6-17-2001

First of all I would like to thank all those people who responded to my songfic A Love Before Time. It is always so nice to get encouragement from your peers. I am very glad you enjoyed the story. Thanks again. Now to the business at hand. I just finished another longer story called Alteration. It has six parts. This is Part One, let me know what you think. I was in an odd mood when this was written so forgive the darker overtones. This one also carries a bit of angst but I promise it will have a happy ending. Well folks here it is. I hope it is entertaining.

Title: Alteration
Author: Karen, The Huntress
Disclaimer: I do not own Gundam Wing or its characters
Pairing: 1x2, 2x1
Warning: YAOI-LEMON violence, language, angst but this is not a deathfic

 

ALTERATION

 

Heero peered around the corner, his pistol pressed firmly against his chest. Behind him he could barely hear Wufei's light panting. They had sprinted the last hundred meters or so reaching the darkened corner undetected.

Heero waved his hand in a silent gesture to move forward. Skirting the building's rough brick side, the Gundam pair paused at a gray metal door.

Heero quickly negated the lock and easily turned the knob. The rusted hinges protested with a low groan that Heero hoped would not be carried too far along on the steady breeze curling at their backs.

Opening the door a few inches, he cautiously peeked inside allowing a moment for his eyes to adjust to the dimly lit hallway. Another silent motion, Wufei followed him inside.

Closing the door cut off the stiff breeze and its accompanying chill. It also ended what little cover noise the howling wind provided. Now their footsteps, if not carefully placed, could very well echo in the corridor's vacancy.

**********************************************

Trowa and Quatre crouched in the forest's fringes impatiently waiting for their counterparts to complete their part of the mission. They had taken out the perimeter guards without a single tattletale sound and cut the alarm system's power source.

They both hated the waiting knowing Duo was being held somewhere behind the gray walls of OZ's temporary Headquarters. The only thing that gave them any consolation, if any could be gained by the situation, was that the building had not been designed for its present purpose.

This meant the area used for the holding cells had no elaborate security system. In fact it had nothing much at all in the way of keeping prisoners. A hurriedly assembled alarm system, which they had bypassed with one well-placed cut, and a small contingent of soldiers, of which three were already disabled, were Heero and Wufei's only barrier to Duo's reclaiming.

Time did demand the mission be finished soon. They knew it was quite probable the reinforcements, Heero had discovered in his last hacking enture, were scheduled to arrive before nightfall and night was falling very quickly now.

"They shouldn't have any problem." Quatre stated turning his back to the battering wind.

Trowa nodded in agreement shifting his weight as he settled down on an exposed root letting his pistol dangle in his slender fingers.

Quatre sighed, a heavyhearted sigh, straining to see through the gathering dusky shadows. "Do you think they hurt him?" he sighed once more resting his head on Trowa's shoulder.

"I don't know." the Heavyarms Pilot shrugged with his customary impassive response.

Quatre let his body relax but only a bit. He wished that his partner was sometimes more inclined to tell "little white lies". That Trowa would have answered his worried question with an "I'm sure everything will be all right." instead of his usual stoic reply when asked his opinion on anything.

Quatre wiggled against Trowa's arm, his silky blond hair tickling along Trowa's neck, "Stay still." Trowa ordered lowly not wanting Quatre's moving about to distract his attention.

"Duo should have never gone with us on that mission." Quatre declared wiggling again to get comfortable. "He wasn't nearly recovered enough from his pervious injuries."

"We told him we could handle it," Trowa answered twisting silky golden strands in his fingers, "but you know how stubborn Maxwell can be. We should have been more insistent he stayed at the Safe House."

Quatre eased back on Trowa's chest, "Well we wouldn't be here now if he had listened, but I guess that doesn't matter. What does matter is finding him and taking him home."

"They will find him and he WILL be all right." Quatre announced positively determined to will Deathscythe's Master to be unharmed.

**********************************************

Pausing at the hall's intersection, Yuy peered in either direction. Finding both ways as vacant as the stretch behind them, he moved forward again.

Wufei fingered his gun's trigger focusing his senses of sight and sound to assure his back-up position was secure. Faintly ahead voices drifted down the badly illuminated hallway, the lack of light being helpful in two ways.

First it did not throw up harsh shadows, keeping the "tag-along" blue outlines from proceeding the watchful pair. Secondly, the muted light would aide in their concealment, hopefully until they were close enough to the phantom voices to "get the drop" on the unsuspecting guards.

A few more meters showed the hall begin to become brighter as the infiltrating "visitors" crept nearer to their goal and Duo's liberation.

Three Standard Rank soldiers talked with a fourth man dressed in a Lieutenant's black and crimson uniform. One leaned lazily on the wall, his rifle resting by his leg. Two, with no visible weapons except the pistol sitting snuggly in the holsters, had their backs to the approaching intruders. Only the ranking Officer was positioned to catch a glimpse the Gundam Pilots.

Heero and Wufei really didn't want to have to shoot if it could be avoided. Their hesitation was not based on some conscience-induced need to spare the guards, but on the practicality of keeping their presence undetected. They not only had to get in and find Duo, but all three Gundam Masters had to escaped in reasonably sound condition or the mission would not be completed successfully.

Chang cut his eyes at his partner-in-crime letting him know the Chinese Pilot had decided to issue a challenge he hoped would be honorably accepted. If not, well, he would not think twice about his shooting alterative if they forced his hand.

Heero nodded the "go-ahead" and stepped up to cover Wufei's back still being careful to stay within the shadowy recesses as not to let the guards know their force strength. They were outnumbered in one sense but they doubted, knowing OZ's tendencies to pick their conscripted soldiers for their brawn not their brains, that the lackey's training was not comparable to the Gundam's.

Silently, almost floating like a ghost from the blackened fringes, Chang Wufei materialized seemingly from nothingness into plain sight.

**********************************************

Flashback--Two Days Before

Duo reeled backwards as the blow dispelled air from his diaphragm like a deflated balloon. Black dots danced before his eyes. Searing moisture further compromised his vision. The burly guard reared back his fist and let it fly harder than before.

The flood sprang up to meet Duo's winded body as he pitched over from the second punch. This time the fist contacted his jaw line sending a flash of white light and pain to join the dancing dots. He didn't feel the cold tile ram into his hands and knees or feel his shoulder jam almost locking in place.

Duo bent over his labored breaths coming in painful pants. A salty taste mixed with saliva drooling from his mouth's corner. Tight, raspy coughs, gathering in his burning throat, expelled blood mingled with the tainted salivation.

His breath was torn from him once more as the large Officer's swift kick plowed into the same solar plexus region. A barely inaudible "pop" sounded from somewhere in Duo's chest as his ribs gave, two separating far enough to crack. Another burning wave rushed over his trembling frame.

Duo's vision cleared just long enough to show him the heavy boot coming around for a second strike. Finding strength he didn't know he had, Duo managed to roll to the side, the centered kick just missing its mark.

Calling on his Gundam training, Duo, celebrating his small victory, lifted an anger-clenched fist and slowly extended his middle finger in an unmistakable gesture of contempt.

"So you can still move you Rebel Bastard." the frustrated man growled. "I'll have to work some more of my magic on you" he declared reaching for Duo's arm.

"Oh God, NO!" Duo's inner voice screamed realizing the livid man was reaching for his right arm. The stitches had been removed only a day prior to his capture and the long gash had, by no means, healed properly.

The right-side appendage was caught up in a vice-like grip as Duo was lifted roughly from the floor. The arm was then twist behind his back until his teeth gritted in an effort not to cry out loud. But a sharp, more wrenching, yank undermined Duo's resolve.

An agonized scream filled the room. The gut deep wail echoed down the corridor making the few soldiers walking along its length wince and be thankful they were not on the receiving end of Sergeant William Barnes', otherwise known as "crazy Bill", dangerous temper.

Again the floor met Duo's chest and face with a dull thud. The stout contact pushed the last bit of breath from his oxygen-starved lungs as they threatened to collapse. His ribcage felt as though it was on fire.

Pain ran from his jaw to his shoulder that had begun to leak crimson from the reopened wound. Gathering speed as it raced across his ribcage and middle, the hot sensation was rapidly overwhelming Duo's failing system.

The battered Gundam Rebel lay on his stomach fighting for each painful respiration. A third, possibly crippling kick, caused Duo's guts to feel like they had been ripped apart. More blood seeped from his cracked lips joining a steady stream coursing over his chin.

"I've should have listened to Trowa and the others." he admitted to himself now that it was too late.

"Want some more?" Barnes shouted kneeling beside the sputtering prisoner.

Duo's only answer was a low moan and an involuntary flinch at the deafening volume ringing in his ears and the anticipation of another brutal assault.

"Now are you ready to play nice?" the Sergeant hissed grabbing the bleeding, swollen shoulder with another forceful jerk. Once more the lancing pain literally drove the breath from Duo's chest.

Attaching a bloodstained hand at the base of Duo's braid, Barnes used the frayed tresses as leverage to bring the Deathscythe Pilot back to a kneeling position. Barnes' other hand fastened itself at Duo's crown to keep his drooping head upright.

"If you treat me real good," crazy Bill announced, "I just might just break you arm and not you neck." he promised pulling Duo's head back at a more acute angle.

The hand at the nape of Duo's neck pulled free with a spiteful tug. It moved around Duo's throbbing head and began to unfasten the belt holding the Sergeant's pants. Soon the button was also undone and the zipper pulled down.

One motion guided Barnes pants and underwear to his knees exposing his excitement enlarged penis. Inflicting pain on anyone, especially someone as tempting as his youth prisoner, always brought his sexual libido to it highest levels. Tightening his grasp in Duo's hair, Barnes moved to center his rigid arousal in line with Duo's bloody face.

"Let's see if you are worth keeping alive." Barnes stated with a lascivious hiss. "Come on, all the way in," he ordered, "and take it slow." he added tugging Duo's face closer, "I don't want to come too soon."

Duo raised his swollen eyes, but only far enough to see the quivering member poised inches from his mouth. Shakily Duo lifted his pain cramped hands hesitating to touch the engorged organ.

"NOW!" Barnes growled jerking Duo's hair, drawing back to deliver a punishing punch.

Duo took in a quivering breath being reward with another rush of raw pain. Slowly his hands encircled the quaking member.

Fighting to keep from passing out at the thought was what he was being forced to do, Duo opened his mouth swallowing hard to muster up what courage he needed to perform the despicable act.

He almost gagged as the hot, wet organ touched his lips. "I can't do this." he told himself, "I would rather be dead than have to do this." he decided knowing that could very well be the last decision he would make.

Pulling back, Duo stared straight ahead making no move to comply with Barnes' wishes to be pleasured and relieved.

"So you want to play rough." the crazy Sergeant proclaimed, "Well that's all right pretty boy because that is just the way I like it."

Gripping his swollen manhood, Barnes pressed the weeping tip to Duo's lips which remained staunchly closed. With more forceful pressure the penis's head was pushed forward prying apart Duo's mouth. The tangled hand on Duo's braid neatly snapped his head back effectually ending Duo's determined struggle.

Barnes' taut erection suddenly filled Duo's mouth. Its inward entrance did not stop until the head hit the back of his throat causing his body's reflex actions to kick in. Gasping for air, the rancid taste of sweat and fluid made Duo sick.

The Sergeant pulled out about halfway then, using his handful of hair to control the alignment, jammed the hot member in again as if he was determined to put it all the way down Duo's windpipe. Duo closed his eyes as a nauseous wave rolled in his stomach.

Two more deep thrusts brought Barnes to the edge. Bowing his back he shoved his tingling manhood in once more pushing Duo's head against the thrust. With a groan and shaky breath, the OZ Officer released his seed, the milky fluid flooding Duo's mouth and throat.

With a strangulated gasp, Duo's inside thrashed triggering his gagging reflexes. Cold sweat beaded on his forehead and drenched through his thin shirt. Retching back the foul fluid, Duo heaved as a violent spasm pumped from his gut. The retching intensified ejecting the blood tinted, sour seed along with what little content remained in Duo's stomach.

Barnes jumped clear of the powerful regurgitation seconds before the vomit spewed forth with gut wrenching force. The discharged liquid's stench filled the room adding another reason for Duo to heave again.

Color drained from Duo's face. His legs became rubbery refusing to support his weight. The sudden freeing of Duo's hair allowed his wobbly balance to take over letting Duo topple forward. In his sickened state, Duo could do nothing but grab his aching middle as he folded over on his knees.

"Damn it!" Barnes swore as some of the rank expulsion splattered on his boots.

With a fit of blind rage, the Officer sidestepped the nasty pool refastening both hands in Duo's sweat soaked mane. With a fierce jerk, Duo's head was again centered.

One hand let go forming a temper-curled fist. Duo's head snapped back as the solid strike impacted his cheekbone, the jolt tearing him loose from Barnes' grasp.

Tumbling backward, his shoulders met the floor hard enough to expel air from his lungs and what little fluid was left in his mouth. His head quickly followed suit slamming with substantial force to cause fleeting blindness to cloud his vision. A renewed blood flow from his cheek ran down uniting with the flow from yet another split in his lips.

The bloody stream seeped into Duo's mouth threatening to bring on another bout of sickness. Curling up on his side, into as tight a ball as he could, Duo raised his arms over his head hoping to ward off any further onslaught of fists and boots.

The enraged Sergeant dropped to one knee leaning over to get a look at the battered Rebel's ashen face. "You're not good for a damn thing." he announced shoving the toe of his boot into Duo's ribs. A jerking flinch and a deep, guttural moan was Barnes' reward for his boot's hurtful invasion.

Duo was faintly aware of the sharp snap as Barnes pistol's hammer was cocked into firing position. He was even less aware of the cold steel barrel being pressed to his bruised temple.

"I don't know if you're worth wasting the fucking ammunition maybe I should just beat you to death." Barnes declared, "Not as easy, but much more satisfying." he stated considering the immense pleasure, sexual and otherwise, he would derive from the thorough pommeling and subsequent death of the Rebel scum writhing before him.

"Go on, shoot." Duo's mind screamed for some merciful release from the pain and humiliation. "Please just shoot." it begged not wanting to endure any more of Barnes' monstrous flailing.

The trigger drew back steadily as the quivering blackened hollow scraped on Duo's sensitive skin. Duo closed his eyes knowing he might not even hear the explosion before the bullet ripped through his skull depositing most of his brain on the wall behind.

"Sergeant!" a voice boomed across the room. The gun quickly withdrew from it deadly station as the now, wide-eyed, Officer rose swiftly to his feet.

"General Khushrenada." he stammered snapping to full attention in the presence of OZ's Top Commander.

Treize Khushrenada stroll to within inches of the quite rattled Sergeant. Silently he surveyed the gruesome scene of the Rebel prisoner's grueling punishment.

"What is going on here, Sergeant?" the General demanded watching Duo trembling in his almost catatonic "ball".

"Interrogating the prisoner." Barnes replied nervously not daring to meet the General's deep set blue eyes with his lowered sight.

"Interrogation." Khushrenada muttered wrinkling his face at the putrid smell wafting into his nostrils, Well, Sergeant, if that was your intention, I would say you have defeated your purpose."

Barnes' eyebrows pulled together in a puzzled frown, "Sir?" he questioned the Commander's statement.

"The prisoner not only can not speak now, but I believe his mental state may be beyond reclaiming." he stated in a deceptively calm manner.

Sergeant!" the General barked producing a quite visible quiver from the tough veteran. Khushrenada spun about standing only inches from the shaken soldier's face.

Suddenly Sergeant Barnes couldn't find it voice. But it was just as well, any reply would have instantly put the General into deeper anger and Khushrenada's deadly temper was even worse than Barnes' was.

"I want you to clean him up." Treize ordered pointing a finger the at braided Rebel's fetal form. "Then take him to the Med-Lab." he continued with a glare that sent cold chills up the Sergeant's spine.

"I have other plans for this one." Khushrenada added with ominous delight.

Sergeant Barnes stepped beside the American Pilot folding his hand firmly just below the wide circle of blood soaked fabric over Duo's shoulder. He gave a hefty jerk trying pull the Boy's tight curled, seemingly unyielding, body off the floor.

Another low, pain racked moan rose from inside Duo's battered compacted frame. Barnes jerked again. "Come on you son of a bi........"

The General's booming voice cut off the Sergeant's reference to Maxwell's questionable legitimacy. "Sergeant!" it echoed around the room, its volume casing Barnes to halt his tugging.

"YES SIR!" Sergeant Barnes replied snapping to attention.

"Do it gently." Treize demanded with a worn sigh fully aware that most of Barnes' abilities where borne of brawn and not brains.

"Yes, sir." the Sergeant answered stooping to slide his arms under Duo's still bowed frame.

Now the Sergeant's stomach was a bit queasy at the thought of holding Duo's sweat soaked, vomit drenched body so close to his own. The fact it was his fault the prisoner was in such shape only multiplied his misery.

Khushrenada paused in the corridor, turning slightly as Barnes carried Duo through the door. "And Sergeant Barnes," he addressed the somewhat pale trooper, "You better hope this one survives or there will be two bodies to be disposed of." he wholeheartedly promised.

**********************************************

Duo came around vaguely aware of the stark light panel glaring overhead. A combination of dry, tacky film and swollen welts around both eyes made taking in his surroundings nearly impossible. The heavy lethargic stupor weighted not only his body but mind as well.

He felt cold but the numbing chill's source was not immediately clear. Turning his head to the side was all Duo could accomplish as his neck, all the way to his shoulders, refused to cooperate.

His next attempt to push up on his elbows was just a futile. Duo soon found that his arms' inability to move was impeded by wide leather straps buckled around each wrist. The some leather bonds were secured about each ankle. effectively holding him firmly in place on the clinically cold metal examination table.

Duo slowly became aware of the reason for his clammy condition. He had been stripped of everything but his underwear. His disrobing had a twofold purpose.

First, after Barnes had ordered a Med-Tech to clean up the soiled captive figuring Khushrenada, despite being his Commander Officer, had no right to give him such an unsavory task, the Tech had decided Duo's shirt and pants were too nasty to save.

Secondly, Duo's mostly naked state was more convenient for the Doctor in charge of the General's latest experimental whims enabling him to carry out his assigned duties more easily.

Maxwell's exposing near nudity did not, however, warm him or lessen humiliation than went far beyond simple embarrassment. And his fixed confines to the rigid surface did nothing at all to ease his physical pain.

His initial attempt at a full breath shot fire across his cracked ribs and exploded another bolt of white light inside his head. It felt as though a massive weight had been centered on his chest and Duo's feeble fortitude was no match for its cumbersome heaviness.

Suddenly what was left of his shock dull thought process kicked in. Pure fear gripped Duo as he realized his situation.

This was not the first time Duo had found himself strapped to a table, or a chair or, occasionally, a wall.

Each time he had been secured in such a way, he had experienced torturous acts of physical, mental and, often sexual, abuse. Every time a little more of his coping ability, his trained toughness and, most of all, his humanity had been chipped away. Each time Duo's carefully fashioned mask that offered a happy face to the world had become thinner and thinner.

Duo's entire body jumped at the sound of the opening door. Two men dressed in Upper Rank OZ Uniforms trailed a large man in a typical white lab coat. The frightening serious trio strolled to the prone prisoner with a united focus that told Duo his worse fears might soon be realized and relived again.

Without a word the Doctor rolled a cart next to the table. Once more Duo's stiff neck wouldn't allow him to see the carts contents. It was just as well, Duo was certain whatever the various implements, if put in plain view, would only serve to heighten his already acute anxiety.

Duo fought with all his inner strength to slow his breathing. Struggled not to let the Doctor and the OZ Officials know how truly afraid he really was.

"You've been through this before and made it." Duo told himself mustering up what courage he could. "You can do it again."

He was thankful he was alone. At least they couldn't use hurting one of his fellow Pilots against him. He wouldn't have to endure their suffering as well as his own.

**********************************************

One memory that never, ever quite went away. One that was resurrected in Duo's most haunting night terrors, the sight of Heero so pale and lifeless, too far gone to scream anymore, resurfaced again in his mind's subconscious recesses. That time he thought he had lost Heero.

In spite of Duo's noble trying tears welled in his eyes. Heero's life almost ended that day. The horrific torments he was made to suffer before he mercifully passed out, all the terrible acts, had been done solely for Duo's benefit. After it was clear no amount of beatings and abuse would break the Deathscythe Pilot, the OZ fiends had started on Heero.

As the pounding became more violent, as the interrogation quickly deteriorated from information retrireview to pure rage against the Japanese Boy, the Perfect Soldier had somehow sensed, even through the pain, that Duo was about to give up their guarded secrets. Do anything to stop the battering that could cost Heero Yuy his life.

Duo remembered how Heero had stubbornly raised his head and locked his rapidly fading sight on his precious partner. With only his intuitive power in force Heero, between raspy, convulsive coughs that spat up blood, had summoned enough strength to whisper.

"Please, Duo, don't give up. No matter what happens to me don't give up." Then, as Heero's mind slipped into the black void, his barely audible words whispered once more. "If you give up all I have been through will be for nothing. Please, Duo," he begged as his voice trailed away, "don't let it be for nothing."

**********************************************

With those pleading words resounding in his mind, Duo knew he could withstand whatever the Doctor's diabolical designs might be. Neither OZ nor Duo's self-doubts would conquer his spirit. Duo put all his concentrative energies into a single mindset. Surviving OZ's intentions, no matter the pain, was foremost in his mind.

Holding on to Heero's imploring words would grant Duo the strength he needed. Getting back to his friends and his sweet koibito would be his only goal.

The Doctor picked up four round pads each with a thin wire attached in its center. Duo knew the Probe Patches would be pressed onto different parts of his body and used to send physical data such as heart rate, breathing, and how close someone might come to irreparable damage or death to monitors sitting on a nearby counter.

Duo's pain threshold, he was sure, would be pushed to its limits if for no other reason than to see just how much he could stand. Hopefully the monitors would alert the Doctor and Techs before he slipped over the edge of no return. But again, for Heero's sake, Duo Maxwell, the God Of Death, was not going to let that happen.

"Mind over matter." he told himself mentally preparing himself for the upcoming contest of wills.

One Probe was placed on Duo's temple. Two on either side of his breastbone and one on his wrist's pulse point. The Doctor stepped aside flipping on a switch that brought the monitors to life. He adjusted several dials squinting at three rows of electronic lines that would relay all the of Duo's bodily functions.

The Doctor glanced back at the braided youth now staring blankly at the ceiling. Clearly he was trying to redirect his mental focus elsewhere, but that didn't matter. The Doctor was certain he would have the Boy's undivided attention soon enough.

"Interesting." he said to no one in particular.

One OZ lackey stepped up beside looking over the white-coated shoulder. "What?" he wondered aloud.

"Either the equipment is malfunctioning or this one has a remarkable sense of control. Look how steady the lines are." he declared point at the flat horizontal markings.

The confused Doctor tapped the machine causing the lines to jump then fall back into their even flow. "Yes, very interesting." he replied, "I do believe General Khushrenada has made an excellent choice."

At the mention of Treize's name the top line quivered ever so slightly. Luckily none of the three men noticed the momentary fluctuation.

"What exactly are you hoping to achieve?" one man asked leaning over for a better look at Duo's glassy-eyed stare.

The Commander believes if a person's most primitive instincts can be brought to the surface, then controlled, the process could produce a breed of soldiers with an automatic killing reflex. In other words, a soldier who would kill without thinking, without the slightest hesitation or moral regret."

"And how does the Commander intend to make that happen?" the man gazing at Duo asked turning away from the Pilots glazed-over sight. Duo's version of "checking out" had begun to give the man a strange sinking feeling.

"By DNA alteration, of course." the Doctor proclaimed unlocking a steel box with a special code-card.

"Do you think that something like that will work?" the second man wondered taking a seat by the door.

"That is why our young volunteer is here." the white-coated man announced, "As I said before the Commander has picked a fine candidate for our experiment. I sense a great fighting spirit in this one and enough tenacity to test the altered gene's effectiveness over a long period of time. Yes, the next few weeks should be most enlightening."

"Well young man are you ready to take your place in history?" the Doctor inquired taking vile of dark liquid and a rather long hypodermic needle from the box.

Duo never changed his eye's direction concentrating on the faded white ceiling tiles. Even though he could hear every word concerning the inhuman manipulation that was about to take place, he centered in mind and soul on Heero and how safe he would be in his lover's comforting embrace. With Heero "holding" him Duo knew he could endure anything.

There was no visible change in statement as the needle pierced Duo's arm injecting the cold liquid into his vein. In seconds the hot pain at the injection site eased into a dull ache.

Duo didn't allow himself to even wonder as to the drug's effects on his system. After all there wasn't anything he could do to ward off whatever changes would occur.

He was certain of one thing. If the changes were as monstrous as the Doctor thought they would be, Duo swore before he would succumb to their hellish influences, before their vile results would endanger his Gundam Partners, he would find a way to end it all and, in the process, take as many of OZ's murderous bastards with him.

As much as he cared for him friends and loved Heero he would not risk any harm to them even if keeping them safe meant taking his own life.

Minutes passed. Duo felt nothing from the injected fluid. "It was only the first dose." he told himself, "Will need more in my system before it takes a good hold."

"Good." Duo reasoned, "That will give me more time to plan a just end to all this. If I can get the mission set firmly in my mind, I can call it up, no matter what shape I might be in later, and use my automatic response training to carry it out." he determined his course of action, "No, I won't go down without taking a lot of them with me."

Suddenly Duo sensed something strange moving inside his body. The odd sensation began at the injection point quickly spreading up his arm. In seconds, the warm overflowing began to cover his entire body.

At first the feeling crept along at a steady pace. Actually, if Duo had been so inclined to give into the numbing feelings, they would have become rather euphoric in nature. But his determination to fight any and all affects kept the headiness at bay.

Then, without warning, the almost pleasant experience turned into a violent assault. The warmth suddenly grew hotter. A fire raced throughout his body. Its heat rose until Duo thought he would burst into flames. A searing pain joined the torrid temperatures causing sweat to rush from every pore. Not an inch of Duo's heat seared body was dry.

Duo gritted his teeth against the coursing deluge of heat and pain and, now, fear. His hands drew into hard fists, his fingernails digging into his palms. Muscles also drew up tautly shortening his arm and legs. This "pulling up" tightened the leather straps cutting into his wrists and ankles. Bloody lines began to form along the numerous gasps in his flesh.

The convulsive attack continued to intensify in it horrible onslaught. Color drained from Duo's face and that crushing tightness in his chest returned making the very act of breathing an agonizing effort.

The pervious steady lines on the monitor went into wavering fits of spiking then sinking in rapid succession. The two OZ Officials exchanged worried looks, not so much at the prospect of the Gundam Rebel dying, but at the inconvenience of finding a suitable replacement.

The Doctor seemed as concerned, again the death of one more Rebel would not have kept him awake at night, but this one was such a good selection. Besides, the Doctor really didn't want to have to listen to General Khushrenada's ranting about losing yet another research subject.

The General had come down hard after the last "lab rat" died during same experiment. This time, the Doctor was certain, another failure could put his own life and limb in jeopardy. No, Treize Khushrenada did not handle disappointment or failure well at all.

The painful moan that started deep in Duo's throat exploded to the surface. The guttural scream ended with the same howling wail of an animal's haunting death cries. Then darkness enveloped Duo's writhing form, wretched in torment, plunging him mercifully in its cold, black void.

"Is he dead?" one OZ Official asked gazing at Duo's ashen, limp body lying in a pool of his own sweat.

The Doctor shook his head, "Amazingly, no." he half-whispered in his awed state at the young Pilot's apparent undaunted will to survive.

"But will he last through the whole process?" the man wondered.

Again the Doctor shook his head in a perfect state of amazement. "I don't know, but he is our best bet yet for success." he state with certainty.

**********************************************

Duo's fluttering consciousness barely registered the next injection administered precisely one hour later. The effects were about the same as it felt as though boiling water was running through Duo's veins. But his near comatose state kept the violent physical reactions to a minimum. Even so another guttural moan resounded about the room with enough volume to make the attending Techs cringe.

The hour after that, the third injection was less painful, less reactive. The fourth, at the same scheduled time, was barely noticed at all as Duo had fallen into a fitful "sleep".

Eight hours passed. Eight injections. Throughout the metered process, the Gundman Pilot's vital signs had remained surprisingly stable. Heart rate, blood pressure and mental activity were quite remarkable steady.

The eighth dosage produced no reaction as Duo lay pale and still, his breathing coming in short, shallow pants. Eight hours. Whatever altering power the drug had over Duo's feeble system now had a good hold. What the end results would be, well, even the Doctor in charge was not certain of the eventual outcome.

End Flashback

**********************************************

The Lieutenant glanced sideways, his peripheral vision, no doubt, picking up Wufei's stealthy movements. He turned slowly not being sure what his eyes saw was real.

His brain couldn't determine if the young Chinese man standing before him was indeed flesh and bone or a figment of his overstressed, overworked senses. And if the phantom figure was real, what was he doing wandering around the Detention Area?

The Officer's pivoting sight also caught his underling's attention. Now the questioning quartet stared in unison at the ebony haired figured standing defiantly before them. The Lieutenant studied the slender form for a long moment until his weary mind was certain the apparition was actually solid and of human origin.

Wufei smoothly stepped forward a few meters to give Heero a better attack angle when his intervention became necessary. Then Chang's deep-set black centers of sight locked on the unsure sentries as he fluidly slid into a ready stance. Raising his hands, his most deadly weapons, Chang let his body language convey his invitation to do battle.

The guard leaning on the wall quickly brought up his rifle aiming its hollow end squarely at the young interloper's middle.

Wufei's hardened stare never wavered not did his bold, and quite enticing, posture change in attitude or form.

"Oh come on.' Wufei purred in his most husky voice pointing one slender finger at the raised weapon, "You don't want to use that." he motioned at the quivering rifle.

"What's wrong," he continued his taunting, "can't take me without it?" he inquired with a hint of a sultry smirk showing in his thin lipped smile.

The rifle holder tilted his head at an odd angle, trying to decide if the "boy" was brave or foolish or both. Assuming his challenger was alone, the guard had to further figure if this young adversary really meant to take him one on one or if his inclination to fight was a blanket invitation issued to all the present OZ employees in turn.

Whatever the Chinese Boy's plan, the now brave, ego bolstered guard elected to accept the contest. Lowering his rifle he set it against the wall and walked beyond his comrade's protective circle.

Chang, frozen in place, gave no clue as to his plan of attack. Not one muscle twitched. His facial aspect give away nothing to tell his haughty opponent what state of readiness laid behind the young man's cold facade.

The guard literally swaggered up halting within arm's reach of his challenger. With a cocky grin the man set himself into his own state of defense. Fists out in front, his eyes narrowed and his lips curled in a smug sneer.

"I'm going to enjoy beating your pompous ass." he announced mistaking Chang's confident countenance for proud conceit. Squaring his shoulders, he let the sneer grow wider. "Yeah, this is going to be fun."

The sneer melted into a puzzled statement as Wufei offered an almost respectful bow of his head, but was smart enough not to take his eyes off his willing opponent or lower his hand's ready position.

The puzzlement lasted only a second. The guard, in a mockingly overdone gesture, retuned the bow then threw the first punch.

With a gut-deep KIAI, Wufei exploded into a fury of strikes and kicks. A forward snap kick caught the rushing man in his breastbone abruptly ending to his ill-fated charge. A hammer fist strike to his nose brought a gush of blood and sent stars spinning over is sight.

As the addled contestant staggered backwards, Wufei slid forward delivering one last lunge punch effectively ending the fight. The man's head snapped back with a stiff jerk then his limp body crumpled into a heap at Shenlong Master's feet.

The bested guard's fellow troopers stood still, fixed in amazement at the deceivingly quick boy's harsh disposal of their comrade. But the stupefied pause lasted only a moment.

The two remaining Standard Rank soldiers started forward both embarrassed and angered by their friend's seemingly effortless defeat. No young, brash teenager was going to do that to a member of the great OZ Organization and live to tell about it.

The advancing pair was met with yet another flurry of hands and feet. A blur of motion was their only warning of Chang's answer to their rage blinded, headlong charge.

Wufei met the first man with a powerful sidekick launching him into an odd flight pattern that ended solidly against the wall. His foolish attempt to get up was quelled by a simple jab to the jaw.

His partner was even less successful in getting in a punch. His arm stopped halfway around as it was grabbed and its leverage used to catapult the hapless challenger, just as strongly, against the opposite wall where he hit with bone jarring force. A puff of air expelled hissing from his lungs but, other than the snake imitation, the man's "going-down" was totally silent.

Chang straightened smoothing back sweat damp stray stands of hair sticking to his equally damp face. But despite the moisture beading on his golden skin, Wufei's breathing was slow and steady as if the fight had been but a mere light practice exercise.

The Lieutenant couldn't help but be impressed by the young man's easy handling of the supposedly well-trained troopers. But the lower class soldiers, he was certain, had not had the extensive combat experience he had mastered to obtain his lofty rank. No, the clearly superior Lieutenant knew, without a doubt, he would be the Chinese youth's downfall.

A wide smile ran across his mouth drawing his lips into a confident grin. Again the grin sank into a frown as a second darkness veiled figure moved from the shadows.

Heero stepped beside his Gundam partner empty hands in plain sight. He had returned his pistol to its place at his back not wanting to give the Officer any reason to go for his sidearm.

Heero narrowed his liquid Prussian sight, "Hello, Lieutenant Burnet." Yuy addressed the upper ranked Officer.

"Do I know you?" the Lieutenant replied squinting to study the Japanese Boy's features for some clue of recognition.

"We haven't met face to face," Heero answered coldly, "but you have met a friend of mine, Duo Maxwell."

"Maxwell." Burnet repeated searching his thoughts for a face to go with the supplied name. "No, I can't say I recall the meeting," he admitted, "but then I interact with so many people in my line of work." he stated a sarcastic tone ringing in his voice.

"Let me refresh your memory." Heero declared moving forward, "Two weeks ago at the Metro One Substation. I believe you were in charge of prisoner interrogation."

The Lieutenant gave a thoughtful "hum" as he remembered back, "Yes, that was my assignment, but what does that have to do with our so-called "mutual" acquaintance?"

Heero had one sure way to jog the Officer's fuzzy recalling, "He was the one with the braid." Heero knew that would be all the clue Burnet would need.

"Ah, yes, the braid and the big mouth." Burnet replied knowing exactly who Heero was describing. "As I recall he was quite a handful. If I remember correctly he gave my persuasive abilities a good workout before I finally shut him up. He also had one of the tightest asses I've had in awhile."

The Lieutenant leaned forward slightly a sick smile forming on his lips as he remembered the pleasure of breaking the Rebel scum. "I will say one thing in his favor; the Boy took more punishment than I thought he could. Surprised the hell out of me. Yeah, best challenge I had in a long time."

Heero's fists curled hard at his sides. His breathing increased and his heart pounded as the image of Duo, as he and Trowa threw back the cell door, still blazed across his mind. The blood soaked body. The glazed over eyes that had met his urgent appeals for some recognition from Duo's shock induced, blank stare.

How Duo was never aware of his journey back to the Safe House. His complete unresponsiveness as they cleaned and switched his wounds, changing the seeping bandages for hours before the bleeding stopped.

How Duo thrashed for days drifting in and out of a nightmare existence of horrible dark dreaming, his screaming and fighting making it impossible for him to be left alone for even a few minutes.

Heero had been sure the single, overwhelming reason Duo had insisted on coming on the last mission, even though he was not nearly recovered enough to go, was his hopes he would see his tormenter once again. That their meeting would end with the God Of Death sending the sadistic inquisitor to his final reward in Sheol.

"Since you have a score to settle," Wufei declared stepping aside, "I will let you have him all to yourself."

"So you have come to avenge your friend's death." Burnet proclaimed assuming the brave, but broken Boy had not survived his brutal ordeal.

"Oh no," Heero answered the Lieutenant's mistaken belief, "Duo is alive. But it was your ruthless barbarism that caused him to take on something he wasn't ready for. Now, thanks to you, we are here to once again rescue him from OZ's confinement."

"Captured again." Burnet laughed, "I would have thought the braided fool would have learned his lesson the first time. He is either stupid or has a death wish to dare come back here. Maybe this time he will not survive."

"You won't know one way or the other." Heero promised rage boiling up inside, "I'm here to finish this for my friend and myself. You will never hurt anyone again." Yuy swore a solemn oath on Duo's soul, "Never again!"

**********************************************

Lieutenant Burnet squared his shoulders. No upstart Gundam Rebel was going to come into his territory and issue orders or threats. If this young hothead was so anxious to have a taste of what his friend had received at his hands, Burnet was more than happy to comply.

Yuy let his cold "death glare" rest on his opponent putting the man on notice, if he had any final confessions or cleansing of the soul, he had better do what he felt led to do and quickly.

"Once it starts," Heero told himself, "it WILL be finished."

The now, overly confident Lieutenant, strutted a few feet more closing the gap between himself and his, soon to be thoroughly trounced, opponent. The same self-satisfied grin displayed his delight as Burnet savored the prospect of breaking yet another smart-ass Rebel.

Heero kept his steely stare in place his eyes never moving from their centered glare. Outwardly Zero's Master gave not a hint of the energy taunt muscles coiling in his arms and legs. Nothing betrayed his readiness to explode at the Lieutenant's first provocation to combat.

Yuy raised one eyebrow as a taunting sneer curled his mouth's corners. "You first." he hissed with throaty growl.

Burnet smirking smile faded into a serious frown as he set his mind on beating his foolish challenger into a bloody pulp before putting him out of his misery.

With a fleeting glance pass the Japanese Boy, the Lieutenant momentarily let his narrowed eyes rest on Wufei. "After I am finished with your friend," he declared, "I am going to show you how quickly you, too, can be defeated."

Chang's ebony sight met Burnet's with no change in the degree of hatred shining in their black centers, "When my friend is finished with you," Wufei replied calmly, "you will be dead."

"I have had enough of this messing around." Brunet announced raising his fists and shifting into a fighting stance.

Heero moved into his own combat ready position, "You first." he repeated with a sigh that bordered on boredom at the Officer's wasting of his time. He goal was getting to Duo and no one would interfere in that single-minded mission.

Burnet charged putting all he had into the headlong attack. Heero stood his ground letting the OZ Officer's momentum carrying him into the fray. At the last moment, however, Heero uncoiled his muscles sidestepping the intended assault then followed through with a sharp jab to Burnet's ribs.

The strike sent a jolt of pain through the Lieutenant's side compromising his breathing. His hand went to his ribs as he fought the urge to double over.

Spinning on his heel, the Officer whirled about pure rage glinting in his eyes. "You.....you bastard." he stammered trying to suck in a catching breath.

Heero accepted Burnet's comment on his questionable breeding with a smirk, "This will be even better yet." he announced, "When a bastard beats your ass then you will have that much more reason to be ashamed."

The goading produced the desired effect. Burnet let anger overcome his sense negating any logical train of thought. Now the rage returned with full, blinding, force.

Burnet's second charge was totally out of control. Both fists flew forward in a wildly undisciplined flailing motion. Heero threw up a sidearm block intercepting the first fist. With his free hand he grabbed hold of the Lieutenant's wrist. This countermove left Burnet's entire midsection totally exposed.

"Get this over and get to Duo." Heero's inner voice ordered.

Dropping the high block, Heero's elbow plowed into the diaphragm area expelled the last of the Officer's air. Then Heero fluidly followed through with a stiff uppercut to Burnet's jaw. The midpoint hit snapped the Lieutenant's head back at an odd angle.

A barely audible whooshing sound escaped Burnet's lips as he reeled backwards. He made no attempt to throw out his hands to stop his falling form before he hit the floor with a keen crack.

Lying partly on his back, Burnet moaned weakly rocking from side to side.

His lungs felt like they were on the verge of collapsing. His vision jumped and his brain felt like it had permanently slipped off-center. But there was still just enough trained instincts remaining to focus on one final act.

Rolling up on his hip, Burnet's quivering hand reached for his sidearm. The automatic's hollow end spring from its holster leveling off at the Rebel sum that would soon be laid low by a single shot.

Yuy's statement never changed as his piercing blue eyes kept a steady stare on the sighted weapon. There was no fear, no pleading, nothing to tell the OZ Officer his intended victim cared what happened next.

His gun's threat was met with such cold, stoic detachment Burnet further wondered if the Gundam Pilot standing before him had any feelings at all.

"If he has a death wish." Burnet decided, "Then I will be more than happy to grant his desire to depart this world."

Then in a completely unpredictable move, the Gundam Rebel took two steps forward further closing the gap between himself and the confused Officer. This starling event made uneasy doubt seep into Burnet's mind.

"What in the hell is he thinking?" Burnet's baffled thoughts called for an explanation.

Seeing the puzzled look in Burnet's eyes, Heero's smirk grew wider. Knowing his peculiar actions had borne fruit, Heero leaned down displaying a strange, almost amused, thin lipped smile, "I was hoping you would do that." he hissed.

A sudden glint of silver flashed under the overhead lights. A deafening "bang" echoed over the corridor's vacancy.

Brunet never saw Heero's pistol as it cleared his back. There was only a momentary glimpse of the muzzle flash, only a second's hearing of the weapon's discharge.

Only one merciful moment before hot pain tore through his chest exploding somewhere in his lungs, splattering violently rent flesh and bone over the floor and wall.

Heero towered over the Lieutenant's barely moving body bending at the waist. Raspy breaths rattled in what was left of the OZ Officer's chest. His fingers went lax allowing the automatic weapon to slip, with a faint clang, from his grip.

Heero stared down at Burnet's white, blood drained face. Studied his glassy eyes as they were quickly becoming fixed in death's morbid gaze.

Burnet had but a few fleeting minutes of life left as shock and blood loss quickly claimed his moral soul.

Raising his pistol bringing its blackened hollow end in line with Burnet's head,Yuy locked his elbow allowing the weapon to become a natural extension of his outstretched arm.

"That shot was for calling be a bastard." he announced.

Lieutenant Burnet's pain-lanced eyes somehow managed to find Yuy's stony stare as narrowed steely blue bore into his soul. He opened his mouth but a syrupy gurgle was all that rose to the surface as Burnet drowned in the fluids spilling into his lungs.

His eyes slid halfway then, with his last ounce of strength, pushed them open for one final look at his executioner.

Pasty lips formed a single word, "Please."

It was not clear whether Burnet was begging for mercy or release. To Heero Yuy the mouthed syllable's meaning was not important. Heero knew what interpretation he had and, although release would be the result, revenge was Yuy's motive.

Heero bend over still more, resting the pistol's barrel lightly against Burnet's temple. The dispassionate cast disappeared replace with raw hatred as the gleam in his hard eyes tapered to a pinpoint.

"And this is for Duo!" he growled finger tensing on the trigger.

The shot's blast resounded bouncing along the hallway in repeated echoes, carrying Burnet's pain and life and Heero's sweltering rage with it, until it melted away into silence.

Heero straightened wiping bloody droplets from his face that had sprayed from Burnet's bursting brains. Without a word he wiped the equally speckled pistol on his pant's leg.

Wufei stepped up careful to avoid a pool of blood spreading rapidly across the floor. "Feel better now?" he asked with a low sigh.

The Chinese Pilot was not upset by or even sorry for Yuy's actions, he was merely wondering if Heero's rage had subsided enough to move on.

Heero rested his somewhat softer sight on his Gundam partner. "Let's find Duo." he declared starting off down the hall.

Wufei nodded smoothing back loose hair from his forehead and fell in behind.

**********************************************

Quatre paced clenching and unclenching his hands at his sides. It had been almost two hours since his fellow pilots entered OZ's lair. The hand communicator's open channel offered only static in response to Winner's repeated calls.

Either Heero or Wufei had turned the volume down or the devices off, or........he didn't want to think about the possibility his partners had also been captured. And he simply would not entertain the thought they hadn't survived.

Trowa stretched twisting his head until a soft "pop" freed the kinks in his neck. Normally Quatre would have fussed at Trowa for making his neck pop. The sound always made Winner's skin crawl bringing on a shivering cringe. Yes, it was definitely a most disagreeable sound.

This time, though, the noise went unnoticed. Quatre's mind was too absorbed with worry, his heart too pained with uneasiness to be bothered.

Finally Trowa stood up leaning against the tree trunk. Another stretch and he joined his pacing partner.

"You need to settle down." he said catching Quatre around the waist pulling him close.

Quatre resisted Barton's hold, but did not pull completely away. "Please, Trowa." he whispered.

"This isn't doing anyone any good." Heavyarm's Pilot declared. "It is only getting you more upset and neither you nor I need that now."

"I know." Quatre replied sliding his arms around Trowa's waist returning the hug. "Do you think it will be much longer?"

Trowa shrugged his shoulders planting a light kiss on his kio's forehead. "We will hear something soon."

"Will that something be good?" Quatre sighed sagging slightly in Trowa's embrace.

He was so tired, physically and mentally but, most of all, his heart hurt and he knew that meant something was terribly wrong.

**********************************************

Duo shivered. The shudder was a bone-jarring contraction acute enough to jolt him awake. His half-naked body was now covered with a blanket but the woven covering could not keep at bay the internal chill left behind by the drug's side effects or halt his mind's terror-struck reeling.

There was an oddest to Duo's body. He could feel a strange tingle seemingly radiating from every pore. At the same time, though, there was a weighty solidity to his extremities making his entire body feel like one burdened mass of bones, muscles and tissues. The heaviness pressed down inhibiting Duo's physical functions making the very acts of breathing and moving difficult.

But something even more dangerous than his hampered physical condition lurked below the surface. Buried in the deepest recesses of Duo body's core was a raw, quite compelling sense of predatoriness, which pervaded every fiber of his being. This primal urging manifested itself in a most primitive bloodlust.

The ravaging hunger had been carefully layered in his gene's makeup. DNA modification and accelerated natural adaptation had been combined in a most stealthy manner so subtilely Duo was not even aware of the Medical Practitioner's drug's crafty influence.

The beast waited patiently within. Waited for the Response Control Command that would bring it to life and unleash its horrible power. Unknowingly Duo Maxwell carried within his most baser composition the tool to destroy, maim and kill with completely adulterated malice and all done free from any moral binding of his conscience.

When activated, the gene conversion would be carried out with an ease as natural as breathing. Anyone or anything targeted by OZ would be dealt with swiftly, the deadly results carried out with no remorseful reconsideration.

Anyone who made the mistake of getting in his way or trying to stop OZ's beast would inspire quite malevolent repercussions.

Duo Maxwell did not know it yet, but his damnation had been firmly secured by OZ. The alteration set in motion could breed fatal consequences. The reign of terror might not see its final conclusion until it ended with Duo's death.

Nor could Heero know Duo's liberation, before OZ finished the programming, before total control was achieved, could set such morbid events in motion The premature beginning could, one day soon, place Heero in a forced intervention situation. To possibility have to make the decision to kill his lover to free him from OZ's monstrous curse.

**********************************************

Duo had been moved to another room. A single bed had replaced the metal examination table. Gradually he became aware of a pillow supporting his head.

The change in location, however, had not altered his confined state. Leather straps still bond his wrists and ankles. The straps were lined with some softer material but the extra comfort did not make up for the fact he was still a prisoner.

The constraints did not have his arms and legs distended as far or as tightly allowing more freedom of movement, but not much more. Slowly Duo shifted on his side as far as he could to get a better view of his surroundings.

The same stark white walls and ceiling made up his new custody area. There was a small barred window on the left wall. From what Duo could see through the dirty windowpane it was dusky outside. But were the murky shadow's shades of night or day? How long had he been asleep? Hours? Days?

A renewed terror reared his head-butting Duo hard in his insides. Suppose he had been in OZ's hands for weeks? No, it couldn't have been that long. No, Heero and the other Pilots would not let that long a time go by without rescuing him. If they could. If they were still alive. Had they tried and not made it?

"Oh God." Duo whispered tears welling in his eyes. "They can't be gone." he told himself sucking in a quivering breath.

"They are coming I know they are." he consoled his wildly beating heart in its terror-lanced pounding.

A sudden nauseous wave thrashed over his gut. Duo fought hard to repressed the vomitive urge. His placement flat on his back was the worse position he could be in. He knew the retching could force ejected fluid back down his windpipe or into his lungs doing an effective job of suffocating him to death.

It didn't seem anyone was around to help him should he find himself in any kind of medical trouble so Duo's self-preservation was solely up to him. Maybe it would be better is he did succumb to his body's frailties.

Duo smiled as the idea of getting in the last parting shot at OZ flickered through his thoughts. What better way to have his final revenge than for the damned Doctor to find him dead?

He could picture his chalky face displayed before the Officer's surprise-widened eyes. His asphyxiation blackened lips curled in a pleased sneer and his violet eyes, fixed and glassy, staring sightlessly back at their gawking faces.

Duo's only driving force; the only reason he fought back against the sickening sensations was his need to see Heero. If he could see his lover once more, even if Heero came at the last minute and could only hold him on his death bed, that was Duo's most compelling reason to hang on.

"Don't let it all be for nothing." echoed again in Duo's mind.

He pressed his mind, forcing it into a mentally isolated training mode. Duo would survive for Heero's sake, for his friend's sake.

Staring up at the white ceiling Duo centered his mind, hardened his heart and made a determined vow to survive until his Gundam partner's came for him.

**********************************************

The click as the door to Maxwell's room was unlatched gave Duo a second's false hope.

"Heero!" his mind cried out, "Please!"

The last of Duo's strength maintaining his shaky optimism faded away as the opening door admitted the same white-coated Doctor who had been his previous tormenter.

This time the maniacal physician was alone. The tag-along OZ Official's absence, however, did not ease Duo's terror in the least as the diabolical Doctor approached the bedside.

Stepping aside on his way, the Doctor took hold of a cart rolling it with him. A silver-gray metal box, it's front covered with assorted dials and switches, set atop the cart. Duo was certain the evil looking apparatus had been among the various equipment previously used in the lab.

Without a word the dealer of torturous acts and pain stood over Maxwell. Duo's drug-dull sight wavered as the room and the Doctor's fuzzy outline wanted to swim. He closed his eyes against the dizzying sensations.

When Duo opened them, ever so slowly, to test his vision's stability, the Doctor was hovering closer still above Duo's head holding two round pads with wires attached.

Duo tried to turn his head away but a strong grip on his chin held it in place while a pad was pressed to each temple. His bleary eyes traced the wires back to the machine.

Duo should have wondered about the device's purpose but his mental functions had been so severely compromised even the simple act of forming a thought was now beyond his capabilities.

The Doctor flipped a switch. An even hum flowed from the activated machine. Dials twitched, digital numbers fluctuated as the contraption read and digested Duo's brain wave's revised patterns. Electrical impulses traveled through the wires bolstering the drug-laden affects in Duo's already overloaded sensory system.

Not one inch of his body was dry. The harder Duo tried to shut down his mind, to not give up anymore of himself, the more befuddled his thinking became. Duo gritted his teeth taking in a stabbing breath as he quickly began losing control.

A stinging prickled through his head. The harder he fought the greater the pain burned in his brain until all of Duo's cerebral senses gave out at once crashing into a numbing void.

As his willpower gave way Duo felt himself drifting outside of what he perceived as reality into a dream-state of shadowy images. Rapidly all that was Duo Maxwell was fading away replaced by a perfect manipulation of mind, body and soul.

Shinigami would soon became the totally embodiment of his namesake. The God of Death would soon become OZ's most perfect killing machine.

"You have done well, boy." the Doctor proclaimed with delight, "Your body is stronger than before but your mind and will are more pliable." he leaned nearer staring down into Duo's dazed eyes, "I promise this will be over soon and, when it is, you will belong to OZ."

Duo took in a shaky breath mustering up the last of himself determined, before he was lost forever, he would have the last word, "Go to hell." he whispered hoarsely as his entire world continued to slip away.

The Doctor offered no verbal reply. His answer to Duo's wish that he take up residence in the Underworld was to turn the dial higher and watch with perverted pleasure as the Gundam Pilot's body twitched and his mind was claimed for OZ.

**********************************************

A single sentry was the last obstacle standing between the Perfect Soldier, the Lone Dragon and their goal of locating Deathscythe's Master. Actually the guard was a great deal of help.

With Wufei's strangle hold firmly in place and persuasive pressure applied to an extremely unpleasant degree, the man gladly informed the Gundam duet of Duo's whereabouts then graciously supplied directions to the correct area in the building's Detention Unit. Showing his appreciation, Chang spared the OZ employee's life rendering him unconscious instead of permanently dead.

The comatose watcher's Code Card was also courteously donated to the rescue effort seeing how he was in no shape to protest as Yuy's pulled it from his jacket pocket.

Heero stopped at the Guard Station now, curiously, unmanned. He inserted the Card into the computer, punched in the necessary Code Numbers and was rewarded with the number assigned to Duo's holding cell.

"Number 16." Heero announced freeing the card. "This way." he instructed taking the point down the left corridor.

Wufei gave a quick glance back, then to the right making sure both hallways were vacant. He lagged slightly behind in a better backup position, eyes and ears taking in everything movement and sound.

They traveled on silently. The only noise anywhere was the ventilation duct's faint hissing. Hopefully the Gundam intruders were the sole occupants left with the ability to move. The remainder of OZ's lackeys, either decease or immobilized, should offer on further interference.

Room 12 was on the left, Room 13 on the right. Odd numbers left, even numbers right. That was simple enough.

Heero took an apprehensive breath as he quickened his pace. Room 16 would soon reveal its secrets, show Heero how he would find his lover.

"He was so weak. I should never have let him come on the last mission. If he is........" the last of his troubling thoughts trailed off as Yuy stopped before Room 16.

The Code Card was swiped down the entry box's slot; a soft click confirmed its unlatching. Heero readied his pistol, centered his weight and raised his boot to kick in the door.

"Ready?" he asked his without looking back at his Chinese partner.

"Ready." came Chang's husky reply.

**********************************************

A low moan left Duo's dry throat continuing its upward trek until it escaped his equally parched lips. Salty moisture stung his eyes; chestnut bangs stuck to his wet feverish forehead. Duo's body jerked. Convulsive shudders climbed up his spine clawing their way into his brain stem.

The dampening overspread was rapidly exchanging its deadened authority with what few unaffected brain cells remained. Gray haze, mingled with pain, gathering along his mind's fringes. Duo jerked once more. The opaque fog wrapped around in an unyielding enfoldment as the surrender was almost fulfilled.

The Doctor jumped at the sound of the room's door slamming back against the wall. A blur of motion was all his surprise-widened eyes picked out before Heero reached his side. The business end of Yuy's pistol pressed solidly under his chin.

"Back off!" Heero growled shoving the automatic harder accenting Yuy's wishes that the OZ Doctor quickly comply with the clear orders.

A moment's hesitation was too long a pause to suit Heero. The pistol's barrel bore deeper into the Doctor's throat. "I said, back off or I will splatter your brains all over his room." he promised not being able to tear his eyes from his lover's convulsive quaking as pure terror stabbed in his guts.

With Heero's hand clutched on the OZ's physician's shoulder and the gun quivering at his windpipe, the Doctor took the Japanese Pilot seriously backing away from the cart.

Wufei took the Doctor's place by the machine taking too long, in Heero's opinion, to study the dials and switches. He knew the wrong flip of a switch, the wrong turn of a dial, could mean instant death to his friend.

"Do something." Heero urged as Wufei leaned closer to the vibrating machine.

A louder, more agonizing, wail split the air. Duo's entire body drew up rigidly against the spastic currents wrenching his system. It was almost over, almost finished. Almost.

"Wufei shut the damn thing off!" Heero screamed as Duo's continued to violently twitch and wail.

"Tell him how to turn it off!" Heero ordered pushing the pistol in so far the Doctor's throat began to collapse.

"Don't shoot. Please." the terrified Doctor pleaded, "The red one." he pointed a trembling finger at the correct switch.

While OZ had employed the Doctor, his coerced loyalty to the tyrannical organization was not worth his life. He had no desire to die for the despotic institution's cause.

Heero moved closer putting his mouth near the Doctor's ear, "You had better be telling the truth or I will make you wish you were dead ten times over."

The Doctor nodded his head knowing, full well, the consequences for lying. "It is the truth." he swore on his life.

Chang took a deep breath and pushed the red switch aside. The machine sudden became silent.

Duo's spasm-throe form went limp. From Heero's distance observation point he couldn't tell if Duo was breathing as his sweat-soaked lover lay pallid and still, too still.

Wufei went to the bed easing, with fearful hesitation, beside Duo's lax body. He quickly began undoing the leather straps.

Heero stepped back widening the space between he and the Doctor but never let go of his shoulder nor decreased the pistol's pressure under his chin.

"You will pay for what you did." Yuy declared tensing his finger on the trigger set.

The Doctor's knees grew rubbery; his breathing came in catching puffs. "You said if I told you right, you wouldn't shoot." he reminded the rage-consumed Gundam Rebel.

"I made no such promise." Yuy replied, "Only a pain prolonged dying if you lied. I will be merciful and end it quickly."

"No! Please!" came the panicked plea, "Please don't shoot!"

"Very well," Zero's Master whispered tucking the pistol into his belt, "I won't shoot you."

The Doctor relaxed giving into the weak wave washing over his quivering soul.

Heero's hand slid up the Doctor's shoulder while its opposite member came about the other side. Bracing a forearm on either side of the OZ tormenter's neck Heero cupped one hand over an ear.

"What?" the Doctor wondered at the Japanese Boy's odd hold.

"I said I would not shoot you." Heero whispered so lowly only the Doctor could hear.

"But I can not let you live." he announced with a sudden twisting motion.

A barely audible pop sounded. The snapping sound did not even reach Wufei's ears as he undid the last strap holding Duo's ankle.

An odd statement warped the Doctor's facial aspects. A certain confusion briefly flowed across his enlarged pupils. Then his eyes closed with a soft sigh his body becoming a limp mass in Heero's arms.

Yuy let the Doctor's slack body slid from his grasp folding into a crumpled heap at his feet. He never considered the death glaze eyes looking back with a puzzled stare.

Wufei was pushing wet hair from Duo's closed eyes as Heero reached the bed. Carefully Heero slipped his arm under Duo's shoulders, supporting his head, raising his glistening chest. Duo's gold cross stuck to his tacky skin.

"Duo." Heero whispered as relief that his lover was breathing flooded his mind. "Duo." he repeated feeling totally helpless as he held his lover close.

Wufei put a hand on Heero's arm, "We have to get him out of here."

If Heero heard his friend he didn't acknowledge his statement.

"Heero. NOW." Wufei urged with a gentle shake to rouse Heero from his inactivity.

Heero wrapped a sweat-damp sheet about his lover, gathered him in his arms and started to the door.

Wufei gave only a fleeting glance at the Doctor as he passed. His heart hurt, not from the Doctor's demise, but the fear of what he and the others might find when they got Duo safely away.

What the next days and nights would bring frightened Chang more deeply then he had been frightened in a long time. How Heero would handle what the fates might throw at him was wholly open to any response.

But Chang Wufei did know with every fiber of his being Duo Maxwell would make it. Even death would not be so cruel as to tear him from Heero and his friends.

Shinigami knew death quite intimately. Theirs was a bizarre relationship.

No, the Soul Harvester would not take Duo, not this way. Duo Maxwell was destined for a higher purpose.

"Duo will be all right." Wufei whispered as Heero and his precious bundle sighted the exit just ahead.

**********************************************

Quatre straightened against Trowa's chest as they sat under a tree. The Desert Prince's hand went to his heart.

"Quatre?" Trowa questioned his lover's reaction to an apparent outside stimulant.

Quatre stood reeling backward. Trowa jumped up catching Quatre around the waist. "What's wrong?"

"It's Duo, they found him." Quatre replied resting heavily in Trowa's arms, "Oh, Trowa, Duo is in so much pain."

"It will be all right." Trowa tried to console his koi, "We will take care of Duo."

Quatre shook his head silky blond hair brushing softly under Trowa's chin. "I'm frightened. Something is not right with Duo. There is something terribly wrong." he declared.

"Whatever it is we can handle it." Trowa answered sure of Maxwell's friend's ability to correct anything OZ could have done to the American boy.

Quatre turned to face his partner. There was such dread in his eyes, such alarmed foreboding; Trowa was now also frightened.

**********************************************

Trowa's heart skipped a beat as Heero carried Duo from the Compound border. Wrapped in the soil sheet, Duo flopped like a rag doll in Heero's embrace.

Duo's usually shiny chestnut hair had frayed loose from the braid hanging in dull stringy strands over Yuy's arms. Long tresses clung to his wet face and any other places the sheet didn't cover.

The only color to his skin was dark purple circles under both eyes. Duo's breathing came in short pants as if his weakened system could not glean enough oxygen from the shallow intakes of air.

Duo was not aware of being loaded into a hidden vehicle's back seat or being joined by a very concerned Quatre. He had no knowledge of the return trip supported tightly in Heero's arms.

As Wufei dove and Trowa occupied the front passenger seat, the Gundam Pilots had a strategy meeting deciding the best procedure to follow once they arrived at the Safe House.

As they pulled in front of the ordinary house, Quatre got out first, unlocked the door then went to the bathroom. He turned on the heater and began filling the bathtub. Heero and Trowa soon joined him carefully laying Duo on a thick bathmat stripping him of his filthy underwear.

"Do you have a good hold on him?" Trowa asked Heero catching Duo under his knees, "He is probably going to buck when he hits the water."

As the steamy water filled the tub, Heero made sure he had a firm hold around Duo's chest. With Trowa's help they lifted Duo's limp body over the tub's edge.

Duo did not react as badly as they thought he might. He did bow up some and a low moan eased from his lips, but his dulled senses didn't register the warm water's caress. His clouded mind didn't tell his body to respond to the change in his environment.

Heero kept his arm under Duo's neck to keep his loping head from hitting the tub's hard surface. Gently Trowa washed down Duo's sweat slick body.

Just as gently, Heero washed the tacky film of sweat and oil from Duo's hair. The hair washing itself was a job, but as long as they already had Duo in the bathtub, Heero wanted to get it as clean as possible. He had no way of knowing how long it would be before Duo or his hair would get another thorough cleansing.

Quatre brought in a clear pair of boxes and a tee shirt. That was all the clothing Duo needed then. He also got the quilted coverlet from Duo's bed so Heero could protect his precious partner from becoming chilled on their way back to the bedroom.

Wufei was smoothing out the bedcovers when Heero, Quatre and Trowa walked in. Carefully Heero deposited his koibito in their double bed turning Duo on his side so he would not choke should he gag on the fluids still gurgling in his throat.

As Heero tucked a warm cotton sheet and thin blanket over Duo's shoulders, Trowa replaced the coverlet. Quatre gathered Duo's damp mane gently combing it out the best he could. When the long strands were untangled, he put them in Duo's customary braid securing the end with an elastic tie.

Now all the Gundam Team could do was watch for guiding signs and pray Duo could be reclaimed. Not knowing exactly what had be done to his system, his friend's only course of action was to observe Duo closely and handle each symptom or feedback response as they cropped up.

None of the Rebels had any false expectations of a quick or even a complete recovery for Duo. He had already been in bad shape when he was captured. His strength both physically and mentally had already been severely compromised.

Duo was holding on by the barest thread as it was. Any new shock, any further deterioration in his condition, could be the last assault Duo could take. The next hours, maybe only moments, could be the deciding factor as to whether or not Deathscythe's Master would survive.

Heero held Duo's hand, so limp and cold, in his. Even the position on his side didn't seem to ease the rattling breaths sounding in his chest.

After each shallow inhalation, Duo's body would straighten as if his lungs were trying to suck in one good breath. With each of these struggles for air, a racking shiver seized through Duo's limbs then suddenly let go causing him to go lax once more.

Heero wondered how many of these hard contractions and sudden releases Duo could withstand. Something had to be done to improve his breathing and Heero knew there wasn't going to be a lengthy time span before an intervening decision had to be made.

Gathering his lover in his arms again, Heero let Duo's upper torso rest on his forearm as he pulled Duo in to seated posture. Then using his arm for support Heero leaned Duo's body, head down, well over the edge of the bed.

As hard as he dared, Heero struck his fist squarely between Duo's shoulders. Then followed up the strike with firm rubbing motion over the same area.

At first nothing happened. Heero rubbed harder keeping up the short concise stokes. With an almost convulsive tensing Duo stiffened. The tight gurgling and wheezing sudden let go breaking apart in his congested airway.

Strangled currents rose in his throat. Then with a quaking shudder, Duo retched up the clogging fluid. The seizures last only a few minutes but when they subsided, Duo breathing was clearer and a lot less winded.

Quatre went to the bathroom bringing back a wet, warm washcloth. Heero cleaned Duo's mouth and face then returned him to his side placement assuring the improved breathing would continue.

Cleaning up the floor was a small price to pay for Duo's restored respirations. The job was done without a single complaint. Just hearing Duo's steady, unencumbered intakes of air was worth going through anything they needed to do.

One hurdle overcome. How many more lay ahead?

There was no use in "what ifs" or "maybes". Wondering about and fretting over what might happen next would do nothing to change upcoming events.

Each situation would be handled as it came up and each victory, no matter how small, would be seen as one more completed step toward Duo's full restoration.

After his exhausting ordeal at OZ's hands, the rescue and other necessary handing, and especially after his forced regurgitation, Duo's fortitude was about gone.

Duo settled into a quite sound sleep undisturbed by his friend's voices speaking softly about him or the constant checking of his condition. At least his clammy skin had warmed and a pinker hue tinted his skin.

Quatre expressed his concern some of the renewed warmth could be the result of a low-grade fever. A fever, under the circumstances, was not totally unexpected, still, that would be yet another hindrance to be tackled.

Again, though, a fever or anything else would be approached with the same determined grit. Nothing was going to keep Duo from recovering not if the Gundam Rebels could, once more, outsmart the fates as they had so many times in the past.

**********************************************

Wufei paused inside the bedroom door. Heero sat in a chair by Duo, as he had for hours, holding his hand. Yuy's forehead rested on his arm lying on the bed. Wufei knew Heero's stooped posture could not be comfortable.

With gentle pressure on his shoulder, Wufei stirred Heero from his half-sleep. "Want me to take over?" he offered lowly knowing Heero would probably say no.

Heero stretched rubbing the kinks from his stiff neck. "I'm all right." he lied, "What time is it anyway."

Wufei glanced at his watch, "Eleven fifteen." he replied massaging Heero's taut shoulders. "You haven't had anything to eat, let me fix you something."

"I'll get something after awhile." Heero replied leaning into Chang's masterfully strokes as they chased away the buildup tension.

"After awhile will be midnight." Wufei strongly informed, "I don't have to tell you if you get sick you can't help Duo." he declared stating the obvious but feeling Heero needed to be reminded anyway.

Heero nodded, "I know. It's just.........."

"It's just you want to see to Duo's care personally." Wufei interrupted. "I understand, we all do, but Duo is our friend, too and we want to do what we can for him.

I know with your special relationship you have first claim to Duo's management, but you can not do it alone. Please, won't you let us help?"

"I'm sorry. I know how inflexible I can be." Heero admitted, "Hell, Duo is always saying how stubborn I am and how I need to loosen up and........."

Heero's voice choked as tears welled in his eyes. He had kept up a brave facade for Duo and the other's sake. And, he guessed, for his sake as well being frightened of what might happen if he lost control. But the strain and worry had a good hold and the fear of losing his precious lover had almost become to great to withstand.

Wufei knelt beside the Japanese boy letting the firm pressure transfer to his arm. "Go on let it out." he urged, "It is not good to hold such strong emotions inside. No one will think you are less or weaker for it."

Heero nodded squeezing his eyes shut forcing hot tears to spill over his cheeks. He couldn't help but be a bit confused by Chang's urging of some emotional release.

Of all the Gundam Pilots, Wufei was the one who had always fought against showing weakness. He was the one, with each defeat, who had questioned his worthiness to fight at the other's side. That was one reason he had chosen to fight alone so much of the time.

Now Chang Wufei, the Lone Dragon, had let down his guarded feelings realizing he and Heero were not so far apart in their self-imposed isolation. They both needed to trust that exposing themselves and their feelings would not be betrayed.

Duo had always said they both needed to be more trusting.

He often became frustrated at their inability to open up. Wufei and Heero now needed to put their apprehension aside and concentrate on what they had to do to pull Duo through.

Heero leaned forward allowing Wufei to slip a comforting arm around his trembling shoulders. Heero let his feelings flow in a flood of tears washing away so much pent up fear, freeing his soul of the hurt that had for so long hindered his complete dedication to Duo, the complete surrender of his heart.

In the hall, just beyond Heero's line of sight, Trowa held Quatre to his chest, arms wrapped snugly around his waist. He, too, comforted his koi sensing the acute pain in Quatre's "space heart".

He tightened his embrace silently promising himself his sweet lover's heart would not be broken by Duo's loss.

Duo's fighting spirit bound each of the Gundam Fighter's hearts and souls together stronger than ever before. With one united effort, Trowa pledged, Maxwell would recover.

**********************************************

Wufei chose not to continue trying to convince Heero to eat. Instead he made a bowl of soup, a sandwich and orange juice setting the tray on the bedside table.

Heero didn't realize just how empty his was. Once he began to eat his hunger responses took over spurring on his appetite. Wufei kept him company with a cup of coffee and light conversation.

About 1:00 AM Quatre and Trowa came in to say good night. "You wake us if you need us." Quatre insisted, "We will be extremely upset with you if we find out you needed us and didn't call."

Heero promised all three comrades he would seek their help if the need arose. Satisfied Heero would keep his word, Quatre pushed damp bangs from Duo's closed eyelids and placed a kiss on his warm brow.

"Come one little one." Trowa urged applying a guiding hand on Quatre waist, "Remember, call us." he ordered.

As soon as Heero finished his late supper, Wufei also said his good nights extracting yet another promise from Heero concerning the Chinese Boy's aide should he need it.

The soft closing of the door shut off the light from the hall bending blue-gray shadows with faint moonlight filtering through the window shades.

With a heart-heavy sigh Heero stripped down to his boxes and eased in beside his soul mate. He loosened the sheet which had become damp from Duo's fever produced humidity.

Duo's steady, but nasal; breathing seemed to echo in the quiet darkness. Heero turned onto his side feeling the rhythmic respirations play lightly on his face. He took Duo's hand entwining his fingers.

Heero tried to settle down, to assure himself everything would be all right.

But the entire attitude of Duo's body told Heero the road ahead was going to be long and filled with many ruts and potholes. Finally fatigue took over and Heero drifted off into a restless sleep.

**********************************************

Quatre sat straight up in bed. His breaths came in short pants as he struggled to regulate the binding tightness in his chest. Something akin to horrid alarm lanced through his heart.

Trowa, awaken by his Quatre's actions, pulled his kio's quivering body close. "What's wrong?" he whispered, his worried tone reflecting the fright Quatre's battle to breathe produced.

"It's Duo." Quatre answered his eyes staring ahead in a wildly vacant manner.

"Duo?" Trowa responded pushing aside blond bangs to better see Quatre's widened indigo orbs.

Before Trowa could press for more information or try to sooth Quatre's agitation, an unearthly scream pierced the night-shrouded stillness.

**********************************************

Heero began to wake. In his drowsy, half-aware mind he knew something stirred him from his restive slumber, but the source was not immediately clear. A low moan filtered through his sleep-idled brain. But the sound, Heero soon discovered, had not been of his own making, but had emerged from Duo.

Before Heero could react to the mournful whine Duo stiffened. Every muscle drew up in a rigidity that threatened to lift his body off the bed. The pitiful whimper seated deep in Duo's throat rose to a shill wail that told Heero his lover was in pain. No, it was more than pain, it was agony.

Every bit of color drained from Duo's face. Cold sweat-beads exploded over his entire body. His hands curled clutching fistfuls of the tangled sheet being twisted and snarled around his convulsing form. His eyes were glassy, glazed over in an unseeing steely stare.

Heero reached out in pure panic sliding his arm beneath Duo's neck afraid the spastic bowing might do irreparable harm. If the distorting seizure should change directions, throwing Duo's stiff frame too quickly at another contoured angle, the sudden rearrangement could snap his neck like a twig.

Heero braced his other arm over Duo's chest to further shore up his embrace.

"Duo!" Heero repressed the urge to scream out his name, "Duo, can you hear me?"

A low throaty growl was Maxwell's only answer. His body arched once more as a second guttural snarl rose to a deafening howl.

"DUO!" Herro yelled trying to be heard over his partner's quite primal wails.

Needless to say, Duo's wailing and Heero's screaming was sufficient to force the remaining household members into a very rude arousal from their sleep.

Since Quatre had already sensed Duo's pain, he and Trowa beat Wufei to the door by a few seconds. The trio raced into the bedroom each with their own wonderings about the terrible noise's origin and each with their own heart-struck concern.

Quatre moved to Duo's side leaning over the American Boy's sweat-soaked body as he thrashed on the bed.

"What happened?" he asked placing his hand on Duo's forehead trying to "read" Duo's panic-struck thoughts to find the source of his terror.

"I don't know." came Heero's winded reply as his struggled to keep Duo from hurting himself. "He just woke up screaming."

Quatre leaned nearer putting his mouth close to Duo's ear, "Duo, it's Quatre, can you hear me?"

Once more a hiss of air and tightening of Duo's frame was the only reaction to Sandrock Master's calling.

Without warning, Duo's arms came up knocking loose Heero's enfoldment. The force almost tossed Heero off the bed. Bumping into Quatre was all that kept Yuy from the fall.

One of Duo's hands formed a fist coming around aiming for Yuy's head. Only Heero's trained reaction time and instinctive quick reflexes avoided the punch.

"DUO!" he shouted feeling the brush of air as the anger-curled fist just missed its mark. Heero intercepted the next swing pinning Duo's fist to his chest.

Duo's other hand clasped about Quatre's wrist then pulled sideways in a painful wringing movement. Quatre cried out as he felt his upper arm begin to sharply rotated in its shoulder socket. The wrenching continued until it threatened a total dislocation.

Heero grabbed Duo's arm to stop the twisting. Trowa grabbed Quatre's arm to keep it from turning further.

Trowa knew how powerful an adrenalin rush could be, how much stronger it could make the person experiencing it. He also knew Duo's muscles were already in good shape and the increased rush would only add to his strength.

But there was something more combined in Maxwell's power. It was as if his force was guided and augmented by some other authority.

Duo was definitely under an outside influence and Trowa was terrified that, whatever the intervening force was, he and his friends might not be able to overcome it.

Quatre was now becoming pale as he cried out in pain. "Please Duo. Please let go." he begged helplessly knowing his friend was not aware of what he was doing.

Wufei climbed onto the bed holding Duo's legs as the stiffness released allowing Duo's lower limbs to kick freely.

Duo's clenched his teeth, his lips pressed together until they turned white. The same growling and snarling rose but the pitch was higher, with more volume, as Maxwell fought back against his friend's unyielding grip.

Then words, slurred at first, found their way to the surface. The blurred sounds soon cleared into recognizable speech.

"LET ME GO!" Duo screamed with such deafening level that it made everyone jump. "DAMN IT, I SAID LET ME GO!"

"Duo, listen." Heero began hoping against hope he could reason with his partner.

Duo's eyes forced on Heero's face. Something raw in nature flashed in their black centers. Something filled with so much pure rage it caused Heero to draw in a quick breath.

"You take your hands off me you damn Rebel scum." Duo hissed tightening his grip on Winner's wrist.

This time Quatre yelled out as it felt as though his joint was going to break. Trowa folded both hands around Duo's hold trying to pry loose his immovable fingers.

Heero stared in disbelief as Duo's harsh words cut through his soul. He hoped Duo really didn't know what he was saying, that the ruthless pronouncements were the product of his pain and confusion.

Again something flashed in Duo's violet eyes which now seemed so black.

But, this time, Heero identified the mysterious sparkles. The gleam was one of unadulterated hatred. The loathing was real, at least in Duo's clouded mind. It was so deep seeded, so complete, Heero drew back from the abominable detestation with alarmed shock.

"If you think your whoring with me is going to matter now," Duo growled locking his piercing sight squarely on Heero, "you are mistaken. When I get free I will kill you!" he hissed.

"Duo. No." Heero whispered as unbearable pain stabbed through his heart.

"He doesn't know what he is saying." Wufei declared using all his strength to keep Duo's flailing legs under control.

"I know." Heero sighed but that knowledge didn't ease the tearing in his heart.

"I don't think I can get his hand loose." Trowa confessed seeing the pleading in Quatre's eyes as his entire side being tiled by the pressure.

"Heero. Trowa, please." Quatre called fighting the faintness that was quickly overtaking his pain-riddled body.

"We have to do something." Trowa stated his own muscles beginning to burn from the strain.

"There is nothing you can do to stop me traitor." Duo hissed almost breaking away from Heero's grasp with more power resurrected from some unknown, darkly evil, resource.

Heero looked first at Quatre seeing the torment in his quickly failing sight. He looked at Trowa whose valiant efforts seemed to not be enough.

"Do what you have to do." Wufei's surprisingly calm voice advised from behind.

Without looking around at the Chinese Pilot, without averting his heart-sick gaze from Duo's searing centered pupils so inundated with hate, Heero knew he had to intervene.

Quatre had about to pass out. Heero knew if something wasn't done soon dear Quatre could be seriously injured. They all were losing the battle and it was abundantly clear no amount of reasoning or pleading would divert Duo's intentions to do all of them harm should he get the chance.

Heero mustered up all the courage he had, summoned up every ounce of strength he could find, but strangely the power he was about to unleash was tempered with love. Heero would do what he had to, but it was going to hurt like hell in his heart.

"Duo, I sorry." Heero whispered knowing his precious partner would not understand the words, but feeling they had to be said anyway.

Reverting back entirety to the totality of his cold, detached training Yuy destroyed, in one moment of time, all the warmth and trust Duo had so patiently cultivated since they had become lovers.

Wrapping his heart within a stoic steel curtain, Heero raised his fist, drew back and let it fly with all the fortitude he could call up.

His curled hand slammed into Duo's jaw snapping his head back against the bed. At least, thankfully, the mattress softened the possible whiplash.

Duo didn't react at all to the forceful blow even though it had been applied with ample energy to cut his lip.

As droplets of blood seeped out gathering on Duo's mouth that was still drawn into a sneer, Deathscythe's Master merely shook his head defiantly.

"Is that the best you can do you sorry bastard?" Duo smiled wickedly the hardened gleam intensifying in his enlarged pupils.

Heero took in a deep, centering breath then slowly exhaled to summon up the nerve to hit his lover once more.

The second punch plowed into Duo's stomach and before his deflated diaphragm could recover, a third hit struck solidly to the side of Duo's head.

This time the punch succeeded in its mission. Duo's head flopped to one side. His eyes rolled backwards as a low groan accented the overwhelming blackness moving over his mind.

Slowly Duo's fixed fingers loosened around Winner's wrist. Quatre pulled back quickly afraid Duo might suddenly come around again and finish the breaking he had intended from the start.

Quatre sank back into Trowa's chest letting the tears of fright and pain flow freely.

Trowa held his precious soul mate gently rocking him as he whispered comforting words. Wufei relaxed sitting back on his heel relieved that the worse, for then anyway, was over.

Heero collapsed sideways with only Wufei supporting hands keeping him from tumbling off the bed. Tears streaked his cheeks. Sorry and regret etched deep lines across face. And he was certain his heart would never mend from its inconsolable wrenching apart.

"Oh Duo, I am so sorry." he sighed letting the tears wash over his lover's ashen countenance.

Then Heero's swollen redden eyes searched each of his friend's equally worn faces for some answers. Some reason for Duo's totally contradictory actions.

"What are we going to do?" he sighed picking up Duo's limp torso holding him as close as humanly possible.

"Whatever we have to do." Quatre declared leaning back in Trowa's arms.

"I don't know if I have the strength." Heero replied for the first time being brutally honest with himself.

Wufei put a hand on Heero's shoulder squeezing gently, "Your love will give you all the power you need." he proclaimed, "It may be the only way to reach Duo now"

Heero lowered Duo's sweat-damp frame to the bed then lay his own worry-worn body on top. "I will save you, Duo, this I promise on my life."

**********************************************

Trowa carried Quatre back to their room settling them both in bed. He knew sleep would not come easily, if at all, but he hoped holding Quatre securely in his embrace would help chase away both the pain in his arm and the pain in his heart.

**********************************************

"I will find something to restrain him." Wufei announced standing up.

"Wufei, no." Heero shook is his head.

The Chinese boy stooped over studying Duo pasty skin and the blue-black circles that were more defined under he eyes.

"Heero," he began hoping Zero's Pilot would listen to a reasonable argument, "You saw what he did to Quatre, you heard his threats. It took all of us at full power to hold him down. If he becomes violent again, Heero, you know you could not protect yourself alone."

Chang touched Heero's arm, "I know you don't like the idea, but you also know Duo is not himself. In his present condition he is too unpredictable. If Duo hurts you or worse..."he paused giving Heero time to contemplate his statements.

"Duo will eventually be free of this. If he finds out later he harmed you he could never forgive himself." Chang spoke the truth, "Even if his body and mind survives this madness, he would be dead inside. You can't take that chance; you can't do that to him. Right now, under the circumstances, restraining Duo would be the kindness thing we could do."

Heero did listen to Wufie's points of view, considered them long and hard. Still he could not bring himself to bound Duo. He could not let himself believe Duo could hurt him. If he did, well, he wouldn't let it happen.

"I understand your concern, Wufei," he answered sincerely, "but I just can't do it. It is a chance I am willing to take."

Wufei nodded knowing, when Heero Yuy made up his mind, it was usually very difficult to make him think otherwise.

"All right," Chang conceded, "but I am staying in here tonight." he announced.

"Just in case." he added putting Heero on notice he would do what was necessary to stop Duo if he again became violent.

Wufei went to his room returning with a pillow and blanket. The rest of the night would be spent on the floor next to Heero and Duo's bed.

As Wufei closed the door and the soft click told him it was latched shut, Heero began to untangled Duo from the twisted bedcovers then moved him over to allow room to lay down.

Wufei tuned out the light plunging the room into a sense-soothing darkness.

"Good night, Heero." he called wearily.

Yuy sighed enfolding his arms about his exhausted koibito.

Holding his lover's clammy body as Duo's breathing, once more, rattled in his chest, Heero knew sleep would not come that night, or most likely, any night until Duo found his way back from whatever hellish curses OZ had inflected upon him.

**********************************************

Despite the fact every nerve in Heero's body was on edge, he managed to drift in and out of several light sleep periods. Duo stayed under the influence of Heero's regretful punches for the first hour, then reverted back to a restless pattern of moans and twitching. Occasionally his entire body would flinch shaking the bed.

Heero knew Duo's mind was in the thralls of some dark dreaming by the twisted expressions fluttering across his face and the sharp fluctuations in his breathing. Once again Heero worried about how much of this physical and mentally bondage Duo could endure.

Heero's helplessness manifested itself in frustration and his own brand of depression. The lack of sleep, the heartsick fretfulness, all combined to make threadbare Heero's fraying composure.

Twice Wufei asked if he could sit with Duo suggesting that Heero take his sleeping place on the floor. Twice Heero decline the offer, the last time biting back the urge to scream at Chang to leave him the hell alone.

The early morning hours crept alone stretching seemingly forever until the first dawning rays filtered through the window blinds. Soft pinks and purples slowly faded into the golden light of the new day.

Heero did let Wufei sit long enough to allow him to use the bathroom and wash his face but he didn't tarry too long even though a shower was very much desired. Maybe later in the day when Duo's condition had stabilized, maybe then, a shower and a change of clothing would be in order.

**********************************************

Trowa left his lover curled tightly on his side, feathery whiffs of blond bangs tangled in his long eyelashes. Quatre, too, had had a fidgety night only settling into his own form of quiet slumber about 4:00 AM.

Trowa placed a brushing kiss on his koi's cheek tucking the covers about his curved posture. His attention was rewarded as a soft sigh escaped over Quatre's quite pouted lips.

Wufei had already started the coffeemaker, the brewing bean's scent filling the house. Trowa made his own stop in the bathroom before joining his fellow pilot in the kitchen.

"How is Duo?" Heavyarm's Master inquired getting mugs and plates from the cupboard setting them on the table.

Wufei glanced up as he slid bread in the toaster's slots, "About the same."

Arms reaching over his head stretching his drawn spine, Trowa straightened to his full height causing a slight crack to sound along his back then took a seat at the table.

"That was a close call last night." he declared rubbing his hands over his sleep-blurred eyes, "I don't think Duo can stand another attack like that."

Wufei set the coffeepot on a tile trivet to protect the table. Retrieving the first four slices of finished toast as they popped up on clue he transferred the browned pieces to a plate then reloaded the machine. With the plateful of toast, a tub of margarine and flatware in hand, he sat down opposite Trowa.

"I tried to convince Heero to let me restrain Duo last night but he wouldn't hear of it. He wants to believe Duo wouldn't hurt him......" Wufei paused buttering the toast, "but as long as Duo doesn't realize what he is doing he could be a danger to himself and us, too, for that matter."

Trowa nodded accepting Wufei's browned bread offering. He took a careful sip of the hot coffee letting the rising steam's warmth soothe his mind.

"You know Duo can't be left alone?" he stated taking a second sip, "I am sure as hell not letting Quatre be alone with him." he announced.

This time is was Wufei's turn to nod in agreement, "Do you think he will fully recover from whatever OZ did to him?"

"I hope so." Trowa sincerely wished for everyone's sake, " Heero has just come to admit his feelings for Duo, if he doesn't come out of this, if he doesn't ever realize that Heero loves him......"

Another pause, another sip. "I don't believe Heero can take loosing Duo, not like this. It would be hard enough to accept if Duo was lost in battle but if he dies because we don't know how to save him, well, I don't want to think about the reprievable consequences."

"Duo is going to be all right." Heero's gruff voice angrily declared as he entered the kitchen.

He had decided he could leave Duo long enough to get some of that alluring coffee as its enticing aroma wafting down the hall. His stomach was also telling him he needed to eat reminding him that, as Wufei had advised the night before, he could not afford to let his system get down.

Heero's ears had caught just the last of Trowa's statement but what he did hear was enough to set off his already worry-shortened temper.

Trowa and Wufei both knew it would not take much to send Yuy into a full-blown attack mode. They thought it best to hold any argument knowing it would only aggravate the tense situation.

"We know he will be." Wufei proclaimed hoping that wishing so would make it so.

Trowa nodded keeping his eyes downwards at his mug and away from Heero's narrowed, brooding sight.

"I will get him through this." Heero stated firmly his voice raising slightly in its pitch, "There is nothing OZ can do that I can't undo." he hissed reaching passed Trowa to fill his mug.

Trowa eased aside to allow Heero ample space to maneuver. "We were talking about not leaving Duo alone. We need to work on a watch schedule." he stated still not looking directly at Heero.

Wufei leaned forward, bravely he locked his ebony eyes with Heero's glare. "And don't tell us you can handle it by yourself. You can't afford....."

"Yeah I know," Heero nodded, "I can't afford to let myself get sick, too."

"Are you going to be stubborn about all this?" Trowa asked quite seriously.

Heero straightened copying Trowa's earlier stretching exercise, "No, but I am in charge. I won't argue or debate about Duo's care."

"Fair enough." Trowa replied, "You know we will do everything we can to help, don't you?"

Heero shook his head his eyes lowered gazing into the steam rising from his coffee. "I know." he almost whispered. "I had better get back to Duo."

After Wufei was certain Heero was out of earshot he leaned closer to Trowa. "We are going to have to be firm."

Trowa sighed shaking his head in agreement.

**********************************************

Heero more flopped than sat in the chair by the bed. Running his hands over his eyes he fought giving into the dull throbbing running along both temples.

"Oh Duo." he whispered setting down his coffee.

Taking Duo's hand he brushed back damp chestnut bangs trying to decide if his soul mate felt any cooler. He wasn't sure whether his own hand was cold or, if indeed, Duo felt warmer than he should.

Finally he grew weary of the guesswork resigning himself to the fact that touching Duo's forehead was not a scientific method of measure a fever anyway.

Duo stirred with a low moan. Swallowing roughly he drew in a quivering breath. Slowly his eyelids pulled up then slid shut once more.

"Duo." Heero called gently rubbing his cheek, "Come on now wake up." he urged squeezing his hand.

Again Duo's eyes didn't seem inclined to cooperate. With more effort than Heero thought he could call up Duo managed to open his eyes a bit allowing a slight trace of violet to show through the narrow slits.

"Duo. Come on you can do it." Heero encouraged with another firm squeeze.

Another shaky breath as Duo's dry lips parted but only a hiss of air sounded. Heero retrieved a glass of water from the bedside table. Carefully sliding his arm under Duo's shoulders, he raised his partner so he could take a drink. The first liquid ran out as the corner of Duo's mouth. Heero elevated him a little more and tried again. This time enough gathered under his tongue to wash back towards his throat.

Duo produced a sucking sound then drew the pooling water down his throat. A gurgle caused Heero to lift him further afraid the water would go into Duo's windpipe instead. At last some of the water went all the way down.

Twice more Heero repeated the process until Duo's throat was moist enough to let him speak.

"Khushrenada."

The name rose faintly causing Heero's heart to seize up in his chest.

Heero shored up his lover propping Duo's warm head against his chest. "No koi it's me Heero. Understand, Heero." he stated hoping Duo would realize who was holding him.

Duo's eyes shifted wildly as they attempted to identify his surroundings. His vision blurred. The images being recorded wanted to spin. He could not make out the swimming forms or the features of the wavering gray outline positioned close to his heavy body.

All Duo's mind could recall was a small white room, being bound to a bed and pain. Incredibly raw pain.

"NO!" Duo screamed bowing so sharply he almost slipped from Heero's arms.

Heero tightened his embrace being careful to stay clear of Duo's flinging hands. "Its all right I'm not going to hurt you. Duo listen to me. I am not going to hurt you."

"NO! OH PLEASE NO!" Duo continued to scream fighting against Heero's enfoldment.

As during his spell the night before, Duo's screaming quickly alerted everyone to his terror. Quatre raced across the hall from his sudden waking up. He reached the bedside just as Trowa and Wufei also ran through the door.

Trowa, without a second thought, grabbed Quatre about the waist pulling him back from Duo's struggling form.

"Trowa!" Winner cried out in surprise, "What are you doing?"

"Stay back." Trowa ordered keeping his firm grip, "He might hurt you again."

Quatre twisted trying to free himself but Trowa held on. "Quatre please." Trowa begged not wanted to force his lover but knowing he could not let him go.

Meanwhile Wufei ran around to the bed's opposite side once more intercepting Duo's kicking legs.

Heero curled his arm as far around Duo's waist as it would go daring to let go with the other arm. He laid his open palm on Duo's sweat drenched forehead to keep him from twisted his neck.

Now Duo's brain had gone into overload. Scene after horrible scene flashed with blinding intensity. Hallucinations of needles and probes and white coats stabbed through the pain-lanced visions bombarding his mind.

The pain was real, slicing through every inch of his delusion-shocked body. The terror, the sights and sounds, racked his altered system scorching every fiber as if his veins were filled with boiling water.

"Trowa, let me go. I have to help him." Quatre shouted using his hand-to-hand combat training to break free. Before Trowa could reattach his loosened hands, the Sandrock Pilot ran from his reach.

Quatre sat down above Duo's head resting his right hand fingers on one temple, his left fingers on the other. Letting his gentle but firm touch flow in a circular pattern Quatre leaned over his panic-stricken friend.

Trowa posted himself at his lover's side, muscles tensed and ready, prepared to do whatever necessary to protect him should Duo try to grab on as before.

Closing his eyes the Desert Noble put all he had into punching through the phantasm mirages assaulting Duo's brain, the agony battering his body.

Sweat glistened on his forehead as Quatre centered all his concentration into breaking the shard spiked glass wall separating Duo from his friends and his lover.

No sound as made. No verbal pleading. The connection was cerebral, quite empathic in nature. Calm broadcasts surged from the tactile contact. Soothing reassurances flickered in wave after wave of comforting, yet silent, vibrations.

Now Duo's pitiful petitions were not screamed in terror, but had become a muddled murmuring as his fortitude had about given out. Now the fighting had ebbed into jerking muscular contractions and a clammy shiver as his wet body cooled down too quickly.

Heero took advantage of Duo's waning strength rearranging his arms to better support Duo's sagging frame. Duo's head lopped to one side, his eyes half-opened staring into nothingness as a glassy glaze washed over his widened pupils.

Quatre continued his mental administration tenderly caressing Duo's temples then moving his fingers down the side of his face until they barely slid over his flushed cheeks. Finally, with an exhausted sigh, Quatre let his fingertips slip away as he leaned back into Trowa's waiting arms.

"Talk to him Heero." Quatre advised putting his hand on Yuy's stress stooped shoulder.

Heero glanced over at his fellow pilot uncertainty mirrored in his haggard statement now completely wasted from anxiety.

"Go on he will hear you." Quatre promised.

"Duo." Heero called gently cupping his hand under Duo's chin lifting his face to better align his weak eyesight with Heero's tear-reddened eyes.

This time Duo's sight did not waver or jerk. The frightened cast on his anguished features had lessened. He raised his eyes and, after a moment's adjustment, found Heero's loving gaze.

"Heero?" he questioned his senses hoping his mind wasn't playing a cruel trick. Hoping that he would not wake up to find OZ's damnable Doctor, not Heero, staring down at him with that same maniacal smile of depraved pleasure he always displayed.

"I'm here, Duo. It is going to be all right. You are not in that awful place anymore."

Duo tried to lift his quivering hand only to have it fall limply back onto his wet chest. He had to touch Heero, to find out if he was indeed flesh and bone. His second attempt was as unsuccessful as the first.

Heero took Duo's hand entwining his fingers increasing the pressure so Duo would know he was real.

"Hold on Duo, I won't leave you." Heero whispered his heartfelt promise.

Quatre knelt down so his fair face was in Duo's direct line of sight. "Welcome back my friend." he whispered touching Duo's cheek.

Wufei rose from the bed joining his relieved friends. "I think we need to let them be alone." he stated believing the worse of Duo's ordeal was over.

Trowa pulled Quatre to his feet still not wanting to let too much space open up between them. "Are you sure?"

Quatre nodded, "Yes." he spoke up before Chang could reply, "They will be fine. Come on." he urged taking his lover's hand.

Trowa was still skeptical remembering, with vivid recollection, the events of the night before. "We will be just down the hall if you need us." he stated guiding Quatre away from the bed.

Heero smiled weakly nodding that he understood then watched as Wufei closed the door shutting off the yellow gleam from the hall.

Looking down he found Duo's clearer vision still glued to what Heero was certain were red, puffy eyes and tear-tracked cheeks.

"Like Quatre said welcome back my love." he whispered leaning over to place a too long absent kiss on Duo's crack lips.

"Heero? How? What happened?" Duo rambled still not sure he had been redeemed from hell.

"I am not sure." Heero answered honestly, "They did something to you. Do you remember anything?"

Heero hated to make Duo relive even one moment of the torment he had suffered but he knew this was the first necessary step in his precious partner's reclaiming.

Any information, anything he could remember, would be helpful in slating a positive course of action towards Duo's full recovery.

Duo was silent for a long time. Heero didn't rush him but did occasionally change his position or whisper encouraging words so Duo wouldn't fall back to sleep.

Finally Duo sighed letting accumulated tension flow freely away. As hard as he tried he couldn't remember anything concrete. Everything was jumbled. Nothing was clear or absolute in his understanding.

Only vague memories punched through the debilitating haze swamping his thinking and those fleeting remembrances wouldn't stay in one place long enough to get a clear reading or a fixed target.

"I can't..... I don't... know." he sighed the last of the words trailing off with an exhaustive wheeze.

"It's all right, don't push yourself now. You will remember more when you are stronger. Right now just let me hold you and keep you safe." Heero whispered. "Go back to sleep, I won't leave you."

This time Duo's hand rose to touch his sweet koi's face. Heero kissed Duo's flattened palm pressing it to his quivering lips for awhile not wanting to lose his lover's sweet taste.

Again, with surprising strength, Duo slid his arms about Heero's waist pulling closer. Heero drew him up relishing the feel of his lover's body held snuggly against his own trembling frame.

"Heero....I......." Duo whispered through ragged breaths, "I love you."

"I'll love you, always." Heero pledged kissing Duo's forehead through stringy damp bangs.

"Oh, Heero, I'm afraid." Duo admitted as another shiver racked his weakened system. "Suppose I can't fight this? Suppose...."

"Shhh." Heero replied not wanting to even consider the possibility of anything but a full recovery. "There is nothing anyone can do that we can't overcome together.

You are stronger than you believe." he continued drawing Duo nearer still, "And if you need more strength you have all of mine." he promised sealing his oath with another firmer kiss.

Duo only nodded his head. His embrace slackened as limp arms fell away from Heero's waist. Duo turned his eyes away from his partner's grave statement to stare into the mind-warping images that refuse to leave him alone.

He knew something was seriously wrong. Even in his dazed confusion, Duo knew his entire being had been altered. A part of him, maybe every part, was now under some foreign control.

A combination of fear bordering on panic and heart enfeebling malaise saturated his system to the core. Duo's fear was not so much for the decline in his physical condition or his mental deterioration but for the eternal separation from Heero his dying whether in body or mind would cause.

Duo had so recently come to admit his true feelings for Zero's Master. In the same short time span Heero's realization of his love for his braided baka had come to light.

Although the emotions had been there since the first time they met both pilots had fought the feelings, afraid that they would love then lose each other.

In the war's uncertainty, they both had first tried to deny the emotional callings. But, strangely, it was the dangerous conflict that ultimately brought them together. The fear of being without each other became stronger than their attempts to protect their hearts. The wanting, the undeniable recognition of their physical and spiritual union, was too great to resist.

And, stranger still, neither of the Gundam Pilots ever once questioned the rightness or wrongness of their desire and subsequent choice to be together.

Could that love so newly accepted and consecrated now be threatened by OZ's vicious designs? Could their love, their very essence of mind, body and soul be greater than the seemingly overwhelming odds thrown up against them?

The fear wormed its way, scratching and clawing, until it attached itself to Duo's mind seizing like a leech inside a festering wound. Feeding on his fright, the dread that made him question his strength in spite of Heero's promises of love and support, consumed his thoughts.

Could Duo Maxwell find the fortitude to face and defeat the enemy's despicable modifications?

He knew although Heero's offers of strength and his pledges of unfailing alliance were quite sincere, in the end when it was all said and done, Deathscythe's Master would have to fight the final battle alone as a solitary soldier as he had so many times in the singular confines of his Gundam.

Heero could sense the fear that tore through his lover's thoughts. Feel the dread as it caused self-doubt to replace Duo's normally strong and confident constitution.

Now Heero's heart ached. His mind was also besieged with the same skepticism of his own ability to deliver his soul mate from the terrible trials he was about to endure. The tests that would measure their commitment and resolve to be together forever, Heero knew, would be vast in their range and grand in their difficulty.

"Duo." Heero whispered leaning over to see Duo's pale face. He fought against taking in a sudden breath as his eyes beheld his partner's glassy sight staring aimlessly into some vacant space beyond his questionable reality.

Heero reached forward gently taking Duo's jaw. His fingers, once more, quivered as they clasped Duo's chin. With loving firmness he guided the braided boy's face to meet his soft gaze.

A brushing kiss had no affect on Duo's eye's absentmindedly fixed position. A second, more insistence kiss, caused an ever so slight change in the set sight.

With the third caress of mouth on mouth, Heero forced his tongue between his lover's slackened lips twirling it around inside.

The sensual touch produced yet another slight shifting in Duo's otherwise inflexible posture. Taking the softening as a clue, Heero increased the sucking pressure revolving his tongue with more fervor.

A quite involuntary moan sighed from Duo's opened mouth. His body reacted to the passionate stimulant by relaxing, melting into Heero's strong embrace. Gradually Duo's stiff form gave into the focused attention spurring to life his canal instincts, reawakening his most basic nature.

If Heero couldn't reach Duo with his mind, he would accomplish what he had to do by unashamedly pure manipulation of the raw craving of his lover's body.

Sliding his hand down Duo's chest, Heero didn't stop until his fingers closed tightly over Duo's swelling erection straining against his cotton clad crouch.

The wetness of desire had already soaked through the tautly stretched material burning with hot moisture against Heero's increasingly trembling fingers. Breathes came in short pants as both lovers gave into their need to comfort and console each other.

Heero knew Duo could not withstand too much physical stress. In the back of his mind his common sense questioned what OZ-constructed beast he might be stirring to life.

He would have to carefully balance Duo's stimulation to ensure that his precious partner would not be further harmed in the process of prying Duo from his self-induced trance.

Gathering Duo in his arms, the Japanese Pilot broke the probing kiss letting Duo's expelled breath linger on his emotion-warmed cheeks. Duo desperately clung to his soul mate scared that any renting apart of their bodies would result in the total severance of their souls.

"It's all right." Heero reassured his clinging lover. "Hold on to me I won't let you fall."

Duo slipped his arms around Heero's neck pulling as near as he could. Fever from both illness and passion fueled the heat blazing between the closely pressed bodies.

"Heero, hold me, never let me go." Duo pleaded grasping Heero's brown locks with both hands.

He centered his mouth over Heero's parting lips as if his very next inhalation depended on Heero breathing life into his fading soul. The kiss deepened and so did Heero's hold about the throbbing member pushing its insistence hardness against Heero's hand.

Duo moved back from the kiss, "Love me. Please." he whispered.

"I want to so badly," Heero readily admitted acutely aware of his own swelling desire pressing with the same persistence. "but I don't want to hurt you." he replied in ragged breaths.

"Oh God, Duo, forgive me for starting this." Heero whimpered trying to pull away before he lost what little control remained in tact. Before he caused in his wanting to comfort his lover harm that might not be reversed.

"Heero, please, now." Duo begged tightening his grip in Heero's hair to keep the object of his sensuous yearnings from drawing away.

One hand remained in its firm grip in Yuy's hair while the other quickly slipped under Heero's jaw to, once again, guide his lips forward for a rough, bruising kiss.

Suddenly Heero sensed a change in his Gundam partner. Now is was not need or even desperation that steered Duo's actions but the same rage that had reared his venomous head the night before.

Duo bared his teeth and with a stinging hiss bit down on Heero's bottom lip then sharply pulled back tearing the flesh and bringing on a steady crimson flow. Heero cried out in shock and pain.

With surprisingly renewed potency Duo yanked a fistful of tangled tresses snapping Heero's head back sharply as the hand clutching under his jaws moved to clasp around Yuy's throat.

In stunned shock Heero Yuy, the highly trained Perfect Soldier, froze in place. The idea, the reality, of what his precious partner was doing held him in a dream-like trance. He tried to react to his senses that were shouting, demanding some reaction, but in his bewildered state Heero could do nothing.

No immediate action answered Duo's cold attack. For his heart's sake, for his own sanity Heero kept reminding himself his lover was not in control of his actions. It was OZ, not the normally easy going American boy, that dictated the fierce assault.

Yet for all his reasoning, his explanations of Duo's sudden turning from mild to mad, the undeniable evidence was cruelly manifested as pain stabbed through his bloodied lip. It spoke clearly in the increased tautness as Duo's fingers clutched and curled in Heero's hair.

Now fear joined the pain as Duo's other hand tightened about Heero's throat. The clasping encircled his windpipe cutting off the airflow.

Finally as the taste of salty blood tainted his tongue, Heero's training automatically kicked in as he pried the entangled fingers from his hair.

Grabbing onto Duo's encircling hand, Heero's thumb and index finger caught around Duo's wrist and in a single fluid twisting motion tuned the wrist until the choking fingers came undone. Heero continued the wrenching movement bending Duo's hand opposite of its natural position.

But strangely the opposite bending seemed to have no affect on Duo's determination to do bodily harm. As before when it took three hard, centered punches to dissuade Deathscythe Master's earlier attack, Duo was beyond feeling pain as if his tolerance, his very threshold, had been breeched and rendered null and void.

How much further could Heero go before his movements caused any change? Would he have to break Duo's wrist before he would stop? Somehow Heero knew, in his partner's present state, even a broken bone would most likely have little, if any, influence.

And how far was Heero willing to go? Could he allow his cold detachment to overrule his love? Could he willingly injury his precious soul mate?

Duo growled once more teeth clenched in pure rage. The guttural rumble started low in his throat rising with increased volume until it erupted in a shrill wail.

"DUO!" Heero shouted having to use all his strength to counteract Duo's relentless assailing. "PLEASE STOP!" he begged as he threw up an intercepting hand to ward off a glancing blow.

Duo's eyes gleamed with an inner blaze of raw hate. Every muscle strained, each tendon set on the sole goal of carrying out his OZ-compelled assignment. He operated as a soulless machine, his thoughts and actions no longer his own to command.

Pain seared into Duo's brain. As the excruciating punishment for each failed attempt double and tripled, the agony grew worse driving Duo nearer to an irretrievable state of madness.

Now Duo mind-numbing anguish took on hallucinatory qualities as Heero's face, contorted in his own pain and horror, appeared to Duo as a skinless skull, eye sockets vacant, black hollows where eyes should have been. The grinning skull stared back streaked green with oozing decay as an equally fleshless hand gripped around Duo's wrist.

The distorted sight, the mirage of Duo's pain-lanced mind, only served to further support his fear and rage. Duo had but one objective, to destroy the monster he was certain was going to kill him.

Air rushed from Duo's lips in a louder hissing as he struggled to break free from the gruesome creature holding him fast.

"You will not win." he pledged truly believing Heero was his sworn enemy.

Heero let his training take over, he knew at that moment he had to. "Please Duo don't make me hurt you." he begged warding off a second fist with his forearm.

"You thought you could manipulate me with another of your whoring tricks." Duo announced rigidly bowing off the bed, "Your fucking might have tempted my body but it didn't fool my mind. You and all the others will die and I will be the deliverer. Shinigami will know total victory."

"NO! DUO DON'T DO THIS!"

Heero's voice, raised in his pleading, alerted his fellow pilots that something had, once more, gone terribly wrong. The remaining Gundam trio burst through the bedroom door.

Trowa didn't stop until he pulled up at the bed's opposite side. A pistol hovered close to Duo's anger-warped face. His wild gaze took no notice of the targeted weapon or did the aimed gun distract Duo's deadly directive.

Quatre's eyes were also wide as they beheld the pistol leveled to close to his friend's head. "TROWA! NO!" he exclaimed running to his lover's side. "In the name of Allah stop!" he shouted reaching for the gun.

"Stay back, Quatre." Trowa gave fair warning.

"I don't want to do this, but Duo has to be stopped." he declared as the blackened hollow of the pistol's barrel shook in his white-knuckled grip.

"TROWA!" Heero screamed as he saw the gun poised so near his lover's face. Stretching to place himself between the gun and its intended target Heero defiantly took up a protective position.

"Heero?" Trowa lowly questioned while understanding completely his friend's actions.

Then in the same calmer voice, as a certain resignation floated over Trowa's troubled countenance, a myriad of peculiar emotions emerged from his somber visual display.

Barton's usually stoic impassitiveness dissolved, his mask melting away, until a deep sadness clouded what little light remained in his eyes.

"Heero," he spoke softly his voice surprisingly clear and even believing nothing more could be done to save his friend from OZ's mind-ravishing tentacles, "release would be the kindness thing for Duo now." he whispered locking his troubled sight on Heero's horrified face.

"No, Trowa, never." Heero firmly declared, "I can reach him."

"Quatre," Heero continued daring to take his eyes from Duo's wild sight to address the Sandrock Pilot. "Get Trowa out of here." he hissed through his teeth as his own anger was quickly reaching the boiling point. "NOW!" he yelled his face flushed and his voice trembling.

Before Quatre could respond to Heero's quite stern order, Trowa lowered the pistol and back away.

"I hope you know what you are doing." he replied walking towards the door.

Quatre quietly followed pausing only briefly to glance back with heartsick longing at his tortured friend as Duo continued to thrash and struggled in his lover's grasp.

Wufei stepped aside to let Barton and Winner move out of the room but, instead of following their example of retreat, he stepped beside Yuy with an unmistakable determined glare in his ebony eyes.

"I am staying." he put everyone on notice of his intentions to aid his fellow pilot whether or not Heero wanted or needed his help.

"Together we will defeat this wicked minion that has invaded Duo's mind." Chang promised crawling up on the bed to take hold of Duo's flailing body.

Without a reply Heero, too, climbed onto the bed straddling Duo's sweat-soaked, much too thin, frame as Maxwell fought against what his muddled mind perceived as his moral foe.

"Do you have him?" Heero inquired of the Lone Dragon.

Wufei nodded putting all his concentration into keeping Duo from hurting himself or the Gundam duet.

Heero clamped his hands firmly on either side of Duo's wet, pain-paled face. As gently as he could he centered Duo's flopping head. Another wave of pure fear raced through Yuy's heart as Duo's jerky, distant sight met his tear-moist eyes.

Heero gritted his teeth taking in a hard breath then let a slow steady exhalation carry off some of the building dread.

He closed his eyes mentally repeating one of Duo's favorite prayers that he didn't even realize he remembered but now somehow seemed so familiar.

Heero had heard Duo utter, with whispered reverence, the entreatment many times especially before battle. It had always produced a peaceful power that was always so reassuring to his soul mate. He hope now that the heavenly request would reach his lover before it was too late.

"Duo." Heero whispered not wanting to appear aggressive or threatening, "Hear me my love, come back to me."

Another hiss of air was Duo's only answer.

More struggling. More fowl mutterings cut into Heero's already slashed soul. "Duo......now.......please." Heero begged lowering his face until their noses were inches apart.

Heero bend down to kiss his lover's whitened cracked lips. Duo snapped once again attempting to bite down on the still scarlet wound from his first attack.

Heero flinched but didn't pull back. Keeping to his even downward pace, Zero's Master doggedly focused on his mission. He had to kiss his lover because he knew in his very core that physical contact for his only avenue, his only hope.

Duo's teeth showed as a pain-racked grimace curled back his lips. His mouth opened allowing a flickering tongue to dart over the swollen bite-mark still oozing a tacky crimson flow. Duo's tongue paused then touched the bloody line as it explored the ragged line, tasting the congealed fluid.

Slowly as if held in a bewitching daze Duo's entire body began to relax. Wufei loosened his grip but did not draw away completely. He knew how quickly Duo's personality could change, transform from one state to another, and he was taking no chances.

As before Heero lightly brushed his precious partner's dry lips and again received an ever so slight reaction. "Duo." he called the name dancing in the breath washing between their caressing mouths.

Duo's wandering gaze slowed in its rambling path. His liquid violet orbs searched until they captured Heero's cobalt centers of sight.

"Duo." Heero breathed out the beautiful name.

Duo blinked once, then twice, then his eyes fixed with strong attachment to Heero's face. "Heero?" he questioned not believing his own eyes, not trusting his mind as a dull ache replaced the raging pain.

Heero fought back the tears, "Duo, do you really know me?" he dared to ask.

A spark of recognition flashed in Maxwell's eyes then, just as quickly, was replaced with a strange darkening.

Heero held his breath afraid the menacing demons had returned. "Please." he whispered under his breath, "Please Duo, stay."

But instead of lashing out Heero's "reason for living" shrank away from his lover's attention. Turning away from Heero, turning his back on Wufei as well, Duo curved into the smallest ball he could. His fetal posture was further enforced into a fleshy barrier by covering his head with his arms as if Duo was trying to shut out the whole world.

"Oh Heero," he sighed barely loud enough to be heard, "Oh God, forgive me." he muttered in helpless despair as the awful memories came flooding back with such intensity they almost stopped his heart in mid-beating.

Heero laid his hand on Duo's quivering back as catching breaths pounded in Duo's chest battering his entire body with each hard respiration. Duo wanted so desperately to cry but the tears would not come.

"It is all right; you didn't know what you were doing" Heero declared rubbing Duo's back. "It was OZ that made you strike out, do you understand?"

"Go away." Duo whispered, "You have to stay away from me." he said louder with a more frightened tone in his voice.

"You know I can't do that." Heero responded leaning over to try to see Duo's face through the tangled limbs and snarled hair.

"No don't touch me." Duo ordered drawing up tighter still. "Go away."

Ignoring Duo's protests Heero laid down beside his shaking lover. Slipping his arm over Duo's waist, he pulled his chest to Duo's back leaving no room between their sweat-damp bodies.

Duo once more tried to draw up but Heero would have no part of it. He held on, whispering comforting words and promises that, together, they could overcome whatever OZ had done.

"We will defeat this." he swore stroking Duo's chestnut mane, fingers snagging in the endless sea of knotted locks.

As Wufei sat on the floor, knees drawn to his chest, he kept his lone vigil in silence.

Heero spoke of better things to come, pledging his solemn oaths, promises of Duo's complete recovery.

He had to make Duo believe he would recover for only with a united effort could they exorcise OZ's evil influence.

Sometime, while Heero offerings of encouragement appeared to have a soothing affect, Duo drifted off into an exhausted slumber. But Heero knew the end had not come, that Duo's retreat from the fray was only a momentary respite in their battle for his soul mate's life.

Weeping unashamedly, not caring if Wufei saw the Perfect Soldier cry, Heero let go of his fear for his lover. Through cleansing tears Heero freed his soul knowing only by the watery liberation could he set his full concentration on reclaiming his friend and lover.

As the hours ticked on, Heero joined Duo in an utterly fatigued state of nothingness.

Wufei turned off the lights so the faint glow from the setting sun cast a hazy atmosphere about the room. He would keep his vigilant watch a few hours more until he was satisfied there would be no more revisiting of Duo's frightening metamorphosis.

What tomorrow would bring, well, Wufei dared not dwell on the possibilities for fear of his own sanity.

"Sleep well." he wished his friends closing his eyes in quiet meditation.

**********************************************

The next two days offered little hope as Duo's condition, although stable, took no notice of moving towards any definite change.

Duo often kept to his curled posture still insisting that he be left alone. He knew he could not trust his waning fortitude against OZ's sway and, despite Heero's belief that Maxwell would not harm him, Duo had strong doubts concerning what he might or might not do.

Resigning himself to his total lack of control, Duo wanted nothing more than to be left to himself. That way his isolation would insure that no harm would come to his friends.

There was always a nagging in Duo's mind. A regular reminder that, should he drop his guard for more than a second, the patiently waiting, quite persistence, devils would be on him like wolves on a lamb before he could give his comrades-in-arms any warning.

The demon's stalking was all but impossible to resist in the drowsy imprisonment of sleep. Duo was never far from the raw fear that plagued his slumber and haunted his dreams. He had become very adapted at evading their shadowy pursuit forcing himself to stay awake for more extended periods of time.

Heero's soothing caresses, his safe embraces, his smooth words of comfort had little less and less authority over Maxwell's stubborn willpower.

This fighting of sleep often pushed Heero's, just as stubborn, strength of will to the point of confrontation. Biting back the acidity that could spew forth in a vile demonstration of frayed temper, Heero had taken to leaving the bedroom whenever it became clear Duo was well into one of his sleep-avoidance modes.

Heero would wisely let one of the other pilots argue with the obstinate American over the points of contention concerning Duo's refusal to give into their pleas or threats. But ultimately it was physical exhaustion, not Duo's fellow pilot's wrangling, that won in the end.

The first moment Duo dared to relax his natural tendencies towards self-preservation would take over coaxing him into the depths of the night-shaded world of sleep.

Unfortunately the sanctuary of this forced slumber was always short-lived. At best two or three hours of uninterrupted rest was the normal time span. At worse barely enough time for Duo's battered body to acclimate itself to the sleep period before the abominable demons again reared their heads and bared their razor fangs.

This quickly passing from one stage to another in no particular order or length further eroded Duo's already weakened immune system. Now a low-grade fever was a constant companion as well as a hacking cough that rattled deeply and painfully in Duo's chest.

Pale, moist skin and purple shadows under his sunken eyes gave clear evidence of Maxwell's waning strength to continue his noble fight against OZ's fiendish deliverers of mayhem and madness.

Duo's lanky stature, his trim hips that were often a focal point of Heero's lustful ogling, was now far to thin. Heero found himself cringing each time he would bathe Duo. The way his partner's ribs protruded in bony lines under his ashen skin gave stark evidence to Maxwell's dangerous weight loss.

This failing of his lover's endurance only served to make Heero more determined to rescue Duo from his hellish existence. Duo was not to become a martyr for the Colonies glorious cause nor would he be a sacrifice to the unholy dogma of OZ.

Heero knew he could lose in the final battle, but he would be damned if he was giving up without the fight of his life. All his training, his honed skills, would be put into practice and he would not rest until Duo Maxwell would be unfettered and free.

Not surprisingly Quatre had the best luck getting Duo to cooperate as far as his physical care was concerned. Winner through gentle but constant prodding successfully got Duo to drink first water then his favorite orange juice on a fairly consistent schedule.

Meals, on the other hand, proved to be quite a challenge. The pilots would go to great lengths to prepare Duo's favor foods not that they minded the extra work.

A well stocked, and hopefully tempting, tray would be brought in at regular intervals then the every patient Desert Prince would begin the tedious process of persuading Duo to eat. That was another time Heero decided to leave Quatre to his work.

In small victories measured one spoonful at a time, Quatre usually prevailed the majority of the time. With each feeding session the motivations might change depending on Duo's mood and how much intermittent sleep he had.

Quatre did find out one day, quite by accident, that singing to Duo distracted him enough to get the reluctant diner to accept more sustenance. Quatre would hum or sing ballads learn in his childhood telling of great battle conquests or tales of love under the full desert moon.

Heero would sit on the hall floor just outside the bedroom door listening as Quatre's melodious voice repeated the sweet succession of sounds to relay his love and his concern for his fellow pilot's well-being.

His voice's soft tenor had a certain seductive quality, its alluring calling more than adequate to accomplish his mission of Operation: Feed Duo.

On more than one occasion Heero, Duo and Wufei had heard Quatre's sweet voice drifting from the bedroom he and Trowa shared usually after the distinct sounds of lovemaking had run their course.

In the hushed satisfied stillness that always followed, Quatre would sing, no doubt, cradled in his lover's arms in a pure sated state. No wonder Trowa was always so mellow.

**********************************************

The end of the week found the worried Gundam warriors in a state of acute indecisiveness. It would becoming apparent their care, no matter how sincere, was not enough.

Duo's fits of malaise had not improved. Increasingly his wishes of isolation were growing more adamant. Even Quatre's persuasiveness was quickly losing its power.

All Duo wanted was to lie in his protective ball clutching his cross in twitching hands.

If he prayed anymore the appeals were no longer recited aloud. If he believed his chosen deity had abandoned him Duo, once again, kept his orphaned status to himself.

More and more often the failing Gundam pilot absolutely refused to eat. Now the very act of keeping his hydration at acceptable levels was an uphill battle.

Duo was now too weak to be carried into the bathroom for his daily bath. Just enduring the washing especially the tedious shampooing of his hair, once his pride and joy, was too hard on his undermined physical stamina and mental alertness.

Duo was drifting away in metered degrees and it seemed nothing his friends or his heartsick lover did stemmed the swamping tide of decline. Duo had given up, pure and simple.

This surrender, so unlike Pilot O2's tenacious tendencies, told clearly of Maxwell's complete and utter fatigue. The feebleness, the constant weariness and pain, all combined to destroy his quality of life.

Duo Maxwell was not living but merely existing in a shadow-land dreamscape, in limbo somewhere between life and death. Dwelling in that gray, formless loneliness, segregated with only the demons and his mental anguish for company in his slowly spiraling descent into death's cold void, Duo could not be reached.

Shinigami was surely becoming the embodied manifestation of his namesake. This ghostly transformation, as Duo's spirit retreated with steady paces, also drove Heero into a state of despair. The same misery carried him into the icy depths with the same skeletal arms warped about his sagging body.

Duo was dying there was no doubt and Heero Yuy was following blindly along caught in the same hypnotic suggestion of a better life afterwards absent of pain and suffering.

When Duo's soporific journey finally ended in eternal sleep, Heero's soul would rest peacefully beside his fallen lover. And he knew, although his body would remain in tact, his soul would be an accompanying corpse dead to everything but his lover's touch.

There was one other thing of which Heero Yuy was very certain. The span of physical separation would not be long. Whether Heero's life ended in fiery glorious combat or was achieved by his own hand he would not be too long severed from his precious partner.

Perhaps self-destruction would be the vehicle which would allow his great Wing Gundam to carry him to his lover's waiting arms. Whatever the path, the means of his death, Heero would not dwell in the emptiness and heartache for very long.

Heero had kept his death-wish intensions to himself realizing the pain it would cause his friends. Knowing they would probably try to stop him, although they had to know he could not be happy without his koibito.

If he tarried for too many days after Duo's death, Heero was sure Quatre's premonitory empathy would read his thoughts and then his time for choosing his means of departure would be shorten considerably.

But if Trowa, Quatre and Wufei care for him as much as they claimed, they would not, could not, stand in his way. No their acceptance of his decision would be their best, most treasured statement of their friendship and love.

**********************************************

After the usual quiet dinner the pilots shared each night, the need for conversation long ago deserted to their remorseful sadness; Heero rose from his picked-over plate to take up his nightly watch.

Holding Duo as he drifted in and out of restive sleep. As his lungs struggled for each breath and his sweat-soak skin left damp patches on every part of Heero it touched, the Japanese boy made finally peace with his lover's impending end. Would tonight be the night for Duo's blessed release?

"We will not be parted very long." Heero promised tightening his arms about Duo's limp frame. "Wait for me, I will come soon."

**********************************************

The next thing Heero realized was lying in bed alone. The place beside him permanent occupied by his lover was vacant. If something had happened, if Duo had grown worse, he would have known. He would have sensed the simplest change in his koi.

The rhythm of Duo's breathing, his heartbeat, all had been memorized so the slightest modification would have immediately been felt.

Fighting to stay calm, Heero took a moment to let his eyes adjust to the darkness. His sight was drawn beyond the rumpled bedcovers towards the window to his left.

There, silhouetted in feathery moonlight, Duo stood straight and steady.

His silky hair, brushed out and restored to its lustrous shine, hung in loose cascades over his shoulder flowing in wavy ripples of spun cinnamon down his slender back.

Duo was still dressed only in his boxes as had been the case since his rescue. His almost naked body was thin, pitifully gaunt, but as Heero saw Duo through lover's eyes his body appeared perfect once more.

Heero ached to kiss and caress every inch of creamy skin. To feel once again the richness of Duo's hair sliding over his equally nude body. To feel their joining in complete union.

The flowing mane ended below Duo's hips. The ends swayed as he tilted his head to direct his eyes up at the lunar "eye of heaven" looking lovingly back at the beautiful boy by the window.

Heero was certain this perfect vision had to be a dream, that he would wake up to find his lover sleeping restlessly next to him. But he knew in his soul it was no dream. Somehow Duo had found the strength not only to get out of bed but also to brush out his soft tresses.

"Duo." Heero said softly not wanting to break his lover's solitude as the moonlight glistened on his creamy skin.

If his soul mate heard the calling of his name it was not evident in his movements. His head kept its upward angle as wide eyes gazed at the moon.

Heero slipped quietly from the covers bare feet padding over the carpet until he stood behind his still partner. Now he was close enough to see Duo's back move as he took in a sigh, watched his shoulders relax as the intake of air was exhaled.

"Duo." he whispered.

The silken mane swayed as Duo answered the calling. His eyes were still weak made even paler in the shimmering moonlight, but they offered a steady gaze as they locked with Heero's own misty eyes.

Heero reached out with a tentative gesture once more afraid it was a dream. Or had Duo already passed through the veil of tears and this was only an apparitional form standing before him? Was Heero now in the spectral presence of his lover so ghostly pale in the celestial light?

The moonlight filtering through the trees outside painted dancing patterns on Duo's high cheekbone. The same brightness glimmered in his violet eyes throwing out what Heero swore were inner sparks from Duo's black pupils.

"Duo....I can't believe......" Heero began before all reasonable thoughts were overcome by pure puzzlement.

Deathscythe's Master turned slowly to finally fully face his bewildered lover. At first no noticeable change display itself on Duo's impassive features.

Duo stood motionless before Heero. Yes, it was Duo but something had altered his entire countenance. It was not the moonlight that had affected the change nor was it the unexplainable steadiness and confidence exuding from every fiber of Duo's being.

A certain preternatural aura surrounded Duo as if his body had been buried then exhumed with a renewed spirit. There was a steely glaze over his eyes which seemed deeper, more luxurious in their amethyst tint.

All in all the whole of Maxwell's anatomy was different. But the dissimilarity did not frighten Heero quite the contrary. Heero sensed not only the marked alteration in physical appearance, the vigorous potency of harden muscles but a sharpness of mind and a focus of the soul.

Duo stepped forward trailing two fingertips along Heero's jaw line. A shudder followed the lacy touch as it manifested itself in an all encompassing shiver.

Heero let out a ragged breath as a path of fire flowed from Duo's fingers. His need to have Duo, to claim and be claimed by him was wakened once more. The too long absence of their love enkindled a flame beginning in Heero's heart and ending with a flood of heat in Heero's growing erection.

"I have changed, Heero, it is over." Duo proclaimed moving to tenderly kiss his lover's quivering lips.

"I don't understand." Heero replied unable to find an explanation for Duo's apparent adaptation.

Duo took the Japanese boy's hand entwining his smoldering fingers. "Whatever OZ did to me is complete. Whatever they intended to happen has come full circle." he declared.

Then a smile flickered across his handsome face and the same sparks jumped in his eyes, "It is ironic, don't you think? They wanted me to be a monster, a killing machine. They wanted your blood on my hands."

Duo pulled Heero nearer gently stroking another torrid pattern down Heero's heaving chest. "What they did not count on was the power of our love." he continued, "They have created a monster all right, but one with a taste for OZ blood." The smile widened, "I do believe they have just spawned their worse nightmare."

Heero opened his mouth to agree but his concurring was cut off by Duo's tongue slipping quickly into the yawning space between Yuy's lips.

Heero went suddenly weak in the knees. Duo grabbed his shoulders supporting the rubbery stance as his tongue groped to taste the sweetest of his koi.

"Oh." Heero whispered trying to regain some of the shaky balance.

Taking Heero's hand Duo lead his entranced lover to the bed sitting him on the edge. Leaning over Duo ravished his partner's lips leaving yet another streak of crimson in the bruising kiss' wake.

Heero clutched with both hands gathering fistfuls of sheets as his reborn Shinigami nuzzled his ear before giving it a playful nip. The nipping, licking and kisses continued down Heero's neck.

Duo hands closed over his lover's shirt ripping the flimsy material free. He wanted no battier to interfere with the feel of hot skin on skin. More time was taken to enflame each nipple again using nips and licks to achieve the desired results.

Whimpers and moans rose from Heero. Another "OH!" sounded as Duo tongue encircled one sensitive nipple before taking up its downward path once again.

Heero finally freed his hands from the tangled bedcovers burying them in the silken strands cascading over both their bodies. Heero used the handful of mane to guide Duo's mouth back to his. This time it was Heero's turn to taste his lover and show him that he, too, can demonstrate a proper lip lock.

"I want you." Heero whimpered breaking the breathless kiss.

"You have me lover." Duo promised as his fingers fumbled with the button and zipper on Heero's pants. "Let me show you how much."

Sliding his fingers into the pant's waistband Duo pulled down both the outer garment and underwear wasting no time in freeing Heero painfully hard member from the constricting confines of his boxes.

Heero kicked the discarded clothes to the side reaching again for Duo. With a sly grin the object of Hero's desire nimbly slipped just out of reach.

"Stay still and let me look at you." he ordered taking in the full presentation of Heero's most erect and obvious interest.

"Perfect." Duo announced as his hands tugged his boxes down to give Heero a similar showing of his also quite obvious need.

It was a good thing Heero was sitting down because the blood suddenly rushed to his head and the room began to spin as Duo flicked the end of his tongue across Heero's penis's dewy tip.

Before Yuy could managed any form of recovery, the whole of his quivering heat was engulfed in one single move. Fire shot up both legs slamming into Heero's groin.

He spread his legs further to allow Duo all the room he needed. His hands returned to the chestnut tresses encouraging Duo to take him all the way into his hot mouth. Duo relaxed his throat easily taking in the entire length.

Alternating between sucking and running his lips from base to tip and back again, Duo gave Heero all he could handle. More moans accented the expert manipulations.

Another shudder, this the most powerful yet, coursed through Heero threatening to undermine what feeble grasp on his control remained.

"Duo please I can't hold out much longer." Heero breathlessly informed his lover who seemed intent on causing Heero's brain to go into overload.

"Then don't." Duo whispered running his tongue up the engorged shaft bringing on a bout of swearing as Heero fought to hold on.

"But it feels so good." he whimpered tangling his fingers deeper into Duo hair.

Duo paused long enough to cast a quick glance up at his partner's face flushed with excitement as he stroked the inside of Heero's thighs, "Oh I have a lot of ways to make you feel good." Duo growled a predatory gleam in his altered eyes again throwing sparks into the darkness.

Without pity Duo swallowed Heero to the hilt humming all the way down. Heero felt the heat build racing from pole to pole in a matter of seconds.

"Come for me now!" Duo hissed intently watching Heero's eyes as they slid half-closed in pure ecstasy. That was the last straw.

Heero shivered bowing his back probably pulling too hard on Duo's hair. The quaking swelled sending a tingle through his manhood. With sheer abandonment of his senses Heero's seed exploded the force of it taking his breath away.

"Duo." he returned the hissing as his soul mate's name was whimpered lowly.

Duo accepted Heero's offering with the same abandonment gingerly swallowing. As the last of the aftershocks pulsed, Duo licked the softening member for one last taste of the precious partner.

He raised up to let Heero's taste the essence of himself still clinging to his lips. "Now for the next round." Duo announced.

Grabbing Heero's legs he scooted Zero's pilot to the center of the bed. The pushing ended with Heero on his back legs still spread to allow Duo to seat himself in the opened space.

More kisses, more licks and caresses as neither warrior could get enough of each other. They held on lost in a whirlwind of sensuous sensations. It was love and lust and surrender all rolled into one.

Duo pulled back just far enough to open the bedside table drawer. He produced a white tube unscrewing the cap. Heero took little notice of the brief separation as Duo seemed to move with an increase quickest yet another enhancement of his altered state.

It occurred to Heero as Duo squeezed out a liberal amount of the slick fluid on his hands that the not only speed but endurance was most likely another side effect.

Visions of Duo going on and on, lasting all night and well into the early morning, made Heero excided and exhausted at the same time. Suppose he couldn't keep up, would Duo take pity on him? But it was going to be fun testing Duo's new limits Heero knew that much.

Heero was so absorbed in his lustful anticipation he didn't feel the first of Duo's fingers breech his tight anal ring. It had been so long since Heero and Duo had last made love, it is almost as if Heero was a virgin again.

Duo carefully stretched the puckered opening not inserting the next finger until the space was wide enough to slip comfortable inside. A third was added with the same care.

All the while Duo kept his lover busy with kisses and strokes over his chest and stomach. He ran his tongue over the washboard taunt muscle then blew over the moist area bringing on a slight shiver.

Now satisfied his willing partner was properly prepared, Duo pulled out his fingers. Propping Heero's knees against Duo's shoulders the Deathscythe pilot center Heero's hips.

"What do you want?" Duo teased letting the head of his manhood probe at the loosened ring.

Heero smiled running his fingers along Duo's legs joining them together at Duo's exposed crotch. "You." he whispered wiggling his fingers to encourage his partner's actions.

Duo caught Heero's hip keeping them steady. Slowly so as not to hurt Heero he pushed inside. Heero bit on his lower lip chocking back a whimper of both pain and pleasure. It felt incredible as Duo slid in so slowly enflaming every inch along the way. Finally fully seated inside his koi, Duo paused enjoying the feeling of being enveloped in Heero's tight heat.

Heero raised up receiving a tongue-laced kiss then braced his body under Duo's weight. Duo took the hint pulling halfway out then with the same ease seated himself again.

Heero let out a breath he didn't realize he was holding. "More Duo." he choked out the request. "MORE!" he demanded slipping his arms over Duo's shoulders to impale himself further.

"OH YES!" Heero moaned as the change in position drove Duo deeper inside.

Duo picked up the pace, thrusting with quicker strokes. He was determined to give his partner the longest ride he could. He would not finish until he had Heero begging for more and screaming his name into the night.

Firming up his hold on Heero's hips Duo grounded his own hips hitting that special spot with each strong thrust. Now Heero was floating, adrift in a churning sea of emotions while a starburst display of fireworks exploded in his body and brain.

Both lovers panted, eyes narrowed as each of their carnal desires manifested themselves in wave after wave of erotic delight.

"What do you want?" Duo asked again punctuating the question with a hard thrust then held himself in place as his throbbing member twitched inside Heero.

Heero swallow to wash away the gathering dryness so he could answer. "I want you, only you." he proclaimed.

"When?" Duo growled clamping down on Heero's hips until he knuckles went white.

Heero pulled in on Duo's shoulders to make certain he had every inch of Duo encased inside. "NOW!" he growled back tightening his muscles.

Duo reached between them closing his hand around Heero's manhood that had found renewed life. Matching the rhythm of their bodies, the practiced tempo of familiar lovers, Duo started again and would not stop until they both came. "NOW!" he repeated Heero's demand.

Heero once more clamped down pushing Duo over the edge. "HEERO!" he screamed. His hot seed filled Heero reclaiming him forever. Heero returned the favor coating Duo's hand and both their stomachs with creamy ejected fluid.

Duo stayed still not moving until they both reach the end of the climax. Kissing Heero gently he pulled out immediately missing the reassurance he found in Heero's body.

Settling down beside Heero as he squirmed to untangle himself from the snaring bedcovers, Duo pulled at the sheet's hem covering he and Heero to wards off the cooling of their excitement soaked bodies.

Heero looked into his lover's eyes and marveled at the richness of the color. If tonight's session was to be the norm, then Heero wholeheartedly approved of the new and improved Duo Maxwell.

Duo curved into Heero's slender frame loving the feel of his muscles as they rippled as Heero rearranged himself against his koi.

"Trowa, Quatre and Wufei will certainly be surprised in the morning." Heero declared smirking at the indescribable look of astonishment and relief he would see on their faces.

Duo shook his head, "Yeah but do you know who will really be surprised?

Heero pulled Duo closer stroking his hair, "No who?" he replied with a certain degree of absentmindedness as he was quickly becoming lost in the feel of Duo's body and the encroachment of much needed sleep.

Duo sighed knowing he could give into his sleepy sensations without fear. "OZ." he grinned drifting into his peaceful slumber as his breathing matched Heero's perfectly.

 

End

 

Alteration--Karen Hickman--April 2001