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Chapter Nine: Tomorrow
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Chapter Nine

Disclaimer – Gundam Wing is not mine. Duh.

His undue happiness at a 'road trip' quickly died. Wufei was furious with Duo for putting himself in danger, Heero had become a little more moody and a lot more distant, and Miss Paisley was quiet and obviously terrified. Duo stayed close by her through the trudging through the forest bit. He had a vague impression that they were going to meet with some sort of higher transportation - maybe it was more hopefulness than expectation - and he waited for Heero to tell him.

He never did.

Duo reassured himself with the knowledge that he didn't say anything because it was against Preventor policy. Heero couldn't tell him anything.

It still hurt.

Miss Paisley seemed to want to hang around him a bit more than the other two, and Duo realized that he was a source of comfort for her. He was glad to stick by her and not face Wufei, who glared at him evilly every time a got the impression Duo was thinking about him. Or even just whenever. And 'Fei and Heero looked busy anyway, planning things, checking things out on their laptops. He figured they were trying to figure out who the guy was, and wasn't surprised when Heero came walking up to him one night, grim-faced and terse. Duo stopped his conversation with Miss Paisley and watched him warily.

"I need to know everything you remember about the man you met three days ago," Heero told him, and Duo sighed.

"Not much," he admitted. "I remember specific things... his eyes, cold as ice and... I don't know how to explain it... sort of Japanese, sort of Chinese... Korean?" Duo asked himself, then shrugged, biting his lip. Should he be saying all this in front of Miss Paisley? "Uhmm, he had messy hair - I'm sure you noticed that, Heero - and one lock was stuck in front of his left eye... I didn't look at what he was wearing, but I thought I saw an insignia - I was a little busy then, though, and didn't catch much more than a shape similar to a diamond-" Miss Paisley took in a sharp breath, and Duo looked at her in something akin to fear.

Heero picked his ass up off the ground and dragged him over to the trees surrounding them, making sure Miss Paisley couldn't hear any more. Duo was supremely thankful - until Heero snapped at him. "What else?"

Duo flinched, then thought about it. "I memorized the dagger, but that's not important..." He thought for another minute, trying to figure out what had scared him so much about the man... steel blue eyes, wild hair, face impassive and cold, voice-

His voice.

"The dagger is important," Heero started, but Duo cut him off.

"His voice," Duo breathed, as if he suddenly understood. "His voice... it was so... detached, like he was doing nothing more than... than peeling potatoes, or chopping celery, or something. Like... " He didn't know how to explain it. It just... chilled him. He thought to tell Heero that it reminded him of how the Japanese boy was at the beginning of their entrance in the war... but that was wrong. Heero had still had emotion, even though the emotions were hard and frozen. They had still been there. That man had seemed like a robot. One of those ones from the shows that repeated, "I am only here to execute my purpose." It made him sick just to think of it.

"We believe the enemy... has lost their collective minds," Heero said carefully, and Duo looked at him sharply. That was a hint into Preventor business, and Duo knew Heero had to tread carefully. "We need to know the... degree of insanity they have reached."

Duo laughed harshly. "I'm not a psychiatrist, but I think they're a step beyond mere... insanity. He had absolutely no emotion. He just told me that I will die and... that was it. Like he just wanted me to be certain of my fate, why I have no idea. But... he just..." Duo blew out an exasperated breath. He had faced things a lot scarier than that freak; why was he so scared? Damn him for speaking. He'd have been better if his would-be assassin had just tried to kill him in silence.

"And the dagger?" Heero prodded, and Duo leaned into the tiny sound of compassion in Heero's voice, even if it was imaginary.

"Serrated on the last two inches, about 5-6 inches long. A design on the hilt, something almost Celtic. Similar to a Bowie knife, but... not quite. A stain on the right side. I could see it in the sun's light. It... wasn't blood. More like..." Duo thought about the tiny stain he hadn't thought about before and suddenly felt sick, seeing the perfect glint of the metal deflected a bit in his mind's eye. "Like..." He swallowed hard. "Like a man's cum," he finished in disgust. "The rest of the knife was spotless, so he could have wiped it off. But it was like he wanted me to see it."

Duo heard a hiss in Heero's breath and shook his head, wiping it clear of the damning thoughts. Before, when he was about to die, he hadn't seen the imperfection. He hadn't thought about it at all. "What does it mean?" he asked dully.

Heero hesitated, but Duo knew he'd tell him. There really wasn't a choice. He may have to face it. "The enemy... saves a man's..." Heero seemed to have problems saying the word, which would have made Duo laugh until he cried if it weren't for the situation. "They keep it as a trophy," Heero finished lamely.

Duo nodded, then stood awkwardly. "I've got to... go to the bathroom," Duo whispered hoarsely, and Heero stepped out of Duo's way as the American hid behind a group of trees and threw up.


Duo's sleep had been shot when he'd finished his business behind those oaks. Instead, he absently stoked the fire and looked around at the forest they'd been traveling in. The moon winked at him; the owls called to him.

The trees towered above them, swinging in the breezes. Duo knew that they weren't going to smother him, but he honestly felt like they were coming closer, getting ready to attack... or maybe sneaking closer so that the man from before could leap out and-

"Duo, what are you doing up?"

Duo jumped guiltily, turning to Heero. The ex-pilot stood before him, hands on hips, glaring at him almost... tenderly, his eyes burning with the light from the fire. "Uh, hi, Hee-chan," Duo said a bit... awkwardly.
Heero's brows knitted together, but with irritation over the name or concern over his puny reply, Duo wasn't sure. Heero's eyes glanced sharply to the right, then turned back to him. Duo realized that he was on watch and shifted guiltily He hadn't been staying up for watch, which should have been an obvious thing to do. Especially after the attack. He should have thought of that. He should have been helping.

"Oh, Heero, I'm sorry." He stood, tossing his messy braid behind his back. "I should have thought about standing watch. I'll take this shift; You can-"

"No," Heero snapped immediately, bringing Duo's apologetic words to an abrupt halt. "You're injured, and you're not an agent. You go back to sleep. We're getting up early again tomorrow."

"But-" Duo argued.

"NO!" Heero barked, and Duo flinched, his jaw snapping shut once again. "No," he repeated, gentler now. "Be happy I let you stay. If you got hurt again..." He brushed the caring voice aside. "It will be my head Une chops off."

"Wouldn't want you to lose your head over this," Duo joked, but it was lame and didn't fully hide his... disappointment in Heero's words. Disappointment wasn't the word for it, but there was no way in hell he was going to put a name to the pain that lanced in his chest. "You could always just say I'm an idiot."

Heero snorted out of either humor or disgust and turned away. "Go back to sleep," he ordered. Duo snorted and deliberately turned back to the fire.

"Kiss my ass," he mumbled under his breath, but jolted when he heard a reply.

"Too dirty for me."

Duo gaped for a minute. Heero had turned a joke on him! Heero... the Perfect Soldier... the guy that never talked, let alone joked... Heero...

Duo groaned and poked the fire, trying to ignore the warm, happy, painful feelings rolling around in his gut. He'd spent time with Heero before, at the restaurant, and at Taco Bell... whatever kind of reunion that had been... and he hadn't really had it hit him...

Someone must have gotten him back on his feet, shown him the way. That was why he was so much kinder... he hadn't thought about it, but... it was true... Heero must have someone. Someone to pull him from his horrible memories, someone to help him see the beauty in everything, someone to...

Someone to love him.

Duo felt sick. He hadn't been there for Heero, even though he'd loved the man practically at first sight. He had run off, hurt, and never looked back... well, not far enough to see anything. He'd left Heero to fend for himself, and even though Heero had coped quite well, it still meant that he'd left the man alone...

Duo went to his blanket next to Miss Paisley - he'd found out that her name is Diana - and stared up to the sky. He saw shapeless forms, shapeless images wafting through the stars. Heero's stoic face, and his fuck-off attitude. And now, the face he had... still hard, and yet... infinitely softer. Infinitely. Heero... I fucked up so bad with you... so bad...

His eyes drifted close, and he found himself plagued with images of what might have been.


He awoke earlier than dawn, and again stared at the sky. He had a feeling that they were close to their destination. Where would they be going? Probably better if he didn't know.

He turned his head to Heero's blanket, but he wasn't there. A shiver of panic laced through him, and he was sitting up before he saw the Japanese man talking with Wufei. Chang nodded tersely, and then Heero was coming toward them.
Duo recognized his purpose and turned to Miss Paisley. "Diana," he called, barely touching her. She awoke immediately once he touched her. It made him wonder what she'd seen, but he bit the words back and nodded towards Heero, who was watching them. He seemed satisfied by their consciousness and turned on his heel, walking back towards Wufei.

"Why is he so cold?" Miss Paisley wondered, already standing to roll up her blanket. Duo struggled with his own, thinking how best to answer her rhetorical question.

"He's not cold," he answered, and the way she jumped told him that she hadn't at all expected an answer. "He's just... assessing battle plans. He's always distant when he's on a mission." he hadn't seen the man any other way, but he had a feeling those days were long gone. "It's just his nature. He can't let personal things get in the way of an operation, it's just not good protocol." He managed to get the damn blanket folded once and growled in annoyance at his injury.

Diana noticed his discomfort and folded his blanket as well, looking at Duo through her tousled hair. "You sound as if you really know him, and yet, you sound so sad."

Duo flinched. "Yeah, well... it's been a while since we've... worked together, and... I missed it." He looked up then, and saw Heero looking right at him. He blushed furiously and ducked his head again. Had Heero read his lips? Damn, wouldn't that just be humiliating.

Miss Paisley smiled knowingly, but thankfully refrained from comment. Duo took the blankets from her and managed to stuff them, one-handed, into the pack they carried. There was food in it, but Heero and Wufei hadn't taken any out, and Duo wasn't about to make the first move with provisions. They'd eaten last night, and that was enough for Duo. He'd gone longer before, after all.

He was about to return when Duo heard the unmistakable sound of helicopter blades. He looked up, looking for the source, calculating the distance... but it sounded like it was coming down, ready to-

He ran to Diana, who was watching in trepidation, and carefully his her behind his body, watching the sky as the helicopter came through the trees, and Duo looked at it, squinting, trying to find that diamond shape-

There was an emblem on the side, but it didn't seem to have a diamond-

No! He looked at Heero's jacket, then Wufei's, then back to the plane, and let out a gusty sigh of relief. Muscles he didn't know he'd tensed relaxed, and he carefully stepped out of Miss Paisley's line of sight. Heero was cautiously checking the area still, in case the mystery man leaped out from behind a bush, trying to finish Diana off before they escaped, but there was no odd rustling besides the bending of the shrubs and trees trying to escape the copter's blades.

Wufei's eyes were locked on the helicopter, making sure it didn't do anything funny, that it really was Preventer issued and Preventer piloted, and Duo was left to hold Diana's hand and try to calm her a bit, as she watched the man in the helicopter land before her. She hid behind Duo, which made him almost want to laugh but for the real fear in her eyes.

And then they were being rushed onto the copter and lifted into the air, and Duo was cramped between Diana and Heero, and they were off to their new destination.

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Every story unless otherwise claimed is Kayura's, and is copyrighted 2006 under her name.