by Laisia [animestarre@aol.com]
based on a comic by Akiko

Duo lay back in the field and let memories envelop him. The breeze ruffled his bangs as he absently picked a long piece of grass and stuck it in his mouth. His thoughts led to memories, and memories meant the past, and the past meant pain; pain so harsh, it tortured his soul with no mercy.

//Death... is no more than another deep slumber... For that a person can forever lie in peace... no pain... But... the person who remained alive... bears the pain that will never go away...//

His thought wrenched his heart, for he was the person who remained alive, and he bore the pain that would never go away.

//The death of ones I love... the Maxwell Church Massacre...//

"Sister Helen...? Father Maxwell...?" he whispered torturedly. His 7-year-old voice from the past rang in his ears... **I think the only God in this world is Shinigami.** Sister Helen's voice followed... **Duo... may God... bless you and... keep... you...**

In his mind, he clutched a cross necklace in his right hand, standing in a sea of black oblivion. His whispers were swallowed up by the darkness, as he dropped the cross in despair. Blood appeared on his hands, dripping from his long fingers.

//My bloodstained hands...//

He let the blood fall, dripping into the void, silently telling the blackness of his sins. It was a daydream from hell, holding him in its grasp until he had suffered thoroughly. There was to be no returning to the real world until he had lived through this hell, so he just sat in the void and let the blood drip, staining his midnight black clothes and torturing his soul.

Feeling a tear trickling down his cheek, he lifted a bloody finger to wipe it away. The blood mingled with his tear as he whispered fiercely, "Boys don't cry!" He lifted his hands to watch the blood, dripping down, mocking his weakness... just... daring him to cry another tear. "Boys... don't... CRY!" he screamed into the void.

//The people that are left behind... the people with unwashable sins...//

No matter how much he swiped at them angrily, the tears kept flowing down his pale cheeks. Slight gusts of air behind him made him look over his shoulder, still inwardly cursing himself for crying. A pair of pitch-black wings had sprouted out of his back, barely visible against the backdrop of the dark void.

He laughed sardonically at the sight. "Now, isn't that just perfect?" he muttered, still trying to stop the flow of tears. "A pair of death wings for Shinigami."

//Common people are afraid of death... yes, death can be painful, however, most people never notice... People never notice that the ones left behind bear twice the pain... A pain that scars the heart forever...//

"At least..." he whispered, "...at least those who are dead by my hand no longer have to suffer... but..."


A voice inside of him laughed cruelly. *Damn straight!* it said jeeringly. *And those you love are dead, and it's all your fault.*

"IIE! SHUT UP! I tried to save them!" Duo yelled, clapping his hands over his ears in a vain attempt to block out the voice.

*But you failed. Face it, you're the cause of their deaths, and that's why you are... fill in the blank, why don't you?*


"Shinigami," he said quietly, hanging his head in self-loathe. "I am Shinigami."

//...Why am I left behind? Why didn't Sister Helen and Father Maxwell take me along with them? Why leave me alone to suffer?//

"Is it my... destiny... to live as Shinigami, to live in pain and suffering?" he asked to nobody in particular, giving up on stopping the flow of tears. "Why didn't I die that day? Why do I still live in agony?"

He fell to his knees in his mind-created void, tortured by his memories and his fate. Lifting his eyes to where heaven should have been, he whispered, "Has God abandoned me?"

A slight touch from the real world yanked him out of the void in his mind. "Wha--?" he muttered, annoyed at the interruption of his thoughts, no matter how torturing his thoughts had been. Opening his eyes to see who the intruder was, he was greeted with the sight of a butterfly perching on the tip of his nose.

"AAAAAAAGH!" he screeched, waving his arms around in an attempt to remove the butterfly from his nose. He muttered, "What on earth--?"

His eyes focused on the butterfly that was now fluttering nearby. He peered at it curiously, inspecting it.

Suddenly jumping up and pointing at it, he yelled, "YOU!" The butterfly kept fluttering, not caring that Duo was acting crazy. "YOU MUST BE THE ONE WHO DISTURBED SHINIGAMI'S MOMENT OF PEACE! BIG MISTAKE!" Obviously, the butterfly couldn't care less; it just fluttered around some more.

He sprang forward in a run towards the butterfly, still pointing at it. Now afraid of the braided lunatic, the butterfly started to flutter away... very quickly.

"COME BACK AND TAKE MY JUDGMENT!" he screeched, running towards the butterfly at full speed. "STOP IN THE NAME OF JUSTICE!" The butterfly flew for its life, now thoroughly afraid of Duo. It disappeared into a clump of bushes, hoping it would be safe on the other side.

"Don't think so!" Duo called out loudly, pulling the bushes aside with his hands. His eyes scanned the area on the other side, searching for the offending butterfly. They focused on a flower, on which the butterfly perched, thinking itself safe.

"HA!" he yelled, pulling a net out of hammerspace and charging the flower. He swung the net at the butterfly in a giant swoop. The net missed, however, and since he had put so much momentum in his swing, the net came back up to encircle the top of his head.

A sweatdrop appeared on the side of his head. "Hey..." he muttered, looking absently at the butterfly which was now flying in circles around his head.

He lifted the net off of his head, but when he did, the butterfly was already gone; it wasn't stupid enough to hang around. Making a face, he plunged into the bushes again. His aim wasn't as good this time, however, since when he emerged on the other side, there was a leaf hanging out of his mouth.

Wrinkling his nose, he spit it out. The slightly vain side of him took over, and he reached back and smoothed out his hair. "Now where's my butterfly..." he muttered, finishing with his hair. Not seeing it in front of him, he looked over his shoulder.

His eyes doubled in size. //Heero?!// he thought incredulously. Heero lay in the grass, a hand raised in the air, the other hand behind his head. Heero's gaze was resting on Duo's butterfly, which was now perching on one of Heero's fingers.

//Is... is that... Heero?// Duo kept staring in disbelief. //He looks so... peaceful. I've never seen him like this before...//

Heero closed his eyes, bringing his hand down to rest on his stomach when the butterfly flew off of his finger. A shadow falling over him caused him to open his eyes again.

He peered at the shape through half-closed eyes. //The little girl...?// He saw her smiling face, heard her words... *Onii-chan?* //But it can't be... she's dead...//

His eyes opened fully. "Oi! Heero!" the shape said happily, grinning madly. One word went through Heero's mind. //Duo.//

The response to Duo's greeting was, of course, the click of Heero taking the safety off his gun, and the gun being brought up and stuck in Duo's face. "Eh?" Duo said nervously, sweatdropping. "You..."

"Omae o korosu," Heero said, moving the gun closer to Duo's face.

"Ack!" Duo yelped. In his attempt to back away, he fell over, feet flying up in the air. "Geez, Heero!" he said irritatedly, sitting up and rubbing his head. "Quit pulling out guns, will ya?"

"Hn," Heero said in his usual monotone, putting the safety back on his gun, and putting the gun away again.

"But-- Hey Heero, I've never seen you so relaxed before!" Duo said, falling back on the grass again, sprawling out comfortably. "Because the war's over?"

Heero didn't answer. He turned and looked at Duo silently, trying to answer the question in his own way.

Duo turned to look at Heero, unnerved by his silence. "Heero?" he asked quietly, looking into Heero's eyes.

Finally, Heero spoke. "...war... ...it's never over..."

Propping himself up on one elbow in order to look at Heero better, Duo made a face and raised an eyebrow. "Wha--?" he said confusedly, trying to read Heero's face.

"Aa," Heero confirmed, looking into the distance. "My war... is never over..."

Duo stared at Heero. Were those... //Wings?// He looked closer. //He didn't have wings before... what the hell?//

"Who am I?" Heero asked the wind, still staring into the distance somewhere.

//Angel?// Duo asked himself, mindboggled by the concept.

"Am I just a lost soldier... who lost his way in the battlefield?" Heero said, picking up a clump of dirt in his hand and letting it fall through his fingers. "Will I find a way out?"

//The same enigma...// Duo thought, barely noticing that the wings were now gone.

"My dirty hands..."

//Mine are no cleaner...//

"... tainted with blood..." With those words, Heero lifted his hand up to his face and let it slide down, leaving trails and smudges of dirt on his cheek. "I am just a killing machine."

//And I am Shinigami...//

"Perfect soldier... no emotions... no feelings..." Heero plucked a flower and loosely crossed his arms, holding the flower in one hand. "But I'm not the perfect soldier."

Duo sat up and leaned forward, looking at Heero strangely. //What...?//

"I feel the pain... An augmenting pain..." Heero said, suddenly hugging his arms to his chest, shutting his eyes tight and bringing his knees up to his torso. "With the endless war..."

//Just like me...// Duo leaned forward and reached out a comforting hand. "Hee... ro..." he said quietly.

Heero stood up before Duo's hand could rest on his shoulder. Duo looked up at him questioningly. "What's the point of going on?" Heero said, looking over his shoulder at Duo, who was still sitting on the ground. "How... how can I stop the heart from hurting...?"

He looked down at Duo and his own hands at the same time. "Do I get to say sorry to the little girl and her dog...?" One of his hands reached down to grasp Duo's chin. Duo took the hint and stood up, though Heero didn't let go.

"Duo..." he said, gently pulling Duo's face close to his. "Can Shinigami... do me a favor?"

His hand fell away from Duo's chin, but he made no move to step away. "End this war for me... stop the heart... let death claim over me... then... nothing will hurt anymore."

Duo's eyes widened, and he looked at Heero in shock. //Selfish. You selfish person.// He lowered his eyes and asked, "Is that what you truly wish for? Death?" //What about the ones left behind...? Relena? Quatre? Trowa? Wufei? How would they feel?//

Heero was silent for a moment, then replied, "Aa. Souda."

//WHAT ABOUT ME?!// He saw an image in his mind of himself, in his black outfit from the war, tipping his cap and pointing his gun. //Another cruel joke...// Inwardly, he gasped, covering his mouth with his hand. However, he didn't move a muscle in reality.

//Am I to be left behind...// Glass shattered in his mind, and the black-clad image of himself turned its back to reveal the same black death wings from earlier. It reveled in the moment of being surrounded by falling shards of glass, putting its hands on its hips and standing up straight. //...Again?//

His eyes narrowed, and he turned to Heero, eyes burning with anger. "Rest in peace, Heero."

He reached out a hand and stopped it in front of Heero's face. A finger reached out and rested under Heero's nose.

^^FLICK!^^ Heero jumped back, disbelieving that Duo had just flipped his nose. "Na..." he said, sweatdropping and staring at Duo. "BAKA!"

Duo wasn't amused. He pointed at Heero, eyes still blazing, and yelled, "Heero no BAKA! Don't you understand...?" His eyes turned sorrowful rather than angry, focused on a distant point on the horizon. "Death is not the way..."

Heero looked at Duo, his eyes blocks of stone. "No... I don't understand... and I don't think... you'll ever understand me..."

A jolt shook Duo's body with Heero's words. The fire in Duo's eyes blazed up again, but even stronger than before, brought on by the awakening of a primal anger within him. The anger filled his veins and bones, his heart and soul; everywhere.

His eyes narrowed again, pinpointing on Heero's seemingly blank face. "YOU!" he yelled angrily. He leaped forward in rage, tackling Heero. They fell to the ground, Duo pinning Heero down.

"Nn..." Heero groaned, knocked breathless by the force of Duo's tackle. Duo breathed in heavy gasps, teeth clenched and hands holding Heero's arms down in an iron grip.

"YOU are the one... who does NOT understand!" Duo shouted between enraged gasps. He leaned in closer, hoping that Heero was damn scared. Heero deserved it at this point.

"Do. You. Know. You're NOT the only one suffering?" he asked, scowling in rage. Heero's eyes widened. "You are NOT the only one who's fighting the war!"

Duo's anger finally burned out, his head lowering as the anger faded. He still held Heero down, kneeling above him. "Don't leave me behind..." His grip loosened and his body, which was earlier taut with anger, now loosened up in agony and despair.

He continued, recatching his breath. "Let's end this war together... together... so no one will be left behind."

Heero looked up at Duo, reached up his arms, and encircled them around Duo's back. Without warning, he pulled down, and Duo landed on top of him with a thump.

"EH?!" Duo said, staring at Heero.

"Why can't you understand..." Heero said quietly, smiling softly.

Duo pulled a face. "Nani?" he asked.

Heero shook his head slowly. "Gomen."

//Heero said GOMEN?!// Duo thought in shocked amazement, still staring stupidly down at Heero. His eyes widened, and they looked at Heero questioningly.

Before Duo knew what was happening, Heero's head had raised off the ground, and had pressed his soft lips against Duo's own. Duo gasped. Heero took the opportunity of Duo opening his mouth to gasp, and slid his tongue into Duo's mouth. Duo moaned, and pulled Heero closer.

They eventually stopped for lack of air, and Heero stood up, pulling Duo up with him. "You're right, Duo. Death is just an excuse..." He reached around Duo's slender body and pulled him close in an embrace. "Excuses don't fix problems, they neglect problems."

Duo clung to Heero's tanktop, returning the embrace. He looked up at Heero, wondering if he was going to say any more.

"Death isn't everything..." Heero continued, hugging Duo tighter, "... and you aren't an excuse."

A soft smile graced Duo's lips. "Hai." //God hasn't abandoned me after all...//