Quatre was the one who noticed it first. Seeing, after any
missions that required Gundams and killing and mass destruction, that Duo
would disappear afterward. He didn’t mention it, thinking that it
was really none of his business, but once he had noted it, he couldn’t
help his curiosity.
The first time, he realized that Duo didn’t come back
to the safe house with the rest of the team, but ‘went for a walk’
even though the night was rather chilly. But he didn’t think much
of it and went to bed and Duo came in some time after that, undetected.
But having come to his attention, he began to watch, and the
next time it happened, he waited up and it was hours before Duo came in,
hunched and shivering with cold, going straight to his bed with little more
than a grunted ‘good night’ to his friend. The next day everything
seemed normal, but Quatre couldn’t quite put it out of his mind.
By the fourth time, he succumbed to his curiosity and followed
his teammate, careful not to be seen and knowing that there was something
seriously wrong here for him to even be able to tail Duo, the stealth master,
It was full dark, a pale half moon in the sky, and the night
was very cold. Quatre was surprised when they ended up on the beach. He
hid under the boardwalk and watched as Duo walked out onto the beach and
stood for a while at the waters edge, staring up at the moon. He was even
more surprised when Duo began to strip, carefully folding his clothes and
piling them neatly on the sand back from the water where they wouldn’t
get wet. He was wearing swim trunks under the clothes and Quatre almost
gasped out loud as he realized that Duo was planning on going into the water,
not only that, but had been planning it since he had dressed that morning.
It was late November, and though the temperatures weren’t below freezing,
it was far, far too cold to be going for a swim.
Duo walked back to the oceans edge, seeming not to notice
as the icy water swirled around his ankles. Slowly, he pulled his braid
around and unbound his hair, sifting it through his fingers until it was
a loose fall around his body, dancing on the evening breeze. He waded into
the breakers until he was thigh deep in the water and dove in.
Quatre slapped a hand over his own mouth to stifle the cry
that bubbled up and tried to come out passed his defenses. Gods! How could
he stand it? The water had to be ice cold!
Duo swam straight out, as though trying to follow the silvery
path the moonlight made across the water, and Quatre soon lost sight of
him in the dark. The water was fairly calm, and for a while he could hear
the sound of Duo’s strokes splashing in the night. The minutes ticked
by; what the hell was going on here? Quatre took a faltering step forward.
What should he do? He couldn’t possibly find him in the dark. What
was he intending? More minutes ran by, and Quatre began to panic, frozen
between running for help and going into the water after him. Was this some
kind of bizarre suicide attempt? Where was he swimming? What was he doing?
Quatre was making the first moves to run back and find a phone to call for
help when he heard sounds that indicated that Duo was coming back.
With a choked whimper of relief, he ducked back under cover
and watched as Duo emerged from the water again, rising up from the depths
like some strange, fey sea creature, his hair floating on the water around
him, plastering itself to his body as he surfaced. You would not have known
from watching that the water had to be the temperature of an icebox; he
walked out of the surf and up the beach as though stepping from the shower.
He turned and faced the moon again, standing for a bit, his pale skin silvered
with the moonlight, and then slowly…he began to dance.
Quatre couldn’t believe his eyes. There was no music,
at least not outside Duo’s head, but he began to move in time to some
unheard melody, just standing there at first, swaying in the moonlight.
Then moving up the beach, turning and swaying, arms sweeping in graceful
arcs. The cold night wind pulled his hair from his body and as it dried,
it began to fan around him.
Quatre was enthralled. He couldn’t have moved from the
spot he was in had his life depended on it. It was beautiful. Duo was beautiful.
He worked up and down the small stretch of sand, the dance becoming faster;
adding leaps and twirls and incredible stretches. The cold night wind dried
him quickly, and Quatre couldn’t understand how he wasn’t shivering
and grabbing for his clothes. He could have danced on any stage in the country;
Quatre knew that just watching him. His own upbringing had taken him to
all the finer theaters in his homeland, and Duo rivaled any dancer he had
ever seen. Though he obviously lacked formal training, he more than made
up for it with raw talent.
Completely dry now, Duo danced as though partnering the wind,
leaping high into its waiting arms, seeming to hang in the air for whole
heartbeats, his hair furling about him like dark wings. Though Quatre didn’t
see how, the tempo of the dance only seemed to increase and soon Duo’s
skin was sheened again, this time with sweat. Quatre could see him panting
even across the distance. He started a run up the beach, heading back toward
where he had started, and suddenly leaped as high in the air as Quatre had
seen him, his arms spread wide, his legs straight behind him and were he
coming off a diving board, it would have been a perfect dive, but seeing
as there was nothing in front of him but the sand and his pile of clothes,
Quatre couldn’t understand; the move seemed almost as though he expected
someone to be there to catch him.
At the last minute, just before he would have crashed into
the ground on belly and chest, his arms and legs came down in an almost
knee-jerk reaction, and he came to a bone jarring halt right over his pile
of clothes. He just knelt there for a hand full of minutes, panting so hard,
Quatre could hear him, and then slowly, he seemed to just keel over sideways
and he fell in the sand.
The shivering began then, and Quatre watched long enough to
make sure that Duo was able to drag his clothes back on before he slipped
away, wanting to get back to the safe house ahead of his teammate.
Quatre made it with ease, and was in his room with the door
cracked open, watching the hall when Duo finally arrived. Quatre saw him
coming, shivering and still struggling to regain his breath, his arms wrapped
around his own chilled body, one hand pressed tight to the center of his
chest. He passed from view, and Quatre heard the other mans bedroom door
open and close, and not long after, the sound of the shower running.
Quatre shut his door and went to ready himself for bed, not
sure what to make of the evenings events. Knowing, in the back of his mind,
that this was really none of his business at all, but at the same time,
feeling strongly that something was very wrong here.
Morning found Duo in high spirits, coming into the kitchen
and actually offering to help Trowa and Quatre make breakfast. They let
him chop the onions and peppers for the omelets, though after watching him
for several minutes, Trowa threatened to make him eat anything he got blood
‘I know how to handle a knife.’ Duo smirked at
him, but Quatre had to confess to himself that watching the flashing blade
was making him a little nervous as well.
Quatre was grating the cheese, and found it to be a mindless
task that allowed him to steal glances in Duo’s direction. He caught
him rubbing surreptitiously at his chest several times, but nothing more
Heero and Wufei came in not long after, and Duo brightened
immediately, throwing out the first volley in what promised to be a lengthy
war of wits if Quatre didn’t miss his guess. Duo just seemed to be
in that kind of mood; bubbling and eyes bright with mischief. The kind of
mood that usually set Wufei off before Duo even had a chance to open his
mouth. It delighted the braided pilot that he could so easily affect the
Chinese man, and he never missed a chance to poke sharp, verbal sticks at
‘Trowa,’ Wufei intoned with a heavy sigh, ignoring
Duo’s barb, ‘please tell me you are not letting Maxwell help
‘We aren’t letting him near the stove.’
Trowa informed him without cracking a smile.
‘Hey!’ Duo grinned at them in mock injury, ‘I
am perfectly capable of cooking!’
‘Just not anything we’re capable of eating.’
Heero interjected, with a wry almost-smile, and everyone glanced up in surprise,
hearing the normally quiet pilot join the match.
If anything, Duo brightened further, flipping his knife in
the air to deftly catch it again before resuming his mass murder of helpless
vegetables. ‘Nothing I have ever cooked has killed a single one of
you.’ He pointed out logically.
‘Now there’s a glowing endorsement for your culinary
skills; has not yet killed anybody.’ Wufei moved passed them to take
down plates and began setting the breakfast table.
‘Hmmm…I could open a chain of restaurants and
use that as my tag line: ‘A hundred served; no one dead.’
Wufei grimaced at him as he came back for the silverware,
‘That would certainly entice me to eat there. I’m sure you’ll
do well in your new endeavor.’
Duo was standing in front of the silverware drawer, and as
Wufei approached, he reached out and gave Duo a playful shove, touching
the center of his chest. Duo flinched, his breath hissing sharply, and stumbled
a step backward. The room was suddenly quiet, and every eye in the place
was on him.
He flushed, ‘Damn Wufei; don’t sneak up on me
like that.’ He stammered, and they all knew he was covering something,
but for a frozen moment, no one spoke.
Quietly, Heero rose from the seat he had taken at the table
and came back across the room, ‘What’s wrong with your chest?’
He asked, his voice seeming a little loud in the sudden silence.
If anything, Duo blushed harder, attempting to return to the
cutting board, but Heero came around the counter, calmly walked up to him
and slowly began unbuttoning his denim shirt. Uncharacteristically, Duo
lowered his eyes and just stood and let him, sighing heavily and blushing
Heero unbuttoned the first three buttons, and gently pushed
the shirt open. In the center of Duo’s chest, was a nasty gash, centered
over his breastbone, weeping fresh blood from Wufei’s touch, obviously
only hours old.
Wufei frowned, moving up to stand beside Heero, ‘Maxwell,
I’m sorry…I did not realize.’
‘It’s nothing.’ Duo waved them away, trying
to move out from under everyone’s gaze.
‘This looks like a knife wound, Duo.’ Heero’s
intense stare was making Duo squirm.
‘A knife wound?’ he cocked his head and looked
up at his partner through his unruly bangs, ‘Get serious. My…my
toolbox came loose in Deathscythe during the fight.’
Heero frowned, ‘Tool box?’ he questioned, looking
skeptical, his fingers gently probing the wound.
‘Ow! Watch it, Heero!’ Duo winced and pulled free,
‘Yeah, I had tools flying all over the damn cockpit, I’m not
sure what hit me.’
Quatre moved closer, looking around Heero’s arm at the
gash. That had not been there last night on the beach. He would have seen
a cut that large even from where he had been crouched in hiding. He was
positive Duo’s chest had been unmarked last night after the battle.
He held his tongue and went back to grating cheese.
‘Well,’ Trowa tossed in with a raised eyebrow,
‘Whatever it was, you should tend to it; looks deep.’
Wufei and Heero had Duo backed up against the counter, one
on either side.
‘Maxwell,’ Wufei almost growled at him, ‘This
goes to the damn bone!’
‘Guys!’ Duo wailed, pinned and cornered, ‘Lighten
up, will ya!’
‘Duo, it needs stitches.’ Heero had removed the
knife from Duo’s hand, laying it on the cutting board and the two
darker pilots took him by the arms, one on each side and began to usher
him out of the room.
‘Don’t be such a big baby about getting a couple
of stitches, Duo.’ Heero was telling him, ‘You shouldn’t
hide things like this from us.’
Then they were gone, and Quatre never did hear what Duo’s
retort was, but he knew the gash had not been kept a secret because of any
fear on Duo’s part about having stitches put in. He himself had seen
Duo sit quietly through far more painful procedures than suturing. No, he
was sure the secret was where the mysterious wound had come from. He was
positive it had not been there on the beach. It did not come from any accident
during the heated Gundam battle. What could have happened to Duo in the
time between the beach and arriving at the house? He had not been ten minutes
behind Quatre, hardly enough time to have gotten into some sort of fight.
‘Something wrong, Quatre?’ Trowa asked, looking
up from his task of browning sausage quizzically.
Quatre hesitated, thinking that it would be nice to talk to
someone about what he knew, but feeling embarrassed to admit that he had
followed and spied on one of his own teammates. He wasn’t sure how
Trowa would take that.
‘Uhmmm…that just seemed rather…odd, don’t
you think?’ He compromised, thinking that they might still discuss
it without him having to admit anything he didn’t want to.
‘Duo?’ Trowa raised an eyebrow and glanced after
the departed trio, ‘Yeah, I suppose so. Don’t know why he’d
bother to hide something like that.’
‘I don’t remember seeing any blood on his clothes
after we got back, do you?’ He watched the taller man closely, gauging
There was a moment of silence while he considered it, then,
‘I…don’t remember that I saw Duo after we got back.’
‘He went for a walk.’ Quatre informed him; again
watching for a reaction, but all Trowa did was shrug and turn back to the
The whole thing was just not all that odd if you didn’t
know what Quatre knew, but didn’t want to tell. He gnawed his lower
lip in frustration, but decided to just drop the subject before Trowa got
After breakfast, during which Duo was much more subdued than
he had been, Quatre decided, on a sudden inspiration, to volunteer to do
‘I have to run some clothes through; anybody got anything
they want to throw in?’ He asked the room at large, and, as expected
from a group of young men who really did not like housework, there was a
chorus of gleeful acceptance, and Quatre found himself with enough clothes
for several loads of laundry.
As soon as he was alone with the washing machine, Quatre dug
through the pile until he found Duo’s clothes from the night before.
While he found the front of Duo’s shirt blood soaked, he also found
it totally unmarred; there was no hole in the material from whatever ‘tool’
supposedly inflicted the wound.
So, the gash had definitely happened while Duo was on the
beach, after he got undressed to go swimming, but before he got dressed
again. In point of fact; while Quatre had been watching him. He was sure
he had seen no sign of blood while Duo had been dancing, and the only window
of opportunity had to have been at the very end, when Duo ran up the beach,
jumped into the air and fell. After that, Quatre realized, he had not seen
Duo’s chest again. He had fallen over in the sand and gotten dressed
not long after. Had he fallen on something? No rock or stick or other beach
debris would have made such a clean cut. Not even a piece of glass. Quatre
shook his head, not able to puzzle it out, and set to doing the laundry
with a sigh. It had just become an all day job.
A week passed before there was another mission that involved
Duo and Deathscythe. Heero was sent to destroy a new base attempting to
gain a foothold in the inner solar system by setting up a station orbiting
Mars. Duo, as his partner went as backup.
A simple search and destroy. The kind of mission Duo hated
the most. His imagination painted personalities and families and whole damn
life stories behind the soldiers they were forced to cut down. The warrior
in him told him that this was war; they came here knowing exactly what they
were getting themselves into. They would not hesitate to kill him or anyone
else who got in their way, and it was just their sorry damn luck that it
happened to be his job to get in their way.
It went quickly and well, and if Duo was unusually quiet on
the trip back, Heero attributed it to the weariness that came from a long
haul through space, and found no reason of his own to break the silence.
He worked on his mission reports, his own way of dealing with the stress
and guilt and gave no thought what so ever to how Duo dealt with it.
They landed and secured their Gundams but when it came time
for the walk back to the safe house, Duo just shook his head and waved Heero
‘Go ahead, man; I think I’ll go for a walk first.’
Heero frowned at him, taking in the jeans and t-shirt attire,
‘It’s damn cold out to be walking around dressed like that,
Duo ducked his head and grinned at his partner, ‘Cold
doesn’t bother an old street rat like me.’
Heero’s frown deepened; he hated hearing Duo refer to
himself like that, but he just grunted and watched as Duo turned on his
heel and walked away, hands stuffed in his pockets. He watched the figure
move in and out of the pools of light cast down by the streetlamps with
an odd pang. For a moment, he considered calling for him to wait up, but
discarded the notion; Duo obviously wanted some privacy. Then his senses
told him he was not alone and he whirled to find Quatre standing not far
up the path that led to the street and back to the house.
‘Is something wrong, Quatre?’ He asked, surprised
to find anyone waiting for them.
Quatre moved closer, his eyes fixed on the spot where Duo
was quickly disappearing into the night.
‘Follow him.’ He said simply.
‘What?’ Heero frowned at him as though he had
grown a second head, and Quatre finally turned his gaze on Heero and the
look on his face was disconcerting.
‘I…I can’t explain right now…but I
think you need to follow him.’ His voice was soft, but very serious,
and Heero cast a glance behind him again, just in time to see Duo step clear
of the last pool of light and vanish into the dark. It decided him somehow,
and with a last, puzzled look at Quatre, he turned and jogged lightly after
He moved quickly, but silently, and soon caught sight of Duo
again, he had the same odd sense that he should not be able to shadow Duo
like this, that Quatre had felt, and like Quatre, was equally surprised
when Duo’s walk brought them to the beach. The moon was near full
now, and Duo, just like the time before, walked to the waters edge and stood
staring up at it. The night was colder, though Heero couldn’t know
that, and the wind was blowing hard enough to lift and pull at Duo’s
Heero took the same hiding place that Quatre had employed,
under the boardwalk, though Heero dared edge closer, settling himself behind
a large support post with a bit of scrub brush growing around the base.
He watched aghast, just had Quatre had, as Duo moved back
up the beach and stripped to a pair of black swimming trunks. He carefully
arranged his clothes and gear in a neat pile and Heero felt it had a faint,
ritualistic feel to it. His heart was in his throat as he watched Duo slowly
unbind his hair, threading his fingers though it and freeing it for the
wind to take up and spread around him. He stood for several minutes, turning
his face into the wind, eyes closed and silver-pale in the bright moonlight.
Then he walked out into the icy ocean and dove in.
Heero stood up from his crouch and almost called after him.
He couldn’t believe Duo wasn’t scrambling back out instantly,
pulling his clothes on and yelping with the cold. The moon cast a white
frosting on the surface of the water, and Heero could easily make out Duo’s
dark form knifing straight out into the water, swimming hard and showing
no signs of turning back. Heero inched forward, a sudden fear moving his
body without his conscious thought. Had Quatre known about this? Is this
why he thought Heero should follow Duo on his ‘walk’? Damn!
Why hadn’t he given him more information? What in the hell was happening
here? Duo just kept swimming; Heero could just barely still make out the
shadow of him on the water in the distance. Why the hell didn’t he
turn back? How far was he planning on going? In his chest, Heero’s
heart began to pound painfully. He knew that Duo was too far out for him
to reach in time even if he saw him get into trouble. Gods! Didn’t
sharks feed at night? He couldn’t remember if he had heard of any
attacks in this part of the country. What was Duo thinking?
Just as Heero reached that panicky state that Quatre had been
in the week before; torn between going into the water and running for help,
the small, dark spot that was Duo stopped and after bobbing in the water
a moment, turned back, seeming an impossible distance out. The sweep of
the arms was more sporadic, the strokes uneven, and it took a lot longer
for Duo to make the return trip than it had for him to swim out. A sign
of the cold and his tiredness for sure. Heero slid carefully back under
cover and watched the shadow on the water grow in size as it approached,
his heart not calming until it was apparent that Duo was far enough in to
Again, though he didn’t know it, he was treated to the
same vision of Duo rising from the depths of the icy ocean, wearing the
mantel of his own sleek hair, that Quatre had seen.
Relief flooded through Heero as he saw his partner return
to the beach, looking oddly not like the Duo he knew so well. There was
a strange unrealness to him; he moved with an unconscious grace that drew
Heero’s eyes to aspects of his form he had never noticed before. He
had never seen Duo with his hair down like this. Oh, occasional glimpses
after a shower while he combed and then braided it, but never like this;
with the wind tugging at it, wreathing his body in the slowly drying strands.
He had never noticed how …strikingly beautiful his partner was before.
As that thought crossed through his mind, out on the beach, Duo raised his
arms and slowly began to sway where he stood, and then…to dance.
Heero forgot to breathe.
He could almost hear the music that must be playing in Duo’s
head, as he swept and turned and drifted up the sand. He moved almost slowly
at first, arms weaving intricate patterns in the air, feet ghosting across
the sand, sometimes seeming to barely touch the ground. The wind was drying
his hair as he moved, and the silken strands began to loosen their strangle
hold on his body, swirling around him like a cloak.
Heero was chilling in his crouch under the windbreak of the
boardwalk, and couldn’t understand how Duo was bearing the icy wind
on near naked, wet flesh. The dance progressed up the beach, the tempo increasing,
Duo adding leaps and turns to the gentler movements he had been making.
Heero was captivated. He couldn’t have pulled his gaze away from the
sight in front of him had the boardwalk collapsed on his head. Duo was an
absolute vision in the bright moonlight, his movements unbelievably graceful
and fluid. Heero had not known his teammate could dance like this. He lost
himself in the sheer beauty of it for a time, forgetting for the moment
about the cold, about the fear he had felt watching Duo swim out into the
ocean as though he wouldn’t turn back, about the fact that he wasn’t
supposed to be here, effectively spying on his partner.
Clouds brushed at the edges of the moon, gentling the light
bathing the beach, giving the whole scene a surreal aspect. He could have
been watching some elven creature from mythology dancing through some pagan
ritual in the sand.
The dance became more frantic, the pace increasing, the leaps
so high that sand began to fly under his feet as he vaulted and landed.
Heero had no idea how long the dance had been going, but he could see the
panting movement of Duo’s chest, could see his body starting to coat
with sweat. Heero couldn’t fathom how he was standing the cold. Each
time he thought for sure that Duo would give way to exhaustion, the tempo
of the dance only increased. He was starting to be able to hear the gasping
breaths whenever Duo drifted towards the boardwalk.
Perhaps that was what brought Heero back to reality, the realization
that Duo was driving himself to collapse. When he forced himself to look
with a more clinical eye, he could see that the perfect, flowing motions
weren’t so perfect now. The steps were a little faltering; the leaps
weren’t landing as gracefully.
The soldier took over his mind; began to evaluate the scene
a little closer. Something wasn’t right. Duo’s face, when it
turned where Heero could see it, was pained, the eyes glazed. The hard swim
in the icy water right on the heels of a long, hard mission. The dancing
itself; it all seemed a deliberate effort to push the body past the limits
of fatigue. Just what the hell was going on here?
Something about the dance suddenly seemed to change, and Duo,
who had leaped and twirled his way some distance away, was running full
out back toward the boardwalk. At first, Heero thought he had been seen,
then realized that Duo was running more toward where he had started, toward
where his clothes were piled. In that moment, three things happened; the
clouds completely cleared the moon, Heero spotted the knife blade jutting
up from the pile of clothes, and Duo made his diving leap.
Had Quatre seen the knife blade the week before, it might
have solved the puzzle for him, but it also might have changed the whole
course of events, for he surely would have screamed. And though Heero wanted
to scream, the mind of the perfect soldier put the pieces together in an
instant and realized that this was where the gash on Duo’s chest had
come from. That he wasn’t intending to impale himself on the knife,
and that if Heero screamed out, or otherwise distracted his longhaired partner,
that might just be the result. So he bit his tongue and watched the scene
play out, watched Duo arch his back and fling himself into a perfect swan
dive, aiming unerringly for the pile of clothes. At the last moment, his
hands and knees came down, almost seeming to jerk out of his control, and
he landed hard on the sand right over the knife blade.
Heero was moving the instant it was over, his heart hammering
in his ears, his hands shaking, his mind yipping in little circles in his
He pitched himself down beside where Duo still hung, suspended
above the wicked looking knife blade, his arms were shaking and his breath
was wheezing in great, erratic gasps. Heero threw his arms around Duo’s
waist, shocked at the chill of the flesh under his hands, and jerked him
away. Knocking the blade free and away with an almost angry backhanded swat.
Duo went limp in his arms then, collapsing completely, and
Heero’s heart almost closed his throat off as he realized how close
the trembling pilot had come to stabbing himself. He pulled him into his
lap, rubbing icy skin briskly; not even coming close to understanding what
in the hell had just happened.
‘Duo?’ He shook his partner, hard, and for a moment,
the violet eyes met his and that familiar lop-sided grin sprang forth.
‘Guess Shinigami forgave me again, huh?’
Heero blinked down at him, his fear giving way to anger.
‘What the hell did you think you were doing?’
He snapped, knowing the grip he had on Duo’s arms was too tight, but
not able to let go.
Duo was starting to tremble, the cold pouncing on him hard
now that he had stopped moving. His body began to shake almost convulsively,
and Heero fought off the urge to pull his partner into his arms, reaching
passed him for his clothes instead.
Duo pulled away from him, his disconcertion giving way to
an anger of his own. He jerked his clothes out of Heero’s hands and
sat up to begin pulling them on. There was fresh blood on his chest.
The breath hissed sharply through Heero’s teeth, and
he reached out to check the wound, but Duo pulled away.
‘What the hell are you doing here?’ He snapped,
trying to get his shaking hands stuffed into uncooperative shirtsleeves.
‘What am I doing?’ Snapped Heero, ‘What
in the seven hells were you doing?’
The shirt was on, pulled down and covering the wound, and
Duo was struggling with the pants, ‘None of your damn business!’
Heero couldn’t take his eyes off the center of Duo’s
chest, watching the white t-shirt as it spotted slightly with red. ‘Duo!
You damn near…You almost…Don’t you ever do something like
Their eyes locked for a moment, and Heero realized that Duo
was flushing darkly, the blush standing out starkly on his pale, icy skin.
‘Don’t tell me what to do, Heero.’ He growled,
clutching the rest of his gear to his chest.
‘Damnit, Duo!’ Heero forced his voice to stay
steady, ‘What were you thinking?’
Duo was pushing away from him, staggering to his feet and
he hissed darkly, ‘I said; none of your damn business.’ And
he stumbled away, leaving Heero kneeling in the sand, watching him go.
He stopped, a hundred yards or so up the beach and struggled
into the rest of his clothes before resuming his drunken wobbling trek to
the street level.
Heero watched him go, absolutely baffled by the whole incident.
He shifted in the sand and hugged his knees to his chest for
warmth, his eyes still seeing the lithe, graceful form, his heart still
hammering in his ears. He had determined ages ago that his attraction to
his partner was something that stayed locked strictly in his own heart.
That kind of complication was not something either of them needed in the
middle of a stupid war. In Heero’s mind, there existed a gallery of
images that he kept to ward against the darkness. All remembrances of Duo;
the flash of that bright smile, the swing of that damn braid, those hands
on the controls of a shuttle, strong and competent; piloting like no one
Heero had ever seen. All memories that brought a pang to his heart, making
him want to reach out and offer more than just friendship. This new image,
though; Duo on the beach dancing in the wind…that brought a pang to
his body…filling him with a desire stronger than he had ever known.
Making him want…things.
But that final image; Duo and the knife blade. That brought
a stinging, clinching fear to his gut that left him trembling and afraid,
not sure what he should do now.
He thought about the wound he and Wufei had tended to the
other week, realized when he thought hard, that there had been other scars
scattered across that smooth skin; some not so bad, some worse. How long
had this been going on? What in the hell, exactly, was going on? How long
before he didn’t catch himself? Before he fell on that knife with
all his weight and…and…Heero shook his head sharply before that
image could lodge itself permanently in his brain.
What had he said? ‘Guess Shinigami forgave me again,
huh?’ What the hell was that supposed to mean? Why hadn’t Quatre
warned him what he was walking into? And that prompted Heero to finally
pull himself up out of the sand and head back for the house. He needed to
go talk to the man who sent him on this trip.
When he entered the house, he didn’t need to go in search
of Quatre, he was right inside the front door, fairly bouncing on the balls
of his feet waiting for him.
‘Well?’ He didn’t wait for Heero to speak,
but grabbed him by the arm and drug him into the kitchen, ‘What happened?’
Heero glared at him, feeling like he wanted to shake the hell
out of him, ‘Where’s Duo?’ He hissed.
‘In the shower.’ Quatre let go of his arm, seeing
the warning on his face, but didn’t back off, ‘Did you follow
‘Yes, damnit!’ Heero growled at him, ‘Why
the hell didn’t you warn me?’
Quatre quailed, taking a step back from the stark anger, ‘I
didn’t know what to say.’ He cocked his head and looked faintly
confused, ‘Heero…I think maybe you didn’t see the same
thing I did…what happened?’
Heero’s anger drained away in the face of the honestly
confused expression on Quatre’s face, ‘I’m not sure exactly
what the hell I saw.’
Quatre nodded in some understanding, ‘Did he go to the
Heero grunted, nodding.
‘Did he…did he dance?’
Heero looked hard into Quatre’s eyes, ‘Yes he
did. And damn near ran himself through with that Gods damned hunting knife
Quatre’s eyes flew wide and the last clue fell into
place, ‘That gash…that was the night I followed him! But I didn’t
see the knife, how did he…?’
‘It was wedged into the pile of his clothes.’
The picture was complete, or as complete as it was going to
get, and suddenly, Quatre’s knees felt weak. His eyes left Heero’s
and lost their focus as that night replayed in his head.
‘Oh Gods. Oh Gods. When he leaped…Oh my Gods.’
He was only vaguely aware that Heero had hold of his arm and was leading
him to the kitchen table and was easing him into a chair. His hands began
‘Heero…I was so scared. I didn’t know what
to think. I was so embarrassed that I had followed him in the first place,
just because I was curious about where he went. I didn’t see the knife…I
couldn’t figure out where the wound came from. Oh Gods; if I’d
known, I would have said something a week ago. I’m so sorry.’
Heero took the chair next to him and awkwardly patted his
shoulder, ‘It’s Ok, you didn’t know. I never would have
‘It was darker that night, and I never thought to look
at his clothes. I couldn’t hardly take my eyes off…’ Quatre
blushed furiously and ducked his head, ‘I mean…I wasn’t…I
Heero snorted a soft laugh, ‘He was rather distracting,
Quatre’s head jerked up again and he looked at Heero,
eyes bright, ‘I never knew he could dance like that!’
Heero just grunted.
‘Heero, what are we going to do?’
‘I’m not sure.’ And he sighed heavily, ‘Make
damn sure he doesn’t go for any more walks for one thing.’
They could hear, through the kitchen pipes, the faint sound
of the shower shutting off.
Heero looked up at the ceiling, as though he could see his
partner through the intervening floor and walls, ‘I think,’
He said hesitantly, ‘I’m going to go check on him.’
He left Quatre sitting in the kitchen, and forced himself
up the stairs; his steps uncertain, and his heart in his throat. He didn’t
deal with emotional confrontation well.
He paused outside the door to Duo’s room, trying to
get his thoughts together, trying to figure out what to say. He could hear
the sounds of Duo moving about inside. He knocked lightly and all sound
from within stopped dead. There was a long wait and then the soft sound
of Duo’s voice, ‘Come in.’
Heero opened the door and stepped inside. Duo was sitting
on his bed, wrapped in a layer of blankets, combing his wet hair. Heero
could see his hands still shivering, though he tried to hide it.
‘Duo…’ He wasn’t sure what to say.
‘What do you want, Heero?’ Duo’s voice still
held a hint of anger, and it decided Heero on what he should probably say
‘Duo, I’m sorry I followed you. I…I didn’t
mean to spy.’
The admission made Duo’s face soften, and he looked
away, resuming the work on his hair. ‘Excepted.’ He said simply,
and Heero could tell he was hoping the conversation was over.
But Heero found himself moved to go and sit on the bed beside
his partner. ‘You…scared me.’
Duo didn’t speak, still clinging to the hope that Heero
would drop it. His skin looked deathly white in the harsh light of the room,
and his whole body was trembling slightly. Heero reached out and gently
laid a hand on his bare shoulder.
‘Gods!’ he muttered, ‘You’re still
Duo stiffened, and a flash of the anger came back, ‘I’m
fine.’ He said flatly, and Heero withdrew his hand.
‘How bad did you cut yourself?’ He went doggedly
forward, figuring Duo was already mad; he might as well get that question
out of the way.
Duo slapped the comb down on the bed, turned his face away
and blushing furiously, jerked the blanket away to bare his chest, letting
Heero touch and probe until he was satisfied the cut wasn’t deep.
‘Happy?’ Duo hissed, still not meeting his eyes,
‘Now leave me alone.’
Heero recoiled, a little stung, ‘Duo, I was worried;
that’s all. I don’t understand…’
Duo’s eyes came back around as he pulled the blanket
up again, ‘I told you, Heero. It’s really none of your business.’
‘You’re my partner.’ The anger was slipping
back into Heero’s voice as well now, ‘Of course it’s my
‘Please…just leave me alone.’ There was
a note of defeat in his voice, fatigue finally laying claim to him.
‘Not until you promise me you’ll never do that
again.’ Heero pressed hard, seeing the weakness and meaning to exploit
There was a long silence and finally, an almost imperceptible
nod, ‘Fine.’ The voice was small and resigned, ‘I promise.
Now go away.’
Heero rose and left the room, wanting only to stay and hold
the shivering body of his partner, wanting to warm him and protect him and
find the answers to the questions raging through his head. He paused at
the door and looked back, only to find Duo already lying down, curled up
almost invisible under the pile of blankets. Heero turned off the light
and shut the door behind him.
Quatre was down the hall, standing in his doorway watching
for him. He quirked an eyebrow and Heero shrugged, shaking his head. Quatre
touched the center of his chest and Heero nodded reassurance. They both
went to their beds, but sleep didn’t come easy that night for either
Morning made the whole thing seem like a dream as Duo bounced
and laughed his way through breakfast, acting as though nothing had ever
happened. Quatre maintained the illusion that he didn’t know, and
Heero was forced to keep his mouth shut.
He and Quatre talked about it between the two of them, Heero
relaying what had passed between himself and Duo the night before. Quatre
filling in the gaps and telling Heero his theories that the beach episodes
corresponded with the rougher missions.
Heero found himself dreading missions even more than usual.
Several weeks went by, with only a few simple hacking jobs coming in, and
Heero began to relax a little. After all, Duo had promised; and he never
broke a promise.
He discovered after the first several days, that Quatre had
taken Trowa into his confidence, and though he was a little irritated, he
accepted it; he should have know it was coming. The two were partners, just
as he and Duo were, and normally shared everything. He was only a little
surprised that Quatre had not told him before now. He himself decided to
speak to Wufei, not wanting their other teammate to be the only one left
in the dark.
So it was four hearts in throats, and four minds in turmoil
when Duo was assigned another search and destroy.
It was Heero, Duo, and Wufei, tasked with finding a shuttle
convoy attempting to deliver supplies to an outpost. There would be heavy
defense, since the Gundams had wrecked havoc on the supply lines over the
last several months, and the outposts were getting desperate.
It was a nasty affair. They completed the mission. They did
what they came to do. The battle lasted hours. The screams of the dying
echoed in their heads much longer than that. There was no radio chatter
on the return flight.
Heero and Wufei docked and disembarked first, moving as one,
without discussion, to stand at the base of Deathscythe, waiting for Duo.
It took him long minutes to shut down and dock. Longer still for the hatch
to sigh open on his Gundam, and when he climbed down, it was a slow, weary
climb, with none of his usual style and grace.
He turned to meet their eyes when his feet were on the ground,
and Heero could see written on his face the understanding that there were
no secrets here, and he flushed faintly.
‘Let’s head back and get dinner.’ Wufei
suggested lightly and they moved to flank their teammate without any real
conscious plan to do so.
Duo gave Heero one odd, almost pleading look that he could
answer only with confusion and Duo himself broke the eye contact, defeated.
They turned and made the walk to the safe house, there was none of Duo’s
usual talk, he simply walked between them, shoulders slumped and head hanging.
He took overly long in the shower, and only picked at his
food later at the dinner table. Heero found an excuse to brush his arm,
and found his skin cold to the touch, knowing that the shower had been in
icy water. He didn’t understand and he didn’t know what to do.
There was something wrong with his partner that he didn’t know how
to fix. Bandages and stitches wouldn’t do it this time; he was at
a total loss. All he could do was hover, offering his company, hoping that
eventually Duo would talk to him.
They tried. They all tried. Heero just by being there, never
leaving his partner alone for long. Quatre cooking like there was no tomorrow,
plying the unusually quiet pilot with all the things that he had ever even
once exclaimed over. Trowa did his best to bring home distractions, renting
old movies and offering board games that Duo normally delighted in playing
to pass the hours. Wufei decided to teach him some of his simpler katas,
dragging him out in the early morning hours to the back yard. Duo tried
as well, rising to each new offering with his patented grin intact, complimenting
and eating Quatre’s food, playing the games and sitting with the group
laughing at the old movies. He attacked Wufei’s teachings with a vengeance,
throwing himself into the ritualistic routines with a concentrated will
that took Wufei by surprise and forced him to escalate his training to some
of the more complex forms. Heero took to watching them, never far from his
He seemed to be the only one who realized that this was all
on the surface. That if Quatre had looked passed the smiles and the compliments;
Duo wasn’t really eating half his normal fare. Though he laughed and
played the games, it wasn’t with his usual exuberance; where once
he would have led the group, dragging the games out and pestering everyone
to play, now he followed, coming to the table only when sought out. And
the hours of practicing katas with Wufei were only a pale replacement for
the ritual of his dancing. Though it was an outlet that he threw himself
into with all his will, it somehow left him almost frustrated and angry.
And it only got worse with each mission that came. Heero began
to fear for his partner; he was becoming more reckless with each passing
day, tackling more than he could handle; seeming to almost deliberately
antagonize his opponents, drawing the fire of every gun on the field. He
seldom communicated anymore during battle, speaking only when it was absolutely
necessary, and when his voice came over the comm, there was the blare of
screaming rock music in the background, as though he could drown out the
sounds he didn’t want to hear.
Heero began having nightmares, dreams where he watched Deathscythe
self-destruct, that left him shaking and shivering in his bed. Dreams that
drove him to cross the hall and crack Duo’s door open in the middle
of the night, because his heart had to see his partner safe in his bed.
The end of the week found another mission. A base infiltration
with a two-man team, Wufei and Duo. Heero didn’t like it. He didn’t
like it one bit. He went to Wufei’s room while he was packing his
‘What’s up, Yuy?’ the Chinese man greeted
his arrival, lifting an eyebrow when his teammate shut the door behind him.
‘I need to speak with you…about Duo.’ The
more Heero thought about this mission, the worse the idea seemed.
Wufei simply continued pulling on his gun harness, and waited
patiently for him to continue.
‘Have you noticed how he’s been lately? In battle?’
Now that he thought about it, there hadn’t been that many missions
that Duo had been on with anyone but Heero himself.
‘I don’t think I know what you mean; I have noticed
nothing out of the ordinary.’ Wufei frowned at him, concerned.
‘Listen, Chang; this is important. The last several
missions, Duo has…he’s getting reckless.’ He wasn’t
sure how to get across his point without making accusations.
‘Are you saying he’s suicidal?’ Trust Wufei
to cut right to the hearts blood of the matter.
Heero blew out his breath and ran his fingers through his
hair, ‘I don’t know. Maybe. Something’s happening inside
him…he won’t talk to me. I don’t know what’s going
Wufei stopped his preparations and turned his full attention
on Heero, ‘What are you telling me?’
‘I’m not sure I know!’ Heero was beside
himself with frustration, ‘He’s not acting like himself! We
stopped those damn trips to the beach, but now…somehow, things are
building up inside him…I’m…worried, Chang.’
‘I could have wished you would have brought this up
before now.’ Wufei glared at him.
‘How the hell can you not have noticed?’ Heero
growled in exasperation, ‘He hasn’t been himself since I confronted
Wufei seemed to deflate a little, ‘You’re right.
I think I saw it and…didn’t want to see it.’
‘Suicidal is a damn strong word, Chang. But…I’m
not entirely sure it isn’t accurate. Watch him. Watch him close.’
He left the room, feeling a horrid helplessness and wishing
that he could just cancel the mission. If Duo hadn’t already known
about it; wasn’t suiting up for it right now, Heero would go in his
place and never tell him. But all he could do was stand in the living room
and watch them slip out together into the dark and wish he knew how to pray.
He stayed there, where he could see the front door, and waited
for their return even though it would be hours and hours before they came
back. He knew there was no point in trying to go to bed, he would never
be able to sleep, would only toss and turn, listening for the sounds of
them coming in. The installation was only a couple of hours away. They should
be back by morning, if all went well, but somehow, Heero doubted all was
going to go well. The longer he sat, the more sure he was that he had made
a grave error in not calling the mission off. He shouldn’t have let
this go on so long; he should have confronted Duo when he first started
noticing that something was bothering him. This was his partner, and he
was letting him down. The whole point to having a partner was to have someone
to watch your back, someone to be there when you needed help. His thoughts
spiraled and twisted in on themselves while he sat alone in the dark, until
finally, near dawn, he heard sounds that indicated someone was on the porch.
He fairly leaped from the chair he had been in all night and ran to throw
the door open. He surprised them, as Duo struggled to get the door open
and hold Wufei up at the same time.
His wide, amethyst eyes met Heero’s, full of pain and
despair and something darker and all he said was, ‘Help him.’
In a whimpered voice that sounded lost and panicked.
Heero moved in on the other side, and pulled Wufei’s
arm around his shoulders. They hauled him into the house, and Heero kicked
the door shut behind them. Trowa and Quatre came thundering down the stairs
and there were shouts and questions and Wufei wavering in and out of focus.
They had trouble prying his fingers away from Duo’s jacket but finally
succeeded, and Heero and Trowa carried him up to his room where they were
able to strip him out of his clothes and examine his injuries. They found
a gun shot wound in the meaty part of his thigh that was bleeding profusely.
‘We’re going to have to take him in.’ Trowa
hissed, working over it, ‘This looks bad; he’s lost a lot of
‘Duo?’ On the bed, Wufei’s hand groped out,
reaching, and Heero took it.
‘You’re all right. Duo got you back, we’re
going to have to take you in to the base, Ok?’
‘Where’s Duo?’ Wufei panted, trying desperately
to keep his focus.
‘It’s all right, Chang.’ Quatre reassured
him, 'Duo got back with you.’
‘Then where the hell is he?’ He yelled, his anger
helping him stay aware.
Heero looked around and suddenly realized that Duo hadn’t
followed them into Wufei’s room.
‘What happened?’ He demanded tersely; this wasn’t
like Duo at all, and Heero was suddenly afraid.
‘I got hit because he froze.’ Wufei gasped out,
finding Heero with fearful eyes, ‘He’s a mess. Go find him.’
Quatre squeezed Heero’s arm, ‘We can take care
of Wufei, Heero. Go.’
It was all the reassurance he needed, and he bolted out of
the room, checking first in Duo’s room, not really surprised to find
it empty, then leaping down the stairs meaning to check the ground floor.
But the first thing he saw was the front door standing wide open, and he
knew without a shadow of a doubt he had closed it.
He started running, thinking to check the hidden Gundams first,
but on a sudden inspiration, heading toward the beach. His heart was racing;
his gut was churning, and his mind near to whiting out with terror. All
his foreboding, all night long had come to this. He was afraid of what he
was going to find on that beach; couldn’t move fast enough, it felt
like one of those dreams where you ran and ran and didn’t get anywhere.
He vaulted down stairs and leaped over benches, pushing his body to its
limits, trying to get to the beach as fast as possible. His minds eye saw
Duo swimming out with the tide and not turning back. Finally, he reached
the boardwalk, running out its length, his feet pounding on the wooden slats.
He threw himself against the rail, the rough board biting into his hips
as he hit it almost at a full run. Below, he could see something dark on
the sand near the place where Duo had gone into the water all those weeks
ago. With a cry, he hurled himself over the railing, landing in the sand
with a bone jarring impact, staggering up and running toward the dark shape.
The moon was not out tonight, the only light coming from the lights up on
the boardwalk and the street far above.
‘Duo!’ He reached the dark, unmoving shape, and
pulled the limp body of his partner into his lap. ‘Gods Duo; what
have you done?’
His body was lying at the waters edge, the surf rolling up
and pulling at his legs, soaking into his clothes, the water diluting the
blood into a pink foam.
His wrists were slashed, and his life was bleeding away into
Heero moaned his anguish even as he levered himself up, hauling
Duo up into his arms and stumbling up the beach, heading up to the street
where there was a pay phone.
The sand made the going difficult, especially under the extra
weight, it was all Heero could do to make his way through it until he reached
the hiking path and started the climb to street level.
‘Duo can you hear me? Please, Duo; wake up. Stay with
me, please stay with me.’ He talked, rambling nonsense, not half hearing
what he was saying, just hoping to get through to his partner; his friend.
There was a faint stirring in his arms as they reached the
path, and Duo’s voice, faint and slurred, ‘S’rry. Tell
‘Fei I’m so sorry.’
‘You’ll tell him yourself, damnit.’ Heero
whispered in response, his arms tightening around the shivering body he
clutched to his chest.
He wasn’t sure Duo even heard him, ‘Screwed up
this time. I screwed it all up.’
‘You did not. Everything’s fine. Wufei is fine.
Trowa and Quatre are taking him to the base. He’s going to be all
right.’ He hoped that were all true, he didn’t want to lie,
but he needed to comfort. The cold seawater and the blood were soaking into
his shirt and making him feel the cold, he could only imagine what Duo was
Finally, finally, they reached the top of the path and Heero
lay his precious burden down on the ground while he grabbed the phone and
made the call, giving the codes and the directions that would bring help
as fast as possible. He was amazed how steady his voice was, how the soldiers
training took over and made his brain work to do what had to be done even
while his hands shook and his heart ached and Duo’s life blood oozed
across the pavement at his feet. Message delivered, he hung up the phone
and knelt down beside his shivering partner, turning the wrists to the light.
The cuts were deep, probably delivered with that same damn knife that Duo
always carried, the one he had nearly thrown himself on. Heero viciously
hoped the Gods damned thing had washed out to sea. He tore his own shirt
off, and ripped it down the middle, doing his best to bind up the gashes
and slow the bleeding. Duo was deathly pale and shuddering beside him.
‘Duo, can you hear me?’ He asked gently, wanting
some reassurance that he was still aware.
The eyes didn’t open, but Heero saw his mouth work,
tongue slipping out to lick at dry lips. It took several tries before a
sigh of sound came to him, ‘S’rry…so sorry.’
Tears stung at Heero’s eyes, and he blinked furiously
to keep his sight clear so he could see what he was doing, ‘Damn it,
Duo! Stop fucking apologizing.’
There was a tiny ghost of a grin; little more than the twitch
of his lips, ‘I screwed up really bad this time Heero.’
‘Damn straight you did.’ Heero growled at him,
his voice getting husky despite himself. He had Duo’s wrists bound
as best he could, and shifted him to get his head below heart level, holding
his arms up above him, hoping to slow down the flow of blood. ‘But
help is coming, you have to hang on, Duo. Just hang on.’
Duo’s eyes came open and he seemed to be fighting a
great drowsiness, ‘Mean ‘Fei; almos’ got him killed. Screwed
up. I can’t do this any more.’
Heero lay down beside him, trying to give him some of his
own body heat, curling one arm around his head and pulling him into his
shoulder. ‘He’s all right. He’s going to be fine. You
may have made a mistake, but damnit, Duo; this isn’t the answer.’
‘Can’t…can’t endanger the others.’
His eyes were slipping closed again, ‘This is…best.’
‘No!’ Heero couldn’t help the rise in his
voice, and the tears broke passed his control and streamed down his face.
‘You stay with me, damn you! Don’t you do this to me!’
Duo’s eyes opened again, searching for his partner,
his face taking on a look of wonderment, ‘Heero? Don’t cry.
Please don’t cry.’
‘Gods Duo; why the hell didn’t you talk to me
before it came to this?’ He leaned his head down, touching his forehead
‘I…I didn’t think you cared.’ Came
the breath of a reply, ‘You guys are all so…damned strong.’
Heero pulled back and looked down into the chalk white face
next to his own; the amethyst eyes were closed again. In the distance, he
heard sirens and wished to hell they would hurry.
‘Duo; Gods, of course I care. We all care. You can’t
leave us like this. You can’t leave me. Please…Gods…please
don’t die.’ His voice was a broken thing, gruff and frightened.
Duo drew a shuddering breath and forced his eyes open again;
to Heero’s gaze they looked dull and flat and he wasn’t sure
he was even seeing him any more, ‘Heero? Favor?’
‘Anything.’ He whispered, willing the sirens to
There was a hesitant silence and then soft as a sigh, ‘K…kiss
It hit Heero like a blow, and he jerked upright, staring down
into the face beneath his.
‘No!’ The cry ripped from his throat, catching
him by surprise with its fierceness, and Duo flinched beside him. ‘You
want my kisses, you live for them!’
Duo said something then, but there didn’t seem to be
breath left to get the words passed his lips and Heero leaned down and kissed
his forehead and his cheek, alarmed by the feel of the icy skin, ‘You
hear me, Duo Maxwell? You live and I’ll kiss you every day for the
rest of our lives! But I won’t say goodbye!’
Duo smiled softly, but didn’t speak or open his eyes
again. The transport truck roared up at long last, sirens blaring, and the
medics leaped down and Heero found himself shoved out of the way while they
set to frantic work. Then they were both loaded into the truck and Heero
remembered very little else for some time. His eyes only saw Duo’s
still form, ghostly pale and fragile looking on the gurney on the floor
of the truck, with, it seemed, a dozen hands working over him. Heero could
only draw hope from the frenzied activity and try to stay the hell out of
the way. Someone threw a blanket to him, but it didn’t register that
he was supposed to be doing something with it, and someone else came and
wrapped it around his bare shoulders. He heard the work ‘shock’
and one of the attendants came and tried to talk to him, but he only shoved
the man back towards Duo with a warning growl. After that, they left him
pretty much alone.
The ride seemed to take forever, another one of those nightmare
runs that didn’t gain any ground. Heero tried to take heart from the
continued attention to Duo’s limp arms. If he died, they wouldn’t
still be working on him, would they? He found himself rocking to and fro
and forced himself to stop.
The tears had stopped flowing when Duo had stopped talking
to him, when they had pulled him out of his arms. His emotions felt wrapped
in cotton; dulled and far away. As long as he could sit and see Duo across
the truck, and knew that he was still alive; he was content to just sit
and stare. He was rocking again, and he didn’t bother to try to stop
At long bloody damn last, the truck was pulling into the emergency
bay at the base hospital with the sound of screaming tires and a sudden,
hard lurch. The gurney Duo was on was hauled out the back almost before
the truck was completely stopped. Heero clambered down, following behind,
blanket falling away unnoticed. Someone appeared in his line of vision,
attempting to draw him to the side, but he snarled dangerously and that
person got the hell out of the way. He followed the gurney into the depths
of the emergency room, not letting his eyes leave the pale, pale form. Several
people made to touch him, to move him back to the waiting room, but one
look into his icy blue eyes, and they backed off quickly. He stayed carefully
out of the way, and eventually they stopped bothering him.
He watched them cut Duo’s clothes away; he watched them
start the IV, finally beginning the transfusion. He saw them working on
the gashed wrists, saw heads shake, saw eyes flicking his way. It finally
soaked through to his muddled brain that they were prepping Duo for surgery.
Panic began to pry its way around the numbness as he realized
they wouldn’t let him go with Duo. Suddenly, familiar hands were on
his shoulders and Trowa and Quatre were there.
The heat of Trowa’s hands resting reassuringly on his
arms seeped into him, working passed the cocoon his heart was wrapped in
and he began to shiver and he did something he never would have thought
he could manage. He turned around to find his teammates and threw his arms
tight around Trowa’s chest, burying his face in the comfort offered
him, letting go to the tremors that attacked his body. Quatre came in behind
him, and the two sheltered him from prying eyes as the attendants wheeled
Duo away to the waiting operating room.
Someone came up to Quatre and spoke to him in low tones, and
again Heero heard that word; ‘shock’. There was an exchange
between calm, reliant Quatre and the faceless intern, and Heero felt vaguely
that there was important information being passed, but he couldn’t
seem to focus enough to hear more than one word in twenty. Trowa’s
arms were tight around him, solid and strong and like an anchor in the fog
he seemed lost in. Quatre’s hands were firm and gentle on his back,
and between them, they got him moving, and he went, unresisting, not caring
in the slightest where, as long as it was away from the glaring, unforgiving
lights and the sight of Duo’s blood-soaked clothes in a pile on the
They were granted an empty room; it was apparently a slow
night, and he let his teammates take him there. A sink full of warm water
was run, and he realized when they began to clean him up, that he was smeared
with Duo’s blood. His arms; his hands; his chest; his face. Quatre
gently bathed him with the stark, white hospital washcloth that quickly
turned a sickly red. The protective wrapping around his aching heart slowly
unwound as the blood was cleaned away. Washed away.
Washed away by the cold ocean waves. Swept away by the cold,
dancing wind. Blood rinsed clean by the grace of the only God Duo could
believe in; Shinigami, the God of Death. In that moment, Heero understood
what he had taken from Duo when he had denied him his dancing on the sand.
Absolution. Shinigami’s forgiveness. He danced in the moonlight and
threw himself at Death, and if the God refrained from taking him, then he
must be forgiven, right? ‘Guess Shinigami forgave me again, huh?’
‘What have I done?’ Heero whispered, and his pain
came home to roost in full measure and his knees buckled and the tears came,
and could he have seen the horrified, shocked looks his teammates exchanged,
he wouldn’t have cared.
If Duo died, it was all his fault.
They cleaned him, and they dried him, and Trowa took his jacket
off and slipped it on his chilled body, and the still warm garment was a
comfort that finally let him regain some control. He did his best to explain,
but he wasn’t sure they understood.
They took him to a waiting room then, hovering over him like
two mother hens; Quatre dealing with the people, deflecting questions and
turning aside the curious, Trowa, an intimidating presence that stayed close
and watchful; protective of his tenuous privacy.
Quatre went and found a blanket, tucking it in around his
legs in the still wet jeans. Disappearing again, only to return with a cup
of hot tea from the Gods only knew where, that he pressed into Heero’s
trembling hands. It helped. It all helped. Just their being there helped.
His focus began to come back, and his brain to process.
‘Where’s Wufei?’ He said at last, voice
‘He’s in surgery as well.’ Trowa told him
gently, one hand resting on Heero’s back.
‘I’ll check.’ Quatre told him soothingly,
and went to speak in low tones with the nurse at the desk. Heero was surprised
to see her darting almost fearful glances his way, and beside him, Trowa
rumbled a deep-throated chuckle, ‘You have to stop scaring the hell
out of the hired help, Yuy.’
It was such a normal thing to say, and Heero appreciating
the effort, quirked a half-hearted grin at him. It faded quickly and his
eyes returned to the doors that led to the surgery arena.
The hand on his back made small circles, ‘It’s
good it’s taking this long. He’s tough, Heero, he’s going
to make it.’ It might have been more comfort if Trowa hadn’t
sounded as though he were trying to convince himself.
Quatre rejoined them, ‘Wufei is out of surgery and in
recovery. They said one of us could go in to see him when he wakes up.’
Heero nodded, excepting the news with a great deal of relief,
not only for Wufei’s sake, but for Duo’s as well.
It was an hour before someone finally came out of those damned
doors and wearily approached them. Heero stood to meet the man, obviously
the surgeon, blanket forgotten.
The man smiled faintly, his face otherwise unreadable, ‘Your
friend is doing much better.’ He told them gently.
‘When can we see him?’ Heero demanded, not waiting
for the rest of the man’s prepared speech.
A frown crossed the tired face, ‘I’m afraid that
in the case of self-inflicted wounds, we have a policy of waiting until
the psychologist has had a chance to evaluate…’
Trowa cut him off smoothly, his voice bland and firm, ‘I’m
afraid there’s been a misunderstanding, Doctor. Our two teammates
were on a…covert mission. All injuries were a result of their capture
and subsequent escape from the enemy.’
The man looked somewhat skeptical for a moment, looking first
at Trowa, and then at Quatre, who nodded sadly, backing up his partner’s
statement. The Doctor looked angry then and muttered something about damned
‘As soon as he’s awake then.’ He told them
gently, seeming only glad that someone had arrived to take the frightening
Heero Yuy in hand, ‘He’s very weak and will need to rest.’
Then he turned and went back the way he had come.
Heero sank back down into his chair, knees feeling like they
might fail him. He granted his two teammates a quirk of a smile, ‘You
two could sell swamp land for a living.’
The two exchanged mild, innocent smiles; as pleased with Heero
returning to normal, as they were with the success of their deception.
It wasn’t long before a nurse came out with the news
that Wufei could have a visitor. Heero wanted to go, but was afraid that
Duo might wake while he was in with their Chinese partner. In the end, after
an odd exchange of wordless glances, Quatre went.
Heero suspected they had made a conscious decision to leave
the taller, more intimidating Trowa with him as a buffer between Heero and
the hospital staff. It embarrassed him. He had not lost control of himself
like this in…well, he wasn’t all together sure he had ever lost
control like this before. He couldn’t quite believe the depth of his
feelings. He had always been fond of Duo, had harbored a secret attraction
even, but he had found to his shock, in that moment on the beach when he
realized what Duo had done, that he loved the man. Loved him like he had
never loved anything in his entire life. Had it been within his power to
take Duo’s wounds onto his own body, he would have done so without
a second thought. He would have died on the beach if it would have meant
that Duo would live.
Whenever he closed his eyes, he still saw the crumpled body
lying at the waters edge, the icy water lapping at his legs, his braid looping
across the sand like some exotic sea snake.
What had he done? Dear Gods; this was all his fault. What
had he gone and done?
‘You Ok?’ Trowa asked him gently, his hand still
resting on Heero’s back.
‘Hmmm? Fine…I’m fine.’ Heero answered,
leaning to rest his elbows on his knees, dropping his face into his hands
and rubbing at tired eyes.
‘You got quiet again.’ It was a question, meant
to draw him out, and Heero knew it but couldn’t really be irritated.
He sighed heavily, ‘I was just thinking…trying
to figure out how I should have handled the whole…beach thing.’
‘Heero,’ His friend said, lowering his voice for
privacy, ‘You couldn’t have let it go on. Sooner or later…he
‘I didn’t understand. I didn’t realize what
it did for him; how it helped him cope.’
‘He has to find another damn way to cope.’ Trowa’s
eyes glinted dangerously, ‘If you’re thinking of letting him…’
Heero looked up at his teammate with a dark scowl that firmly
answered that question, and Trowa didn’t bother to finish.
‘Of course I’m not.’ Heero told him, verbally
backing up the look, ‘I just don’t know how to help him.’
Trowa looked at him strangely, ‘Heero…we help
him by getting him out of this hell. We report him unfit for duty and stop
this right here.’
Heero sat up and turned stunned eyes on Trowa, ‘No.’
His voice was low, but firm, ‘He did this because he felt he’d
failed us. If we pull him off active duty, it will only reinforce the idea
that we don’t trust him.’
‘Wufei said he froze.’
‘You’ve never frozen, Trowa Barton?’ Heero
glared at him, ‘Never? I have. I know Quatre has, I’ve seen
Trowa lowered his eyes and finally had to nod.
‘I’ve never seen Duo falter before. He’s
never broken like this.’ Heero leaned closer to his teammate, partly
for privacy, partly from the intensity of what he had to say, ‘We
never talk about what we feel, about what we’ve done. He called us
strong; he thinks that none of us has ever lost our nerve.’
Trowa looked up at him again, his eyes admitting that Heero
spoke the truth, ‘So what are we going to do?’
Heero sat back again with a defeated sigh, ‘I don’t
bloody well know.’
There was a long silence, each of them lost in their own thoughts,
until finally Trowa spoke, looking off in the distance at nothing.
‘Well…how the hell do you deal with…it?’
Heero didn’t answer at once; it was something he had
been mulling over in the back of his mind since he had pieced the whole
thing together. ‘I don’t know…I just lock it down. I don’t
think about it. I keep it in terms of objectives and missions and goals.’
He sat and stared off in the same middle distance for a while,
not really satisfied with the answer, before glancing sideways, ‘How
Heero saw a muscle work in Trowa’s jaw, ‘Quatre…helps
He grunted and considered the thought. He wasn’t sure
what Trowa was saying and wasn’t about to ask for clarification. He
thought about the two of them; the way they acted around each other. They
complemented each other, supported each other, understood each other. He
could picture them, working in the kitchen or repairing a Gundam; working
side by side, finishing each others sentences, passing each other tools
without having to ask. Knowing each others needs without being told.
He wanted that. So suddenly and so badly, his chest hurt.
‘I want to…help Duo like that.’ He breathed,
and couldn’t look at his teammate to gage his reaction.
Suddenly he growled low in his throat. ‘Enough of this.
I’m not waiting any more.’
He shrugged out from under Trowa’s hand, and tossing
the blanket aside, went to find Duo. Trowa, sensing that Heero was completely
back in control, didn’t even think of getting in his way.
Heero strode straight through the doors that the Doctor had
used earlier and began a systematic search of the recovery rooms. A nurse
started to approach him, met his eyes and turned abruptly on her heel, pretending
she hadn’t seen him. The next nurse who crossed his path visibly quailed,
but approached him anyway.
‘Sir, can I help you? I don’t think you’re
supposed to be back here.’
‘I need to see the wrist laceration patient.’
He told her, guessing that she would be better acquainted with the condition
than the name of a newly admitted, unconscious patient. Her eyes flicked
involuntarily to the left, and he brushed passed her.
‘Debriefing.’ He muttered as she started after
him, ‘Covert Ops.’
That stopped her, and she hesitated in the middle of the hall
while he made his way to the last room on the left.
The lights were glaringly bright, making Duo look all the
paler against the white sheets. Heero’s breath hissed as he approached
the bed and looked down. The skin looked almost translucent, and Heero could
see the pulse in his neck beating painfully hard. The heart monitor by the
bed beeped a reassuring counter-point. Both wrists were swathed in stark
bandages, and there were several bags hanging from the IV stand.
Heero just stood looking down for a long moment, watching
the shallow rise and fall of Duo’s chest. He wanted to take and hold
one of those limp hands in his own, but was afraid of hurting. He settled,
finally, on resting one hand on Duo’s shoulder. He realized after
a moment, that the blanket draped across Duo’s body had been heated,
and remembered how cold his partner had been. It swept over him then, just
how bloody damned close he had come to losing this person who had slipped
inside his guard while he had been unaware, and stolen his heart right out
from under him.
The Doctor had said he would live. Would recover.
Carefully, gently, he leaned down and softly brushed his lips
across Duo’s. They felt parchment dry against him, and he soothingly
slid his tongue out and moistened them, trembling as Duo unconsciously responded.
‘That’s one, my love.’ Heero whispered softly
to the cherished face, his fingers stroking the pallid cheek.
Looking around, he found a chair and snagging it with his
foot, drug it over and sat down, preparing to stay as long as it took for
his partner to wake.
He didn’t for a moment believe that Trowa’s way
was the answer to this mess. What Heero had stolen from Duo, all unknowing,
was what had allowed the young man to live with himself and what the war
had forced him to become. It was nothing more than a ritual, and Heero knew
damn well that Duo was well aware of it. How in the hell it had all started,
Heero couldn’t even guess, but it had obviously developed over time
into some sort of bizarre answer to Duo’s need. Duo was a much more
sensitive soul than Heero felt himself to be, more imaginative, more…aware.
He couldn’t just ‘lock it down’ the way Heero was able
to. Couldn’t categorize it, organize it, and dump it into the most
detailed mission reports ever written to purge it from his system. Duo,
somehow, needed someone else to tell him it was all right; someone to let
him know that he was forgiven. Even if it wasn’t really true, it apparently
was enough to let him go on.
And Heero had taken it away from him. Left him floundering
in his guilt and confusion, lost in that place where the screaming and bloodletting
never stopped. Until he had finally faltered somehow; allowing a teammate
to come to harm, and that was the one thing he couldn’t live with.
Heero let his hand cup the smooth cheek, tracing the line
of Duo’s jaw, ‘I’m so sorry, Duo. I didn’t know
what I was doing. I didn’t realize.’
A soft sigh escaped from his partner’s lips, and his
eyes struggled open. Those beautiful amethyst eyes that always startled
Heero with their vibrant color. He blinked slowly, and Heero saw pain flicker
across his face, and confusion, and then a hint of fear.
‘I’m here. I’m right here.’ Heero
whispered, and those eyes turned his way, finding him and he saw the fear
‘Heero?’ the voice was hoarse and weak, and he
was fighting to keep his eyes open.
‘Yes, I’m with you. Everything’s all right
now.’ He soothed, gently squeezing the shoulder under his fingers.
‘What…?’ Heero watched the confusion slowly
fade as the memories came creeping back. ‘Wufei…Oh, Gods.’
Pain welled up in those eyes then, that had nothing to do with the physical
world, and Heero heard the steady rhythm of the heart monitor lurch.
‘Shhhh…He’s all right.’ Heero reached
to stroke soothing fingers across Duo’s forehead, ‘Calm down.
It’s all right. Everything’s Ok. Wufei is fine.’
Tears began to seep from the corners of Duo’s eyes,
washing unheeded down the side of his face. ‘Oh Heero, I messed up
Heero knew it was partially the drugs that had eroded his
loves self control, knew that Duo would hate this if he were fully aware
of his actions. But it shredded his heart all the same and he couldn’t
help easing up to sit on the side of the bed where Duo could see him without
having to turn his head uncomfortably.
‘No you didn’t.’ He whispered fiercely,
‘You made a mistake. A simple, single damn mistake, that’s all.’
Duo blinked up at him, wide eyed and looking stunned, ‘Didn’t
Wufei tell you?’ He whispered, tears streaming all the harder, ‘I
froze, Heero. I…I couldn’t pull the damn trigger and I got Wufei
shot!’ Behind him, Heero could hear the pulse of the monitor escalate
‘Hush; hush now. Stay calm or they’re going to
come throw me out of here.’ Heero tried to smile reassuringly, stroking
his fingers over Duo’s hair.
His partner took a calming breath, letting his eyes fall closed
and he frowned slightly, his concentration on the monitor and it slowly
settled to normal. For a moment, Heero thought he had fallen back asleep.
‘You’re not hearing what I’m telling you,
Heero. I almost got Wufei killed.’ His voice was soft and a little
ragged. Heero found water in a pitcher by the bed and fished an ice cube
out, gently tracing Duo’s dry lips with it until Duo opened his mouth
and took it from his fingers. Heero found himself reluctant to lose the
touch, and let his hands continue to caress cheek and forehead. Duo was
just muzzy enough from the drugs that he didn’t find this at all odd,
occasionally turning his face toward the calloused hands, as though asking
for the contact, the warmth.
‘Duo…we’ve all made mistakes. We’ve
all lost our nerve.’
‘Don’t lie to me.’ The eyes snapped open
and the heartbeat lurched.
‘I swear to you, I’m not.’ He leaned down,
stilling his hands and bringing his eyes close to stare straight into Duo’s,
‘We were just damn lucky that none of us got hurt. Do you remember
that mission when I brought Quatre back in Wing and we had to go back later
There was a tiny spark of uncertainty in Duo’s eyes,
and he nodded, ‘You hid Sandrock in the mountains?’
‘Yes, that was the time.’ Heero smiled softly,
allowing his fingers to resume their soothing path over Duo’s face,
‘We had been out for a week. We were both very tired; hadn’t
slept in days. In the middle of a fight, surrounded by mobile dolls, Quatre…forgot
how to pilot.’
Duo looked horrified, eyes going wide, ‘He…what?’
‘He just…went blank. He…froze. If I hadn’t
been there…’ He left the sentence unfinished.
‘You guys never said what happened…why didn’t…?’
‘It’s not really the kind of thing that you like
to talk about.’ Heero flushed a little and looked away, sorry now
that they hadn’t. Wishing desperately that they had talked about it,
brought it out in the open. Maybe if Duo had heard the story…
‘This is different, Heero; Wufei is never going to trust
me again.’ The pain, the guilt, the shame were palpable things.
‘I learned to trust Quatre again. The first thing Wufei
asked about when he regained consciousness at the house was you.’
Heero told him with a sad smile, ‘He was afraid for you, realized
before the rest of us that you were missing and sent me after you.’
A strange look crossed Duo’s face, a bastard mixture
of hope and despair, ‘I wish you hadn’t found me.’ He
murmured, so faintly, Heero almost didn’t hear.
He felt his own heart stagger in his chest, ‘Don’t
say that, love; please don’t say that.’ His hands came to rest
on Duo’s shoulders and he squeezed hard, ‘We need you…I
Finally, the touches, the endearments, the love in the eyes
of the man sitting beside him, seemed to soak through the drug induced fog
cloaking Duo’s brain. He looked up into Heero’s face, eyes searching
hungrily. His hand rose slowly off the bed, not without a faint grimace
of pain and came to rest on the back of the hand holding him.
‘Heero?’ He sighed, his features wearing an aching
hurt and the monitor told Heero what little else he needed to know.
He leaned slowly down, ‘Calm; heart of my heart, stay
The lips that rose to meet his were trembling and soft and
yielded to him completely. Heero took the invitation, but gently and softly
and with the greatest care, stopping when the keening of the heart monitor
told him to.
‘I will kiss you hello, my little one.’ He breathed
next to Duo’s ear, ‘I will kiss you good morning, and I will
kiss you good night. But I will never, ever kiss you good bye.’
It all seemed too much for Duo, who just lay still, his hand
resting light and shaking on Heero’s, the tears flooding down his
face unnoticed, his eyes never leaving Heero’s face.
‘Duo…say something.’ Heero pleaded after
a few moments under that stare.
‘Heero…oh Heero…please…hold me?’
The tone was desperate and hungry, the voice small and lost.
Heero smiled warmly, ‘I’m not sure how, love.’
He said with no little frustration, trying to find a way past the wires
and tubes. Duo squirmed over with some difficulty, the simple act of sliding
his body across the bed three or four inches leaving him panting, but Heero
was able to ease onto the bed beside him and work his arm around him, and
Duo collapsed into him with a sigh, burying his face against his partners
‘You’re warm.’ He mumbled, once settled,
and Heero drew the blankets back up around him.
‘Rest now, my love. Go back to sleep, I’m here.’
Heero carefully straightened the bandaged arms back out on the bed, making
certain nothing was touching the site of the wounds.
There was a very long stretch of silence, while they settled
and relaxed into each other, the heart monitor steadied and slowed, and
Heero thought for a while that Duo had dozed back off, but then his voice
came, soft and strained,
‘Heero…what am I going to do?’
‘You’re going to go on.’ Heero told him,
having found the answer when he came into this room, ‘You’re
going to go on because I can’t go on without you.’
His only answer was a shuddering sigh, so he continued.
‘You are going to rest, and you are going to get better.’
Heero brought his fingers up to stroke softly along the side of the face
pressed against him, ‘We’re going to get you out of here, and
we’re going to go on…together.’
‘I…I don’t know…’ Heero could
hear the self-doubt in the anguished voice. I don’t know if I can,
the voice said. What if I freeze again? What if someone else gets hurt because
of me? What if that someone is you? I don’t think I’m strong
enough. I’m tired and I’m cold and I hurt, and I’m not
sure if I haven’t reached the end of my rope.'
Heero heard all that and more in the simple, aborted syllables
that were whispered and left hanging on the air.
‘I’ll be there to help.’ Heero kissed the
top of the head that nuzzled below his chin, ‘You can dance for me,
and I’ll wash you clean…we’ll wash each other clean.’
Duo raised startled eyes to look into Heero’s face long
and hard. He saw true understanding in the gaze that met his unflinchingly.
Understanding and acceptance, and he knew the dancing wouldn’t be
the wild flirt with death that it had been, but could feel that Heero held
the power of absolution in his heart.
‘I…I would like that…very much.’ Duo
answered him, and allowed himself to drift back to sleep, safe in Heero’s
Fiction : GW :