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The Ninth Life


Madam Blue


"…" Denotes spoken words
~…~ Denotes thoughts

It was supposed to be a simple smash and grab mission, in and out, get the 
information and blow. 

Then all hell broke loose.

"Duo! General Fazzo is abandoning the base! He's going to blow it 
up so we can't escape with the disks! Get Heero and get out!"

"Roger, Wu. We're outta here!"

Duo stuffed the last few disks into his pack as he ran down the hall.

"Heero, time to go! General Fatso's pulling an Une! We've got what 
we came for, let's go!"

Multiple explosions started rocking the ground as the two boys ran out of the 
complex. The glowing tip of Shenlong's whirling staff could barely be seen 
through the smoke off to their right. They had just turned the corner in time 
to see the hanger holding their escape plane go up in flames.

"Shit! Wufei, 'Out Plan B'!"

"I'm on it. Rendezvous time 4 minutes."

Heero and Duo dodged flying debris as they waited for Wufei to get to them. 
Finally the huge machine was there, carefully reaching out to carry them away. 
Heero was secure in Nataku's tight grip as Duo climbed aboard with his 
important bag of disks, the Gundam already raising itself high above the ground.
A missile rocked the heavy Gundam, causing the old strap on Duo's pack to 
finally snap and go tumbling, only to be snagged on the Dragon Claw's tip. 
Spinning around, Duo reached out to grab at the hard won information. 

"Duo! Get back down!"

"No, we need those disks. Trust me!"

Duo flashed a grin at his lover and stretched to his fullest just as an 
explosion went off directly under Shenlong's feet. What little balance Duo 
had on his perch was lost and the braided boy began a long fall down.

"Duo! No!"

In a safe house not far away, a porcelain cup shattered as it hit the floor. 
Quatre screamed and clutched his chest until the pain gave way to oblivion.

-----------One Year Later-----------

Duo sat by himself on a hard park bench, enjoying the warmth of the sun on 
his face. The sun was shining, birds were chirping, everything was perfect. 
Or they would have been, if Duo weren't feeling so lonely. With a long sigh, 
he cast his gaze out over the park only to catch his eye on a familiar thatch 
of blond hair. Jumping to his feet, Duo rushed off to meet up with his old 

"Hey, Q-man! Wait up! Quatre!"

Even though his legs were longer, it took a while for him to catch up with 
the rushing blond boy. Quatre seemed in such a hurry, looking about quickly 
and skittering away from people as he passed them on the street. Finally Duo 
was able to reach him. Grabbing his shoulder from behind, Duo greeted him.

"Oy, Quatre! Say hello, why don't ya?"

Quatre jerked the moment he felt someone touch him. Spinning around with his 
eyes wide in shock, he backed up till he hit the wall behind him.

"Duo?! Oh sweet God, Duo…"

"Heh, sorry man! Didn't mean to sneak up on ya!"

Now that his friend was facing him, Duo was shocked by what he saw. Quatre's 
hair was limp and dirty, his cheeks hollow and gaunt. His skin had a grayish 
tint and what were once bright blue eyes now seemed muddy and dull. There was 
a wild look in his sunken eyes, a combination of sleepless nights and pain, 
sorrow, and something else. Fear?

"Uh, so how're you doing? I know it's been a while. Trowa doing ok?"

"Wha? Oh! Yes, um, Trowa's fine… Duo! What are you doing here?"

Quatre was staring up at Duo, a shaking fist held to his chest, over his heart. 
He reminded Duo of a scared rabbit, or maybe a whipped dog. He raised his 
hands in a friendly gesture, wanting to calm his friend down.

"Hey, just wanted to say 'Hi'. Man, are you doing ok? You don't look 
so hot."

"I… I'm fine. It's just that… since last year, things haven't been the 

Duo grinned.

"Hey! If you ever need to talk, I'm here for ya. You know that, right?"

Quatre just shook his head, half a grin forming on his lips.

"I know."

All Duo could do was shrug.

"Well, uh, take care of yourself, ok? Say 'Hi' to Trowa for me. And, 
jeez, go eat something, ok?"

"I will, old friend, I will… and Duo? It's…good to see you again…"

The sun had already set by the time Duo tried talking to Heero about Quatre. 
The worried boy paced around the room while the other typed at his computer.

"It was weird Heero. I've never seen Quatre look like that. He was 
so jumpy! And IF he's been eating, none of it's stayed down! Do you think I 
should talk to Trowa about it? I was thinking of tracking him down tomorrow… 
What do you think?"

Nothing but the sound of computer keys was heard.

"Sometimes I don't know why I even bother! This is important! He's 
our friend! You know Heero, I've had better conversations with rocks!"

For a moment Heero stopped typing, but he never looked up from his keyboard, 
never said a word. Then he resumed typing as though nothing had ever happened.

The next day Duo found himself sitting in Trowa's flat. The tall boy was 
looking out the window, pensive green eyes sweeping the road for a specific 
blond hared, blue eyed face in the crowd.

"Trowa, uh, I know we haven't hung out a lot lately, but I wanted to 
talk to you about Quatre…"

Still looking out the window, Trowa softly whispered

"He's usually home by now."

"Yeah, well… before he gets here, have you noticed anything weird 
about him lately? You know, not eating, not sleeping? I ran into him the 
other day and -"

One visible green eye narrowed.

"There he is."

As soon as he'd spoken, Trowa moved away from the window and slowly walked to 
the door.

"Yeah, well, we can talk more later, ok? Just think about it, 'cause 
I'd hate for anything to be wrong with Quatre, you know? Oh, and I wouldn't 
tell him we talked about him like this, it'd just embarrass him or something."

Soft footsteps echoed down the hall as Trowa opened the door to let Quatre in. 
Duo still couldn't believe the sickly looking boy in front of him was the same 
happy, lively friend he had known before. Sunken eyes flicked to him for half 
a second before focusing completely on Trowa. A real smile surfaced on ash 
gray lips.

"Ah, Trowa, it's good to be home."

"Would you like some coffee?"

"Please, that would be very kind of you."

Duo stayed quiet for this tender scene. The words they spoke were a dime a 
dozen, heard every day by people everywhere. It was the words they didn't 
speak that were important, and Duo did not want to interrupt.

~I love you. I worry. Be strong. Be well.~

~I love you too. Please don't worry. I love you so.~

After Trowa had gone into the kitchen Quatre closed his eyes, drew a deep 
breath, and turned to face Duo. The braided boy grinned.

"Take a load off! It's your house after all…"

Quatre took a tentative step further into the room.

"I was not expecting to see you again…"

"Yeah, not so soon, I know. But, hey! I was in the area so I figured 
I'd drop by."


Duo could see a slight tremor in Quatre's hands. It looked as though Quatre's
head was to heavy for his neck, causing his shoulders to droop.

"You really should sit down. You look dead on your feet!"

A near hysterical giggle caught in Quatre's throat. The blond shook his head 
and whispered

"Please, just leave me be. I'll be all right if you would just go 

"But I really want to help, man! Come one, maybe Trowa -"

Quatre advanced on Duo, the first signs of energy and purpose in his eyes.

"No! Leave him out of this! He has enough haunting him, just leave 
him alone!"

Again a mad giggle nearly broke free before Quatre could control himself. Duo 
looked at his friend, worry plain in violet eyes.

"I can't force you to take care of yourself, but please try, ok? Get 
some sleep, eat something, ok?"

Quatre looked at Duo sadly.

"I have a mission to prepare for, but thank you for your concern. Now 
please, please let me be."

The long hared boy shook his head and reluctantly left his friend alone.

Trowa walked into the living room, a steaming cup of coffee in hand. Quatre 
sat alone and huddled in on himself, staring out the window.

"I made this how you like it."

"Thank you, Trowa."

Quatre sipped the hot drink and smiled, but it never reached his eyes.

"You look tired. There is still time to rest before the mission…"

"No!… No, I'm fine. Really! I just want to enjoy my drink. Why 
don't you get some rest, you didn't sleep much last night either."

The tall boy simply nodded. He knew there was no way to force Quatre into 
doing something he didn't want to do, so he went to bed alone. Quatre wrapped
himself in a comforter and sat in the high-backed recliner facing the window. 
Shaking hands brought the cup to his lips as he braced himself for what he 
knew was about to come.

Two hours later, Trowa silently awoke and padded down the hallway to the 
shower. As he passed the living room, he saw a small bit of blond hair 
peaking above the back of the recliner. It was shaking slightly, and he 
could hear soft whimpers and whispers of "No, go away."

~A nightmare. It will pass. At least he's getting some sleep.~

Trowa continued his silent trek to the shower, never seeing Quatre's white 
knuckled grip on the chair's arm rests, or his eyes open wide, staring in 
horror across the room.

At roughly the same time, in a small house across town, Duo was silently 
making his way to his room. Trying to talk to Quatre had been rather 
upsetting, not to mention futile. There was obviously something wrong with 
his old friend, but he had no idea what. All he wanted now was to lie in 
bed and relax. How he was planning to relax brought a silly grin to his face. 

Nearing the kitchen, he could hear the soft murmur of voices. Old habits 
kicked in and Duo quieted his steps even more, wanted to know what was going 
on before letting his presence be known. The voices were distinct now; Heero 
and Wufei were in the kitchen. Duo could smell Wu's strong black tea even 
in the next room.

~Since when did Heero start drinking that stuff?~

Duo was just about to round the corner when a reflection in the mirror opposite 
the kitchen door stopped him cold. Heero was sitting at the kitchen table with 
Wufei standing behind him, Wu's hand on his shoulder. Instead of brushing it 
off like Duo would expect him to, Heero simply held it there, twining their 
fingers together. 

Standing still, staring in confusion at the odd scene, Heero's voice started 
drifting to him through the doorway. Duo wanted to know what was going on, 
he wanted to understand, so he slunk backwards until his back was next to the 
kitchen door, making sure to stay out of sight.

"I'm at a complete loss Wufei. I… I never thought I'd be in a 
situation like this. These past few months, it's gotten near impossible to 
keep pretending. Everything's changed. I can't keep pretending it hasn't 

"As long as you are honest with yourself you have nothing to regret. 
There always comes a time to move on… Believe me, I know."

"But, Duo…"

"You've said this yourself, Heero. Follow you feelings. You know 
it's time to move on."

"I… I don't know what I'd do without you, Wufei."

Duo couldn't believe what he'd just heard. That wasn't his Heero in the 
kitchen. It couldn't be. Some pod-person had replaced his Heero. That had 
to be it. Shaking in denial, he turned and ran as fast as he could. It 
didn't matter where he went so long as it wasn't there.

~Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God. This isn't happening! This can't 
be happening! Months? He's been pretending for months?!? Oh God, no!~

Duo collapsed in the park, tears streaming down his cheeks. A small, detached 
part of his mind was happy it was after dark… no one around to see him like 

~What am I going to do? This can't be, it just can't be happening. 
Heero, we were going to be together forever. How could things just change? 

Duo sat on the hard bench, watching the moon without really seeing it. He 
couldn't believe what he'd seen, what he'd heard. He wouldn't believe it.

~There has to be an explanation, something I didn't understand. I… 
I must have heard them wrong. Oh God please let me be wrong. Let me be 

It was well past midnight when Duo headed back home. The house was dark when 
he got there; even Heero's monitor was off. Looking for a message, a clue to 
where Heero could be, Duo noticed the light blinking on the answering machine. 
A soft click and whir brought Trowa's voice over the little speaker.

"This is Three. Come over. Now."

Something was wrong, that much was obvious. Trowa would never risk leaving 
a message like that, with code signs and all, unless it was important. 
Confusion, fear and desperation had colored his normally calm voice. There 
could only be one answer.


By the time he got to Trowa and Quatre's flat, Duo was consumed with worry. 
Slipping into the bedroom where the rest of the pilots were, he could feel the 
tension. Quatre lay on the bed unconscious, Trowa sitting next to him holding 
a cotton ball to his lovers pale arm and rubbing some sort of cream over a 
spreading bruise on the blond boys cheek. Wufei was off to the side arranging 
syringes and little vials of… something… on the dresser while Heero just stood 
back and silently watched. 

A part of Duo wanted to scream at Heero, wanted to yell and curse and find out 
what that scene he'd overheard earlier had been all about, but his concern for 
his friend overshadowed his own problems. He kept himself quiet and waited, 
forcing himself to focus on the figure on the bed.

~I'll take care of that later. Quatre needs me now. God, even 
asleep he looks like shit! Don't worry buddy, we'll figure out what's wrong.~

Trowa silently stood and everyone followed him out of the room, leaving Quatre 
to sleep. Entering the living room, Wufei turned to Trowa…

"That should keep him calm for a while. Now you can tell us exactly 
what happened."

Trowa looked down, his voice a soft whisper that was chilling to hear.

"Everything was going according to plan. We had infiltrated the base 
without alerting anyone, located the mainframe and altered the database without 
a problem. We were on our way back, practically to the truck, when he… he just 
started firing his guns and screaming. He was screaming at something to keep 
away, screaming for me to escape while I could, but there was no one there. 
There was nothing there!"

Only Duo had ever seen that much fear and confusion in Trowa before. For a 
swift moment he wished he could comfort the poor boy like Catherine had at the 

"The guards heard all this and came running, but Quatre took them out 
along with whatever he had been shooting at. Even after he ran out of bullets, 
he kept trying to shoot at… whatever it was, kept pushing me away from…it… 
I had to make him stop. I… I had to get us to the truck, so I knocked him out 
and carried him the rest of the way. I called you after I got him here. You 
know the rest."

There was finally control in his deep green eyes, but Duo wasn't fooled. 
Trowa was scared, and that was the most frightening thing of all.

"Well, there's nothing we can do until Quatre wakes up…"

"No shit, Sherlock."

The other boys ignored Duo as Wufei spoke.

"In the meantime, he needs as possible. We should take over his 
assignments in shifts until this matter is taken care of."

Duo couldn't handle the harsh silence that followed Wufei's recommendation. 
Unfortunately, he knew that if he tried to speak he'd start grilling Heero and 
Wufei about earlier, and right now Quatre was much more important. Silently 
slipping away from the others, he made his way back to Quatre's room.

"Come on, man. You've got to snap out of this. I… I could really use 
a friend right now, and you're all I've got left."

Duo could feel himself start to lose it again. Tears almost welled up in his 
eyes as he collapsed onto the bed next to the sleeping boy. Silent shakes 
wracked his body as he fought for control.

"Hush, Duo. Don't cry. You shouldn't be sad."

Duo jerked up to find Quatre's eyes open and on him. The drugs in the blonde's
system made him slow and sluggish, but he still managed to reach out and pat 
Duo on the arm in an attempt to comfort.

"Oh shit. I didn't mean to wake you up! Trowa's going to kill me! 
Uh, please go back to sleep, ok?"

"No Duo, I want to know why you're so upset. I won't lie here and 
rest until you tell me what's wrong."

Duo tried to keep his voice to a whisper, but he had to let his bottled 
emotions out. After all, Quatre did ask, right?

"What's wrong? I'll tell you what's wrong! For one, my best friend 
is sicker than day old dog shit. Don't tell me you're not! I've seen plagues 
man, I KNOW sick, so don't tell me you're fine. But do you let me help you? 
No! On top of that, I find out today something heavy's going on with Heero 
and Wufei, we're talking for months now, and I never knew! It's like I just 
woke up today and everything's changed! I don't know what to do, man. 
Nothing makes sense anymore! That's what's wrong!"

Quatre's eyes were wide by the time Duo was done, shock plain on his face. 
Gently taking his distraught friend's hands in his own, he sighed.

"Oh, poor Duo. I had no idea it was like that. I… I didn't know. 
It must be so hard for you… I just wish I could make it better!" 

"Thanks. I know you would if you could. It's just, like, there's 
so much on my shoulders right now and I can't get a grip on any of it. If 
I could just tackle one problem, you know, and fix that one thing… then it 
wouldn't be so bad…"

Quatre looked at his friend, indecision and concern fighting in his eyes. 
Seeing Duo in such a poor state really upset him and he wanted to make 
things better.

"Um, if it will help, I'll tell you…what's been wrong with me."

Duo managed to look up. Quatre's face was grim, his eyes were sad.

"Something happened last year when… that mission went bad. Suddenly, 
I could feel things that hadn't been there before, see things that should 
never be seen…

Duo, I see ghosts."

Quatre could see the shock in Duo's eyes. He took a deep breath and tried to 

"I don't know why, but I see them and they see me. I don't think 
they even know they're dead! I'm not sure what they want from me, but they 
won't leave me alone! I can't sleep, I can't eat, I… I don't know what Trowa 
thinks is going on! He probably thinks I'm crazy… Oh, Duo! I just want it 
to stop! I want them to go away!"

Duo gently wrapped his arms around his shaking, distraught friend.

"Shh, Quatre, shh now. You and me, we'll figure something out. It'll 
be ok, you'll see. Shh…"

Duo kept holding the shaking boy, rocking him until Quatre fell back to sleep. 
Troubled violet eyes looked down at the slumbering form.

~…And I thought I had problems…

…Quatre's gone insane.~

The soft click of a door closing jerked Duo into consciousness. Looking around 
the room, he was surprised to see late morning sunlight streaming through the 

~Woah. I don't even remember falling asleep!~

Quatre was sitting up in bad, surrounded by what had to be dozens of pillows. 
Noticing Duo stretching across the room, the blonde gestured for his friend to 
come over and sit near him.

"Good morning Duo! I'm so glad you've finally come around. I wanted 
to thank you for listening to me last night. It felt so good to get my secret 
out, to actually tell someone what's been going on. I haven't slept that well 
in… well, in a year! I should have realized you'd help make everything better."

Duo could tell from the glaze in Quatre's eyes that his friend was still in 
Happy La-La Land. A quick glance at the new syringe in the trash confirmed his 

~Hey, if thinking I'm the reason he's sleeping better makes him happy, who am I 
to argue?~

Duo sheepishly grinned.

"Hey, no problem! I'm just glad you talked to me last night."

"Oh, me to! Such an awful secret…"

A huge yawn overtook him, and Quatre suddenly could not seem to keep his eyes 
open. The drugs had finally kicked in.

"Oh! Excuse me! I'm sorry, but I'm just so tired…"

"Don't apologize, just get some sleep. Uh, I'm going to see it I can't 
figure something out. You know, how to get you better. You sleep, and I'll be 
back later, ok?"

Quatre mumbled something that sounded like an acknowledgment as he sunk into 
his pillows, but Dou couldn't be sure. A soft snore could be heard rising from 
under all that silk and satin as Duo walked to the door.

~I don't know how I'll do it buddy, but I will come up with something. 
I promise.~

Deciding the first order of business would have to be information gathering, 
Duo headed for the city library.

Trudging up wide stone steps, past lion statues and cold marble columns, the 
braided boy felt dwarfed by the huge building. One of the few truly old public 
buildings left in the world, the multi-storied library had to have the 
information he needed.

~The way to fix Quatre HAS to be in here, right? Right! Now, if I 
were a book about crazy people, where would I be?~

Sitting at an information terminal, Duo started looking up books on 
hallucinations, branching off into panic attacks and other psychological 
disorders as he went. Scribbling titles and authors on a note pad, Duo 
quickly lost track of time. He probably would have kept at it longer but a 
voice broke over the loud speaker announcing the library closing for the day.

~What? Impossible! I've only been here a few minutes… No, the sun's 
going down all right… Guess I just got really caught up in it or something. 
I should probably go check on Quatre, anyway. Maybe he's up and about by now.~

Duo was almost to his friends flat when he saw Wufei leaving. The Chinese boy 
had just sat on his motorcycle when Heero walked out of the building and 
straddled the bike. Heero leaned forward and wrapped his arms around the 
black hared boy as the two drove off into the night. Duo had to fight the 
urge to run screaming after them.

~Later. I'll deal with them later. Quatre needs me now. I'll… I'll 
talk to Heero later.~

Quatre had just sat down in the living room with a hot cup of coffee when Duo 
showed up. Though his face was still pale and he still had that raccoon thing 
going around his eyes, at least he had been cleaned up. His hair was back to 
its old sunshine luster, and there was almost a sparkle in his eyes like Duo 
remembered. As soon as he looked up and saw Duo, he relaxed and smiled. Even 
his old smile was trying to return.

"Duo, I'm glad you came back! Please, sit. Were you able to find out 
anything today?"

Duo sat on the couch across from his friend, self-consciously fisting the list
of book titles he'd stuffed in his pocket. He did not want Quatre to know
exactly what king of information he had been trying to look up. Now yet, 

"Uh, I just got a list of stuff to look into, that's all. I'm going 
to go back later to get some more work done… I just wanted to see how you 
were doing, that's all. So! How're you doing? You're already looking better 
than last night!"

Quatre set his coffee down with a sigh.

"Actually, I slept most of the day. The others have kept me pretty 
drugged, I guess. They really are concerned about what's going on, I guess, 
they just go about things in their own way. I do wish Trowa didn't worry like 
he does…"

Duo shifted uncomfortable on the couch. 'The others' was something he really 
did not want to talk about.

"So, will you be ok if I head back out? I'll stick around if you 
need me to…"

"That's alright, but thank you. Trowa should be back from the store 
any minute now. Besides, I'm doing so much better just knowing you're helping 

Quatre laid a gentle hand on Duo's arm.

" I know you are Shinigami, Duo, but you really are my guardian Angel."

Once more, Duo found himself trudging up the library steps.

~ Man! When I told him I'd go back for more info. later, I meant, 
like, in the morning! Guess I could have stuck around back there, but he 
really needs some down time with Trowa… So here I am. I guess I could have 
gone home, but that's where Heero would be and I'm just not ready for that 
yet. I… I'm just not ready. Besides! Now I can do my research without 
anyone else getting in the way!~

Breaking into the library was no problem for an old pro like Duo, especially 
since he didn't have to worry about security guards. Besides ammo dumps and 
food depots, there were other more important things to guard than a bunch of 
musty old books.

Using his flashlight to avoid becoming intimate with any wayward reference 
tables, Duo made his way to the front desk. Because of the size of the 
building he figured there had to be some kind of map, and the head librarian's 
desk was as good a spot as any to start looking. Unfortunately, aside from a 
few office memos and a work order for a broken terminal, the desk was clear.

~Damn! They can't just expect people to wander around all day… It's 
that Dewey Decimal guy's fault, I know it is!~

Just then, Duo walked past the library's front doors. Opposite him on the wall 
was a huge diagram of the building, complete with color-coded sections for all 
the different subjects the books had been divided into. Duo just laughed.

~Oh, Sure. That's a great place to put a map if you use the front door!
What about us poor guys who come in the window? No consideration I tell you, 
none at all!~

Tracing the path he'd need to take to the "Psychiatry" section on the fifth 
floor, he found himself thinking about Quatre.

~You know, weird ass things have always happened him… That Space 
Heart of his, SandRock refusing to self-destruct with him inside… That was just 
plain freaky!~

Panting as he reaching the stairwell's fifth landing, Duo walked into a hallway 
full of dusty books. A little brass plate on the wall said "Religion, 3rd 
floor, Section A". Duo stared at the tiny sign as he caught his breath.

~What? I counted five! I know I did. No way I'd be this winded for 
just three floors! Hell, I shouldn't be winded after five…~

Figuring it was just a mistake, and the plaque should read "Fifth Floor", Duo 
started walking down the hall. Shadows danced around him as his flashlight 
showed him the way.

~Good thing I'm not claustrophobic, these books go on forever! Now, 
according to that map, there should be another hallway up here somewhere to 
connect me to the 'shrink' section.~

Passing row after row of books that all looked the same to him, he noticed he 
had to step over a small pile before turning down another hallway. For some 
reason, he took note that the top book on the pile was 'Reaching to Heaven'. 

Turning the corner he kept walking, and walking, finally reaching another 
hallway. Glancing down, he saw another small pile of books. Once again, the 
top book was 'Reaching to Heaven'. While this did strike Duo as being a little 
on the weird side, he was more irritated at not finding the 'Psychiatry' 

~I know how to read a map, damn it. I should have been there ages ago! 
Where the hell is it?~

Nearing the end of the hallway, he saw a door to the stairwell. Deciding he'd 
had enough, and might have better luck getting to the right section by a 
different route, he went up the stairs and tried that hallway. 

On the wall was a little brass plate that said "Religion, 3rd floor, Section A"

~Now I know it's fucked up. No way I could go up stairs and still be 
on the same floor!~

Running down the hall, ignoring the wild shadows thrown over him by his 
bouncing flashlight, he stopped in his tracks and stared at the little pile of 
books in the middle of the isle. The top book was "Reaching to Heaven'.

Duo slumped to the floor, staring at the books. He could take a hint. 
Someone, somewhere, wanted him to read… and wasn't about to take no for an 
answer. Half expecting the book to disappear when he touched it, or bite him 
or something, he slowly reached out and picked up the top book. Holding his 
flashlight in one hand and the paperback in the other, he started to read.

Duo knew he was dreaming. He'd been here before, the same church, the same 
bells in the air, the same children laughing down the street. It had to be a 
dream, because none of it existed any longer. Going into the church, he saw a 
younger him sitting in a pew talking with Father Maxwell. Little Duo's braid 
twitched as it snaked over the back of his seat and his feet were kicking the 
pew in front, the very picture of any bored kid in church. As the dreaming 
Duo walked over to where they sat, he could hear Father Maxwell telling his 
younger self about…angels. 

"Whenever they appeared, people were afraid. They didn't understand 
that these were God's messengers, sent to tell their message and return to 
God's side. Sometimes people are so afraid of the messenger that they don't 
even hear the message. Do you understand, Duo?"

Father Maxwell looked over Little Duo's head, right into the eyes of the 
dreaming boy.

"Do you understand, Duo?"

Duo woke up. 

Realizing he was only halfway through the first book and the library would 
open in a few hours, Duo grabbed the entire stack. He needed to find a good, 
quiet place so he'd be able to finish them as fast as he could.

It had to be late afternoon by the time he headed out of the library. If he 
was right, he had the answer to Quatre's problem! He couldn't wait to tell 
Quatre the news!

Rushing into Quatre's flat, Duo flew through the rooms calling for his friend. 
Quatre finally cam stumbling out of the bathroom, shampoo still dripping off 
his hair and a towel tied around his waist. 

"Duo! What is it? What's wrong? Have you found something?"

Duo, ignoring his friends rather wet and sudsy state, grabbed Quatre in a tight 
hug and spun him around the room.

"I've done it! I've figured it out Quatre! I know why they've been 
coming to you. It IS going to be ok!"

Both boys were laughing by now, but Quatre gently nudged at Duo, trying to make 
him let go.

"That's great Duo! I knew you could do it! Unfortunately, I need to 
finish my shower first…"

Duo finally saw just how soggy his friend was, and stammered an apology.

It did not take long for Quatre to rinse the shampoo away and get dressed; he 
was to excited to hear Duo's news! The first thing Duo did was ask Quatre 
where Trowa and the others were.

"Oh, they're doing recon work today. Trowa won't be home till tonight, 
so we have lots of time to talk."

So Duo talked. He told Quatre about going back to the library the night before,
about getting lost. He told Quatre about how the same books kept showing up 
for him to read over and over again, until he finally read them all. He did 
not tell Quatre about the dream he had, but he did tell his friend about the 
conclusions he's gotten from the dream.

"Quatre, I think the problem is a lot simpler than we've made it out to 
be. I think these people, these ghosts, are coming around because they still 
have something they need to say, something left undone here on Earth."

"Well, that makes sense I guess. That goes alone with the kind of 
things I've heard about ghosts… but I'd always thought they were just stories…"

"Right! So, anyway, what I think you need to do, is just talk to them. 
Find out what they need to say, and then they'll go away!"

Quatre looked at Duo as though the long hared boy had just suggested ending the 
war by holding hands and singing 'Dust in the Wind'. 

"You want me to what!? Talk to them?"

"Yeah! All the books, they said that after the message was passed on, 
you know, that the messenger went away. So, I figure, if you hear the message, 
then they'll go away too!"

Quatre swallowed and his face paled as he thought about Duo's words. Coming to 
a decision, he squared his shoulders, firmed his resolve, and stood.

"I trust your judgment, Duo. You wouldn't be here telling me all this 
unless it was real. I… I guess there's no time like the present to test your 

"Great! Uh, where are you going?"

"To talk to the lady crying in my kitchen."

Quatre stood in front of his kitchen door for what seemed an eternity, 
nervously clenching and unclenching his fists. A part of him, a very large 
part, wanted to turn around and go back to the living room. Just forget Duo's 
crazy idea and keep dealing with this insanity like he had been. Unfortunately,
he knew that at the rate his health had been declining, he could not take much 
more of this. Besides, he also couldn't keep causing Trowa to suffer and worry 
like he had been! He would do anything for his love, even walk through Hell. 
Even walk through the kitchen door. Quatre took a shaky, deep breath, and 
entered the kitchen.

A woman sat at the small kitchen table, tears streaming down her face. 
Delicate hands wrung in despair as she rocked back and forth in grief. 
Quatre took on small step forward, then another, trying to find the courage 
to speak. Finally he found his voice, his question a whisper across his lips.

"Miss? Why are you crying?"

The woman lifted her crystal blue eyes, now shot with red from tears, and 
looked at him. Quatre felt his heart break that so much sadness could be found 
in a single persons glance. Her china white complexion and long blond hair 
helped give her an air of fragility. Her voice was soft and full of anguish.

"My baby… my baby… My baby needs me but I can't help him. He's in pain, 
I know he is! I can feel it in my heart, but how can I stop his pain if I 
can't help him?"

By now Quatre was sitting at the table. For some reason he found he wanted 
to help this woman in any way he could.

"Oh, Miss, please don't cry. I'm sure everything will be all right. 
Won't your child's father take care of him?"

Thinking about her husband, the woman smiled. Her smile lit up the entire 
room, giving her a glow as warm as the sun.

"Oh, my husband's a wonderful man! He's the best father in the world 
to his children! I'm sure he would have moved heaven and Earth to make things 
better, back when my baby was younger. Now though, well, he's not in a 
position to do that anymore…"

"Ah, so your son in grown… What about his friends? Surely he has 
friends to help him with his problems? Maybe even a sweetheart to lean on 
when he needs to?"

The woman looked down at her hands, then studied the tabletop as she thought 
about Quatre's question.

"I… I guess he does. I know his friends mean the world to him. But 
if they are his friends, why do they let him continue to suffer? Wouldn't 
they see his pain? Wouldn't they want to help him?"

"Well, maybe they don't know how to help. Or, maybe they are trying, 
but in such a way you can't see it. Please, Miss, don't be sad. If your son 
has people who care for him and love him, I'm positive he'll be better soon!"

The young woman looked up for a moment, staring unfocused at the wall. Then 
she smiled again, though she nodded sadly. 

"Maybe you're right… Maybe my concern blinded me to the others in his 
life. I guess this is what they talk about, when a mother has to let go… I 
know they will take care of him. I just… I just wish he knew how much I love 

"Oh, Miss! I'm sure he knows you…"

Quatre had glanced away for only a second, but when he looked back she was 

Duo had nearly paced a hole in the carpet by the time Quatre walked out of the 
kitchen. The blonde boy was shaking so hard he nearly collapsed. About half 
way into the room he finally gave up altogether, and sank to his knees. Duo 
rushed to his friends side.

"Damn, Quatre. Are you all right? You were in there a really long 
time! I swear man; I came this close to going in after you. Quatre? Hey! 
Say something!"

Quatre looked up, tears dripping down his smiling face, and hugged Duo to him.

"It worked, Duo. I though it was a crazy idea, but it worked! I… I 
talked to her, and after a while she just went away! Thank you, oh thank you!"

The two boys sat on the floor, laughing and crying and holding each other as 
the realization slowly washed over them. It was over. Quatre could start 
living again.

Glancing at the darkening sky outside, Quatre realized just how long he had 
been in the kitchen.

"I can't believe how late it's gotten! Trowa should be home soon…"

When Duo heard that, all the happiness drained from his face. A sad sigh 
escaped him as he turned away.

"Yeah, well, I need to have a talk with Heero. I don't know what's 
going on with him, but I can't keep avoiding my problems anymore…"

Soft blue eyes met violet as Quatre grabbed his friends' shoulders. Giving 
Duo a gentle shake, he gave the only advice he could.

"You have to know your heart, Duo. Only then can you tell him 
everything you're feeling. That's the only way any good can come from this. 
You need to talk to him."

"Hey! No fair giving me my own advice!… But you're right, I have a 
lot of thinking to do."

With a sigh, Duo rose to his feet. Quatre followed him to the door, giving 
his friend a firm hug goodbye.

"I can't thank you enough for helping me like this. You're my best 
friend. I…Thank you."

"Hey! Don't worry about it. That's what friends do, right? Take 
care of yourself, ok? Oh, and tell Trowa I said Hi!"

Quatre was standing at the window watching the sunset when Trowa came home. 
The taller boy silently went to stand by the window, watching Quatre, wondering 
how he was doing. The blonde turned and hugged Trowa to him, not jerking away 
from another person's touch for the first time in months.

"Oh, Trowa, I'm so glad you're home! It's been such a long day, but a 
good day! A wonderful day! Something wonderful has happened, things are going 
to be ok."

As he spoke, Quatre dragged Trowa over to the couch. Facing his lover, he 
tried to explain what had been happening over the past few months.

"It all started a year ago, really. It's only been recently that I 
hadn't been able to handle what's been happening. I wanted to tell you, 
explain what had happened, but I didn't know how. I could hardly make myself 

Trowa took hold of the rambling boy's hands, trying to get him to focus. 
Quatre took a deep breath and tried to pick a place to start.

"Trowa, Duo says Hi."

Duo spent hours wandering the streets, trying to figure out how to confront 
Heero. He started out angry, confused, hurt, mad, all those things plus many 
more. Eventually he calmed down enough to actually think about the situation, 
and realized what he had to do. Finally, he started for home. 

~There's nothing I can do by myself. I just need to find out what he's 
thinking. Heh! Good luck…~

By the time he got home, it was well past midnight. Moonlight streamed through 
the window, dusting Heero where he lay on the bed. The dark hared boy was 
turned away from the door, but still Duo stood there, watching. Then he sighed 
and walked to the bed.

"I know you're awake Heero. You probably knew the moment I stepped 
onto the porch, but that's ok. It's easier for me to talk to your back anyway. 
I have something important to say…"

Softly, so soft Duo almost talked over it, Heero whispered

"Duo, where did you go?"

"Well, I had some important stuff to take care of, but that's all done 
now… Heero, I know something's going on between you and Wufei. I overheard 
you two talking in the kitchen the other day. I… I was really angry at first, 
Hell I'm still angry, but what I'm angry about the most is that you didn't tell 
me. That you hid it all this time." 

Duo took a deep breath and steeled himself to say the next part.

"I love you Heero, more than anything, but if there's one thing I know about 
you it's this. You can't be caged. You're still wild on the inside and being 
tied down against your will would only hurt everyone involved. I love you too
much to hurt you like that, force you into something you don't want. If… 
If Wufei's the one you want, then that's who you should be with."

By now tears were dripping off of Duo's face. His heart was breaking with each 
word he said, but he meant every one of them. 

Heero shifted on the bed, turning over so he now faced Duo. Another softly 
whispered question was asked.

"Why did you leave me Duo? I loved you, but you left."

"What? Heero, I'm right here!"

Looking down in confusion, Duo saw Heero's eyes were still closed. He really 
was asleep! Reaching out to shake his arm, wake him up, Duo noticed something 
shining in Heero's fist. Just then, Heero's fingers uncurled, revealing a 
battered gold cross on a broken chain.

Duo's cross and chain.

Confusion turned to shock as Duo instinctively reached up to grab at his cross. 
There was nothing there, no warm metal, no chain getting caught in the hairs 
at the back of his neck, nothing. By habit, Duo reached back to rub his neck.

His fingers touched something sticky and wet.

At first he could only stare at his shiny red digits, his mind a blank, then 
he ran for the bathroom. Tearing off his shirt he turned to look at his back 
in the mirrors. If he weren't so shocked, he would have screamed.

Half of Duo's back was gone. The other half sagged, revealing shredded skin 
and tissue, as though he had hit shrapnel from a great…fall…

Duo remembered…

"What are you doing here?..since last year, things haven't been the same..I 
was not expecting to see you again..He has enough haunting him..It's like I 
just woke up today and everything's changed!..Everything's changed..You really 
are my guardian Angel..that mission went bad..time to move on..everything's guardian angel.haunting him.not see you again.went bad.mission went 
bad.time to move on move on haunting haven't been the same mission went bad 
last year guardian angel do you understand Duo?"

Duo remembered…

Duo flashed a grin at his lover and stretched to his fullest just as an 
explosion went off directly under Shenlong's feet. What little balance Duo 
had on his perch was lost and the braided boy began a long fall down.

"Duo! No!"

Duo remembered…

…and the world went black.

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