Disclaimer: Gundam Wing is owned by Bandai, Sunrise and Sotsu Agency and probably a host of other folks I know nothing about.

Pairings: eventually 2x1

Comments: This fic takes place four years after Endless Waltz, so the pilots are all about 20 now. New Types are a part of the other varied Gundam universes, and though it was never "officially" part of GW, Quatre's empathy could be seen as sort of proof that New Types exist in this variation of the Gundam universe as well. (I like to think so, anyway!) I had thought to post the brief lemony interlude before I posted this part, but... It makes more sense to post this first, followed by the BLI (which will still be posted by this weekend).

C&C much welcomed!

Growing Wings by LdySowan
Chapter 5


Duo had been burned before. Like anyone else, he had picked up hot skillets, touched his share of oven doors, sat a little too close to a campfire to avoid sparking cinders. He had even been badly burned, once, when Oz had caught and questioned him. The latter had left him with an ugly series of scar and a certain kind of grim knowledge: if he ever had a choice about how to die, fire wouldn't be it.

And that--that was what they were doing to him. They were burning him alive right there. It wasn't a gradual thing--more like a flash-fire. He could feel it, the horrific heat, pushing into him in a wave so that even the air he drew down his throat scalded his lungs. He tried to scream, but his throat and lungs didn't work, and the plastic tubing only allowed him to draw in more of the superheated air. He blinked, struggling to get his body to respond through the haze of muscle relaxants, and the flames sprang to life inside of him somehow. They melted right up through his skin, almost exploding away the papery remains of the gown, sending burning bits of it spiraling up towards the ceiling on the heat currents. That was all it took for the air to catch, combusting itself, crawling up over the banks of machines in eddies and ripples like water. The plastic of the tube in his arm and in his throat melted, and he was free to scream soundlessly, his breath billowing out into the inferno the room had become. Papers went up, wire insulation and then wires themselves melted, sparks exploded everywhere, and the lights flickered, went out. The heat buckled the steel of the table he was on, cracked the concrete of the walls.

Impossibly as it started, it stopped.

Whimpering, Duo tried to pull his hands free, his fingers scrabbling at the dully glowing table. The whole room was awash in light, all of the exposed metal giving off the soft red of heat. It was like an oven, like the room had somehow become an oven with him inside it. It was very quiet, except for the small sounds he made, the rustling of things as they settled, the straining of steel that hadn't been heat-tested for this kind of stress. Something on the floor was brighter than the red walls, casting eerie shadows across the ceiling--whatever it was, it was still burning. And from the acrid smell and sluggish, oily smoke, Duo realized that it was probably one of the scientists who had not gotten out quickly enough. He wondered, dimly, if it was the woman with the cold fingers.

Or maybe it's me, Duo thought, because I have to be dead after that. Except that the dead probably weren't aware of the warped metal under their backs, and they probably didn't want to cry.

*Believe it or not, Duo, I know how you feel. Just rest for now, because it's going to get a lot worse before it gets better.*

He was too tired to even protest.

He had no idea how long he had laid there when the door to the room finally opened. The walls were no longer red. The air didn't hurt to breathe. The burning body on the floor was reduced to smoking fitfully, only putting out a small amount of light. Another set of guards came into the room, fanning out with flashlights, playing them over the ruined panels, the scorched walls, him. Two of them moved to cover the burning body on the floor. "Shit. What a mess." But other than the single, disgusted comment, they didn't seem at all disturbed by the state of the room or its now-naked occupant as they efficiently sprayed down the smoking corpse with retardant. They certainly didn't seem surprised that he was alive.

From the doorway, one of the scientists frowned, his paper half-mask dangling loosely around his throat. "Kael, get him out of here and cleaned up. We'll need him again in the morning."

Kael appeared in the doorway, nodding to the gowned man. "Yes, Sir. Do you want him sedated?"

The frown deepened as he met Duo's eyes. The scientist's, Duo saw, were shadowed, silhouetted by the light pouring in from the hall. He wouldn't be able to recognize the man if he saw him later. "No. I'd rather have him aware of this for as long has he can handle it."

Kael hesitated. "Sir? I don't think--"

"It worked with Yuy, didn't it? It'll work with this one."

Kael's head turned in his direction. "Sir, this one's not as strong." Bastard.

The scientist made a small, frustrated sound. "Then he'll break faster. It doesn't really matter, Kael. When we're done, he won't be an issue at all. You said you could use his talent--were you lying to us?"

Kael remained silent.

"Good. Then what's the problem? You saw how he reacted this time. This should go a lot faster than we expected, and his ability is everything we could have hoped for."

"Yes, Sir." Kael sounded... Disappointed. Duo almost opened his mouth to say something, but the little energy he had left was caught up with trying to hold thoughts clearly in his head. They burned Heero, too? Heero didn't have any scars though. At least, he thought he didn't. He'd only seen Heero for a few moments in the shuttle, and he was wearing a flight suit, so he could have been scarred, but somehow that didn't seem quite right. Stranger still: Kael was disturbed by this proceeding. Preferred that they sedate Duo while they did whatever they did to him. From the sound of it, his protests weren't new to the scientists either--like they had heard them before and mostly ignored them. Funny, he didn't think Kael had much humanity left in him.

The surprises for the day didn't end there, either: it was Kael who loosed his restraints, picking him up carefully. When he tried to move again, Kael frowned down at him. Out loud he said, "Don't push me, Maxwell, or I'll make you regret that they didn't leave you in here. After all," he smiled down at him, the statement cold, malicious, "You're staying with me tonight."

In his mind, he whispered. *Come on, Duo, not now. Save your energy until it'll do you some good.*