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The battle had raged for almost two hours and it was taking a toll on the Gundam pilots.

At the beginning of the battle, Duo had been kidding around with Quatre that he hoped they could get it over with quickly, it was, after all, Halloween, and he had other plans for the day.

"Oh? You and Heero got something to do tonight?" Quatre had asked less than innocently.

"Nah, Q-man!" Duo had laughed back across the comm link. "Heero? Do something cool for Halloween? I do *not* think so! No, I'm heading out to a club tonight and I got this really tripping idea for a costume from a good friend, Karen. It's a devil costume that is hot, hot, hot! I will *not* be sitting alone waiting to dance tonight!" His grin was practically audible.

"Cut the clowning, Duo, we've got incoming." Heero sounded distinctly annoyed at his lover's hijinks, but this was a mission and he didn't care to worry over it.

"Yeah, yeah, Perfect Soldier Boy, I remember!" Duo was still laughing as the sound of the first enemy fire echoed across his open comm unit. He'd chosen "point" and they were coming in fast, hitting him quickly with a heavy barrage of fire. "Later, Quatre! There's some Leos here that apparently have a deathwish, so I'd better start granting them their wishes! DIE!!!" He shouted in manic glee.



That exchange had been forgotten in the heat of battle as the two sides vied for control. Neither side willing to admit defeat, it had degenerated into a stalemate.

"Heero!" Quatre had been typically quiet as he preferred to keep his mind on the battle yet something was bothering the Sandrock pilot.

"Yo!" Heero's thermal blade sliced another enemy mobile suit to thin ribbons of metal.

"Where's Duo? I haven't heard from him and I'm too far from where he was last thing I knew to pick him up on my sensors." Quatre had sustained a fair amount of damage and had been concentrating on simple survival when the unusual silence from Deathscythe caught his attention.

"Don't know," was the cold remark that returned to his ears.

Quatre, sensing something was wrong once he allowed the strange psychic link to open between himself and the other pilot, flicked on the image projection system to get the Wing pilot's attention more fully. His blond hair was matted with blood from a cut at his hair line. He was tired and sweaty, but his features bespoke urgency. "Heero! There is something wrong! I can barely feel Duo with my uchuu no kokoro! I think he's hurt, maybe dying!"

This got Heero's attention. With a growl, he flicked his view screens to highest resolution and searched for his missing lover. What he found, however, did not please him. "I've found Deathscythe, Quatre! He's down, grid 10/31. There's no sign of him and he isn't answering any hails. Let's wrap this up. I've got a bad feeling about this!"

When Heero Yuy said that much about a situation, you knew he was concerned. With a powerful blow from the beam cannon he preferred not to use in ground combat, he wiped out the remaining enemy suits then went to join Quatre at the side of their fallen comrade.

Deathscythe looked like it had been through a worse battle than they had. Clearly, Duo had taken his responsibilities as "point" seriously for once, the ground surrounding his suit was littered with the broken remains of numerous Leos as well as a couple of Aries, a model neither of the other two pilots had even seen during battle. Deathscythe itself, however, was battered and broken. The cockpit was open and there was a swath of red near the escape hatch that spoke loudly to the condition of its pilot when he had exited the machine. Clearly Duo had been bleeding profusely to have left behind enough blood for it to be visible from a distance.

Snarling angrily, Heero scanned the ground surrounding his lover's Gundam until he found the missing pilot, or at least what was left of him. There, to one side in the shadows, he found Duo Maxwell's body, broken and bleeding. Shouting his fury, he sent the exact coordinates to Quatre even as he launched himself out of his suit and down to the ground. At a dead run, he approached his lover. "Duo! Damnit, Duo, answer me!" The long braid was drenched in blood and resembled a strange snake whose body had been penetrated in too many places and it had bled to death. The heart-shaped face was covered in blood as well, rendering it unclear whether the American still lived or not. One arm lay bent at an unnatural angle beside the body, white bone sticking through the skin as well as the now ruined black outfit that was the Shinigami trademark.

"NO!!!" Quatre screamed, clutching his chest and falling into the darkness of unconsciousness. Heero spun in time to catch the exhausted Arab before he, too, hit the ground hard. Gently, he settled Quatre down to the bloodied grass and returned his attentions to the unmoving form nearby.



Duo Maxwell was lost in darkness.

He remembered the pain when his cockpit had been breached by a hail of enemy fire. He could recall the feeling of bullets piercing his body in several places and the jarring landing when his Gundam could no longer remain upright. He did not, however, remember his last thoughts before he fell 25 feet straight down to his possible death and definite compound fracture.

//Shit. Can't go to the club tonight anyway. Dying on Halloween seems suitable for the God of Death, though.// Beyond this, there were no thoughts, remembered or not.

Slowly, awareness returned to him.

A voice seemed to be calling his name. "Maxwell," was all he could make out, though. Something warm and wet was on his face. No, not his face, his mouth. But the pain was overwhelming and he slipped back into unconsciousness.



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