the news video that had been recorded recently, while he opened an additional program to download some music files and electronic books, that Relena had changed again. He had seen her change several times before. She was at a Christmas party standing beside Director Lady Une with an escort of Preventer agents behind them. Heero knew that Lady had been just enough years older than himself or Relena that she would have reached her adult height when they had only just met. Given that constant, Relena had most definitely grown in height, as she seemed roughly as tall as Lady did.
Heero scanned the video as a music file began to play. Heero had, before he had been so completely involved in the battles or recovering from them, known that he had some preferences and tastes of his own. He was rediscovering these. He liked Science-Fiction stories in text or video form. He liked music that might be described as tribal or ethereal or possibly New Age. He liked listening to Gaelic or Hebrew lyrics, though he didn't understand them and also juxtaposition of traditional instruments with modern electronic instruments and sampling techniques.
Something by Lisa Gerrard was playing when Heero realized he recognized several of the agents standing behind the Vice-Minister and Director. He had known Sally worked with Lady. He had even known that Wufei had joined them. But he had not expected to see that girl Hilde in the blue and OD uniform and he had not entirely expected to see Duo.
How tall must he be? Heero wondered as he studied the screen and blindly reached to a tin for some pocky. Duo was in the background and appeared of even height with Lady. The nature of perspective being as it were that meant Duo was significantly taller than either of the women in front of him. Sally had probably not grown very much, so compared to her Heero guessed that Wufei had grown a little, Hilde a little and Duo had, as they said, shot up like a weed.
Heero smoothed a piece of pocky over his lower lip and laughed at the mental image of Duo as a weed.
Relena he had expected to see and so, though he thought of her sometimes, there was nothing special about her being in this video. Wufei and Sally, both alert and professional but at the same time standing close enough that their legs or arms touched was not surprising. Heero was aware, increasingly, that his training and education had been lacking in one area in particular. He could drive or pilot anything, build, assemble, clean, use accurately and disassemble various weaponry, make explosives, ride horses, silence dogs, hack military computer systems, corporate systems, communications systems, in short they had taught him everything but basic social interaction. They had completely neglected sexual education.
Social interaction Heero had been learning on his own since he had fallen to Earth. It was slow going and he made mistakes, but Heero felt confident he was learning. He knew enough to not be surprised that Wufei and Sally were together. He knew enough to recognize that they were. In fact, those two had been so obviously doomed to be together the first time Heero had seen them both in the same place and realized they had met previously.
But Duo Heero had not expected to see and was not sure about.
He had an idea where Quatre was. Heero had passed by Quatre's recent home in his travels, only close enough to learn that Quatre was behind the construction, not close enough for Quatre to pick up on his presence. Heero was sure Trowa and Catherine were with the circus. Heero was reasonably sure that one day Quatre and Trowa would be together, just like Wufei and Sally were.
Heero did understand the biology of sex. He had Internet access after all and had since a very young age. He'd read about the subject. He quite understood that some people had two fathers or two mothers or that one might have sex with a person of either sex. Trowa had indicated that he was homosexual. Heero knew that Quatre was deeply in love with Trowa. He was convinced Trowa loved Quatre to some degree; he had certainly acted blindly, as one in love might be said to act, with Quatre. One day they would likely find their way to each other.
What Heero did not entirely understand was love and romance and relationships... and attaining partners. He was, with begrudging admittance, weirdly socialized.
Heero wondered whom Duo and Relena would end up with. Perhaps with each other? Heero wasn't sure. And he didn't even wonder whether he would find a lover. Heero rarely seemed to think of himself in relation to sex. He had only recently chosen a temporary home and his own clothing and food to eat. If he had decided to choose a lover it would likely have been a lot more complicated than choosing chocolate over strawberry pocky.
After Christmas Heero made it his mission to find out for certain what all his former acquaintances were doing. It did not take him long to find information on Relena. It was a matter of public record who the Vice-Minister was and where she worked and when. It was not much more difficult, for Heero, to find out where she lived or that when the Colonial Delegates were not in session she had been attending school.
Relena had lived on Earth previously, with her adopted mother, Mrs. Darlian. She had gone to a school there. Now Relena lived most of the year in her own house in the Colonies. Specifically she lived in a row house in the English Quarter of the Colonial Capitol, which was in the L1 cluster known as Side 4.
Side 4 and the Colonial Capitol specifically were where Heero had been raised. When Adin had not taken him traveling on assignments they had lived in various apartments in the Russian Quarter. Later Heero had lived with Dr J. The Doctor had kept a small apartment home separate from his laboratory, both held under assumed names, and Heero had spent time in both locations, which had been in the Japanese Quarter.
It was the Capitol; it made sense that one whose job it was to act as liaison between the Colonial Office and the Earth office of the ESUN, as was Relena's job, would logically live near the seat of government. Yet, it was also Heero's home, where Relena had chosen to live.
Heero looked at the 'net yearbook for Relena's school. It was a private school associated with a Catholic church, Heero realized. He was looking through the pages and stopped as he came to the sports pages. Relena was not on any sports team, but Duo was.
Heero recognized him immediately, in his uniform basketball shorts and jersey. Maxwell. 02. Heero snorted a laugh. Duo claimed loudly that he sometimes would hide, but to Heero it seemed Duo didn't try to hide very well. He was only aware of Duo's Gundam hiding from sensors. Duo always seemed to be like a sore thumb.
Heero brushed the ball of one thumb over his lips as he clicked through the yearbook pages. He found the class sections. Relena and Duo were both among the Senior Class, Class of 198. They would not finish class until summer, but the net-yearbook seemed well updated through the year by the school's Yearbook Committee.
Heero found Relena's picture with some biographical information. She was using Darlian, again, still. Nickname: Ojosama. Heero supposed Duo had given her that nickname. Future plans: Maintain world peace. Heero smiled. Relena did not have to wish for it, she actually had it, now they all just had to maintain it. Remember when: My largest concern in life was who to invite to my birthday party. Heero remembered. Favorite quote: Omae o korosu. Nani?
Why was she writing those things in her yearbook? Heero scanned the rest of the information quickly. It wasn't all about him. Relena's extra-curricular activities were listed and she secretly thanked many friends by listing their initials. Most of these were easily decipherable to Heero.
Heero looked through the pages until he found the letter M. Maxwell. Duo Maxwell.
He looked different in this picture. He was in formal attire, just like all the other young men and women, but he stood out again. Heero didn't think it was just the attractive shade of warm brown hair and sapphire eyes.
That reminded Heero that he wanted to be sure to order one of the blue shirts along with those he had already selected. He selected the catalogue number for the shirt he liked in blue. He still believed functional clothing should be worn, but so long as clothing remained functional Heero would be happy to find it was also pleasing to see or touch. In fact, he was debating with himself whether he should order a pair of jeans made of a cotton-synthetic blend velvet. The cut was entirely functional but velvet seemed a bit extravagant. Though, a blended fabric like this would be highly durable and washable. Heero looked at Duo's picture. He looked at the pants. He looked at Duo.
Many other students had various attractive shades of skin, hair and eye color. It wasn't just his coloring that made him stand out. Well, there was something about the coloring. Duo's eyelids and lips looked flushed, though the rest of his face was pale. And glossy... his lips looked... dewy. Heero cocked his head to one side and then the other. Duo was wearing cosmetics. And one of his ears was pierced seven times along its length and decorated with silvery hoops and studs with blue or black stones. The clothing as well was just slightly off. There was a sort of ruffle at his collar, like the horrible uniform Relena had made Heero wear in Sank.
Somehow, on Duo, this didn't look horrible. Heero felt himself smile. He supposed if he was ordering new clothing then Duo would have outgrown his clerical garb or MC leathers, emotionally if not physically. He probably had outgrown all his older clothing physically. Heero wondered if Duo would wear black velvet jeans. He tried picturing that and discovered he had a very good mental picture of what Duo looked like. His mental Duo was complete and highly rendered. Heero shrugged at the discovery.
Duo had such an intense look on his face in his photo. The shape of the locks of hair falling over his forehead caused spiky shadows to be cast on his face. His face looked thinner than it had when Heero had last seen him. He looked older. He looked like he had a secret he was dying to tell someone and was smugly keeping it to himself.
Favorite Quote: Omae o korosu.
Heero growled irritably.
Future plans: Live. Die. In that order.
Remember when: "Qu'est une Petite Morte entre des amis?"
That wasn't even a 'Remember When,' it was another quote. The other students included under this heading things like "J.C. wrecked his shuttle," or "M. and H. made out in the locker room."
"Qu'est une Petite Morte entre des amis?" It was French. Heero knew some French. 'What a small death something friends?' No. 'What is a little death between friends?' That sounded like something Duo would say. Heero did not know what the significance of capitalizing the French words Petite et Morte might be. Then Heero read the last part of Duo's text. Last Words: Da svidániya.
"He's asking someone to kill him?" Heero asked himself out loud, in his little house. Relena had asked him that in other words. Kept wondering why Heero hadn't eventually killed her. There were plenty of reasons; he hadn't always realized his reasons at the time. For one, Heero did not like having to kill anyone only to silence them when they had made no threat against him. It just didn't seem honorable: killing someone to prevent harm that was always only potential.
But Duo wishing to die was different than Relena wishing it. When Relena said it she had been younger and less experienced. Heero didn't think she ever seriously wished to die. She only wished to understand why Heero said it would happen and then it did not. By the time they had last parted Heero had been convinced Relena was changed. She didn't ask him to kill anyone.
He'd changed from the boy who first warned her to stay away with death threats. He never laughed in battle any more for one thing. He did not make idle threats. He took no joy in fighting, however challenging or easy. He had learned to make decisions for himself rather than blindly follow orders.
Was Duo having the sort of difficulty Heero had experienced? Did he wish to die? Or was Duo trying to say something else? Heero didn't even know if Duo intended the message for him.
Heero thought about it often during the days he wintered in his house on Sakhalin. He collected upgraded components for his mobile and new clothing and things to entertain himself. Heero wandered around the pines outside. One didn't really need Christmas trees with tinsel and lights when they had such tall pines topped by a sky full of stars at night.
It was pretty and green and the air didn't have the scent of ductwork. Earth really had some good points, especially now the people here weren't trying to kill each other and steal control of the Colonies. Heero could see a twinkle against the moon. That was home, the cluster positioned at LaGrange Point 1. Heero thought he wanted to go back there, especially as most of the people he knew were there now.
It was pleasant down here, but there was no one else to see it but Heero. He could be quite self-sufficient, but given a choice Heero now would choose to have a few trusted allies near. No, friends. Heero thought he might like a druk or two. He might miss the green. They had some trees in the colonies, but not many. Certainly not like these here.
If he showed up with all new green shirts the friends he hoped to make might just laugh at him. Heero would need another piece of greenery to take with him.
Heero spent several months organizing things. It wouldn't do to just show upon a doorstep with a duffel looking lost. They would likely take him in, but that wasn't what Heero wanted for himself. He believed it was about time he tried to find new means to support himself rather than remain entirely anyone's weapon or agent, rather than remain strictly underground.
Heero thought he had come up with a job he would be well suited too. Now there was peace people would not be afraid of war. Industry would endeavor to quickly market their products commercially rather than to government or the military. Tank manufacturers would make cars. Mobile suit manufacturers would make farm equipment if they didn't find a way to apply their technology to peaceful applications. They would not fear battles. They would fear industrial espionage. They might pay an individual to test their security and consult them on implementing new procedures.
Those who had grown wealthy during the war, or who had hurt many people and survived, they might fear for their safety. They also might pay an individual to keep them safe.
With his particular background Heero would be just the individual to make these people feel protected, only he did not want to use his own name, at least not very openly. He needed to give serious consideration and calculation time to his finances. He would have to collect a few things from storage in the Colonies. He would have to contact everyone he could remember that had been a contact of Adin or J or his own. He might use ex-military, but Preventers often recruited them now. It was better to not get in the way of Preventers. He was, technically, still an agent, although in reserves.
For weeks Heero paced the floor of his house talking to old and new contacts on his new headset vidphone. He made inquiries, placed orders, negotiated, offered services and basically tried everything he knew of social engineering and basic human vocal interaction.
Nearly three months into AC 198 Heero had legally and officially incorporated as Lowe Security, had vacated his house on Sakhalin without selling it and was on his way to Moscow to make a few large purchases before departing for the Colonies.