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I never knew.

I never knew how much blacker it was after basking in your light. I never knew how empty the air would be without you next to me, acute angles jutting into the recesses of my body. I never knew the simple value and sanctity of what we had-- the pristine and pure adoration that radiated from your eyes, from the movement of your hips, from each word that fell from your lips; the tears you shed for me, the pain you bore for me, the hurt you endured for me; a martyr with lavender eyes and peach skin.

I never knew, Duo.

You never knew. You never knew how you pulled me back from my teetering walk on the edge of sanity. You never knew how you preserved the humanity in me. You never knew how I looked at you when you walked away...

[...One is the loneliest number that you'll ever do / Two can be as bad as one, it's the loneliest number since the number one / No is the saddest experience you'll ever know / Yes is the saddest experience you'll ever know...]

...he began to walk away, but hesitated, as if waiting for something-- anything-- perhaps an excuse to stay a little longer. Duo had pulled his cap down, shadowing his eyes, hands tucked into his jacket pockets, braid trailing listlessly down his back.

"Heero..." Searching for the fumbling words again, proffering them with an earnest softness. "I love you." He started every day and ended every night with these words, whispering them to himself or the boy with liquefying blue eyes, staring with strained passiveness through a fringe of dark brown hair that stood, watching him leave.

The moment of consideration. Duo turned, rocking back on his heels, waiting.

After a moment of silence, he turned and walked out into the hangar.

Heero stared as the door closed and the figure disappeared from view. His mouth opened and shut uncertainly as his mind reeled in terror and elation and--


[...'Cause one is the loneliest number that you'll ever know / One is the loneliest number even worst then two / Yeah...]

/ you./

Brutal kisses, bruising, in a sudden flurry of soft lips and tantalizing skin. The world-- his vision-- was a blur of light and dark and he blindly groped, consciousness surfacing even as he rapidly descended into what seemed to a separate plane of reality.

Heero managed to pull away from the mesh of limbs and gasp, "Why?"

"Because we could die tomorrow," came the throaty response. Fingers nuzzled his neck, teeth nipped at the skin over his collarbones, lightly. A pair of slender legs encircled his waist, hands unbuttoning his shirt. A harsh, grating sound emitted from Duo's throat, suspiciously like a sob. "I could die and have never kissed you. I could die and never know about love and lust and adoration. I could die and--" Hands, smoothing back his hair. "I never want to regret anything," Duo said, fiercely, cupping Heero's chin. "Because we could die tomorrow..."

/Don't leave me./


"Kiss me."

/Because I might never see the moon like this again./



/Because I'll never have this time again./

"Tell me--"

"I know--"

A kiss, a touch, a moan, a twist of hips.

/Because I.../

"I love you. I love you with no regrets."


Heero looked stricken, curling pale fingers through chestnut hair, losing himself inside the candor and spiral of violet eyes.

/Because we could die tomorrow./

[...It's just no good anymore since you went away / Now I spend my time just making up rhymes of yesterday / One is the loneliest number / One is the loneliest number / One is the loneliest number / Since you went away / Since you went away...]

I watched you walk out of that door, knowing that you could die that day. You could die on a battlefield of victory or defeat; you could die in a blaze of glory or the smoke of shame; you could die a thousand different ways-- each one playing a thousand times in my mind like a movie scene-- and all that would matter was that--

BANG. You would be dead.

BANG. Another tragic statistic of war.

BANG. Your name printed in books history will forget.


And you're dead.

[...One is the loneliest number since you've gone away...]

"We just don't know," Quatre's voice buzzed in, too weary for anything but brutal facts. "The communication link was severed right before the explosion and was never reestablished afterwards."

Perfectly deadpan, Heero stared into the vidlink and asked, "Survival probability?"

The blond whispered, "Below 1%."

"Damage report, otherwise?"

There was a break, as Quatre stared at him with confused aquamarine eyes. His hands crept to his heart, habitually, and pressing a little, he responded a little faintly, "Acceptable."

[...One is the loneliest number / One is the loneliest number / One is the loneliest number / Since you've gone away...]

Your shirts, that smell like you. The dog-eared copy of Randall Jarrell you kept tucked in your pillowcase. The sprig of heather on the dresser. The Bible you stole from our last hotel stay, but will never read-- I left the front cover, listening to the binding crack and inhaling the scent of synthetic leather. The loose change scattered over the floor. The half-burned cinnamon candles and book of matches.

I touch the photo of us-- I'm grimacing, you're grinning, one friendly arm draped across my shoulders. I touch the bed that we made love on, breathing in the herbal shampoo you used. I mimic your motions, your movements, tracing the daily steps from bed to bathroom to kitchen table. There's a hideous pastrami on rye sandwich slathered with mustard and horseradish in the fridge, half-eaten. Half a can of beer. The cartoon magnets that hold up little notes scrawled in your handwriting.


I feel like I'm dead.

[...It's just no good anymore since you went away / Now I spend my time just making up rhymes of yesterday...]

And so, I remember ironing your wrinkled shirts as you looked up at me with adoring eyes. I remember listening to you read "The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner" to me, breath grazing over the soft syllables as fingers flipped the well-worn pages. The thoughtful way you twirled heather in your fingers, lost and caught in thought. I remember the bulky outline of the Bible in your bag, the sad reverence and anger in your eyes. I remember you emptying out your pockets after going out for groceries, scattering bright coins onto the rug. I remember you lighting candles and slowly swaying as you blew out the matches to turn and give me a yearning, open glance.

[...One is the loneliest number / One is the loneliest number / One is the loneliest number]


I remember all the times you said, "I love you." I remember the sudden sheen your eyes would take on. I remember that you'd say it in the morning, say it as I fell asleep, sing it in the shower, pronounce it over breakfast, write it on spare pieces of paper, and murmur it into my ear.

/Survival probability?/

/Below 1%./

No matter how you died, I would die too.

I remember the times you waited, just for a few seconds, hoping I would respond.

/Heero... I love you./

Here in this house, I watch the sunset alone. For a few moments, all is red and orange and fiery, melted gold mixed with pearl clouds, swirling into a faint burgundy.


[...Since you went away / Since you went away...]

The door clicks.


I'm hearing your voice. I'm seeing your figure glide over to the window to me, place hesitating hands on my shoulders. Warm. Radiating heat, life. My eyes shut, body trembling, fists tightening. His fingers slide down my arms; the other hand delicately wipes the tears that wet my cheek.

Mouth against my jaw, murmuring, "I'm here."


"You're alive," my voice chokes.

/You never knew.../

"I love you," he breathes, fingers again capturing my rapt face.

/We could die tomorrow.../

We stand in the fading light, day descending into dusk. His clothes, the battered Randall Jarrell, the never-used Bible, all laid on the bed, scattered tea lights on the covers. Duo-- he smells like, he tastes like; the hopeless case of non-articulation that pauses this moment in silence.

/ regrets./

"I love you too." Rough from my mouth.

The swiftly sinking sun is witness, last rays caressing his hair, warming skin and skin. He smiles, graceful, benevolent, head cradled on my shoulder, thumbs hooked into my sleeves.

"I know," he says quietly.

Our forms disappear, merged in the shadows that dissipate in the greater darkness, as One.



Endnote: They DIDN'T die. I don't want anyone thinking that Duo came back as Shinigami and took Hee-chan with him. Duo just beat the 1% odds. ::beams:: And they'll live happily ever after. Forever. :: beams::


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