6-2-2001

Warnings: Angst, Violence
Category: Yaoi, shonen ai
Pairings: 1x2, vague 3x4
Author: Arigatomina
Email: arigatoumina@hotmail.com

 

Blood Fetish

 

Quatre hung limp against the wall, the chains on his wrists the only thing keeping him suspened off the floor. Blood was drying on the side of his face from where the guards had hit him and he'd yet to regain consciousness. Trowa watched the boy with a mixture of concern and fury from where he was chained next to him. On the other side of the pale boy Wufei was also monitoring Quatre's breathing anxiously. Only Heero was calm, but that was just a facade. Inside he was in turmoil. It was impossible to believe that they'd all been captured, but it was the fact that Duo was not there that had him on edge. The long-haired boy hadn't been mentioned by the soldiers who'd chained them, and Heero still didn't know if he'd been captured or not.

As much as he liked the gentle Arabian, he wasn't as worried about him as he was about the missing pilot. He knew Quatre was breathing. He couldn't even say that much about Duo. Glaring, he looked up at the cuffs that held his wrist chained above him. They weren't locked by a key, even if he'd had lock-picks, but were instead controlled by a switch on the other side of the room, far out of reach. The room itself had Heero worried as well, as he could smell blood in it, see the dried splashes on the cement floor that either hadn't been washed, or hadn't come clean. This was no ordinary torture room.

Glancing upward, his eyes locked onto the pole that hung down from the ceiling in the center of the room, a hook on the end of it. If they hadn't caught the American pilot, they had a chance of getting out, although Heero couldn't imagine what the boy would be able to do against a defense that had managed to catch the four of them. Alone, they had no hope of escaping. When the door to the cell/room was opened, Heero blanked his statement as his calculating eyes moved over the tall man who entered. Taking in the coiled whip attached to the man's belt, Heero gave an inward groan. //That explains the blood.// Reminding himself that they weren't likely to be killed, he waited to see what the man would do.

Like a shark, the man moved immediately to Quatre, one hand wiping at the drying liquid on the boy's face. Stiffening despite his helplessness, Trowa watched the man lift his hand to his mouth, tasting the blood on his fingers before turning his head to look at the green-eyed pilot. Seeing the boy's fury, he smiled and moved closer to Quatre, leaning down to run his tongue over the boy's cheek.

Watching Trowa, Heero marveled at his restraint. An eye still on the tall boy, the man gripped Quatre's chin, lifting his head so he could look at the boy. In an unexpected move, he slapped him, giving a disappointed sigh when he didn't react. Letting Quatre's head fall to his chest, the man moved back so he could see the three conscious pilots. Reaching up, he fingered the hook lightly as he looked from one boy to the other. "I prefer someone who'll give me a good show. Any volunteers?"

Before he could continue, there was a low buzzing sound and he whirled with an irritated growl and stalked to the door opening it with obvious anger. Heero was the first to see who was on the other side and his heart sank as he saw Duo flanked by two soldiers. Wide eyes moving over the other pilots, Duo winced as he met Heero's furious gaze. 'I'm sorry,' he mouthed quickly, then the man in front of him gripped his shoulder and he drew in his breath painfully. Eyes shining at the blood from the boy's bullet wound, the man dismissed the guards and caught the cuffs holding Duo's wrists together. Pulling him into the room, he smiled at the pilots before gripping the boy's arms and lifting him so the hook caught the cuffs, holding the boy so his feet barely touched the ground.

Turning, he went to shut the door. Looking up at the hook, Duo's eyes widened before he glanced at the cobalt-eyed pilot again. 'Gomen, Heero. Gomen.' Flinching at the boy's anger, he dropped his eyes as he waited. He'd had no choice, it wasn't his fault he'd been caught, but he wasn't going to try explaining that to Heero. Crossing the room to stand in front of the boy, the man hit him across the face, gripping his braid and pulling his head back so Duo met his brown eyes, the man standing a good foot taller than him.

Enjoying the fight he could see in the boy, the man released his grip. "Don't move your head," he warned, pulling a small razor blade out of a pocket on his belt. Pulling the high collar of Duo's shirt away from his neck, he cut through the cloth, moving over his wounded shoulder and up to his wrist. He then cut the other side, not reacting when Duo drew in his breath sharply, his shirt falling to the floor to reveal places along his arm where the blade had cut skin. Seeing the blood, the man licked his lips, again using the boy's hair to make him meet his gaze. "There's something about it. Blood is the life of man." Pushing the boy's head to the side abruptly, he licked the line of blood, not seeing the incredulous statement on Duo's face as he stared at him out of the corner of his eye.

Pulling back, he moved around the boy so he stood behind him. Catching sight of six long scars, the man let out a bark of laughter. "This'll make it harder for you," he said, smiling as his hands moved lightly over the scars, tracing one with a fingertip. "Scarred skin doesn't bleed as easily." Seeing Heero's eyes narrow, the man smirked again, moving to where Duo could see him. "They didn't know? Well, don't worry, there'll be no secrets here."

Looking at the chained boys, his eyes latched on to Quatre who moved his head slowly, blinking groggily. Smirking as the boy caught sight of Duo, the man nodded sharply. "I was hoping you'd join us. As soon as I...break...this one, it'll be your turn." Turning to Duo, the man waved his hand, gesturing to the blonde boy. "Say something to him."

Eyes meeting Quatre's, Duo looked to Trowa and managed a small tight smile. "Ninmu ryoukai."

Glaring, the man shoved the boy in front of him, pulling him up again when he fell back. "In English."

Steeling himself, Duo met the man's gaze, his own violet eyes shooting sparks. "No."

Eyes widening, the man drew his fist back, letting it fly, hitting Duo in the face and making blood trickle down his chin. Gripping his long braid, he pulled his head up, tongue flicking out to lap up the thin trail of red. Opening the boy's clenched teeth, he moved closer, not kissing him so much as tasting the blood in his mouth. Duo's eyes widened in shock as he stared at the narrowed brown eyes so close to his, then he winced as the man bit down viciously on his bottom lip, cutting it with his teeth.

Moving back a bit, he smiled at the blood that ran down the boy's neck. "Won't be getting any more smart remarks out of that mouth, eh? Now," taking the whip, he unfurled it with relish, gripping the long tail and bringing it up to the boy's face, running it lightly over the bloody lip and causing Duo to wince again. "That's salt. Its an old tradition, salting the leather. It takes time, but it's well worth it." Pulling Duo's long braid over his shoulder so it hung down his chest, the man moved behind him, cracking the whip in the air and laughing when Duo flinched.

Bringing the whip down lightly on the boy's back, he chuckled as Duo's head lowered and his shoulders hunched. Bringing it down again so the tip cut into the back of his neck, he laughed. "You'll have to keep your head up if you want me to stay only on your back, boy. Much better," he said lightly when Duo slowly raised his head, eyes closed tightly so he wouldn't see the other pilots. Swinging the whip with years of expertise, the man made a small satisfied sound at the thin line of blood before striking the boy again.

From where he stood, Heero couldn't tell how badly the man was cutting Duo. The Death Scythe pilot had yet to scream, but his face was white and his skin was growing paler with each blow. Staring at the boy's pain-wrought face and tightly closed eyes, Heero was grateful to his own numbness. The helplessness and fury had given way to a cold, dead feeling inside him and he took solace in it although each muffled cry that escaped Duo's lips threatened to crack that barrier. When the man paused, Heero watched the closed eyes fervently. He didn't know what he was hoping to see there, all he knew was that he wanted to see Duo's eyes and he couldn't.

Examining his work, the man moved his hands over the boy's back, making a tisking sound when Duo flinched forward and away from his touch. Sliding an arm around the boy's waist, he held him still as his other hand pressed roughly on the criss-crossed slashes, sighing when the quiet boy let out a choked cry. Screams were to be expected, but he didn't need them to know he was doing well. The blood was evidence enough. Coating both hands, he moved to stand in front of his victim, the other pilots forgotten for the moment. "Open your eyes," he ordered briskly, smiling when he saw the violet depths still had fight in them. Holding his blood-covered hands up in front of the boy, he smirked. "This is you."

Staring at the obviously insane man, Duo couldn't keep his eyes open as those bloody hands approached his face, grimacing when he felt the thick wetness being smeared on his cheeks. //Why the hell would he do that?! Jesus...that's a lot of blood...// Not opening his eyes, Duo grimaced again at the feel of it on his face, longing to wipe it off on his arms but not daring to. Then the man hit him again with the whip, the leather stinging his cuts and making him want to scream. Choking back the cry that tried to get past his lips, his entire being focused on the three things that were most important. //Postpone the others' torture as long as possible, keep my head up...and breathe. Why do I keep forgetting to breathe...?//

As the torture resumed, Heero noticed something that shattered his numbness. A small pool of blood was collecting at Duo's feet. Biting back a cry of his own, his eyes flew to Duo's blood-smeared face, the soldier in him noting exactly how pale the boy's skin was. The only thing that kept him from screaming at the man was the fear that he'd make things worse. //They don't want us dead. Why doesn't he stop?! Can't he see that he won't break him?!// Looking at Duo, his breath caught in his throat as the boy's face slowly relaxed, his head sagging forward as his legs gave out beneath him and he hung limp from the hook holding his cuffs. //Stubborn fool...why did he fight so long...?//

Hitting the boy's neck when his head fell, the man waited for him to jerk it back up, frowning when he didn't move. Walking around the boy, he pushed his chin up, slapping him roughly in hopes of waking him. "I know you're awake." Pushing Duo's head to the side, he bit roughly into the junction of neck and shoulder, the boy's flinch proving he was right. "Open your eyes or I'll go to one of your friends. Is that what you want?" When the boy didn't move, he buried his fist in his stomach, grunting in disgust as he turned to the others. Eyes narrowing, he caught the not quite hidden relief in their gazes and shook his head. "On second thought, maybe just a bit more before I let you down."

Turning back to the limp boy, he moved behind him, bringing the whip down in the hardest hit yet. Lurching forward, Duo took an audibly ragged breath, his eyes opening to the smallest of slits as he struggled to stand. Then the man hit him with another forceful blow and he sagged, his eyes meeting Wufei's for a brief second before he went limp again.

"Yamero! Stop!"

The man froze in utter surprise as he met Heero's desperate gaze. "No," he said lightly, laughing at the boy's outrageous order. Bringing the whip back, he swung it again.

"Enough!"

Pausing, he looked at Quatre in disbelief.

"You're killing him!" the blonde boy screamed, tears streaming down his cheeks. "Look at him! He's bleeding to death."

"And you may not have noticed," Trowa put in, voice cold, eyes shining with unconcealed hate. "But he's stopped breathing."

"Duo?! No! Duo!!"

Eyes wide, the man stared at the dark-haired boy who was tearing at his wrists as if he would pull them off. Then his wary eyes moved to the still boy before him as he stepped around him, his hand moving to his neck. Swallowing sharply, he stiffened in obvious fear, not glancing at the pilots as he turned, dropping the whip and bolting for the door, jerking it open and leaving the room at a run.

"Duo..." Staring at the limp form in the center of the room, Heero seemed to cave in on himself. Letting out a strangled moan, he lowered his head as tears filled his eyes.

"He's gone."

Trowa and Quatre turned at the same time to gape at Wufei's calm statement. Ignoring them, he stared at Duo.

"Wake up, he's gone."

Convinced he'd lost it, the two boy's looked at each other. It wasn't until they heard the Chinese boy give a sigh of relief that they glanced back at him, eyes widening as they followed his gaze to see Duo slowly getting to his feet. Head snapping up at Quatre's glad cry, Heero stared in disbelief as the American stood on his tip-toes, trying to get enough height to get off the hook. Not being tall enough, he crouched as much as he could and jumped up, falling heavily to the ground as he cleared the hook. Still unable to believe he was alive, it took Heero a moment before he realized Duo wasn't moving.

"Duo!"

Moving weakly, the long-haired boy slowly made it to his knees, his glazed eyes moving toward the open door of the cell and the switch on the wall. Heero's eyes widened at the thick blood that coated the boy's back as if painted on, then Duo finally got to his feet, stumbling across the room and hitting the switch with the palm of his hand before crumpling bonelessly to the floor.

* * *

It took a lot of effort to open his eyes, he couldn't remember ever having been so weak. The pain in his back brought the past to him, but the soft pillow beneath him told that he was safe. Sniffing at the air, he forced his eyes open, his vision glazing for a minute before a white wall swam into focus a foot from his face. He was lying on his stomach facing the wall. With a disgruntled sound, he pushed himself up enough to turn his head, eyes closed as he lay against the pillow facing the other way. Then he opened his eyes to scan the room he was in, fighting his urge to just go back to sleep. Heero was watching him.

Blinking rapidly for a minute, Duo took in the chair that sat between his and another bed, most likely Heero's. The Japanese pilot was sitting in the chair, arms folded over his chest as he watched Duo. Scrunching up his face, Duo made a sour statement then sighed as he met the boy's intense gaze.

"Hey," he said, surprised at how faint his voice sounded, "Hey, Heero."

Unfolding his arms, Heero leaned forward, elbows resting on his knees as he looked over the boy's face. He was still much too pale, evidence of his blood-loss. "How are you feeling?"

Brows drawing together as he frowned at the concern he thought he heard in the boy's voice, Duo blinked. "Well, I'm pretty weak."

"Hn."

A minute passed as they looked at each other, then Duo's frown increased. "Aren't you going to yell at me?" //Now why did you ask that?// Duo berated himself as he looked at Heero. //Do you really want to listen to him rant at you?//

"No." Eyes narrowing, Heero moved closer, checking the other boy's violet eyes for signs of deliria. Not finding any, he scowled. "Why would I yell at you?"

//See, you should have kept your mouth shut.// Ignoring the voice, Duo licked his lips, wincing at the healing cut on his bottom lip. "For getting caught. I could tell you were furious with me when they brought me in," Duo said, sighing as he realized the voice was right. He really didn't feel up to being yelled at.

"Not with you," Heero said roughly, eyes narrowing in anger before he sat back, statement clearing. "We were caught too. And you were the one with the solo part of the mission. It would have been against the odds for them to have caught all of us and not you."

"Oh." Smiling faintly, Duo looked around the room, spotting Heero's laptop on the desk by the door. "How is everyone? Quatre okay?"

"Fine. Quatre had a slight concussion, but he's fine now. You've been out for three days."

"That long?" Duo asked in surprise, especially since he felt so weak. It was hard to keep his eyes open. "Hmm," Duo sniffed and closed his heavy eyes. Realizing he was about to doze off, he forced his eyes open, giving Heero an abashed smile when he saw the other boy was still watching him. "Not to be rude or anything," Duo said softly as his eyes tried to drift closed again, "but I'm pretty tired."

"Sleep," Heero said, his voice sounding soft as Duo's eyes fell closed. "It'll be a while before you get your strength back." Seeing Duo's slight nod, he leaned forward, giving in to his urge as he stroked the back of his hand over Duo's cheek. Violet eyes opened a bit as the boy gave him a sleepy smile, then they closed again as sleep moved over him.

* * *

"What the hell do you think you're doing?"

Glancing behind him, Duo flushed guiltily. He'd stayed in bed for days, letting the others take care of him, but as much as he enjoyed the attention, he was dying of boredom. He'd waited for hours for Heero to leave the room, the dark-haired boy being something of a constant fixture since his laptop was there. He could no more than lift his head without him coming to his side and demanding to know what he needed. Despite the pleasure of having the normally stoic pilot showing concern for him, he hated not being allowed to do anything for himself. So the moment Heero'd finally left the room, Duo had made his escape.

Leaning against the hallway wall where he'd paused to catch his breath, Duo cursed his body for not recovering faster. Looking at the furious boy standing with his arms folded over his chest and death in his eyes, he wished he'd just spared himself the trouble and stayed in bed. As it was, he let out an aggrieved sigh and slowly turned to face the boy.

"Hi, Heero. I thought you went to town." Acting as if there was no reason for him not to be in the hall, Duo smiled at the cobalt-eyed boy, his eyes wide with innocence.

"And leave you here alone?" Heero asked scathingly as he took in the boy's grip on the wall. "Why aren't you in bed?"

"Um...I was hungry. I was just going to get a little snack, really. Then I was going to go back to bed." Smiling at the scowling boy, Duo wondered how much trouble he'd get in if he tried to keep going down the hall.

"You can barely walk," Heero muttered, gesturing to Duo who was still leaning against the wall. "If you were hungry you should have said something before I left."

"There's nothing wrong with my legs," Duo said quickly, pushing away from the wall and standing relatively steady. "I'm really much better now. Besides, it's not good for a person to be in bed all the time, it rots the brain." Seeing Heero's snort, Duo reached out a hand to the wall, belying his recovery. "I'm sick of being stuck in that room. Come on, Heero, I was just going for a snack."

"How were you planning to make it down the stairs?" Heero demanded, glaring as Duo's eyes widened.

"Stairs?" Looking at the Heero, Duo grimaced as he thought about trying to manage stairs. "Well, how was I supposed to know there were stairs? I haven't been out of my bed yet, not to mention the room." Shaking his head, he fought the urge to sit down. "I think you're being excessive about this bed-rest thing."

Taking in the boy's pout and the way he was leaning more heavily against the wall, Heero let out a long-suffering sigh. It was too hard to deny such a simple request, especially since he missed seeing Duo's eyes shine when he was happy. "How is your back?"

Wondering if he was making progress, Duo's statement turned hopeful. "It's much better," he said quickly, "I slept on my back earlier."

"If I let you have lunch downstairs do you promise to rest until tomorrow?"

Eyes lighting up, Duo nodded rapidly. "You have my word."

Moving to the boy, Heero bent and picked him up, arm light behind his back as Duo moved his right arm around his neck. Fighting the grin that tried to come to his lips at being held by Heero, Duo looked at him closely. "Sure I'm not too heavy?"

Snorting, Heero carried him down the hall, taking the surprisingly steep steps easily. He was still angry at the thought of Duo trying to get down them on his own, but being having the boy in his arms was consolation. "You aren't heavy," he said shortly, crossing the living room and moving into the kitchen. Pulling back a chair, he found himself wishing it was a longer walk as he set the long-haired pilot in the chair. "What do you want to eat?"

Smiling as he leaned his elbows on the table, Duo pondered the question before shrugging his shoulders. "Are the others coming back? We could wait for them..."

Heero's eyes narrowed abruptly. "You're just trying to stay up longer. But I guess it's alright. They should be back soon."

"Until then," Duo said happily as he smiled up at Heero, "got any coffee? I really miss caffeine."

"You needed liquids. You still do." Frowning at Duo's downcast statement, Heero wondered if he'd ever be able to return to his previous way of handling the boy. It was nearly impossible for him to say no, and that was driving him crazy. He wasn't used to anyone, even Duo, having such control over him, but he couldn't help it. He didn't like to make him unhappy. "I guess a cup won't hurt, but you have to drink juice with lunch."

"I hate juice," Duo muttered, then he grinned as Heero's eyes narrowed. "But a compromise is a compromise," he said quickly. "It's a deal."

* * *

Dropping his hold on Trowa's hand, Quatre rushed past the tall boy and into the kitchen, coming to a stop beside the table as he leaned down. Palms flat against the table-top, the blonde glared at Duo, eyes taking in how weak he looked. "What are you doing up?" he asked, frowning when Duo slowly opened his eyes to give him a small smile.

Not moving his head from where he held it inches above the rim of his coffee cup, Duo directed the anxious boy's eyes toward the counter, smirking when Quatre's anger evaporated at the sight of Heero. Eyes closing for a moment as he inhaled the rich scent of the coffe again, Duo's smile returned and he looked over to Trowa. The tall boy was still standing in the doorway, a slight smile curving his lips as he watched the concerned blonde with infinite tolerance.

"Heero," Quatre said, surprise evident in his tone as he calmed down. There hadn't been any question of who would supervise Duo's recovery as the Japanese pilot had immediately taken charge. Sighing as he took in Duo's smug expression, Quatre slowly sat at the table across from him. If Heero had let him come downstairs, then there wasn't anything he could do about it. "So you're feeling better?"

Meeting Quatre's gaze, Duo nodded sharply as he gave a cocky grin and sat up abruptly. "Of course. A little pain can't keep me down. In fact, I would have been up sooner if you guys hadn't insisted on playing mother-hen." Glancing up when Trowa moved forward to sit beside the blue-eyed blonde, Duo caught the boy's raised eyebrow, not liking his smirk. Frowning at Trowa's doubful expression, he turned to look at Heero who was leaning against the counter. The boy had been standing there since he'd given him the coffee more than fifteen minutes ago. "Going to join us, Heero?"

Blinking, for a split second the cobalt-eyed boy looked caught off guard, then he looked at the other two pilots. Realizing how obvious he was being, he nodded sharply and sat at the table. "Where's Wufei?"

"There was something he had to do," Trowa said cryptically, meeting Heero's gaze for a moment before glancing at Duo. Taking in the American's curiousity-widened eyes, Trowa gave a slight nod. "He should be here soon."

"In that case, we can wait for him, right?" Grinning when Heero gave a reluctant nod, Duo leaned back in his chair. "So, what's our status, mission wise? I know you guys haven't had much time what with having to take care of me and all, but I'm better now."

"No you're not," Quatre said, frowning in disapproval of the boy's bluff. Giving a wary look in Heero's direction, he decided to plow ahead. "You shouldn't even be out of bed yet. Do you have any idea how much blood you lost?" Seeing Heero's glare, Quatre paled a bit, but didn't stop. He refused to be intimidated when it came to the welfare of a friend. "As for our taking time off to help you recover, well, it's the least we could do. Don't worry about the missions, Duo."

"Don't worry? Quatre, our missions are more important than any one of us, right Heero? And what do you mean, 'the least you can do'? Do you think you owe me?" Fighting the hurt that tried to come at the thought of their kindness having stemmed from such a thing, Duo put on a sarcastic demeanor. "It's not like it was your fault. Jeeze, you don't owe me anything."

"That's not what I meant, Duo." Shaking his head at the boy, Quatre glanced to the side as Heero moved slightly. Seeing the subtle movement of the boy's hands, Quatre turned back to Duo, looking down at the cup he was holding for a moment before meeting his eyes. //I should have known Heero wouldn't let him stay up this long. I just hope that's decafienated. You shouldn't mix drugs with caffeine.// Feeling better about the misunderstanding, Quatre gave the violet-eyed pilot a slight smile. "We're friends, and friends take care of each other. You'd do the same for me, wouldn't you?"

Blinking as he found himself smiling, Duo nodded sharply. "Yeah. Sorry for jumping on you like that. Guess I'm just glad to be down here and I was afraid you'd send me back to bed. You know I hate being restrained like that." Grinning at Quatre's knowing smile, Duo shook his head. "I've been so restless lately I'm probably looking for a conflict."

"Well, if you continue to rest rather than fighting our help, you'll be back to your old self in no time," Trowa said, voice soft as he met Duo's surprised gaze. "Our missions are on hiatus for the moment, and if you're worried about that, the best thing you could do would be to rest as much as possible so you heal faster. Fighting is just going to make harder, which means you'll be stuck in bed longer."

"I guess so," Duo muttered, glancing at Heero before scowling at the table. Sighing, he closed his eyes for a moment, fighting the drowsiness that had been plaguing him since the boy's had come in. Doing his best to hide a yawn, he looked up sharply when Heero suddenly stood, moving around the table till he stood at his side. "What?"

Studying the boy's eyes for a minute, Heero gave a smirk. "Stand up."

Not sure what to make of the order, Duo turned to look at Quatre and Trowa, taking in the way they were exchanging glances. Eyes moving back to Heero, he frowned. "Why?"

"To see if you can," Heero said softly, eyes glinting as his voice took on a taunting edge. It worked, as Duo glared and slowly pushed his chair back as he got to his feet, leaning heavily against the table. Moving rapidly, Heero caught him about the shoulders as he started to sag.

"Hey, what's wrong with me?" Blinking as he leaned against Heero, his eyes widened and he glanced at the boy's cobalt eyes before letting out a soft curse. "Tell me you didn't drug me, Heero."

"No."

"Damnit, that's not fair!" Duo cried, frowning in hurt at Heero's calm expression. "I thought we had a deal."

"You're the one who doesn't lie, but I kept my part. You got your coffee, you got to wait until the others got back, except for Wufei, but that could be a while. And now, you're going back to your room. You need to rest."

Staring at Heero in disbelief as he forced his eyes to stay open, Duo growled. "Of all the low-down, underhanded--"

"I know." Not hiding his smirk, Heero moved to lift the boy, nodding to the pair at the table as Duo didn't even have the strength to struggle. Turning, he left the room and made his way upstairs. "Duo, I haven't disregarded my missions. And right now seeing to it that you recover as quickly as possible is my mission."

"Oh man," Duo groaned, leaning his head against Heero's chest as his eyes fell closed. "This is so unfair..."

* * *

"Did you find anything?"

Black eyes smoldering, Wufei shook his head as he turned slightly, pulling the door shut behind him. Sitting at the table, his eyes moved over the three pilots before glaring at the table. "If I had a name...anything at all to go by, I'd have had better luck. We don't even know his rank." Meeting Heero's murderous statement, Wufei shook his head, glancing up in gratitude when Trowa placed a mug in front of him. "How's Duo?"

"You just missed him," Trowa said with a touch of humor evident in his otherwise monotone voice as he sat down again.

"You let him get up?" Wufei asked in surprise, looking at Heero in disapproval. "That's not wise. His immune system is going to be low right now. He shouldn't be out of bed."

"Not for long," Quatre put in, smiling at the stoic Japanese boy. "Heero drugged him and made him go back to bed. Duo's going to be very angry when he wakes up."

Shrugging, Heero frowned at Wufei. "He's not going to let us keep pushing him around. It's a matter of days before he'll be on his feet again whether we like it or not."

"He'll be okay," Trowa said slowly, more to calm Quatre's worry than Heero's anger. "He's determined, it's not likely he'll get sick."

"Duo's stubborn, but he's not a fool. I still say if we just tell him how sick he was he'll listen to reason," Quatre said, not flinching at Heero's glare. "I know you don't want to remind him of it, but he doesn't understand why we're treating him like this. Without a reason, he's going to keep fighting us and that's just going to make things worse."

* * *

Groaning, Duo rubbed his eyes hard before sitting up to glare around the room, pausing in surprise when he saw it was empty. Still scowling, he suddenly smirked. //He must not have used drugs on me before, otherwise he'd know they don't last long.// Yawning widely, he pushed his feet over the edge of the bed as he moved as silently as possible to the partially opened door. Not seeing anyone in the hall, he folded his arms over his chest and glared at the floor. //I can't believe he'd stoop so low.// Looking at his bed, he made an statement of distaste before his eyes fell on the laptop on the desk.

//And why not? I'll bet the doctors are blaming me for this little 'hiatus'.// Pulling back the chair carefully so it didn't scrape the floor, he sat down and logged on quickly. Typing in his private code, he scanned the first message, groaning when he saw how many missions he'd failed to complete while he'd been stuck in bed. //Sure, I'm still pretty weak, but damnit, it's been over a week now.// Looking at the latest message, he winced at the doctor's sarcasm as he read quickly. //What does he mean 'if I ever recover'? Shit, what have they been telling him? It's not like I've been laying around by choice.//

Sending a quick glare toward the door, he started to type a reply telling exactly who was to blame for his absence. Reading what he'd written, however, he sighed as he realized how petty it sounded. //No, I'll just say I'm better. It's not like I don't appreciate their concern, it's just misplaced. They don't realize I can take care of myself.//

* * *

Stopping dead as he saw the empty bed from where he stood in the hall, Heero's eyes narrowed to slits as he shoved the door open harshly. Then he spotted Duo. Eyes wide in surprise, Duo started to get up when he suddenly glared and pushed the send button and logged out seconds before Heero reached him. Furious, Heero glared at the laptop before turning his eyes to take in Duo's defiant statement. "What did you do?" he ground out, fists clenching at his sides.

"It's my business," Duo said slowly, determined not to show the least bit of fear at Heero's blazing eyes. Pushing away from the desk, he got out of the chair on the side opposite of the other pilot as he folded his arms over his chest and waited, eyes blazing just as bright as Heero's. "If you didn't treat me like a child I wouldn't have to sneak."

"You're acting like one," Heero said, unable to stop himself. "Now tell me what you did."

"Not going to happen," Duo said quickly, shaking his head before turning his back on the irate boy.

Forcing himself to calm as he stared at the stubborn curve of the boy's back, Heero slowly unclenched his fists. The couple of hours worth of sleep he'd gotten had obviously helped, as Duo seemed to have much more energy than earlier. //But how long will that last?// Stepping to stand beside him, Heero waited silently until Duo glanced over at him. "You're right. It's your business and I had no right to ask." Waiting, statement carefully clear, he gave a mental smirk at Duo's stunned statement.

//Wow. That's like an apology...almost.// Watching with wide eyes, he saw Heero's cobalt gaze fall to the floor and suddenly felt very guilty. //He's just trying to help...why am I getting so angry?// Staring at Heero's blank statement, he sighed. "Look, Heero. I just want you to stop acting like I'm an invalid. You have no idea how crazy it's making me." Nodding when Heero looked up, he suddenly gripped the other boy's shoulders, moving a bit closer to him as his eyes narrowed. "And don't you ever drug me again!"

Fighting the urge to smirk at the order he had no intention of following, Heero found himself staring at Duo. His violet eyes were practically shooting sparks at him and he couldn't help appreciating how good Duo looked when he was angry. Shoving the thought to the back of his mind where he knew it would stay to bug him later, he nodded slightly. Duo smiled at the agreement, but he didn't know what Heero was agreeing with. "Are you hungry?"

Blinking at the abrupt change of subject, Duo grinned. "Yes! But I'm going to eat at the table."

"I take it you want to walk," Heero said slowly, hiding his disappointment perfectly but allowing his disapproval to show.

Thinking of the stairs, Duo admitted he felt much better than he had earlier, then he glanced at Heero. //Then again, why take the chance when I can be carried. That kind of pampering I don't mind in the least.// Wondering how to say it without Heero thinking he was too weak to be downstairs, he frowned. "I'm not sure about those stairs. Falling would really suck."

Keeping his face blank, Heero nodded. "It's an unnecessary risk," he said quickly as he lifted the other boy.

"You know, Heero, you're pretty strong. I mean, we're about the same size." Fighting to keep his statement neutral when Heero paused and looked at him, Duo blinked.

"Like I said, you're not heavy. You've probably lost weight." Wondering at the small smile that crossed Duo's lips, he moved into the hall. It wasn't exactly true, Duo wasn't that light, but he didn't mind the weight, not a bit. Not bothered by the surprised looks the other boy's gave him when he entered the kitchen, he placed Duo in his chair and sat down beside him, nodding to Quatre who's turn it was to cook. "He's hungry."

Confused since they'd just agreed Duo needed to stay in bed, Quatre didn't move for a minute, then the boy in question cleared his throat. Meeting his gaze, Quatre smiled quickly and moved to get another plate.

No one said much as they ate, but Quatre noticed that Duo kept sending glances toward Heero. Frowning, the boy would look back to his food quickly as if he was having trouble figuring the dark-haired pilot out. Not sure what he was seeing, Quatre looked to Trowa feeling relieved when he found that he wasn't the only one to notice. //I guess that has something to do with Heero's letting him come back down here. Maybe they've reached a compromise.//

It was nice being able to eat with everyone again, but Duo didn't feel like chatting as he usually would have. He was trying to understand why he'd gotten so angry earlier. Yes, he was furious that Heero'd dugged him, but it went further than that. Every day he spent in bed his restlessness and frustration grew and he'd exploded. What he didn't get was why it bothered him so much. That compounded with how much he'd enjoyed having Heero carry him was driving him to distraction. //Okay, I know I like him, I've known that since the beginning. But why would I get mad when he takes care of me but feel all...cozy when he carried me down here? That made me look even weaker than my staying in bed does, so why doesn't that make me mad?// Glancing at Heero, he hid a smile. //I don't know, but he has been awfully sweet to me for being the most reticent of us. Maybe I'm wearing him down.//

* * *

He needed to break something, but he couldn't find a likely target. As a result, he was left pacing through the kitchen, fists clenching and unclenching sporadically. Heero was still fuming when Quatre found him.

"What's happened? Heero?" Blinking at the pure fury in the boy's cobalt eyes as he rounded on him, Quatre barely kept from taking a step back.

"I just received an email," Heero ground out, teeth grinding together for a moment before he folded his arms over his chest. "It seems Duo sent a message saying he was recovered."

"Well, you knew it was something like that." Quatre sighed softly as he shook his head. "Surely you aren't surprised."

"No. But what do I do, Quatre? I can't keep him from getting on the computer." Glaring at the floor, Heero let out an angry breath. "I told them to ignore any message he sends them until we say otherwise. But I told Duo I wouldn't interfere in his business..."

"Heero. Look, let me talk to him, okay? The worst that could happen is that I won't make any difference. Duo isn't stupid, he'll listen to reason." At Heero's snort, he smirked as he laid a hand on the Japanese pilot's shoulder. "I'll work on him."

* * *

Pausing in the open doorway, Quatre's eyes narrowed as he took in Duo's activities. The long-haired boy was sitting in a chair in front of the open window, but that wasn't the problem as it was very nice outside and the blonde boy knew the fresh air was good for him. No, it was the thing Duo was bending over. "Duo?"

The boy smiled as he looked up and caught sight of Quatre. Jerking his head toward the window, he didn't set down the metal piece he was working on. "Come on over here, Quatre. It's nice."

"What are you doing?" Quatre asked curiously as he perched on the edge of the bed in front of the boy.

"Just rewiring this." Catching sight of the boy's disapproval, he gave a sarcastic grin. "Don't worry, Heero went and got it for me. I figure I can have this done tonight. But tomorrow I have every intention of taking a trip to see Deathscythe." He waited expectantly for the boy's argument, then continued before he could speak. "I'm done resting, Quatre."

"No you're not." He raised his hand when the violet-eyed boy's mouth opened and hurried before he could be interrupted. "When you let us go, we managed to get out of the compound. But Duo, there were complications."

"Like what?" Setting the circuit to the side, Duo leaned forward eagerly. This was the first time anyone had volunteered information about their escape as Heero refused to speak of it.

"Well, we had to hide for nearly an hour before we could sneak out. Duo...did you know you were anemic?" As he'd expected, the question must have come as a surprise as Duo dropped his eyes.

When he looked up, Duo's expression was dark. "Don't think I'm stupid, Quatre, but...damnit. I don't know what that means."

Guilt rushed through him and he felt as if he'd just struck the boy. "Oh. No, Duo, it's all right. There haven't been many cases of it in years so it's not too well-known. What it means is that your blood is thinner than most. Have you ever noticed that you bleed a lot when you're cut?"

"I bleed," Duo said, then he shook his head. "But I don't think it's more than everyone else. I mean, I don't get cut much so it's not something I pay much attention to."

"Well, while we were waiting for a chance to get out we couldn't stop the bleeding. You almost died."

Duo flinched and looked down, folding his arms over his chest. "Sorry."

"No! I wasn't trying to make you feel bad, I just want to make sure you understand why we've been determined to keep you in bed. Even after we got out we couldn't help you. See, none of have your blood type. By the time we managed to get the right type you were barely breathing." Duo's face was pale, and he knew he'd scared him. "Even if there hadn't been complications, it would take at least a week for you to recover fully. That's why we've tried to keep you inactive."

"So...how long?"

He could tell the American wasn't in any frame of mind to argue with anything he said, and he took advantage of it. "We figure two weeks." Leaning forward when he saw the boy's miserable expression, he met his gaze. "It's been eight days, so that's only six more. I don't think that's too bad, do you? It's better than taking risks, Duo."

"Do I have to stay in bed? I mean, what're these risks?" Still trying to get over the thought that he'd been so near death, Duo's mind didn't seem to be working very well.

"Loss of blood lowers the immune system, meaning you're more susceptible to sickness. It's true," Quatre said quickly when the boy frowned. "I know you don't normally get sick, but the chances are much higher now. I guess you don't actually have to stay in bed, but you should be careful not to wear yourself out. If you feel tired, don't be stubborn about it, just take a nap and you can be up again in an hour or two."

"Six-year-olds take naps, Quatre."

"If you get sick, you're going to be in bed a lot longer," Quatre said, eyes narrowed as he frowned at the boy. "Is that what you want? I think you'd do well to follow what Trowa said yesterday. If you want to get better and to get on with things, just wait this out. The more you fight it, the more frustrated you're going to be."

"Quatre?" Glancing out the window, Duo sighed and leaned his elbows on the sill.

"Yes?"

"Can I be alone for a while?"

Duo didn't turn, and Quatre stood slowly, unsure of what to say. "Of course. Duo..."

"Thanks." Duo glanced at the boy and gave him a small smile before turning to the window again. "Thanks for not keeping me in the dark...and for worrying."

"You're welcome, Duo. And I'm good at worrying."

* * *

//I just had to be the one in a million case with some stupid problem. Why is it always me?// Pushing away from the window, Duo got to his feet. //And here I was mad because Heero was babying me. Hell, it's no wonder he kept me in bed. Alot of good I'd do him if I got sick.// His bare feet rubbed the carpet as he crossed the room to stand in front of the dresser. Eyeing his complexion in the mirror, he couldn't see any difference, no signs of his being weak. //My back doesn't even hurt anymore.// And it didn't as he prodded the bandage lightly and felt nothing more than an ache. Frowning, he bent suddenly and pulled some clothes out of the dresser.

Entering the bathroom connected to the room, he shook his head. With the door shut, he faced the mirror as he took off his shirt, looking at the white bandages wrapped around him. He knew the wounds would have healed enough to go without them, but Heero had insisted on wrapping them every morning. //It's just a reminder of how weak I am.// Glaring suddenly, he peeled back the tape and unwound the white wrapping, setting it on the edge of the sink. When he turned and looked over his shoulder at the mirror his breath caught in his throat.

//Oh God...// He'd had no idea the cuts were so deep and long. But then, by the third one his back had been on fire and he hadn't been able to separate the different pains. Staring at the mesh of angry red cuts that had scabbed over oddly, his hand flew to his mouth as his stomach clenched. He stumbled to the toilet and fell to his knees as he tried to keep from being sick. It wasn't that he couldn't bare seeing gruesome things, it was the thought that the others had seen it. Head bowed, he took deep breaths as his eyes burned and he couldn't get the image out of his mind. //Heero saw that...every day.// It was too much and he couldn't stop himself as threw up violently.

* * *

He stared at the door as if he could will it open. He'd been staring at it for the past hour, and his patience was long since gone as the soft sound of running water pounded in his ears, taunting him. It wasn't that he didn't trust Duo to take care of himself as the boy was well enough to get around, but too much time had passed. He'd roomed with the American before and while the boy did take hour-long baths, he showered quickly and what Heero was hearing was the shower. He could imagine how angry the boy would be if he were to inquire about him, but as another minute crawled by, his patience snapped.

He was across the room in a heartbeat, and he tapped on the door. "Duo?" Not receiving an immediate answer, his mind supplied him with impossible images and he jerked the door open. Duo was sitting against the back of the tub, head bowed over his knees as water fell down on him. Heero was almost to him when his head jerked up and he flinched in shock, violet eyes very wide. Turning quickly when the boy blushed, Heero felt his own cheeks growing warm. "I'm...sorry," he ground out, unable to leave without making certain the boy was all right. "You were in here for so long I was...worried."

Very glad the water hid his tear-streaked cheeks, Duo stared at the boy in surprise. He'd never even thought of someone coming to check on him and he was caught off guard by the concern he'd seen in those cobalt eyes. Then he remembered his state and stood quickly as he shut off the now-cool water before grabbing the towel off the rack and wrapping it around his torso. "I'm fine," he whispered as Heero didn't move. "Really, I'll be out in a minute." He saw the boy's head nod and let out a relieved sigh when the boy left the room although he noticed that he didn't shut the door all the way.

Rubbing his eyes, he stepped out of the tub with stilted movements as he crossed to the sink and gripped his clothing. He was careful not to look in the mirror as he dressed quickly, his eyes moving to the door as he wondered if Heero was directly outside it. He should have known better than to stay in the bathroom so long, it was too suspicious. Pausing in front of the door, he took a deep breath before pulling it open and stepping out.

As he'd thought, Heero was standing a few feet away, arms folded over his chest as he stared at him. "Sorry about that," Duo said with a weak smile as he moved to the dresser. "Guess I lost track of the time."

Watching the boy pick up a comb, Heero's eyes narrowed as he looked at the long, wet hair. He wasn't buying it. He'd seen the way the boy was sitting and he knew something was very wrong. The problem was how to find out what it was without being blunt. Duo had sat on the edge of the chair and was frowning at his hair as he worked the comb through it. Crossing the room, Heero stopped behind him, meeting his gaze in the mirror. "Are you all right?"

"I'm fine," Duo said quickly, dropping his eyes as his grip on the comb tightened. "Why wouldn't I be?" He prayed the boy wouldn't answer that, and his breath stopped as a hand closed around his wrist and Heero plucked the comb out of his grasp. Wincing, he finally looked up.

"May I?"

He was sure he'd heard wrong, but he could see Heero's hand hovering over his hair in the mirror and he blinked for a moment before nodding once. Turning in the chair, he closed his eyes.

Starting at the tip of the thick hair, Heero worked out the tangles as he stared at Duo's shoulders. It wasn't the first time he'd touched Duo's hair, but the other times didn't count as the boy had been too weak to tend it himself. Making his way upward, he used the hair as an excuse to brush his hand over the boy's shoulder. The light touch confirmed his thoughts as the boy's muscles were tense. He pushed aside his misgivings and decided to pry.

"Quatre said he talked to you about our escape," he said softly as he continued to comb the long, damp hair. "If something is bothering you, I might be able to help." Silence was his answer, and his eyes narrowed for a second before he focused his attention on braiding Duo's hair. "You shouldn't have taken off the bandages," he said as he noticed the absence through the boy's black shirt. "There's still a chance of infection."

"Oh." Heart racing as Heero moved in front of him, Duo stood quickly. "I'll put some new ones on."

"No." Pushing the boy back into the chair, Heero shook his head. "You can't put the ointment on yourself." Quick steps brought him to the bathroom and he got the supplies, pausing in the doorway when he noticed Duo's panicked expression. "Is something wrong?"

"Do you think I really need the ointment?" Duo asked quickly, "I mean, it's practically healed already."

Heero shook his head as he walked to him, setting the bandages on the dresser. "The skin's tight. Ointment will prevent infection and keep the cuts from splitting." Unless he was mistaken, Duo seemed ready to bolt and he couldn't understand why. "It shouldn't hurt," he said slowly, wondering what was bothering the boy.

"I know." Duo stared at the floor for a minute, then lifted his hands with mechanical movement as he unbuttoned his shirt slowly. //It doesn't matter...it's not like he hasn't seen it plenty of times.// Pulling off his shirt, he turned his head away as Heero stepped behind him.

Duo flinched when he touched him, and Heero's eyes narrowed abruptly. It wasn't the first time he'd done this. "Duo?"

"Pretty nasty, neh?"

His voice was slightly muffled, but Heero could hear the pain in it and that bothered him, a lot. "No, I've seen worse." Rather than feeling relief that he now understood why the boy was upset, he grew angry. "If anything," he said softly as he kept his voice calm, "It shows how strong you are." Being utterly careful not to press too hard, he rubbed the cream on and around each cut. He hadn't exaggerated about splitting as he knew scars dried out easily.

"What do you mean?" Blinking back the wetness that had filled his eyes, Duo had an urge to turn so he could look at the other boy.

"In the past, scars were a sign of strength that warriors collected like trophies as they were proof of what they had survived."

"I didn't think you were into history, Heero."

Pausing, Heero stared at Duo's bowed head. "We're warriors...aren't we?"

Duo let out a soft breath that bordered on laughter as he felt his lips curving into a smile. "Yeah...I guess we are..."

* * *

Duo was going absolutely stir-crazy and he'd come to the conclusion that he hadn't been made to withstand such long periods of silence. The inactivity was also wearing on him and while he kept to the careful routine Quatre had recommended, he found that it was getting harder as each day passed. Yet, he'd expected each day to make it easier as that meant he was closer to the end of his recovery. It didn't, however, and as glad as he was that the others were taking missions again, he almost wished they weren't. The safe-house was quiet enough when all five of them were in it, but with just Heero and Trowa for company, Duo soon realized that no words would be spoken at all.

So he'd taken to keeping himself amused by doing his best to drive the two silent boys as crazy as their silence drove him. Unfortunately, this was harder than he'd thought. Heero would simply ignore him until he said something requiring a response and that usually consisted of two words at most. And then there was Trowa who would simply leave the room if Duo tried too hard and that was no fun. In the end, he finally just decided to get away from them. If they wanted silence then they could have it, but he couldn't see a reason to share it with them since he could be just as quiet alone.

The problem was getting out of the house without Heero raising a fit and Duo spent a good hour trying to think of a plausible story that would convince the boy to let him take a walk. His mind came up with absolutely nothing and he let out an aggrieved sigh as another ten minutes passed with no sounds save for Heero's fingers clicking over the keys of his laptop. "I'm bored."

//Obviously.// Heero continued to type as he stared at the screen before him, but he felt a pang of guilt at how Duo must feel. He wanted to make his time pass faster, but he didn't know how. Talking to him was the obvious solution, but the idea had him fighting a grimace as he really didn't know what to say to the boy half of the time and as much as Duo excelled at small-talk, Heero had no experience with it. Still, the American had spent the last seventy minutes being absolutely motionless and silent and that sort of behavior deserved some reward. "I don't know what to tell you," Heero said slowly, turning to look at the boy. Duo was sitting on his bed, staring at him. "Maybe you could read a book or something." The face that was made at him told him what the boy thought of that idea and he frowned for a minute as he thought. "Trowa has mission reports," he said, "you could read those if you want."

"What's the point reading them if I can't do anything about them? Besides, I've already read them." The completely blank statement on Heero's face almost brought a smile to Duo's lips as he knew that had caught the boy by surprise. Obviously, Heero didn't realize how hard he'd tried to keep busy before he'd turned to bothering them. "I've also read every book in this place. There's nothing left to do."

"You read all of those books? Even the encyclopedias?" His eyes widened at the smug way the long-haired boy nodded and Heero was at a loss. "You must read fast."

"Yeah, but it's not like I haven't had plenty of time. Besides, they were kinda interesting." It had just occurred to him that Heero was talking to him, actually talking and Duo's eyes glinted as he did smile. "Did Quatre bring those?" he asked, referring to the books that were kept in the living-room of the safe-house. There were about thirty of them and the subjects varied from mythology to modern history to encyclopedias. There were even a few text books that looked like they were from a college or something.

"Yes."

The short answer nearly made Duo's lip curl back and he hurried to think of something that would hold the Japanese boy's interest. He was sure he didn't have long before his friend turned back to the laptop and he didn't want to see that happen. "Have you read them? There's a text book that teaches Japanese." This made the cobalt-eyed boy blink and Duo let out a silent sigh of relief.

"You read a textbook?" Heero asked, not bothering to hide his doubt as he raised an eyebrow, "On Japanese?"

"Yep. Not that I learned much, but I didn't study it or anything, I just read through it. I don't see how you guys can read writing like that, though," Duo smirked suddenly, remembering the odd symbols that had represented words. "It looks like hieroglyphics or something."

"If you're taught it, it's no different from learning to write in English." Duo raised his eyebrows and Heero gave a sharp nod. "You could learn it."

"I don't know, I mean, why bother?" Those cobalt eyes seemed to grow shielded and Duo leaned forward quickly as he hurried to explain. "What I mean is, if you can write Japanese with the letters we use in English, why use the symbols? Don't people in Japan read both? It just seems to me that since lots of languages use the same letters it would only complicate things to use symbols instead." Heero was studying him, and Duo relaxed a bit, wondering if he'd actually bothered the boy with his first statement. "See, I know some Spanish, and their words use the same letters as English, they just add some accent marks over some of the letters."

"You know Spanish?"

The boy seemed surprised and Duo gave a smirk. He understood that Heero wouldn't see him as a scholar or anything, especially as childish as he acted sometimes, but still. He was pretty smart considering the colony he'd grown up on. "Yeah, do you? I used to have some friends who were Spanish and their English was horrible so it was easier to use their language."

"Say something, in Spanish." He knew the language, but it was evident to him that Duo was enjoying the conversation and that was good. Heero was actually liking it himself, as surprising as that was to him, and if it kept the boy entertained then he felt as if he'd given him something.

"Hm, okay. Um, Trowa es muy alto pero...Quatre no es, pobrecito." Duo grinned, then laughed as he thought of the two boys. They did make an odd pair with Trowa being so much taller.

"Quatre could grow," Heero said, smirking as he thought how appropriate the name was for the sweet blonde. "He's young yet, he may still have a growth spurt."

"Hey! You know Spanish, too?" His mouth fell open and he stared at the dark-haired boy in surprise.

"Yes. Languages come easily to me."

"Figures. I guess I should have known, I mean, you speak English like you were born to it and you don't even have an accent." //But then, he wouldn't,// Duo realized, //he probably spoke English since he was a kid. After all, he did live in a colony, not Japan.//

"I have an accent when I speak Japanese," Heero said, his eyes glinting suddenly as he felt an odd rush moving through him. When Duo leaned forward, he recognized it as a need to tease the boy and he blinked for a moment in surprise. It wasn't a feeling he was familiar with.

"Well, what are you waiting for? Say something," Duo prodded, smiling as he folded his arms over his chest.

"Duo no baka." The boy frowned, violet eyes narrowing and Heero almost smiled. It was very nice, the feeling that ran over him.

"What did you say about me?" Duo's voice had a warning tone, and he wasn't sure if he had seen a flash fly over Heero's face or not. "Heero? What did you say? I know I've heard that before."

He was angry and Heero let out a small cough, glancing over his shoulder as he hid a tiny smile before looking back to the scowling boy. "I called you an idiot."

"Hey! Wufei called me that too! So you guys think I'm an idiot?!" Duo could feel himself tense and his eyes narrowed to slits. "Well isn't that nice," he muttered, briefly wondering why the boy would ruin what had been a pleasant conversation with such an insult.

"You said to say something," Heero said smoothly, smirking.

"You're making fun of me..." Duo's voice was soft for a minute as he stared at the boy, then his eyes widened as he was sure he's seen a sparkle in those cobalt eyes. "You're teasing me!"

"Hai. Baka." His smirk was fast threatening to become a smile and Heero enjoyed the way Duo slowly calmed. He imagined a cat's fur slowly laying back down and blinked as the analogy seemed fitting to him. "Do you want me to say something else?"

"Yeah." He wasn't exactly sure, but Duo had the feeling he was seeing a different side to the normally cold boy and he wanted to see more of it. Even if it was at his expense. "But I already know some Japanese. Gomen, hai, ohayo, mostly some of the basic stuff, but there is something I looked up yesterday. I've heard you say it so often I had to look it up."

"What?" Heero asked, wondering what phrase the boy meant. He'd called him baka often enough and the boy obviously hadn't looked that word up. He couldn't think of anything he said more often than that, but judging by the boy's grin, Duo knew of something.

"Omae o korosu." Heero jerked back, his eyes widening for a moment and Duo let out a laugh as he shook his head. "It's like your trademark, you say it all the time."

"Oh. Then you know what it means?"

"Sure, I'll kill you or I'm going to kill you or something along those lines. I'm not sure about the literal translation, but the gist is pretty obvious." The Japanese boy was nodding slowly and Duo smiled at the serious statement. "Guess I'm not totally hopeless, eh?"

"Ne," Heero said suddenly, "If you want to learn Japanese, I can teach you a little. It would take longer to teach you it all, but if you're asking for an affirmation, it's ne, not eh."

"Sort of like saying si in Spanish," Duo remarked. Heero raised an eyebrow and he shrugged. "Well, my friend used to tag that onto any question he asked. You know, like: You're okay, yes? You know."

"Hn. Yes, it's like that."

"I'm bright, ne?" This gained him a raised eyebrow and Duo smirked. "Say something else in Japanese, I like the way you pronounce it."

"The way...." Heero frowned for a minute, "The way it sounds?"

//Your voice, it gets all low and soft.// Duo grinned, but didn't say what he was thinking. "Come on, Heero, teach me something."

"Like what?" He wasn't sure why, but for some reason he was suddenly uncomfortable with the conversation. Duo's eyes were bright and he couldn't figure out what was going through the boy's mind.

"Anything."

"Ganbatte," Heero said, nodding when Duo pronounced it twice before getting it right. "That means good luck."

"Cool, now how do you say good-bye?" For some reason, Heero frowned at this, but Duo wasn't sure why. "Well?"

"There's more than one way to say it."

"Just pick one, onegai?"

Heero blinked for a moment, then his eyes narrowed as he eyed the boy. "You seem to know enough as it is," he said, wondering if the boy hadn't been down-playing his knowledge of the language.

Pouting, Duo blinked his eyes as he assumed a puppy-dog statement he'd mastered when he'd been a little kid. "Onegai, koibito?" The boy sitting across from him flinched suddenly and he dropped the act, "What's wrong?"

"Do you know what that means?"

Heeo's voice was completely devoid of emotion and Duo felt a flicker of unease as he wondered if he'd made the boy angry. "It's an endearment, isn't it?" Intense cobalt eyes drilled into him and his unease grew. "Heero? You're not mad, are you? I was just playing, you don't have to teach me anything if you don't want to."

It wasn't until he noticed how warily Duo was watching him that Heero forced himself to calm. He'd been affected badly, hearing the boy call him lover, and he had to rein back the hot emotions soaring through him. //He doesn't know what he said, just stop it.// He looked away for a moment, then his muscles relaxed and he faced the American again, his statement smoothed. "No, that's all right. You wanted to know how to say good-bye, ja matta ne."

Still uncertain, Duo nodded slowly, repeating the words as his mind flew to figure out what he'd done earlier that had bothered the boy so much. "Thanks, Heero." The dark-haired boy gave a sharp nod and he decided he'd had enough language lessons for the day. "Well, you probably want to get back to whatever you were working on, so I think I'll go sit outside for a while." The boy nodded again, and Duo gave him a quick smile that didn't quite reach his eyes as he sidled to the door. Pausing in the doorway, he glanced back to see his friend had turned back to the laptop. "Ja matta ne, Heero," he said softly, and he was relieved when he didn't see any more anger in the boy's eyes as Heero turned to look at him.

"Hai."

* * *

"Where's Duo?" Wufei asked as he and Quatre entered the safe-house.

Trowa was seated on the couch, and he nodded toward the door, his green eyes bright as he pinpointed Quatre's wide eyes. "He took a walk. He should be gone for a while." The blonde boy glanced at the door anxiously and Trowa stood as he felt a rush of adrenaline. "You found him."

"Yes," Quatre nodded, his statement downcast as he moved to sit near the tall boy. "Is Heero here?"

"Upstairs, I'll get him." He didn't waste any time as Trowa took the stairs quickly, but he halted as he found the Japanese boy at the top of them, cobalt eyes narrowed. "They're back."

"And the mission?" Heero asked, his statement dangerous as his eyes glinted.

"Successful. Duo's out so we can talk now." The boy nodded sharply and Trowa followed him back down the stairs, sitting beside Quatre as he waited. As far as Duo knew, the two boys had been on a mission, but they hadn't told him where they were actually going.

"Where is he?"

Wufei glanced at the intense boy beside him and nodded as the boy's anger was justified to him. "He's been court-martialed for letting us escape, that's why we took so long to locate him. He is Lieutenant Brian Flinn, and we got his address."

"Good, then we can move on him." Heero's muscles tensed and if he could have, he would have been gratified to go immediately. Unfortunately, they'd decided by mutual agreement that Duo wouldn't be told of their retaliation, so they had to wait until the boy was recovered enough to be left on his own.

"There's a problem," Wufei said, wincing when the boy turned on him. He understood Heero's fury, and reciprocated it, but that couldn't be helped.

"He's with his family," Quatre murmured, staring down at his clenched hands. "His wife and his children. He has two of them."

"So what? They're better off without that...man...as a father." Heero's voice had lowered till he nearly growled the words, but he forced himself to hold still as he saw how upset the blonde was. He could understand why the boy would be hesitant to take a father away from his children, but all he had to do was think of what the man had done to rid himself of any sympathy he might have had.

"Two boys, eight and three," Quatre continued, still not looking up. Yes, he understood the way Heero felt. In fact, he was also consumed with an alien need for revenge, but he couldn't disregard the pain the children would feel if they lost their father. A warm arm wrapped around his shoulders and he glanced up at Trowa for a moment before leaning against the tall boy. "I feel bad for them."

"You should," Trowa said, his voice soft as he stared down at the boy. "Imagine how horrible it would be to grow up with such a man, the things he might do to them. If he hasn't already." The slender frame shivered at his words and he held him closer, looking up as Wufei caught his eyes.

"We found no evidence of such when we checked the house and watched him," the Chinese boy frowned, "But that doesn't mean anything. I doubt he'd leave any evidence. His record was meticulous and he's one of Oz's main...interrogators. That's why he was only court- martialed. The official report said pilot 02, Duo, managed to overpower him and that's how we escaped. His superiors felt he deserved a reinstatement and it's only a matter of time before he gets his position, and his whip back." Wufei's eyes narrowed as he heard a low growl from Heero and he nodded to Trowa. "We have nine days before he is back in OZ. We should take him out before then."

"We have to...it isn't just revenge..."

They looked to Quatre as the pale boy straightened slowly, his blue- green eyes suddenly hard. Trowa removed his arm as he turned so he could look at the boy, recognizing that determined statement.

"He deserves to be decimated," the normally gentle pilot said, his voice cold. "Yes, definitely."

"Then we're united?" Wufei said, his lips twitching with approval as he eyed Quatre. "We'll strike?"

"Absolutely."

The sound of the doorknob turning caught them, and they froze, glancing over as Duo entered. The boy's confusion was evident and Quatre quickly smiled as he hurried to cover the awkward silence.

* * *

"They were talking about something," Duo said softly, leaning his cheek against the cool surface of DeathScythe's chest. "And as soon as I opened the door they just shut up. Like they didn't want me to hear them."

Silence met him, broken by the quiet chirping of crickets and he sighed, rolling onto his back. Heero and Trowa had left on a mission that had come in that evening, and it had been easy to sneak out of his room. He'd hoped the walk to where they'd hidden their gundams would help to clear his mind, but it hadn't and he kept remembering the silence as he'd opened the door. He couldn't think of what they'd want to hide from him, and the sense of betrayal he'd felt hadn't diminished. They were partners, they weren't supposed to keep secrets, at least not like the one they obviously shared. If he hadn't been there when the call had come in, he wouldn't have believed that Heero had left on a mission, like he'd said. He couldn't, they were hiding something and that meant he couldn't trust them.

"I mean, I know we all have our secrets. We don't talk about ourselves, our past, but this is different. They're sharing something, and they're leaving me out. Why would they do that?" The half-moon wasn't as bright as he liked, and he ran a hand over his gundam, needing to feel that he wasn't alone. "I don't even believe Quatre now, and I thought he was the most honest one of us aside from myself. But...if they were just talking about a mission, they wouldn't keep it from me. Would they?"

The crickets' music grated on his ears and he cursed suddenly, sitting up as he pressed the release and opened the cockpit. Climbing in, he didn't relax until the door slid shut, cutting off the noise. "Am I being paranoid, old buddy? Do you think maybe I just surprised them? I mean, we're all kinda jumpy sometimes. I could have just caught them off-guard. Or..." His eyes widened suddenly and he closed them before he could give in to hope. "Do you think they were talking about me? That would explain it. Maybe they stopped because they didn't want to hurt my feelings or something."

He didn't think so, but the idea was more comforting than thinking of anything else and he grasped it, turning it in his mind. "It's possible, plausible even. After all, I do get defensive when they talk about me..." His hands curled around the levers and he sighed as he leaned back against the semi-hard seat, comforted by the largeness of his suit. "I have two choices, ask them or drop it. Which do you recommend?" He cracked open an eye as he stared into the darkness of the cockpit and a small smirk crossed his lips. "Staying out of it? Yeah, that figures. Why involve yourself in my petty problems, eh....ne old buddy?"

* * *

The mission had been far too simple and Heero was almost disappointed that it had gone so well. Together, Wing and Heavyarms had destroyed the base without so much as a single suit having time to launch a retaliation. He'd been looking forward to having an outlet, but it hadn't happened and he climbed the stairs silently as he knew he'd have to wait. The door to his and Duo's room had been left open a crack, and he was grateful to the well oiled hinges as it opened silently, not waking the boy who slept on the bed near the far wall. Shutting the door firmly, Heero stepped to the edge of his bed and took off his shoes before glancing around the room. The window was open, a chill breeze coming through and he moved to close it, using the excuse to stand near the sleeping boy.

Duo was lying on his back, one arm across his waist and the other palm up at his side. The boy's face was turned toward the window and Heero let his eyes soften as he admired him in the dim moonlight. There was something different about him when he slept, and Heero had noticed that the boy's features seemed more serious somehow. It was as if his dreams were filled with intense thought and there was no hint of a smile to be found. Still, he was a sight with his long bangs falling over his forehead, loose hairs curled on his cheek and Heero sighed softly. He never tired of watching the boy sleep, and it was a good thing since that was the only time his attention could go unnoticed. While he was awake, Duo was too lively, his bright eyes not missing anything, not even a quick glance that lasted no more than a few seconds. Heero knew, because he'd soon given up on sneaking looks at him, unable to explain when Duo would ask what he wanted.

No, the only time he could safely gaze at him was while he slept...or when they talked. This turned his mind back to their conversation earlier that day and he felt a tingle go through him as he remembered the boy's words. //Onegai, koibito? Please, lover? Yes, the answer would be yes.// But he wasn't sure, even as he thought it. //Would I really say yes if he asked, even if he knew what he was saying? I don't know. I'd want to, of course I would, but I don't know if I could. Let him in, he's already there, but if he knew and changed his mind it would kill me.// Heero stared at the boy, memorizing his features even though he already knew them by heart. Still, there was only an hour or so before dawn and there wasn't much time before Duo would wake up and his watch would be over. //I don't fear death. Or pain. But losing him, I nearly did and the pain was so...//

His fists clenched, fingers digging into his palms as he remembered the way Duo had fallen. His life-blood covering him, matting his beautiful hair and his face so pale beneath the dark smears on his cheeks. Fury raced through him, but he tried to calm himself as he thought of the revenge he'd have. //The others must, by right, help, but my hand will wield the knife. I'll repay him for the pain, the hurt. I'll kill him, Duo...for you...Omae o korosu, Lieutenant Flinn, you'll die for what you did. But first...you'll suffer...//

* * *

It seemed luck was on their side as the four boys found their target not in bed as they had feared, but awake and alone in his living-room. They had already been given a break as Duo had received a solitary mission, the danger involved minimal enough for any fears they had to be alleviated. As soon as he had left, they'd moved on their own mission. The house was large, but it was a mile away from the nearest city and the country side was only spotted with homes, making their approach easy to hide. Wufei and Quatre had pointed out the man's bedroom, warning that he slept with his wife, his two children being in a room down the hall. As it was upstairs, they'd left Heero to scale the tree that was conveniently close enough for a view inside. They had been worried about how they would separate the man from his mate, but he hadn't been in his bed, the woman sleeping deeply.

No, he was seated on the couch, as they soon found by circling the house and peering in through the windows. Picking the lock on the backdoor was a simple thing, and Heero and Trowa moved in, the other two taking up positions near the stairs, watchful for anyone who might wake up. Since they had no intention of rousing the house's other occupants, Trowa was equipped with a dart-gun, the dart carefully prepared to put the man asleep. And it did, as he hadn't even turned to notice their presence before the dart hit him in the back of the neck and he slumped forward. The cup he'd been drinking from fell quietly to the carpet as he hit the coffee table with a soft thump, and the two boys took him, Trowa hoisting him over a shoulder as Heero bent to clean up the spilled liquid. There would be no evidence left of what had happened, and he set the cup carefully on the table, leaving the front door unlocked as they exited the house as quietly as they'd come.

It was really too simple, but none of them felt like complaining, Wufei and Trowa staying in the back of the van to make sure the man didn't wake too early. As it was, Quatre drove them to their destination, and Heero watched the boy. Since it had been the blonde who'd shown the most reluctance over the retaliation, they'd left the details of their revenge to him. This had proven to be quite a shock as the Arabian pilot displayed a dark side, his plans violent enough to satisfy even Heero. Still, Heero wasn't sure if the blonde boy was going to be able to handle what they had planned, so he was watching for any signs of hesitation. The blonde boy's eyes were narrowed, however, and as far as Heero could tell, the fury and determination on the boy's face were whole-hearted.

Driving a few miles over the speed-limit, Quatre watched the dark trees slip by him as his mind dwelled in dark thoughts. He knew the others were wary of hurting him, and he remembered Trowa's gentle words as the tall boy had asked if he was truly determined to be a part of their revenge. But he was, and he knew he wouldn't be satisfied until he had seen the man pay. Yes, he had been put off by the discovery that the man had children, and he couldn't forget how badly his father's death had hurt him, but neither could he forget what type of man Flinn was. To think that those two boys should remain in the hands of such a deranged man was unbearable. So when his three friends had given him the decision as to how the man should be punished, he'd been gratified. While Trowa had been obvious in his shock, Quatre knew his tall lover wouldn't think any less of him if he felt the need to mete out an appropriate revenge. And as he'd said, he knew just the place for the man.

* * *

Flinn didn't struggle much when he finally woke, but that was more due to how tightly he'd been bound than any passive tendencies. Waking to find the barrel of a large handgun an inch from his face also worked to subdue his need to fight. He recognized the tall boy holding the weapon immediately, and to say he was frightened would have been a blatant understatement. No time was spent wondering what was going to happen to him, as he was certain his death was eminent. Rather, his mind was consumed with the need to find out how the pilots had escaped. He found himself in the back of a van, and it had been the sound of the doors opening that had roused him. Now, he could plainly see the four boys who'd been in the interrogation room, and he didn't fail to note the lack of a fifth. It had been that boy's death that had sent him running from the room, and he'd been terrified as to what his superiors would do if they found out he'd killed the boy without getting any answers. In fact, he wasn't supposed to kill any of them, and that had been why he'd fled, needing to think before he could come up with a believable story. Then, the boys had somehow managed to escape, and his story had been easy since they'd taken their fallen comrade with them.

Trowa climbed out of the van slowly, keeping his gun in plain sight as Wufei shoved the man toward the open door. A glance to Heero revealed that the Japanese pilot wasn't happy with the lack of fear on their captive's face, and Trowa looked back to the man.

"How did you escape?" Flinn asked, ignoring the pained statement on the blonde boy's face as he stared at the one holding the gun. He didn't care if his question infuriated them, he was certain nothing he said would make them any more ready to kill him, so it didn't matter if he prodded them. "I've never been able to figure it out."

Turning to where Heero's form was barely visible in the dim light, Quatre was vaguely grateful to his cold thoughts. He was certain the boy would have hit the man if he'd heard the impertinent query and they didn't need any screams outside. While it wasn't likely that anyone would hear them, the graveyard wasn't *that* far from the city, and they weren't taking any chances. But Heero hadn't heard, as the dark-haired boy was working on the release to the crypt Quatre had found. A tiny sprinkle of humor reached him as the blonde boy remembered his friends' shocked appearances when he'd told them where he wanted to take the man. If it hadn't been for his love of history, he never would have known about this particular cemetery, and the crypt had come to him without much thought. He knew the marble was thick enough to muffle any screams, and his new, morbid sense of justice grinned at the prospect as his gaze returned to the man.

Wufei's eyes glinted as he gave the man a shove out of the van, the Lieutenant not moving quickly enough to satisfy him. He too, had been caught off guard by Quatre's suggestion, but he liked it, it was appropriate that their revenge take place in something resembling the cell they'd been in before. Holding tight to the ropes tied around the man's arms, Wufei smirked as he and Trowa kept Flinn from falling, Quatre bending to cut loose the man's legs. They weren't worried that he might kick them or try to run, but Trowa had insisted they bind him on the ride, explaining that the man would be more aware of his helplessness that way. The Chinese pilot was impressed by the cruel sides his friends were showing, and his need for justice applauded them.

"Come on, it's not like it would hurt anything to tell me," Flinn continued, looking down at the boy cutting him loose. "I'm also curious as to how you found me, but I guess you aren't going to answer that question."

"You would do well to keep silent," Quatre said, his soft voice sending a slight shiver down Trowa's back as the tall boy felt a need to move back. The blonde didn't look up until he'd finished, and his normally expressive eyes were hard and cold as he stared at the man. "You're just going to make me angry, and I'm already furious."

Trowa prodded the man, glancing at Quatre as the boy turned his back and led the way to where Heero waited. He was acquainted with that side of the blonde boy, and it still made him uncomfortable, even if it was appropriate at the moment. "Go."

Flinn did as he was ordered, but he glanced at the two boys holding his arms, smirking as he used humor to hide his growing fear. No one ever knew he was frightened if he could help it, and now he was warned in advance, so he made certain the gundam pilots weren't aware. "So you brought me to a cemetery? That's original, I suppose this is to repay me for killing your friend, right?"

He wanted to hit the man, but Wufei's control was better than that and he contented himself with what was to come, keeping his hold on the man's arm light. "You're mistaken," he said, his voice smooth as the man turned to look at him. He smirked as he saw Heero frown. "We aren't repaying you for killing him, be grateful we aren't. That would be much more painful for you."

"Why are you talking to him?" Heero glared, his tightly clenched fists visible as he stepped to the side of the crypt's door. They were taking too much time, he was more than ready to start.

"He's full of questions," Wufei answered, not bothered by the boy's fury as it wasn't directed at him. "He thinks we're paying him back for killing Duo. And he wants to know how we escaped."

"Hn." There was no reason to tell the man, and he couldn't understand why Wufei would waste his time listening to Flinn's talk. He took a step forward and took the bag Quatre held, carrying it inside as his flashlight illuminated the small chamber. There was only on coffin to be seen, and it was sealed well, the cement platform it sat on making a nice table as Heero took out the battery powered lights. Setting one in each of the four corners, he nodded when the man was pushed inside, frowning at the open doorway. "Are we going to be able to shut that without getting locked in here?" he asked, glancing to Quatre since that boy seemed to know the most about the crypt.

"Yes, there's a safety on the door just in case someone gets shut inside," the blonde boy nodded, his pale blue-green eyes glinting as he glanced around the marble chamber, pausing for a moment on the coffin. "I wish I could have found one that wasn't occupied, but they don't make these any more, not often at least."

"This is fine." Leaving Wufei to escort the man in, Trowa stepped to Quatre, his green eyes searching the boy's impassive face carefully. He leaned a bit closer to the boy so the others wouldn't hear him as they remained outside the door. "Quatre, are you sure you want to do this? I know you love Duo, but this is going to be very bad. You know that."

"Trowa." The blonde boy shook his head, giving a tiny smile before his face hardened again. "He deserves it. I'm fine, besides, this was mostly my idea. It's okay, Trowa, really."

The tall boy gave a sharp nod, then entered the door, helping Quatre pull it closed and flinching, just a bit, when the heavy piece slit shut. He knew the boy was certain they'd be able to get out again, but he couldn't help a tiny sliver of discomfort as he smelled the stale air. They wouldn't want to stay there too long, and he turned to where the man now stood in the center of the room, his eyes narrowing. He could see that Heero had set things up, and he felt irritation that they didn't have a hook to hang the man on. Still, he couldn't argue too much as the man's eyes were now showing white around them, his fear evidently becoming harder to hide.

The man was still standing, and Wufei stepped back, taking up position a few feet behind him as he glanced at Heero. "He's tall," he murmured, nodding to Flinn.

"Yes," Quatre agreed, his eyes glinting as he looked at the black-haired pilot. "Rather inconvenient."

Without further warning, Wufei stepped forward and kicked the man in the back of the knees, sending him down with a surprised cry. Flinn remained on his hands and knees, then Trowa pulled on his hair, raising him till he was on his knees alone. With bright eyes, he slapped the man on both cheeks, knowing it wouldn't hurt as much as a punch, but repaying like with like. A light hand fell on his shoulder, and he moved aside as Quatre nodded to him, the blonde boy staring into the man's wary eyes before punching him in the face.

It felt good, but the blonde boy didn't linger as he moved back, the ache in his knuckles soothed by the sight of blood from the man's nose. "I understand you like a good show," the boy said softly, as he kept the man's gaze on him. "We do too."

Licking his lips as he tasted his blood, Flinn smirked suddenly. "That's good, I hope I don't disappoint you."

"No worry of that," Heero said, his cobalt eyes narrowed as he moved in front of the man. The other three held the man still as he gripped Flinn's chin, opening his mouth. Those eyes were very wide now, and they centered on the small knife the Japanese boy held, the sharp blade glinting. "You like the taste of blood, how about your own?" The man let out a sharp cry as the blade cut a line through his tongue, and Heero bent forward, his teeth closing on the man's bottom lip. Ripping it, he slowly leaned back, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand as he eyed the blood that ran down the man's chin. "Won't be getting any more smart remarks out of that mouth, eh?" he whispered, his voice soft as he stared at the man.

The man was struggling now, and Heero handed the knife to Wufei as the boy cut through the ropes, leaving only the handcuffs that held Flinn's hands behind his back. It was obvious that the man had been ready for bed, as he was wearing a thin white tee-shirt, and Wufei gripped the knife as he glanced at Trowa.

"Don't move your head," the tall boy said smoothly, remembering the man's words to Duo. He accepted the knife from his black-haired friend, and his eyes glinted as he cut through the man's shirt, making certain to press deeper as he passed over Flinn's arm. Pulling the cloth away, he nodded at the thin line where the flesh had been cut, shrugging as he turned the man to look at him. "I won't lick it, but it's the thought that counts, right?" Flinn stared at him in dawning realization, and Trowa smirked as he knew the man understood what they were doing. It was revenge, and they'd give him everything he'd given Duo, and maybe a bit more. Seeing Quatre pull a small cloth from the bag, he held the man's head as the blonde boy pushed it into the man's mouth, making sure it touched the ripped lip and tongue. "That's salt," Trowa said, nearly smirking at the way the man choked and struggled to spit it out. "Still think it's worth it?"

The man had finally gotten the salt-saturated cloth out of his mouth by the time Heero stepped behind him, and he jerked when the boy cut a long stripe down his back, his shoulder's hunching as Trowa and Wufei held him still.

With the man's neck exposed, Heero pressed the knife down, drawing a line from the man's hairline down to his waist-band. "You'll have to keep your head up if you want me to stay only on your back." The man gave a muffled groan, but Heero noticed that he brought his head up all the same. "Much better," he murmured. Cutting the man, his grip on the knife tightened as he kept careful count, using his memory to place each line in the correct location. It wasn't long before the man's back was a mesh of bloody cuts, and Heero nodded as he leaned back a bit, tilting his wrist to overlap some of them.

He was screaming, and as much as it disgusted him, Quatre felt a perverse rush of pleasure as the man's eyes were closed, his face a masterpiece of misery. It was obvious that Heero wasn't going to hesitate at all, and he looked to his friend, noting the focused look in those cobalt eyes. He knew if he counted, he would find the same number of cuts on Duo's back, and his heart cried at the thought, his fury raging as he glared at Flinn, relishing the man's hoarse sobs. The man's head had fallen, and Quatre nodded when Heero moved to work on the exposed neck, noting that unlike Duo, the man raised his head again with a tortured scream.

Counting, Heero stepped back slowly, his eyes moving over the man's shaking body as he slowly sighed. A glance to his friends showed that Wufei was watching him carefully and he raised an eyebrow.

"May I?" Wufei asked, his own eyebrow raising as he nodded to the man's back. Heero didn't seem sure what he wanted, but the boy stepped aside, his eyes widening when Wufei pressed a hand roughly against Flinn. With an arm around the man's waist, he rubbed his hand over the cuts, then he smeared the blood on both hands. Cobalt eyes glinted brightly and Wufei smirked as he circled the kneeling Lieutenant. "Open your eyes," he said, waiting until he looked at him before holding out his blood covered hands. "This is you." His smirk disappeared as he smeared the blood on the man's face, but he enjoyed the pained statement and noted that the man did close his eyes. Obviously, the man didn't enjoy his own blood as much as he did the blood of others. "What's wrong?" Wufei asked, his disgust tainting his mocking tone. "Didn't you say there was something about it? It's the life of man, remember? And this is your life."

Flinn didn't look up as he gasped, tears mingling with the blood on his cheeks. Any pity Wufei might have felt was crushed, however, as he thought of his friend. Duo hadn't cried, and the man's weakness was an insult to him. Looking at Trowa, he nodded to the man's bowed head, seeing that it jerked when Heero cut a slice of the now-exposed neck, but it didn't rise. The green eyed boy understood the unspoken message and took Wufei's place.

Meeting Heero's gaze over the man's shoulder, Trowa's eyes narrowed and he pulled the man's head up by his hair, smirking when he didn't open his eyes. It was with intense satisfaction, that he gripped the man's chin, slapping him again, roughly on each wet cheek. "I know you're awake," he said, shoving the man's head to the side. The man must have known what he was going to do, because the muscles in his shoulder tensed before Trowa had even lowered his head. This didn't stop him from biting the man viciously in the corner of his shoulder and neck, and Trowa spat out the man's blood as he stepped back and glanced at Quatre. The blonde boy's eyes were filled with hate, and he nodded sharply. Without further incentive, Trowa buried his fist in the man's stomach, noting that he would have crumpled if Wufei and Heero hadn't held his arms.

Moving behind the man again, Heero cut a deep line through the man's neck and back, watching the blood with satisfaction. He didn't give the man a chance to do more than scream before repeating the move, again making certain he cut deeper than the previous marks. Pale blue-green eyes met him and he paused, the knife lifted as he waited.

"This is where you beg," Quatre said softly, his voice void of any angry tones as he watched the man's bowed head. "This is where you beg us to stop, before we kill you."

"Please..." The man lifted his head, turning it painfully as he sought out the pale boy, his own eyes bright with tears. "I'm begging you," he cried, gasping when Heero pulled on his hair.

"No," the Japanese boy said, making certain his tone was mocking as he cut the man again. "Isn't that what you said to me?"

"I'm sorry! God! Please stop!" Flinn had closed his eyes in preparation for another cut, and he fell to the cold floor as he was suddenly released. Slowly, he pushed his head up, staring in disbelief when he saw that the boys had moved away from him.

"Hai," Heero whispered, wiping the knife on the remains of the man's shirt before letting the cloth fall to the floor. "But only because you stopped. You may have done it only because you thought him dead, but you did stop before you killed him."

"W...what?"

"Duo's alive," Quatre smiled, glancing over as he retrieved the lights. "Of course, in an hour or so you may wish he wasn't since that's the only reason we're letting you live."

The man seemed confused, and Trowa smirked as he opened the door. "You see, we aren't going to kill you, not yet. We'll let you bleed to death, Duo nearly did, so it's fitting."

"He's...alive?"

It was obvious that Flinn didn't realize what they had planned for him, and Wufei paused as he waited with Heero, letting the other two boys leave the crypt. "Yes, he's fine now. You wondered how we escaped? Duo let us out. But no one's going to let you out."

"You're going to die in here," Heero said, his voice emotionless as he slowly closed the door, the man's dawning realization evident by his panicked scream. With the door closed, he watched as Quatre broke the release. He could barely hear the muffled screams, and he was satisfied as they sounded far away, knowing no one would hear them. "Are you certain this will hold?"

"Oh yes," the blonde boy said, his voice quiet as he stepped back from the crypt. "Not only is the inside release now jammed, but I doubt if it could be opened from the outside. At least, not without something to cut or break the door down. No, he's not getting out, now or ever."

"Good."

* * *

When they reached the safehouse, the four boys were each feeling a coldness at what they'd done. Each had deemed it necessary and deserved, but while they were soldiers, the simple horror of their act was still a bit much to handle. Stepping through the front door, Quatre and Trowa headed for their room, the other two moving more slowly. They had cleaned up before returning, not wanting Duo to see any evidence of what had transpired, but it seemed their efforts were for in vain as the long-haired boy was no where to be found.

Moving alone, Heero went to the room he shared with Duo, sitting lightly at his desk as he sighed. Everything was finished, yet he felt as if there was something left undone and this thought lingered until his eyes fell upon the empty bed near the window. His thoughts moved over the boy, and he frowned. While it had given them the opportunity to get revenge, he hadn't liked the fact that Duo was now taking missions again. Still, the boy was recovered enough, and the mission hadn't sounded difficult. He'd taken worse ones in the past and Heero knew the American had managed to pull them off without more than a few bruises. But it was different now, he worried that the boy would be hurt and his faith in the pilot's abilities aside, his worries plagued him.

He'd left his laptop on, and he turned to it when a sharp beeping sounded, his fingers flying over the keys as he called up the message. Then his eyes narrowed in growing fury as he saw that it was a request for back-up. When he'd left, the long-haired pilot had assured them that the mission was easy, saying it wouldn't be any trouble at all. Obviously, this wasn't the case, and Heero jumped up, running to Quatre and Trowa's door and pounding on it. //He said he never lies,// he thought furiously, explaining the situation to the two boys who opened the door. //And then he lies to me. If there's so much as a scrape on him, I'll kill him!//

* * *

Wufei pushed the door to the safe-house open, not bothering to glance behind him as he plodded across the living room. "I'm going to bed," he muttered, still not looking back.

Quatre nodded distractedly as he followed the boy, grateful for Trowa's support when he took the steep stairs. His muscles ached and the tall boy had promised to give him a massage. Reaching the top of the stairs, he gave a single glance back and nodded to Heero before disappearing around the corner, a willing Trowa in tow.

"They look exhausted," Duo murmured, glancing at Heero warily as he held the boy's shoulders. "You can put me down now, really." The Japanese pilot didn't so much as glance at him as he was carried toward the stairs, Heero pausing only long enough to shut the door behind him.

Carrying the braided baka into their room, Heero deposited him on his bed, his glare telling the boy not to move as he stepped into the bathroom and grabbed a roll of gauze. He was furious, but he'd been even angrier when they'd first arrived on the battleground and he'd seen the number of suits Deathscythe had been fighting. "You lied to me," he spit, ripping Duo's pants as he quickly wrapped the boy's leg. "And you're injured."

"It's just a scratch," Duo complained, wincing when Heero pulled the cloth a bit too tight. "And I didn't lie! The orders said it would be a simple attack, how was I to know they had back-up troops. Sheesh, Heero, you don't have to jump down my throat. I could have walked up here, just fine. But no, you have to act like I've been mortally wounded or something. No one else was worried."

"Idiot, it's bleeding too much. If you had simply retreated when you found there were too many suits to take on alone, it wouldn't have happened."

"Heero, it's not like this is the first time I've been injured," Duo muttered, glaring at the boy who'd stood, arms crossed over his chest. "I'm not going to die over a little scratch. I've bled before, get over it. You're overreacting."

"You were irresponsible," Heero said scathingly, his cobalt eyes narrowed. "What would we have done if you'd been injured worse?" he asked, not bothering to reign in his anger at the boy's recklessness. "You know for a fact that we can't help you, none of us have the right blood type. And you still have the nerve to sit there and say I'm overreacting?"

Duo was confused by Heero's anger. Yes, he understood why the boy would be mad if he'd endangered the mission, but he'd called for back-up as soon as it was needed, and the others had shown up almost immediately. The mission had been accomplished, yet Heero was obviously furious. //He's throwing a fit...he never does that.// Wondering if the boy's anger was about something else, he relaxed his statement, tilting his head as he looked up at his friend. "Heero, what's really bothering you? I've fought on my own before, and I've definitely been injured worse, so why are you making a big deal out of this?"

"Because," Heero said sharply, his scowl not faltering a bit. "You aren't fighting alone anymore. We're a team, you can't take risks like you used to. You have to think of the consequences on the rest of us."

"Like you do?" Duo asked, his voice incredulous as his eyes widened suddenly. Leaning forward, he stared at the boy. "When have you ever thought about the rest of us when you were fighting? As many times as you've tried to self-detonate? It's painfully obvious that we're the last thing on your mind, so where do you get off yelling at me?"

"I wouldn't self-detonate unless it was to protect someone," Heero murmured, his voice dropping suddenly. Duo could swear he heard hurt in the boy's tone, and he blinked sharply. "And I think about you when I fight." His anger returned quickly and he was abruptly scowling again as he gave the violet-eyed boy an accusing glare. "I thought about you today, and it was such a distraction. If you hadn't acted so recklessly I wouldn't have had to worry about you."

Duo blinked at what he knew the boy meant as an insult, a small smirk coming to his lips as he raised an eyebrow at the scowling boy. "You were thinking about me? Yeah, I'm sure you were. You were probably so distracted you could barely get your mind off me long enough to fight." Laughing softly, he dropped his eyes. "I'm sure, Heero."

"That's right..."

Raising his eyes suddenly, Duo's mouth went dry as he took in Heero's serious face, the softness of his voice ringing in his ears. "What did you say? Heero...?" Those cobalt eyes bore into him, and he tried to swallow, choking briefly before blinking and clearing his throat. Then he promptly choked again, his breath nearly stopping in his throat when Heero placed a hand on his cheek.

"I said you're right," Heero whispered, glaring for a moment before his eyes cleared again. "I was thinking about you. It's so hard to think when I know you're in danger, that you might be hurt, could so easily die and there's so little I could do to stop that." Duo's mouth was open, and Heero nodded sharply. "I nearly died when you stopped breathing in that cell, Duo. It was as if something had crushed my heart and I was the one who couldn't breath anymore."

"Are you saying you...care about me?" Duo asked, his eyes filling his face as he stared at Heero. "Are you?"

"Baka."

"Damnit, Heero! Just tell me, are you?" He coughed as his voice broke, giving the boy a disgruntled look before he shook his head. "Why do you have to call me names? First you say you...and then you're calling me names?"

"Duo, what else would I mean? The thought of something happening to you kills me, of course I care about you." Heero blinked in surprise when he was suddenly holding a warm bundle as Duo's arms grabbed him, a smiling face inches from his own. "That was quick. I take it you...care...about me, too?"

"Baka," the long-haired boy returned, cheekily grinning as he squeezed Heero's waist tightly. "I'm hugging you and I'm about five seconds away from kissing you. What else would I mean?"

Heero's eyes narrowed at the boy's teasing, and he glanced over Duo's shoulders for a minute before meeting those laughing violet eyes. "Is your leg really only a scratch? It doesn't hurt?"

"What?" Duo frowned for a second, then grinned again, shaking his head. "I told you, it's fine. I've done worse than that falling out of Deathscythe."

"Good."

Letting out a startled sound, Duo found himself on his back on the bed, Heero leaning over him, those intense eyes shining into his. "Wow, I take it you have some repressed...um...feelings pent up, ne?"

"Hai," Heero murmured, his eyes moving over Duo's features before he brushed his tongue over the boy's lips, licking his own as violet eyes widened. "Duo, I want you to say something, you said it before and it nearly killed me, but I want you to say it now."

"Huh? What, Heero?" Duo sighed as a strong hand rubbed his chest, and he shook his head. "Tell me what, Heero, I'll say anything you want."

Heero ducked his head, touching his lips to Duo's cheek before trailing them down so he could taste the boy's neck. Then he lapped his tongue at the long-haired boy's earlobe, his breath sending a shiver through the slender frame beneath him. "Onegai...koibito. Say it, Duo, I want you to ask me again..."

"What's it mean?" Duo asked, his eyes closing as he felt those hot lips move to his neck again, then he sighed, gripping Heero's back. "Oh, I don't care what. Onegai, Heero? Onegai, koibito?" The answering growl made his eyes open, and he looked up in surprise when the Japanese boy suddenly took his mouth, tongue moving in to invade. His startlement at the move was lost as he quickly returned the gesture, pulling Heero down on him as they tasted each other. An eternity passed before they broke apart, and Duo gave a slow smile at the fire he could see in those normally passive eyes. "Whatever I said, it definitely didn't make you angry this time..."

"Hai, Duo," Heero said, his statement serious as he stared down at the boy. "You said please, lover, and my answer is yes, yes..." He bent slowly and sighed with satisfaction when Duo opened his mouth, head moving to meet him. Again, they kissed, and it was with an irritated breath that Heero pushed himself up, his eyes moving to the high neck of Duo's outfit. Without speaking, he moved to undo it, his fingers nearly flying over the buttons till he could push it aside and touch his mouth to the boy's exposed chest.

"Mm, so I called you lover?" Duo asked, his eyes closed as he enjoyed the feel of Heero's kisses, his hands caressing the boy's lightly muscled back. "No wonder it bothered you...I thought I offended you...or something..."

Shaking his head as he loomed over the boy, Heero kissed him firmly before raising a bit. "Never. Just hearing that word--those words--coming from you...I nearly died. Duo," he kissed him, pulling back almost immediately. "You know what I want to do, don't you?"

The violet-eyed boy gave a slow and pleased smile as he looked up at the boy who'd begun to have a hint of a frown marring his features. "Not at all, Heero. What do you want? I'm at a loss."

//He's teasing me now?!// Eyes narrowing, Heero kissed the boy, grinding his erection into Duo and watching as those eyes widened. "I'm serious," he warned, when they'd parted again. "I'm not playing games with you, Duo."

"Good," Duo said quickly, his breath speeding up as he felt the boy pressed against him. "But I'd say we have too much clothes on." Pushing Heero back a bit, Duo undid his pants, kicking his shoes off as an afterthought before pushing the restricting clothing away. When Heero did the same, he pulled the boy back to him quickly, not wanting to blush as those cobalt eyes tried to move over him. "Now then, you were saying?"

The boy's grin had his lips twitching, but Heero pushed back his own surprising sense of humor as he knelt, Duo's legs moving to make room for him. "You're so damned playful," he muttered, reaching between them to grasp the boy's length, his own making a hot brand against Duo's thigh. There was the sound of an indrawn breath and those violet eyes closed to slits. "But I prefer this," he whispered, "there'll be time for games later."

Duo took a shuddery breath as Heero's fingers circled him, that hot mouth moving to take one of his nipples. "P...promise? I'll...remember you...said that," he warned, then his thoughts turned to pleasure and he gazed down at the dark-haired boy.

"Less talk, more moans," Heero murmured, leaning back so he could touch his lips to the boy's length, his tongue circling it as his eyes watched Duo's face. The boy gasped in a harsh breath when he took him into his mouth, but it wasn't enough and Heero sucked on him gently. He could feel fingers in his hair, but he centered his attention on what he was doing, stroking the boy with his mouth and tongue till he could feel Duo's hips pressing upwards. It was then that he reluctantly released him, sitting up.

"Why...did you stop?" Duo asked, his voice faltering as he opened his eyes quickly. "Heero...onegai, koibito?" He nearly smiled when the boy growled, but then he saw Heero start to get off the bed and he frowned. "Where are you going?"

"To get something to use," Heero said, frowning himself. He hated to have to stop, but there was no way he'd risk hurting the boy. //I should have thought of this before we started but...how was I to know we'd end up doing this?// Shaking his head, he scowled as his eyes moved around the room, then he made a quick trip to the bathroom, smirking as Duo's eyes latched onto the tube of lotion he'd found. He knelt on the bed again, and kissed the boy lightly before moving lower. "Now then, where was I?"

Duo blinked sharply as the boy actually looked confused, then he recognized that glint in Heero's eyes and smirked. "You were driving me insane with pleasure," he murmured, "Resume, please?"

"That's right." With a nod, Heero lapped his tongue over the boy's damp length, his eyes shining when Duo's eyes closed immediately and the boy's hands moved to his hair again. He was careful not to neglect his work as he unscrewed the lid to the tube, and he squeezed some of the smooth substance onto his hand before setting it aside. Lifting Duo's hips, he sucked a bit harder as he pushed a slick finger into the boy, his eyes returning to the American's face. The boy's statement was drawn, but whether it was from pain or pleasure, he couldn't tell, and he frowned. Stilling his movements, he lifted his head. "Duo? Don't hold back, please? I need to know if I'm hurting you."

"What?" Blinking, Duo glanced at him in surprise, his slightly glazed eyes drawing a pleased smirk from Heero. Then the digit inside of him touched something and he gasped roughly, his eyes closing again. "Oh. No...that definitely feels good..."

Heero nodded sharply as he took the boy into his mouth again, his eyes glinting when Duo let out a very soft, yet audible moan as he rubbed against the spot. Encouraged, he added another finger and stretched the boy some more before letting it join in the first's torment of the shaking frame beneath him. When he felt Duo was prepared, he replaced his mouth with a hand as he slowly coated himself and pushed into the boy. He heard Duo's breath catch, and while he didn't voice his discomfort, that sign was enough and Heero paused, bending forward to kiss that open mouth as his hand stroked him gently. When he moved a bit more there was nothing to stop him, and he felt Duo's arms tighten as he was pulled down. Then he was pushing into the boy, and his control snapped as if it were a thin string, his groan stolen by the mouth pressed against his.

Duo gave another quiet moan as he felt that thick length moving inside him, and he gasped as Heero hit the right spot with nearly every thrust. His eyelids were heavy, but he watched the boy's face through his lashes, memorizing the way Heero's mouth opened as the Japanese boy breathed harshly, whispering an occasional cry. While he wasn't any less consumed by the pleasure that blazed over them, he tilted his head, running his tongue over the boy's opened lips and moaning when Heero promptly covered his mouth with a deep kiss. One of his hands found itself buried in the dark, unruly hair as he held the mouth to his, and he knew his grip on Heero's back was painfully tight. But he couldn't help it as they moved faster and he was driven deeper into the bed, his eyes closing. Their breath ran out at the same moment their restraint did and they broke apart as they came, one after the other, their choked cries still muffled as their lips were less than an inch apart.

Not waiting for his breathing to slow, Duo ran both hands through Heero's hair, barely finding the strength to look at the boy whose head now rested on his chest. "Thank you, Heero. For telling me, and wanting me, and giving me this--" He broke off when the sound of a soft snort reached him and he raised an eyebrow as Heero slowly moved his head, looking at him. "What?"

"I don't think we're supposed to thank each other," Heero said, his eyes glinting as he managed a small smirk. "Besides, I did that as much for me as for you. Ai shiteru...Duo no baka."

"Well...I got the baka part," Duo grinned, "I guess I'll have to look up the rest, ne?" He ruffled the boy's hair when Heero gave a quick nod before hiding his face against Duo's neck. "You know what, Heero? I really liked you before, and it's obvious I wanted you, right? But now...I think I probably love you now." He was a bit disappointed when the object of his affections didn't look up, but then he giggled as he felt Heero nip at his neck. "Guess I can call you koibito now, ne?"

"No," Heero said, raising his head suddenly as he pushed himself up. "I'll be your koi, you're my koibito. And ai shiteru, koibito, my baka."

Smirking, Duo shook his head a bit before sighing as Heero kissed him. "What's the difference? No, don't tell me, I'll figure it out...but later, not now. We should probably take a shower or something."

"A bath," Heero nodded, a sudden smirk gracing his lips. "One of your hour-long baths."

"Okay...koi."

 

--Owari--

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