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Shikami Yamino

Dedicated to with thanks to Sutsume-chan

Another mission, another school... Through the grounds a pair of boys walked, side by side, silent, undisturbed. While the girls around them parted with admiring looks and words of praise for their well toned bodies emphasized through their school uniforms, the boys showed envy, jealousy and contempt.

One was always silent, cold hard prussian blue eyes glinting under a shock of dark hair and long bangs. He chose to ignore the admiring fans who flocked around him with hard glares and soft noises of annoyance and animosity never letting anything other than a scowl pass his lips. The other was more open, a wide grin always pulling at his mouth, always waving and smiling, favoring the ladies with his good grace and charm. Violet-blue eyes always showing laughter and mischievousness under jagged bangs of the darkest honey while a long braid dangled to his waist at his back. Both possessing slender but muscular frames, forever displaying a feline grace and control of movement that was utterly unconscious but completely captivating.

They trudged through the school grounds, this time both silent as though lost in each their own thoughts, hands shoved in pockets while books balanced in between arms and sides. Those who did not know them would think that both were daydreaming but those who did, which was no one, would have known that only one was daydreaming, while the other inconspicuously scanned the grounds with the trained eye of a perfect soldier.

Snapping out of his thoughts, Duo instantly cursed himself as he realized that while trapped within his thoughts of peace and happiness, his guard had been lowered. K'so... living the lives that they did, they couldn't afford that lowering of guard, Heero counted on him to watch his back, as he had always counted on Heero to watch his own. Resuming his attention on their surroundings, Duo glanced sideways at the impassive face of Heero beside him. That blank stare and the awareness in the tense body was all Duo needed, to know that he was concentrating fully on the mission at hand.

Then a slight form with a handful of books ploughed into him and in an instant, his hand had instinctively reached for the gun concealed at his back before wrenching it back. He saw Heero do the same and grinned.

The slight form looked up and blushed, "Duo-kun! Gomen... I was rushing..."

Pulling on his widest grin and turning on the full effect of his charm, Duo laughed, "Anything to break a lady's fall... You're okay aren't you Hikari-chan?"

The scarlet flush deepened, "H-Hai... arigato..."

Duo was about to reply when a hand wrapped itself firmly around the violet-eyed boy's braid and a familiar but painful tug appeared on it, "Itai! Oi, Heero! What was that for?!"

"We're late," was the flat answer before Heero dragged him away. Rushing to catch up to Heero before his scalp could endure any more pain, Duo smirked.

Heero could be so damned jealous.

Pushing open the door to their dorm room, Duo dropped his books on the way to his bed and immediately flopped onto it, exhausted after a day of tedious lessons. Heero, as usual, headed for the laptop on his desk after closing and locking the door.

"Man, I'm beat..."

Heavy clacking was the only answer before a slight snort followed.

Getting up off the bed, Duo walked to stand behind Heero and ran his hands over the other's shoulders while he inserted his head in the crook between Heero's head and left shoulder. Nuzzling his partner's neck, Duo smiled slightly when he felt the hard muscle under him relax even though Heero's fingers were still sweeping the keyboard. Placing a kiss on his neck, Duo was startled when the clacking instantly stopped and iron hard muscles steeled underneath his hands.

"Ninmu ryoukai," was the soft murmur from Heero while Duo took at look at the words on the screen.

Slapping a hand to his forehead, Duo began to rattle in his infamous whining tone, "Oh man... geez... What a time to find a *second* base... You'd think that they'd know enough to check for other bases around here before we came! Intelligence is really choking this time! How're we meant to tackle *two* bases at the same time? It's practically-mmph!"

Duo was pleasantly cut off in mid sentence when he felt Heero's lips on his own and immediately responded. This was definitely better than those constant "shut up Duo"s that happened in public. Through the kisses, he felt Heero's hand come up behind his head to tangle in the unbraided hair while the other arm lingered around his waist. Duo's own hands snaked around his lover's waist and held tight, savoring what Heero had deliciously started.

After a while, Heero pulled back, both panting slightly while Duo wore his I-love-it-when-you-do-that grin. The corners of Heero's mouth quirked momentarily before he buried his face on Duo's shoulder and murmured, "Trowa, Quatre and Wufei'll be here later tonight for the mission."

Sighing Duo nodded but barely registered the comment before Heero's mouth descended on his again.

Sunlight streamed through the thin material of the curtains and one cobalt eye cracked open still a little fuzzy with sleep to find strands of chestnut brown hair obstructing its view. Brushing aside the hair, Heero stared down at the boy whose head was tucked contentedly under his chin. Bare traces of a smile pulled at the corners of his mouth as he watched Duo drift in peaceful slumber. His shining chestnut hair was in disarray around him, an arm was slung around Heero's waist while Heero's own was draped across Duo's shoulders. A contented mumbled filled the air as Duo stirred and pulled closer to the warm and familiar body next to his. Heero's eyes softened, baredly noticeable but were still softer as they gazed at the boy that had become his everything. My Duo... all mine...

Leaning down, Heero kissed the top of his head before trailing a line of kisses down Duo's heart-shaped face until he'd reached his mouth. The sensual mouth that had tantalized him yesterday with their loving kisses. Placing a deep kiss on his mouth, Heero felt Duo release a held breath before kissing him back intimately. He pulled away slowly to be graced with the beautiful scene of those deep violet eyes opening sleepily and his lover's husky voice murmuring, "Ohayo..."

"Ohayo..." Heero whispered back, unashamedly staring into those eyes as he had done so many mornings before.

"What time is it?" Duo buried his face back into Heero's shoulder before closing his eyes again.

"Zero eight thirty..." Heero lowered his face to Duo's sweet smelling hair and contentedly sighed softly as Duo's warm breath breezed past his neck.

Then a scrabbling sound at the door made them both tense up immediately, startling the languorous pair wide awake. Duo's hand rushed under the pillow while Heero grabbed for the gun on the bedside table. Within a second, both had their gun sights leveled on the door while fingers tightened on the triggers reflexively. Then a short knock sounded before five in rapid succession and then the sound of a clenched fist gently tapped the door before the scrabbling moved away down the hall.

Releasing a breath, Heero tossed the gun back onto the bedside while Duo replaced his under the pillow before slumping back onto the bed with a chuckle, "God, you'd think they couldn't have told us at breakfast..."

Heero slid back down into the bed, "They can't, we can't know them."

Duo eyed him out of the corner of one eye and laughed, "On the other hand, we're just too stressed at the moment."

Raising an eyebrow at him Heero smirked, "Oh?"

A sly grin crossed Duo's lips, "Yeah, we're strung way too tight... we need some stress relief..."

"In what way?"

He laughed and flipped on top of Heero while mischievous violet eyes glinted down his partner, "I can think of a few things..."

At lunch, a couple of notes made their way into the pockets of Trowa and Wufei telling them to meet for mission assignments. The mission was tonight and by tomorrow, they'd be on our way out of this school and onto the next convenient location for their next assignment. Heero had spent the morning clearing records from the computers while Duo had scouted the parking lot, finding two suitable cars that would get them to the caverns where they'd hidden the Gundams.

Sure enough, at two o'clock a knock came at their door and Duo stowed away the guns he'd been cleaning while Heero rose to answer the door. Silently, Wufei walked in and nodded at Duo while the braided-boy grinned at him from his position on the floor, knowing that it irritated the solitary one but still couldn't resist. Wufei snorted and then took a seat at a desk. A few minutes later Trowa walked in with Quatre at his heels and Duo walked into the bathroom and turned the shower on full blast before returning.

Resuming his position on the floor, Heero explained the mission.

"The targets are the research base and the military facility just south of here. The research base has data on the upgraded models of the Aries, primary objective is to destroy the data and any prototypes that have been made. There's also a convoy headed there tonight with the spare parts for the new Aries. The military facility was just discovered yesterday by Intelligence, it's housing a few hundred Leos, Cancers and Pisces, primary objective is to eliminate them."

Duo looked like he was choking back laughter, mainly because it was probably the longest speech that Heero had ever said in his life. Usually when Intelligence wasn't lacking, the others would be here for the mission assignments from the Docs.

"Wufei, you and Trowa take out the military facility. Quatre, convoy's all yours and me and Duo'll take care of the research facility." Heero handed out computer printouts to each of them. "Plans for the bases and their weaknesses are shown as well as the rendezvous time and place. We start tonight at 8. Duo'll have two cars hot wired and ready to go by then."

"Hai," Quatre acknowledged, already ploughing his way through the printouts.

"Ryoukai," Wufei returned, also scanning the printout.

Trowa as usual remained silent.

Heero sat at the laptop clearing the last of Trowa, Quatre and Wufei's records. Quietly he snorted. They'd only been entered in last night and now were being taken out again, figures! They had to cover when the Intelligence guys screwed up. Duo was bustling about the room in his usual priest's garb making sure that all their guns and grenades were safely stowed in two large duffels. The other two on the bed contained clothes although one had to admit that they were considerable smaller than the ones containing the guns. Duo stopped when a stampede of footsteps passed their doorway and grinned, "The dinner crowd gets louder every day!"

Heero snorted and shut down the laptop. Wearing his usual tank top and shorts, he watched while Duo checked the gun tucked safely away at his back before checking the four knives he'd hidden on his pants and in his shoes. Heero didn't have to check, he could feel the comfortable weight of two guns pressing into his back.

Duo turned and grinned, jamming his hat on his head, eyes twinkling, "How do I look?" as he struck a dramatic pose.

Heero snorted again while trying to keep the barest traces of a smile down. Then a knocking interrupted his thoughts and both pivoted to the door, guns drawn. It couldn't be Trowa, Quatre or Wufei, they knew their missions and kept up the strict code of no contact before a mission. Everyone else should have been down in the dining hall already.

Growling softly, Heero motioned Duo next to the door while moving to open it. Duo moved silently and when he was in position, Heero threw open the door.


The cry was cut off as two guns were instantly pointing at the newcomer's head.

Relena Darlian Peacecraft.

Glaring icily, Heero motioned her inside, not wanting any passer-by to see her. As soon as she was inside, he shut the door and put away the gun though not letting up the glare.

Duo on the other hand was more dramatic. "Oi, ojousan, you really have a death wish don't you?" He put away his gun and flashed her a grin which she obviously ignored.

She turned pleading blue eyes to the one she sought and said, "Heero, we need to talk."

Heero growled, "Not now Relena, go home..."

Duo was more gracious with his words, "Ojousan, we have a very important mission, and Heero's kinda stressed right now... It would be better if you just left right now."

The girl ignored Duo and stared at Heero. Anger rose on Duo's cheeks as he fought to control it and was barely successful but then shrugged, it wasn't as if it was the first time Relena-*sama* had snubbed him. He wasn't sure if it was because she didn't like him or the fact that she didn't like how he was closer to Heero than she ever was. He supressed a grin, if only she knew how close... Finally, he hefted his twin duffle bags of clothes and ammo and walked to the door. "Oi, Heero-man, I'm going down to the cars... mission starts in 10 minutes, I'll see you down there." Throwing a last wide grin at Relena, he was gone.

Heero watched Duo go and then turned to Relena and muttered, "So talk and be quick about it..."

Relena blushed but forged ahead with the easy ability to make speeches in a second. "Heero... I-I just wanted to say that... I-I love you and... and somewhere deep inside you, I know that there's a part that loves me too-"

Heero didn't want to hear anymore. Who was she to know who he loved or who he hated? Who was she to think that she could have him just because she wanted him? He loved only one person and it definitely wasn't her. He cut her off, "That's enough, I don't love you Relena."

She flushed, "You're just saying that because you can't and-and because of all your missions..."

He turned the full force of his glare at her, "Omae o korosu..." was chillingly whispered before he pushed past her and grabbed his duffel bags before she could utter a reply.

"No you won't... you can't..." she cried significantly, a hint of victory in her expression.

Heero walked past her and fixed her with a significant stare, "Don't tempt me Relena, don't tempt me..." He walked out without a glance back.

Heero drove in silence while Duo fiddled with communications devices keeping up mindless chatter about the things he was going to do to the Intelligence guys that Heero prefered to ignore. Duo's skill in hot-wiring hadn't diminished considering that Trowa, Quatre and Wufei were long gone when he'd came out of the dorms five minutes before schedule.

Finally Duo finished with the headsets and turned his full attention to the pilot beside him, "So, what did Relena want?"

"Hn!" Heero huffed, choosing not to answer.

Duo chuckled, "Or maybe I should ask, what did she say?"

"The usual..."

"That girl really does have a death wish, chasing after you like that..." Duo laughed.

Heero looked at him slyly as he pulled the car into the cavern, "Does that mean you have a death wish too?"

Duo smirked at him, "Nani? What are you talking about? I am Death!" he laughed maniacally as he jumped out of the stolen car. "Just as long as she knows you're hands-off..." he waggled a finger at Heero coyly before they climbed into our Gundams.

As the two prepared for takeoff, Duo's voice came over Wing's comunit, "Try not to self-destruct this time koi, ne?"

Heero growled, "Duo, omae o korosu!"

Duo laughter rang out before the noise of the boosters took over.

Two Gundams landed simultaneously at the research base and even before the alarm had sounded, Heero's beam sabre had already sliced a hole into the main research compound and two pilots had rolled out of their Gundams and into the facility. Landing inside, they pounded along the corridors guns drawn, Heero in the lead. He turned into a small room and sat down at a glowing computer screen, fingers typing furiously on the keyboard. Duo felt adrenaline rush through him as scanned the corridor.

The computer beeped and Heero extracted a disk before typing on the keyboard some more. Footsteps pounded up the metal corridor and Duo yelled to his partner, "Heero! The cavalry's here!"

A final few strokes to the keyboard and Heero stood up so abruptly that he knocked the chair over. "I'm done, let's get out of here! Self- destruct sequence has been set for twenty minutes."

Duo smirked, "Then let's not miss the fun!"

Alarms sounded all around as the two raced back along the corridors, many pairs of feet pounding along after them. Part one of the mission had been completed, now came the part Duo loved, dishing out some major damage that'll eat a big hole in OZ's credit balance. When they'd reached the hole they came through, the soldiers came into sight and as Heero climbed up first for the grenades they'd left up on the rim, Duo flung his knives out at the soldiers, each burying deep into the enemy's abdomens. Gun shots were heard a few more times before Heero called out Duo's name and the black-clad boy jumped, pulling himself onto the roof as Heero hauled him to his feet and casually tossed a grenade into the hole. The explosion nearly knocked both off their feet. Reaching the Gundams, they jumped up to the cockpits and as Duo buckled himself in, maniacal laughter bubbled up inside him. He and Shinigami were one, anyone who faced them would face Death itself.

Duo eyed the Leos streaming out of their docking facilities and grinned, "So, you've come to greet Death! Let me introduce us!" The blazing green thermal scythe came up and down in a swift and graceful arc, cutting three Leos in half easily as a warm knife in butter.

Duo laughed as he spun and wielded his scythe at a blazing speed, explosions from the ruined mobile suits gushing up around Shinigami while it performed a dance of Death at anything in range. A harmless gunshot bounced off the near-invicible gundanium armor of Shinigami's back and Duo crowed as he removed the offending Leo with a quick swipe, "Oi, you'll get your turn, no crowding for my attention now!"

Momentarily clear of moblie suits, Gundam Deathscythe turned its attention onto the buildings and with quick agile swipes of the weapon of death, dispatched the existence of the buildings as enormous mushroom clouds bloomed upwards. Duo laughed maniacally before turning to another building.

Heero calmly and effortlessly dispatched the mobile suits in front of him with quick slashes of the beam sabre, they were no match for a Gundam. Then he paused as he watched several mushroom clouds bloom upwards from what *had* been the research buildings. He smirked, Duo never got tired of explosions and everything in Shinigami's wake could be described with no other word than Death. Hell, to OZ, Duo and Shinigami were Death...

Turning back his attention to the mobile suits before him, Heero found what he was looking for. The storage unit of the new prototypes of Aries. Rushing through the few Leos in his path, Heero took aim and fired Wing's beam cannon at the massive storage unit, grinning with self satisfaction when explosions took place and the whole building alighted in fire, setting several other buildings near it ablaze too.

"Ninmu kanryou..."

Suddenly, Quatre's voice came over the comunit accomapanied by his worried face on the viewscreen.

"Heero-kun? I need some backup, the convoy is larger than expected and they have approximately hundred of the new Aries with them."

Heero cursed, Duo was right, Intelligence had really fucked up this time... Quatre's Sandrock was more than capable of handling the estimated number of vehicles in the convoy but having seen the design of the new Aries, a hundred of them plus the convoy would be near-impossible for a single Gundam to handle.

Finding Sandrock's signal on his location screen, Heero replied, "Ryoukai, Wing's ETA is two minutes."

"Ryoukai," Quatre answered with relief in his voice before signing off.

Pushing a button on his console, Duo's laughing face popped up on his view screen. "Nani Heero? Having fun?"

"Sandrock needs some help with a hundred of the new Aries, think you can handle things here?"

Duo's face fell, "Kuso! Geez, wait till I get my hands on those Intelligence guys! Yeah, I'm fine here, you go ahead."

"Ryoukai, you have six minutes until the self-destruction sequence activates."

"Hai!" Duo smiled smugly, "Go kick some OZ ass!"

Grimly, Heero shifted Wing into jet mode and flew off towards Sandrock's direction, the sound of Duo's psychotic laughing filling his ears all the way.

Gundam Deathscythe hovered in the air and let its pilot view the results of its handiwork. Duo's approving hum drifted out of his throat. Flickering his gaze over at the small timer on the corner of the viewscreen, his smile widened as the numbers reached zero. Then chain reactions of explosions appeared around the base, igniting each and every building and object, that is if it was still standing...

Duo leaned back in the cockpit and casually put his hands behind his head, "This is always the best finale ne Shinigami?"

Then a small bleeping roused his attention and he maneouvered his Gundam so that he had a better view. "Oi, oi, oi!" Duo exclaimed as he watched a small convoy of armoured vehicles racing out of the base, "Leaving the party so soon? Hn, you guys are no fun! Didn't they teach you it's rude to walk out of a party early?"

Deathscythe gave chase and soon ate up the distance between itself and its prey. Suddenly, as if noticing a Gundam on their tails, the small convoy speeded up amazingly. "Kuso, where'd they learn to drive? The circus??"

Duo hastened his speed and only then did he realize that they were heading in the general direction of where they had stowed the Gundams. Cursing under his breath, he picked up speed again and made a swipe at the vehicle in the middle, effectively stopping it and the three after it, ending with a few vehicles toppling on their side and crashing fender first into their fallen comrades.

Focusing his energy on the five still in front, Duo was startled when the armored vehicles completely stopped. Grinning and seizing the opportunity, Duo whipped the thermal scythe towards the vehicles, slicing two in half. He was about to come around for the other three when the hatches opened and out lifted what he could count as thirty of the new Aries.

"Oh man!" Duo moaned, "If Shinigami's scratched I'll have those Intelligence guys' heads as a tribute!"

Bright yellow ammunition spurted out of the new Aries and Deathscythe dodged what he could before shielding himself with his shield. After the bombardment had stopped, Duo looked on in shock as the surface of his shield was scratched beyond belief after one shot, some of the scratches going deeper than anything had before.

"Kuso!!" Duo screamed as he charged at the Aries. Surprisingly, although these were obviously more powerful than the old ones, they did not seem as agile and four fell victim to the first slash of the blazing thermal scythe. Duo screamed again as the scythe arched up and then down, bringing two more Aries before Death and ramming another one with the sharp end of his shield.

Then he realized that they were only a few hundred meters away from the cavern and if that weren't enough, his world stood still when from the magnified viewscreen of Gundam Deathscythe, he saw the unmistakable bulk of a bright pink limousine screeching to a stop a few meters away under the midair battle. Then a small blonde girl stepped out of the limo, her face twisted in shock and Duo's worst fears were answered.

Kuso! Relena...

She must have followed them to the cavern, hoping to talk to Heero. Well, this time, she was going to be in the exact wrong place at the exact wrong time.

"Kuso! Ojousan you really do have a death wish ne?" Duo exclaimed frustratedly as he swooped to dispatch three more of the offending Aries, defending Relena's car and her while they tried to shoot at her, occasionally, Duo had to shield them with his Gundam's body, while trying not to let the falling mobile suits fall on top of the car. Relena however, was still standing there like an idiot.

Ten Aries down, twenty to go and Shinigami had already sustained more damage than it ever had, especially with the shielding of Relena he'd had to do. Duo was going to have the Intelligence guys' necks for the down-time he'd have to spend repairing his Gundam.

Pivoting in mid air before slicing towards three more Aries then rammed his shield into another two, Duo was jolted in his harness when two more rushed at him from behind and the scythe was viciously whipped around as the Aries dropped out of the sky.

It was when he was looking for another strategic opponent when he spotted an Aries heading straight for Relena. Spurting a colorful stream of curses, Duo darted forward and scooped her up gently in Deathscythe's huge hand before the ghastly pink limo was destroyed by a round of fire from the incoming Aries. Cutting through it and another two, Duo quickly opened the cockpit hatch and brought the hand that held Relena close to it, "Relena! Get in, NOW!!" he bellowed.

Relena didn't say a word but her face was drained of blood when she stepped into the cramped cockpit, huddling in the space on the left of the pilot's seat careful not to touch anything and curling herself into a small ball, hugging her knees. Duo looked at her for a second before touching the console and attempted to contact Heero. When Wing's signal failed to appear, Duo cursed again. Damn! Heero and Quatre must be out of range. But then he breathed a sigh of relief when he spotted the faint signal of Gundam Shenlong. Wufei's face came into view, "Oi! Wu-man! Am I glad to see you!"

Wufei snorted, "What is it Maxwell? I'm busy!"

"I need some help here..." Duo said reluctantly, he shouldn't need help under the normal circumstances... then again having Relena in his cockpit was definitely something less than normal.

"Where's Yuy?" came Wufei's irritated voice.

"With Quatre, I'm on my own with ten of the new Aries and a shell- shocked Relena-sama in the cockpit."

"You WHAT?!! Who's in the cockpit with you?!!" Duo smirked when he saw Wufei's surprised face.

"Relena... just picked her-" the communication was cut off as another jolt jerked Shinigami and Duo cried out in frustration when he found out his comunit had been fried.

"You S.O.B!" he yelled and savagely cut down the unlucky Aries before turning back to fiddling with the comunit. Finally figuring out that there wasn't anything he could do while in the air, Duo pounded at it with a fist before resuming a guarded look on the surrounding Aries. "Man... hope Wufei got enough of that to send help... if he doesn't act like a tight ass again..." Despite himself, Duo chuckled, though had Relena not been in the cockpit, he would have laughed but he had a responsibilty to keep her safe now. It wasn't just his and Shinigami's expendable lives anymore. She needed to be alive for the peace of the world. But for the countless time, Duo wished that he hadn't stopped Heero the first time he was about to kill the little princess.

"Duo? Duo, do you copy?!" Wufei yelled down the comunit that had just been filled with static from Duo's end of the line. When he got no answer, Wufei's face clouded. The American would never have missed a chance to talk unless something was wrong. And if he had heard right and Relena was in the cockpit of Deathscythe then something was definitely wrong.

Wufei surveyed the destruction around him and contented himself with a quiet smile at his accomplished mission. Nothing around him was still standing, vehicles were toppled, buildings were demolished and everything was encased in a fiery field of red gold flames. Shaking himself, he switched the comunit to Trowa's signal.

One emerald eye glinted at him from under long spiky bangs but was silent and waited for him to go on.

"Something went wrong with Duo, he's got Relena in his cockpit and something just cut off his com signal..."

Surprise widened the single green eye before Trowa gained control of it again, "Where's Heero?"

"With Quatre, had to take care of a couple of the new Aries, which Duo also has on his tail..."

Trowa nodded, "Are we done here?"

"Hai... nothing much we can do here..."

"Ninmu kanryou, I'll contact Quatre, you contact Heero..."


Wufei sighed as Trowa's face clicked off. He didn't like to admit it, he was a soldier, unable to feel emotion, but he did... they all did. He tried to hold himself apart but it was impossible when you needed to trust these people and to depend on them. They had learned to depend on each other a little more than what was necessary and slim but unbreakable friendships had already formed, whether he wanted or not. Wufei knew that whoever harmed even one hair on his fellow pilots, would face the wrong end of his katana without any trouble at all. He would take to hell anyone that dared harm any of his... friends... What a strange word that was to his mind.

Shaking himself out of his thoughts, he found Wing's signal and allowed a small smirk. However if someone had harmed Duo, he'd have to stand in line to kill the person who did... and being second to kill something that had passed through the hands of the Perfect Soldier the wrong way was hardly worth the wait.

"Nani?!" came the irritated voice as Heero's impassive face came on the screen.

"Ninmu kanryou," Wufei replied, "But something seems to have gone wrong with Duo... He's got Relena in the cockpit with him."


Wufei was surprised at the amount of emotion that came out through that one word. "He says he's got a couple of the new Aries on his tail and Relena in his cockpit."

"Where is he?" was the more controlled reply.

"I don't know, I lost Deathscythe's signal as soon as his comunit shorted out. Last place was somewhere around the C sector."

"Kuso!" with that Heero's face flickered out, leaving no doubt in Wufei's mind of where he intended to go.

Wufei's eyes turned determined, "We must go and defend justice, ne Nataku?"

Duo eyed the circling Aries with a guarded look, with Shinigami's armor almost torn to shreds, he knew that his chances of surviving were slim to none. All he needed now was for a lucky shot to blow a major circut or to rupture a fuel line and he would be done for. At any other time, he would have laughed in the face of Death, but he was carrying a priceless and certainly not expendable package now. He eyed the blonde girl next to him in disgust.

Relena Darlian Peacecraft had no idea that with just her presence, she was hampering him from doing what he should have been doing, she sat hugging her knees, tears trailing down her cheeks and eyes downcast. Probably mourning the destruction of that pink limo. Duo smirked, the Aries had probably done them a favor by getting rid of it.

Eyeing the nine circling Aries, Duo's psychotic grin etched itself across his face, unable to suppress it. With a hoarse battle cry, Shinigami launched itself towards the nearest Aries, ploughing through it and another before coming to a rest outside the circle. These new types were so much more deadlier than their predecessors but all he had to do was destroy these and that'd be it. Heero had extracted all the data on it's design and had blown up the storage facilities and the base... they wouldn't be a problem once he'd gotten rid of this batch.

Suddenly, one Aries rushed at him and Duo was taken aback by its forcefulness before thinking to rush the thermal scythe out in front of him. He was just a tad too late.

The projectile weapon of the Aries had pierced one of the already deep cuts in his shredded armor, piercing the rest of the way through as a thin stream of murkish brown spurted from the wound on his Gundam.

Kuso!! Ruptured fuel line... He needed to get Relena out of here, now... incase the whole thing...

Making quick work of the Aries that had given him that maybe-fatal wound, Duo sped a little away from the rest of the Aries before opening the hatch and brought around Deathscythe's hand. Placing Relena's shaking body once more into the hand, he quickly set Relena's body down before moving away, once again into the center of the eight Aries. Hopefully it would be far enough, if it happened, for the explosion not to cause too much damage to the shaking girl.

"All right, you S.O.B's, you want Shinigami, you'll get more than you bargained for!!" with that Duo launched himself towards the Aries with a vengeance. Hell, if he was going to go down then he'd take all of them down with him.

Quickly slicing through the heads of four Aries, Deathscythe was jerked when a lucky shot graced the metal arm holding the thermal scythe. With the shredded armor, the shot tore through the arm, instantly slicing through the interal nervous systems and rendered the arm incapable of any movement. The scythe clattered to the ground.

Inside, Duo cursed and was about to pivot to ram his shield into the Aries when another rammed him from behind. Taken by surprise, Shinigami went down. Hard.

Just before impact with the ground, Duo spotted a distant speck on the horizon through the magnified screen of his cockpit. From here it looked like Heavyarms. Then spider cracks appeared on the screen and Duo knew that his exterior sensors had been damaged and Trowa was still too far away to do anything. Opening the hatch so that he could at least see what he was doing, Duo pushed his partner off the ground, and discarded the shield before picking up the scythe, the blazing sickle blade appearing once more in the hand of its owner.

That one action proved to be Death's downfall. One Aries appeared out of nowhere and as Duo put up the scythe in a defensive position, it rammed into the handle of the scythe, pushing the thermal blade against the wound that was spurting fuel.

Duo's eyes went round.

His heart constricted at the knowledge of what would happen.

Deathscythe exploded.

The fiery heat of Hell fused up around him as he felt a burning force eat through the safety straps. Then an invisible force with the weight of a Gundam behind it, carried Duo's body into the air before slamming him down on the ground. Fighting weakness and the blackness that edged his vision, Duo looked up to see his partner go up in flames, managing a weak, small smirk when he saw the fireball that was Shinigami, take the remaining four Aries with it.

Then his vision was filled with the face of Heero. Ironically, Duo recalled the words he had said to his lover, *Try not to self-destruct this time koi, ne?* He didn't ever imagine that while he was so afraid of Heero leaving him, he would be the one who left Heero. Finally giving in to the darkness that threatened to engulf him, Duo's last thoughts were, "Heero... gomen ne... ai shiteru..."

Trowa's head was filled with Wufei's news of Duo and Quatre's alarmed response when he'd told the pilot of Sandrock. If anything happened to Duo, Quatre would no doubt punish himself for taking Heero away when Duo needed him and then feel guilty for indirectly causing every injury that Duo sustained. It was Quatre's nature and something that Trowa would do anything to keep Quatre from, that sweet innocent face that would shut down when he penned himself up feeling the guilt that was not his.

And Duo... he didn't deserve to die. He was alive in every way, even calling himself death didn't diminish the light in him that practically screamed life! Trowa remembered how the incessant chatter of the noisy American pilot would annoy him but then in the rare times that Duo was down and silence pressed in around them, he knew that they wished for Duo to start up the conversation again. Duo was like a lifeline, always prompting them to talk when they were too penned up with their thoughts, as Quatre was always caring for them, whethered they felt like it or not.

Speeding Heavyarms up, Trowa scanned the edges of his sensors, finally detecting four mobile suits that matched the design of Aries. He'd found them, he hoped that he wasn't too late. Changing course slightly, he stared straight ahead, green eye flickering when he identified Gundam Deathscythe's bulk in the midst of four Aries. Even on maximum magnification, it was only the size and blazing thermal scythe of the Gundam that alerted Trowa of its identity for everything else distinctive about the Gundam called Shinigami was a thing of the past.

The sleek lines and the dark color of the gundanium armor was scratched beyond belief. The right arm hung limply while the scythe was held in the left hand, battered shield discarded on the ground next to the Gundam.

Then even Trowa's usually unexpressive eyes widened when he saw an Aries rush towards the dark giant as the scythe came up. Trowa knew he couldn't do anything. If he opened fire while being this far away, anything that went slightly off course would hit Deathscythe and with the way its armor looked, it wouldn't take much to...

The burning thermal scythe was pressed by the Aries up to the thin spurt of fuel and Trowa gasped, unconsciously halting Heavyarms in mid-air while he watched the flames engulf its fellow Gundam. Explosions sounded in the air as the flames spread outwards to envelope the four Aries in range before finally blooming upwards in a mushroom cloud of ash, flames and molten metal.

Gundam Deathscythe, Shinigami, was gone.

Heero kept his eyes on the screen in front of him although his thoughts were on one thing, "Duo... don't do anything stupid..." Then as a mushroom cloud of flame and ash lit up the area while molten metal fell from the sky, Heero's eyes widened.

Bleeping on his exterior sensors showed that Gundams Heavyarms, Sandrock and Shenlong had made the scene, but the mushroom cloud on his screen showed that the signal of Gundam Deathscythe would no longer come up on his sensors... it was gone.

Death had been sent back to its own realm, regardless of what he left behind... regardless of *who* he left behind. "Damn you Duo!" Heero screamed as a constriction in his chest made him ache with a pain that was not his. "Damn you to Hell!! You promised! You promised you'd never leave me!!!"


"Nani Heero?" a single bright violet eye gleamed up at him.

"Will you... will you stay with me...?"

Then both eyes appeared and a smile tugged at Duo's mouth. "Hai, Heero... Ai shiteru..."

"Do... do you promise?"

Duo leaned up to kiss him and laughed, "Zutto Heero... Zutto..."

But then he quietened, although a sob escaped his throat. They were soldiers, they were likely to die at any time... their lives were expendable... but not Duo's. Duo's life was not expendable to him! He needed him, needed the only thing that had so many times prevented him from killing himself... always keeping him anchored to the world they lived in with the cheerful grin and flashing violet eyes that he could never leave behind. But this time, it was Duo who left him...

A single tear streaked down his cheek and he wiped at it angrily, once again controlling his face as Quatre's tearful face appeared on his comunit.

"Heero-kun? Gomen nasai... I know it's not enough but... maybe we could search the wreckage," a hopeful note had entered Quatre's voice as he forced a smile, "Duo could be ali-"

"Don't be stupid Quatre," Heero cut him off with a glare, "You know as well as I do that nothing could survive that explosion."

Quatre's false smile wavered and he lowered his head, only his shaking shoulders alerted Heero that the blond young man was sobbing for the loss of a dear friend.

Then Wufei's face appeared, "What about Relena-sama? Where is she?"

Heero look up, a small ray of hope descended upon his heart. Surely, Duo would know that Relena's life was not expendable and he wouldn't have had her in the cockpit when Deathscythe exploded. He had to have set her down somewhere and if he did, then maybe, just maybe... he'd be out as well...

Without a word, he guided Wing closer to the wreckage of its brother Gundam and scanned the area filled with fire and blood. Heero turned away from the sight. Usually blood and guts didn't bother him... but to know that some of it down there could be Duo's... It was too painful to think about.

Finally, a little way away from the area charred by the explosion, Heero spotted a blonde girl kneeling there in shock. Gritting his teeth, he landed Wing and jumped out of the cockpit. Upon seeing him, Relena's tears flowed down her cheeks as she threw her arms around him and buried her face in his chest. Heero stiffened but continued to stand there a while before grabbing her by the arms and pulling her away.

Ignoring her shocked face, he leveled a stare at her and asked in a flat monotone, "Where's Duo? What happened?!"

Relena's face broke open again and through her sobs, she attempted to speak. "Duo... H-He protected me from the other mobile suits and-and he took some bad shots... Then, then this one came after me and he scooped me up before it could kill me and he yelled at me to get into the cockpit... Then... then... he said something about a-a rupture fuel line and the next thing I know he's putting me down here before going back... It, it was awful Heero!"

Relena threw herself back into Heero's rigid body and sobbed for all she was worth. But Heero didn't move, "What happened?!"

"He, he moved away and then this one came at him and Deathscythe fell... when he got back up, one pushed the tip of the green knife into a brown liquid that was spurting out and... and-"

Relena couldn't say any more but Heero didn't need to know any more. Deathscythe had been wounded by protecting Relena. Having just battled the new Aries, Heero knew what damage their artillery could do, even his Wing sported more than a few deep scratches and Sandrock had seen even worse. Finally, when Duo couldn't protect Relena on the ground any more, he picked her up into his cockpit and then received the ruptured fuel line. Figuring what was about to happen, he'd deposited Relena here away from where the explosion would take place and then had the tip of his own thermal scythe pressed into the spurting fuel.

Duo you idiot!!

Heero detached himself from Relena and with the landing of the other Gundams, he turned away from her and walked back to Wing. He barely noticed Quatre rushing past him to help Relena and when Trowa and Wufei raised eyebrows in question at him, he replied, "Let's go... there's nothing here. Have the clean-up guys pick this place clean before tomorrow."

Walking resolutely towards Wing, Heero clambered into the cockpit and strapped himself in before taking off, not waiting to see if the others followed. Inside, Heero cut off his comunit and in the privacy of his own cockpit, allowed only Wing to see his tears for the loss of the most important thing in his life.

The sun lowered itself over the horizon, casting soothing rays of its golden light upon anything who stood to admire its glory. The sky darkened from a pale blue to a violet-blue so distinct in its color that it reminded the solitary figure sitting atop a cliff of the one thing he was trying to forget.

Heero lowered his face from the sky, unable to continue looking at the darkening shades when all he saw was Duo's heart-shaped face grinning like a maniac. Alone, unashamed tears streaked silently down his cheeks. It was funny how he'd been trained to control every single movement his body made, and yet it only took something as simple as tears to break that control... to render him completely helpless to the onslaught of his emotions.

Duo... Heero's hand automatically reached up to clasp a hand around the one reminder of Duo he'd always carried around. The silver cross that hung on a delicate chain around his neck, identical to the one around Duo's neck. He remembered when he'd received it...

"Oi Heero! Something for ya!" Duo had given him that irrisistable grin before tossing him a small black box.

Catching it reflexively, Heero had stared at it then leveled a glare at Duo's grinning face.

Duo's smile turned mischievous, "Nani? Can't I give something to my partner? Open it!"

Heero had opened it and then stared at the shining silver cross on a field of black velvet, something that so reminded him of Duo that he'd almost gasped. Turning the small crucifix over, he read the tiny inscription, "I love you, always - Duo" He'd then looked up to see Duo's face a few centimeters away from his own.

"Ai shiteru, Heero..."

"Duo... I- I-" Heero had stammered to produce an answer but only received a grateful smile while Duo took the necklace from the box and clasped it behind his neck.

"I know Heero... I know..."

God... there was so many things he hadn't said... so many things he hadn't done... Why was fate so cruel that it would take the person that had given him life when he'd barely begun to live? Why did fate only hold for him hopelessness and despair when he'd just found happiness? And why had he held back from telling Duo he loved him before he was denied the chance forever? Cursing himself and the cruel world they lived in, Heero brushed angrily at his tears before bringing the tiny cross to his lips and placed a gentle kiss on them. I love you Duo... if you can hear me... I love you...

Letting the cross fall from his fingers, Heero once again tilted his face up to the night sky that Duo had loved so much. Watching the stars twinkle on, he sighed and brushed at the rest of his tears before resigning himself to walk back to the small safehouse they'd stay at.

Fisting the little crucifix again, Heero was silent but his thoughts ran out in a silent plea. 'You said once that things wouldn't last forever... we were soldiers, dying is nothing new... but all we needed to do was to remember the good times, and to let go. To have hope and to go on for the peace of the world... When you said these words, I had a feeling that you were trying to convince yourself, I never thought that I would be the one who would need this advice... I need to let you go Duo, I need to let you go... call me weak, but I can't... not yet... not while I have some hope that you're still out there somewhere, I don't believe that you would just leave me! You promised you bastard!! I once said that soldiers have to take the truth and live with it, I can't... I can't... I love you... aishiteru... but I can't let you go... not yet... perhaps not ever...'

Rubbing at his stinging eyes once more, Heero looked back over his shoulder, expecting to see a laughing braided-boy with bright violet eyes bounce up behind him. But no one was there and with a last frustrated brush, Heero composed himself for facing his fellow pilots...

And a life without Duo...

Relena took a deep breath and walked out of her room. After Heero had taken off in Wing, Quatre had taken care of her and brought her back to the safehouse where he'd given her a cup of hot tea and a soothing smile before walking off to make repairs to his beloved Sandrock. Having seen the other Gundams, Relena could also predict where Trowa and Wufei were, but Heero had walked off without a word after leaving Wing in the hangar without making repairs first, which she could tell was surprising enough to the other pilots.

As she approached the hangar door, she heard tinkering sounds and was graced with the view of four mechanical giants all standing while their four pilots puttered around them with critical eyes and loving touches. Relena sighed, these pilots were all too attached to their Gundams that they hardly realized everything else that was going on. Especially Heero...

After all this time when she'd spent every resource she could get her hands on and surprised him at school after school, he still wouldn't open up to her. Still wouldn't allow himself to see that he loved her even though she could see it. Well, she'd try to get him to open up now... After the death of his partner... and however she may have disliked Duo before, she was still sorry to see him dead... Heero would need someone to talk to, someone who understood him...

Walking carefully up the ladder that took her up to the parapets, Relena walked up behind Heero and stopped at a respectable distance to wait until he saw her. She saw his eyes flicker over her and then go back to what he was doing, refusing to acknowledge her presence. It was when she was looking at him that she noticed a flashing reflection of the dim light in the hangar off a little piece of silver dangling from Heero's neck. She frowned when her eyes saw the delicate silver chain around Heero's neck. It was so unlike Heero to wear any accessories other than a watch and even then it was unlikely that you would see it on his wrist. So why was he wearing a necklace?

"Heero...?" One cold cobalt eye focused on her but didn't say a word. "Can I... talk to you...?" Relena flushed when she realized that while she was talking, the other Gundam pilots had inconspicuously stopped work to look at her.

"I'm busy Relena," was the cold answer before Heero turned back to his Wing.

"Kudasai Heero... Onegai..." Relena continued, careful to keep a wheedling tone out of her voice and focusing her entire gaze on Heero.

Heero turned back and she was a flicker of something cross his face before he put down the tool in his hand and turned to face her. "So talk..."

Relena gazed around again at the other pilots, "In private?"

Heero stared at her another moment before leaping off the parapet to land safely below and walked out of the hangar into the night. Relena hurriedly followed, aware of the critical gazes the other pilots were directing after her.

"What do you want Relena?" was Heero's icy voice when Relena stepped up behind him.

Relena's face flushed. Heero looked so beautiful in the moonlight, the full moon catching the highlights in his dark hair while his eyes gleamed like priceless sapphires. "I... I just want you to know that I'm sorry... about Duo... He was protecting me... it was my fault..."

"You're right... it is all your fault..."

Relena was taken aback. Surely Heero could see that she was sorry, but being mad at her wouldn't bring his partner back... Reminding herself that Heero was hurting, she steeled herself and forged ahead, "I- I'm sorry Heero, so sorry... but I don't want to see you hurt... I'll be here if you want to talk... I love y-"

"No you don't..."

Annoyed, Relena recalled having this conversation countless times before. "Yes, I do..."

Then to her surprise, Heero laughed. Not a sound that portrayed happiness but one that was filled with sadness and bitter contempt. "No you don't. To you, I'm just some thing that can be owned because of your power and prestige. A lowly soldier who should obey your every command. Yet I have defied you since the day we met. So you chase after me, hoping to own me and convincing yourself that what you feel is love when it is nothing but an obsessive curiosity. Then you claim to know all about love and persuade yourself that I love you when you don't know the first thing about me. So I will tell you this only once, Relena-*sama*. I do not love you and I never will... I love someone else in a way that you will never understand, you could never hope to understand..."

Relena stood shell-shocked. She should have been ecstatic that Heero was finally opening up to her, but his words were not what she'd hoped she would hear. He already loved someone... and that someone was not her. It couldn't be... It couldn't... he loved her, he- Relena was cut off in mid-thought as Heero turned to face her and she saw the pure light of the full moon bounce off the tiny silver crucifix on the silver chain around Heero's neck. A crucifix... The world around Relena crashed and suddenly everything became crystal clear... Why had she never noticed it before?? "Duo..."

Heero chose to remain silent, but the fact that his hand came up automatically to hold the silver cross within his fingers, was all the indication that Relena needed.

"Iie, iie!! Masaka!" Relena shook her head vehemently, "That's not true... you can't! You're both... both... It's not natural!!"

"I'm not yours Relena and I never will be, so go!" with that Heero walked past her back towards the hangar.

Suddenly, a thought came to Relena and she denied all that she'd just concluded for the chance that this one thought offered her, "You don't need to hide from me Heero... You don't need to say that you love someone else just for me to go away, I know that you love me..." she turned on a bright smile when Heero's back stiffened and he turned.

But that smile wavered when she caught the dark and dangerous abysses of Heero's eyes. "Omae o korosu..." Then her eyes widened when she caught the moonlight glinting off the dulled black metal of the gun Heero was pointing at her.

However, a smile overtook her face once again as she remembered all the other times Heero had had a gun to her head, it wasn't surprising and she was confident that he could never hurt her. "Don't be silly Heero, you know you can't hurt me..."

"Don't try me Relena..."

Relena grinned at him infatuously, "You could never hurt-" she was cut off when a gunshot rang through the air and an immense stinging sensation blossomed on her left shoulder. She clutched at it automatically and was shocked when she felt a thick warm substance coating the hand she'd placed up to it. Staring back at Heero, she saw the thin curl of smoke that trailed upwards from the gun barrel and gasped. Heero had shot her...

"Go away Relena, I don't want to ever see you again..." Heero trudged back to the hangar as Relena fell to her knees, tears sliding down her cheeks as she fought to keep from screaming at the pain in her shoulder.

From his position on Shenlong's shoulder, Wufei glanced warily at the slight form of the blonde girl hurrying after Heero. It wasn't that he didn't like the girl, but the fact that she chased after Heero incessantly and the frequency with which she found him was becoming more of a nuisance than they cared to admit. Because of her, they'd lost Duo... was she so blind she couldn't see that with her presence, she was putting their mission and herself in danger? Hmmph. Women.

Returning his concentration to Nataku, Wufei found that his thoughts kept straying to the pair outside. Whatever Relena had to say couldn't be good to Heero... and the fact that she'd indirectly cause Duo's death... that couldn't be sitting too well with Heero either. He pitied Heero. Pitied him because he was going to go through what he himself had when he lost his Nataku... and even now, it was painful to think of that time. What made Heero's case worse however, was that Duo had died protecting the one person that was chasing him around now trying to win his already given heart. Nataku...

Lost in his thoughts, Wufei was jolted out of them when a gunshot rang out in the night air. Exchanging a rapid glance with Trowa beside him, Wufei slid off his Gundam and pounded out into the night, katana drawn and held in his right hand. When he'd gotten outside however, all he saw was an impassive Heero walking back towards the hangar. Then Quatre rushed past him towards the mere form of pale blue that indicated Relena where she knelt on the ground, something red spreading on her left shoulder. Trowa rushed forward to help Quatre but Wufei remained behind to raise an eyebrow at Heero.

"Flesh wound," was the reply from Heero before he passed him and Wufei nodded casting a disgusted look over his shoulder at the thin form supported by Quatre and Trowa. Obviously Relena had said something that had pushed Heero beyond his limits for today. She should consider herself lucky that Heero had bothered to change his aim enough so that it was only a flesh wound.

"Hmmph! Figures, they smuggle me in and then what do I get picked for? Clean-up! Man this sucks..." A young man with long blond hair wearing a camouflaged suit, grumbled as he steered his vehicle towards the area of the explosion. From what he had heard, it would be a couple of Aries, and that wasn't such a big deal. But the fact that they were bringing in the heavy artillery of storage equipment was intriguing and indicated something big was going on. "And obviously they didn't see fit enough to enrol me to a higher rank so that I'd at least know what in Hell we're cleaning today..."

Then the explosion site came up and the young man's eyes widened, "What in Hell is right..." among the bigger pieces of the wreckage, he could see that with the darker shaded metal of the Aries, there was also flashes of pure black and gold. Gundam Deathscythe... the Shinigami.

"Holy Hell... they've lost one of the Gundams..." an evil grin flared across the young man's face before he composed his features and stepped out of the vehicle.

"You there!" the young man turned to see his superior pointing at him, "Pick up the bigger pieces and load them up, we want to be done by sunset!"

"Hai!" Snapping a crisp salute, the young man scampered off, somehow annoyed that he was taking orders from this nobody when his position in OZ allowed him to answer to no one but Treize Khushrenada, Lady Une and some of the elderly generals.

Driving to the edge of a grove of trees, the young man paused to admire their handiwork. Man, this was so unexpected, they'd expected to do hardly anything but to minorly wound the Gundams during a battle but never had they expected to actually destroy a Gundam... it almost made the destruction of the entire squadron of new Aries worth while.

Thinking that he had to get the news straight to Treize-sama, the young man picked up the nearest piece of metal he laid his hands on and hauled it aside, lugging it back to his vehicle before coming back for more. After half an hour, all the bigger pieces, if you could call them bigger, were hauled onto his vehicle and he was about to make the return trip when something brown amidst a sea of darker metal caught his eye. Overcome with curiosity, the young man bent down and inspected the brown strip that was covered with soot and slightly singed and trapped under a few pieces that were obviously the former Deathscythe.

Hauling the metal aside, the blond man gasped when he saw what lay under them. Grinning like a fool, he noticed that the other man was bleeding and covered with soot - seriously injured... but alive... Treize was going to have to promote him after hauling this load back.

For he would be bringing home the pilot of Gundam Deathscythe... Duo Maxwell... alive...

Duo twitched and averted his face from the bright light above him, holding a hand up instinctively to block the light when he discovered that he couldn't move. His eyes popped open but immediately shut again as he was blinded by the glare of the lights. While his eyes were closed, he carefully tested the bonds around his wrists and found that he'd been chained to a wall sitting down with shackles on his ankles as well.

What happened? Why am I tied up? And why do I hurt all over?? Duo's eyes opened again and he looked down at himself. Seeing his clothes in almost tatters and filled with singe marks and cuts of dried blood, it all came back to him...

Oh man... He remembered saving Relena... then putting her down when he'd ruptured a fuel line... and then having the tip of his own scythe pressed against the highly flammable fuel. Very smart Duo... very smart... He'd had his cockpit hatch open... so obviously that was the reason why he was alive... God, where am I? And where was Heero? Vaguely, Duo recalled seeing Heavyarms fly up before his screen had cracked but even then, it had been only a speck on the maximum magnification.

So Trowa couldn't have seen that he'd had his hatch open... that means that they thought he was dead... Heero... man this just goes from bad to worse!

Cursing himself, Duo deducted that obviously he'd fallen into the hands of the enemy while his friends thought that he was dead. So he needed to find a way to get himself out of here first... or find a communications unit to contact the others... Well that shouldn't be very hard. He scrutinized the shackles around his limbs and suppressed a slow chuckle, the people who had him obviously didn't know him very well... didn't know him well enough to know that he was an escape artist and mere shackles with flimsy locks would never hold against him.

But before he could even reach for his lock picks, the door to the room opened and in stepped a young man with long blond hair walked in with a smirk on his face. "Well... you're finally awake..."

Duo fixed him with a glare, "Stating the over-obvious aren't you?"

"Touche..." the man looked down at him with cold hard green eyes.

Duo put on a cynical face, "Look, as much as I'd like to be in on this lovely little chat, I'm tired and I need more sleep so why don't you just tell me what you want?"

"Direct and to the point... I like that..."

Duo snorted, "I don't give a damn about what you like you bastard, now can we please get on with this visit?"

The man looked down at him and smirked again, "Well, as you wish... You are now in the hands of OZ, as you probably have deduced but as much as I would like to kill you, you are to be kept alive until Treize-sama decides what to do with you..."

Duo interrupted with a slight laugh, "Gee... and here I thought you actually have enough brain cells to think for yourself-" Duo was cut off when an immense pain blossomed on his ribs and he lowered his head coughing, hacking up blood along the way.

The blond man's face was fury personified, "You'll speak when you're spoken to Duo Maxwell..."

Despite his pain, Duo looked around at the empty room, "Oh... you weren't talking to me...? Then I guess you need a looney bin coz there ain't anybody else here..." He turned an innocent expression upto the man and was rewarded with a stinging slap across the cheek. Duo grimaced, the further he was from unconsciousness, the more pain he could feel and the recent kick to his ribs hadn't done much good either... Now was not the time to be a smartass... he'd be that when he'd gotten himself free and shown the poor bastard above him that you can't hold down Death and get away with it.

"You have spirit, Duo Maxwell... I admire that..."

"Which is more than I can say about you..." Another kick in the ribs and Duo felt like laughing, either that or strangling himself. He shouldn't be saying anything incase the blows worsened his injuries but man, this guy really takes the cake in wanting comebacks... and Duo could dish them out a mile a minute.

"You're an idiot if you think you can piss me off with a few comments..."

Duo held himself back from saying something that would have really gotten him a serious injury if he didn't have one already, which he was sure that he did.

"Since Treize-sama insists on keeping you alive, food, water and medical supplies will be brought in to you... I assume you know how to use them..." there was a slight note of superiority in that tone that Duo ached to punch out but held himself back.

Then he heard keys jangling and his arms were freed and while he rubbed circulation back into his hands, the blond man unshackled his feet. "Don't do anything stupid, this room is heavily guarded by men who wouldn't take Treize-sama's words as seriously as I do."

Duo scowled as a bowl of food and water was shoved beside him while a medical kit came next to them, then footsteps sounded that the man had left the room, the door locking after him.

Continuing to rub circulation back into his arms and legs, Duo scanned the room for the first time. The room was bare except for him and a small sink in the corner, not much to look at. But what interested him was the small video camera that was situated above the sink, monitoring everything that went on it the room.

Turning his attention back onto himself, Duo grimaced as he pushed himself off the wall. Damn... broken ribs... They'd take a helluva long time to heal... but Duo couldn't afford that time, he needed to get out of the complex before Treize got there. If Treize actually got here, then security would be doubled... not the odds he liked when he didn't have Shinigami to back him up. Wincing when he felt his head spin, he knew that he also had a bad concussion... not that it would slow him down when adrenaline was pumping through him, it'll just look pretty bad if he fell over once he'd gotten out.

Opening the medical kit and finding what he needed, he unrolled the bandages and wrapped them tightly around his midriff, hoping against hope that they wouldn't be too serious to restrict him from movement. Checking himself again, he only found cuts and large bruises, nothing else broken thank God... Bandaging the worst of the cuts, he found that he was hungry. Making a slight laugh, Duo reached for the food... well, the bill was on OZ... With his stomach more or less sated, Duo settle back down to wait.

There wasn't that much to do when he still hurt to move and still lacked sleep. The comforting weight of the gun at his back was gone so he knew that he'd been searched but curiously, he found that his shoes were still on his feet. A wide grin split his face when he knudged his foot against something hard and solid inside both shoes. The two switchblades he'd hidden there before the mission. It was hardly needed but it had been a habit from his gang days on the streets of L2, and just now, he was glad he'd taken them.

Fighting the fatigue that was plaguing him, and the pain of the concussion, Duo groped for the end of his messy braid and winced when he saw that an inch or two had been singed off. He groaned and closed his eyes, "Oh man... anything but the hair..." with that he drifted off into oblivion.

Quatre winced as he bandaged Relena's left shoulder while she was trying to keep back the pain. Upon closer inspection, Quatre had found out that what Heero had said was true, it was only a flesh wound... but one that bled furiously before the blood flow was slowed.

When the bandage was in place, Quatre got up and with a gentle pat of the other shoulder, made to leave the girl's room.


Quatre hesitated and turned back to the girl although he needed to get back to repairs on his Sandrock. "Hai, Relena-sama?"

Relena averted her eyes, "Heero- Heero said that he loved Duo... is it true?"

Quatre couldn't help but feel sorry for the girl even though she had caused the death of one of his best friends. "Hai, Relena-sama... it's true..."

Relena's next question was quiet, "How long?"

Quatre sighed, "Since a little while after they became partners..."

"Why wasn't I told?"

Quatre sighed again and sat down opposite the girl, "You never asked, Relena-sama... and Heero isn't exactly the talkative type..." and you pretty much snubbed Duo, Quatre wanted to add but didn't, knowing that the urge to say something to hurt the girl still came from the anguish that he wasn't able save one of his friends.

"But- But... Heero loves me... I knew it when he couldn't hurt me before... and, he- he and Duo are both..."

"The fact that they're both male doesn't change a thing Relena-sama. They loved each other and that's what's most important," Quatre closed his eyes when he heard that he'd used a word in past tense when referring to Duo. It was painful but he needed to make the girl see what was wrong before she made the day harder for Heero again.

"And Heero could never hurt you... you realize that even when he did shoot you, it was only a flesh wound. But he doesn't love you Relena-sama. He needs to protect you, as all of us do, for the war to end and peace to happen. You're too important to the future of this world to die and Heero knows that. Too important for the peace we fight for... So he needs to protect you and he does that the only way he can, by telling you to go because your very presence here endangers you... but he doesn't love you..."

"Oh..." was Relena's quiet answer.

"If you love him, you'll see that the only way you can help him now is to stay out of his way... He needs to come to grips with Duo's... Duo's..." Quatre's voice faltered and he could feel the tears welling in his eyes. "Kudasai Relena-sama... don't make this harder for him... Onegai..." with that Quatre got up to leave the room but paused briefly at the door, "Gomen ne..."

Pulling the door shut, Quatre lowered his head and wiped at his eyes before resolutely looking up. Trowa's form was leaned up against the side of Relena's door and Quatre walked forward to be embraced by the tall pilot of Heavyarms.

The tears started again and Quatre rubbed his face on Trowa's chest while he tightened his hold about the taller boy's waist, "Go- Gomen ne... now you probably think that I'm a baby..."

Trowa's voice was calm and soothing as he stroked Quatre's back, "It's okay Quatre..."

Quatre's voice was pained when he replied, "Duo... I can't believe... I can't believe he's really... gone..."

Trowa's emotionless eyes were sad when they gazed at the blond boy in his arms, "I know Quatre..."

"Trowa... It hurts..."

Duo woke to the absence of a warm body next to his. Opening his eyes, he suddenly groaned when he took in his surroundings, "Man... I was so hoping it was a dream!" Looking around him, he saw that more food, water and bandages had been placed next to him. Snorting, he picked up the food and ate it before returning to check his wounds.

Rebandaging the cuts, he still winced as his ribs ached with every movement. Turning his attention to his mid-section, he tested with an exploratory hand and tried to keep from wincing. At least two broken ribs, but it didn't hurt that bad... must've been more fractured than broken.

Thanking God for this small advantage, Duo hauled himself up and slowly, pulling on most of his acting skills and also using the painful aches of his concussion, dragged himself to the sink. Being the only part of the room that wasn't video monitored, Duo looked up and turning on the sink, flicked tiny water specks that were just enough to blur the image. Grinning to himself, he began slow stretching exercises, every once in a while stopping to give his spinning head a rest.

After feeling more limber and energetic, Duo bent down to reach both hands into his boots. Feeling the handles of the two ornate switch-blades, he pulled them out in a single fluid motion. Flicking the blades open, he examined them carefully before testing their weight in his hands. Smiling to himself, he put the blades back before shoving them back into his shoes, no way was he going to lose them now. They'd saved his life more than a few times on L2 when he'd been caught without a gun... and they seemed to be more of an emotional attachment now than anything...

Dragging his way back to the place he was in before, he began to plan. Treize was going to get here any minute and if he was still in here, wherever they were, then busting out would be more likely impossible than to do it now. But he was still wounded and although it didn't restrict him that much, it still slowed his reflexes at moving his body out of the way, which would come to be especially disadvantageous if he was in the way of somebody shooting a gun.

Pacing slowly around the room, he listened at the door a while and true to word, heard two gruff voices directly outside. Examining the door, he found a sturdier lock than the ones that had held him in shackles. Consciously touching a hand to his hair, he found his lock picking set where he usually stowed them. Obviously this guy only knew his name and besides piloting Shinigami, had no idea was else he could do... Duo chuckled softly, he'd get his chance to be a smartass, no doubt about it!

Sitting back down in his original position, Duo listened through the thin walls of the room. From what he heard, he was in some sort of army base that was all metal corridors and echoes. Then looking up at the small window that hardly let enough light in but was probably for air circulation benefits, they were underground somewhere. Oh, getting out of here will be really fun... Duo made a grimace and then decided to sleep it out, he'd need lots of rest for the worst of the concussion to wear off before he was up to doing full-speed runs and dodging bullets.

"Heero... we've just discovered another hidden base that has some more data on the upgrades for the mobile suits... I'm sending you the info now..." Doctor J looked at Heero's impassive face and allowed himself a small wan mental smile. Heero had taken his training well... even now he hides the most difficult of emotions, the loss of a loved one.

"Leave one of you here for Relena-sama... keep her out of trouble..."

"Ninmu ryoukai..."

The communication faded off and Doctor J sighed as he looked for at the blank and dark screen. Heero was good at hiding his emotions, but he had seen the barely detectable sadness in the stony face as well as the unconscious movement of the fingers that had kept twirling the silver cross that hung around his neck. And also the pure fury... at the world that had dared to take the only thing he'd learned to love in the world away from him. Doctor J chuckled, Heero would surely make the OZ bastards pay for his agony and momentary weakness.

He needed Heero clear-headed on this mission though... the base was partly underground and would need a lot more than a Gundam's weaponry to destroy. He needed Heero's head clear and focussed... which was why he hadn't told him that Duo was alive and in the base they were about to hit. The Perfect Soldier was already too attached to the God of Death to be able to ignore the urge to protect him at any costs, and that distraction couldn't be afforded on this mission.

Flicking open another com line, Doctor J looked at the other doctor with a small grin, "How're repairs coming along?"

Doctor G made a face, "As well as can be expected I guess... I'll tell you though our Duo's one tough bastard to have survived that explosion..."

"Aren't they all? Will it be ready for the date?"



Heero switched off the com line and picked up the printouts before handing them out to Trowa and Wufei, "Quatre, you'll stay here with Relena..."

Quatre understood why he was asked to stay, so far, only he'd been able to tolerate Relena's presence for more than a few minutes, "Aa..."

Scanning the printout, Heero's eyes glazed over, remembering Duo's last words... *Go kick some OZ ass!" He wouldn't let Duo down... Walking out of the small room towards the hangar, Heero said over his shoulder, "Get some rest and finish the repairs, we start in two days."

Duo woke when he felt the slight wind of someone moving around him. His eyes startled open and was graced with the malicious stare of the blond man that had pissed him off on their first meeting. Only when his brain had fought off the fog of sleep did he realize that his arms and legs were once again shackled to the wall and floor.

"Well, hello again... I hope that you will behave better this time than on our last visit... especially since Treize-sama will be arriving tomorrow. It would be such a pity if he came all this way for nothing, don't you agree?"

Duo wanted to punch that smirk off the other man's face but he was too occupied with other thoughts. Kuso!! Treize was coming here tomorrow, that means no more time for recuperation, he'd have to take what he'd already gotten and hope that it was enough. He chose to remain silent this time, too pissed off to say anything anyway, he'd hoped to get at least two more days for the effects of the concussion to wear off. There's another very smart plan down the drain, Duo laughed at himself.

"I hope you don't mind the restraints, we would't want to look bad in front of Treize-sama would we?"

Duo glared up at him but then smiled and tried a different tack, "If I may, what's your name?"

The man smirked and straightened, "Jack Fundo... remember it, it'll probably be the last name you'll be able to hear..."

Duo smirked back at the man, "Well then, Mr. Fundo... I'm not glad to have met you, I hope you go to Hell..."

The man's triumphant eyes darkened and he raised his foot but then stopped at the last second, knowledge dawning in his eyes, "Smart of you to anger me... but I won't damage Treize-sama's package before it's delivered." The man walked out with a barely suppressed growl and slammed the door, the lock turning noisily. Hurried and angry conversations drifted in from the other side of the door indicating to Duo that there was only one man there. Obviously the other wasn't taking his sentry duty very seriously after Duo had been quiet the last few days.

Duo chuckled and then leaned up to pluck at his lock-picking tools. After getting one hand free, Duo discreetly reached into a boot and pulled a blade out before flicking it out in one smooth movement and sent it point blank into the lens of the camera. Working quickly, he undid the remaining shackles and reached up to pull his blade out of the broken lens.

Knowing he didn't have much time, Duo walked to the door and slid a pick into the lock, hearing the click of the door opening after five seconds. Counting to three, a maniacal grin spread itself across his face as he flung the door open to reveal a startle sentry guard and had a blade buried in his chest before the guy could even blink.

Darting forward, Duo grabbed the submachine gun from the guard's grasp and pulled the rifle from it holster at his side. Shoving the rifle at his back where his gun used to lay, Duo grinned at the man before pulling out his blade and quickly wiping it off on the man's shirt before tucking it back into his boot, all the while pointing the tip of the submachine gun at him. "Sumimasen... shoulda taken your job more seriously..." Duo grinned as the man collapsed, a thick red substance spreading across his chest.

Taking off down the corridor with the gun ready, Duo winced but ignored the pain in his abdomen and the small aching of his head, "You take what you can get..." he whispered to himself and then grinned again before putting on more speed in the direction of what he thought was the exit to this hell hole.

Heero sat stony faced in Wing's cockpit as he observed the small speck of the mansion that was a cover for an advanced research base loom up on his viewscreen. Angling Wing in for a smooth landing, Heero's eyes flickered over the sidescreen where he saw the flashing lights of the incoming Heavyarms and Shenlong. Heero turned back to the front screen and a heavy silence pressed in around him. It was strange to do this without Duo's laughter in his ears, accompanying him... but Duo was dead... and these OZ bastards would pay...

When he got close enough, a couple of Leos filtered out of the hidden base, followed by a whole squadron. Heero's cold eyes stared at the nearing mobile suits before landing Wing near the mansion. "I'm going in, take care of things here..." Without waiting for an answer, Heero jumped out of his cockpit and made a dash for the hidden entrance to the underground base as explosions began all around him.

Duo rounded another corner and was confronted with another set of corridors almost identical to the ones he'd already passed through. Grabbing his head as a painful ache tore through it, Duo swore, "Kuso... this thing is like a maze... Now I really appreciate the advanced data we get... whether the Intelligence guys screw up or not..." Duo grimaced but it was soon replaced with the customary impish grin. Pounding his way down the corridor, Duo snapped off a couple of bullets at the soldiers coming towards him, "You can't hold down Death!!" Duo laughed maniacally but was then almost toppled off his feet as explosions heaved the ground above them.

"Chikusho! I'm missing all the fun..." What was happening up there anyway? Duo didn't have time to think it over as he rammed his way through a few more soldiers before stumbling into a wider passage. "This is more like it..." Walking carefully along the corridor, Duo walked past a seemingly empty room before hearing a derisive click of a gun chamber behind him.

"Please put the gun down Mr. Maxwell..."

Shit, the blond bastard. Duo didn't turn but put up his hands as he dropped the submachine from his arms.

"And the rifle too..."

Duo cursed silently, using all of the words he'd learned in his life as he reached slowly around to his back before pulling out and dropping the rifle. Just testing the other man's reflexes, Duo shuffled one foot around so that it looked like he was about to pivot when the other man laughed, "Please don't tempt me Mr. Maxwell, you've already given me more than enough reason to shoot you where you stand..."

Realizing this tactic wasn't going to work, Duo plastered on his best grin and slowly turned around. "Ano Mr. Fundo... looks like you win this round..."

The blond man smirked, "And I'll win a lot more before we're through... Please step this way slowly... and don't try anything..."

Duo walked past him into the small room and was surprised when he found that there was another, barely visible door, leading towards a larger research lab with big banks of computers. Putting on a cheerful conversation tone, Duo said, "So what do you do here? It can't be the manufacturing of mobile suits..."

"A wise deduction Mr. Maxwell... What we do here, is actually the designs for the upgraded models," Jack turned to smile smugly at Duo, "I'm sure you've met some of our new Aries on your way here..."

Duo was tongue-tied. Other new designs than the Aries... the Aries that had destroyed his partner, Shinigami, and if in enough numbers, could take down another Gundam... Shit! Why didn't Intelligence know about this place?? It was much more dangerous than the research lab they had hit barely a week ago.

Anothing explosion rocked the surround walls and Duo looked up, "Sounds like quite a party up there..." all the while looking out the corner of his eye for the slightest distraction that could prove to his advantage. Something beeped on the computer next to them and as soon as Jack had turned slightly, Duo pounced.

Rolling over the ground, Duo managed to get a slight upperhand and grappled the gun out of the other man's hand. However, as he received more blows to the face and body, Duo realized that he was still weak while the other was obviously healthy and strong, not a very good match up. Continuing despite the pounding that had started up in his head, Duo drove his hands into the other man's stomach and had the satisfaction of hearing the breath whoosh out of his lungs. Managing a quick stab with the hard tips of his fingers, Duo punched the pressure points at the neck and the man suddenly stiffened for a second under him as the shock wore through. Taking advantage of the opportunity, Duo punched the guy on the face and then flipped him so that he was on his stomach with Duo's knee digging into his spine painfully.

Ignoring the pain that was flaring up around his body, Duo couldn't resist the chance to get back some of his own against this man. "You can't hold Death Mr. Fundo... You may have captured him for a while, but Death cannot be held, not by a long shot. You're going to have to try a lot harder." Duo laughed like a maniac as he said his final words, "And please, you must be an idiot if you think I can't piss you off with a few words..."

As soon as he'd finished talking, Duo dived for the discarded gun on the floor a little way away and came up rolling, gun held securely in both hands. But as soon as he'd sighted the man again, all he caught was the gleaming barrel of a snub-nosed pistol. The shot sounded and his reflexes kicked in. Dropping flat to the floor, Duo felt the pain blossom on his left shoulder and knew that a bullet had struck home, even if it wasn't his heart. Squinting through the pain in his vision, Duo saw the incoming fist out of the corner of his eye and instinctively moved, only to be caught, hard, in the temple.

The world around him flared black and red as he tumbled to the ground, right hand still clasped tightly around the gun and trying to see through the field of of pain. What he caught was the raising of the pistol before seeing the chest that was its background. Summoning a last burst of strength, Duo lifted the gun and sighting, fired two shots into the chest before rolling away.

But, his strength depleted, he was too slow and as the blond man fell, Duo felt another bullet lodge itself into his leg and the blackness gathered. Giving in, Duo laid down on the floor as rapid footsteps pounded up but closed his eyes. He was so tired...

Quatre sat and figited, tense with worry and frustration at not being allowed on the mission. He had the utmost confidence in his friends but couldn't help worrying. Suddenly a pain in his chest started and Quatre squinted his eyes in pain as he clutched his heart.

His uchuu no kokoro... He was feeling someone's pain... someone close to him. Trowa... but it didn't feel like him... or Wufei or Heero... Quatre's breath came in gasps as he head began to spin. "Itai!" he gasped out as he almost doubled over on his seat, the immense pain and agony eating at him from the inside.

Roaring sounds of pounding blood floods his ears, but Quatre barely heard a startled exclamation from the door before a blonde girl knelt in front of him, staring at him with concern and surprise.

Straining, Quatre made out the questions that the girl was struggling to ask him.

"Quatre-kun?? Quatre?!! Daijoubu?!! Daijoubu desu ka??!!"

Quatre was too pained to answer and so just sat with his eyes squeezed shut and both hands clutching his chest. Finally, abruptly, the pain stopped and Quatre opened one eye to find that he was soaked with sweat and Relena staring up into his face.


"Daijoubu..." Quatre reassured her but was too far in thought to really acknowledge her question. Someone had been in pain, someone close to him, but the pain had ended so abruptly that he was terrified to wonder what it meant... he needed to find out now...

Relena stared into his face and noticed the lines of worry that were appearing, "You should go Quatre-kun... don't worry about me, I'll be fine."

Quatre turned to her in surprise, but then a small smile came over his face, "Are you sure?"

Relena nodded, "I'll be fine... don't worry..."

"Yoshi... Arigato Relena-san..." with that Quatre took off towards the hangar for his Sandrock.

Heero pounded along the corridors, following the map he'd memorized towards the central computers. Ploughing his way through soldiers, Heero ran on as explosions started above him. Focusing on his mission, he made sharp turns right and left until he heard gun shots go off.

Coming up to the doorway of a small room, Heero looked around before changing the clip in his gun and stepped into the small room. Looking around at the bare walls, Heero barely managed to find the secret door and the small panel at its side. Pulling out a small wad of explosives, Heero rapidly wired it to the control panel and then blew it up. As the small cloud of smoke cleared, the door swung open and for once, Heero was stunned. Completely and utterly stunned at the sight that lay in front of him.

Forcing himself to move, he could only utter one word.


His partner lay on the ground, cuts and bruises showing all over his skin while patches of dark, dried blood, caked the wounds over. The remainder of what had been bandages were now stained with bright crimson as Heero's eyes saw the bullet wounds on the left shoulder and right leg, still gushing a tremendous amount of blood. There was a flowering swell on Duo's temple and through the tatters of his ripped shirt, Heero could see the crudely bandaged stomach.


Dropping to his knees in front of the boy he thought he'd lost, Heero fumbled to reach the pulse in Duo's neck and found it thumping weakly and erractically... but still there.... Duo was alive...

Taking in the other man, Heero found various wounds on the man's face before looking at the two neat bullet holes in his chest, straight at the heart that had obviously been Duo's handiwork. Seeing his uniform, Heero was reminded of his mission and quickly rose to his feet before seating himself down at a terminal and extracted the necessary information before launching the self-destruction sequence.

Hurriedly walking away from the terminal, Heero found warm droplets of something wet trailing down his cheeks. Ignoring them, Heero carefully bundled Duo up in his arms and spent one moment looking at the other's lax face before taking off the way he'd come with his precious bundle in his arms. All the while, in his mind repeating one phrase. Not his usual ninmu kanryou but one that was just as satisfying.

Duo's alive...

Wufei piloted his Nataku with ease and a sense of serving justice. These bastards had taken down one Gundam already, he would not allow them to take another. Swinging Shenlong's massive glaive around, slicing the surrounding mobile suits into pieces and using the Dragon's Fist when he could, Wufei fought to the rhythmic sounds of Heavyarms' guns clacking at full speed.

Suddenly, a bleeping to his left aroused him from his concentration and he spared his sidescreen a glance before goggling at what the screen presented him with. A mobile suit was descending on them overhead but it didn't match the description of any OZ design. In fact, it almost looked like a Gundam.

Calling up Trowa on the comline just as sirens of the self-destruct sequence began flaring all over the mansion, Wufei said, "MS overhead..."

Trowa's emotionless face was taught with tension, "Looks like a Gundam..."

"But that's not possible... unless Quatre..."

"It's not Quatre..." Trowa interrupted to the narrowing of Wufei's eyes.

"Then-" Wufei cut himself off as the MS came into view and he was stunned into speechlessness.

An ink black shadow glided overhead and landed with a thud on the ground, displaying its gleaming armor and sleek dark lines.

"Shinigami..." Wufei whispered, still goggling at the sight of the destroyed Gundam. "But why is Deathscythe here, unless..." Suddenly his eyes were drawn to the entrance of the base where the slight figure of Heero stood with a black garbed figure stained slightly in red cradled in his arms.


Heero emerged from the underground base cradling Duo's limp body in his arms. Seeing the scrap metal that littered the ground that were so obviously the result of Heavyarms and Shenlong's assault, Heero's eyes were invariably drawn to the dark and majestic form seemingly waiting for its partner to return. Gundam Deathscythe...

Heero made a split second decision and ignoring the towering form of the nearer Shinigami, made for his own Wing on the other side. Jumping up to the hatch of his Gundam, Heero deposited Duo's body carefully inside before strapping him in and setting Wing's controls to autopilot and made a course for the hangar they had departed from. Running his eyes over Duo's battered body once more, Heero made a silent vow to make whoever had left his Duo in this shape pay.

Jumping down, Heero watched as Wing's cockpit closed and the Gundam took off before racing back towards the dark form of Shinigami. Jumping inside his lover's Gundam, Heero started it up and immediately took out the Shinigami's instrument of Death. Hefting the scythe in both huge hands, Deathscythe obeyed the commands of its pilot and smoothly cut through four mobile suits before burying its scythe deep into the ground where the house stood, conveniently slicing the mansion itself in half.

Heero allowed a small smile of satisfaction run along his lips as he pulled the scythe out and continued his rampage. Duo was alive...

Gundam Sandrock flew through the air as Quatre inside scanned the area for the signs of the other Gundams. Sighting the other Gundams on radar, Quatre was surprised to find Wing Gundam heading at a fast pace on a direct course towards the hangar he'd just left. Puzzled, Quatre opened a comline and said, "Heero-kun? What's going on? Heero?"

Receiving no answer, Quatre tried for the visual screen but found that Wing's visual screens had been deactivated. Letting a hint of worry show in his voice, Quatre asked again, "Heero-kun? Daijoubu? Heero??"

When there was still no answer, Quatre shook his head. Heero obviously didn't want to talk but as he neared the locations of the base, he gasped as he picked up the signals for three more Gundams. That was one too many... considering Duo's Shinigami had been...

Wait a minute... Quatre's eyes widened as he recognised one of the signals as that of Gundam Deathscythe. That wasn't possible... Deathscythe had been destroyed, in the blast that had killed Duo-kun. Even if Deathscythe was still functional, who was piloting it??!!

Feeling a sense of dread overcoming him, Quatre opened a comline with Gundam Deathscythe. "Hello?"

Heero's cold voice snapped over the line, "You were meant to stay Quatre!"

"Heero-kun!!" Quatre's voice was relieved but then worried at the sight of Wing coming up on his viewscreen. "What are you piloting?"


Quatre gasped, "Then who's in Wing-"

"Wing's on autopilot, Duo's injured and in Wing. Go home and take care of him."

Quatre's eyes widened, "Duo-kun? He's... he's..."

"Go Quatre!" Heero's end of the line was abruptly severed and Quatre returned to watching Wing loom up on his viewscreen as he halted Sandrock's progress.

"Duo-kun..." Quatre's heart jumped as he turned Sandrock around and flew side by side with Wing who held a no doubt battered but alive boy inside its cockpit. Duo-kun was alive...

Relena sat in the small crude lounge of the safehouse and stared out the window, although not really seeing anything.

Heero... her Heero...

She didn't understand. How could someone as quiet and perfect as Heero like - no *love* - someone as loudmouthed and flawed as Duo? They were practically incompatible... Heero with his dark and cold perfection was the total opposite of Duo's bright and cheerful nature. And the fact that they were both... but Quatre had said that their gender didn't matter... Relena buried her face in her hands as she remembered their first meeting. Duo was about to kill Heero on sight! It was only her intervention and Heero's lightning reflexes that had saved him from Duo's gun sights. It was her that had tore up her party dress to bandage Heero's wounds, he at least owed her some curtesy!! Sure, he had had his gun on her and Duo had only, unknowingly, been protecting her... but he could never hurt her... Then Relena was forced to admit her own defeat at the painful throbbing of her left shoulder.

Reaching up her hand to clasp the heavy bandages, Relena was cursing herself at being so blind... Ever since Heero and Duo had become partners, Relena had despised Duo, despised him for the closeness that he and Heero shared with their similar positions in the war, despised him for the numerous times when he had calmly repremanded her for wanting to talk to Heero and for her to leave Heero alone. Hell, she was jealous of him! But how could she not have seen Duo's reaction to Heero? And the fact that Heero's tense body always seemed to relax under the arm Duo usually threw around him the numerous times she'd caught up to him.

Looking back over the past six months, Relena's memory dredged up every single instance when she'd surprised Heero, only to find that Duo was also there... Now that she knew, she was no longer puzzled by the way Heero's hand always stayed on Duo's long braid, occasionally tugging for no apparent reason... and the mischievous twinkle in the braided-boy's eyes every time he whinged for Heero to stop... Nor could she ignore the twinkle of the silver cross that had always shined at the edge of her vision but had always ignored, stunned by Heero's eyes.

Relena raised teary eyes and laughed bitterly at herself. What was it they said? "Love was blind"? Well... she had certainly been blind... not only by her love for Heero, but her jealousy of Duo as well... And she couldn't deny that seeing the two of them together... there was something 'right' about the two of them... She couldn't deny the way Heero's eyes had almost softened at her mention of Duo's name... something that never happened whenever he did say her name...

Staring back out into the darkening sky, Relena smiled bitterly. Duo was dead... nothing could change that. And as sorry as she was for being the cause of his death and the loss of a Gundam, she was glad at the chance that this presented her with Heero. She'd forgive him for his love of Duo and hope that he'd open up to her, as she always had... She could never give up Heero... never...

Heero and Shinigami were holding their own against another squadron of Leos as Heavyarms ran out of ammo. Switching to using the knife in the right hand, Trowa continued to fight although obviously noticing the jerky formation of Deathscythe's movements, a result of the different pilot. In Deathscythe, Duo's movements had been that of poetry in motion, as Heero's was in his own Wing, but Heero had placed Duo in Wing while he'd set the autopilot controls on and then headed for the newly-repaired Deathscythe.

Trowa knew why... Heero was more familiar with his own Gundam's controls than the Shinigami's and had obviously not wanted anything more to happen to Duo that hadn't already taken place. Trowa understood... he probably would have done the same if it had been Quatre that was captured, and presumed dead... And from the looks of Duo, any more damage would have accounted for the fatality that was a blessing not to have occurred.

Finishing off the remaining mobile suits, Trowa heard Heero's voice come over the comline as large explosions rocked the ground around the already-destroyed mansion, "Ninmu kanryou..."

A small smile tugged at Trowa's mouth. From his time with Heero when he'd saved him from the first time he'd self-destructed, he'd detected a fierce protectiveness in that few words as well as anger and relief. As the three Gundams launched themselves into the air, Trowa smiled. There was a lot that Heero could keep hidden behind that blank and chilling stare but Duo brought out a side to him that was almost... human... Just like only Quatre could help him feel alive... For what it was worth, Trowa hoped that nothing would take Duo away from Heero again... Heero wouldn't be able to live with it... just like *he* would no longer be able to live without the golden Arabian boy he'd come to love so much...

Quatre and Sandrock hovered closely as Wing made an almost perfect landing with the precious body of Duo inside. Watching Wing taxi into the hangar, Quatre set his own Sandrock down and docked it before hurriedly getting out. Running towards Wing who had stopped just inside the hangar door, Quatre climbed up to the cockpit and opened the door.

His heart tightened as he took in Duo's numerous injuries. He stared at the silent form that was the always laughing and energetic boy he knew and his eyes widened. Shaking himself out of the daze, Quatre decided that he was by no stretch of imagination able to lift Duo's body out of the cockpit and down to a bed without damaging anything. Grimacing, Quatre climbed gingerly into Wing's cockpit and walked the Gundam forward so that it was properly docked and next to the parapets. Leaving Duo where he was, Quatre climbed out and hurried to the wash room in the hangar for a tub of warm water and some towels.

Returning, Quatre assessed Duo's injuries. He winced as he took them in. Broken ribs, Duo must've already known about those since there was crude bandaging around his abdomen. A serious concussion that didn't need to be diagnosed as a significant lump had already swollen on Duo's right temple and numerous bruises were blooming all over his heart-shaped face. Bullet wounds in the left shoulder and right leg, still bleeding although the blood flow had slowed. Various deep cuts all over his body and caked blood and a twisted ankle. Quatre winced as he extracted the bullets still lodged in Duo's body. Then feeling the prone boy's pulse, Quatre found it weak and erratic... getting weaker... God, Duo couldn't die now... not having given himself another chance at life!!

Unable to do anything right now but try to patch Duo up as best he could, Quatre refused to think such morbid thoughts. Duo was Death!! And Death always lives... always... Convincing himself, Quatre forced his shaking hands to move all the while chanting at Duo to wake up and smile that ever cheeky grin. But that would be a while... if ever- NO! He would NOT go there! Duo was going to get better, he wouldn't leave Heero here, he wouldn't!! Satisfying himself with that thought, Quatre started work again, picking up bandages for the various broken bones and the bullet wounds.

Cleaning off the dried blood, Quatre took notice of the singed ends of the other boy's braid and allowed himself a small grin. Duo was a tough bastard and he could take all the other injuries with a grin and a laugh... but he was definitely going to be vocal for the singed end of his braid...

Landing Duo's precious Deathscythe with mechanical movements, Heero's mind was on the battered boy that was so close to his heart. Duo's injuries didn't seem too serious but he was worried mostly about the bloodloss and concussion. From what he could tell, the concussion was serious and he just didn't know if...

Shaking himself from that train of thought, Heero followed Shenlong and Heavyarms into the hangar, noticing his Wing inside with the small form of Quatre leaning into the cockpit with a red-stained cloth. Docking Deathscythe and jumping out of the cockpit, Heero rushed up to Wing only to see that Trowa had beaten him and was conferring quietly with a worried Quatre...

Rushing up, Heero was just able to hear Quatre's last words. "The concussion is serious... I don't... I don't know if... Heero!"

Seeing the Arabian's surprised eyes, Heero growled, "Don't sugar-coat things Quatre, how is he?"

After hearing what he wanted, Heero walked without a word. He'd just about deducted as much, but Hell if he was going to lose Duo again!! Carefully, he lifted the limp form from the pilot's seat and ignoring the sympathetic looks from Quatre, Trowa and even Wufei below, walked into the house.

Relena was startled out of her listlessness when the door leading to the hangar banged open and footsteps walked away towards the rooms. Hurrying to the hallway and wanting to know what had happened, Relena saw Heero walk away, carrying - or cradling - something in his arms while he walked towards the room he'd shared with Duo...

"Heero! Daijoubu?"

Heero ignored her and kept walking. Stamping her feet in frustration, Relena marched up to Heero and demanded, "Heero? Heero? Talk to me!"

She kept after him as he stopped at the door to his room and turned slightly so that she caught sight of one glacial and angry cobalt eye before he turned away and opened the door. "Heero!! Please, are you hurt? Would you let me take a look at you please?!" Relena was ultimately relieved when Heero opened his mouth to answer her, but as the last time, what came out was not what she had expected.

"I'm busy Relena, busy and sick of you."

With that Heero walked into his room and as Relena stared at his back, she was stunned into speechlessness when she saw what he was cradling. An obviously wounded black-garbed figure with a long, slightly-singed, chestnut braid hanging over one arm.

No... Duo... he was alive...

Feeling the tears welling, Relena ran to her room with a cry and slammed her door before burying her face in her pillow and cried her heart out.


Duo was surrounded in a fog of blankness and warmth that he loathed to leave. Wouldn't it be nice just to stay here? He'd never have to go back to the war again, never have to pilot his Gundam, never have to kill again. Sighing contentedly, Duo clasped both hands behind his head and closed both eyes, enjoying the peace and quiet of the surroundings. He was quite happy to stay here, forever, if need be...

But something was gnawing at his heart, a damned little corner that had once been filled with something but was now empty. Now empty of what had become so important to him...

Opening his eyes, Duo searched for the thing he was missing, trying to determine what it was. What was it he needed to remember? He was sure there was something that was important... Looking all around him, Duo saw pictures of his life flash past him. Solo's cheeky face when he met him the first time. Solo dying in his arms. Father Maxwell and Sister Helen's love for him. The Maxwell Church massacre. The first time he met Dr. G. The first time he piloted the Gundam Deathscythe. The first time he met Heero...

Kuso, Heero! That's what he was missing! That part that had become so important to him in the last few months.

But the haziness sought to take over his mind again, urging him to rest, to sleep, to dream. As his eyes slowly closed again, giving in to the warmth of the misty fog, Duo saw something shimmer in front of him. He fought to open his eyes and stared, it was a scene from one of the many happy times he'd had with Heero...


"Nani Heero?" Duo raised his head slightly from its comfortable perch on Heero's shoulder and smiled slightly up at him.

"Will you... will you stay with me...?" Those smoldering cobalt blue eyes were intent as they studied his face and Duo could only smile wider as he realized Heero's determination behind those words.

"Hai, Heero... Ai shiteru..."

"Do... do you promise?" Duo's eyes widened slightly at the sound of Heero's voice... it almost sounded frightened... but Heero-the-perfect-soldier-Yuy, scared of anything? Laughing it off, Duo reached up to hold a hand against Heero's neck and pulled his lover's face down to his own.

Leaning up to kiss Heero's firm and sensual mouth, Duo could only repeat the words his heart told him he needed to say, "Zutto Heero... Zutto..."

Duo's eyes popped open. He'd promised Heero that he'd stay with him, forever... He'd promised! Without needing anything to tell him, Duo knew that he was floating the void between life and death, and that Death's inviting arms were open to welcome him to the after life. But Death was being kind for once... letting the boy who had adopted his name decide whether to leave the war-torn world and walk forward to the after life, or to stay and hold dear to him all that he could have lost. Death was giving him a second chance...

In Duo's mind, there was only one choice. If there was one thing Duo Maxwell did *not* do, it was break a promise, no matter how trivial, and presently, Heero did not count as a trivial thing. He loved Heero and he could never be content without Heero by his side again... never again.

Grinning widely, Duo laughed when a shimmering strand of mist appeared in front of him and grasping one end of the line while turning to toss a gratifying salute at the dark shadow that was Death, Duo clawed his way up the strand. All the while entertaining thoughts of how Heero might kill him after this little stunt.

He laughed, 'dying' at Heero's hands wasn't so bad, especially if it meant a physical apology later... A very satisfying physical apology...

Heero sat beside the boy who lay on his bed in silence, eyes ever watchful as they took in every ragged breath that the other inhaled. Watching as Duo's usually cheerful face was masked by one of slight pain even in unconsciousness. Lifting one hand to gently smooth away the frown that had appeared, Heero's eyes softened when Duo's body relaxed under him. He had never realized exactly how much this pilot of the Shinigami had started to mean to him. And it had taken this for him to admit to himself that he was too attached to the slender boy next to him for him to ever let go... he couldn't...

Heero bent and pressed a gentle kiss to Duo's lips before beginning to doze off in his comfortable position beside his lover. A position he'd thought he'd never have a chance to take again... But just as the comfort of sleep was about to overtake him, he was graced with shining violet eyes which opened groggily to fix him with a fuzzy stare.

Heero's world froze.


Duo felt sleep leave him gradually and what was left was a stinging sensation all over his body while pulsing pain appeared at his shoulder and leg. Frowning slightly, he struggled to open his eyes but failed although he found that he was pressed against a familiar and warm lithe body. Warm fingers stroked his face and he relaxed under the calming pressure of those fingers before a kiss was pressed to his lips. Smiling slightly, Duo opened his eyes to find shocked but still ever-beautiful prussian blue staring right back at him, strangely tender.


Heero's eyes snapped from their dazed look and closed off, once again becoming those steel-hard, emotionless eyes Duo knew so well. One word was uttered from Heero's lips, "Bastard..."

"Nani?!" Duo was outraged at the seemingly uncalled for insult and tried to push himself up into a sitting position before a wave of nausiating pain rolled into his brain and he was forced to shut his eyes tightly before falling back onto the bed. "What the hell was that for?!!"

Heero fixed him with a stare but then turned away and only then did Duo realize what the pain was. Kuso! He was really going to get it now... Raising his slightly less injured left arm, Duo reached out to grasp Heero's arm. "Heero-"

"Kisama... You promised..." Heero refused to look at him and Duo was becoming more worried by the minute. Heero rarely ever refused to stare anyone down, let alone him...

Pushing himself slowly into a sitting position, Duo bit his lips against the pain and let out his held breath in a whoosh when he was finally upright, although not without leaning heavily on the headboard. He was worried with Heero's reaction, but at the same time, he was kinda flattered that he could arouse such a reaction from the Perfect Soldier. Grinning, Duo wrapped his arms around Heero from behind and purred into his ear, "Why Heero, I didn't know you cared..."

Unwillingly, Heero relaxed in Duo's embrace although he still refused to look Duo in the face, "You promised..."

Realizing this ploy wasn't going to work, Duo poked Heero's shoulder, "Oi! I'm still here aren't I??" He grinned and returned his head to its original position on Heero's shoulder, "Anyway, didn't I say forever? When Duo Maxwell promises, he never forgets! Not that I want to..." He nuzzled Heero's neck and felt the other turn his head slightly.

Heero's face was still stoic when he turned to face Duo, "Baka! Forever doesn't last long if you're dead!"

"But I'm not, am I? Ne Heero... were you worried?" A teasing light crept into Duo's eyes and Heero snorted before turning back to staring out the window.

Duo was fast getting tired of this. Heero was no doubt in self-condemnation for not being there, which was in his opinion, completely uncalled for! "Oi, oi!! Enough of this!! It wasn't your fault!! I could have handled the 30 easy if there hadn't been any excess baggage." Duo made a face at this, "So I didn't call you, and anyway, you were out of range..." Duo's voice softened when he felt Heero's shoulders tense up again. "Heero, the important thing is that I'm still here, you're still here and we're together... nothing else matters..."

Heero turned slowly, "You promised..."

Duo looked up into almost frightened cobalt blue eyes and whispered, "And I'm going to keep that promise Heero... Zutto... Ai shiteru."

For the first time in his life, Heero let go of his self-control and folded the bandaged body of his partner into his arms while he buried his face into the other's neck. "I-I thought..."

Calm, soothing hands rubbed at Heero's back in large circles as Duo whispered, "I know Heero... I thought so too... But I had to come back... I couldn't, I couldn't leave you..." The circling hands suddenly tightened when Duo gasped as a particularly painful throb began in his skull and immediately, he found himself being lowered until he was on the bed and Heero was stretched out beside him.

"Sleep baka." Heero's voice was cold but his eyes betrayed his concern and Duo grinned letting his eyes drift closed slowly as he twined an arm around Heero's waist.

"Ninmu ryoukai..."

Relena woke up to the sun streaming onto her head and found that she had slept in her clothes while her pillow had been soaked with her tears. Startled, Relena sat up and looked around and remembered what had happened the night before.

She had found out about Heero and Duo in the most startling way and she had a bandaged shoulder to prove it but she had thought that Duo was dead. Died protecting her and she had been sure that with no Duo in the picture, Heero would eventually come to her for the understanding and comfort that he so unknowingly craved. She had been set on forgiving him for starting up a relationship with another boy and so set on comforting him when he did start to open up to her about his life. But all those dreams had come crashing down on her last night with a flash of a midnight eye and the dangling of a dark-honey braid over her soldier's arm.

Duo was alive. Battered and obviously injured from what she could see yesterday but no doubt alive. And ashamed as she was to admit it, she had instantly felt a rush of insane jealousy followed by fury. He had nearly died to save her life, and yet she could still rage at him for taking away from her the chance to sooth Heero, to make Heero hers... Did that make her a bad person? She had been, and still is, so sure of Heero's love for her, despite everything that he'd said and done to her... surely just because she had been ungrateful to one person didn't justify her being a bad person... Make that a particular slender boy with flashing violet eyes, a heart-shaped face, a wide cheeky grin, a long chestnut braid and who possessed her Heero's heart.

Duo... he was the key... If she could only get him to see that *she* was the one destined to be Heero's lifemate. The one who could heal his wounds after the war had been won and provide him with a stable life that would no longer require him to risk his life at every turn of the tables. She could offer Heero safety, security, wealth and love... what could Duo offer him? Surely Duo could see that, despite his obviously lacking intellect, she was the best person for Heero... Kitto...

Making up her mind, Relena smiled to herself as she changed into a fresh set of clothes and prepared to face the morning with a plan. She'd talk to Duo alone sometime soon and she would get him to see her point of view. She would make him see...

After a week of lying in bed recuperating, Duo was unable to keep still anymore as he wiggled and squirmed whenever Heero glared at him to stay in bed. A bundle of energy that he was, Duo was already sneaking out of bed to walk around the room when Heero wasn't there, but the confining spaces of the small room wasn't enough for him anymore. He needed to get out!

Most of the small cuts and grazes had healed and although his ribs, his shoulder and leg were still bandaged, Duo didn't let the slight uncomfort hinder him as he crept out of bed one day when Heero had been missing for most of the morning. Pulling on his clothes hurriedly, he stole out of the room and hearing voices from the small room down the hallway, turned the other way and started for the hangar and his Shinigami.

Stopping in the doorway of the hangar, Duo paused to look up at the dark bulk of Deathscythe and grinned wryly. "Hello again, partner... Hn, didn't think I'd see you again..." Climbing into the parapets, Duo ran a possessive hand over the smooth cool metal and then thumbed the hatch open. Peering inside, Duo grinned when he saw a small note attached to the small red button on the left of the console. Seating himself into the pilot's seat, Duo carefully detached the note from the button, careful not to touch it and read aloud. "Duo. Do you know exactly what this button is for? It'll be a lot easier to repair Deathscythe if you actually use it inside of letting some Aries blow it up. Remember it next time. And try not to get yourself killed ne? As much as I would like to get rid of your maniac laughing, it's also slightly endearing. Ganbatte. - Dr. G." Duo looked up at the small red button and grinned, "You always knew how to put spikes into comforting words Doc..."

Shoving the note into his pockets, Duo sat back and put his hands behind his head as he took in the spaces of the new cockpit. There were slight differences but every thing was familiar as the day he'd piloted last. It was a comforting thought that he wouldn't be grounded while they repaired his Gundam, which without the good doctor, would have taken much longer to do than his bones.

Taking a deep breath, Duo closed his eyes and muttered, "It's good to be back, partner..." In the comfort of his familiar cockpit, Duo drifted contentedly into the oblivion of sleep without dreams.

"Ninmu ryoukai..." Heero turned off the laptop and turned around to the rest of his fellow pilots. "Let's go."

The others walked out without a word and Heero followed but made a detour towards his room for his extra gun. Opening the door to find the room empty of one violet-eyed boy, Heero snorted. Duo didn't think he'd noticed but he'd known that his energetic lover had been sneaking out of bed for the last four days. Retrieving his gun from the bedside and checking to find Duo's extra under the pillow, Heero walked out of the room with a slight quirk of the lips. They were truly soldiers. With the exception of Quatre, although sometimes even Heero couldn't be sure, they carried a gun on them at all times whenever they were out of their rooms. It was an instinct and obviously even having broken bones didn't dull Duo's instinct. For that Heero was grateful.

Knowing where Duo was from all the questions he'd asked about his precious Gundam, Heero made straight for the hangar and unsurprisingly found the hatch to the Shinigami open. Waiting for the others, Heero walked up to find Duo fast asleep on his pilot's seat with a peaceful look on his face and both arms clasped behind his head.

When his shadow crossed Duo's face, one violet eye cracked open and smiled at him, "Heero!"

Heero glowered, "You were meant to stay in bed Duo."

Duo made a face at him, "Man, do you know how boring a week in bed is??!! It's like taking Shinigami out and telling me I can't shoot anybody..."

"But you haven't exactly spent all week in bed have you?" Heero smirked when Duo was startled out of his relaxed position.

"You noticed?"

"I notice everything baka."

Duo grinned that infatuous grin at him and resumed his comfortable position, "Hn, shoulda known nothing ever escapes the eyes of the Perfect Soldier."

"How're the wounds?"

"Fine Heero... you sound like a mother. I'm perfectly fine!" Duo laughed, "If I didn't know any better, I'd think you were actually worried Heero, ne?"


"Now you're just repeating yourself," Duo waggled an aggravating finger at him before Heero growled and seized the offending hand in an iron hard grip. "Itai!! Ow, leggo!!!"

Heero glared, "Omae o korosu..."

Duo smirked up at him and lifted his other hand to clasp behind Heero's head and pulled his face down to him. After a breathless kiss, Duo whispered, "I love you too, koi..."

Heero eyes softened but he retained his cold voice, "We've got a mission." At the shine that lit up Duo's eyes, Heero muttered, "You're grounded!"

"Awwwwww... Heero..." Duo whined, "Take away all my fun... Kudasai? I'm getting bored out of my mind here!"

"No, end of discussion."

Duo stuck his tongue out at him, "Fine, fine... be that way!" Then the grin returned and he kissed him again, "Come back soon ne?"

Instead of replying, Heero claimed Duo's lips in his own again and was lost in a world where only the two of them existed and lasted forever. That is, it would have lasted forever, had Wufei's voice not blasted out of the comunit in the Shinigami just then. "Yuy!! Get your ass out of there and into your own Gundam!" Quatre's soft giggling followed before both voices were cut off by Duo's decisive finger over the com button. Heero started to walk out when Duo raised himself up and planted a final kiss on his cheek, "I'll be waiting..."

Heero snorted but managed a slight upturning of the corners of his mouth before climbing and strapping himself into Wing. Taking off, Heero heard Duo's voice over his com line. "I love you. Be careful." Those words and the face behind them, he treasured more than anything as he flew Wing beside the other three Gundams into another mission.

Realizing he was hungry, Duo levered himself out of his cockpit and into the kitchen where he was looking for something to eat. Making himself a cup of coffee and sitting down with a bag of popcorn, Duo clicked on the TV and lost himself in the cartoons for a while. In the screen, he suddenly caught sight of a person coming into view behind him and without even bothering to turn around, pulled the gun from its position at his back and pointed it towards the person, all the while, keeping his eyes fixed on the TV screen. He knew that if the person meant business, the time he needed to turn himself around with his injured leg would be enough for the other person to shoot him. Although he couldn't see any weapons, it was also better to be on the safe side. "Dare da?!"

"Duo-kun, can I... talk to you...?"

Astonished by the voice, Duo turned with an incredulous look. "Ojousan? What are you still doing here?"

To Duo's further amazement, Relena looked almost humble from where she was standing. "Someone's coming to pick me up in a few days. Ano... can I talk to you...?"

"Sure... have a seat." Duo pushed himself up as Relena sat down and grabbed his coffee cup, "Do you want anything?"

"No thank you..."

Walking to the small kitchen, Duo poured himself another cup while he pondered his thoughts. He hadn't thought that Relena would still be here. Certainly, he hadn't seen her or heard her since that day... Why was she still here? Heero hadn't talked about her and nor had the others when they'd come in to see how he was. So why did she want to talk to him now? If it was to thank him, it most definitely did not call for the humble treatment.

Walking back in, he found Relena staring at her hands as he sat down and smiled at her. "So, what did you want to talk to me about Ojousan?"

Relena kept her eyes down, "Ano... I - I wanted to thank you for that day, you saved my life and you got hurt in the process..."

Duo relaxed. So that's what it's all about after all, the girl was embarrassed to tell him that she was grateful. His grin got wider until he started laughing and waved her words off with an indifferent shake of the head. "All in the name of duty Ojousan, all in the name of duty. We're soldiers, pain comes as no surprise Ojousan, but I must say I appreciate your thanks." Winking at her, Duo suddenly saw the slight bandage around her left shoulder. "What happened to you?"

Relena was startled as she looked at her left shoulder and grimaced, "It's nothing, just a slight wound... nothing much..."

Duo's eyes immediately became suspicious. There was only one way that the girl could have possibly hurt herself and that was in the explosion after he'd set her down at what he was sure was a safe distance. And since there were no other visible marks on her body, the wound couldn't have come from flying shrapnel. But then he shrugged, if she didn't want to tell him, then he shouldn't poke his nose where it wasn't wanted.

The uncomfortable silence dragged on and Duo began to squirm. He was never good in silences and the urge to start up a conversation gnawed at him but he wasn't sure what to talk about with this slip of a girl who had caused them more than enough trouble for a mission. Finally, he couldn't take it anymore and decided that even the silence of his room would be better than sitting here with this girl. "Saa... if that's all Ojousan, I think I'd better be getting back to my sleep. I don't want to be grounded for long..." Flashing her another wide grin, Duo was in the process of getting off the couch when Relena spoke again.

"Matte, Duo-kun..."


Relena wringed her hands before stammering a reply, "I... I have some thing else to say... something important..."

Duo was getting frustrated but witheld a scathing remark before seating himself again.

Relena seemed to gather her breath in one gulp before staring into his eyes defiantly and said, "I know about you and Heero."

The sentence bit into Duo word by word and his face lost its grin before closing up and his body slumped into the couch. Through closed eyes, he muttered, "How?"

"Heero told me..."

Duo pounced on the words, eyes flying open, "*Heero* told you?!"

Relena nodded, "Hai."

A wide grin split Duo's face as he laughed, "Gee, never thought he'd actually have the guts..."

"Don't say such things!" Relena defended her soldier with the right that she had and glared at Duo, "He's better than both you and I." At Duo's raised eyebrow, Relena looked down again. This was damned harder than she had thought.

"Ojousan... what is the point of telling me you know about us?"

Relena considered bolting right then but Heero was much more important than her pride in front of this American fool. "I just wanted to talk..."

Another lapse of silence and Relena started to talk. It was now or never and she didn't want to wait forever for Duo to get the hint she was trying to send across. Looking Duo straight in the eye, she began. "Duo-kun, I realize how this must look but I must ask you hear me out until the end. What you and Heero have... is not natural... it shouldn't happen. Love is a sacred thing between people of different genders," taking a glance at the silver crucifix at Duo's throat, so similar to Heero's, Relena ploughed on, "I might even wager to say that it's a sin against the God you believe in."

"You don't understand, but Heero is mine... He has been from the moment I saw him down at the beach nine months ago and told me that he was going to kill me. He could never kill me, or even hurt me and instead has protected me with his life and his Gundam. I love him Duo-kun. And I can tell that he loves me too. I could tell he loves me for all the times that he has tried to kill me but couldn't - wouldn't. Something in his heart tells him that I'm the only person who can rescue him from all the pain and torment that the war has caused him. Made him the cold and distant person that he is today. And yet, under that exterior, there is a normal little boy. A caring and frightened little boy that needs love to be able to be coaxed out."

"I can offer him that love Duo-kun. I can offer him security and safety after the war has been won, without having to worry about any OZ sympathizers coming after him. He won't have to risk his life at the smallest turn of the tables and he will be restored back to the gentleman he was meant to be from the time he was born. You must understand that Duo, for the sake of Heero..."

"I understand that you two might have turned to each other in the heat of war for some tension release or to satisfy a lust that has formed, but to mistake that momentary period for what love is, is too sudden and misdirected. You must understand, Heero was meant to be mine... He can only get what he deserves from me... So I'm asking you, for the sake of Heero... please, let him go... Let him go so that he has a chance to get what he was meant to throughout his life. Onegai..."

Relena's sky blue eyes glinted at the boy seated across from her. Throughout her talk, she had seen a multitude of expressions fly across his face. First and foremost had been astonishment followed by interest then denial and finally mockery. It was the face full of mocking that confronted her now as he opened his mouth to talk.

"Ojousan, may I say that I understand your feelings... Heero is definitely a worthy object for love and even more for obsession but perhaps you need to define which of the two you feel first before you continue any further..."

He grinned wryly at her when she opened her mouth for a scathing comment and put up a hand to stop her before the words came out. "If you think that what you feel for Heero is love, then I won't deny you that, but I must protest at the term that our love is sudden." He laughed slightly there, "You said you loved him from the moment you saw him, Ojousan. From what I understand from Heero, all that had happened on that beach was you pulled his deep space helmet off and he told you he would kill you before kicking the butts of some paramedics and taking off in the ambulance. He must've said no more than three words to you and yet you'd decided that you loved him right then." He smiled cheekily at her, "While I know the term, 'love at first sight' we must be a bit more realistic. Heero is hardly the cute and cuddly type. What made you fall in love with him?"

Relena opened her mouth to yell but found that she was speechless. It was pathetic, here she wasn't even able to defend her love of Heero to this intellectually-challenged American.

"As for after the war, I agree with you totally Ojousan. You have the perfect lifestyle, the wealth, the prestige and certainly the security to make sure that Heero would never have to risk his life again. But you have to realize that Heero doesn't belong in that world Ojousan. The world of politics is something that soldiers like us don't understand very well... Saa, we know what's going on and why it's going on but to be trapped in a world that does nothing but talk and more talk, even I wouldn't last very long." He smiled, "Soldiers are people who do, more than talk... Before you try to lure Heero into that world you must understand that."

Duo's face finally turned serious and his violet gaze bore into Relena as she was fascinated by his words. "However I disagree with you on one thing Relena-sama. You claim that inside Heero is a frightened little boy who needs your assurance. But let me assure you that Heero would be the last one to ask for help, let alone allow anyone to give it. The first time he injured himself, he even set his own leg! Grossed the hell outta me but he did. And that little boy you spoke of, we are much beyond that Relena-sama. Our hands are too bloodstained and too used to killing for that innocent inner-self to have survived too long. Sure, we all have our weaker sides and sometimes our innocence, but really, what innocence can a soldier have when he has killed thousands? What innocence can you have when you know thirty ways to kill a person with your bare hands? We all have an inner self Relena-sama, but perhaps your perception of that inner self differs from what we see. We see it as a part of ourselves that allows a tiny part of emotion to shine through. A tiny part that allows guilt and grief to seep through for those we have killed. But beyond that, there is hardly anything because that little self has already accepted what we have become."

Relena found herself mesmerized by Duo's words although she knew that he wasn't really directing them at her to defend his love for Heero. He was trying to get her understand their lifestyle... perhaps to prepare her should she continue to persue Heero. But he was continuing on, staring outside at the glow of noon.

"Pain, Ojousan, do you really have a full understanding of what pain is? Because God knows you need to before you try to heal anybody else from it. There's the superficial pain which I'm feeling right now from my wounds and then there's the inner pain that comes everytime I need to kill someone to ensure my survival. We all hide it, Heero behind his single-mindedness, Trowa behind his silence, Wufei behind all his ranting about Justice, Me through my laughs and even Quatre through his caring for everybody else. But Ojousan, do *you* truly understand it?" That stare was fixed on her again before Duo smiled, "I can't say I do totally... but I'd wager to say that I understand pain a lot more than you Ojousan."

"As for our love, I find myself wondering at it a lot more than you have. At first I thought it was a sin too. But then, only God knows but I highly doubt that He would condemn us for loving when He was the one who taught us how to. As for being not natural, who's to decide? No offence intended Ojousan, but certainly not you..."

Duo sighed and turned back to her that infuriating little grin. "You ask me to let him go, but I'm telling you now, I can't do that. This is because I've never had him. Heero is not some caged animal that you can claim Relena-sama, that is the most important thing you need to understand. He's not and never will be something you can own unless he decides to give himself to you and presently the only thing that owns his life is each mission as it comes along."

Getting up, Duo walked slowly out of the room and into the hallway that led to his room. Turning back in the doorway, he flashed her that grin again and laughed, "So if you decide to persue him any further Ojousan, I wish you luck... Although you might want to wait a bit, wouldn't want him to actually miss a shot because of frustration and shoot you somewhere other than a flesh wound on your shoulder."

With that, he disappeared although his laugh echoed back to her as she was stunned with his knowledge of her wound. Thumping her hand on her leg, Relena realized what a waste of time the talk had been. The only thing it had served to do was to make her realize how futile her quest for Heero really was...

Heero walked into the darkened room with no noise, and paused for a minute at the door to watch the smooth rise and fall of Duo's chest as he slept soundly. As soon as he'd closed the door, Duo turned and mumbled, "Heero...?"

Sitting down on the bed, Heero watched Duo's face intently, "Aa."

"How was the mission?"

"Successful... Trowa took a bullet to the shoulder."

Duo made a face in the dark before sitting up and turning on the lamp. Taking a closer look at Heero's face, Duo smirked, "He's not the only one with injuries, Mr. Perfect Soldier Yuy." Getting off the bed, Duo rummaged around under the bed for the first aid kit. Heero watched with a fascinated look that he tried to mask.

No body had ever fussed over him the way that Duo did... and that somehow endeared him all the more to Heero's heart. That such a bright person could find it in their heart to love a cold bastard like him. But Duo was far from normal. He understood everything that they went through, and took it with good grace, always having a teasing comment or a laugh that would brighten the situation for Heero... if only slightly. It wasn't until recently that he had started to realize how he'd relied on Duo for that small measure of comfort. Duo was the only thing that anchored him to the war-torn world they lived in. The only constant that would stay the same in this world of wild variables. Heero had never realized how much he had appreciated Duo until he had nearly lost him. He would be sure to never make that mistake ever again.

Then Heero shook himself mentally as he realized that Duo was talking and not just the usual blabber. "Yo... I had a nice conversation with Relena-ojousan today..."

Heero's face closed up as soon as the name Relena was mentioned and Duo took one look at that face before breaking down into a fit of giggles. But the giggling was stopped when Heero reached a hand around to tug sharply on Duo's braid. "Itai!! Heero!!!" Heero glowered at him but would not stoop to ask him what the conversation was about. Duo grinned at him impishly for a few more seconds until he was unable to contain himself anymore. "Ano... she just wanted to know some things... nothing much..."

Heero snorted but his stare bore into Duo's eyes until the other boy flinched back. "Oi, oi! Don't turn that look on me, I'm not the one who chases after you incessantly with that high-pitched voice!" Duo grinned and resumed bathing the deep cut on Heero's cheek. "She just wanted to know if she could ever have you..."

"And...?" Heero bit that word out at the thought of being with Relena.

Duo smirked at him, "Do you really think I'd say anything else, Heero-ch-"

Heero growled and swatted at Duo's hand on his cheek, cutting the other boy off, "Don't call me Heero-chan!"

"Awwww... but it's so kawaii!!" Duo immediately shut up at the look on Heero's face but couldn't keep the smile from spreading across his face.

Heero snorted again but closed his eyes while Duo continued to chatter. Only after a few seconds did he realize that Duo's voice had turned serious and his eyes popped open to catch the last few sentences.

"... I carefully explained that you couldn't be claimed, 'cause you can't you know... being like the runaway bear you are... Anyway the look on her face told me that she didn't believe me so I told her that nobody could ever own you like a mission does..." Heero studied Duo's face intently when the hand on his face paused and then paused to drop the cloth back into the bucket of water while Duo's face turned down to stare into his lap.

Heero cocked his head to try to decide what to do but when he actually thought about it, there really was only one choice he could take. "Duo..." Heero grasped Duo's face gently in one hand while he tilted the other's face up to meet him. But still Duo kept his eyes trained on the ground.

"It's true you know," Duo forced a laugh but it came out bitter and fake, "I know... and I understand that your life belongs to only - "

"You." Heero cut in and was satisfied at the startled shock on Duo's face.

"Na - Nani...?" Duo's wide violet-blue eyes finally met Heero's own and trembled but was too shocked to be able to wrench his face from Heero's grasp.

"My life is with you..." Heero took a deep breath and felt for the words that his brain wouldn't send him but felt words tumbling out of his mouth anyway. "On or off the battlefield Duo... You were my first real friend... my partner, someone I can count on, trust... I've never had that before... never thought I needed one. But I know now that I was wrong. That time when I first self-destructed... it was your face that flashed across my eyes, and kept me from Death... When you nearly died, I suddenly realized how important you were to me... Before you, my life was devoid of meaning, but now..." Heero lifted his face up to meet Duo's eyes, "I can't let you go Duo... never..."

Duo was amazed at Heero's confession and was, for once, struck speechless. Suddenly Heero's hand dropped from his face and he made to get up but Duo grabbed for the wrist nearest him. Oh no... He was never going to let Heero go after that. "Heero..." Standing up next to his lover, Duo reached for Heero's face and turned it towards him, gasping at the rare vulnerable look in Heero's eyes that almost made him seem, childish. "Heero, I couldn't leave you... I can't let you go... I love you..." He stepped forward and buried his face in Heero's neck while twining arms about the other's waist. "My life was yours when I first met you... I love you, I'll never let you go..."

Heero closed his eyes and savored the feeling of Duo in his arms, lowering his face to Duo's unbound hair, Heero tightened his arms about his partner... lover... and was content to just stand there in comfortable silence, committing every sensation he was feeling to memory. Finally, he knudged Duo's head off his shoulder and stared into the violet eyes he'd come to love so much. Leaning to kiss that sensual mouth, Heero was lost to the sensations that he had finally opened up to, pouring every ounce of love and longing into that one kiss and receiving the same from Duo.

After a few minutes, they broke for air and one look at Duo's contented face, Heero knew that he'd have to say it now, so that Duo would know... "Duo..."

Duo lowered his head onto Heero's shoulder again before mumbling a sleepy, "Nani...?"

Taking a deep breath, Heero plunged in, "Ai shiteru... Eien ni ai shiteru..."

He could feel Duo's grin against his neck before Duo's head lifted again and was graced with the loving gaze of those beautiful eyes and the reply, "Ai shiteru Heero... Zutto."

Then with a kiss, that vow was sealed between two dedicated lovers who couldn't live without one another ever again.

Relena packed her bag and was ready to leave when a knock at her door came. "Come in..."

A slender girl in a uniform of the Sanc Kingdom stepped into the room, "Relena-sama."

Relena looked up at the familiar sound of the voice and she recognized the girl immediately, "Hilde! Hisashiburi!"

"Hai, Relena-sama," Hilde smiled, "The car's just outside, we should get going before we're spotted."

"Aa..." Relena acknowledged and gathered her small bag of various small accessories, "How did you get in?"

"Quatre-kun let me in... Is something the matter Relena-sama?"

"Iie... daijoubu." Relena walked hurriedly out the door and into the kitchen where Wufei and Trowa were seated, pouring over some reports while Quatre stirred a cup of coffee and looked over Trowa's shoulder.

Clearing her throat, Relena spoke, "Domo arigato for all your hospitality minna-san, I know that I caused a lot of trouble for all of you. I hope you will forgive me..."

Quatre looked up and favored her with a smile, "We're glad we could help Relena-sama."

Relena smiled as the other two looked up and offered her a nod before turning back to their work. "I'll be leaving now but I won't forget this..."

Quatre laughed and waved her off, "No need Relena-sama, it was our duty..."

Relena lifted a hand and waved slightly, "I'll show myself the way out. Arigato..."

"Daijoubu Relena-sama."

"Quatre-kun? Do you know where Heero is?"

Quatre looked amused, "Heero-kun is probably in the hangar... something about fixing Wing up..."

Relena nodded and waved, "Sayonara."

"Ja!" was Quatre's cheerful reply as Relena retreated with Hilde at her heels, also giving Quatre a cheerful wave.

Walking towards the hangar, Hilde suddenly turned at the sound of footsteps behind her and then grinned, "Duo-kun!! Daijoubu desu ka?"

Duo bounced up and grinned with a first aid kit in his hand. "Hilde! I had a feeling it was you! What brings you here?"

Hilde gestured to Relena standing patiently beside her, "I'm taking Relena-sama home..."

Duo turned his grin to Relena, "Leaving so soon Ojousan?"

Relena forced a smile, "Hai... I must get back to my office..."

Duo laughed, "Saa... We're all slaves to our jobs ne? Come to say good-bye?" At Relena's nod, Duo pointed in the direction of the hangar, "Heero's in the hangar, I'll just go and get him off Wing's shoulder." With a last grin, Duo ran off, leaving the two women in the hallway abruptly.

Relena turned to talk to Hilde but found her staring after Duo with a wistful look on her face and suddenly understood. "You love him..."

Hilde looked at her and blushed, "Is it that obvious?"

Relena smiled but then asked inquisitively, "Why don't you go after him?"

Hilde smiled wryly, "Relena-sama, I hope you don't think me rude, but how can I win his heart when it's already been given to a person who also loves him?"

Relena was startled, "Heero..."

Hilde grinned, "Hai... so you know..."

Relena nodded but looked down, "And do you just accept it...?"

Hilde's face turned serious as she started walking, "It's not a question of whether I accept it Relena-sama. I have no choice... They live in a different world to us Relena-sama. Sure I'm a soldier but not one that could understand the kind of lives that they lead. They're also people who cannot be owned, they need their freedom and I guess Duo feels that kind of freedom with Heero." Hilde laughed at this, "And who am I to deny his love? However it may lead... I love him too much to condemn him for his choice in a companion but I also love him too much to want to destroy the happiness that he feels with Heero-kun. If he's happy, I'm happy... that's all that matters..."

They walked the rest of the way in silence while Relena pondered Hilde's words. She obviously loved Duo very much to sacrifice her happiness for him and to be able to just let him go to lead his own life. Most of what she had said was the same as what Duo had told her a few days before. Only this time, it had come from a person in the same position as she... and it made her question her own quest for Heero's heart. As much as she would like to deny it, Heero's heart had been given and there was no way that she could ever hope to win it... not now, not ever... She could own his body, but not his heart... nor his soul...

Exchanging short good-byes with Duo, Relena came face to face with Heero's emotionless mask and stood there for a second memorizing his every feature. Seeing the soft light in Heero's eyes every time he gazed at Duo who was chatting animatedly with Hilde, Relena could no longer bare the thought of tearing him away from Duo... Duo was more to Heero than she could ever be...

"Heero... arigato... sayonara..." Relena tossed the last word out instead of her usual 'I'll see you again' and Heero seemed to understand. He gave her a tiny smile before a small nod. Relena smiled up at him for the final time and then reached up a small hand to graze her fingers across his cheek before turning to leave.

Walking out of the hangar to the car, Relena turned to see Heero grasp Duo's braid in one hand while the cheerful other waved his hand like a maniac with laughing eyes and a relaxed stance. Turning to the front, Relena smiled her own sad little smile.

Heero... I love you... but I realize now that I could never hope to own you... let alone your heart. Those belong to someone else, someone you feel happiness and contentment with, and I'm happy for you. Your happiness is worth too much to me for me to try and ruin it, even to satisfy my own need for the happiness that having you at my side could give me. So be happy Heero... be happy and be safe... never leave your loved one's side, and I'll be eternally happy for the both of you. I can hide my pain and my hurt behind a happy mask as you hide yours behind that emotionless one but I'll love you always... Eien ni...

I love you... so I'm letting you go. I have to let you go... our paths crossed for a moment but yours with Duo will last forever... I have to let you go... to let you experience the happiness that you have been so deprived of. I love you... always...

Relena sat back into her seat and stared at the clear blue sky as a picture of Heero's sullen face and Duo's laughing one superimposed in her vision. Relena smiled and closed her eyes. Opening them again to watch the door to the hangar blur past, Relena was content with one last thought.

I'm letting you go Heero... Be happy...


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