3-5-2001

Warning: Reference to rape, angst, slight violence. Pairing: 1x2 with hint at 3x4.

Sacrifices

 

Silence reined, as it had for the past three days. Ever since Quatre and Duo had been rescued from a mission gone very wrong. Neither was speaking, and although Trowa was showing infinite patience, Wufei and Heero were going out of their minds. Heero was finding that the distractions that had irritated him so very much were actually necessary to help him focus on his work. The silence was unerving, even more distracting than any prank Duo had ever pulled. Wufei was simply angry because he knew that something must have happened and although Trowa seemed to know what was wrong, he, Wufei was being left out. He didn't like that one bit. Deciding Heero had a better chance of finding out what was going on, Wufei convinced him to question the former loudmouth, in other words Duo.

Heero paused outside Duo's door. //Why did I let him talk me into this? As many times as I've told him to shut up, it is too hypocritical of me to ask him why he's being so quiet. But...I want to know. It's unnatural.// Heero was about to push the door open, when he heard Duo's voice coming from inside the room. As the door was opened a crack, it was a simple thing for him to peek inside and see Duo sitting at his desk, speaking to Doctor G.

* * *

"I have to go back on it," Duo was saying in a solemn voice, "I haven't slept in three days. At this rate I'm likely to have a breakdown."

"What happened?" the doctor asked, his eyes wide, "I thought you could handle these things."

"Yeah," Duo said bitterly, "so did I. But there were simply too many of them. I...I messed up. I just couldn't take it long enough...I ended up passing out after an hour or two."

"How...how many were there, Duo?" The doctor's eyes were narrowed again, pain blazing in them. "I know your limits, surely there weren't..."

"Yeah there were. And the worst thing is that..." Duo sighed, putting his head in his hands, the rest of his words said in a whisper. "Quatre was there."

"No..." Doctor G winced. "Did they...?"

"No, but they could have. It was pure luck that they stayed with me until I woke up again. That's what bothers me the most. I've gotten weak...I think I need to retrain."

"Absolutely not!"

"It's not like I want to!" Duo cried, raising his head to look at the doctor. "But that would kill Quatre. I'm no good if I can't even stay conscious. I just don't have the endurance I used to. The last couple of times I've been captured with one of the others, I managed to keep them from knowing and to keep the attention on myself. This time just proves that things are getting much worse within OZ. I don't know if there is less control over subordinates, or if they think that will break us, but the soldiers were too enthusiastic. It was as if they had planned it ahead of time and were just waiting to catch one of us. If this happens again, I need to be ready. Next time it could be Quatre."

"Duo, if you are having nightmares about this time, how are you going to be if you go back to...'training'?"

"That's one of the reasons I'm going back on the drug. If I can't block my feelings out by myself anymore, then I have no choice. And neither do you. You know why I was chosen as one of the pilots. My fighting skills aside, I'm the only one of us who has my special skills. If I can't do my job, then you and the other doctors stand the risk of losing one of the others. Quatre obviously couldn't handle it...he still won't talk to me...and I don't think Trowa could either."

"And Wufei, or Heero? Wufei would simply worry about getting revenge and achieving justice and you know Heero doesn't feel anything. You aren't the only one who could do this."

"I am the best. As long as I can, I will. I won't let one of them take my place. Besides," Duo suddenly smiled darkly, moving his chair back, "I didn't meantion it, but they know me. I don't know how many, but they had definitely heard of me. I told you, I'm good at my job. Once I go back to the drug, I'll be even better."

"I can't talk you out of that, but please, Duo, don't retrain. It isn't necessary. Play the martyr when you're caught again, not now when there's no reason for it."

"I make a good martyr," Duo said cynically, "and if I think I need to retrain, then I will. Don't worry, I won't get myself killed. I gotta go now. A mission could come tommorrow, and if I'm going to sleep tonight then I have to take care of this. I'll call you soon." Duo abruptly signed off, not giving the doctor time to argue. Standing slowly, Duo froze. Abruptly, he turned toward the door. There was no one there.

//Damn. I am getting jumpy.// Shutting the door firmly, Duo turned the lock and pulled a bag out from under his bed. Withdrawing the small, familiar bottle and a needle, he wrapped a band around his arm and injected a dose of the medication. //This will take care of my problems, but I'll still have to talk to Quatre. He won't even look at me. Knowing him, he's blaming himself for what happened. That's almost as bad as it would be if I hadn't taken his place. I guess I'll have to explain things to him. I'll just wait until this hits my system.//

* * *

Heero didn't bother to give any explanation to Trowa when he pulled Quatre out of the chair. The two boys had been sitting at the table in the kitchen. Giving Trowa a glare, Heero drug the blonde boy outside the safehouse, stopping when they were alone by a tree in the middle of the large yard. Certain no one could sneak up on them or overhear the conversation, Heero finally released the wide-eyed boy.

"Heero.." Quatre whispered, shocked by the dark-haired boy's actions, "What's wrong?"

"The mission." Heero stated with a cold tone, eyes boring into Quatre's. "What happened?"

Quatre's pale skin lost all color. He shook his head, tears filling his eyes.

"You will tell me," Heero growled, gripping the other boy's chin and forcing him to meet his eyes. "Do you think it would be better if I forced Duo to tell me?"

Tears streamed down Quatre's face. "It's all my fault," he whispered, voice choking, "He sacrificed himself for me..."

"Not good enough," Heero ground out, "Tell me exactly what happened."

"We were captured, but they weren't asking us anything at all. They were just...threatening us. Then they started talking about something. I didn't understand, but Duo did. He...he told them that I wouldn't last very long, but...that he would. Then they said they'd heard about him. Oh God, Heero, they'd heard about him. Him specifically. Then...they...they raped him." Quatre sobbed suddenly, "And it went on and on and I couldn't do anything! And-and he passed out and they still didn't stop." Quatre was now sobbing on Heero's shoulder.

* * *

Lunch was weird, at least for Wufei. Heero glared even more than usual, and if he had talked to Duo, he hadn't mentioned it. Quatre was absolutely silent except when Duo made some comment requiring a response. Then Quatre would answer quickly before lowering his head again. The guilt in his eyes apparent. Duo, on the other hand, was acting the same as always. It was as if the three days of silence had not happened. The braided boy was loud, irritating, and cheerful, and it seemed to be pissing the hell out of Heero. Wufei shook his head and, bolting down his food, left the table as quickly as possible. Things were getting way to weird for him.

Having wolfed down his food, he hadn't eaten much at all in the past three days, Duo leaned back in his chair and smiled at the table in general. Then his smile wavered, just a bit, as it fell on Quatre's bowed head. "Hey Quatre, could we talk for a minute or two? Doesn't look like you're going to eat, so now's a good time, neh?"

Quatre looked stricken, then he slowly nodded his head, following Duo out of the room.

* * *

Duo sat Quatre down on the blonde's bed. Then he stood in front of him, arms folded over his chest. "I won't beat around the bush, Quatre, you can't blame yourself for what happened. In fact, you shouldn't even let it bother you."

"How...how can you say that!?"

"Well," Duo smirked, "There's some things about me you don't know. If I tell you, you have to give me your word you won't tell any of the others, deal?"

Quatre's eyes widened. After a minute of silence, he finally nodded his head.

"Kay. When I was growing up, I lived in a lousy place. To cut to the chase, I ended up spending a year in a whore house. Now don't get me wrong," Duo cut off Quatre's shocked gasp, "I wasn't there by choice. But it taught me a lot of things. So what happened shouldn't bother you too much. You have to understand, one of the reasons I was chosen as a Gundam pilot was to protect the rest of you from...well...rape. It's very traumatizing the first couple of times. For me though, it's just pain. Just another form of torture. I don't really see it as being 'violated' or anything like that. It's no worse than being beaten. So I don't want you to torture yourself thinking that you are responsible. You didn't have a choice. I wasn't lying when I said you wouldn't last long. That isn't an insult, but I have more endurance than you. Instead of feeling guilty, you should actually feel a bit angry with me." Duo smiled again, a grin this time. "I should have convinced them to do it somewhere else. Usually I can do that if I use a little reverse psychology on them, but...well I don't really have an excuse. I'm really sorry you had to see that Quatre."

"Duo...that is so horrible." Quatre stood and put his arms around the braided boy.

"Are you going to stop beating yourself up over what happened, Quatre? You have to realize that my biggest mission is to make sure none of you are ever captured alone. This happens all the time. You just had the misfortune to have to witness it."

* * *

Duo silently slipped down the stairs and out the back door, locking it securely behind him. He then hid the key in a pot and turned to make his way along the side of the house. Suddenly he was grabbed from behind, turned and shoved against the house. His eyes widened as he recognized Heero's blazing cobalt eyes. Grinning, Duo spoke, "Whacha doin awake, Heero?"

Heero glared, "Where are you going?"

"Gotta do something," Duo said, his smile widening. "Didn't mean to wake you up." Duo moved away from the house and made to leave, when Heero slammed him against the wall again, harder this time. If anything, Duo's smile got bigger. "What's the matter, Heero? Why are you being so rough with me? Just say whatever's bothering you. I gotta go or I won't be back until morning."

"Where are you going?" //Stop smiling, damnit! Be afraid, be hurt, anything but that fake smile...//

"To town, Heero. I have to take care of something."

"You're not going anywhere."

"Heero, I have to go!" Duo tried to push away from the wall, but Heero's strength kept him pinned. "I have to go!" he said again, waiting for a chance to get away, "I have to do this!"

Suddenly, Duo wrenched out of Heero's grip, but he was stopped mid-flight when Heero tackled him to the ground. "Stoppit, Heero! Let me go!" Duo struggled violently, and Heero tightened his grip, grinding the other boy into the ground. Suddenly Duo went limp. "Why? Why are you hurting me?"

"Duo..." Heero whispered, slowly moving off the other boy and kneeling beside him. "I...I just can't let you go. That's all."

Duo struggled to his feet, and was running almost immediately. For a moment, Heero stared after him in shock, then he took off after him. He caught him just as he was leaving the property, tackling him again and burying his fist in the other boy's stomach. Duo curled up slightly, offering little resistance as Heero picked him up and started carrying him back to the safehouse.

"Let-me-go-Heero," Duo whispered, "If I can't do this then I'll have failed. I won't have any worth as a Gundam pilot. Heero, you don't understand what I'm trying to do. Just let me go, I'm trying to protect you. I know what I'm doing, it's not like I'll get myself killed. Have a little faith," Duo's smile was slowly returning, the pained statement replaced by one of cheerful indifference, "This is what I'm good at. Trust me."

"Duo no baka!" Heero hissed, not slowing as he made his way across the lawn. "You are a fool if you think your only worth is as some sort of sacrifice. A replacement for us."

Still smiling, Duo searched his face then grimaced slightly. "Quatre has a big mouth," Duo smirked, "But it doesn't make any difference. When the time comes that I'm not there, you'll understand." Duo laughed slightly, an almost histerical sound. "If I hadn't been with you the last time you were captured, you'd be begging me to go now. As perfect as you are as a soldier, I don't think you would have survived that torture. Be glad I'm here and let me go. I'll be back twice as strong."

Heero's arms tightened around him, but when he looked up, he found that the cobalt blue eyes weren't on him. Duo sighed as he looked at Heero's tightened jaw. "You don't understand, Heero. This is why I'm a Gundam pilot. Stopping me now isn't going to make any difference. If you're worried about me, then you should know that stopping me now is only going to make it harder the next time I'm captured." He looked up at Heero's unresponsive statement and sighed again. "Fine. Put me down and I'll stay here tonight. I give you my word." Heero ignored him, unlocking the door and carrying him inside.

"Look Heero, you know I don't lie. I said I wouldn't go anywhere tonight and I won't." Duo frowned as Heero carried him up the stairs. "Where are you taking me?"

"To your room," Heero said, not looking at him, his anger evident by the pure coldness of his voice.

"I can go myself, you know." Duo glared for a minute then rolled his eyes. //No point arguing with him//

Pushing open his door, Heero carried him inside and set him on his bed. "Don't move." Heero went to Duo's computer and logged on, sending an instantaneous message.

"What are you doing?" Duo asked, eyes narrowing. He started to get off the bed, but Heero pinned him with a sharp gaze and he thought better of it. Folding his arms over his chest, he glared at the other boy, who turned back to the computer for a moment as he typed then, pressing the send button, turned to face him.

"Where's the drug?"

"Huh?" Duo stared at him wide-eyed, then he cursed. "Are you spying on me? Where do you get off? In fact, why am I letting you push me around?" Duo stood suddenly. "What I do is absolutely none of your business as long as I'm not jeapardizing a mission. You do realize, don't you? That you are jeapardizing our mission?"

Heero didn't react. "Where?"

"None of your damn business," Duo growled. "Get out of my room! Now!" He stalked forward threateningly, but Heero didn't move. For a moment they stood less than a foot apart, then Duo sidestepped him abruptly. "I'm not going to stand here and argue with you."

"You're not going anywhere."

"What the hell are you going to do?!" Duo turned on him. "Hit me again?! Go ahead! Beat the shit out of me. Then you can go on my next mission for me. But rest assured, I won't be here when you get back!"

Heero's eyes narrowed dangerously. "Ninmu Ryoukai."

* * *

"Heero. I can't say I wasn't expecting you to ask sooner or later, but I must say, you're very quick. Would I be correct in assuming you listened to our conversation?"

Heero stared at the grey haired man, taking in the sadness in his eyes yet feeling nothing but anger toward him. He didn't answer the question. "Duo will not be receiving any more missions. I will contact you when he will resume his part in this war. Until then you'll have to wait."

"What happened? Is he hurt?"

"Yes he is," Heero said slowly, "and thanks to your idiocy the damage may be irreparable. You will be contacted." Signing off abruptly, Heero glared at the blank screen as minutes passed. Finally, he turned to look evenly at the furious boy on the bed. Moving steadily, he approached the bed, not hesitating as he picked Duo up, the restraints effectively stifling his struggles.

Holding the boy tight, he exited the room, leaving the door open behind him. He couldn't have explained what he planned to do, since he didn't know what he could do. All he knew was that the present situation was intollerable. Duo's determination infuriated him, as did the fact that he actually incuraged his own torture in order to spare the other pilots. Heero for one did not want that sort of sacrifice done for him, especially not by Duo. There was only one thing he could think of and that was to isolate Duo until he could convince the boy, talk some sense into him. As unlikely as it seemed, it was a personal mission that Heero had no intention of failing.

* * *

Knowing his mission would not be a short one, Heero'd left his gundam with the other three pilots, confident that they would take care of it. After hot-wiring a truck, he left the one he'd taken from the safehouse and headed into the country. He'd thought of simply renting an apartment, but quickly discarded the idea since Duo'd no doubt attract attention if he knew there were people nearby. It didn't take long to find a secluded cabin that wasn't being rented at the moment. Already equipped with supplies, the cabin was the perfect spot, especially since it was secluded. And, with a bit of hacking on his laptop, Heero'd made sure no one would be coming to it any time soon.

* * *

Having started a fire in the fireplace of the cabin, Heero turned to the bed, meeting Duo's glaring violet eyes. Crossing the small room, he leaned over the boy and undid the gag, prepared for the cursing to resume. Instead, Duo's jaw tightened as he glared at Heero who sat on the edge of the bed.

Met by the boy's silence, Heero didn't know what to do. Somehow he'd expected Duo to start cursing about how Heero was interfering with his mission. Then he would counter the boy's argument. But he hadn't accounted for Duo's being silent. He didn't know what to say. It would be simple to tell Duo to stop sacrificing himself, but such an order would have no effect on the boy. Besides, it was obvious that it had been going on for far too long for Heero to change his mind so easily.

Sighing, Heero shook his head. "If I untie you," he said slowly, "will you try to run?"

Still glaring, Duo clenched his fists where Heero'd tied his arms to his sides. Gritting his teeth, he pulled at the ropes, muscles straining until he finally gave up. Not meeting Heero's gaze, he closed his eyes, turning his head away from the boy at his side, determined not to speak.

Knowing how stubborn the American could be, Heero accepted the silence as much as it disturbed him. Since the first time they'd met, he'd been irritated time and time again by his constant chatter, so the silence was unerving. He'd never known Duo to display much patience, so he waited for the boy to crack. It was a long wait. It wasn't until the long-haired boy sighed and tilted his head that he realized he'd gone to sleep. Staring at him in exasperation, Heero had an almost uncontrollable urge to shake him until he woke up. Instead, he stretched out beside him, waiting for him to wake on his own.

* * *

Heero awoke with a sharp jerk, surprised that he's dozed off. Then he heard a soft sound and realized what it was that had woken him. Sitting up, he looked down at Duo who was struggling against his bonds, head shaking back and forth furiously as he let out an angry cry. Gripping his shoulders, Heero gave him a quick shake, blinking in surprise when Duo opened his eyes, pure hate shining in their depths. Then he slowly stilled, looking up at Heero in surprise for a moment before remembering where he was. Letting out a shakey breath, he glanced down at the ropes restraining him.

"Okay..." Not looking at Heero, Duo sighed. "Untie me and I promise not to run away."

Getting a knife, Heero knelt on the bed as he cut through the ropes, putting the blade out of the boy's reach just in case. This done, he sat on his heels as Duo stretched his arms and legs, rubbing the places where the rope had touched skin. After a minute had passed, Heero found that he was the one lacking patience. Since the boy didn't seem in a hurry to look at him, he decided he wasn't going to let Duo ignore him again. Especially since he'd actually spoken.

"You're having nightmares about what happened. Don't try to act like it doesn't hurt."

Turning his head, Duo blinked at him for a minute before his eyes narrowed. "Of course it hurts," he said, voice mocking. "What kind of torture doesn't? But if you think I was dreaming about what happened to me, you're wrong. I meant it when I said I could handle it. That's not what I was dreaming about."

"Then what?" Heero asked, shaking his head. "Tell me why I should let you do this to yourself." //Not that it'll change my mind,// he thought to himself. //I'm not going to let you keep doing this.//

"I don't need your permission," Duo said angrily, then he followed Heero's pointed look, gazing at the ropes lying beside the bed. Smirking, he met Heero's eyes. "Alright, so you've gone nuts. I guess it won't hurt anything to tell you, it's not like I have anything to hide. See, I wasn't dreaming about what happened to me, I never dream about that. It was Quatre."

Confusion crossing his face, Heero looked at the boy. "Quatre...but nothing happened to him."

"No," Duo agreed, looking down as he sat with his hands lying in his lap. "Nothing happened to him because I did my job. But I have dreams, nightmares where I mess up and they hurt him instead. Or you, or one of the others. It's a fear I've always had, that I'll fail and my weakness will result in someone else's pain."

Forcing himself to keep silent, Heero waited, watching Duo's suddenly pain-filled eyes.

"Do you know what it feels like to see someone you care about...someone who means more to you than anything in the world...to see that person suffer because he didn't want you to?" Duo asked, not looking up as he shook his head slowly.

//Yes. Not to see, but I know. I know what it feels like.//

"It's the worst feeling," Duo continued, not looking up, his voice low. "Think about Quatre. He's so sensitive, especially with that space heart of his. Could you imagine him being tortured in the most degrading way while you did nothing? I don't have nightmares about my suffering because I would suffer more if I didn't do what I do. I have nightmares about what would have happened if I hadn't interfered."

"But..." Heero waited until Duo looked up before continuing. "How do you think he felt? To him, you sacrificed yourself so he wouldn't be hurt, and that hurt him as much as it would have if you had done nothing. It's the same, Duo. You interfered because you didn't want him to be hurt, but by doing so you hurt him yourself."

"Yes." Seeing Heero's surprised statement, he nodded solemnly. "I know. But see, I've had this happen before. I've had the one person I loved sacrifice himself for me only to have us both end up suffering. And he died. So I decided then that I would not fail. I won't let someone else suffer because of me, or because I did nothing. I have nothing to lose, Heero. Nothing OZ could do to me could be worse than what I've already gone through."

"And that makes it all right?"

"It's a matter of the lesser of two evils. Have you ever been raped, Heero?"

Looking into those lovely eyes, Heero felt his insides twist as he slowly shook his head.

"I'm glad." Seeing Heero's eyes widen, Duo dropped his eyes, a wry smile curving his lips. "It's horrible. There's something so demeaning about it, having someone use your body for their pleasure. And it's even worse to see that happen to someone you love. I hope you never see that."

"You have..."

"Yes. I don't know if Quatre told you, but when I was nine I was taken to a whore-house. But I wasn't alone, my friend...the only friend I ever had...he followed them. Followed me."

"Nine...a child..."

"Yes. We were children, Solo a couple years older than me. And he followed them when they took me. He thought he could take my place, but they just used him. Then, when he was almost dead, they used me to make his last moments hell. I'll never forget. And I vowed I'd never let it happen again."

There was nothing he could say, listening to Duo's voice so void of emotion. Yet he had to say something. "You suffered. Because your friend was hurt trying to spare you, you suffered. Can't you understand then that your suffering to spare us hurts? I would rather suffer any torture OZ could imagine than have you take my place."

"Heero..."

* * *

"What's in the drug?"

Pausing midbite, Duo looked up in surprise. Neither boy had spoken for over an hour, the last one to move had been Heero who'd silently produced dinner. Sitting next to the other boy on the bed as he ate from the plate on his lap, Duo frowned. "It's an upper, almost an aphrodesiac. It keeps me from getting depressed."

Heero's eyes narrowed. "Then it was just an act? The way you make jokes, how you're always in such a good mood..."

"No!" Shaking his head quickly, Duo wondered why Heero sounded so upset over the idea. "I'm normally up-beat. That's who I am. But...sometimes everything gets to be too much for me. It's hard to smile..."

"Then don't," Heero said sharply. "If you don't feel like smiling, don't smile. There's no reason to hide behind a fake smile."

"Are you kidding? You hide all the time, we all do. I think Quatre's the only one who doesn't." Heero didn't seem impressed, and Duo sighed. "I just don't want to worry him. He cares, and he'd want to know what's wrong. I won't burden him with my problems."

"I care."

Staring at Heero's furious face, Duo knew how hard it was for him to say the words, but he had trouble believing it. "You don't act like it." Seeing the way the cobalt-eyed boy's face hardened, Duo sighed. "Half the time I'm convinced you don't even like me. I know I irritate you." Blinking as he looked away from his hands, Duo gave him a hesitant smile. "I want you to know that I don't do it on purpose. Oh, sometimes I mean to, but usually I'm just doing what comes naturally. I guess we're just so different you don't understand that."

"Why wouldn't I? Because I ignore you? Yes, you do irritate me, but not because of the way you act. That's just distracting. I'm no good when comes to sharing my feelings, if I were then you'd know that I react in the only way I know how." Glaring when Duo's expression turned confused, Heero snorted. "I thought you bugged me on purpose to see if you could get a reaction out of me." Waiting, he was rewarded when Duo's look of surprise turned into an abashed one. "I thought so. That's why I yell at you. So you know it worked."

Giving in the grin that tugged his lips, Duo shook his head and let out a soft laugh. "Are you telling me that all this time I've been cracking jokes at your expense you not only knew I was trying to get you mad, you actually got mad so I'd keep doing it?"

Heero gritted his teeth before answering. "Everytime I ignored you, you'd give up and go irritate someone else. I..." Dropping his eyes, he glowered. "I was afraid if you didn't get something out of me you'd stop talking to me."

"You really like me, don't you." Flinching at Heero's death-glare, Duo gave a weak grin. "Well, it's a surprise, that's all. Hell, you've known I liked you since we met and you never gave a hint that you felt anything. Of course I'm surprised."

"I knew?! Where the hell did you get that from? Maybe I did know you liked me a little, but no more than you like everyone else. Why did you think I knew?" Frowning, Heero folded his arms over his chest, meeting Duo's confused gaze.

"I...I thought it was obvious. Everyone else noticed, even Wufei. Even if you hadn't seen, I was sure one of them would have told you. I though you knew..." Seeing his cobalt eyes narrow, Duo shook his head at Heero. "I wasn't hiding it."

"Well I didn't," Heero said, voice harsh. "And no one said a thing to me. What signs did you give?"

"Well," Duo said, with an eyebrow raised, "I spent all my time with you. Didn't you ever wonder why I always wanted to be your partner on the dangerous missions? I didn't want you hurt. You know I don't like silence, yet I've spent so many hours listening to nothing but the sound of your typing. And you never wondered why?"

"No. I didn't. Maybe I was content to have you there, so much so that I didn't question the reason you were there." Looking down at his plate, Heero frowned darkly.

"So what now? I mean, where do we go from here?" Heero raised his head abruptly, and Duo flinched at the bright intensity in his eyes.

"You give me your word to stop and we go back to the others. From there, I don't know."

Wincing, Duo groaned lightly as he looked down. "I thought we weren't going to talk about that. Heero, there's nothing you can say that'll convince me to stop. And even if I wanted to," he looked up, eyes wide, "What makes you think I'd be able to? I think it's too late for that." Shaking his head, he set his plate on the stand beside the bed and ran the fingers of one hand through his long bangs. "It's gone on for too long."

"Yes it has. It stops here. You can't help what others do, Duo, but you can stop encouraging them."

"I can't."

"Damn you." Shoving his plate next to Duo's, he moved close to the boy, gripping his shoulders as he moved so their eyes were inches apart. "Stop. It isn't hard, just stop."

Eyes burning, Duo tried to pull back, the strong grip on his shoulders preventing him. "Heero...I just can't. I can't live through that again." Blinking back tears, he was completely unprepaired for the crazed light that seemed to blaze in the other boy's eyes as Heero's hands moved to frame his face.

"You can, you will." Unable to stop himself, Heero moved forward suddenly, lips moving urgently over Duo's in a desparate kiss before he jerked back just as quickly, eyes wide as he took in the boy's shocked expression. "Please."

"Heero..." Feeling his tears slip down over his cheeks, Duo closed his eyes, letting out a cry as he felt soft lips brushing over the damp spots. "Heero."

"Please," Heero said again, voice hoarse as he kissed Duo's forehead, thumbs moving over the tearstreaks on those soft cheeks. "Please stop, Duo. Don't do this to yourself...to me."

Feeling himself break, Duo let out another choked cry as Heero pulled him into his arms, eyes closed as he moved his hands around the Japanese boy's waist. Not bothering to speak, he let his sobs come, burying his face against that lightly muscled chest. "H-Heero...if...if anything...ever happened to you..."

Arms tightening as he clutched the shaking boy to him, Heero closed his eyes, moving his head down so he could breathe in the scent of Duo's hair. "Duo...do you know? Ai shiteru..."

--owari--