Title: Saving Grace
Author: Karen Hickman
Disclaimer: I don't own Gundam Wing, etc, etc, etc,
Paring: 1x2
Warning: YAOI--LEMON /angst/ violence/ cursing/ death.
Parts: 3 of 3


SAVING GRACE

BY: KAREN HICKMAN

A shadowy shape drew up close to the rough mortared brick of the building’s side. A faint gleam of silver flashed under the haze muted streetlamp. The bare flicker danced on the pistol’s steely finish as it was pressed against a black leather jacket. A pause, then the figure moved silently along the narrow alley shrouded in the concealing mist.

Ahead an outline stood just beyond the streetlamp’s fringes. Briefly a face was pulled from the darkness as the man lit a cigarette. Then the face was again swallowed up as the used match struck the damp pavement. Bluish smoke seethed from the man’s flared nostrils swirling up to join the night fog drifting in from the bay.

It was not a coincidence the two men were in such close proximity. But they were not there for some clandestine midnight meeting, quite the contrary. In fact the man leaning lazily against a street sign had no idea the other human form was there. He had to clue he was being stalked, hunted by one the best. Of course such knowledge would have been of little comfort to the prey. His impending death, had he known, would not have been accepted with any less foreboding or fear.

The unaware target took in one last, long draw on the cigarette pulling the burning end almost to his fingertips. On last swirl of exhaled smoke mingled with the accumulated smog before the spent butt was tossed aside. A few lingering sparks bounced from the reddish tip then disappeared into a oil-slick puddle.

The stalker stopped at the building’s edge. Now his mark was in plain sight. Nothing stood between the assassin and his assignment. The silencer-tipped barrel’s blackened hollow moved up the intended victim until it aligned perfectly with a kill-spot over the heart. With unwavering focus the pistol held its target in its deadly aim. Slowly, steadily, the trigger quivered as the finger through the trigger guard pulled back. Now the gun and the hand grasping it acted as one.

A slight sigh escaped the assassin’s lip as the final, lethal commitment was made. Just as the trigger pull reach the firing point dispatching the deadly shot, as the muzzle flash exploded in the darkness momentarily setting the mist on fire, a second figure stepped up next to the condemned man.

In a single split second, the bullet passed between the mark and the new arrival. A single second more and the man flinched, jerking backwards as the piercing projectile ruptured in his chest. Without a sound the man dropped straight down collapsing into a constricted heap.

It was a clean kill. The man never knew what hit him.

The now lone figure stood fixed in place. Shock from the sudden, deadly turn of events held him in its fear-induced grasp. His altered perception didn’t notice the black-clad form as it stepped out of the gloom. Didn’t see the same smoking barrel bearing down on his middle. All he could see, holding his stunned eyes in its unyielding grip, was a scarlet stain oozing through the fallen man’s shirt.

But some intuitive spark in his fright-muddled mind cause him to direct his sight forward. Involuntarily he jump, stumbled backwards until the adjacent building blocked his escape route. Eyes, widened in panic, searched for some alternative path. Hard breaths pounded in his heaving chest. But all he could see, all that presented itself in the muted light, was the polished gleam of the targeted weapon.

A silhouette, clothed in black, blended with the night. No face could be seen beneath a thick crop of dark hair. No eyes to read, to reason with or, maybe, hold the slightest degree of mercy.

The first rule of a successful mission: Leave No Witnesses.

That rule was fixed firmly in the assassin’s thoughts as he sighted down his outstretched arm. Now the pistol became a natural extension, part of his body, part of his mind. “Kill him!” his cold, detached training ordered.

The killer’s steely, brooding eyes narrowed on what he now could see was a male who could not have been any older than himself. Again the Boy’s eyes were pleading in their fear-widened stare. Those eyes, flashing with deep violet sparks.

“Kill him! Do it now!” the discipline instilled command screamed in his head.

Tension contracted the trigger. This time a hard puff was used to store up an aim that seemed to become stiff and shaky. “DO IT NOW!”

“Oh God, please!” the Boy’s pleaded his voice trembling as the last of the syllables trailed off into a faint whisper.

The trigger continued its resolute backwards movement.

The Boy covered his head with arms that were trembling as much as his voice. Turing his face to the wall, he breathed out one last whimpered, pitiful plea even though he knew his petitions for mercy were falling on deaf ears.

With a shudder and a low moan, the young man resigned himself to the end. Closing his eyes he waited for the fatal shot to resound in his hearing. Prepared himself, the best he could, for the hopefully brief pangs of pain and then the black void that would follow.

One more fraction of an inch on the trigger and the job would be over. Two bodies would be discovered in a pool of blood come the first light of day. “FINISH IT!” the icy inner voice screamed.

But something else spoke in the executioner’s mind. Something he had not heard in the longest time. The Boy’s pleas broke through the deafness, striking a haunting cord, ringing in his ears.

A brief remembrance flicker inside the vacancy where his conscience had all but been used up, almost destroyed by years of following orders with practiced efficiency. By countless killings until hatred of the job and hatred of himself had left only a thin shell of humanity which, at that moment, threatened to crack leaving him without any hope of redemption.

A memory of an earlier time. Another young man who was once innocent, but who allowed his anger and pain to rule his senses and harden his heart. And who, in a single rage driven act, sealed his fate for a lifetime. Through a clouded windowpane of self-loathing, the assassin could just make out a tear-stained face dimly reflected. Then with a sudden clearing of the glass, his own face, mirrored in shimmering teardrops, stare back with sightless, hollow eyes.

“NO!” he screamed inside his head. The pistol’s end raised upwards pointing at the night-deep sky. The gun slid back into his quivering hand as his muscles relaxed dropping his arm at his side. “No.” he repeated faintly under his breath.

“You. Boy.” he called stepping towards the cowering young man.

The frightened Boy only drew up more at the husky baritone voice sounding at his back.

The man called once more, but, this time, there was a softer pitch to the edgy voice. “Turn around. I won’t hurt you.” he promised with more than a hint of sincerity accenting the words.

Slowly the Boy twisted his head. A long, heavy chestnut braid swung back and forth between his shoulders. But the quivering youth left his body braced on the wall, not yet willing to fully expose himself. Although completely turning around or not would not matter, not if the man’s intentions were to kill him.

The Boy’s wide eyes focused on the figured partly veiled in the damp fog. But he could see clearly enough to know the gun no longer held its deadly aim.

Instead the barrel pointed at the ground. But the Boy did not deceive himself that the weapon could still be quickly raised and fired if the young gunman chose to do so.

“Please.” the trembling voice implored, barely audible above the bustling city’s noises.

“I said I wouldn’t hurt you. Now turn around, damn it.” the deep voice ordered. The forcefulness of the words and the irritated tone did little to reassure the terror-stricken youth of the man’s promise not to harm him. But nevertheless the Boy did not want to do anything that might give the gunman a reason to change his mind.

Slowly the youth pivoted still bracing his quaking shoulders on the building’s side. Lowing his eyes, the Boy stared down at his battered boots trying, quite unsuccessfully, to calm his labored breathing and ease his heart’s tight pounding in his chest. Finally with a shaky sigh, the Boy found the willpower to raise his sight, but not enough to see the imposing figure’s night-shrouded face.

The outline shifted slightly, the pistol swayed by his leg. “Hum, just a kid.” the man told himself seeing the Boy’s face fully, “Just a damn street kid.”

The Boy sucked in another shallow breath and waited. For what, he was not certain.

Moving forward once more, the imposing figure stopped a few feet from his spared victim. Now narrowed eyes could be seen more clearly beneath heavy brown bangs tousled about his forehead. For the first time the trembling Boy realized the threatening assailant was, indeed, not much older than himself.

“Please mister,” the Boy found his voice, “let me go, I promise I won’t say nothing to nobody.”

“You know I can’t do that.” the man stated the obvious.

“Look, I don’t know who you are, nothing about you.” the Boy replied grasping at anything he thought would make sense, anything to make the man reconsider, “I wouldn’t have anything to tell. Besides, in this part of town, one more dead body will hardly be noticed. The cops sure as hell won’t care.”

“No.” came the chilling response, “You have to come with me.”

The Boy dared to lock his sight with the gunman’s brooding eyes, “Ah, come on, mister, why can’t you just let me go?” he begged.

“Because I am not supposed to leave any witnesses.” the man answered flatly, “You are supposed to be dead now.” he finished without a hint of emotion in his husky voice.

“I am.” came the startled reply, “Then why ain’t I?”

A pause passed between the gunman and the Boy as the assassin studied the question, struggling in his own mind to find the answer.

“I don’t know.” came the troubled reply as the man continued his inner-conflict over his decision and his subsequent actions.

“Now come on!” This time it was expressly clear the order was not open to debate. The Boy had but two choices, comply or die.

The gunman tucked the pistol under his jacket hiding it from view, but kept it trained on the still quite shaky youth now standing by his side. “Move.”

The pair started off down the alley opposite the prone man laying in a congealing pool of blood. Moving just ahead of his watcher, The Boy was keenly aware of pistol’s bugle under the leather jacket. With a nod of his head, the gunman directed their path across the street. Another nod turned them to the left.

“Damn, he doesn’t talk much, does he?” the street kid thought to himself.

“Where are we going?” the Boy asked lowly passing under a blinking neon sign. The bright glaring light glinted off a silver studded earring poised in the Boy’s pieced earlobe as he raised his head to read the scarlet letters overhead.

“Where I’m staying.” the man stated as the tavern sign’s red lights flickered on his high cheekbones and sparkled over his black jacket.

“Are you going to kill me then?” The Boy’s voice trembled again as he breathed out the question, dreading what answer he might receive.

The gunman paused, taking in the young man’s pale, sweat damp face. He knew the Boy had to be scared, probably to the point of panic, but the chalky cast on his delicate features, the clammy moisture, conveyed something more than simple stress and fright. No, the Boy didn’t look well at all.

“Now I’ve done it.” the Boy thought to himself, “Now I’ve made him mad.”

This time, though, there was something strangely different in the cobalt eyes looking back, something not as threatening as before. “Not if you cooperate.” the gunman sighed, “You ask a lot of question, don’t you?”

“Sorry.”

The man started again. The youth kept up the steady pace to where ever they were going. In the back of his mind, however, the Boy entertained the notion, if the opportunity presented itself, to pick an escape route among the maze of alleys and side street and bolt for his freedom. But the bugle under the quite expensive leather jacket was a constant reminder that the obviously skilled marksman could drop him in his tracks before he got ten feet.

Now it was the gunman’s turn to ask questions. “What is your name?”

“Duo.” came the whispered reply.

“Just Duo?”

“Maxwell,” the Boy whispered again, “Duo Maxwell, but no one calls me nothing but Duo.”

The Boy swore a ever-so-slight grin touched the corners of the man’s mouth.

“Duo.” he repeated with a certain sense of amusement, “What kind of name is that?”

“My name.” the Boy shot back with an imprudentness that surprised the assassin.

The smirk flowed into a thin lipped smile, “All right, Duo.” the man conceded to the lad’s brashness.

Taking a calculated risk, Duo decided to make one more inquiry, “Hey, you got a name?” he asked feeling justified since the introductions seemed to be one-sided.

“Heero and don’t ask for a last name.” the man stated dryly putting Duo on notice that was all the information he intended to reveal.

“All right, Heero.” the Boy tuned the words back around, then wondered if he had overstepped the bounds of Heero’s patience. If he had the gunman didn’t indicate it in either his body language or stoic demeanor.

“Are you a whore?” came the next question completely out-of-the-blue.

Duo checked his stride for a second taken aback by the man’s bluntness.

“Professional?” came the reflective response, “Nope. I have turned tricks when I needed money to eat, but, to be honest, I would rather steal than whore. Hell of a lot easier and not near as messy.”

The subtle smile grew wider as Heero admired the Boy’s honesty, “Well.” he shook his head, "We all do what we have to." he stated flatly. Duo was certain the man was speaking from an abundance of pervious experience.

One more turn at the next corner. One last streetlight before the pair made they way around the back of a run-down, two-story building. At the rear a door groaned on stubborn hinges. Heero stood aside to let Duo go in first.

To the right a dim hall ended at a graffiti covered door. Duo recognized the spray painted "artwork" as the signature of the Satan Street Gang. They were a nasty bunch and he wondered if his watcher knew he had invaded their territory. But Duo had no doubt the obviously street-smart, cold bastard could handle himself with the Satan gang members or anyone else who made the deadly mistake of getting in his way.

To the left stairs gave access to the second floor. Once again a head nod prodded Duo up the stairs. He climbed slowly suddenly feeling weak and shaky.

The gradual pace was not to Heero’s liking. He didn’t like being so exposed on the narrow stairway. It was be to easy to get trapped between someone at the top and bottom and the limited space put his maneuverability at a dangerous disadvantage. Putting a hand on the sluggish youth’s moist back Heero applied persuasive pressure to prod Duo along.

Finally they reached the top. Using the already placed hand Heero guided Duo to the left until they reached the third paint-worn door. A tarnished number 6 identified the correct room.

Letting go his supporting hand, Heero tucked the pistol into his belt and retrieved the room key from his pocket. The turned key offered a click, the knob turned in his hand. “Stay here.” he instructed raising his hand to tell Duo to hold his position. Duo swayed against the wall, braced his shoulder and gave no reply except to hold his place.

Drawing out the pistol, Heero cautiously nudged the door back with the toe of his boot, holding the weapon at the ready should he encounter any unauthorized persons inside. The room was vacant as far as he could see. One prudent step carried him through the doorframe. Keeping his eyes moving and ear straining to pick up any betraying sounds, he moved steadily ahead. Checking out the bathroom, he was finally satisfied the room was void of any intruders.

Returning to the hall he was not at all surprise to find Duo waiting. The thought that the Boy would take the opportunity to flee in his temporary absence never crossed Heero’s mind. He didn’t know why exactly. Maybe it was the Boy’s surprisingly easy-going attitude, despite what he had seem Heero do, that told him Duo would still be there. An odd mixture of fear an fascination seemed to hold a mysterious attraction between the Assassin and the Street Kid.

“Come on.” Heero said gesturing towards the opened door.

Duo pushed off the wall with a good deal of effort. He took two wobbly steps, faltered, then with a low moan and an acute cold-sweat breading on his flushed face, Duo pitched over. With cat-like reflexes, Heero shoved the gun back into his belt and reached out just in time to intercept Duo’s slumping body.

“HEY!” he declared as his arm slid under Duo’s chest to keep him from hitting the floor face first.

In one fluid motion, Heero turned Duo over on his arm centering it under his shoulders. The other arm slipped beneath Duo’s knees. Without any strain at all, Heero scooped up Maxwell’s limp form and carried him to the bed laying him gently on the bedcovers. He then shut the door and locked it against any outside intervention.

Laying the pistol on the bedside table, Heero stood above the sweat soaked figure shivering and panting in short, shallow intakes of breath. He removed his jacket dropping it onto the faded fabric of a nearby chair.

Heero sighed out loud returning his attention to the bed, “Might as well get you comfortable. Something tells me this is going to be a long night.” he declared pulling off Duo’s street-grimy boots.

Sitting on the bed’s edge the hardened assassin, who believed himself to be completely immune to any brand of pain and suffering, felt a odd, stabbing pang in his chest. Before he realized what he was doing, his hand rested lightly on Duo’s fever-struck forehead. Carefully he moped back moisture laden bangs, pausing to study the Boy’s oval face.

Taking a unusually long moment to survey the curve of Duo’s jaw line, the ridge of his cheekbones, everything that made the Boy hauntingly beautiful, Heero sighed again.

Duo moaned as Heero’s hand felt cold on his burning brow. “Shit, he burning up.” Heero swore under his breath, “Why did you have to do this to me, damn it!” he growled even though he knew being sick was not Duo’s fault.

It was just that Heero didn’t need this now. He had finished his assignment. The job had been done with his usual impassive detachment. Without any emotion whatsoever.

He needed to leave, to put the city and the impending investigation his muderous act would spawn behind him. To put as much distance between himself and his actions as it would take to keep any intruding feelings at bay.

Black out the memories. Concentrate on the next hellish mission the Organization that owned his soul would require him to do. No time to feel. No time to care. Just get the next assignment and move on.

Heero’s anger was now directed at himself. Anger at not being able to follow through. Rage that he let a moment's hestitation, one falter in discipline, cause him to spare the beautiful Boy who now had him trapped unable to break free from this mystic thread that held him so tightly. Angry at the exposure of his frailty, Heero cursed the liberation of the single speck of his humanity he had, until then, kept caged in the deepest regions of his being.

“Damn it!” he hissed as Duo struggled to open his weakness heavy eyelids.

“No! Please!” Duo pleaded no doubt remembering the sight of the targeted man going down before his eyes. The shudder and jerk of his body. The wrenching flinch as the Assassin’s bullet bored into his gut and snuffed out his life in one brief, but lethal, span of time.

Or perhaps Duo was recalling his own soul gripping panic as he faced what he believed to be his own certain death. Felt the overwhelming emotion and tasted the fear turning rancid in his mouth. How his heart pounded and how each breath became a painful struggle.

Recalled the vacancy in the Killer’s eyes boring into his mind. That face, void of any human compassion. Felt the same icy fingers claw through his body as surely as if the trigger had been pulled and the fatal shot had been delivered.

Duo felt himself falling. Tumbling into a black tunnel as pain and fear and loss pushed him down until he could no longer see any light. A dark gulf swallowed him. A suffocating wave washed over swamping his last sight of the saving brilliance. “NO!” he screamed grabbing fitfully into thin air.

Heero slid his arm under Duo’s thrashing torso carefully avoiding the flinging arms and hands. Pinning the flying appendages to Duo’s sides, Heero shored up his embrace to protect and comfort the suffering Boy.

“This isn’t like you.” something in Heero’s mind declared.

“I know.” he answered back loudly startled by the sound of his own voice.

“NO!” Duo screamed once more, jerking awake with a forceful start.

“Shhhh.” Heero whispered gently rocking the quivering youth in a soothing motion. “Not like you at all.” the inner voice repeated with a scornful hiss.

Duo bucked against Heero enfolding arms, “Let me go!” he yelled fighting with an adrenalin surge that almost broke Heero’s hold. “I said let go you bastard! You murderer!”

Duo’s words cut through Heero’s heart as if he had plunged a double edged knife into the vital organ. Pain, as real as if his soul’s center had been pierced, stuck with blinding force. The anguish multiplied as if Duo twisted the blade until Heero’s life was drained away by his bleeding conscious. Heero let go drawing back in shock at his own unexpected reaction to Duo’s cutting words.

Duo curled up in a totally defensive posture, arms and legs clutched to his sweltering body. His breathing came in catching gasps for air. Unable to stop the hyperventilation robbing his body of much needed oxygen, Duo floated on the brink of fainting.

Ignoring Duo’s hatred lanced declarations and rage induced withdrawal, Heero again moved to help ease the debilitating suffocation. And again Duo resisted Heero’s touch. But this time he was to far gone to fight back.

Heero straightened Duo body as best he could, using enough force to do what had to be done without hurting him. Duo waning strength was no match for Heero as he pulled the breathless Boy upright. “Now breath!” Heero ordered with a firm but gentle shaking movement.

All at once Duo sucked in with a jarring rattle deep in his lungs. The suddenly restored respirations convulsed over Duo’s entire body threatening to wretch every joint and muscle. Heero tightened his grasp to support Duo’s twitching frame. Soon regular breaths replaced the wheezing gasps and Duo settled down into an exhausted, almost lethargic, state.

Heero drew in and slowly exhaled a tension releasing sigh. Duo laid in his arms, eyes half closed, sweat running down his cheeks. Feebly Duo opened his eyes finding Heero’s liquid blue depths looking back. Despite his depleted energy, Duo tensed as he realized Heero was holding him.

“Look,” Heero whispered close to Duo’s ear, “you are sick. If you keep going on like this you are going to hurt yourself. You have to trust me. Please.”

“I can’t believe you just said please.” the nagging inner voice chided Heero once more.

This time, however, Heero didn’t respond to its ridicule. He didn’t answer or even acknowledge its mockery.

Duo conveyed through a bleary gaze and a slight nodding of his head that he would, for then anyway, let Heero do what he needed to do to help him recover.

“After all,” Duo’s own inner voice confessed, “you can’t do much to help yourself.”

But Duo giving over the last of his control to the man who, hours before, had cold-heartedly took another life, was an act of extreme faith. One he hoped he would not regret. The giving up also left him with no reserves, nothing left to throw up a battlement against any assault this callous Killer might wish to inflict.

With a surrendering sigh, Duo Maxwell left himself open and unarmed.

 

PART 2

Heero glanced at his watch. It had been three hours since he had begun his frustrating attempt to control Duo’s raging temperature. After the first hour, he had removed Duo’s thoroughly saturated shirt and pants, striping the torrid Boy to his underwear.

A long ragged scar ran diagonally across Duo’s right shoulder. A second down his inner arm ending just above the bend of his elbow. Heero knew from experience the slicing wounds could not be more than a few weeks old. “Someone cut him good.” Heero thought a little surprised at the unexpected find.

Something shone with a golden shimmer on Duo’s glistening chest. In the muted bedroom light Heero’s hand touched the shape hanging from a matching gold chain. A simple, unadorned cross slipped into his fingers. Heero turned the cross noticing how the reflective light seemed to give it a soft glow.

“Well I’ll be damned.” he sighed letting the spiritual symbol slid back onto Duo’s moist skin. “Maybe there is more to this Boy than I thought.”

He undid the chestnut braid that kept winding around Duo’s neck and getting in the way. Heero guided the long strands through his fingers, gathering the silky tresses, twisting them into a tangle pile on the pillow.

The next hour he applied wet cloths to Duo’s fiery forehead, wiping down every inch of parched skin. Using every means to encourage Duo to wake up long enough to get him to drink enough water to fight off his rapid dehydration.

Duo’s state of mind would travel between periods of somewhat lucidity into his own private night terrors with such volatile succession it was all Heero could do to keep ahead of the cascading tide. Then he would be so quiet Heero found himself checking to see if desperately ill Boy was still breathing.

At each turn, each roadblock to Duo’s recovery, Heero felt complete helplessness and utterly frustration. He was losing more and more of his own previously strident emotional mastery. Yet another layer of control was breaking down and it seemed he could do nothing to halt the devastating downwards spiral.

All his years of training. All the days and nights spend purging his mind of sentiment or remorse. All the hours spend filling the empty spaces in his heart and mind with apathetic numbness. In one compassionate measure of time, all was destroyed and made null.

But strangely, Heero was not overwrought by the fraying threads of his emotonal stability. In a way he welcomed the release from the fretting cords that had for so long bound him to duty. The damned meticulous attention to details. The stealthy stalking of his prey. The pouncing and death bite he had so long ago perfected.

Now instead of taking a life, he was fighting to save one. Strangely, curiously, it felt good. Perhaps, just maybe, that one small spark of humanity he had tried to smother with his dampened emotions still glowed somewhere in his stony heart.

Yet, through it all, Heero never gave up hope for both the Boy who had so suddenly took over his heart and his own hope of normalcy.

About 3:30 in the morning the fever mercifully broke. As if to get in one good final assault, the fever built up, turning Duo's face pallid and trying its best to drown him in its downpour of sweaty moisture. Then, with just as much force, the soaring temperatures let go with a shuddering release. Chills set in from the sudden drop in the feverish heat. Adding another blanket Heero took from the empty room across the hall did little to alleviate the raking chills.

Heero pulled Duo’s shivering body against his chest, wrapping both blankets around his quivering limbs hoping his added body heat would help overcome the frigid currents coursing over Duo’s slender frame. After about a half-an-hour, Duo’s body regulated somewhat, at least the shivers were not a severely bone jarring. A healthier glow replace the ashen color and Duo’s breathing settled into a more rhythmical pattern.

Heero eased his arm, that was now half asleep, from under Duo’s back and carefully lowered him onto the bed. Smoothing the covers over his mostly naked form, Heero once again marveled at the pure, innocence the sleeping Boy displayed. If Heero hadn’t known better he would never have guess in a thousand years Duo had come from the streets.

But he knew the city and all its vices and dangers had not always been Duo’s cast in life. No, something told Heero, quite strongly, that the city’s cruel circumstances had not ruled Duo’s life forever. Not long enough to ruin the precious Boy’s natural, inner beauty. That unspoiled, inborn, inherent goodness. Heero heart ached for the Boy and wondered what happened to place him in such dire conditions. He heart also ached for he own lost innocence that could never be reclaimed.

Now absolute exhaustion of mind and body overtook the last of Heero’s fading energy. His shoulders slumped under the overwhelming weight. With great effort he stripped down to his underwear, tucked his gun under the nearest pillow and warily slipped under the rumpled covers beside the peacefully slumbering Boy.

Switching off the bedside lamp, the old boarding house’s shabby room was bathed in darkness interrupted only by the streetlamp’s steady glow through twisted blinds covering the dirty window. On the second floor only muted street noise drifted in from outside. Traffic and voices fading into the sound of Duo’s quiet breathing.

Tuning on his side, Heero slid one hand under the pillow letting it rest lightly on the cold steel of the weapon that had become his only safeguard in life. The only thing he trusted. His other hand reached over until it, too, rested lightly on Duo's velvet arm. Giving up his last bit of self-control Heero closed his fingers about Duo’s slim wrist, feeling the pulsing of his heartbeat through is skin.

Pushing away any remaining thoughts of assignments or duty or what he had lost in their domination of his life, Heero set his breathing in time with the beautiful Boy's breathing and drifted into a perfect state of nothingness.

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

Heero shifted drowsily. Something had stirred him from his restive sleep. His blurry eyes blinked twice before they forced on Duo’s serene face. The Boy laid on his side in a loose fetal curl, a hint of a smile showed on his rosy lips. They laid so close together Heero could feel the wisps of Duo’s breathing on own his own cheeks. Pale colors of dawn painted the room with a pinkish hue.

Then Heero’s entire body jumped as the noise that had initially roused him came again from outside the door. The knocking was loud and insistence. Heero hauled his pistol from under the pillow. Laying it on the bed, he quickly pulled on his pants then grabbed up the weapon.

He stood to one side, shoulder against the wall out of direct range, should the person pounding on the other side decide to shoot through the door. Curling his fingers about the pistol’s butt, Heero took in a steadying breath. “Who is it.” he called in answer to the continuous knocking.

“It’s me.” came the muffled reply through the wooden door’s thickness. “Come on, Heero, let me in.”

Heero relaxed, but only a little, at the sound of his contact’s voice. He hadn’t worked with the man long and, in his street-smart cautiousness, Heero was far from ready to trust completely his Organization assigned go-between.

The opened door revealed a tall man with coal black hair and equally deep ebony eyes. Chang Wufei stared at the relative stranger he had worked with for all of two months. “What took you so long?” the Chinese man growled out the question, “And stop waving that damn gun in my face.” he declared harshly.

Heero lowed the pistol with a curt puff, “What do you want?” he asked tensely leaning on the rough doorframe. He head felt heavy, stuffed with cobwebs, from lack of sleep and stress and he really didn’t want to carry on a lengthy conversation.

Chang frowned back mirroring Heero’ cloudy countenance. “You are suppose to be gone by now." he announced, "If I hadn’t checked with one of my street informants I would have not known you were still here.” he stated trying to peer passed Heero’s head to see into the room beyond. “Like I said, why are you still here?”

Catching a glimpse of a shadowy form in the bed, it didn’t take much imagination to guess what had delayed Heero’s leaving. Wufei leaned forward, “Let me in,” he ordered, “I don’t like standing out here in the open like this, too exposed.” he confessed.

Heero couldn’t very well protest Chang’s wishes, not without arousing unwanted suspicion. He back away letting Wufei stroll inside. Chang paused a moment taking in the shabby room with its faded wallpaper and drab furnishings. “A lot different than last time.” he commented remembering the classy, deluxe hotel that was his and Heero’s last base of operations.

Heero mumbled something under his breath laying the pistol on a scratched table then spoke more clearly, “Don’t worry I’m getting out of here soon.” he proclaimed rubbing the nape of his neck where unaccustomed tension pulled the muscles taut.

“I guess that’s the reason for your delay?” Chang asked the rhetorical question with a disapproving sneer in his voice. A head nod towards Duo accented his blatantly rude denouncement.

Heero easily donned his perfected mask of indifference not wanting to give Wufei the slightly hint the sleeping Boy meant anything to him. “Oh him.” he indicated with a glance of his brooding eyes, “After the job went off without a hitch I figured, what the hell, I might as well enjoy myself. You know, a reward for a job well done.” he paused reading the reaction in Wufei’s eyes. Heero could always tell how someone was thinking by looking in their eyes.

“I was coming back here,” he continued the lie, “and this Boy was hanging around the corner on 10th Street. I knew that’s where a lot of the whores “strutted their stuff” so I asked the Boy if he was interested in a date.” Heero grinned wickedly to add credence to the falsehood, “We came up here and you know. He was better than I expected and ended up spending the night. I had to pay out more than I had intended but he was well worth it.”

Chang shook his head in agreement having had a few nights like that himself.

“You think that was a good idea? He knows what you look like now."

“No problem, I was far enough away from the target site for him not to know where I come from. With what I paid him he will be happy. Hell, I won’t be anything be a good memory by this afternoon." Heero reasoned trying to steer Wufei"s thoughts in another direction.

“Yeah, its morning now and the funs over.” Chang declared putting his own memories of some other willing boy back on track.

“I guess between business being so good, the last assignment and the hurried travel schedule, I was more wiped out than I thought.” Heero stated matter-of-factly. “But I going to put the Boy’s ass back out on the street and get ready to leave.” he promised confident Chang believed every word of his factitious account.

“Want me to wait?” the Chinese man grinned casting a longing look at the silken chestnut hair spreading sensually over a sweat stained pillow. Wufei, too, saw that the Boy was beautiful. A completely involuntary tightening of Chang’s crotch and a throaty grunt reinforced his sudden realization.

Heero’s trained eye picked up Chang’s sexually coerced subtlety. A coy smile lifted the corners of Heero’s mouth as he again read his fellow Agent’s thoughts and his acutely clear body language.

“No.” Heero finally replied removing the smile from his lips before Wufei noticed. “I would rather be alone when I wake him. Who knows, I just might be able to talk him into a free “quickie” if I ask really nice.”

“And if he refuses?” Chang inquired grinning more than before.

Heero let the smile return knowing, this time, it would not be out of place, “You know me, if I want something badly enough I get it.” he stated with certainty, “Besides I have other means of persuasion other than my irresistible charm.” he declared nodding at the gun laying within easy reach.

Chang shook his head letting out a soft sigh, “You are something else.”

“Yeah I am.” Heero agreed allowing the self-pleased smile to grow wider.

Chang let his sight fall briefly over Duo’s exquisite form once more and headed to the door. “Get out this morning, that’s an order.” he stated firmly, “Hide out in the Safe House until the heat cools down and then I'll be in touch with your next mission.” he instructed stepping into the hall. “Damn you have good taste!”

“And good luck with your “quick relief”.” Chang called over his shoulder as he reached the stairs.

Letting out a breath he didn’t realized he was holding, Heero shut the door quickly throwing up a barrier between himself and the exiting Agent. A thousand thoughts all vied for his attention at once. “The next mission.” the words bounced inside his mind bringing on more tightest in his neck and shoulders, creeping behind his eyes with a dull ache.

“Next mission, hell!” he hissed under his breath. “There’s not going to be a next mission!” he stated with a forceful puff to chase away the gathering tension.

Focusing his wildly scattering thoughts into some semblance of order, Heero made his way to the bed. Sitting beside Duo, who had slept contently through the two Agent’s entire exchange, Heero closed his surprisingly quivering hand over Maxwell’s shoulder.

“Duo.” he called increasing the pressure and adding a firm shake to help stir the Boy awake. “You have to wake up now.” he insisted with an anxious edge to his voice.

The Boy shifted letting a long breath escape over his lips. Heero could see Duo’s eyes moving under his still tightly closed eyelids. Maybe he was finishing up a dream Heero had so rudely disturbed. “Duo. Now!” Heero called louder to break through the sleepy stupor.

Slowly Duo’s eyelids parted just enough to take in a narrowed view of Heero’s troubled face. They closed once more not wanting to let in the intrusive light of morning. Another centered shake encouraged his slumber dulled senses to come around. “What?” Duo whispered with more than a strong hint of annoyance in his ragged speech.

Heero was persistence, “You have to wake up now.” he repeated, “I have to go.”

“Go where?” came the next, perfectly sensible, question.

“I have to get out of here and you have to go somewhere safe.”

“Safe” Duo repeated what he thought was Heero’s odd choice of words.

Heero took Duo by the arm sitting him up against the bed’s headboard. He hope he could get through Maxwell’s obviously groggery mind, make him understand the dangers of their situation.

“A man was here a few minutes ago.” Heero began, “He is my contact for my assignments. He told me to hide out for a few days and then I would get my next mission. But I don’t want anymore missions.” Heero blurted out the statement before he realized the words had left his mouth. “No more damned missions!” he exclaimed curling his fists into rage tighten balls.

Duo took a moment to digest what was Heero was saying. To try to comprehend the full meaning of his words and anger driven actions.

“You want out.” Duo stated suddenly seeming older and much wiser than his youthful years.

All Heero could do was swallow hard to wash down the dry lump clogging his throat and nod his head heavily.

“When that is what we will do!” Duo proclaimed without even so much as a reconsidering pause.

Heero’s head snapped up, his eyes glared at the Boy’s wide-eyed innocence as he gazed back at the cold-hearted Assassin sitting before him.

Suddenly Heero grabbed Duo arm with such force Duo cried out in surprise and pain. “Heero! Stop!” he yelled at the unexpected attack.

Heero neither loosened his powerful grip or redirected his acidic glare. “WE!” he hissed loudly, “Where in the hell do you get “we” ? Damn it, Boy, you don’t understand!”

Duo’s sight softened. His violet eyes quietly studied the troubled, anguished face staring back. He knew the danger. He had learned, all too well, the hard, painful lessons the street had taught him. Knew how unfair life could be. How, unforgiving and cruel, the fates often dealt with man’s mortal soul.

Duo also knew, firsthand, the terrible pangs of separation and loss. Danger was not a newly born infant, but a tough and mature child of the street. And, unfortunately, death was also no strange to Duo Maxwell either.

“Yes, I understand.” came Duo’s placid reply, “I understand all to well.”

Heero’s body sagged exhausted from its never ending fight to control his feelings and keep up his stoic facade.

“No you don’t, nobody does.” he whispered lowly as a slight shiver drew up his slumping shoulders.

With quiet reassurance, Duo leaned forward wrapping his arms about Heero’s trembling frame. Heero’s first reaction, the conditioned, reflexive response of his disciplined training, was to pull away.

 

PART 3

“How dare he do this to me.“ Heero’s mind harshly declared.

But something more powerful than Heero’s aggressive training overtook his need to break free. His aching for a human touch overcame his brain-washed resistance. Giving in totally to his crumbling facade, as it tore away the last layer of Heero’s fading resolution, the cold-hearted deliver of death and destruction melted into Duo's tender embrace.

And for the first time in, oh so many years, Heero’s tears flowed freely and unashamedly. Duo tightened his enfolding arms as Heero’s buried his tear-streaked face under Duo’s chin. Sliding his own arms about Duo’s slim waist, Heero’s held on for his life knowing, if his and the sweet Boy’s lifesaving hold was severed then, he would not recover from the wrenching separation.

Duo offered no words of comfort letting his arms convey their assured security. Hard, cleansing sobs shook Heero’s body as he surrendered to emotions too long kept pent up inside.

When the sobbing had eased and Heero’s catching breaths evened out. Duo released his solid embrace allowing Heero to lean back enough to lock cobalt and violet centers of sight one with the other. “I can’t take you with me.” Heero whispered lowly, “It is too dangerous.”

“You can’t leave me behind.” came Duo’s positive reply.

“But we would be on the run. You don’t know what kind of horrible reprisals the Organization is capable of dealing out.” Heero stated as images of past betrayers and their gory punishment surfaced flashing with stark realism in his mind.

“They won’t be ready to let me go, they have invested to much time and money in my training. They will do whatever necessary to get me back and they would not hesitated to go after you to get to me. We could never be truly secure or safe.”

Heero straightened sharply pulling back from the consoling encompassment of Duo’s arms. “No! I can’t do it! You know the kind of man I am. NO!”

Duo placed his thumb under Heeo’s chin making him, once again, peer deeply into his liquid purple shaded eyes. “I know the man you want to be.” he sighed bending forward until his invitingly moist mouth were a fraction of an inch from Heero's quivering lips.

“What makes you so sure I can change?” Heero breathed out the solemn wondering.

Duo lifted his hand brushing back tousled hair from Heero’s misty eyes. “You have already started to change. Your first step was when you couldn’t kill me. Then you gave so much of yourself to care for me when I was sick last night.”

“But...”

Duo placed a finger lightly on Heero’s lips urging him to be quiet until he was finished, “I knew you were caring for me. Even in my fever-struck haze, I knew. I could feel your touch. Not only your physical warmth, but the kindness in your heart. Oh yes,” Duo smiled knowing he was absolutely correct in his assessment of Heero’s beginning metamorphosis, “I know the kind of man you want to be and I want to help you in your changes. I know it won’t be easy, nothing worth having ever is.”

Slender fingers ran along Heero’s tear-moist cheek as Duo leaned closer still, “Together we can make it. You can’t leave me now that you have shared so much of yourself. You’ve given up so much of your strength for me you can’t do it alone.”

Heero closed his eyes squeezing out more salty tears welling inside. They opened at the touch of Duo’s lips on his. The kiss was a bit timid but warm. Duo wasn’t sure if he had said too much or moved things along to fast.

For a split-second Heero tense, retreating from the strange sensation on his mouth. Duo dared to press a bit harder, not rougher, just more insistence. Heero closed his eyes. Without further indecision he willingly gave up the last shard of the shattering invisible crystal wall that had surrounded him for so long.

Heero cupped his hand behind Duo’s head tangling his fingers in the lavishness of his free flowing hair. Opening his mouth wider he let Duo’s tongue flicker inside, his slipped beside tasting and stroking tongue on tongue.

Heero had had lovers in the past. Nothing serious, often just one-night stands. He had taken from them what he needed at the moment and never looked back. In fact he could only recall one of their names, but he had long ago forgotten the face that went with it.

He knew, too, from Duo’s own confession, that the violet eyed Boy had taken lovers in much the same way. It was a case of survival, pure and simple. Survival on the streets. Nothing more, nothing less.

So why, now, did this Duo Maxwell, that was a little more than a stranger to him, touch Heero’s soul so deeply? Why did it matter if he was hurt or not? Why?

The gentle kiss ended with a light brushing of their lips. Heero let his hand slid back over his precious lover’s shoulder. It rested momentarily on the raised whitish scar before his fingers snagged the chain supporting the gold cross. Duo looked down as Heero lifted the plain symbol of faith allowing its golden gleam to sparkle in his eyes.

“Do you believe in this?” Heero whispered softly rubbing the cross’s smooth finish with his thumb.

Duo laid his fingers over Heero’s hand entwining them around his fingers and the cross. “I don’t know. Maybe.” he sighed.

“Then why do you wear it?”

“It is the only thing I have left. It belonged to my mother or so the people at the orphanage told me. They said it was tied around my wrist when they found me sitting some Church’s doorstep.”

“How old were you?” Heero sighed seeing the pain in Duo’s eyes as he remember his past.

“I don’t know for sure. Three or four. I just remembering being cold and scared and some lady dressed in black and white telling me it was going to be all right.” Duo took in a shaky breath, “But it wasn’t” he choked out the last sentence.

“I wish I could change your past, you didn’t deserve any of it.” Heero declared a tinge of anger accenting his words.

“I doesn’t matter now.” Duo replied letting his fingers slide off the cross. He brought up his arms draping them over Heero’s shoulders. The second kiss was more anxious as he drew Heero as close as he could.

With lips still locked together the two outcasts laid over on their sides. Heero slipped one knee between Duo’s legs gentle rubbing his thigh against the ridged erection already beginning to swell up in Duo’s hot, wet, crotch. Duo moaned at the firm pressure and wiggled to get all he could from the stimulating friction.

As their lips parted Duo moved his mouth near Heero’s ear. His tongue licked at the earlobe before he delivered a playful nip. Heero winced, but didn’t retaliate.

Just a day before he probably would have lashed back in some way. Returned the favor with a bite hard enough to draw blood, but that was yesterday.

Duo’s lips tickled with a long sigh as he asked, “Have you ever traded sex for not wanting to be alone?”

Heero stiffened at the direct question, then nodded his head yes.

“Well you won’t after today.” Duo promised coming up to lay atop his lover.

Duo continued the licking and sucking planting moist kisses on Heero’s neck and chest. Each taut nipple was suckled. Duo’s tongue was put to good use circling each one in turn while his fingers rolled and kneaded the one free of his mouth.

Heero clasped his hands on his partner’s shoulders with enough force to leave whitened stripes and, most likely, bruises on his velvet skin. But Duo didn’t seem to notice as he worked his way down Heero’s chest.

He ran his tongue over Heero’s stomach until it was wet then, with a mischievous gleam in his liquid amethyst eyes, blew out a steady breath covering the entire width, cooling the moist skin and sending chills over Heero’s body.

Heero drew in a hard breath at the sudden temperature change. But before he could comment on Duo’s quite devious assault, the words skipped from his thoughts as Duo roughly tugged down Heeo’s pants and underwear guiding them downwards until they clear his ankles and dropped with a swishing sound on the floor.

Duo grinned with pleasurable interest at the erectness of his mate’s manhood. “Oh.” he cooed licking his lips in lustful anticipation, tossing one leg over, straddling just below taut organ.

Heero reached up but Duo grabbed both wrists firmly holding his hands back. “Oh no, lover.” he hissed with delight as he pinned Heero’s hands over his head straightening out both his arms and body. “I am in charge right now.”

Heero could have easily broken Duo’s hold. Could have easily taken him any way he so desired. But it felt so good not to be dominant. Not to take by force or coercion but to give someone else the power and trust that someone would not abuse or hurt him. With that decision all of Heero’s protective wall was chiseled away.

“Promise not to move and I’ll get naked, too.” Duo purred. Heero nodded.

Heero obeyed laying perfectly quiet. Hands, arms and body were all content to keep their extended posture while Duo stripped down and added his black boxers to the other discarded clothing on the floor.

Still straddling Heero’s hips Duo leaned down once more for a quick, teasing, almost slobbery, kiss. Then a strange look pulled his eyebrows together. A slight frown tuned down the corners of Duo’s blushing lips. Heero took immediate notice of his lover’s more serious facial aspect. “What’s wrong?”

“I don’t want you to think of me as a whore. I know what I told you before, about the tricks, but...”

Heero raised his hand brushing aside Duo’s flowing hair so he could better see his face. “I will never think of you any other way but my Kawairshii Koibito.” he solemnly swore, "Always as my beautiful Boy."

Duo forced his quivering lips to smile reflecting the joy in his heart. “Always your Koibito.” he repeated as several violet tinted droplets spilled over his cheeks.

Caressing Heero’s inner thighs, Duo trailed the fingertips of each hand upwards until they converged at the base of Heero’s aching manhood. Stroking from base to tip, over and over again, Duo soon had Heero’s arching his back and writhing in pure ecstasy.

When Duo thought his hands had done all they could, his mouth was then employed encompassing entirely the member’s full length. Heero let out a throaty groan at the wonderful sensuality of Duo’s lips and tongue.

Duo kept up a steady pace of slow, focused strokes. Heero bucked at each new flourish Duo added to his almost overpowering stimulation.

“Duo! Oh! Please!” Heero moaned feeling the last ounce of his pitiful control vanish leaving him unable to do anything but claw up fistfuls of the damp sheets and hold on for dear life.

And when Heero knew his throbbing manhood was on the verge of exploding, Duo, sensing his partner’s keen arousal, pulled back leaving Heero breathless and more than a bit frustrated.

“Don’t stop! Not now!” Heero growled at the sudden absence of Duo wondrous mouth.

“Oh I am far from finished, lover.” Duo cooed placing his hands behind Heero’s knees, lifting and spreading his leg apart until Heero’s hips rose off the bed.

“I’m sorry but I don’t have anything to makes things go smoother, if you know what I mean.” Duo stated lowly.

Heero leaned up on shaky elbows tossing his head to clear his eyes of sweat-soaked bangs, “Its all right. I know you won’t hurt me.” he replied letting the strange concept of trust guide his words.

Heero clasped his hands about Duo’s waist centering his hips, offering himself fully and unashamedly.

“Let me use my fingers first.“ Duo said wanting to be as gentle as he possibly could.

Locking his sight with the Duo’s misty eyes Heero drew nearer. “No, I can’t wait. I don’t want to wait.” he proclaimed, “You aren’t my first, but it has been so long.” he confessed.

“But you will be my only one from now on, I promise. Please Duo love me now.”

Heero tensed as he felt Duo’s penis’ trickling tip press against his quite tight anal opening. “Try to relax.” Duo instructed speaking from pervious experience.

A releasing puff was forced from Heero’s lips as Duo slowly and carefully pushed inside. Heero closed his eyes. His arms drew in trying to hold his trembling body steady as Duo continued his painful penetration.

“Are you all right?” Duo whispered. All Heero could do was move his damp face against his patient lover’s cheek and nod.

As they moved closer together and the union was wholly achieved, Duo put his mouth to Heero’s ear, “Are you ready?”

Yes, yes.”

Bringing Heero’s hips up further, aligning his anal passage at a more accessible angle, Duo began to rock back and forth. With each thrust and near withdrawal Heero loosened. The dry pain faded with each metered motion until a warm, wet sensuousness replaced the raw ache.

Reaching around with both hands, Heero’s partner again caressed and fondled his taut erection. Duo’s fingers soon picked up the rhythm matching the grinding of his manhood as he filled Heero and drove him to the brink.

“Now! Duo!” Heero growled tightening down as hard as he could. Duo groaned, gritted his teeth and bowed his back giving all of himself he could.

For a fraction of time that seemed to stretch on forever both lovers held their quivering embrace. "Duo, don't move." Heero pleaded sucking in a labored breath.

“I have to, my love.” the beautiful Boy panted as a shudder jerked through every inch of his tingling, damp body.

As Duo came hard, the climatic shudder triggered Heero’s release bathing Duo’s hands in creamy ejected fluid.

Heero cried out as hot waves coursed through his genitals. Duo held on never wanting their first time to end. Savoring each delicious moment with his newly found soul-mate.

Reluctantly Duo sat back, quickly becoming too exhausted to hold his semi-seated position. Heero sensed the quivering in Duo’s arms and legs and, just as reluctantly, allowed his lover to pull out. He guided both bodies back onto the bed acutely aware of Duo’s heaving chest as he struggled to catch his breath.

“I’m sorry I didn’t have more stamina.” Duo panted.

“You were wonderful.” Heero praised his lover, “Just perfect.”

Afraid their passionate session had been to stressful on Duo’s illness weakened system., Heero looked deeply into his lover’s eyes for any sign the fever had returned. But they both were so covered in salty perspiration he couldn’t tell if the dampness was the result of over stimulation or an unnatural rise in body temperature.

“Are you all right?” It was Heero’s turn to ask.

“I’m fine. I’m too happy to be any other way .”

“Let’s get covered up before we both take a chill.” Heero advised pulling the tangled sheet and blanket over their glistening bodies.

Duo snuggled closer. Taking Heero’s hand he curled into the security of his lover’s strong arms. “We have to leave soon.” Duo sighed. He wanted to keep the reality of their dangerous situation from ruining the moment but he also knew their tenuous circumstances would not grant them peace much longer.

“I know.” Heero whispered back keenly aware of their dire condition. “We have time. You need to rest a little while then we will leave.”

“I can go now.”

“Don’t argue with me.” Heero ordered firmly tightening his embrace.

Silence covered the room disturbed only by Duo’s slightly raspy breathing as he relaxed in the warmth of his lover’s enfolding arms.

After a few minutes Duo stirred directing his drowsy sight at Heero’s face.

Do you believe in fate?” he whispered.

“I don’t know what I believe in.” Heero answered honestly. “Why?”

Duo leaned back to better see Heero’s eyes. “I have to believe fate or destiny or whatever name you want to give it brought us together. There had to be some guiding force that made your bullet miss by so little. Some outside intervention that caused you to break all your stringent rules and let me live.”

Heero considered Duo’s statements of belief for a long, thoughtful moment, “I suppose.” he conceded to Duo’s theory of some higher power.

“There is only one thing that I AM sure of.” Heero proclaimed without a doubt in his mind. Pulling his beautiful Boy nearer he gazed Duo’s eyes becoming lost in their still innocent inner glow, “I do know you were meant to be my saving grace.”

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

Later That Day

Heero sat restlessly in the minivan that would be his and Duo’s “home” for a long time. The running engine purred softly vibrating against Heero’s firmly clutched hands on the steering wheel. He drummed his thumbs nervously then looked at his watch for the third or fourth time.

It was not the location in the seeder part of the city that had Heero so on edge. Nor the tough acting members of some “gang” hanging around the sidewalk and porch of the run-down apartment complex. There was no doubt in the skilled gunman’s mind he could easily handle any trouble the street punks might make the mistake of starting.

No what had Heero looking in the rear view mirror and over his shoulder was the fact that Chang Wufei had, by now, discovered his fellow Agent had not arrived at the Safe House. Chang had probably gone back to the shabby boarding house and found room number 6 vacant. By now he had contacted the Organization and reported that Heero Yuy was no where to be found.

Heero knew his Bosses, upon receiving Chang’s disturbing news, had not hesitated to issue orders to have their rogue Agent found and returned at once.

And if the Bounty Hunters delivered the retrieved Agent in not so pristine condition, the Organization would view that as a well deserved deterrent to any further thoughts of Heero leaving again.

But it was his fear that Duo would become “caught-in-the-middle” that made Heero’s anxiousness almost unbearable. The first rule sprang into his mind with such brutal potency it caused a totally involuntary shiver to crash over him with bone-jarring force. LEAVE NO WITNESSES echoed in his memory.

For one brief moment Heero strongly considered putting the van in gear and leaving Duo behind. He knew it would break Duo’s heart, but better a broken heart than no life at all.

Heero knew, without a doubt, if he and Duo were found together, only he would survive. His wanting, needing Duo so badly had sealed both their fates. But if the time ever did come and the Organization’s bloodthirsty beasts were closing in Heero knew, with Duo’s love as his anchor, he would have the strength to mercifully end Duo’s life sparing him from the agonizing torture before the end.

Then Heero would turn his pistol on himself and with one final, fatal shot score his last hit, one that would deprive the Hunters and the damned Organization of their victory.

“Come on Duo, hurry up!” Heero hissed under his breath checking his watch again.

As if on cue, Duo stepped through the door. He made his way through the lounging punks as if it was a walk in the park. Each hand carried an over-stuffed duffle bag bursting at the seams with what personal belongings Duo could not leave behind. A equally crammed and faded backpack hung over one shoulder.

Heero made his way around the van’s side opening the door as Duo stepped off the curb. “Is that everything?” he asked as Duo pushed the bags and backpack beside Heero’s meager possessions, the sum of his, until then, wasted life.

“Yeah.” Duo replied glancing back at the deteriorated apartment building that had been his home since he had run away from the orphanage at age ten. Since the “gang” had taken him in and given him the only “family” he had ever known.

“I told my friends they could go through the rest of my stuff and see what they could use.”

There would be some things Duo would miss, but not much. Not the hunger pangs of an empty stomach or the sharp pains of an empty heart. Not the cold nights and endless wandering through the city’s unforgiving hell.

“Not much at all.” he whispered under his breath taking his last look.

“What?” Heero asked hearing Duo mumbling something.

“Nothing.” Duo replied reconciling himself to his new life.

A petite auburn-haired girl with soulful eyes stood on the porch wrapping a thin cloth coat about her too thin frame. Duo let his sight linger on the small female’s face as she fought back her tears. She raised her hand in a sign of farewell. Duo waved back swallowing hard to hold in check his own urge to cry.

Heero followed his partner’s gaze fixing his sight on the person who held Duo’s attention. “Someone special?” he wondered aloud as the thought he really knew nothing of Duo’s friends or enemies or life came to his mind.

Duo shook his head, swallowing again to clear his throat, “Yeah, she was the first one who made me believe I could turn my life around.” he admitted. Then Duo redirected his eyes locking them on his lover’s face, “And you were the second.”

Heero put his hand on his Koibito’s arm squeezing gently, “Are you absolutely sure about this.” he insisted wanting to give Duo one more opportunity to change his mind.

It would have utterly destroyed Heero’s heart and soul if Duo had said no, had decided to stay, but the peacefulness of knowing Duo would be safe would have far outweighed the heartache.

“Yes.” Duo nodded touching Heero’s face, “I have never been more sure of anything. Now let’s get out of here.” he stated climbing in the passenger side. He settled back into the seat pushing chestnut bangs from his eyes and a tattletale teardrop away in the same motion.

“Buckle up.” Heero advised. As the van pulled up to the stop sign at the end of the block Heero reached into his belt retrieving the ever present pistol. He hid the sliver weapon under his leather jacket laying on the seat between himself and his quiet, quite contemplative, lover.

Duo caught Heero’s action out the corner of his eye. As long as he had been on the streets Duo had never become comfortable with weapons. Even though his friends had urged him to carry some form of protection, especially when his nightly wanderings included the “red light” district, Duo had always refused.

He knew from first-hand experience guns, knives, especially knives, they all caused nothing but suffering and, most often, death. But he was well aware the pistol, and all it represented, was part of Heero's lifestyle and now part of his, too.

As the van pulled across the intersection, Duo reached in his shirt bringing out the gold cross. He clasped it tightly in his fingers bowing his head in silent prayer.

Heero observed his partner’s prayerful posture with reverent regard. Like Heero’s pistol, Duo’s cross was a comforting constancy in an otherwise dispassionate and callous world. “Amen.” he whispered the ending entreatment.

“Amen.” Heero repeated lowly as aware as Duo of their uncertain future.

As they crossed the bridge leading out of the city both outcasts, and now, lovers and soul mates tried, in their own way, to put the grime and smog and hopelessness of the unsympathetic streets behind them.

They didn’t know what lay ahead, what obstacles might have to be overcome. But they did know that whatever fate granted or took away. Whatever time they had to share, the moments, days or years would not be wasted. That together they could face tomorrow with the strength and surety of their love as a uniting force that no one or nothing could defeat.

 

SAVING GRACE--By Karen Hickman--November 2000