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More Time (Part 3)

Heero swatted at a low-hanging branch that blocked his path. The trek from the OZ facility had been uneventful - welcome fruit of a well-planned escape route. Add to that the satisfaction of a mission accomplished without mishap.

Well, if one discounted the unanswered confirmatory message, that is.

In the fey darkness of the moonlit night, Heero glowered, knitting his brows in consternation. Throughout his trudge, the Japanese pilot replayed various scenarios - one after another - trying to hit on what might have happened to his partner.

The conclusion he finally came up with was not one he'd like to entertain. Duo might have been discovered, captured or killed. But that possibility was highly remote, Heero decided as he walked up to the edge of the copse.

Duo had had enough experience infiltrating into schools and getting out unscathed. Granted that this time, the school chosen had some affiliation with OZ. But - Heero glanced up the empty dirt track. Almost there! - they had timed the infiltration perfectly. The chances of contact were minimal. Almost nil. There was no way OZ could have discovered the two pilots posing as students. No way!

Besides, Wufei had made it out fine, and the Chinese boy was less experienced in that aspect compared to Duo.

So what could have gone wrong?

Perhaps there was a power failure, Heero hazarded. Or Duo punched in the wrong code. Or perhaps the baka simply forgot standard procedure.


"Feh! The idiot had better have a good excuse," Heero muttered darkly as he reached the rendezvous spot. Shit! He just hoped Duo showed up.

The sight of a fallen motorcycle froze him in his tracks.

* * *

Tearing down barely used dirt tracks across the sparse woods, away from the main roads, Duo gritted his teeth as he leaned into the wind. The speedometer had almost registered maximum speed but still the young pilot twisted the throttle fiercely. In the back of his mind, something told him that he had no time to spare, and that getting to the rendezvous point where he was to meet up with Heero in the shortest time possible was of paramount importance.

Perhaps it was the same something that made him sweat despite the freezing coldness of the wind whipping his face and body. The something that made his teeth chatter despite the fact that he was clamping down on them so hard it almost hurt.

If he didn't feel so numb, that is.

Duo knew what it was. Shock. Plain and simple.

Though why he was feeling it was a mystery. He hadn't been injured -

A protesting throb from his right foot begged otherwise.

Well - okay, there was that.

But it was just a twisted ankle, right? Nothing serious, ne? So why…

Duo pushed the question from his mind as he rounded the last corner in the dirt road. The boy grinned, relief washing over his drawn features.

Just another kilometre and he'd be there, waiting for Heero. Another two minutes was all he needed. Then he could give in to this strange drowsiness that had somehow crept up on him sometime during the journey from the school. Already his vision was blurring at the edges. Dark spots danced before him haphazardly, threatening to completely block out whatever little he could see at the moment.

Narrowing his eyes in concentration, the longhaired boy focussed on one point in the distance. This was going to be one hell of a long kilometre.

* * *

The Japanese boy ran the remainder of the distance separating him and the fallen vehicle, a single word - a single name - on his mind.

The front wheel of the motorcycle was stationary, jutting up into the air at an awkward angle. Obviously, the bike had fallen over some time ago.

Part of the motorcycle was buried among some leafy bushes, the dark night shadows hiding most of its chassis effectively. Only the pale gleam of moonlight against chrome wheel rims betrayed the presence of the overturned vehicle. And even that was minimal.

Even in such a situation, Shinigami was in character.

And speaking of Shinigami, where was Death?

Heero pulled at the handlebars, tugging the motorcycle away from the undergrowth that held it captive. From the position of the motorcycle, the boy surmised that this was probably a case of a moving vehicle hitting an immovable object.

Specifically, a stout tree.

Heero humphed. How could someone know how to pilot a Gundam and yet couldn't steer a motorbike?

A quick, appraising glance revealed no major damage to the vehicle.

But where the hell was the -

A slim, dark-clad leg poked out of the undergrowth, earlier hidden by the bulk of the motorcycle.

The Japanese boy started at the sight.

"Duo?" he gasped, surprised.

But why should you be surprised, Heero Yuy? Wasn't that the first thing that popped into your mind when you saw the toppled motorbike? Didn't your heart skip a beat when you didn't immediately spot the rider? Didn't you break out in a cold sweat when Duo didn't answer your messages? Why should you be so surprised?

"Chik'so!" Heero spat, hating the questions that taunted him in his own voice. He hated the way they sounded in his head - so snide and obsequious. He hated the fact that he couldn't answer them without admitting that…that…

Damn it! He hated them. Period!

Working swiftly, Heero dragged away the heavy motorcycle with little effort, rummaging among the bushes until his questing hands encountered a limp arm.

"Duo!" he called out harshly, pulling sharply at the arm. The anger he felt upon realising that the accident was probably a result of Duo's carelessness quickly slipped away when there was no response, physical or verbal, from the braided pilot. A little more hesitantly, Heero tugged his friend out of where he had been lying.

"Baka!" Heero breathed, desperately trying to fool himself into feeling angry, irritated. Anything but the alarmed concern that threatened to boil over his rapidly beating heart.

A violet eye cracked open, shining with wicked glee.


For once, Heero Yuy's brain overflowed with words that tripped and stumbled over themselves in their haste to exit the jumbled synapses of his mind, past his suddenly too-slow tongue. Multitudes of curses and choice profanities tumbled forth in no particular order.

If they were bricks, Duo Maxwell would be as flat as a pancake.

"Ack! Heero! Matte! Ow!" Duo ineffectually pulled at Heero's hands on his shirt, succeeding only minutely in getting the Japanese pilot to stop shaking him.

"You idiot!" Heero cried, aware that he was near shouting, but too angry to care. "What the Hell did you think you were doing? What in God's name did you think you were achieving? Do you think this is a game? A joke? Something to laugh about? Did you…you…you…"

Duo stared back at him, open-mouthed. Too surprised at the short-haired boy's outburst to volunteer even one tiny smart-aleck quip.

"H..Heero," Duo gasped out finally, when the violent shaking abated somewhat. "Gomen ne. I…Jeez! I'm sorry! I didn't think you'd..."

"That's the problem with you, Maxwell! You don't think! You don't..Ah! Why bother!?!" Heero let go of Duo's shirt, pushing the other boy violently against the tree, which Duo had been leaning against when he'd found him earlier.

"Matte Heero! Oi!" Duo reached out for Heero's arm, pulling the Japanese boy short.

"What?!?" Heero spat, whirling around at the braided boy's touch.

"Saa…Heero, I'm sorry," Duo blurted, suddenly at a loss for words. He never realised Heero would react this violently. In fact, he never thought the boy would react at all. He never even planned it, actually. He was just catching a few winks - well-deserved, he thought. He'd never expected Heero to be…concerned!

Twin points of cobalt light burned in Heero's face. Inside, Duo quailed. He'd seldom seen Heero so angry. And being the object of Heero Yuy's anger was not a comfortable feeling. In fact, it bordered on the homicidal.

Duo Maxwell did the only thing that came naturally.

He grinned.

A little forced, and a lot nervous.

But a grin, nonetheless.

Heero's eyes narrowed, the angry points of blue menace sharpened to dangerous splinters of opaque crystal.

Nervously, Duo shoved his hands into his trouser pockets. He could feel the cold trails of sweat drip down the back of his neck. This felt worse than being back at the school!

Well, okay. That was an exaggeration, Duo reprimanded himself. But this felt close!

And the silence was - cliché as it may seem - truly deafening.

Heero humphed and turned away abruptly, the angry huff heavy in the air. He walked quickly to retrieve his discarded haversack, which had fallen - or had he thrown it off his back? He couldn't recall - some ways away from the motorcycle. When had it slipped off his back? He remembered shifting it to his shoulder during his walk to the rendezvous point. He remembered the weight of it across one shoulder as he approached the clearing. But the sight of that fallen motorcycle, the sight of the unmoving leg and subsequently, the sight of Duo's slack face…

Something had snapped within him, switching off everything but the very basic of reactions.

And the baka was just asleep!

Damn him!

Heero stood still, fingering the straps of the haversack as he eyed the lithe, black-clad body of his partner righting the motorcycle. He had come close, so close to actually hitting him. When the violet-eyed boy had surprised him, laughing when he'd thought that Duo had been hurt - the first thought that flew through Heero's numb mind was to give that damned Shinigami pilot the hug of his life. But then, the onrush of embarrassment and anger had drowned those tender thoughts; frustration and relief had rolled into one and he had lost control.

Heero shook his head slightly at his own lapse. It had been unlike him, he knew. He'd never lost that much control of himself before - and this was definitely not a situation that warranted losing one's control. Not a time or a place to show emotions that he'd never thought himself capable of feeling, much less show. He drew in a deep, shuddering breath, exorcising the remaining phantoms of anger that still raged in his heart.


What was Duo doing to him?!?

* * *

Duo leaned the motorcycle against the tree and untied his haversack off the pillion seat. Out of the corner of his eye, he spied Heero walking back towards him, haversack carelessly flung over one shoulder. The heavy brows still knitted in a frown, and the lips still turned down at the corners in a dark scowl. But the anger in the dark blue eyes no longer flashed quite so menacingly. Duo sighed loudly with relief. It'd be at least another day before they reached their base, and he did not relish the thought of having a dangerously furious Heero riding behind him.

Life was already short enough.

"Ready to go, Heero?" Duo asked cheerily, adjusting the weight of the haversack on his back. "We've got a long ride ahead."

Heero ignored him and walked past the smiling long-haired boy.

Duo's smile fell.

Was he still pissed off? Sheesh…

The Japanese boy brushed against Duo brusquely, pushing him back slightly as he climbed onto the motorcycle and started the engine. Heero revved the engine slightly before turning back to the silent Shinigami pilot.

"Well? What're you waiting for?" Heero shrugged his haversack off his shoulder and moved it over to his front.

"Oh! Oh yeah…um..yeah.. okay," Duo stuttered, surprised out of his stupor. This was a turn, he thought as he grabbed onto Heero's strong, steady shoulders and hoisted himself onto the slightly raised pillion seat. A soft grunt involuntarily escaped his lips as his ankle reminded him that it needed some attention. And soon, by the feel of it, Duo grimaced.

"What's wrong?" Heero asked over the sound of the softly sputtering engine.

"Huh? Oh…nothing. Just a slight sprain…"


"New sports injury," Duo laughed.

Heero turned the throttle and the two boys sped off down the dirt road.

"Does it hurt much?" Heero shouted back into the rushing wind.

"No. Not really. Only when I laugh, ha ha!"

"I'm serious!"

"So am I!" Duo answered with a pout.

"Duo!" Heero growled threateningly. "This isn't the time for games!"

"Oh alright, already! It hurts! Happy? Jeez! Since when did you become such a mother hen? Since when did you care whether I hurt or not?"


I don't know.

Heero remained silent. When, indeed? And why?

He didn't have the answers, but he knew what he felt.

"We'd better have a look at it soon, then," he said softly, just loud enough for Duo to catch the wistful tinge to his voice.

Duo frowned. What the hell was wrong with Heero? Where was the cold, unfeeling robotic maniac he was so familiar with? Who was this imposter he was leaning against? Who inhabited this warm body that sheltered him from the cold, buffeting wind?

Who was this stranger who actually seemed like he cared?

He could begin to like him…




They rode in silence for the next hour or so, taking the back roads whenever they could and the main highway only when it was unavoidable. Fortunately, at this time of night, not many vehicles were on the road. There was an unearthly quality to riding on a speeding motorcycle in the dead of the night. After a while, the sound of the engine seemed to die down to a soothing drone that mimicked a soft lullaby…

Duo's eyelids started to droop and after nearly nodding off several times, the longhaired boy violently shook his head. It would have been so easy to fall asleep against Heero's warm back, nestled into the nape of his partner. The dark locks seemed so soft, so tempting…

The motorcycle swerved violently.

"Aaaa!" Duo yelled, shocked out of his reverie by the sudden movement. Automatically, his hands reached around Heero's waist. "What happened?!?"



"You heard me," Heero replied flatly.

"You idiot! You almost scared me to death!"

In the darkness, Heero grinned.

Oh yes, there had been a rabbit. It had hopped out across the road, but Heero had seen the animal's luminous eyes lit up by the motorcycle's headlights just in time. What the rodent had been doing in the dead of night, Heero didn't know. But it had narrowly escaped being road kill.

Oh but the results…

The strong grip around his waist had relaxed somewhat, but the arms still entwined there and the feel of them heavy against his clothed flesh seemed so right…



"You wanna switch?"


"Are you sure about this? I mean, you've probably walked a long way and you're probably tired. I can take over, you know. It's no big deal."

"No, it's okay. I'll tell you when I get tired."

"Um…okay," Duo yawned. "You promise? I don't wanna end up on the side of some road somewhere 'cos you got sleepy or something," he drawled as he leaned against Heero's back. God, he was sleepy.

"I promise," Heero sighed.

He could feel Duo leaning against him. He could feel the boy's warmth pressed against his back, his hips, his thighs. He could imagine the soft cheek pressing against his shoulder, the feel of flesh against flesh. The arms around Heero's waist tightened their grip slightly but after a few moments, the grip slackened and Duo's lower arms fell over his upper thighs.

Heero could hear Duo's soft exhalations over the whooshing of the night wind and he could very well imagine the warmth of his breath.

Very much like the warmth of the hands that draped limply across his lap, strategically falling between his legs.

Duo's hands were not touching him there, but their proximity was enough to radiate enough body heat to be disturbingly arousing. Heero shifted a little uncomfortably. It was a pleasant sensation but it was strange, in a way. How could this boy behind him cause him to feel so many strange emotions? Why did he care how Duo felt?

At first, it was just because Duo was a friend. A mere friend.

When had he ceased being that?

When had Duo come to mean more to him? When he'd discovered those bruises on Duo's body? Perhaps. Heero had never remembered feeling so furious before - that someone had dared to touch Duo; that someone had left those marks on his body; that someone had hurt him so much that …

Yes, perhaps that was when.

Before, it had been curiosity, and perhaps attraction. And he had cared before, yes. But it had been strictly platonic. And he had tried hard to keep it that way.

But he had failed.

Strangely enough, he did not feel disappointed.

In fact, Heero felt enlightened. Like someone had switched on the light in a dark room where he had been imprisoned.

And the light had shown him the way out…

* * *

"Duo! Wake up." Heero glanced over his shoulder as he switched off the motorcycle's engine. They had been on the road for several hours and dawn had broken over the horizon nearly an hour ago. It would take another few hours of hard riding to get to their base, but the unusually heavy traffic had prompted Heero to look for a place to lie low.

When you were on the run, it didn't pay to be too obvious.

And a softly snoring braided teenager falling off a speeding motorcycle would certainly be very obvious.

That was the second reason Heero had decided to stop. Duo had been asleep for the past few hours but Heero had had to make sure the longhaired boy stayed on the motorcycle. Duo had this tendency to list to the side and lose his hold on Heero's body. If the Japanese Wing pilot hadn't been so acutely aware of every slight shift of Duo's body, he had no doubt that the Shinigami pilot would have fallen off a long time ago.

"Whu..what? Wuzzit?" Duo yawned sleepily. "Why're we stopping? Where are we? Did we arrive yet?"

"Must you ask so many questions?" Heero replied tersely, but a small smile quirked at his lips at the sight of Duo giving his face a brisk rub. "Stay here. I'll get us registered," the short haired boy tossed as he disappeared into the motel's reception building.

"Registered?" Duo blinked. A grin lit up his face at the double entendre. But of course, that would have only occurred to him. Heero probably never gave a thought to what other connotation the word had.

Duo stretched languorously, enjoying the feel of his stiffened joints popping and the blood rushing into cold, deadened digits. Looking around him, he saw that Heero had chosen some secluded roadside motel; quiet and tucked away from the highway, but quite decent-looking. The bright morning sun shone brightly without any real warmth; the chill of the night ride had yet to leave his body. Nodding slightly in approval at Heero's choice of stopovers, Duo swung off the motorcycle. And winced.

"Ouch," the boy moaned. "Whatever reason Heero has for stopping, I'm not complaining, uh-uh," Duo groaned softly as he shifted his weight to his left foot. Leaning against the motorcycle, he lifted his right foot and gave it a little squeeze through his boot. His nerves complained loudly at even that slight touch, and Duo cursed at his luck.

"Come on. Our room's just around the corner."

Heero's deep voice made Duo jump, letting go of his foot as he stood away from the motorcycle reflexively. The searing bolt of pain that ran up his leg made him screw his face up involuntarily, earning a raised eyebrow from his shorthaired partner.

"That sprain still bothering you?" Heero queried, hesitating slightly. He had thought to walk over to the room, pushing the motorcycle along the way. It would have been a good way to relax stiff muscles. But…

"Get on the bike," Heero ordered as he climbed on. Duo waited until Heero had settled before scrambling up behind him, silently thankful that Heero hadn't bothered to wait for an answer.

* * *

"What do you think?" Duo alternated from peering at his swollen ankle and Heero's serious face. They had made themselves comfortable in the motel room. And after each of them had taken their turn in the bathroom, Heero had dragged a mildly-protesting Duo to the bed and appointed himself physician for the day.

"It's swollen," Heero answered blandly as he pressed a cold compress onto Duo's tender joint.

"Maa! Even I know that, Heero!" Duo rolled his eyes dramatically. "I meant - Shit! You know what I meant!" Duo sighed exasperatedly as he straightened up.

"The best thing for it is rest," Heero said quietly, his voice low and neutral. "But we can't really afford that now, ne?"

Duo raised a curious eyebrow. Heero sounded suspiciously…tender?

"So I suggest you take advantage of this stopover, baka," Heero continued.

Pop! There goes my bubble, Duo thought with a wry smile.

Heero got up and walked over to the tabletop fridge where he rummaged the freezer compartment for ice-cubes. Wrapping a few cubes in a small hand towel, the shorthaired boy returned to his 'patient'. "Here," he said, removing the first compress and pressing the new one over Duo's ankle.

Duo hissed at the sudden cold and the pressure against his skin, but the initial discomfort soon faded away as the flesh numbed beneath the towel-wrapped ice.

"That should bring the swelling down a bit," Heero's voice seemed to whisper in his ear. I must be delusional, Duo thought, holding the compress against his ankle. Belatedly, he realised that he had lowered his head again and that a pair of very blue, very warm eyes were staring him right in the face.



Duo gulped.

Heero continued looking - nay! Staring! - at him; and if he didn't know better, Duo could have sworn that their faces were getting closer.

The feel of Heero's breath on his flesh confirmed that Duo didn't know better.

Somewhere between the loud drumming in his chest and the little screaming voice in his head, Duo heard himself gasp out a little confusedly. "H..Heero," he heard himself say. "What… what are you doing?" His voice seemed very small, very distant.

The soft butterfly-light sensation of Heero's lips brushing against his answered Duo's question. His violet eyes flew wide open.

Kissing! Heero was kissing him!

And he was leaning right into the kiss!

Duo no baka! What the hell are you doing?!?

Enjoying myself, that infuriating voice of truth chuckled back at him. Duo's eyes fluttered shut, giving in to that small voice in his head as he leaned further forward, turning the soft sensation of Heero's lips against his into a more tangible touch, more pronounced.

There was no doubt about it, Duo thought absently as he opened his mouth slightly, pushed by Heero's softly probing tongue. Heero was doing something to him that he'd only dared to dream about. And if this was another dream, another cruel trick played by his masochistic mind… Then this was a dream he had no desire to wake up from.

Heero reached up to cup Duo's face in his hands. Was this really happening? The soft feel of the pliant lips against his assured him that it was. The warm flesh under his fingers confirmed the fact. It was unexpected.

I'd never even considered this, Heero thought. It was the eyes, those brilliant, vivid violet eyes. Staring into them from so close up had left him gasping for control. But again, that control refused to materialize. Again, Duo's presence so close to him had erased any and all precaution.

Again Heero Yuy had lost control.

And now he gave in to his basest desire - his most secret of dreams - as he plundered the sweet recess of his partner's mouth.




Duo gasped, pulling away. His mind reeled at the confusing emotions that waged war within him. What Heero was doing seemed to feel so very right and so very good. But somehow, somewhere inside him, a little voice - his own - was screaming at him to stop. As much as his body wanted to surrender to the wonderfully new and exciting sensation of Heero's skin pressed so sensually against his, as much as his hands itched to take hold of Heero's face as Heero had done to him, something held him back. Something that crawled over his skin like a million spiders…

Narrowed, dark blue eyes looked back quizzically at him, as though wondering why he would pull back when just moments before he had been an active participant.


"Iya. I…I'm sorry." The apology came out choked, Heero's voice low and guilty.

Duo blinked, and before he had a chance to react further, the Japanese boy had stood up and was swiftly walking away towards the door.

* * *

Slowly, Heero turned the knob, pushing the door open ever-so silently. Easing himself into the room, the Japanese boy noted the silence with a curious quirk of his eyebrows. He'd spent the last hour or so walking aimlessly around the motel grounds, trying to forget what a fool he'd made himself out to be. Had he really done what he did? Had he really …

Bakayarou! How could he?

Mentally, Heero had kicked himself and contemplated self-destruction on at least two instances during his self-imposed isolation.

Until his stomach reminded him that it would self-destruct if he didn't get any food in it soon...

Balancing the tray in one hand, Heero closed the door, slipping the latch on as quietly as possible. Out of the corner of his eye, he'd noticed the slumbering body of his partner on the large double bed. Heero sighed, staring balefully at the steaming plates of food on the tray. He'd figured that Duo would be as hungry as he was, if not more; and remembering the boy's current mobility status, Heero had decided to bring him a late breakfast.

Besides, the food might make him forget that particularly embarrassing incident earlier.

Heero pouted, annoyed. Shoulda known better, he thought. His lips twisted in a moue of exasperation, Heero eyed the cooling food on the tray, and then the unmoving body sprawled all over the bed. It'd be a shame to waste so much food, and who knew when they'd get another chance to sit and eat in relative peace? Huffing softly, the Japanese boy placed the tray on the coffee table and shuffled over to the bed.

Duo lay half on his stomach, dressed in his trademark black. His braid snaked over his upper back and its end disappeared beneath his slight body as he slept, facing away from the side of the bed where Heero stood. A smile quirked on Heero's lips when he saw the pillow beside Duo's leg. Duo must have remembered something from his First Aid lessons, Heero thought with a silent laugh. He must have elevated his sprained foot to reduce the swelling, but somehow, somewhere along the way, the longhaired boy must have kicked away at the pillow. Leaning forward slightly, Heero peered over the sleeping boy's shoulder. He wondered if he looked as peaceful as the longhaired boy did when he was asleep - or as adorable.

What the hell am I thinking? Heero frowned slightly, the small smile leaving his lips.

Duo moaned.

"Duo?" Heero touched the sleeping boy on one black-clothed shoulder. A slight tremor ran through his friend's frame and Duo stirred, shifting to pull himself into a foetal position. "Duo," Heero called again, brow crinkling into a deeper frown. He'd thought the nightmares were gone. Heero grasped Duo's upper arm, shaking him with a little more force. "Duo. Wake up!"

And wake up Duo did.

Before Heero had realised it, the longhaired boy had rolled towards him, pushing him backwards. Stunned, Heero fell onto the carpeted floor with a loud oath. "What the -?!? K'so! Duo! What do you -"

Duo knelt before him on the floor, eyes wide with terror as he pointed a primed gun into Heero's face.


"Duo! Snap out of it! What the Hell do you think you're doing?" Heero cried, angry at being so easily overcome, and more than slightly panicked at the haunted look in his friend's eyes.

"Stay…stay away from me," Duo whispered hoarsely, his voice cracking as his hands shook slightly.

Heero scowled. "Duo," he growled. "It's me, Heero."

At the mention of the name, a slight look of recognition began to dawn on the longhaired pilot's face.

"H-Heero?" As the full realization of what he was doing hit him, Duo's face crumpled in what looked to Heero almost like agony. The gun fell from Duo's hands and he fell back, curling into a moaning ball, hugging himself tightly as though he would fall apart at any moment.

Quickly, Heero scrambled over to the discarded gun and uncocked it before tossing it on the bed. Then, turning to Duo, he crawled hesitantly towards the softly moaning boy.

"Duo?" Heero reached out to touch the boy's arm and winced when Duo flinched violently at the touch. His mouth firming into a thin line, Heero decided to grab the bull by the horns. In one quick movement, he grabbed the longhaired boy's trembling body and pulled it towards him. Automatically, Duo began to struggle violently, spewing curses like there was no tomorrow in between what suspiciously sounded like sobs. But Duo's strength was no match for Heero's and the harder he struggled, the tighter Heero held him.

Until finally, Duo's struggling ceased and his body lay limp and exhausted in Heero's arms.

* * *

"Do you wanna talk now?" Heero's voice was soft, low in the heavy shroud of silence that seemed to permeate the air around him. Duo started slightly at the unfamiliar tone, once more tensing muscles that had relaxed in the warm, safe circle of his partner's arms. Barely managing to silence an involuntary whimper, Duo resisted the urge to bury himself further into Heero's embrace.

"Not really," he answered, his voice barely raised above a hoarse whisper. Tiredly, Duo sighed, closing his eyes and wishing that this was just another dream, another false reality. It had been so easy to create a world where everything was right and where nothing and nobody hurt. It had been so simple to pretend...

Heero grunted, unconsciously pulling the boy in his arms closer to his chest. "I'll listen," he sighed into Duo's ear, a trifle sad that he hadn't yet managed to earn the other boy's trust. Had he been so callous a friend? Had he even seemed like one at all to the man-child leaning against him?

Moments passed and finally Duo stirred, pushing himself up slightly to a sitting position. He turned his face down, refusing to look Heero in the eye. "I can't do it anymore, Heero," he finally sighed.

"Do what?"


Baka. Against his better judgement, a small smirk came to Heero's lips. Baka ne. Where did this captivating idiot of a friend get the idea that he had to hide anything from him? Was he so cold? Was the image he portrayed so infallible that he would invoke this sort of reaction from the one he wanted nothing more than to share his every waking moment with? And perhaps even sleeping ones?

"No one asked you to. Tell me. It..I...I don't know how, but... Perhaps I could..."

A bitter chuckle.

"Help?" Duo gave him a sideways glance, sad violet eyes partially hidden by long, chestnut bangs that fringed the tired-looking face. Broken by a lop-sided, sarcastic smirk. "You think you could? Heh. Don't be too sure Heero." Duo lapsed into silence once more, turning away and staring contemplatively at his bandaged ankle, even as his hand massaged it absently.

The Japanese boy frowned slightly, then edged closer to the longhaired boy, finally settling down beside him and leaning against the side of the bed. "I'm waiting," he said flatly, stretching his legs out before him as he crossed his arms about his chest.

Duo's shoulders rose as he drew in a deep breath and let it out in a resigned sigh. Without turning towards the Wing pilot, without once looking into those deep cobalt-blue eyes, Duo told his story.

* * *

I'll kill them!

The sound of his teeth grinding vibrated through his skull, sending wave upon wave of red haze across his vision. Vaguely, Heero realized that his hands were clenched into hard fists that dug into his sides even as they hugged his body.

Duo was sitting with his arms wrapped tightly around his knees, which were folded close to his chest. His chin dug into the hard bone as he stared in silence at the wall, face blank. Expressionless. Silent. His voice had been low and soft when he spoke, almost monotonous. As far from himself as he could be. Sad.

For long, silent moments the two friends sat, neither daring to break the silence. Neither wanting to, for fear that it might release something so far held in check.

Heero glanced up, looking over Duo's huddled form. The braided boy sat, slightly rocking in place. "Duo.."

However, before he'd managed to speak further, Duo stood up and walked away from where they sat on the floor. From where he leaned against the bed, Heero watched as the longhaired boy limped over to where his haversack lay by the closet. He watched as Duo jerkily tore the bag open, digging out clothes that seemed as black as his mood. Grabbing a few pieces, the boy walked towards the bathroom.

* * *

He plunged his hands into the hot water, squeezing the dark fabric. The lazy swirls of red emerging from the black cloth brought a grim smirk to Duo's lips. With a soft growl, he squeezed the tortured fabric some more.


Why did I do that? Why did I tell him? Why the hell did I open my big mouth? Now he can't even bear to look at me in the eye. Hell, I can't look at him in the eye. Why? Why? Why?

Angrily, Duo sloshed the blood-tinged water, violently scrubbing at his shirt. It was stiff by the time he'd taken it off after the bike ride from the school. Drenched with dried OZ blood. Before napping he'd changed into a fresh shirt, not able to take the rusty smell any longer. He'd cursed then, but he was thankful now. Thankful for having something upon which to vent his anger.

He squeezed harder. The black cloth reminded him of himself: dark, unclean, tainted. His dark soul that was beyond redemption. Unforgiveable. The bloody water seeped through his fingers, making him squeeze harder. Get it out! Get it out! Make it clean again!

Oh God, make me clean...

"Duo, what are you doing?" Heero's voice made him jump for the second time that day. Damn! This was getting repetitive! Duo stiffened as he felt the other boy's hand on his shoulder. Tender.

"What does it look like?" he gritted out harshly, flinching at his own tone, but unable -unwilling - to soften it.

Heero's brow puckered worriedly. He had followed the longhaired boy to the bathroom, and had frowned when he saw Duo scrub harshly at the cloth. He had walked up behind him, and was surprised that Duo had not noticed his presence. He was even more surprised when he saw the bloody water in the sink.

"That's blood," Heero observed.

"Bravo. Score one for Heero Yuy."

Irritated, Heero gripped Duo's shoulder and pulled him away from the sink. "What happened? You weren't hurt, were you? Whose..?"

"Some unlucky OZ bastard. The Principal," Duo glared at him through livid violet eyes. "I shot the Principal," he chuckled, voice empty. Cynical. "I was a bad boy, wasn't I, Heero?" he sighed, smiling without a trace of humor.

Heero flinched inwardly at the anger in his friend's voice. The self-recrimination. His eyes narrowed, and -almost without thinking - he reached for Duo's face. The other boy stared in surprise as he held onto the pointed chin, holding Duo's face immobile.

"No," Heero sighed, an almost-whisper. "You weren't. It happened. You couldn't help it. You couldn't prevent it."

Duo stared at him blankly, unsure of what to say, how to respond.

"Do you understand what I'm saying, Duo?" Heero asked, locking eyes with the silent boy before him. "Do you understand what I'm trying to say?"

"H-Heero...I..." Duo stammered. Oh God, is he saying what I think he's saying? Please...

Without waiting for further reaction from the confused Shinigami pilot, Heero pulled Duo into his arms, hugging him fiercely. "It's okay, Duo. It's okay," he soothed. Heero held the other boy tight, closing his eyes and burying his face into the thick, chestnut hair.

Once more, Duo felt the hot trail of tears leaking from his eyes. But strangely enough, this time, his heart didn't feel like it was breaking into a thousand pieces. This time....

This time it felt right.

And his arms raised behind Heero's back, returning the hug so freely given.




Author's notes:

Aaaaaaaaa!!!! I think that's it! Wheee! Got it off Duo's chest! Waaa~iii!

Now....*rubs hands together* ....what next.....


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