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To Go That Far (Part 3)

Part 8

The bright lines of sunlight filtered through high-set windows, and Duo's eyes lingered over the interplay of shadow and consuming white. He hadn't really noticed, before, how truly beautiful the day was. Sunny and warm, and the light burning sunshine throwing back the darkness. He felt like he could gather up happiness in his hands, it was that thick around him.

He shifted, his hip grating over the hard bars of the bench slats beneath him. Heero stirred a little, one hand absently tracing circles in the small of his back, reaching up to tease his spine with a shiver-shock of sensation.

"I still can't believe you did that," Duo rubbed his nose ecstatically over Heero's cheek.

"Did what?" Heero replied dryly. "At that point, anything I did was moot. And perhaps, only better made Relena realize she's not what I want."

"Mmh." He stretched to plant his lips on Heero's sweat-damped temple.

Duo squirmed a little in the tightened circle of Heero's embrace -- exactly where he wanted to be, but Heero didn't know his own strength, sometimes. He released a tiny sigh of content into the thick dark hair, fingers still lazily flexing around his loose grip buried in the thick dark locks. Heero's arm let up a little and his nose slid along the line of Duo's jaw, nudging him, resting in the hollow where ear joined neck and jaw.

"We should go soon."

"You're right, we've been here for awhile," he agreed amiably, still massaging Heero's scalp.

"No...Duo, I mean we should leave the resort."

"Oh." Duo heaved a sigh as Heero disengaged, padding soft-footed over the cabana floor to gather up the bright spill of beach towel, then turned to give him a wry, sexy smile.

"Did you see the look in her eyes?"

Mutely Duo nodded, still a little overwhelmed at the expression of pure, absolute hatred Relena had leveled at him. When she said she'd finish him...she'd *meant* it.

Heero's face dropped back into expressionless mode, with an almost chilling glint. "Don't worry. We won't give her the opportunity to--"

Duo bounced up and put two fingers over his lips. Heero stared into his eyes, raising one eyebrow, but Duo just gave him a tiny shake of the head, a smile tugging his lips. He didn't want Heero to say it, not even the thought that Relena could ruin things. She could try. But nothing could spoil this, the precious gift that Heero had given him. The words that -- for the longest time -- he thought he'd never hear.

Heero fingered one endless lock of hair, eyes inscrutable, and rubbed his mouth softly against the fingers. Accepting the silence.

It was funny. He'd never thought, before, that anything Heero could do could make him love his Japanese pilot even more. He'd been so wrong. Having Heero's love, for certain sure...he thought he might burst. He wanted to yell it out to the whole resort. The whole damned planet.

He replaced his fingers with his mouth, and they kissed -- softly, sweetly, Heero's lips pliant against him as a contrast to the hardened exterior he presented to everyone else. A brief memory flashed through him, the first time...even then thoughts of Relena had overshadowed their first kiss, yet Heero had allowed him to move closer, to daringly place his hand on that smooth cheek, to edge into his personal space and claim his lips. More than his lips.

He pulled his mouth away and Heero looked so solemn, so focused on him that he couldn't help it. He tweaked his nose.

Heero's eyes crossed, then righted, then burned with blue gas-flames and Duo skittered back, chuckling softly.

He turned to search determinedly for the hair-band that Heero had yanked free, and picked it up with a sour expression. Broken, again.

"C'mon, let's go back to our suites and pack...and there's something I want to give you." Heero turned, gesturing him to follow.

Duo gaped at him. "Heero! Already!?"

Heero blinked at him, opened his mouth, then shut it. And glared. "Duo, your mind is a non-stop gutter party."

He wriggled happily, pleased. "Only when I'm with you, koibito."

"Don't call me that," Heero growled automatically, more out of habit than any conviction.

They paused briefly outside the cabana, seeing Trowa, Quatre, and Wufei making use of the pool, but continued to the house. Duo was intensely curious now...did Heero mean he had a present for him? Heero had never given him anything before. Nothing tangible, when all their belongings had to be stuffed into one carisak. And Heero wasn't the sentimental type -- he didn't have keepsakes.

"Start packing," Heero tossed at him, as Duo paused at his door, giving Heero a quizzical look. He shrugged, nodded, and pushed the door open.

"Oi, oi...what a pigsty!" Duo cheerfully bemoaned the state of his room. Quickly he found another hair tie and braided his still mostly-damp hair, making a face at the mess the chlorine had made of it. He'd definitely have to wash it later, but Heero wanted to get out of here *now.*

He didn't blame him. Relena's face...

Duo shuddered, then grabbed up some scattered clothes. He turned at the knock on the door.

Heero pushed the door open unceremoniously then paused at the threshold, his face uncertain. "" A small object arced through the air, flying for him.

With a yelp Duo dropped his armful of clothes and caught it. "Oi, Heero, what--"

The soft click of the latch answered him. He was talking to empty air. Duo sighed and ran a hand over the top of his head, wincing as he encountered tangles. He'd *definitely* have to take care of his hair. Then he eyed the box dubiously. Just like Heero. Why didn't he want to stay while he opened it? What could come in such a small package.

Thankfully, *not* lingerie.

Duo snickered and cracked the box open, peeping in.

It was a small, glittering...

His jaw dropped.

The box nearly tumbled from his suddenly-lax fingers.

Someone rapped on the door again, more hesitant this time. A grin stretched his features. So this was why Heero had left; he wanted to give him at least a minute to think about it. He pranced over to the door, flipping the box shut, knowing he looked like a grinning idiot but unable to care. He'd never thought in a million years that Heero could be *this* traditional, or sentimental... This was even better than a lot of 'yoroshiku' or a little 'ai shiteiru.'

"Oi, Heero, why'd you leave bef--"

Not Heero.


Duo sucked in an uneasy breath and looked back unhappily at the steady, needle-sharp gaze of the Peacecraft.

"Relena, I--"

"Duo," the girl cut him off coolly, stepping over the threshold.

He took a step back, unsure of her and unable to gauge her potential reactions.

"Do you have any idea what you've done?" Her tone was calm and steely, reflective.

Duo blinked. Somehow, that scared him more than if she'd flown at him in a screaming rage. Whatever he'd expected, this was not it. "What do you mean?"

"To me, and to Heero. Heero and I," the girl clarified. Red spots stood out against her cheekbones, as if she were feverish...her eyes were *too* bright...

"There *is* no 'you and Heero,' " Duo contradicted. The uneasiness doubled, roiling the pit of his stomach.

"You don't know what you're talking about!" Relena flared, lunging forward suddenly, in his face. "Heero is mine! He's always been mine! And I'm not going to let some long-haired faggot boy get in the way!" She spat the words at him, raking out with sharp nails.

Duo caught her wrist, face suddenly grim. Her face contorted into a parody of the delicate aquiline features and with a sickening thud she brought her knee up. Duo reeled, collapsing to the floor, moaning in pain. He hadn't expected her to go so swiftly for... Ouch. Or, rather, that the refined, sheltered Relena would stoop to kneeling her boy-rival in the groin. He gasped for breath, clutching at the injured region and was unable to do more than stare at the foot heading for him with terrifying swiftness.

The world exploded in a starburst of white and red and suddenly he couldn't feel anything but the hot outward-blazoning pain consuming the center of his face. The nose, she'd broken his nose. He crawled over the carpet, stunned and groping for comprehension -- caught off guard, he was a Gundam pilot, *how* had she...

A freight train connected with his temple, and white and red drained away, eclipsed only by darkness.

A small cardboard box tumbled out of Duo's loosened fist.

* * *

Relena halted the rain of kicks she had been visiting on the limp frame, and breathed hard. She stared at the body of the braided boy at her feet, eyes twitching from his blood-smeared face to the crimson marking one shoe. She hadn't expected...

She tucked one strand of wheat-blonde hair behind one ear, nervously.

He was so still. Not even a shudder. Relena bit her lip. Something had snapped under the point of her shoe, with that last kick.

"Haruka..." she whispered, mouth working.

One of his hands was sprawled over the carpet, stretched towards a small white box that had fallen from his grip.

"Haruka!" she gasped out, backing away from his too-still form.

His face was stained, it was covered in blood. She'd meant to hurt him, to really make him *feel* what he'd done to her, to her and Heero, but now he was lying too still and there was too much red, everywhere...

"Haruka!" she shouted into the hallway, beginning to run. Her seneschal would take care of it, he had to.

Haruka always took care of small inconveniences when they arose.

* * *

"Ita--WAUGH!!" Quatre screamed, thrashing in the water. He clutched at his chest.

Never a strong swimmer, he slid under the water, choking on another throttled shout. A stream of bubbles fluttered to the surface, his mouth silenced.

Encased in cool wet, Quatre curled around the agony, barely recognized as not his own, and rocked shuddering as he felt impact after impact, a twisted, vengeful face looming over him, until bright vermilion spots swam up to cover his vision.

He sank to the bottom, stone-weight.

A steel band was pinching his chest and Quatre tried to sob for breath, for the pain, but there was no air. Everything black was his world, bled of light.

Warm lips were on his.

*Trowa...his kiss is bringing me back...always...*

He tried to tell him, but something was heaving up into his throat, sucked inescapably. Trowa's lips, pulling the heaviness from his chest. Quatre turned and vomited chlorinated water to the beat of steady thwacks on his back. He blinked up, his throat and chest burning, into Trowa's openly worried green eyes.

"My uchuu no kokoro..." he rasped, then coughed again, his throat seizing up.

Violently Quatre shook off Trowa's restraining hands, urging him to rest, to stop talking. Cool strong hands gripped his shoulders. "All right...what is it?" Trowa's eyes were still troubled, and only for him.

"'s Duo!" he tried again, nearly crying. "But I can't feel him anymore!"

* * *

Part Nine

He threw the last item in his pack, then cast a quick look around the room. He would be glad to leave it...except for finally breaking through the thin remaining shell that had continued to separate him from Duo, coming here had been a mistake. He wasn't sure if it was because of Relena's presence, or in spite of it, that he had finally been able to choke out the words that were a mere token of the feelings inside of him. The feelings he'd had to overcome years of training and conditioning to share.

But as for the gift...Heero felt suddenly uncertain.

He knew that Duo loved him. He'd said it often enough, repeated it through various, endearing actions that he was finally convinced of that. But what he was offering Duo... It was stupid of him, they were in the middle of a war. It was foolish to ask for anything more permanent than their shared feelings.

Yet now that he was able to *say* more, he wanted more.

Heero hoisted the pack onto his shoulders, and left the room. The walk down to Duo's suite seemed endless, as he agonized about what look might have crossed Duo's face when he'd opened that box...maybe that soft, lit-up smile...or a look of utter surprise. The uncertainty was what had forced him to leave before he could watch Duo open it.

His eyes played over the curve of the hallway; hesitated over the open door. Inside, Duo's clothes were still scattered in a heap near the foot of the bed.

"Duo," he began, irritated. "We're supposed to *leave,* you baka, so what--"

The box.

It lay on the carpet, the top edge of the lid crinkled, as if had been opened and hastily shut.

It hurt. He'd never realized something could hurt like this, as a gleeful little demon seized his chest and told him so. A small, smothered sound worked its way through his throat, but he wouldn't let it escape. He had been wrong. So wrong. What was the use of even trying to break through the barrier of cold emotion, when that was the only defense he had? Where was he? "Duo..." He cast about the room. Duo's clothes, his belongings, even his hairbrush...everything was still strewn carelessly around the room. Had...had it panicked him, that much?

Grimly, Heero bent to scoop the little white box off the carpet.

Duo was gone.

* * *

She peeked around the corner of the door. Heero stood in the middle of Duo's room, that box Duo had dropped clenched in his fist. His back was taut, almost shaking, and the dark head was bent.

"Heero...? Is something wrong?"

It was so hard to keep the brimming triumph suppressed in her voice.

He whirled, cobalt-blue eyes wide and burning for an instant, taking her breath away with scorching beauty, before they narrowed to thin slashes. "Relena." Quickly he shoved the box in his pocket.

Her heart exulted. She loved it when he said her name like that, a quiet word dropping onto the weighted surfaces of the unspoken acknowledgment between them.

"Yes, Heero?" She smiled at him, advancing, pushing back a strand of long hair. Haruka had done his job, and there was nothing in the room to betray the collapsed figure she had left behind her. Duo was gone.

No more obstacles. No more pretending.

His lips thinned. "Where is Duo? Have you seen him?"

She scowled suddenly, her perfect scenarios disrupted. "Why are you always thinking of *him?*" she demanded angrily. "Why don't you just let him go, and accept what's between us, Heero!? Just give it a chance..." Her tone turned wheedling.

His eyes were cold and empty. She reeled back a bit. This wasn't the Heero she knew; his coldness was a facade, he was pretending, he was only waiting for the moment when she broke through his mask...

"Have you seen Duo?"

He didn't answer any of her questions. Her mouth twisted, but his face was unyielding. He almost seemed to look *through* her. Maybe he really--NO! Heero was hers, and she would not permit any other thought to violate that firm reality!

"Why are you so fixated on him!?" she cried, growing angry. "I've done all I can to break through your cold mask of unfeeling, but you're not helping at all! The least you could do is be nice to me, you know."

Heero's chill blue eyes barely flicked over her. "Why bother?" He turned on his heel, surveying the room, taking in the messy, crumpled black clothing spilled over the floor, the unmade bed, the bag dumped on the bed that was partially filled. "Where is Duo, Relena? Did you see him?"

She sniffed, hurt. It was an effrontery, that he continued to mention *that boy,* as if she weren't even here. "What does it matter?"

He spun to face her, eyes working furiously over her face. A little smile tipped the corner of her lips, working at the balance of her heart. He was looking at her, finally looking at HER.

"Did you say something to him?"

Relena faltered. In her ears, the aching sound of that last snap repeated endlessly. The face had been still, eyes closed, skin sticky with blood. "I--I didn't say anything..."

Cold steel confronted her, irises harder than the barrel of a gun. "You're lying."

"I'm not," Relena denied desperately, cringing in the face of that impassive deathly mask.

"Where *is* he?"

Relena broke. "How can you keep up this pretense, like you actually care for him!? He's not *here* anymore, Heero, you don't have to keep pretending that this isn't what we both want. So stop it! I even go so far to get rid of him, and still all you can do is ask--"


"What did you say!?" His breathless, furious interjection startled her into silence. Suddenly Heero's hands were gripping her wrists and she squirmed at the unexpected pain.

"Let go of me!"

"What have you done to Duo?" he demanded, his eyes narrow and boring into her, dark sapphire gems that reflected her face. Only her face, as it should always have been. This afternoon had been a mistake, a dreadful mistake, and now...

"The obstacle has been removed." She contained her smile, knowing that he wouldn't understand at first. But she'd done it for them.

"What the hell are you talking about!?" he exploded, his hot breath washing over her cheek and she squeaked, startled, as Heero's face turned into a mask of rage before her eyes. "What did you do to Duo!? I just left him--he was just here!"

"He's gone now!" Relena burst out, struggling in his too-tight grasp. "Let go of me. Heero, let go, you're hurting me!"

His bitter laugh startled her. "You still don't get it, do you?"

She paused, bewildered. "What do you mean?" His hands were still closed, unyielding, around her wrists. She controlled a pained wince. The bones were beginning to grate together.

"I *don't* love you." He hesitated for a moment, eyes boring into her with the full weight of anger, an intense searing load that she tried to look away from, but Relena was mesmerized even as he spoke the words that unmade her. It was sick fascination. "I haven't loved you, Relena, and I *won't.* I love Duo." His voice faltered a little, over the last.

She wrenched free and stumbled back a step, nearly falling. "Uso."

His eyes were steady and matter-of-fact.

"No, you don't, it's a lie!" she screamed. "Why else would you save me? Why else couldn't you kill me? You love me!" She felt numb all over, submerged in pins and needles, as if this wasn't real -- as if with a single touch, she would awaken... "You're *mine,* you're my prince fallen from the sky, you came for *me* and now after all I've done for you...Heero..."

Heero pulled something out of his pocket -- the white box that had fallen from Duo's hand -- his eyes never leaving hers. He opened it, and held it up. Relena's eyes quivered before they left his, traveling slowly downward until they encountered the open box. "I gave this to Duo today."

Relena felt bile rising up into her throat. It was a ring.

A simple, flat band...a wedding band.

"You're disgusting," she choked out. "Chigau could he seduce you into this, how can you still continue to want him..."

Heero's face was frozen. He snapped the box shut and shoved it back into his pocket. "You don't understand, Relena. And I don't care if you do."

She turned to leave, shuddering. This was impossible...her mind simply refused to digest this, that somehow Heero would willingly bind himself to that--that--with satisfaction she allowed herself to think of the limp, lean body that had jolted underneath her kicks. She hadn't overreacted, after all.

A strong hand closed over her upper arm.

Relena met Heero's eyes, a sudden frightened bird fluttering trapped in her throat. The look in his eyes truly did mean death, this time...and her body sensed it even if her mind refused to accept it.

"Where is Duo?"

* * *

"Quatre, what are you talking about?"

Firmly Trowa kept a hold on his hands, chafing warmth back into them, the wet long bangs of his hair plastered to one side of his face. Normally the sight would have provoked a giggle or two and a teasing comment, but he was far too distraught for any joking.

"Duo, he's been hurt!"

"What happened?" Wufei demanded, popping up on the other side of him. His dark wet hair was slicked back from the water, still tightly pulled back in the snug ponytail. His eyes were dark and fierce.

Quatre closed his eyes tightly and that face threaded over the gray haze was still there, the vengeful lines paling into shock and distress. "Relena. It's Relena..."

"She did something to Duo?" Trowa prompted him, a thumb still rasping soothingly over his palm.

Quatre nodded, the sharp jolts along his ribs still sputtering with pain. He shivered. Trowa cast a long, measuring glance at Wufei, then slowly drew the golden-haired Arabian into his arms, rubbing at Quatre's chilled wet flesh.

Wufei averted his eyes, but Quatre could sense it was more from a desire to be respectful, than from disdain.

"We have to find him," Quatre shivered against Trowa's chest. "She's done something to him, I can feel it and he needs help..."

"All right," Trowa replied to his insistence.

Wufei spoke up. "Shall I try to find Heero? I'm sure that he'll want to know..."

Trowa's mouth was grim. "Yes, and when he *does* find out...he may have to be restrained..."

Quatre shivered again, but not from the cold. He had seen death before in Heero's eyes, and he knew that the slim Japanese pilot wouldn't hesitate to retaliate swiftly and decisively, if Relena had harmed Duo in any way.

He had seen blood. So very much blood.

Finally, moments after Wufei had scrambled off in pursuit of Heero, Trowa helped him to stand. "Do you know where he is?"

Quatre opened his eyes, taking comfort in the color to be found in Trowa's brown hair, threaded with the barest glimmer of honeyed tones, and the bottomless green of his eyes. The soft warm flush of his skin, and the slightly darker tint of his lips. Color, and life. He wished he *didn't* know.

"It's so dark where he cold..."

* * *

Part Ten

Wufei pounded up the stairs, intent on his mission. wasn't truly a mission per se, but preventing the head of the Sank kingdom from being strangled by a Gundam pilot seemed important enough to give it such merit. He wasn't precisely certain how Quatre had known Duo was in trouble, but the blond boy had been right before.

"Where is Duo!?"

The rage-riddled tones pierced the air, and Wufei ran faster. Heero's voice, distorted and thick with fury...he only hoped he wasn't too late, knowing how badly things could get out of hand, when control slipped. And from what he'd seen before, Duo had the key to Heero's controls, and if Duo really *was* hurt...

He hoped, for both their sakes, that Duo wasn't badly injured or worse. They would lose more than a damned fine, strongly-committed Gundam pilot.

They'd lose two.

He skidded to a halt, one shoulder crashing into the doorframe.

Heero had grabbed the golden-haired girl's arm, his face barely recognizable, eyes slitted, lips stretched in a snarl. Relena's back was turned to him, her posture stiff and startled.

"Where is he?"

Heero's voice had grown dreadfully quiet, and he made a visible effort to control himself. His eyes did not even dart to Wufei to acknowledge his presence; he kept them adamantly fixed on Relena.

Nervously the girl lifted a shaking hand to tuck back a strand of hair behind her ear. "Heero...Heero, I did it for you. I did it for *us.*"

Wufei stared incredulously. Was the girl mad? What had she done?

With a low growl Heero grabbed both her shoulders and as Wufei started forward he began to shake her violently. Relena squeaked helplessly, her head snapping back, and Wufei laid a warning hand on Heero, whose head jerked up to stare at him, his expression peculiar, barely aware. Almost absently the Japanese pilot released the girl's shoulders and she crumpled to the ground, dazed. She moaned a little, rubbing at her neck.

A tear tracked from Relena's eye, a slow downward spiral.

"You can't kill her," Wufei said matter-of-factly.

Heero swiveled on him, the dark blue of his eyes single-minded in their intensity. "I don't care what happens to her."

The implication hung unsaid. Duo was the only one who mattered here.

Relena let loose a soft whimper at his feet, one hand groping uselessly through the air in the Wing pilot's direction. Heero stepped back, out of range. " don't mean that. You're just angry now, but you'll come to understand. He has no place in the world we're going to make, he's just a--"

"Shut up."

Wufei's eyes skipped from the pathetic figure at Heero's feet, to the Japanese pilot's face again. He had never heard such barely-controlled fury before, not from Heero or anyone. He had to get Heero out of here, before the girl said something to provoke him further -- it wouldn't take much to send him over the edge.

Heero's face was a mask of indifference. He flicked a splayed-finger hand in Relena's direction, eyes holding Wufei's, indicating that the Chinese pilot could take over the questioning.

Wufei nodded shortly then turned his attention to the weeping girl at their feet. It was a good thing Heero knew his limits -- that he couldn't stand much more dialogue with the girl's ravings. " will go easier if you tell us where he is. If not, I cannot promise that harm will not come to you."

Heero's tiny, matter-of-fact nod chilled him a bit.

Relena shuddered and her tears flowed faster, dripping down the waxy cheeks where spots of scarlet stood out starkly, shockingly. "I don't understand why he keeps asking me where he is..."

Heero made an abortive movement towards the girl but Wufei gave him a piercing glance of warning. "Heero-kun, Quatre is trying to find Duo. Perhaps you could help them, and leave this to me," Wufei suggested, tone deliberate.

The fierce blue gaze slid away, and Heero nodded. His body was thrumming like a live wire, ready to spark...they both knew if he stayed much longer, and met with continued frustration, there was a very good chance real harm would come to Relena. The Japanese pilot's right hand was twitching convulsively, squeezing the trigger of a gun that wasn't there.

Heero jogged swiftly out of the room, without a backward glance for the piteous figure Relena cut, kneeling on the carpet and scrubbing away futile tears.

Tears for the loss of a heart she had never captured...yet continued to covet.

Wufei hunkered down to her eye level, glaring solemnly at the cornflower-blue orbs that refused to meet his, as if already acquainted with the censure she would meet in his gaze. Relena continued to cry softly into her palms, rubbing her nose red and raw. Wufei scowled, then lifted one hand and slapped her sharply, giving her a hearty crack over the cheekbone.

The smack of his palm meeting her flesh soundly tumbled through the air, eclipsing the noise of her hiccuping sobs.

Relena rocked back, eyes wide and stunned. But finally focusing on *him.*

"How DARE you!" she spat, face drawn in fury. "How dare you touch me, you peasant!"

"Actually, I was a part of the upper echelons of my society," Wufei corrected her calmly.

Her face dissolved into a confused sort of helplessness.

"Now," Wufei began, grabbing her chin with inexorable fingers.

Relena fixed on him, startled. At last he'd gained her full and complete attention. A touch of fear etched into her expression and Wufei smiled grimly. Good, she was at least a little afraid now... She hadn't been, of Heero. Foolish girl. That could have gotten her killed.

"Let's try this *again.*"

* * *

It took five minutes between the pool and foyer to convince Trowa that he didn't need a human crutch. The tall, lean pilot of Heavyarms had been unusually protective lately, treating him like spun glass, and although Quatre loved him for it and understood how Trowa could feel that he wanted nothing to harm him, nothing at was beginning to get on his nerves.

They stood in the foyer of the house, Trowa hovering near his elbow and ready to steady him at the slightest waver. Quatre wiped damp beads from his brow, still feeling the haunting aftershocks of pain, a dull ache radiating up his ribcage informing him that it wasn't over, yet.

"Quatre, don't push yourself. You nearly drowned. I'm sure Heero and I can find Duo on our own," Trowa offered calmly. His forest-green eyes were darkened, his face closed, but Quatre could read the tiny signs of solicitousness.

"I know where he is," Quatre insisted.

Heero tumbled down the stairs, his face cold and set. "Duo is--"

"I know."

Quatre stepped forward, resolute. Beneath the automated response of expressionless-ness, he could detect the cracks -- he could see Heero's concern running deep. He had seen into Duo's heart, once he saw into Heero's and realized the depth was returned just as strongly, every bit as much.

"I felt it. My uchuu no kokoro..."

"Do you know where he is?" Heero cut him off, his eyes raking about the room, a searchlight glare, as if he could discover Duo huddled behind a potted palm.

Quatre nodded, faltering again. He felt a hand touch his shoulder.

"The wine cellar."

Even Trowa flinched back from the look that kindled Heero's eyes with pure, unadulterated wrath.

* * *

One thought pounded in his brain, one thought fluttered, ragged on the refrain, superimposed over a heart-shaped face with laughing violet eyes and a wide, sensual smile. He should have killed her. He should have killed her when he'd had the chance. Even bare moments ago, that slim neck had been so easily within reach.

The thought of Duo lying trussed up in a dank wine cellar like an animal was enough to eclipse his vision, for a moment, in pure red. Quatre blinked and took a step backward...Trowa looked discomfited.

"Let's go," he clipped.

His reconnoiter yesterday while avoiding Relena was proving useful. He knew where the cellar was, and broke into a run as soon as he'd finished his words. The rapid tattoo of heels on the floor behind him was indication enough of company.

As he jerked open the door, the seneschal of the resort tottered back on the cellar stairs, blinking wide eyes at him.

Heero's lips thinned to a slash.

Haruka's distinguished features failed to conceal the guilty evidence of involvement. Briefly he considered grabbing a hand of the man's shirt and demanding Duo's whereabouts, but what a waste of breath. He shoved the seneschal aside, and the man sagged against the wall with relief, his face white. Heero grabbed the railings and slid down to the ground floor, disdaining to use the stairs.

Trowa and Quatre clattered down behind him, flicking on the lights.

"Duo." His voice stabbed out into the darkness.

The wavering light of the single naked bulb didn't illuminate all of the shadowed corners, as it bounced off innumerable glassy surfaces, the round green of row on row of bottles refracting the light. But it was just enough to shed splinters of light over the sprawled figure that had been dumped in one corner, partly hidden at the juncture of two large racks. Duo was still in his swim trunks, his pale torso caked with dirt from the packed floor of the cellar...or were those bruises, dark against his ribs? Heero growled and started forward.

Duo's face was covered in blood, already sticky and drying, and for a cold moment that gripped his entrails he thought the body was *too* still but he could not even allow the possibility to enter his head as he checked the pulse quickly. He pressed his fingers to the carotid artery and held his own breath, closing his eyes, mouth working in silent prayer.

He'd never prayed before.

A throb flickered beneath his fingers, slow but steady, and the breath Heero released was ragged as he gathered the unconscious American into his arms, replacing his fingers with his lips to continue to feel that blessed pulse. He kissed the sensation of the blood beating regularly under his skin. Alive, he was alive -- he'd be fine.

From Relena's rambling, she had made it sound as if she'd k--done something permanent to Duo. And perhaps she thought she had. The Peacecraft didn't strike him as a very apt or determined killer. Doubtless she would even be remorseful, when she calmed down enough to realize what she'd done.

He intended to be far away by then, Duo securely in hand.

He remained still for long moments, unsure if he should try to wake him or just take him upstairs and get him some first aid. Slowly, almost unconsciously, he began to rock Duo in his arms, until the slim body stirred.

One eye slitted open, a cracked gleam of violet with caked blood flaking from his thick lashes. "Heero."

"Right here," he replied quietly.

"Yokatta, yokatta ne..." Quatre's voice chanted softly in the background.

Both eyes opened, and Duo gave him a weak parody of his accustomed cheery grin. He winced at the twinge of pain from his broken nose, and Heero felt even grimmer, if possible. They would *have* to leave soon, because if he saw Relena again, he'd return the favor.

"Hi," Duo spoke, distracting him from vengeful thoughts.

"Yo," Heero returned, hands gentle as Duo winced again. Those shadows on his ribs *were* bruises, maybe even broken bones. Very carefully, he gathered Duo into his arms.

"Heero," Duo said against his neck, voice forlorn.

"Aa?" he replied, ready for Duo to rail against Relena, or pronounce himself happy to be found, or to ask for some aspirin, or to...

"Where's my ring?"

It provoked a startled chuckle, forced from his closed-up throat. Heero ignored the upsurge of sensation in his chest and fit Duo into the crook of one arm, then pulled the battered white box out of his pocket. The American pilot watched him expectantly. His eyes were sparkling as he held his hand up, and Heero slid the band onto his finger.

Their eyes met, in that instant. And Heero knew, from the bright love that lit Duo's eyes, that he'd made the right decision. Duo would never again question how far he would go to be with him.

A diffident cough echoed through the cellar behind them. Heero crumpled the box and tossed it into a corner, then lifted Duo into the air, ignoring the pained grunt, and met the eyes of Trowa and a flushing Quatre with perfect unconcern. Duo wriggled in his arms, wincing as he did so, tugging at a strap of his tank top.

"Ne, forgot something."

"Nani?" he inquired suspiciously. It was a wedding band, he knew that for certain. Duo had taken it, it was on his finger...what was left?

"We have to seal it with a kiss," Duo blinked up at him innocently, face completely serious.

Heero glanced down at his lover's earnest face. His gaze flicked to the two other pilots, who looked ready to turn away.

"Hell with it," he muttered.


He and Duo had already outed to Relena -- NOT the most sympathetic of parties. Compared to that, Trowa and Quatre -- most certainly already a couple, themselves -- were nothing.

He bent his head to Duo's, ignoring the splashes of crimson that tracked from his nose and smeared over his mouth, and captured the parted lips under his own, swallowing the startled gasp. Duo hadn't expected him to do it. Duo responded timidly at first, then enthusiastically as he realized Heero wasn't going anywhere.

Not now, or ever.

Then he winced, and Heero broke away. Duo touched the bridge of his nose and pulled a long face, cringing even as he did so. "My poor nose..." he mourned. "I hope it heals straight...Heero, we have to set it right away."


"Heero, will you still love me if I have a crooked nose?"

A soft huff. "Baka ne."

But his arms tightened around the slender body in his arms, until Duo squeaked a little in protest, then gave him a melting smile.

* * *

The Chinese boy's eyes were narrow as they regarded her, and his grip on her chin was excruciatingly tight, but Relena was afraid to protest. The look in his eyes left no room for compassion. He could never understand her pain.

"You broke his nose."

A tiny, barely perceptible nod.

"And kicked him in the temple."

Another small nod.

"And kicked him until he stopped moving."

Relena's mouth tightened, and she dropped her eyes. The way Wufei said it, it *did* sound excessive, but all she had to do was recall Heero shoving that box in her face, the filthy evidence of how far this misguided tryst had gone, to feel justified once more. Duo had gotten in the way; he had harmed the delicate balance between herself and Heero and damaged it so badly, she was unsure if it could be repaired.

The Chinese boy's face was almost frightening as he drew a fist back once more and Relena squeaked, hiding her face. There was no solace in her rank, now; Wufei had already proved he had no compunctions about hitting a lady.

Knuckles brushed over her cheek with stunning swiftness and she lurched back, tumbling onto her bottom, whimpering. He hadn't missed. He couldn't have missed. So why...?

"I should break your nose," Wufei informed her coldly, "but no real man would hit an unarmed woman."

Relena huddled into a miserable ball, pulling her legs in tight to her chest and wrapping her arms around them.

Wufei's face was tight and his lip curled. "You have no honor."

Relena was startled. "N-nani? What do you mean by that?"

Wufei grabbed her chin again and her arm and she cried out in pain, muffled into a bronze palm, as her arm was twisted behind her back. "It is dishonorable for a man to attack a woman, under any circumstance...Duo knew that and he was unable to retaliate. Yet you pressed your cowardly advantage, knowing he would not fight back, to lash out and satisfy your childish whims."

"Ch-childish?" Relena stuttered against the thick callused skin.

"Hai, a child. You are like a little girl coveting someone else's beautiful bauble, and when you can't have it you lashed out."

Wufei's words made her squirm inside.

Duo hadn't fought back, that much was true. She had almost been surprised by that. But he'd deserved it...Relena closed her eyes against the backsplash of blood rising up to confront her, the crimson sight of Duo's face, eyes sagged shut, a livid bruise already standing out against his temple. What had she done...

"I did it for Heero," Relena whimpered, but her world was crumbling around her. "It's not right -- it's not natural, for him--for he and Duo to--"

"What right have you to judge what you don't understand?" Wufei's voice struck her with the fury of a whip. "I made that mistake once before, and I was wrong. Yet no one was hurt from my mistake."

Relena flinched.


"If Duo is badly hurt, I don't think any one of us will stand between you and Heero. Even if we were able."

So limp. So still. When Haruka had hoisted his body up, carrying him out of the messy room, Relena had been shocked by how unmoving Duo was, even yet...she hadn't been sure if he was breathing or not.

Hot, scalding tears surprised her, spilling down her cheeks again.

Wufei's grip loosened.

"Do you understand?"

She pulled away, sagging back to the floor in a tangle of maroon skirts. She'd been hoping the uniform would remind him of the first days when they had met, when he had subtly professed...

No. He'd never professed to love her.

"He doesn't love me," Relena replied dully. Her eyes flickered.

Wufei gave her a tight nod. "That's right." His eyes moved over her measuringly.

Relena placed a hand to her reddened cheek, where Wufei's handprint still stood out in bright relief.

Wufei seized her arm again, hauling her roughly to her feet and ignoring the shrill protests that tumbled from her lips. "Let go...let go of me!" She'd admitted it, what he wanted to hear -- wasn't that enough? Wasn't he satisfied!?

"Not," Wufei replied grimly, "until you've made restitution. It's up to Heero -- and Duo, if he's all right -- to decide what to do with you now."

Relena shrank back, but his hand was iron-hard.

" with me?"

Something very small and frightened --and intelligent--inside of her was shrieking at the top of its lungs. Heero's chilling face flashed over her retinas again, imprinted with the knowledge of what she'd done to Duo, his still, limp body and she knew, she absolutely knew, that if she'd killed Duo she would follow straightaway.

* * *

Quatre leaned wearily against Trowa. At last, it was over...mostly...and he allowed his lover to thread an arm around his waist. True to his word, Trowa didn't seem the least bit concerned that either of the other two boys would realize what was between them -- but Duo already knew, and Heero certainly wouldn't care. Not now.

He was too busy fussing over Duo.

Oh, to any other eye it certainly wouldn't seem like fussing -- Quatre smiled. Heero had bullied a servant into giving him a first aid kit, and was busy patching up every bruise, and swabbing every scrape, while giving Duo a running commentary on how stupid he'd been to allow Relena to get near him with his guard down. He added a few choice words, too, for some things he'd like to *do* to Relena, and remarks involving her improbable ancestry.

"Baka. That was *another* mistake you made, not twisting out of the way of her foot, somehow..." Heero growled, as Duo winced, one hand lifting involuntarily to his nose. "And she could've given you a concussion. You should've--"

"Well, I *didn't,*" Duo replied testily, picking at one of the bandages on his ribs. Bruised, but not broken. Heero smacked his hand sharply.

Wufei's sour voice interjected the soft, terse exchanges. "Minna-san, our hostess." He had descended the stairs gripping Relena's wrists in one hand, his face grim. His dark sloe eyes flickered instantly to Duo and he nodded once, satisfied. "Duo-kun. Yokatta."

Both Heero and Duo's expressions were a study in grim, set-faced anger as they regarded the subdued, blonde girl who would not meet their eyes. The silence hung so heavily, strung with a tension Quatre could barely breathe around.

"Get her out of my sight."

Heero's voice was flat and charged with unspoken violence. The Chinese pilot simply nodded, snagging one of Relena's wrists again. But Duo lifted a hand, his expression unreadable.


Relena's eyes jumped up, startled, to meet those of the braided boy she had injured -- if she could have, without facing the consequences, she would have left him for dead. Quatre was mournfully sure of it, and dismayed to find that even amongst the supposedly most peaceful, hidden violence still lurked.

"Relena...I'm not going to ask why, or even suggest that you pay in some kind for what you've done," Duo said quietly, pushing back scattered wisps of darkened chestnut bangs. He released a tiny, weary sigh. "All I want from you, now -- and you OWE me -- is your word that you will stay away from us."

The Peacecraft girl looked as if she would crumple. Her eyes moved desperately over Heero -- searching, probably, for one last spark of feeling, for anything from the young pilot she had chased so determinedly. So fruitlessly.

He refused to look at her.

Quatre nodded. Wise.

"I..." She faltered, then met Duo's eyes again. The wide violet orbs were very determined, and deadly serious. "I promise I'll stay away." Her voice dropped to the barest, wracked whisper.

Heero stood in one leonine, fluid motion, his body canting slightly towards Duo and his hand brushed over the American pilot's cheek. Duo closed his eyes. Quatre could hear a tiny, keening whimper from Relena, overlapped with the sight of Heero's face -- there was a smile there, the first he'd ever seen -- tiny but real.

"You're much more generous than I am."

With that statement, the Japanese pilot turned and crossed the terra cotta-tiled floor with a few swift strides. Relena barely had time to squeal as the clenched fist crashed into her face, and she was thrown back. Wufei stepped aside, his expression carefully blank. The girl hurtled into the wall, hitting it with a painful thud and sliding down to the tiles, gasping for breath.

Her blue eyes eclipsed shock as one hand groped for her face. The other was hidden by a fold of her skirt.

"An eye for an eye."


Relena kneeled on the tiles, a small mewling noise crawling its way up out of her throat, and rocked back and forth. "Broken," she gasped. Her hand tentatively felt at the bridge of her nose, and she shuddered.

Heero looked down at her, his face still completely cold and impassive. "Feel lucky," he replied harshly. "I don't have the stomach to inflict the rest of Duo's injuries on you."

Relena whimpered again.

Duo nodded to Wufei. "Now get her out." His tone was a little stunned, but still hard.

Relena's head was bowed under the weight of shame as Wufei hauled her to her feet, and led her forcefully from the room.

Quatre watched her, troubled. Then the light pressure of Trowa's arm around his waist recalled his attention, and he smiled at the sight of one dark green eye, focused calmly on him.

Duo was irritably pushing away Heero's hands, holding out more bandages. "Oi, Heero, you'll turn me into a mummy," he complained. "Just fix my nose. My poor, beautiful nose..."

"Not the nose again," Heero snorted.

Quatre snagged Trowa's hand, and gently pulled him from the room.

* * *

Relena frowned at Wufei's stiff back, but remained quiet, not protesting the firm tug at her wrist. Surreptitiously, she removed her fingers from a fold of her skirt, uncrossing them.

* * *

Duo tossed his bag into the back seat of the cab, climbing in and moving carefully to avoid the protesting twinge of his ribs. Relena had only managed to bruise them -- one was fractured, but not badly -- and he was *very* grateful that his nose would heal straight...and that Heero hadn't killed Relena, in a fit of rage. All they needed was more bad press flying around from another 'incident.'

He knew he should be reproachful that Heero had broken her nose, too, but all he could feel was a shamed sort of satisfaction.

Heero glanced over at him from his seat behind the wheel. A rare smile tugged his lips upward, an expression that always made Duo's heart soar.

"You ready to go?"

"Aa," he replied, giving his lover a thumb's up and a muted, but nevertheless cheerful, smile. He tucked his black cap more securely over his forehead and sank against the door, trying to find a comfortable position. "Where are we going?"

"Far away from here," Heero replied shortly, the all-too-brief smile collapsing as he leveled another black look at the resort. "Some vacation."

"So take me on a real one," Duo suggested. Then he gave Heero a suggestive leer, leaning forward a bit, ignoring the pained outcry from ribs and bruises to drape one arm over Heero's shoulder, displaying his hand, eyeing the ring on his finger thoughtfully. "Why not a honeymoon?"

Heero looked startled. Then, slowly, he smiled again.

"I love you," he said quietly, the words almost consumed by the roar of the engine as he started up the truck.

Duo edged back over to his seat, and gave him a smug grin. "I know."

After all the times he'd said it, after all the times he had wondered...

Heero gave him a tiny, genuine smile. It was something Duo couldn't resist, and if he ever failed to respond to Heero he knew that would be the day they buried him. He leaned forward, scrunching up his face in protest at wincing pain, then grabbed Heero's jaw with one hand, turning his face to kiss him.

The Japanese pilot wriggled a little bit, still obviously uncomfortable about kissing in plain sight -- Duo grinned -- then he relaxed, lips parting to take Duo's breath away.

"I love you, too."


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