Disclaimer: You people do know that I don't own Gundam Wing... right?
Wufei was still there, I learned, and stayed for dinner. They usually joined me in my room, torturing me by eating delicious
Heero-made food while I swallowed down the bile that was my hospital-recommended diet. But that evening they stayed away.
I knew why. I knew they were discussing Trowa and the conversation Heero had eavesdropped on. I knew it wouldn't be good.
I also knew they wouldn't listen to anything I had to say on the matter.
When they were finished talking to each other, they had the good grace to come into my room and hang out for a bit, but they
were studiously observant of where the flow of conversation was going and headed off all my attempts at channeling the subject.
It was about an hour later that Wufei managed an almost graceful escape, reminding Heero of something he needed for tomorrow.
Heero had agreed to do a bit of desk work at home in lieu of going to work, so he ended up with all of the paperwork.
I turned my eyes to him. “He's scared, Heero.”
Heero sighed. Of course he knew who I was speaking about. “I know. But so am I.” His fists clenched again as he
admitted those words.
“You? About what?”
Heero's eyes were piercing through me again. “You.” At my gaping look, he continued. “I can't lose you.
Not to anything. Not to Caribol, not to Greaves. Not to your own fears. The idea that one of ours is trying to push you away
from me...” His lips quirked, but they lacked the humor necessary to maintain the lift. “Of course I'm going to
be scared. I can see it in your eyes, the decision to stay or leave, hoping that going away will make everything all right
between us.” My eyes bugged a bit. It was scary, how much Heero saw. “I'll tell you now, though, Duo. If you leave,
our group will be destroyed. Permanently.”
I knew he was speaking the truth. The look in his eyes couldn't be questioned. “But why?”
Heero glared at me. “Why? Duo, I finally got you back. After three years. I can't...” The pain in his eyes
was laid bare for a split second. “I can't lose you again.”
It surprised me, these short moments when Heero's feelings for me were plain to see. After years... and then having returned
and still seeing nothing... and now it was right there. The words, the actions, the expressions. “Heero,”
He leaned forward. “Duo, I know you feel like you aren't a part of our team, but you are. And you're an important
part. Don't... please don't let Trowa take you away from us.”
I frowned and turned away from him, glaring at the wall. “He's just scared,” I said again, unwilling to let it
Heero sighed and relaxed a bit in his seat. I think he saw my desire to stay... somehow. “I know. I know that, Duo.
But his fear is hurting you. And that's unforgivable.”
His tone made my eyes flick back to him. It was incredible how eyes that could look so dead could burn so brilliantly. They
glared down at me, not in anger, but in... possessiveness. Possessiveness and protectiveness. Those eyes said he wanted to
defend me. I couldn't help but blush. It was nice, the warmth it made me feel.
Heero stood. “In any case, I think Quatre and Trowa are having a hard time.”
“No shit?” I swallowed back the rest of my retorts, but Heero still cocked a brow at me and grinned. I grinned
back and continued. “Are they going to break up?”
Heero frowned. “I don't know.”
That was very close to being a 'yes.' “You do know,” I murmured, “that if they do break up... it'll
be on my head.”
Heero... snarled. “No, dammit. It won't. It's between them; it's their decision. Not yours. You didn't force them apart.”
I wanted to disagree, but I knew Heero would rip me a new one. So I switched to a different tactic. “Be that as it may,”
and only may, “Trowa would have a different opinion.”
If anything, the snarl grew louder. “He can kiss it.”
The words surprised me so much I started chuckling.
Heero turned to glare at me. “What the hell's so funny?” he groused.
I shook my head. “I just never expected to hear those words from you, Mr. Stoic.”
He relaxed again and smiled. “Stoic, hm?” He came to my bedside and stared down at me. Oddly enough, I didn't
get a vulnerable feeling; rather the warmth returned. Slowly he leaned down, putting the weight of his upper body on the bed.
And then we kissed.
I wished, almost desperately, that I could hold him, pull him down. But Heero took care of it for me, leaning down until out
chests touched, until I felt his warmth all over me. I moaned in appreciation. I think he chuckled.
Finally he pulled away and I smiled at him, feeling a little light-headed and dizzy. “Maybe I should call you stoic
more often,” I muttered. He grinned and pecked me on the lips.
“Rest,” he ordered softly.
“Hummm,” I said mindlessly. It took all of two minutes for me to comply to his order.
I awoke a few hours later to the smell of steak. I began drooling approximately .01 seconds later.
I experimented for a second, trying to see if I could prop myself up on my own. Of course I couldn't; it was foolish to even
try. I couldn't help but cry out, even as I swallowed back the worst of it. It was only a short, gasping cry, and if I'd been
smart I would've held even that back. Heero, with his superhuman abilities, must have heard, because he pounded in as if Cerberus
were chewing on his heels.
“Duo,” he gasped, slamming open the door as if he'd heard gunfire. He zeroed in on my face, on my hands still
clenched in the sheets, elbows raised. His eyes narrowed. I gave him a weak grin, but he stomped over to the side of my bed
and glared down at me.
“Oops,” I whispered. He closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose. I took the chance to rearrange myself.
Even that had me grimacing. Shit, shit, shit.
“Duo, what the hell were you thinking?”
“Can't get better without...” I started, but I had to take a time out.
Those eyes opened, still glaring but more concerned now. “Duo, you can't push yourself. You've taken far too much damage...
if you keep this up, it may become permanent.”
I scowled. “Really, doctor? Thanks for the lecture.”
He didn't even smile. “I'm serious, Duo. Stop trying to force yourself to get better and leave it to us.”
“That's just it!” I snapped. I had no idea why I was yelling at him – probably because he was the one in
the room. “This is my problem. I don't care about your all-for-one bullshit; this is mine.” I closed
my eyes and hissed. “I knew it – I knew it. As soon as I settled down, I knew this would happen.”
I was a fool. Why had I returned and stayed? I would take the burning agony of loss if it meant keeping everyone safe from
my enemies. Hell, if I was going to think like that – why the fuck did I become a bounty hunter? I was such an idiot.
I wasn't even paying attention, so it took me by surprise when Heero's lips pressed against my forehead. He knelt beside me
and gently took my hand. “You always want to take everything on yourself,” he whispered. I turned my head to look
at him and found troubled cobalt orbs staring back at me. “You always want to take the burden. But don't you know how
much it hurts us to see you do it?”
I flinched. It shocked another hiss of pain through my lips.
“Sorry,” he whispered, then louder, “but it's true. You can't understand... from the sidelines, watching
you take on the world...”
I shook my head. Shit. I was getting a headache. Anything else? Might as well throw it all on my shoulders at once and be
done with it. “No. Not me. You.” I seemed to shock him with that, so I continued. “You always took
on everything – like the war was yours and yours alone to win. That day... when you...” I couldn't say it; I couldn't
mention that hellish day when I watched him explode before my very eyes. I shivered.
Heero's eyes seemed to engage a bit; he nodded. “I think I know...”
I nodded jerkily. “That day... I saw you take on...” I couldn't continue in that vein. Why was I so emotional?
So angry, then so upset. I was like a girl on PMS. “I know what it's like,” I whispered finally, “to watch
someone you care about take on a burden too heavy to bear. You think I'm taking on too many burdens? These enemies
are mine, and mine alone. I made them turn against me. You... you took the war and twisted it in your mind...
made it something only you could defeat. I could only watch as it... as it destroyed you.”
Heero was still for a moment, silent. Then he gently touched my hand. He opened his mouth to speak, but nothing departed from
his lips and finally he gave up. He rested his head on my hand, moving his fingers to play up and down my arm. “I'm
sorry,” he breathed, a small gust against the sheets.
I tried to stop. I saw how my words were hurting him, but suddenly I needed him to understand. The pain... the anguish of
wondering. “Every time you were out of my sight I worried. I feared. You were supposed to be invincible, and for a long
time, I thought you were. You were... incredible. Able to do the impossible. But then that day...” I shivered, but this
time I didn't notice the pain. “That happened, and suddenly you were human to me. Too human. And...”
Heero said nothing. He was still as stone beside me. I wondered if he was breathing.
“And I didn't know that I would ever...” I had to stop again to get my breath. It was so hard to think about it,
to remember. So painful. “When I saw you again, saw you face-to-face and knew that you'd survived...” My breath
was ragged now. “I was so... so relieved.” I relived briefly the overwhelming thankfulness I'd felt. “But
you still acted the same... still acted invincible. As if you were immortal.” My voice was becoming accusing.
“I never thought I would live,” he whispered.
I cringed at it. Those words were razor-sharp. “You had to,” I said fiercely. “You had to. I needed
you to live. But you never let me too close... you always had a wall I couldn't break, and I wasn't always there to...”
I stopped again. “I was always so scared, Heero. I always wondered if I would see you on the next mission... or if all
I would see was a news report...”
Heero's fingers stilled on my arm. He was silent for a beat before he whispered, “you were on the news once.”
I remembered that; being beaten to holy hell and then cavorted off by ugly-ass soldiers in their puke-boring uniforms. I hadn't
been able to see the crowd well; it had been difficult to see past the bruises and black eye and swelling. But I remembered,
very clearly, Heero coming to rescue me. “Yeah,” I managed.
“I can't describe the terror,” he continued. “It was so crippling I wondered if it would be safe to go to
you, even to...” His voice dropped to a small breath, “to kill you.”
I nodded. I remembered that, too – Heero coming in, calling me a liability. I had told him to go ahead and kill me,
and he'd raised his hand... I'd thought he'd actually been ready to pull the trigger.
“But I couldn't leave you there. I told myself it was because you were a weakness, a loose thread that needed to be
cut.” I chuckled humorlessly at that, but Heero didn't. “But when I got there and saw you... I just couldn't.”
He looked up to me and scowled. His eyes were red, but there were no tears. “I couldn't fucking pull that trigger. My
hand locked. I... froze.” He looked away from me. His fingers slid away to clench into fists. “For a soldier to
be unable to kill...”
“I'm very glad you didn't,” I told him, smiling slightly. Heero's eyes flickered to me and away again.
“It was terrifying,” he admitted harshly. “To realize that I cared so much for you that I couldn't shoot,
even though you were a huge liability and I hadn't...” He took a breath. “That I'd been so stupid as to walk into
OZ without any plan whatsoever but to get to you... it was the most foolish thing I'd ever done.”
I grinned at him. The patented Maxwell grin, the grin that came straight from hell. “I did worse.”
He looked at me and frowned. “I know. I worried about you constantly. It was frustrating. There were times during a
mission that my mind would falter, that I would wonder if you were faring well.”
I was shocked by this. He'd worried about me? “I...”
Then he scowled and stood bullet-straight. “Dammit, Duo, you got me side-tracked again.”
I just blinked up at him, confused. “What?”
He raked a hand through his hair and glared down at me. “You can't tell me you didn't know what you were doing.”
“What I was doing?” I parroted.
He took a long, hard look at me and sighed. “Was it truly that automatic?”
I shook my head. “Uh, what? Weren't we talking?”
“Yes – about you being stupid and about your problems being mine.”
I thought back to that and scowled, as well. “No, they aren't.”
Heero rolled his eyes and started pacing by the bed. I envied him the ability to do that. “Duo, dammit, yes, they are.
You said you understood, that you'd felt the same fear... dammit, Duo, I can't do this anymore!”
I felt my heart stop. I stared at him in horror as he continued pacing without pause and felt the most indescribable pain
lance through me. I'd hoped. I'd hoped, and I'd let myself fall completely and irrevocably in love with him all over again.
And now... now I was paying for it. Now I felt the pain, so much worse than I'd remembered, hitting me. He couldn't take me
anymore? Because of all of my problems, all of my mistakes...
I felt my chest burning and realized I wasn't breathing. I closed my eyes and concentrated solely on air. It burned worse
when I finally succeeded.
“I can't, I can't, dammit! All of this worrying...”
I let his voice fade, no longer soothing in its cadences. I gasped for air like a fish. It was hard, so hard, to continue
something so mundane and necessary as breathing.
“I'm sorry,” I whispered, the most I could do. I hated the tears in my eyes. They were a weakness. Men didn't
I heard him cut off abruptly, like a fuse blown. I had to stare up at the ceiling to keep the water in my eyes from dribbling
down my face.
Then there were hands touching my cheeks. Warm. Soft. They forced my head to move, to turn to the side. The damn tears escaped.
Heero's face warbled in my vision, but his voice, trembling and afraid, was as piercing as ever. “Duo?”
His hands, I noticed, were trembling against my skin. “I'm sorry,” I whispered again. I gave him another grin,
a shadow of the Jester. “I'm sorry I'm such a burden.”
The trembling increased for a short second. I thought he was trying to assess me, to figure me out again. I took a deep breath
and swallowed back the rest of the tears that were desperate to humiliate me.
But then something must have clicked, because Heero cursed low in his throat and leaned down. His kiss wasn't gentle, like
they usually were, but desperate. It grabbed me up in its maelstrom, almost swallowing me whole. I think I panicked, for just
a split second. And then it gentled, almost as if he'd felt my fear, and his hands were cupping my face to his. They didn't
roam – I was still recovering, after all – but they did touch my cheeks, then moved up to my temples, then gently
slid into my hair, pulled back in a braid. The kiss deepened. He moved his mouth a certain way and... and suddenly he was
just that much closer and I could feel him. I think I moaned.
Heero broke it off and we stayed there, foreheads pressed together, both of us gasping for breath. “No, love,”
he managed. “That's not what I meant.”
I struggled to speak. “I don't know what's wrong with me,” I whispered. “I'm... I'm fucking hormonal or
Heero chuckled. “You have meds, an IV... love, I think you're getting some side effects.” He pulled himself back
up to look down at me.
I snorted. “Impossible. I was trained...” I thought about it. “I was trained to withstand any drug.”
“Any but Zadrithal,” Heero said softly.
I frowned. I'd never heard of that one before. “What's that?”
“That, love,” Heero sighed, “would be one of your pain meds.”
I scowled. “Why didn't I hear about that?” I controlled my anger by sheer force of will.
Heero shook his head. “I'd told you, about five times. I believe your words were, 'I don't give a fuck, just drug me.'”
He quirked a small grin at my narrowed gaze. “So I did.” He brushed a few bangs from my forehead. “Other
than the mood swings-” his fucking lips quirked “-do you feel anything?”
I did a quick inventory. “A headache,” I confirmed. “Shit. This sucks.”
Heero pecked me on the lips. “I'll ask the doctor if I can give you something for that. Duo, I honestly didn't mean
it like that. It's true that I'm... I'm worried.” I gave him a look that told him I knew the editing he'd gone through
on that one. He quirked me a quick grin. “But it's because... I'm afraid that you're going to... to go off on your own
again. I can't...” He stopped and struggled for words. “If you left me here again, I don't know...”
“Don't know if you'd be able to be with me?” I whispered, my voice getting quieter and quieter the further it
“No!” Heero barked, then immediately calmed when I flinched. “No. Dammit, Duo, don't you understand that
I can't lose you again?” He touched my cheek and sighed. His eyes were deep with something I couldn't quite read. “These
problems of yours... if they're trying to pull you away from me, then I have to step forward. Gods, no, it's more than
that. Duo...” He sighed again and penetrated me with his gaze. “Duo, your pain is my pain. Don't you understand?
Seeing you hurt cripples me.” He kissed me on the forehead again, but this time his lips lingered there. I didn't even
breathe. “Seeing you here like this... Duo, I can't tell you how much it hurts me. The fact that I haven't been hurt
and you're here, so...” His voice wobbled. “So damaged... love, it kills me.”
I felt a pain sweep me up, a pain so overwhelming it was sweet. I didn't want him hurting, but the thought that he felt that
way... and his lips, soft against my skin... his fingers, sweeping lightly through my hair, were gentle and warm. I could
feel the heat from his body. I could smell his breath and knew he'd been sampling his food-
“The steak!” I shouted suddenly, shocking Heero into an upright position. I turned to him, deliberately breaking
the mood. “The steak – go save the steak!”
“Duo,” Heero started, but I cut him off.
“We can continue this after you save that steak. I want steak.”
Heero's lips flickered up despite his efforts to keep them down. I could see the relief and humor hit those eyes and make
them shine. “All right.”
“Steak!” I added for good measure.
He laughed outright. “I love you, Duo,” he said warmly as he stood.
I was caught just off-guard enough to not know how to respond. Finally I managed, “forever,” and he left.
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