Author's Note: Welcome to my Gundam Wing fanfiction "Studying Duo." The question that inspired this story and the stories that follow is this: What if one of the creators of the Gundams was a a 15-year-old girl, similar to the other important characters in the story? She could get involved with all the characters and have all sorts of adventures. A girl who has the power to turn a soldier into a god, as Treize says in "Returning Favors", the sequel to this story. And if you don't like how the story is going for now please keep reading, just like Gundam Wing, the wonderful inspiration for this series, in the next chapter everything might change. Thanks for your time, hope you enjoy the story.

by Midii Une
(formerly YamchaOtaku)


The latest test subject entered the spacious building that resembled a huge airplane hanger inside. Mobile suit parts were everywhere, some obviously were being discarded others were shrouded in parachute cloth. The subject wasn't uncomfortable in the least, he sauntered in, threw off his jacket, tossed his long brown braid over his shoulder and started looking the stuff over. Linnea Lang studied the boy, pausing in her work. A shock of recognition and certainty ran through her, she knew he would be the one. As she worked she always pictured the future Gundam pilot in her mind, it made for a better product, the more the mobile suit was customized the better it would work, that was Linnea's theory. Now she had her pilot, now her work could really begin. "

Mr. Maxwell, if you wouldn't mind," Dr. Lang pulled Duo bodily down from a massive arm joint. "When will it be ready, I'm ready to go," Duo said eagerly, like a little boy unwrapping a new video game." Dr. Lang sighed, this subject would not be easy, but what they needed was someone eager and immune to intimidation and Mr. Maxwell so far seemed to fit that bill. "Before we can even begin to complete construction on the mobile suit you will have to undergo intensive testing and study by one of our technicians. Besides, you have not actually been chosen as our pilot Mr. Maxwell. After the testing we'll make our decision and you will be informed," Dr. Lang said. Duo shrugged, "forget the testing, I'm your guy." Lang rolled his eyes and said, "hhmm, well yes. Despite your confidence Mr. Maxwell we will not forgo the testing. Even if we knew without a doubt that you were our chosen pilot our technician's theory is that the pilot must be studied intensely in order to customize the mobile suit to their skills, preferences and personality." "Sounds boring," Duo muttered. "

Linnea, come down here and meet Mr. Maxwell, our new test pilot," Lang called to his daughter. Linnea crawled out of the cloth-shrouded cockpit of the mobile suit and started climbing down the ladder to the floor. Duo pulled his sunglasses down and observed that the technician was a girl about his age, she was wearing a snug pair of well-worn overalls over a purple tank top and a purple bandana covered what appeared to be blonde hair. "Technician's got a nice ass," Duo said, grinning and prodding Dr. Lang with his elbow. "Linnea is my daughter Mr. Maxwell, so please refrain from making such comments in the future," Lang said coldly. "Oh, sorry," Duo apologized a bit sheepishly. Linnea hopped down off the ladder about three-quarters of the way down and turned to meet the new subject. Well, Duo thought, maybe this intensive study stuff wouldn't be boring after all. Linnea shook Duo's hand and then walked around and around him, studying him intently and tapping her finger to her lips and frowning a little. "Okay, we'll definitely need some immediate cockpit modifications before I can even start him on the simulator. Are there people available tomorrow morning father? I'll leave detailed instructions."

The three sat at a conference table while Dr. Lang gave Duo the customary welcome speech and test pilot do's and don'ts. The talk went on and on and occasionally blurbs of information caught Duo's attention -- Gundamiam is percentage-wise this much stronger than basic mobile suit materials, etc, etc, blah, blah, blah. When the hell were they going to let him try it out? He noticed Linnea sitting beside him was taking industrious notes although she had obviously sat through this little talk several times. Duo picked up his own notepad and wrote her a note "I'm so bored!" the note said and he drew a little sad face beside it. She raised her eyebrows at him and continued writing her notes although she smiled a little. Duo wondered suddenly if he was missing something important by zoning out on Dr. Lang's little talk and peeked over at Linnea's notebook. She wasn't taking notes on the talk at all, she was taking notes on him. He could see that she had written -- test subject easily bored -- test subject anxious to begin project -- test subject uninterested in detailed technological explanations -- test subject slightly immature. "Immature," he shrieked, "why'd you write that?" "Excuse me, Mr. Maxwell, did you have a question?" Dr. Lang asked, looking up from his own notes. Linnea giggled and scribbled a note to Duo, "Stop peeking at my notes or you'll see things you won't like!" she wrote. "Father," Linnea finally said, looking at her watch. "Let's continue this another time. Duo and I have school tomorrow and it's past midnight already. Plus I still have to write up my instructions for tomorrow's modification crew." "

Why do I have to go to school," Duo asked, suddenly paying attention to the discussion. "And if she's still just a schoolgirl what is she doing working on this project? I'm putting my life on the line in that thing you know!" Dr. Lang explained that they would attend high school as a front to cover the operation. When the mission was deployed to Earth, Duo would also have to attend school and create a cover for himself to avoid detection by Oz. "Linnea can keep an eye on you and make observations on your public conduct in the classroom situation too, so that in itself makes the exercise valuable," the doctor commented. "Well why does she go to school, shouldn't she be working on my mobile suit?" Duo asked. Dr. Lang sighed, "I have already explained that attending school is a cover. My daughter, even at her age, is one of the great technological geniuses in all of the Earth-Sphere Alliance. Our faction wants to keep that little tidbit of information under wraps from OZ as long as possible. As to your safety, you'll have Linnea to thank for taking the pilot so much into consideration in the mobile suit design, it was entirely her theory and has been adopted by factions in other colonies that are designing similiar suits." "

He's the one father," Linnea announced after Duo had left for bed and she typed her cockpit modifications customized to Duo's body type into the computer. "I agree," Dr. Lang said. "He has the right attitude and the confidence."


Duo and Linnea walked to school. Linnea said they would walk or bike the five miles to Colony L2's Section 6 High School every day so she could gauge Duo's physical fitness. Duo just grumbled, this intensive study theory of hers was starting to get to him. Linnea studied him with her big, violet eyes. "Cheer up Duo," she said. "The simulator should be ready when we get back to the hangar and you can actually get some hands-on time with the mobile suit today." That fact cheered Duo up substantially. He also thought it wouldn't be so bad showing up at a new school escorting such a cute girl either. She looked different in her short blue school uniform skirt but just as good as she did in her grungy tech clothes. Yep, he was one lucky guy, thought Duo. Soon he'd be piloting the most advanced mobile suit to be found on Earth or on the colonies. Not bad, Duo, he told himself, not bad at all.

As they walked onto campus though, however, Duo found himself dumped. "I'll be watching to see how you make out," Linnea said, then disappeared, leaving Duo to cope with being the new kid while she ran over to her group of giggling girlfriends. "Is that your father's latest intern?" a girl named Aimee asked. "He's the cutest one yet." "Oh, that's Duo Maxwell, he's alright," Linnea said, acting disinterested. "Have any of you seen Ian anywhere around, you know that he's my idea of cute!" Linnea giggled. Even engaged in her usual morning routine with the girls she kept one eye on Duo to see how he would fit himself into the new environment. Having a test subject to study kept school from being just too boring and Aimee was right, in addition to having the temperament she expected from her pilot, Duo Maxwell was definitely the 'cutest one yet.' Still, she yearned to be back at the hangar working on some ideas that had taken shape in her mind for the mobile suit since she met Duo last night. The way he gestured with his arms had given her an idea for a unique weapon, and she really wanted to do some computations on how that would affect the balance of the suit. She saw that Duo had already tossed aside his back pack and was playing a pick-up game of basketball with some of the boys. Linnea smiled as he winked at her as if to say, "check me out, I'm fitting in." You are perfect Duo Maxwell, absolutely perfect, she thought. My dream pilot come to life.


Linnea was doodling a concept drawing of what she now thought of as Duo's Gundam in her notebook. Suddenly he was beside her, "Hey, observe this," Duo said. "The test subject is starving. Let's go get some lunch." He glanced at her notebook, "Is that it? Is that my mobile suit? Linnea, baby, you are a genius, I've never seen anything so awesome." Well, well, boy meets Gundam and it's love at first sight, Linnea thought as Duo squeezed onto the bench beside her grabbed the notebook and studied the drawing closely. "It is the latest concept drawing," she explained. "I make one for all the test pilots. And it's still my mobile suit, Duo, you are --" "

I know, I know, I'm the test subject. I'm starting to get sick of you calling me that," Duo said. "Just admit you want me to be the pilot, you know you do Linnea." "I haven't even seen you in the simulator yet Duo, be patient," she said, he'd find out soon enough that he was right.


Duo sat in the disembodied cockpit of the Gundam which hung from the rafters of the hangar by cables. Linnea had rigged up a virtual reality simulator and she stood balanced on a tall ladder so she could observe Duo as he fought computer models of Aries and Leo mobile suits she had come across when hacking OZ's combat computer. She even had basic attack programs direct from the military files. She wore a headset so she could keep her hands free and take notes as she also dictated her thoughts directly to her computer. She monitored Duo's preferences on cockpit light, arrangement of instrumentation, left or right hand to perform which tasks. Already she had a list of changes to make the cockpit more efficient for him. Duo was enjoying himself immensely, the cockpit seemed efficient enough to him. The new weapon called the scythe that Linnea had customized onto the Gundam simulator appeared to be cutting through the Aries and Leos like they were sticks of butter and the method appealed to Duo more than a laser sword or a giant machine gun would. The scythe made the battle seem more like actual hand-to-hand combat than usual mobile suit fighting, even with only the simulator Duo felt like he was actually hacking the enemy into pieces.

Linnea couldn't tear her eyes away from her pilot, using her weapon so effectively. At times like this she wished she could pilot the Gundam herself but she just didn't have the reflexes or reaction time required to be one of the best, although she could do well enough when testing the simulator. She felt like Duo was her knight out of a story from long ago, from a world when there was only the Earth and no colonies. He would fight to glorious victory in the mobile suit she would create for him. But this was no time for beautiful fantasies of victory, first she had to bring the suit to life.


Duo yawned and looked at Linnea hopefully. Nope, she still didn't have eyes for anything but her computer screen. He had watched her long enough to recognize a pattern in the way she worked. She'd sip her coffee, stare at the screen, lean her chin in her hand and tap her lips with her finger thoughtfully. Then a little smile would appear and she'd start typing like a fiend. The building could have collapsed around her then and she wouldn't have noticed, he thought dismally. Duo had to admit her devotion to the project was showing up in the end product. The mobile suit was beyond his wildest imagination in its capabilities and it still wasn't complete. He wondered what OZ would think if they could see who was behind the most formidable weapon of war any of them would ever see.

Linnea's fingers flew across the keyboard as she typed in the detailed wiring specifications for the Gundam, it was not unlike brain surgery. The cockpit would control all the movements of the suit and she was designing the nerve system for the existing features. Finally she stopped typing and looked over at Duo, who was now asleep with his head resting on his arms on the conference table. He was sweet, she thought, to stay with her while she worked late into the night. The wiring, although vital, was one of the less exciting aspects of the project. She was touched that he had stayed with her, no one else cared much whether she worked here alone late at night. Her father treated her more like an adult employee than a teenage daughter, which most of the time suited her just fine.

She turned off the computer and stood for a moment looking down at Duo. He was coming to mean so much to her, the embodiment of all her hopes and plans for the Gundam operation that they were just a small part of. Linnea reached down and ran her hand through the chocolate-brown bangs on his forehead in a maternal gesture of affection, her fingers savoring the soft texture of his hair and the warmth of his skin. "Sister Helen," he muttered in his sleep as she continued stroking his hair gently. "We're going to have to talk," Linnea said to herself. He had revealed almost nothing of his past to her or her father so far. She knew so little about him really, but she was beginning to feel too much.

So on the walk home from school the next day Linnea popped the question. "Who is Sister Helen?" Duo looked at her in disbelief. How the hell did she find out that little tidbit from his past? She saw the look and answered, "you talk in your sleep." "Crap," he muttered. "What else did I say?" "

Nothing else," Linnea said. "But I wish you'd tell me everything now. I want to know you, Duo, everything about you. I need to know." For a moment she thought he'd never talk to her again, then he finally spoke, flashing his trademark grin at her. "Okay baby, but I hope you like Dickens, because it's that kind of story. And, after I tell you all my secrets you'll have to tell me yours."

It was a wild tale, that was for sure. He had been an orphan living on the streets with nothing, not even a name. He had looked up to an older boy who called himself Solo and that's how he had come up with the name Duo. Finally he had ended up at the orphanage run by a Father Maxwell and Sister Helen, the only parental figures he had ever known. And all of this before turing seven years old. He didn't seem bothered by the sad excuse for a childhood and when he looked at Linnea he didn't find any pity in her eyes, she only showed interest. Father Maxwell had political leanings it turned out, which ended up costing his life. Without pride Duo revealed that he had offered to steal a mobile suit and had actually done it in fact, in an attempt to stop the attack that had also taken the life of Sister Helen and a number of the other children. From there, going by the name Duo Maxwell, he had disappeared into the streets again, attending school occasionally and working with the Sweepers space salvage group until he had been recruited for this secret political mission. "

Eight years old and stealing a mobile suit," Linnea exclaimed. "You amaze me. I've never even had the nerve to steal a stick of gum from a store! You are definitely the right pilot for this mission." Duo grinned, it was like her not to get all weepy over his sad story. "We'll have to change that before I leave," he promised her. "Now tell me about you." "I thought you didn't like to be bored and I'm as boring as they come," Linnea protested. He folded his arms and stared at her expectantly, "if you're boring me I'll just tell you to shut up," he said.

So she told him, not leaving out any of the hurtful little details. He had told her everything and she owed him as much. When she was a baby her mother, a brilliant scientist her father had met on Earth, left the colony never to return. She was unhappy living away from Earth and didn't bother to take her child with her. Linnea grew older, barely acknowledged by her father. At age 5 however she finally attracted his notice. Linnea was passing the time looking over her father's computer files, wondering what could possibly be on the screen that was so much more interesting than her. He spent all his time there. She was looking at some intricate calculations when a power outage blanked out the screen for a moment. The power came back on but the screen had gone blank. She thought for a moment and simply re-typed the calculations she had seen on the screen before it went out, adding several corrections of course. Her father had been angry when he realized what she'd done and that she had the potential to be even smarter than he. Then he had put her to work for him. "

I can just picture you correcting those calculations," Duo said laughing. He knew that she, no more than himself, would want sympathy for a less than normal childhood. In a way she was no less an orphan than himself and he felt a closeness to her that he hadn't felt for anyone since Sister Helen.

Dr. Lang watched them stroll up the service entrance and saw Maxwell drape his arm over his daughter's shoulder. He frowned and hoped her growing involvement with the pilot wouldn't affect her productivity. They now had a target date for Operation Meteor. He needed her to get serious and finish the project in the next 72 hours.


Since they'd gotten the news that Operation Meteor would be launched within the week, Linnea had been working non-stop. At last the Gundam was nearly complete. Of course to her it never would be finished, she could always find ways to improve it and she believed in endless systems test checks, all conducted by her personally of course.

She crawled around the mobile suit double-checking wiring and joint mobility, talking unceasingly into her headset. Duo was starting to wonder if the girl was insane, ever since they set a target date her obsession with perfecting the suit had completely taken her over. "Don't you think you're overdoing it?" he shouted at her finally, after her father and the rest of the crew had called it a night.

Linnea hopped down to the ground and looked at him in confusion. Overdoing it? "Don't you know why I'm aiming for perfection," she asked. "Don't you realize my goal? When I've gotten this thing up to the standards I've set in my mind you'll be like a god when you operate it. A god, Duo. You'll leave behind destruction and vengeance and nothing will touch you. That's what I'm working for and I don't think I'm overdoing it." He looked from her serious face to the magnificent piece of machinery looming in the hangar. "A god," he repeated. "Shinigami." "The god of Death, it fits," she said in complete understanding. "That's what kind of capability 02 will have when I'm done." They looked at each other for an endless instant, then as usual, Duo broke the serious mood before it overwhelmed them. "Let's celebrate and christen this thing the old-fashioned way," he exclaimed.

She looked at him quizzically. "I mean break a bottle of champagne over it and give it a better name than 02," he explained. "We don't have any alcohol here," Linnea said. "Father says it kills brain cells." Duo laughed out loud. "Baby, you can afford to lose a few brain cells. Besides didn't I promise to teach you something the other day. We'll just go steal some."

Despite her protests, Linnea found herself clinging to Duo's back speeding down the road on a hot-wired, stolen motorcycle in search of champagne to "christen" the Gundam. The fresh air perked her up, she had been in the hangar way too long and needed to clear her mind. She tightened her arms around Duo's waist and pressed her cheek against his back, wishing they could just drive like this forever. "There's a place," Duo said. "Now listen, you go up to the counter and talk to the guy, you know, give him a little wink and a smile and I'll just stick the bottles in my coat and you follow me out. Got it?" "Riiiigght," said Linnea slowly. Duo gave her a nudge and she went in. "

May I help you miss," the counter boy asked. "Yes, can you give me directions back to the Section Three highway? I seem to be lost," Linnea said, leaning on the counter and smiling at the boy. She noticed Duo come in and head for the wine section. "Hurry up," she thought. The clerk showed her a map and launched into an explanation of how to navigate Section Three. Nice girl, the clerk thought, leaning closer. He looked into her big purple eyes just as she glanced at Duo leaving the store. The clerk didn't like what he saw reflected there. "Shit!" he yelled. "That guy stole something." He looked at Linnea. "You're his partner aren't you?'' Linnea winked at him then and dashed for the door. "Let's get out of here," she screamed and hopped on the motorcycle. "By the way, turn left at the corner to get back to the highway," she said, laughing. The look on that guy's face had been priceless. It sure was fun acting like an irresponsible, immature kid for once.

Linnea took a long drink out the champagne bottle and decided it tasted pretty good, so she chased it with another. Duo grabbed the bottle out of her hand, "whoa slow down, you're gonna get sick," he said. She should let loose more often, he thought, and she was a natural petty thief. His kind of girl, he would sure miss her. He took a drink from the bottle and thought for a moment. "What do you think of Gundam DeathScythe? Pretty cool name, huh?" She nodded and he slammed the half-empty bottle against the Gundam causing a shower of broken glass and flying champagne.

He opened the second bottle with a pop, it was pretty good stuff, and plopped himself down in Linnea's computer chair and spun it around slowly as he drank. Suddenly, the chair stopped, she had her foot on the edge of the seat. "Duo," she said, pouting irresistibly. "That's my chair, who said you could sit in it. Get out, I wanna spin!" Drunk already, he rolled his eyes and grinned at her. "Make me," he said.

She tugged on his arm trying to pull him off the chair, but of course he didn't budge. Linnea growled in mock frustration and Duo laughed saying, "mere humans cannot hope to move the god of Death!" "You're greedy, Duo," she accused him. "You get the best chair and the bottle of champagne. What about me??" He looked at her and pulled her down onto his lap and spun the chair around some more. "I'll take you too," he said, kissing her. The room is spinning, she thought, no, that's just the chair.

Slowly the room, or was it the chair, stopped spinning. Linnea wrapped her arms around Duo's neck and prolonged the kiss. They finally came up for air and blue eyes stared intently into violet ones with an unspoken message. She kissed him softly again and snuggled against his chest as he rocked her gently in the chair until she fell asleep. He could sense the change in her body, totally relaxed against him. Duo put his legs up on the desk and tilted the chair back, continuing to run his hands gently over her hair and shoulders until he fell asleep too.


Dr. Lang entered the hangar expecting to see his daughter still hard at work, after all he hadn't heard her come in the night before. What he actually saw instead nearly made him choke. The usually spotless hangar was a mess, had they been attacked by the Alliance?! There was broken glass everywhere and the floor was sticky. And there was Linnea, his intelligent, professional, hard-working daughter curled up asleep in the pilot's lap and they had obviously been drinking. "LINNEA!" he shouted angrily.

Duo jumped at the sound and the chair tipped all the way back spilling the guilty couple on the floor.

Linnea swore, looked at her watch and jumped up off Duo. "Umm, are you alright?" she asked, blushing as she noticed her father and the technical crew staring at them in disbelief. "No. I'll never be the same." Duo moaned. "You squashed me." A glimmer of a smile touched Linnea's lips as he winked at her. Then she saw her father's face and the smile disappeared.


Dr. Lang ordered everyone out of the hangar and Linnea waved Duo out as well. May as well get the obligatory scolding over and done with, she had a busy schedule today and she had overslept. She picked up her chair and sat down on it, looking at the floor and letting her hair fall a little so her father wouldn't see her face. "Let's get this over with father," she prompted impatiently. "We all have a lot to do today and I need to get started."

Linnea was startled by the cold anger in her father's voice, he was usually indifferent to her as long as she kept up a steady work schedule, which she always did. "You have compromised the whole operation," he hissed. "If I could I would take you off this project immediately, but there's no point since we're nearly finished and there's no time to replace you." She looked at him with shocked eyes. "I thought you could be trusted," he added. "This is the most important project our faction has ever attempted and you botch it because you can't control your goddamn hormones! The pilot is supposed to be concentrating on the mission with a single-minded purpose. There aren't supposed to be any complications. He can't be in battle worrying that he might die and not come back to you. Do you see what you've done? I can't believe you've acted so irresponsibly."

Now Linnea was angry. How dare he underestimate her devotion to the fight for the colonies? Hadn't she already sacrificed her childhood and any kind of normal life to it without complaint and worked even longer hours than her father on the mobile suit. "You're wrong. I've given everything to this project," she said. "But I'm not going to turn my back on taking one moment of happiness when it's right there in front of me. If I thought that would make Duo less of a pilot I would never have done it. If he ever does think of me during battle I would hope it makes him fight harder, because he knows that's what I would want him to do. We feel exactly the same way about all of this. Neither of us would hesitate to die to keep the colonies and space from becoming a battlefield. I fully expect never to see him again, but that doesn't stop me from loving him. In a war father you have to live for the now. And this is a war."

Duo listened outside the door. He leaned against the building with his arms crossed, looking up at the metallic sky of the colony. What a jerk Dr. Lang was, he thought, as if loving Linnea would make him a wimpy pilot. Loving her only strengthened his purpose to be the best. When he struck terror into the enemy he would be doing it for her as well as for the colonies. She had created the Gundam DeathScythe and in it he would be Shinigami. He would return her favor by being the best damned Gundam pilot ever.


Linnea brushed back a strand of hair and took a moment to lean against a pile of parts and get her bearings. There was so much to do and time was ticking away at too rapid a pace. Her mind was going in a hundred different directions at one time and she repeated a checklist into her headset: final systems check and breakdown, drill pilot on emergency repairs, activate detonation device. She skimmed over the final point quickly, failure was not an option but every possibility had to be covered. Break time over, she scanned the hangar and walked purposefully toward a pile of extra parts.

Duo's mouth hung open in shock as Linnea pushed up her safety goggles and blew steam away from the end of the prototype hand-held beam scythe, a much smaller version of the final product. She nudged a heap of smoking extra parts with the tip of her sneaker and poked around in the exposed wires and melted metal with the staff of the beam scythe. "One question," Duo said. "HAVE YOU COMPLETELY LOST YOUR MIND?" "Just fix it. It's one of the mobile suit's most vulnerable areas, it's going to take hits and someone's going to have to do repairs. Most likely you," she said, tossing him a pocket-sized tool kit. She called a technician over and handed him an extra headset. "Jim, keep on eye on him and keep me updated on his progress. I'll be doing the final systems check in the cockpit." Jim put a hand on Duo's shoulder and said, "Yep, she's in panic mode. Be afraid." He grinned at the Gundam pilot and spoke again, "If I were you I'd start fixing that part ASAP." Duo gulped.

Jim's voice broke into Linnea's thoughts as she concentrated on the systems check where things were going a bit more smoothly. "He's having a little trouble finding ways to get around the lack of replacement parts," the technician said. "Tell him to be creative," Linnea hissed, going back to what she was doing. The cockpit lit up as she tested the communications windows and computer program to analyze the enemies mobile suits. "A-okay," she muttered to herself. "

Whatcha doin?" Linnea jumped at the sound. Now that the cockpit was on ground level it came as a surprise for someone to pop up on her like that. It was Duo. "You've finally completed that repair?" she asked looking at her watch. "There's some room for improvement. OK, hop in here and finish this systems check, I'll observe you." She climbed out of the cockpit and Duo hopped in, "yes ma'am," he saluted her. She rolled her eyes and started speaking into the headset -- pilot adequate on repairs -- pilot showing excellent familiarity with systems --. "

Oh crap," Duo said. Linnea turned pale. "What-what is it," she said. "What's wrong?" "This thingy doesn't work, it's not responding," he said. The word 'thingy' should have tipped her off, but it didn't. "No, no, no, it can't be," she groaned and dove headfirst into the cockpit to shake him. "Which part? Which one is broken? Duo? Duo?!" He started shaking with laughter and she looked at him in disbelief. A joke? "Heh-heh," he chuckled, "you needed to lighten up a little. Hey, calm down. Don't hyperventilate . . ." She was having trouble catching her breath and her heart was pounding, "you-you scared me," she gasped. "

Don't worry, everything's perfect, you know that. I just wanted to get your attention," he said. "You've been neglecting a very important part of the project." "Now what," she said, starting to panic again. "You did say the pilot was the most important factor. That was your theory, right?" he said softly. "Help me with this system's check. There's room for two in here, if we sit really close." She nodded and arranged herself in the pilot's chair in front of him. His arms wrapped around her and pulled her closer and she leaned her head back against his shoulder. "Much better," he whispered. He took her hands in his and they moved through the systems check together. "Let me see that headset," he said. He put it on -- testing, testing (laughter)-- note to computer: pilot adores technician -- note to self: show her how much-- systems check: cockpit hatch closing, A-okay."

It was so quiet in the cockpit that you could hear a pin drop, or a heart beat. She turned a little in his arms so they could look at each other. "Stupid lights," Duo said. "Whenever I remember this you'll be neon green." Linnea tried to smile at the thought but instead a single tear slid down her cheek. He held her tighter as she hid her face in his neck and struggled for control. "Please don't cry," he said. "I know. I don't want to get the wiring wet and cause a short circuit," she murmured against him.

When she raised her head there was no sign of tears and for that he loved her even more. "For 15 years the Alliance has gotten away with the assassination of Heero Yuy and ruining hopes for a peaceful united colony system. Now its payback time. We weren't even born yet when that happened but I swear what we're doing now will make a difference. They'll regret that they ever denied the colonies a chance to choose peace and that we can wage war better than they could ever hope to," she said with a faraway look in her eyes, finding again her passion for the upcoming conflict. "God, you're intense," he said. "So are you," she answered. "You'll just get to show the Alliance personally how both of us, how all of us here, feel." Duo's face lit up with a confident grin and Linnea smiled back. "They won't know what the hell hit them," he said. "

I knew when I first saw you that you'd be the one," Linnea told him. "I knew that too," Duo answered. "You're so modest," she said sarcastically, tugging on his braid. "Ow," he said. "How come I had to fall in love with a techno-snob that pulls my hair and forces me do repair work?" She kissed him softly, he had said love. "For the same reason I fell in love with you," she said. "Because if we have each other we're not alone. Because we have the same goals in this operation and we need each other to meet those goals. Because the only time I've ever felt really happy is when you hold me."


The hangar seemed huge with the DeathScythe gone. Linnea looked at the empty space and closed her eyes, seeing it materialize in her mind. The rebellion would be victorious in the end, that was something she had to believe in. But she wasn't ready yet to look into the empty space in her heart. She turned off the lights and shut the door behind her.