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Habitat for Redemption (part 8)

Ravyn Fyre

Duo found himself sitting in his car by the edge of a river, staring out over the darkened waters and biting his lower lip in concentration. In the distance, he heard the mournful howl of an air horn; This area still used barges to push wares up and down the watery highway.

The moonlight, flashing on the waves in the river, called to him, beckoning in a hypnotic visual melody. He wanted- needed- to walk down to the river's edge and run his fingers through the night black liquid silk, but he couldn't. He was still frozen to the seat, unable to pry his fingers from the steering wheel long enough to open the door and stumble out.

His breath came to him in short, shallow gasps, harsh and angry against the stilled hush of the dark-mooned night. His body trembled, skittering and afraid; his blood rushed in his veins and a thin sheen of sweat bathed his brow.

Even an untrained observer would have recognized the shivering for what it was.

Duo Maxwell, former Gundam pilot, and self-proclaimed God of Death, was having a panic attack.

He couldn't keep his teeth from chattering. Even as a thin wail of hopelessness rose from his throat, he couldn't clench his jaw down enough to silence the sound. If he'd had any control over it, he would have been horrified by the sheer despair of it all. Then again, if he'd had any control over it, he wouldn't have found himself alone in the darkness on the banks of the Mississippi River.

With the same suddenness the attack had seized him, it abandoned him, leaving his body shaking, cold, and spent. He slumped over the wheel of his car, taking in great shuddering gasps of breath, willing his heart to slow and calm. His fingers finally loosed their death-grip upon the wheel, slipping to land with a dull *thud* in his lap where they lay like stunned rabbits.

How had he gotten there? How had he come to this?

Duo didn't remember the flight from Heero that led him to this river. In all honesty, Duo couldn't even be sure he was in the same town. He remembered that Muscatine was on a river, but since the last.... however long it had been since he'd fled from the Habitat house, drew a blank in his mind, he could be anywhere. He could have driven through the night, the following day, and into the next night, for all he knew. He was certainly tired enough to have done that.

With a wrenching moan, he pulled himself up, collapsing into the seat in utter weariness.

"What the hell happened, Maxwell? Man..." he groaned, massaging a little of the tension from his neck with one sore hand.

Giving up the attempt at relief from pain as a lost cause, he consulted his watch. Well, it was a day later, but only by the virtue that it was now past midnight. That meant he'd only lost a few hours. That pointed to him still being in the right area, at least.

He sat there for a few minutes more, trying to get his bearings, and trying to evaluate his ability to drive at the same time. Satisfied that he wouldn't kill himself if he started the car, he put thought into action. The powerful car rumbled to life, growling like a panther, as Duo put it in gear and pulled away from the river.

The headlights illuminated his surroundings quite plainly now; he laughed as he recognized the swing-set and playground he found himself driving past. The highway back to where he'd seen the hotels was only a few blocks away, and would be easy to find. Thankfully.

At least something was going his way this night.

He pulled away from the dark ambiguity of the ever-shifting river, to find himself a soft, warm bed to drown the night away in.



When he awoke, sunlight was streaming through the open curtains, bathing him in an unholy puddle of golden warmth. His head ached fiercely, bad enough that he spared a moment to wonder if he'd snagged a bottle of whiskey on his way to the hotel. Smacking his lips tentatively, he reviewed his condition.

"No aftertaste... Only a tremendous headache, not a splitting gundanium monster... Stiff joints... No empty bottle. Nope. Didn't get drunk... Must just be getting old," he moaned as he sat up.

"Why do mornings have to happen so early? Ow..." another moan as he massaged his temples in an effort to dull the pain in his brain.

A knock at the door startled him.

"House keeping."

"What the? What kind of hotel send out its housekeeping staff THIS early in the- Damn."

He cut himself off short as he actually glanced at the clock for the first time; it lacked only half an hour to noon."Ack... Umm... come back later?" he called to the woman outside his door.

"Yes, sir."

Duo sprang out of bed, flying to the bathroom at a dead run.

"Damn damn damn! How cold I have wasted half the freakin' day already?! Gotta hurry! Gotta hurry! Damn damn damn! Gotta hurry!"

Although, what he was hurrying to, he wouldn't have been able to tell anyone, had they asked.



No one on the construction crew took notice as his black Camaro pulled up to the curb and parked a block and a half away. Either that, or they didn't find it in the least bit odd that the driver never exited the vehicle.

Duo looked around frantically, searching for the truck Heero had called his the night before. It was nowhere in sight, either in the yard, the driveway, or on the street.

"Duo no BAKA! You missed your chance! He's gone, and you're never going to find him again, you IDIOT! Why didn't I talk to him??? Why didn't I just get out of the car and walk up??? Why didn't I-"

Heero drove past him in his truck, not even casting a glance over at the strange black car.

He pulled up into the front yard of the house site and parked, hopping out spryly. As soon as he pulled up, all the construction work halted, and everyone headed for Heero and his truck. Duo was confused.

That is, until Heero started unloading boxes full of fast food sacks from the bed of his truck.

Duo's breath caught in his throat again as he watched his love casually handing out lunches to everyone. The light of day unmasked the mystery of the Japanese ex-pilot, leaving only the distilled essence of the man Duo once thought he knew.



The sun gilt his hair, lightening it to a softer brown. The wind ruffled the brunette locks playfully, and danced along the sweat-slicked skin. He'd shed the flannel he'd been wearing the night before, opting for his old, traditional tank top. Duo gasped at the way Heero had filled out over the last few years.

He was taller now, by almost a foot, and had gotten considerably broader in the chest and shoulders. He almost looked as strong as he had really been during the war. Duo shuddered to think about how strong that would make him now. Duo couldn't tell too much more about Heero since he was sitting so far away, but he did know one thing.

Heero Yuy had grown up.

He didn't remember doing it, but Duo found himself outside his car. The door of the Camaro clicked shut ominously, leaving Duo exposed, and vulnerable. He leaned one hand against the sun warmed metal, trying to leech some of the powerful car's strength and spirit into himself.

Heero was holding two lunches, one in either hand, as yelled over his shoulder towards the house.

"Axe? You comin' or what? I can just give your lunch to Clancey if you're not hungry, you know."

Inside the house, Axe heard Kenji yell for him. He abandoned the project he was working on and started heading for the door.

"Fuck you, Lowe! I'm comin'. I'm comin'. You keep that little twerp away from my food!"

Heero shook his head and turned towards the house where the last guy from the crew was emerging. As he turned, his gaze swept over Duo, almost negligently.

Heero froze, mid-turn. Even from where he stood, almost two blocks away, Duo could see his hands clench tight, almost ripping the paper of the sacks he was clutching.

Slowly, so very slowly, Heero turned towards Duo, his eyes raking across the landscape as if he was willing them not to see what lay before him.

For the first time in over three years, their eyes locked.

There was a soft splatting crinkle as two sacks fell from nerveless fingers.

Heero felt his whole world crash to a halt.

"Hey! Kenji! That's my freakin' lunch yer ruining! Whats'a'matta with you?!"

One by one, the crew looked up, trying to see what had the normally unflappable Kenji Lowe stunned into immobility. Axe hurried to his friend's side and reached down to retrieve the sacks.

"Hey, Kenji... Kenji? What's up man? Kenji?"

Axe looked up and locked his eyes on Duo. Beside him, he could feel Kenji trembling.


The Japanese man suddenly blinked, body shuddering as he glanced at Axe out of the corner of his eye.

"I'll take care of him. Don't worry," Axe declared, dropping the sacks and flexing his fists.

Before he could take even a single step forward, Kenji's hand flew out, halting him.

"No. I'll deal with it."

Axe was taken aback by the tone of his friend's voice. It was both so raw with emotion that it made him want to curl up and cry, while at the same time being so dead to the world, that Axe found himself flinching fearfully. Whoever that guy was, he was bad news. Real bad.

Duo's breath attacked him, leaping from him in a shuddering gasp as Heero took a tentative step towards him.

"May as well meet in the middle," he muttered to himself nervously.

Duo was just a little quicker that Heero; they met at the curb two houses down from the construction site. Back at the site, an eerie silence had settled over the normally rambunctious construction workers.

Duo found himself standing three feet away from the object that had caused him so many sleepless nights over the last few years. He found himself facing his greatest fear, and his most fervent desire. And he found himself utterly speechless.

Heero broke the silence first.



"What are you doing here, Duo?"

"Looking for you."

Heero frowned. That answer had been too... normal. It wasn't like Duo to pass on the opportunity to crack a joke.


Duo blinked. He didn't really have a good answer for that. Nothing that seemed to fit the occasion, anyway.

"Damnit, Duo. You'll ruin everything," Heero breathed, almost too softly for Duo to hear.

"Huh? What's that supposed to mean? Heero?"

Heero shook, coming to himself of a sudden. His eyes locked onto Duo and drank him in, rolled in him until he couldn't stand to draw another breath. He stored away every tiny detail, like the way Duo's eyes crinkled a tiny bit at the corners as he squinted in the bright afternoon sun. The way that dark leather jacket seemed to hug all the right spots, but not nearly tightly enough as far as Heero was concerned. The wispy little flyaways that had managed to escape Duo's ubiquitous braid. The trickle of sweat slipping unheeded down his right cheek.

Heero's eyes followed that bead of sweat until it neared Duo's lips, where the braided man absently collected it, his tongue darting out to catch it before vanishing into the recesses of his mouth again. Heero felt his body tighten painfully. Something wrapped around his heart and put it in a stranglehold, refusing to let go. One hand reached up to clutch at his chest as a soft moan escaped his lips.


Duo leaned forward, reaching out to offer his friend an arm to lean on.

Heero flinched from the contact, shying away violently.

"NO! I'm not clean enough yet!"

Duo froze again.

"Huh? Heero? Who cares about a little sawdust and dirt, for god's sake?"

Heero backed another step away, holding up a warding hand.

"No! It's not that! The blood- Damnit, Duo... I wasn't ready yet! I'm not clean... She said so."

"She? Who?"

"The little girl. The little girl with the flower," Heero answered, his eyes dead and voice broken.

The pieces started to fall into place for Duo. He remembered Heero telling him about the child he'd killed by purest accident. He remembered that dead, dead voice he'd recited the story in. That same voice he was speaking in now.

In that moment, Duo understood why Heero had vanished. In that moment, all of Heero's rationalizations and misguided notions incandesced into stunning clarity. In that moment of perfect lucidity, it all made sense. And in that moment, Duo was overcome by an irrational wave of rage.

"Not clean yet? What the fuck? You're trying to make up for the war, is that it Heero?"

Something about the dangerous edge to Duo's voice brought Heero back from the shocked landscape of his mind. He locked his eyes onto Duo's and focused on reality again. What he saw there frightened him.

"I have to... to make up for the... for the blood... Duo..."

"What? You didn't think you were clean enough or something? For what?"

Heero swallowed hard, his voice answering before his mind could censor.

"For you."

Duo reeled as if he'd been slapped.

Heero's answer only fed the rage. Duo found a quiet corner of his brain wondering a bit at the anger. Of course, that quiet corner was drowned out by the tumult of everything else in his brain clamoring for attention.

"For me? You didn't think you were clean enough for me? I was a soldier too, Heero," he whispered icily.

"No... You were... an angel," Heero whispered.

Duo bit his tongue, trying to hold in the words threatening to burst from him. How dare he? How DARE that heartless Japanese jerk call him an angel?

"So you decided to purify yourself? So you could be with me?"

Heero nodded, eyes wide and haunted.

"And you expected me to just put my life on hold and wait for you?"

Heero remained silent for a moment as the implication to Duo's deadly calm statement sank in.


"You fucking walked out of my life because you didn't think you were 'clean enough' for me? Did you even fucking stop to consider how I might have felt, you insensitive asshole??? Did you ever stop to consider that I might have needed to purify myself too?"

Duo leaned forward, impinging on Heero's space, looming towards the other man.

"Did you ever consider that I might have fucking needed you, Heero Yuy? I might have needed your help with my own demons? Did you really expect me to just sit back and wait for you? And be HAPPY when you finally waltzed back into my life? Am I supposed to be HAPPY that you had the best of intentions about ruining my fucking life for the last four fucking years? AM I?" Duo shrieked, stabbing Heero's chest with an accusatory finger.

Heero shook his head, willing the words to vanish. Wishing them to not be true. Needing them to ring false in his heart.

But no matter how he looked at it, Duo was right. Heero had committed the ultimate of sins... He'd made the man he loved suffer for his own selfishness.

His face crumpled with self-loathing, and a sob escaped him.

THAT got Duo's attention. Unfortunately, it only seemed to anger him even more.

"You get it now, you asshole?"

Duo stepped forward, intending to grab Heero and shake him. He didn't get that far, for Heero reared back, eyes wild, as he shoved the braided man away.

"Don't touch me..."

"Why? Yer not 'clean enough'?"

Duo's hands closed over Heero's arms. The Japanese man exploded into action, his fist lashing out and catching Duo across the jaw with a fierce crack.

"I said don't fucking TOUCH me!"

Duo landed with a dull thud in the dirt, his head snapping back against the dry ground.

Heero's horrified gaze took in the sight of Duo sprawled on the ground, the soft groan escaping the lips of his greatest heart's desire.

A strangled moan clawed its way up from the pit of his stomach, right where he felt that his heart was sitting.

The punch, from Duo's perspective, seemed to have tilted the axis of the world, spinning it back onto its correct axis.

"awfuck... what the hell am I doing? Heero..."

Duo levered himself up on his elbows, peering up at Heero through his bangs bashfully.

"Shit, man, I'm sorry... I'm all fucked up in the head... Heero? Heero, what-"

Heero was slowly backing away, one hand out towards Duo, the other, the one that had struck Duo, hidden behind his back like an errant child.

He almost stumbled over a pile of rubbish, the tail ends of siding and two-by-fours shifting under his feet, and tripping him up.


"No... I- Duo..."

Heero backed into something, spinning around to stare at it fearfully. Axe gasped. Never in his life had he seen any strong emotion take Kenji by the throat, let alone the abject terror that seemed to have the Japanese man in its grip. Heero stumbled away from Axe, sparing his hands a hateful glance.

"These hands... so bloody..."

"Heero? Heero!"

Duo was massaging his jaw as he sat all the way up. As Heero's eyes locked onto him, and he saw the bruise already spreading on Duo's cheek, his heart and mind seemed to snap in an instant.

He spun on one heel and fled towards the back of the house.

Duo frowned as he started climbing to his feet.

"Heero?! Hee- Oh SHIT!"

Duo scrambled to stand as the deep rumble of a motorcycle growled to life from the rear of the house.

"Heero! Not again! God damn it Heero Yuy! Come BACK here!"

The engine gunned, and Heero exploded from the side of the house, one wheel up in the air as the bike struggled to respond to its master's controls.

Duo didn't spare another moment to yell. He simply turned on a single foot and sprinted towards his car.

Heero hit the street with the tortured squeal of burning rubber. He threw his weight to one side and screamed down the street, right past Duo's car.

As Duo got to his car and hurled himself inside, he realized why Heero chose to flee in that direction. The street was too narrow for him to pull a u-turn on with his car.

Duo growled as he started the engine. Not caring if it ruined either the lawn, or the under-carriage of his car, he hopped the curb, spun the wheel, and gunned the engine.

The guys left at the Habitat house site watched in stunned silence as the black Camaro took off in a cloud of smoke, and the tortured wail of rubber and steel.


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