Lys ap Adin
Duo stared intently at the boy lying next to him. "I love you, you know," he commented, almost casually.
Heero frowned back at him, the same wary expression that always greeted Duo's declarations of sentiment flowing easily into his eyes. "Why do you say that?"
"Because it's true." Duo grinned. "And because it drives you crazy."
Heero glared at him. "We're fifteen. What can we possibly know about love?"
Duo shrugged at him. "Enough to recognize it when it happens." He leaned closer to Heero, nuzzling his lover's neck. "Ready for a second round yet?"
"Are you sure you're not mistaking love for horniness?" Heero asked, responding to Duo's overtures with a willingness that did not detract from his determination to extract an answer from Duo.
"I'm very sure... ooh, do that again." Duo hummed happily as Heero complied. "They're very separate, but not incompatible, things. I really do love you. Forever."
"Forever's a stupid thing to promise in the middle of a war," Heero grunted. He bit his lower lip as Duo went after one of his more sensitive spots. "What happens if I die?"
"Then I'll spend the rest of my life being miserable without you," Duo said, completely serious even if staying utterly focused was nearly impossible with Heero's fingers doing *that*. "When I say forever, I mean it."
"Aa." Heero let the conversation lapse in favor of doing other, more pleasing, things with his mouth, but he didn't stop thinking.
After a few minutes, when they were both recovering their breath, he looked over at Duo. "I love you, you know," he said, mimicking the statement that had ignited the conversation in the first place. He paused, and added, "Forever," with all the solemnity he used when accepting a mission.
Duo chuckled throatily, lacing his fingers with Heero's. "I was wondering how long it would take you to figure that out," he murmured, not completely able to conceal his surprise and pleasure with flippancy. He sighed, closing his eyes. "Forever..."
Heero was dead.
Quatre had thanked whatever higher powers existed that he had been with Duo when Trowa's terse report came across the encrypted channels used solely by the gundam pilots. It wasn't that he particularly feared that Deathscythe's pilot would do any harm to *himself*; rather, Quatre was more afraid of the Shinigami glitter in Duo's eyes as Wufei decoded the message again, and again, in hopes that there had been some mistake. Together he and Wufei had managed to stop Duo from climbing into Deathscythe and extracting his vengeance from OZ in the bloodiest way possible. Duo might value the gift of life too much to throw it away in a pointless suicide, but Quatre suspected that the braid-wearing teenager might be willing to sell it for a very high price, if he could take enough of the soldiers who'd caused Heero's death with him. Wasn't it called suicide by cop?
He and Wufei, though, managed to talk Duo through the worst moments, and if there was a darker note to his laughter (when he finally learned to laugh again) and a pained light in his eyes that never fully went away, none of them said anything about it. It was plain enough to see that he and Heero had shared something deeper than anyone had really expected, and no one grudged him the right to mourn, as long as he still completed his missions successfully. Everyone knew that he'd go back to his old self at some point, when he stopped hurting so much.
Eventually they were right.
Heero was dead, and the wars were over, and Duo found himself on L2, working hand in hand with Hirde in a salvage yard. Somewhere along the line, the suggestion had been made that they ought to live together to cut down on the expenses of the rent. Somewhere along the line, they started sleeping together, and at some point it just made sense to go ahead and get married and be done with it.
That's how Duo found himself standing in the neighborhood church, wearing a rental tuxedo that itched uncomfortably, pledging to love, honor, and cherish Hirde for the rest of his life, while the other surviving pilots, a few other veterans and dignitaries, and a passel of the journalists who couldn't get enough of the rebel heroes watched. They exchanged rings, and kissed each other chastely, then promenaded down the aisle proudly.
Duo frowned out the window of the rented limousine as they rode from the church to the restaurant they'd rented for the reception. The simulated "sky" of the colony was darkening alarmingly, a sure precursor for the mists of water that would pass for rain on the colony. "Damn it, babe, you let me forget to hack into the system so I could make sure the weather would be nice today," he muttered unhappily.
Hirde frowned. "No, I didn't... you did it last night, remember? I stood over your shoulder and watched you do it."
Duo shrugged. "Must have been some technician who caught it, then. I never was the master hacker. That was Heero's job."
Hirde frowned harder at the mention of Heero, whose ghost occupied too many of Duo's memories and conversations. She'd never asked Duo about his and Heero's relationship. She didn't want to know. "Oh, look, we're here," she said brightly, as the limousine pulled up to the restaurant.
Quatre examined his punch suspiciously, wondering if Duo had been allowed a hand in its making. He wouldn't put it past Duo to have doctored the punch, just to make sure that *everyone* had a good time at the wedding.
"Relax," Wufei advised him, taking a sip of his own drink. "There's an open bar, so Duo didn't have any need to spike it. Besides, Sally has it on good authority that Hirde made sure he didn't get anywhere near the punchbowl."
"You can't blame me for being careful," Quatre retorted. "Remember what happened to me and Trowa?"
Wufei shuddered faintly. "Too well. It was your own fault, though, that you permitted the DJ to set up karaoke."
"Don't remind me, please," Trowa said, wincing.
Quatre looked defensive. "My sisters are wonderful people! It's not their fault that most of them can't carry a tune in a bucket."
The three shared a laugh at the memory of the twist for the absurd Trowa and Quatre's reception had taken.
"What's so funny?" Duo sauntered over to the three as he made his rounds through the room, thanking people for attending and accepting their good wishes.
"Just remembering old times," Quatre chuckled. He smiled at Duo. "Congratulations, Duo... and the best of luck to you and Hirde." Wufei and Trowa chorused similar things.
Duo nodded. "Thanks, guys." He exchanged a few more pleasantries with them, and moved off to another group.
Wufei broke the silence in his wake first. "It should have been Heero up there with him."
Quatre took a sip of punch. "Yeah."
"Do you think she knows that yet?" Trowa asked.
"I hope not." Quatre blinked, hearing the low growl outside. "Thunder?"
"I would have thought Maxwell would have fixed the weather on his own wedding day," Wufei grumbled.
The simulated thunder continued to rumble throughout the wedding supper, and the toasts afterward, at points drowning out whatever sentimental or humorous anecdote was being told. Around the room, people murmured quietly about the strange weather, wondering who had programmed the colony's weather systems for such a realistic sounding storm. Wufei protested his innocence loudly when someone suggested that he (as best man) had set up the storm as a practical joke.
Eventually, the restaurant staff cleared away the remains of the supper, and rearranged the tables, pushing them back from the dance floor. The DJ hushed everyone, then announced, "It's time for the part everyone's been waiting for... the first dance!" Everyone clapped politely as Duo and Hirde walked out to the center of the cleared dance floor. As the first strains of the music began to play, Duo moved to take Hirde into his arms.
At that moment, thunder crashed, and the lights flickered, plunging the room into darkness for a few chaotic moments as people shrieked and the restaurant's staff attempted to calm the guests. Then the lights returned to life, and people murmured and whispered excitedly about what could have caused the power surge.
Then Hirde screamed, a long quivering wail of fear. People turned to look at her, and seeing her wide eyes fixed on the back of the room, followed her gaze.
A slight, skinny figure stood in the door. He was wearing an old flight suit that had seen better days: it hung in tatters off his frame, singed in many places, and spotted with dark blotches in others. The figure's skin was waxy pale beneath smudges of grease and the same dark patches, in the places where it was intact. Other places showed huge gashes and burned places, crusted over with dried blood. The figure held a helmet under one arm; it was badly blackened. Nothing remained of the face shield but a few jagged shards. A deep crack ran up one side of the helmet. His face was mostly intact, with only one deep gash running across his cheek and into his hairline, and it was as expressionless as it had tended to be in life.
The room was utterly silent save for the sullen complaint of the thunderstorm as the figure of Heero Yuy stumbled forward into the room, making straight for the dance floor. People scrambled out of the apparition's way, whimpering as the scent of burnt wiring, blood, and death followed in his wake.
Hirde screamed again, gathering her long white skirts and scrambling off the dance floor, only stopping when she had her back pressed firmly against a wall with no further retreat available.
Heero ignored her, as did the groom standing transfixed in the middle of the dance floor, his eyes wide and disbelieving, and fearful. It was impossible to mistake this apparition of Heero for the living, breathing boy he had loved. As Heero lurched closer, he could catalogue each separate injury, counting no less than three distinctly mortal wounds. He could even see the grey tissue of Heero's brain beneath a blood-matted clump of unruly brown hair.
The only thing about Heero that Duo could recognize was the pair of blazing Prussian eyes fastened intently on his face.
The thing that was Heero stopped a scant few feet from Duo, seemingly waiting for him to do something.
Duo swallowed, moistening his lips. "Heero?" His voice broke on the second syllable, quavering with some unrecognizable mixture of emotions.
The specter nodded slightly, and rasped a single word. "Forever." Then he lifted a hand, holding it out to Duo in a gesture that was half command and half plea.
Duo placed his own hand (only shaking a little bit), in Heero's, shuddering at the feeling of the cold flesh. Heero nodded curtly at this, placing his other hand at Duo's waist, and swept Duo into a dance as music began to play.
The spectators, frozen by the horror of what they were seeing, could only see that Duo was clutching at Heero's arm with a white-knuckled grip (whether from fear or to keep his dead lover from vanishing, no one could say), and that he stared steadily at Heero as they spun faster and faster around the dance floor.
The dance went on and on, and while Heero was tireless, they could see Duo struggling to keep up the pace, panting for breath and becoming flushed, and now clinging to Heero just to stay balanced, perhaps. Where Duo stumbled, Heero kept him upright and moving as the music pounded on, its tempo demanding and unforgiving until the very last, when Heero whirled Duo to a stop. They stared at each other silently for a long moment, communicating in a language known only to them, then Heero kissed Duo firmly.
Duo's eyes slowly fluttered closed as the flush left his cheeks, and his fingers loosened their grasp on Heero's arm. The guests could see his knees beginning to buckle and sag as the kiss went on and on as the storm raged outside.
Then the thunder crashed again, rattling the entire building into another power outage.
No one moved during the long, tense moments of darkness, or did more than gasp shallowly for breath, until the lights flickered back on.
The ghastly apparition had disappeared. Duo Maxwell was alone on the dance floor, sprawled in an ungainly twist of arms and legs and braid on the polished hardwood, pale and still. It was another minute of staring before anyone could bring himself to cross the empty space and confirm what the complete stillness of his body indicated.
Duo was dead.
A real rainstorm, not a glitch in a colony's weather system, pounded the soil of the graveyard on Earth where the first two gundam pilots where buried (even if, in Heero's case, the gravestone only marked an empty casket).
The two low stones stood side by side, as the three surviving pilots had insisted they ought, and now a quiet vigil was being held for the two.
"Do you think it really happened?" Quatre asked quietly.
Neither Trowa nor Wufei had to ask what he meant.
"'There are more things in heaven and earth...'" Wufei said softly. This seemed a good enough answer--the best they were likely to get--so Quatre shrugged. Eventually he and Trowa turned away, heading for their car. Wufei stood a while longer, looking at the rain-soaked graves. "Be happy, you two, wherever you are... you earned it," he murmured. Then he too turned away, walking to the car where Sally was waiting for him.
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