11-18-2002

Title: Acceptance

Author: Meg

Pairing: 2+1

Warnings: Ummm... death of minor chars, POSSIBLE death of main char. *shrugs innocently* ^.^

Rating: ...Like, maybe PG-15 if you stretch.

***

Their mission hadn’t been an easy one. A terrorist bombing had been reported in the spaceport of the colony they’d been stationed at, and as active Preventers they’d immediately rushed to the scene. Without taking time to think they shared a glance and charged into the flaming building. The colonial firefighters were there, desperately trying to at least weaken the flame. A handful of other Preventers were already inside, and innocent civilians were dying.

His partner gave him a signal, and Duo didn’t wait to take off in the direction he’d indicated. Duo was in charge of getting people from the main floor towards the front doors. His partner would look on the upper level. It was frantic; the flames were scorching hot, and people were running around screaming. Duo assessed the situation and opted to divert their attention. He withdrew a foghorn and a green flare, smiling grimly.

Two hours and one hundred forty six survivors later Duo stood rigidly, staring up at the smoking building. His clothing was charred; he was bleeding from many small abrasions and strands of hair that had fallen from his braid were singed. He’d covered his braid with his jacket before entering, so it was still intact. But Duo didn’t care about the clothes, or the cuts or even the hair; he only cared about the fact that his partner had never come out of the building.

It was half an hour later before Duo was sent to a hospital. His dazed state had caught the attention of a younger cadet who had called for assistance. The same cadet had brought him to the hospital. The hospital hadn’t had any rooms available, so Duo sat in the middle of the waiting room, surrounded by coughing children and elderly people while a nurse asked him questions and wrapped his arms, legs and chest. The room’s occupants had watched curiously, but Duo had not been embarrassed.

He was too busy watching the vidscreen for any sign of his partner.

***

Duo sat in his Preventer office. He had returned immediately after leaving the hospital, wanting to know the second his partner was found. The fact that his partner may not have been found at all ever occurred to him; he was going to come back and he was going to be fine. There was no question about it.

There was a slight tap at his door, but Duo didn’t look. It wasn’t his partner. His partner didn’t knock. He heard the door open slowly and the footfall as the person entered the room.

“Duo?” It was Quatre. Duo glanced up briefly, acknowledging the blonde boy. Quatre walked forward, remorse shining in his bright blue eyes. Duo pointedly ignored it.

“Oh, Duo, I’m so sorry. Are you all right?” Duo’s eyes narrowed. That was not a question to be asked. The braided boy did not respond, just watched Quatre as the Arabian came to sit in the seat before the desk. “Duo, I know this is a rough time for you. I just want you to know… that I’m here for you. We’re all here for you, okay?”

“Stop.” Quatre regarded Duo curiously, so the brunette continued. “Don’t talk like he’s gone, Quatre. You’re a very good friend of mine and I appreciate your concern, but don’t waste it on me. Go help someone that needs helping.”

Quatre frowned, lowering his head slightly before meeting Duo’s eyes. “Of course. Just remember what I said, all right?” At Duo’s slight nod, Quatre rose to his feet and backed towards the door. He smiled slightly and disappeared through the doorway. Duo sank lower into his seat.

He stared at the wall for a full ten minutes before another tap sounded on his door, and Duo glanced up to see Wufei walk in slowly and take a seat in the chair. Before Duo could ask, Wufei began to explain.

“I left Earth as soon as I saw. Une said she had expected us to leave, and that it she encouraged it. She… wanted us to be here.” Duo didn’t ask who ‘us’ was. The ‘us’ meant that Sally and Trowa were here as well. Wufei and Sally were assigned as Preventers on Earth. Trowa was only a part-time Preventer, but every Monday he would report in. It was a Tuesday.

“Quatre was here.” Wufei nodded.

“I know. Trowa had to speak with him. But Duo… how are you doing? How are you… dealing with what happened? Are you all right?”

Duo glared at the Chinese boy. “How am I dealing with what? He’s fine, Wufei, and I don’t understand why everyone thinks he’s not. He’s going to show up any minute now and I’m going to make fun of you for doubting him.”

Wufei’s made a tight smile, nodding curtly. “Yes, Duo. I will speak with you shortly. I must have a word with Quatre also.” Nodding again, Wufei turned and left the office. As the door closed Duo bit his lip, brows furrowing before he shook his had and took a deep breath.

As soon as he’d schooled his face, Trowa entered without knocking. He was the most like Duo’s partner; never giving a damn about what you were doing. It was comforting and nostalgic at the same time. Trowa did not sit; he remained standing and watched Duo coolly.

“I spoke to Quatre.” Duo did not respond. “You’re denying the possibilities, Duo. It’s unhealthy; especially if…”

“Don’t you dare say it, Barton.” Duo rose to his feet slowly, glaring venomously at the taller boy. “If you say it, I will kill you.”

Trowa’s lip twitched at Duo’s threat. “You’ve been spending a lot of time with him, Duo, that much is obvious. I know how you feel about him, and so do Quatre and Wufei. Duo, we understand what you’re going through, but you can’t just block it out. You can’t ignore the possibility. If he’s alive, then we’ll all be ecstatic. Hell, we’ll throw a goddamn party for him! But Duo, if he’s not alive…”

Duo whirled, placing his boot on his chair and kicking it into the wall. The wall gave way under the force, and chips of the white paint fell to the floor. Duo said nothing as he turned to face Trowa once more. He was not frowning in disappointment or looking at him with sympathy. He just looked… sad. And seeing that emotion angered Duo even more.

“Get out.”

“Duo…”

“I SAID GET OUT!” Duo thundered, bringing both fists down onto the desk. Trowa sighed.

“Fine.” Trowa spoke normally, as if Duo hadn’t just kicked a chair into a wall, yelled or punched his desk. He merely nodded his head slowly, turned and walked out the door, closing it on his way. When the latched clipped into place Duo collapsed to his knees, burying his head in his arms on his desk. And for the first time in a long time, Duo began to cry.

***

“Miss Sally?”

The blonde Chinese woman looked up slowly, and a young girl no more than nineteen stood before her. Sally was surprised to be recognized away from Earth. “Yes?”

“Cadet Remsy, reporting. How many Preventers were reported missing, Miss?”

Sally frowned. “Four, why?”

“Well, then, um, how many of them were stationed on this colony full-time? Because um, the part-time and the full-time have different uniforms and all…”

Sally straightened, watching the girl closely. She seemed unsettled. “One. What are you getting at?”

“Well, um, he’s not missing anymore Miss.”

***

Duo breathed slowly, trying to calm himself. He mentally berated himself for breaking down, but understood why. He understood why he got upset, why his three friends were so worried. For the first time he saw everything clearly. The Barton war had passed more than a year before, and since then he and his partner had stuck together. He was a full-time Preventer, but continued to help Hilde at the garage as often as possible.

But every night he would return to the same apartment with the same person. And Duo would always be glad to see him, no matter what kind of mood he was in. His presence was a comfort. Seeing his calm demeanor gave Duo leverage. It helped him with stressful and depressing days, to have that one constant that never changed, that was always there and was always level. Even when he was yelling he was level. Duo admired him… and had thought it ended there.

Duo smiled bitterly. “I love him. I love that stupid bastard.”

It made a twisted sort of sense. It was why he couldn’t accept losing him. It was why he couldn’t accept the fact that his partner failed. Because he never failed. It was a mission. Heero Yuy never failed a mission.

“Heero Yuy never fails a mission,” Duo whispered, laying his forehead against the cool surface of the desk. “No matter what, everything ends up being okay because he never stops. He never stops trying, he never stops being…”

“And he never will.” A new voice! Duo’s head shot up. His eyes widened. Disbelief was driven away by euphoria. He took it all in: the faint burning smell, the charred and shredded Preventer uniform, the tousled brown hair sprinkled black with ashes, and those eyes. The bright blue eyes that held everything. Duo belonged to those eyes.

“You…”

“You gave up on me?” The arrogance in the statement did it; Duo sprang to his feet, leapt over his desk and launched himself into the arms of the only person that made him stable. The only person that leveled him out and made him whole.

A brief embrace ensued and Duo stepped back, eyeing his partner warily.

“It’s you?”

Heero rolled his eyes. “Hai. Baka.”

Duo frowned, punching the Japanese boy’s shoulder. “You are SUCH an asshole! Do you have any idea what you put me through! I’ve been here worried sick because you decided to rush off and play he-“

Duo was stopped abruptly by two lips pressing against his own. He sighed, melting into the kiss he’d unknowingly wanted for a long time. There would be time for yelling later, followed by some detailed explanations, and then maybe a bit more yelling. Right now, though, Duo had what he wanted, and didn’t plan on letting go anytime soon.

***