7-22-2002

DISCLAIMER: I think it is too obvious for me to bother and say it, but still: don't own them.

WARNING: 2+1, tiny bit of angst and general spookiness.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: I usually don't write fantasy and stuff, but I thought I'd give it a shot. Here goes... Oh, and the name of the story is a name of this song in Hebrew... For some reason I decided to leave it in Hebrew. I think it gives the fic a nice touch. Oh! And I FINALLY wrote down a fic with alllllllllll the G-boys in it! Good for me! (Actually, they wouldn't stop complaining, so I let them in. Chk! Actors! They NEVER shut up and ALWAYS have something to say about EVERYTHING! You better not complain about this fic or I'll cut your salaries in half- using Deathscythe's scythe! *growls and the G-boys duck their head between their shoulders...*)

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LILA BLI COHAV

(A NIGHT WITHOUT A STAR)

PART ONE

* * *

"LUCY - I'M HOOOOOOOOOOOME!" Duo called happily and dropped his bags to the floor. Still grinning, he looked left and right, examining his new residence for the next four weeks. "Woohee... Impressive for a place that's been abandoned for ages..." He whistled in awe, his eyes roaming over the expensive furniture. Even though it was early in the afternoon, the house seemed to be very dark. There was a large window in the living room, hidden behind thick and dusty curtains, and it let only a little bit of sunshine it. The dim rays did little to light the room, for the walls were black and the furniture dark. Dust particles danced lazily in the air, giving the place a very dull feeling.

"I had some people clean it up for us." Quatre's voice came from behind as the Arabian blond entered the house, carrying some bags himself. He pushed Duo gently, for the braided boy was still standing at the door. "The view is also very nice."

Duo's grin didn't waver as he picked up his bags. "It has to be, otherwise, why the hell are we here? Nothing like a sight and see mission to help ya put your feet up and relax for a while..."

"It's an observation mission, Duo." Trowa's voice also joined as the Heavyarms pilot entered the large house, carrying his own luggage. "And you're supposed to take it as seriously as any other mission." He continued, sending Duo a harsh look.

The American sighed and bowed his head. "Yeah, I know... I know..." He muttered, walking deeper into the house. It was mid-spring, and outside the weather was nice and warm, the smell of flowers in the air. But inside, Duo now noticed, it was very cool. The air was crisp and chilly, making Duo shiver. He decided to go and open the drapes, letting some warm sun in. As he did so, he turned back to face the door, seeing Wufei walk in.

"I spotted the base, it's right down the hill." The Chinese pilot informed. "It's a good thing this house is up hill, it gives us an advantage. We'll have to find a good spot to set our surveillance equipment, and we're set." He concluded, putting a large box with surveillance equipment on the floor.

"That's great." Duo commented, finishing up with the drapes. It did little to ease the chilling air. He frowned and glared at the window.

"Who takes the first shift?" Trowa asked as he re-entered the living room, after putting his things upstairs.

Wufei shrugged. "I thought that Yuy has the schedule."

At that, Duo's eyes widened and he bounced back to the door. "Where is Heero anyway?" He asked, walking outside.

"I think he's unpacking the rest of the equipment." Trowa answered, gesturing at the door.

"Maybe he's looking for a place to put it." Wufei added.

"Ch! Always work with that guy..." Duo muttered and walked outside.

* * *

He didn't find Heero by the van, so he decided to go look for him around the house. The large three-story villa was set on a green hill, surrounded by trees and other smaller hills. Down in a small valley, was the base they were suppose to spy on. Duo walked around the house, indulging himself in the warm and sweet air, enjoying the scenery. There weren't many flowers growing around, unlike the other surrounding hills. Actually, there were NO flowers at all, which was very odd for that region, especially at spring. The only vegetation around were tall weeds and bushes, growing wild. They were green and pretty, but at a closer look, they seemed to have a somewhat dull color, like it was about to fade. All the bushes and trees were tilted down, like bending over, their branches poor looking and barely growing any leafs.

Duo found his friend in a small grove of such growth, about a hundred meters behind the house. He was kneeling on the ground, picking up various pieces of equipment that were scattered on the moist soil.

Duo grinned to himself and shook his head. He approached Heero from behind. "Hey, what's the matter, Heero, dropped something?" He teased, coming to stand by the crouching boy.

"Hn. Help me or shut up." He muttered, not even looking up at him.

"Gee... cranky now are we?" Duo sighed and began helping his friend. Heero was always like that. So... uptight. So damn annoying too. He would barely speak, if at all, and he always kept to himself. After being out on many missions together, Duo still couldn't claim to really know the guy. But he was curious. Pretty damn curious, to say the least. There was just something about Heero. Something very lonely, very sad. It made Duo want to know more. He wanted to see the Japanese boy open up. He wanted him to be a part of the group, not just on missions, but outside of them as well.

Hell, even Trowa seemed to be doing fine working along with them. And he'll be damned if by the time he's done with him, Heero wouldn't be the same. No. Duo promised himself that he would force the boy out of his shell. He didn't care what it would take. He had already promised himself that Heero and he would be friends. Of course, he didn't expect them to be the best of friends... Nah, he only had ONE best friend, and he had died a LONG time ago... no one could ever replace him. Chk! Especially NOT Heero. He was just so... Heero. There was no other word to describe it. Heero was a definition for itself.

No, as much as he liked the Japanese boy, he knew that he could never be close to him the way he was close to Solo. Heero was just... a challenge, maybe. Yeah, it was a definite challenge to bring Heero out of his cold shell. And Duo Maxwell had never EVER turned down a good challenge.

Duo looked up at his companion, a small smile on his face. Heero had NO idea who he was up against...

He saw Heero reach up a hand and wipe some sweat of his brow, and then continue to work. Duo frowned. It wasn't THAT hot. Actually, it was beginning to be quite chilly, he was sure it was going to rain soon. He wondered why Heero was sweating while he was wearing his usual tank top and spandex, and should be quite cool.

His string of thought was cut when he heard a few piece of their gear fall down to the ground again in a loud clatter. He frowned as he saw Heero look numbly down at the mess he had made, his hands trembling ever so slightly.

Now he was worried. Heero never EVER dropped things, especially not TWICE in a row. Something must be wrong.

He looked up and examined Heero's face. Sweat was trickling at his temples and his features looked warn and haggard, like he didn't sleep for a week. Duo knew it wasn't the case, for he knew Heero had slept in the car on the way here, another thing that was very unlike him.

"Heero? Are you okay?" He finally asked, reaching a hand towards his friend.

Heero pulled away and began picking up his mess. "I'm fine." He grunted, his voice hoarse. "Just tired." He added quickly, turning his back to Duo as he put the things in the box.

Duo frowned again, unhappy with the answer. "Are you sure?" He tried again, his voice full of concern. "You don't look so good."

"I'm fine." Heero's screechy voice answered and then he coughed, getting up to his feet.

Duo got up as well, his eyes examining Heero worriedly. The Japanese boy was just standing there, the box in his hands and he is as still as a rock. He was looking down, at where the steep hill ended, and where a few large rocks stood out the sharp cliff. Further down, the base could be seen, it's lights sparkling. The sun was setting in the horizon and a few dark clouds traveled trough the crimson skies.

Suddenly, Heero flinched and hurried to look away from the cliff he was staring at.

Duo looked at him, baffled. He was about to say something, when Heero walked past him, his head ducked between his shoulders.

"Lets go." Was all the Wing pilot said as he marched back to the house.

Duo's eyes narrowed as he watched his retreating form. He turned to look over his shoulder, at the vertical cliff, his eyebrows drawing near. There was nothing there.

Sighing to himself, Duo shook his head and walked back up into the house.

* * *

Duo sighed heavily, picking at his food with his fork. They were all sitting in a huge and old kitchen, having their dinner. It was late at evening and the kitchen was lit with only a few dim candles. They were not allowed to turn on the lights, so their presence in the house will not be known. They covered all the windows with thick curtains and just set a few candles around the house, at important rooms and places. Shadows danced across every corner, and the small flames struggled against the cool air. Outside, a strong wind was blowing, whistling against the cracked walls and windows.

It was going to be a crappy week, Duo knew that. This week was always crappy. He hated this time of year. Too many bad memories rising. Always now... just like that... even when he tried not to think about it. But they always came. He could just SENSE the nightmares that he was going to have tonight. He nearly shuddered at the thought.

But it was his fault. It was his fault for thinking what he did while he was outside with Heero. He should have NEVER thought about him. Especially NOT at this time of year... not when that day was so close... almost in reach... that date... that horrible date... a reminder of the past. The past when he had lost his best friend, his only family, his everything...

Duo sighed and shook his head forcefully. He should stop thinking about it! There was no use in dwelling in the past! He should enjoy his time HERE and NOW, with his friends. That's all he has now... they're all he has. Even if there's no best friend and no shoulder to cry on. That's why he had stopped crying ion the first place. It was no good to cry if there wasn't a comforting shoulder.

Taking a deep breath, Duo looked up, and forced all the gloomy thoughts out of his head. He looked down at his food, and then back at Qautre. "Don't we have anything else to eat?"

Quatre shook his head apologetically. "Sorry, Duo, but it's all we could get in such a short notice."

"Oh." Was all Duo said, and looked down at his plate. "Bummer."

Quatre frowned worriedly, unused to such a shirt and silent comment from Duo. Usually, the braided boy would have some colorful words to say about the food, or at least whine and complain endlessly. Today, he was quiet. Too quiet, which was very odd. The house was too silent, without a single cheerful laughter to fill in the frightening silence. It was odd.

"Duo?" The blond finally decided to break the silence, looking up at his friend. "Is everything all right?"

Duo sighed again, examining his meal from all directions. He looked aside, at the plate that was set beside his, and frowned. He noticed that unlike the others, Heero didn't have any beef on his plate, and also, the food was untouched. Looking up, he saw that Heero was just staring down at his meal, hands on his lap, shoulders slumped, face tired and sweaty.

Duo frowned worriedly, but he could feel Quatre's gaze on him, so he turned to face the other pilot. "Yeah, I'm fine. Just thinking."

"Now that's a first..." Wufei muttered to himself, which earned him a quick glare from Duo. But then the braided boy's eyes darkened and he looked away.

"What are you thinking about?" Trowa was surprisingly the one to break the silence.

The rest of the pilots, except for Heero, looked up, waiting to hear the answer.

Duo sighed, shifting uncomfortably in his seat. "Oh, nothing. Just the date."

"The date?!" Wufei asked, raising an eyebrow. "Why would you think about the date?! We've only been here for four hours and ALREADY do you want to leave?!"

Duo forced himself to chuckle, lying with his food. "No, Woofei. I'll be the LAST to complain about a week off... But..." What can I tell them? I don't want to lie... what can I say? Oh God... I hate being depressed! Brings TOO much attention to you!

Suddenly, Heero's head jerked up, and he looked up at the ceiling, eyes narrowing.

Duo turned to look at him, baffled. "Are you okay, Hee-man?"

Heero remained silent and motionless. Looking back down, staring at nothing, gaze unfocused.

"Heero?" Duo tried again, but got no response. He reached a hand to tap Heero lightly on the shoulder. "Heero."

The boy's head shot up, and he looked at Duo, startled.

Quatre and Duo exchanged a worried look, and then turned back to Heero.

"Heero, are you feeling okay?" The blond asked in concern.

"I'm..." Heero began, and then stopped, looking up at the ceiling again. He quickly returned his gaze down. "I'm fine."

Wufei frowned and Trowa raised an eyebrow.

"Is something wrong?" Trowa ask, gesturing at the ceiling with his fork.

Heero sighed and shook his head. "I thought I heard something."

"There's no one here but us." Duo assured him. "We checked like a billion times just to make sure." He forced on a smile and patted Heero's shoulder lightly. "Just relax and try to enjoy this little time-off, eh?"

"NOT a time off, Maxwell. We're on a mission!" Wufei reminded him for the TENTH time today.

"Whatever." Duo said, rolling his eyes. He turned back to Heero; suddenly feeling better that the attention was lifted off of him. "Hey! I bet yer grumpy cuz you got the pink room, right? Yeah! That must be it! Heh, suits you for being so clumsy! It took you so long to get here, that all the other rooms were taken!"

"Hn." Heero grunted, and turned away from Duo's touch. He slowly picked up his fork and began to pick at his meatless meal. But no food came to his mouth.

"Clumsy?" Quatre inquired, stifling a smile. It was good to see that Duo was back to his normal self. And what was more amusing was that it was, out of all people, Heero who made him sound cheerful again. "Did something happen?"

"Oh! No biggie. Heero just thought that setting the surveillance equipment on the muddy ground will be a good idea..." Duo answered with a grin. "Right Heero?"

".……"

"See? He's feeling better now."

Heero sighed and threw his fork away. He slowly got up and prepared to walk out of the kitchen.

"Hey, Heero, where ya goin'?" Duo called after him.

"Bed." Was all the Japanese boy said, before he exited the large kitchen.

Duo frowned, looking down at his watch. It was way too early for bed.

"So, who takes first shift?" Trowa asked, and Duo forced himself to join the conversation, his mind on Heero all along.

* * *

The next day, at about noon, Duo walked out of his bedroom, rubbing his eyes tiredly. He had taken the first shift after dinner, wanting to escape the realm of sleep and nightmares for a while. He decided that if he took only night shifts, then he'd sleep better. The nightmares weren't so bad during the day. If he could only last until that horrible date would pass, than he'll do fine. He told the guys that Shinigami would rather work nights, and then laughed manically. The guys gave him and odd look, but then nodded and wrote him down under all the nightshifts. He finished his shift at about five AM, and then Trowa took over for him.

He ran a hand through his messy chestnut bangs, which were sticking out in all directions, still messy from sleep. A towel was casually thrown over his shoulder, and he padded his way down the hall, to the bathroom. Yawning, he waved a small hello to Quatre, who was just walking by. The blond Arabian smiled back in return as the two passed by each other.

Once he was done, he skipped downstairs to have his breakfast. Wufei was seated by the large wooden table, a few surveillance reports in his hand, concealing his face.

"Working so early, Wu-man?" Duo teased as he poured himself some coco.

"Humph! Nothing you would know about, Maxwell." The Shenlong pilot snarled, shuffling his papers.

"I'll have you know that I worked pretty damn hard writing these reports!" He shot back, sitting down and glaring at the Chinese boy. "Not an easy task when you're dead tired at three o clock in the morning!"

"Chk!" Wufei snorted. "You misspelled `military'. Twice!"

Duo blushed, ducking his head between his shoulders. "Hey, man, gimme a break! It was dark as hell out there!"

Quatre chuckled at the remark, sitting down by the two. "Take a candle with you next time."

Duo rolled his eyes. "I did! But it was so damn windy, it kept blowing off! Chk! Gimme a good ol' flashlight any day! I hate this middle ages stuff!"

Wufei rolled his eyes and Quatre giggled silently. He sent a quick glance at the kitchen clock, and then frowned. He looked back over his shoulder, glancing at the kitchen door, and his frown deepened. He looked at the clock again.

Duo raised a questioning eyebrow. "Something wrong?" He asked, sipping his hot chocolate.

Quatre sighed and looked back at the two. "Well, I just thought it odd that Heero hasn't come down yet. His shift starts in fifteen minutes." He looked out the kitchen window, facing the small groove that hid their surveillance station.

Duo frowned, looking out the window as well. Eventually, he shrugged. "Hey, maybe he over slept!"

Wufei slammed the papers down on the table, and Quatre whirled around to gape at the braided American.

None of them bought it.

* * *

Twenty-five minutes later, the three pilots looked up as they heard silent steps approach the kitchen. Duo smiled and put his mug down.

"Morning Hee--" He stopped the minute he realized that it was Trowa entering the kitchen, looking very much exhausted.

"T-Trowa!" Quatre called, jumping out of his seat. He rushed to make the boy some coffee.

"My shift ended ten minutes ago." Trowa pointed out silently, stifling a yawn. "No one came." He finished, his green eyes surveying the large kitchen. He blinked a few times, trying to stay awake. "Where's Heero?"

Both Wufei and Quatre shrugged, and Duo just made a face.

"Hm." The Heavyarms pilot grunted, taking a seat by the table. "The cameras are still recording, but I am too tired to keep watch. Someone else better do it."

Duo sighed and heavily got up. "Fine... fine... I'll go check up on him..." He muttered, sighing worriedly to himself. It was VERY unlike Heero to be so late.

* * *

He stood by Heero's bedroom door, and took a deep breath before knocking. As no answer came, he knocked again, more boldly this time.

But again there was just silence.

"Heero?" Duo called, rolling his eyes. "Heero, c'mon, man, open up!" He called, knocking harder. "Heero, your shift started fifteen minutes ago! Remember? Shift? Watching base? Mission?! Hellllllloooo! Anyone there!? Earth to Heero! Open the door man!"

Finally fed up with talking to the door, Duo decided to test the knob. He was surprised to find out that it was unlocked. That was odd. Heero ALWAYS locked his door. Maybe he was too tired last night, and forgot to do so. Which, again, was an odd thing in itself.

Slowly opening the door, Duo dared a peek into the room. First of all, he could tell that the room was suffocating. There was no fresh air to fill the room, for the window and the door, must have been closed all night.

Shaking his head, Duo stepped quietly into the room, walking over to the large window, which stood opposite to the door. He opened the drapes wide, wrinkling his nose as dust flew about him. Strong rays of sunshine crashed into the room, momentarily blinding Duo. He hurried to open the window wide, letting some fresh air in, and then turned to survey the room.

He couldn't help but giggle at the sight of it. The walls, strong and bright pink, were a sharp contrast to the darkness that was there moments ago. The pink wallpapers were old looking and worn, peeling off the wall in some places. The curtains were a lighter shade of pink, and also shabby looking. The furniture in the room was all mini-sized, the small chairs, table, desk and dresser fitting a small body of a six-year-old. The room was old looking and dusty like the rest of the house, the white carpet filled with filth, but it still looked kind of nice.

If you were a little girl. And one look at the small bed in the middle of the room, immediately suggested that the occupant of the pink room was not, in ANY way, a little girl. It was an over-sleeping Heero who was currently sprawled over the small and girlish looking bed, looking like a dead man with his head nearly falling off the pillow, and a pinkish blanket sliding off his body and to the floor.

Duo chuckled and shook his head. He wouldn't be caught DEAD sleeping in such a bed!

He slowly approached the bed, still smirking as his eyes drank the site off his comrade, covered by bright pink sheets. He stood by his bedside, just looking down at him for a little while. He couldn't help it. There was just something about Heero when he was asleep. His face wasn't so stern anymore. He looked relaxed, peaceful even. Innocent. His pouting lips slightly open, his light breath teasing his messy bangs, as they lay sprawled all over his features.

Duo smiled as he noticed Heero's hand was closed around the pillow, holding it. He reminded him of a small child, sleeping like that.

He was about to bend down and nudge Heero awake, when something suddenly dawned on him. He stopped his hand in mid motion, only halfway down. He frowned and inched closer to Heero, looking down at his face more closely.

His eyes narrowed in thought as he noticed the small beads of sweat trickling at Heero's temples. It was odd, for the room was quite cool, and Heero wasn't even covered with his blanket, and was wearing nothing but his shorts and a T-shirt.

Listening carefully, Duo could now hear that Heero's breath was a bit labored. Shallow and sometimes uneven. His eyes widened in worry, and he hurried to place a hand down on Heero's forehead.

The boy moaned silently at the cool touch, trying to pull away.

Duo gasped with realization. "Heero! You're running a fever!" He called in concern.

Cobalt eyes slowly fluttered open, and stared unfocusedly up ahead.

"Heero?" Duo asked carefully, slowly settling down on his knees in front of the bed. He looked down into Heero's glazed eyes. "Heero? Are you feeling well?"

Those blue oceans blinked again, and it took them a while to come back to focus. Heero then took a deep breath, and suddenly coughed.

"Duo..." He whispered, voice hoarse. "What... time?"

The short question was followed by a few more dry coughs, and Heero slowly closed his eyes, taking deep breaths.

"Time for you to get more rest!" Duo exclaimed, jumping up to his feet. "I'll tell the guys you're sick!"

Again Heero coughed, and Duo could see him shake his head. "...Duo."

"No arguments, Heero!" The boy nearly shouted, so worried all of a sudden. It was silly of him being so worried. It was probably just a damn and simple cold, but for some reason, it made him feel a little frightened. Maybe it was the thought of seeing Heero, the unbeatable one; bed ridden because of one, small and simple, cold. The thought of such a thing happening never dawned on him.

"You stay right there in bed and I'll bring ya some pills or something!" He added, almost breathlessly, running to the door.

"No…" Heero breathed, turning slowly in his bed. Dizziness assaulted him and he stopped, hands clutching the sheets. He took in deep breaths, trying to stop the bile that was climbing up to his throat. He breathed in, looking up at the ceiling. His eyes suddenly widened with comprehension.

"I'll be right back, Heero, so don't ya DARE get up!" Duo called, beginning to walk out the door.

"Duo!" Heero's hoarse voice called after him, and the braided boy whirled around, ready to scowl at the boy. "Heero! I said NO argu--"

"What day is it?"

"Huh?" Duo blinked, dumbfound.

Heero sighed silently, rolling over to lie on his side, facing Duo. "The date."

Duo's widened. "You wanna know the date?!" What the hell was wrong with him?! Why would he want to know the date?! Why now?! Why so close to the day when... Duo shook his head, forcing himself to come back to the `here and now'.

"Well, uh, it's, um, April, uh, third. Why?"

Heero's eyes suddenly flashed darkly, and he turned around, groaning at the effort. His back was now facing Duo, and he slowly reached down a hand to pick up his blanket. Unfortunately for him, the cover just slid off the bed and fell to the floor.

Sighing and shaking his head, Duo walked back to the bed and picked up the blanket. He covered Heero tightly, watching in concern as the boy's body shivered slightly, his bronze skin covered with Goosebumps and sweating at the same time.

He might not be a doctor, but he guessed that it wasn't good.

"Wait right here, Heero. I'll go bring you some water." He told his friend, patting lightly on his shoulder as he got up.

"No." Heero croaked, looking up at Duo. "I need my laptop." He said, wiping the sweat off his brow.

Duo rolled his eyes. "Heero, you're sick! That means NO laptop and NO mission! I'll go get ya som--" He stopped the minute he saw Heero try to get up, pushing himself off the bed with much effort. "Heero! I said NO!" Duo called angrily, pushing the stubborn boy back to the bed. He nearly flinched when he felt how heated his skin was. He was burning.

"Heero! Stay down!"

But the boy wouldn't listen, pushing Duo aside. Normally, such movement would have flung Duo a few feet back, but it seemed that Heero's strength was running low. Duo rolled his eyes and struggled to put Heero back into the bed.

"Heero, someone else will cover for you, okay?" He tried more softly this time, hoping that Heero would listen to the voice of reason for once in his life. "Heero, please. You're sick." He let out, violet eyes silently pleading the boy to listen to him.

Cobalt eyes stared at him sharply for the longest of times, before Heero finally slumped back down to the bed.

Sighing heavily, Duo forced himself to smile. "Good boy." He let out, getting up. "I'll go get you some water."

* * *

"Well, is he coming?" Quatre asked the minute Duo walked back into the kitchen.

"'Fraid not." Duo answered, shaking his head.

Wufei looked up from his papers, raising an eyebrow. "And why not?"

Duo sighed, pouring some tap water into a glass. "Sick."

"SICK?!" Everyone called at once.

Duo sighed again. "Yep. Sick." He turned to face his fellow pilots; silently noting that Trowa was gone. He probably went back to sleep, or back outside, waiting for Heero. He sighed and prepared to walk out of the kitchen again.

"Well, what's wrong with him?" Quatre asked, trailing after Duo.

"He's running quite a fever." The braided boy answered, climbing up the stairs. "He looks real sick and all, so I told him to stay in bed."

"And he actually listen to you?!" Quatre asked, amazed.

"Well, I sure hope so." Duo muttered, while the two walked up to Heero's door. "It will do him little good if he'll step out of..." He stopped as he opened the door, immediately seeing that the bed was empty. Rolling his eyes, he flung the door open and stormed into the room.

"Heero! I told you to stay in be--"

Both Quatre and he gasped as they entered the room and spotted Heero's trembling form, sprawled down on the floor. He was lying beside a small desk, where his laptop stood.

"Heero!" Duo called worriedly, and ran towards the boy. "Heero! I told you not to get up!" He reproached, kneeling down by the fallen boy. Heero was breathing hard, sweat soaked into the thin fabric of his shirt.

"What happened?" Duo asked as he helped the boy up.

"Dizzy." Heero breathed as an answer, grunting a little as Duo hoisted him up and guided him back to the bed.

"Then why'd you get up?!" Duo insisted, helping Heero lie down. "You're so stubborn sometimes! I swear I don't know what to d--"

"What is this?" Quatre's voice interrupted Duo's ranting, and both boys looked up at where Quatre stood by the laptop, holding the lid up and pointing at the screen.

Heero sighed and looked away.

"What were you trying to do?" The blond boy asked carefully, looking back down at the screen.

Duo walked over to the portable computer and looked down as well. There was a message box and a `Emergency!' flashing over it. He looked back up at the bed.

"What is it? Is something wrong? Another mission?" Duo asked, and then suddenly his eyes narrowed in anger. "You're not planning on leaving in this condition, are you?!" He demanded harshly, planting his hands on his hips. "Because I'm not letting you out in this condition!"

Heero just coughed silently and looked away. "That's not it." He whispered in a hoarse voice. He turned to look back at the laptop. "Duo, just let me have it."

"No! I told you already! No! God damn it! Why won't you listen!?"

"Duo! It's YOU who isn't' listening to me!" Heero shouted back, panting from the effort. "Just give it here so I ca- I ca-- ca! --!!!" He was stopped by a loud coughing fit, out of air and struggling to breathe. He raised a hand up to his mouth, inhaling deeply, trying to catch his breath.

Duo watched in horror as Heero struggled for air, punching his own chest, his face turning red from the effort. But the coughing fit did not cease, and Duo could see Heero's eyes glaze over in lack of oxygen. Frightened, he launched towards the bed, desperate to help his friend.

But he only got there in time to catch Heero's body as he slumped forward. He had passed out.

"HEERO!"

* * *

Dipping a soft cloth in some cool water, Duo turned slowly to the small bed, and reached down to place the cloth gently on Heero's fevered face.

Quatre and he put a few large cushions behind Heero, supporting the boy upper body, to make breathing a little easier. Heero had not regained consciousness, and was still radiating heat. They gave him some antibiotics to keep the fever down, but they did little help. It was odd, and it made Duo worried sick.

Wufei had taken over Heero's shift, and was currently spying on the base. Trowa was in his room, sleeping, while Quatre was downstairs, trying to find out a way to breach radio silence and get some help and medicine for Heero. From what Duo could gather, it did little help so far.

A silent moan cut Duo's string of thought, and he looked down, smiling a little as he saw Heero was coming to. These cobalt eyes looked up at him hazily, then blinked a few times, only to remain closed.

"Heero?" Duo asked carefully, reaching for his friend's hand. It was warm and sweaty as well, making Duo wince at the contact. "Heero, are you awake?"

Nothing but silence answered him for a long while, until he heard Heero take a deep breath, his cracked lips slowly parting.

"Lap... top…"

Duo rolled his eyes, anger boiling inside him once again. He took a deep breath, trying to contain his anger. "Heero, we've been over this already."

"No..." The Japanese boy mumbled, struggling to open his eyes. He looked up at Duo, blinking against the strong light that was blinding him. "Need it... bring it... over..."

Duo sighed, letting go of Heero's hand. "You're very stubborn, you know that?!" He grunted as he got up, walking over the accursed laptop. He saw that it was connected to a small transmitter, and frowned. "What's this?" He asked, turning to look at Heero, who was still lying on the bed, his eyes now closed.

"...type."

Duo blinked, confused. "Type?! What's a `ty--" He stopped himself the minute he realized his silly mistake. "Oh." He let out, looking down at the keyboard. "Type what?" He finally asked, placing the pointer over the text box that flashed `Emergency!'.

Heero took a deep breath before finally speaking. "Co-conf... Confirmation... zero... one…" He mumbled, then suddenly gasped.

Worried about Heero passing out again, but wanting to help, Duo typed that it. The text box vanished, and a few seconds later, another appeared. Duo frowned. "Okay... it's says to `please specify'."

Taking in another deep breath, Heero blinked a few times, looking up at the ceiling.

Duo's fingers waited on the keyboard.

"V..." Heero finally let out, and Duo pressed on the `V' key.

"Zero..."

Duo punched in the `zero' button.

"Eight..."

Duo's eyes looked up at the screen, where the code was forming. He typed `8'.

"...seven..."

A small frown appeared on Duo's features, his eyes scanning the written letters.

"Four..."

Duo's slowly eyes widened.

"Four."

He gasped, blinking rapidly as he studied the screen. "V...0... 8744???" He gasped again, whirling around to look at Heero. "V08744? Like the L2 colony?! That kind of V08744?!?!"

Heero didn't answer, but Duo could see him nod faintly. He was about to open his mouth and add something more, but then the laptop suddenly biped. He turned back to face it, still a little numb from shock. V08744... that was his colony! That's where he was... when everything he... where the people he... that was HIS colony!

A new message blinked on the screen, and Duo forced his confused mind to read it over. Slowly, he read it out for Heero. "It's asking what stage." He let out, voice suddenly cold and detached.

But Heero didn't answer.

"Heero, what stage?" Duo asked, slowly looking up from the computer. "What does this all mean?"

Taking a deep and shallow breath, Heero fluttered his eyes open. "...two."

"Huh?!" Duo asked dumbly, too shocked and confused to comprehend anything at the moment. "Two what?" The colony?

"Stage... two..." Heero whispered, coughing weakly. He moaned silently, turning to lie on his side. "Type 'stage two'..."

Nodding his head slightly, Duo did as told. There was this sound then, like the hard drive was working very hard on something, and then the little transmitter began humming like crazy. Duo watched it all with a detached gaze, his mind suddenly numb.

What did Heero have to do with his colony?! Was he sent to do a mission there?! Was he going to destroy his... home? To kill MORE people there!? What was going on?!?!

"Heh, it's been about five years since you broke radio silence, Heero." A rough voice suddenly called, and Duo jumped up in his chair, startled.

On the bed, curled in a sweaty mess of sheets and limps, Heero moaned silently.

The voice chuckled darkly, and then sighed.

Duo turned slowly to face the laptop and nearly winced as he was confronted with the face of one, very amused, Doctor J.

Duo's eyes narrowed. "How the hell did you get in here?!"

J looked up at him, quirking an eyebrow. "Oh, Zero Two... what a surprise. So he can't even get out of bed to do this?"

"Huh?" Duo gaped at him, baffled. "How'd you know?"

"You just told me, didn't you? I didn't think that Heero would trust anyone else to do this for him, though..."

Duo frowend. What the hell did he mean by that?! "Told you!? All I did was fucking type! And what is this shit with the L2 colony! What's going on here?!"

"...Duo..." Heero's whisper came from the bed, his voice weak and hoarse. Duo turned to look at him, but could only see that he was lying curled up in a fetal position, his face hidden behind the covers.

From the laptop, J sighed. "It seems more serious than I thought. You got careless, Heero."

From the bed, Heero coughed. "No... time..."

"There's always time. And especially for this. Now look at you, sick in the middle of a mission!"

Again the Japanese boy coughed. "G-gomen..." He whispered, coughing again, but not looking up at the screen. "...help?"

Again J sighed, shaking his head. "I don't know if I can. It might take a while to get to you."

"How... long?" Heero croaked, panting as if in pain.

Duo turned his stunned gaze back to the screen, seeing J frown in thought. "Three days. Maybe four. Could be more. Can you make it?"

Heero was silent for a long time, apparently thinking it over. At last, he coughed, shifting a little in the bed. "Too... long."

Duo frowned. "What? What's too long? What the hell is going on?!" He demanded, punching the desk. He whirled to glare down at J. "Listen, old man, you better start spilling answers soon or I'll--"

"There's no need for threats, Zero Two." The old scientist cut in. "The facts are quite simple, actually."

Duo rolled his eyes. "Then enlighten me!"

The Dr. sighed, and in the background, Heero coughed. "You must be familiar with the plague that raged on L2 V08744 a few years back."

Duo winced, but managed to nod.

The Dr. saw that and continued. "Well, at that time, Heero had spent some time in that colony."

Duo's eyes widened. Heero was on V08744?[1]

J continued without noticing Duo's paling features. "...his caretaker. He was infected with the disease, but was given the antidote, just in the nick of time, as they say."

Duo frowned, not seeing where this was going.

"He was saved, but since the vaccine was given to him when he was so far gone into the disease, the antidote did not succeed in eliminating the infection completely." Here, the doctor paused, sighing silently. "It comes back, every year, around the same time when he had first fallen ill."

Duo's eyes winded. April third... Heero had fallen ill on April third... Solo died on April seventh... Also from the plague.

He hurried to look away from the screen, fighting back the tears. Solo had died from that plague. Nearly everyone he knew died from it. And now Heero has it... and now... now Heero could die to... like... like everyone else... like... like Solo...

"...during his training, I was always able to give him the antidote, but now, with the war, it will be hard to do so." The old man concluded, looking harshly at the direction of the bed. "You should have reminded me earlier, Heero."

The boy on the bed did not respond.

Sighing heavily, the Dr. turned back to Duo. "I will send you the vaccine, but it might take time. Time Heero doesn't have. Once awakened, the virus rages in an unbelievable rate. It takes about--"

"Four days." Duo spat miserably, turning back to glare at the Doc. "Four to five days. I know." He added, his eyes suddenly falling dark.

J examined the young pilot for a short while, before nodding his head curtly. "Precisely. I will send it to you, but with OZ holding up all the shuttles coming down to Earth, I am uncertain as to when it will reach you."

Having nothing to say, Duo merely nodded. This cold sensation began running through his veins, chilling him and making his body stiff with shock. He could hear his heart beating, slowly, loudly, echoing through his whole body. He felt sick all of a sudden. Cold. Numb. Shocked. And most of all, scared. For the first time in a long while, Duo Maxwell was scared.

He was scared, because suddenly, just like that, realization hit him. It hit him as hard as a rock. He realized that here, in this room, lay his best friend. And he also realized, that, once again, he was about to loose that best friend.

* * *

PART TWO

* * *

"Do you mind running that by me- AGAIN?!" Wufei demanded, his onyx eyes flashing with irrational anger.

Quatre sighed, straightening the folds on his dark trousers. They were all sitting around the dinner table, after Duo broke the news about Heero's state. They left the surveillance equipment aside for now, having something much more urgent to deal with. Mission or no mission, they couldn't just go on like nothing was happening. Their friend and fellow pilot was lying upstairs, deathly ill and possibly dying. And there was nothing they could do about it! Not a damn thing! They were miles out of ANYWHERE, and except for the base, there was nowhere they could turn for help. They didn't have enough medicine to take care of someone ill, they were completely unprepared. Except for the occasional cold, no one in their groups had EVER fallen ill. Especially NOT Heero. He was always the one to glare at them for looking so weak and pathetic while sick. He was also the one who would always help them and nurse them back to health, no matter HOW indifferent he tried to look.

Now, it seemed, the tables were turned. Now they had to take care of Heero. The question was- how?

Finally, Quatre looked up, meeting the Chinese pilot's eyes with his own worried gaze. "You heard it correctly, Wufei. Heero has less than a week to live, unless we get hold of that vaccine… somehow."

"Quatre is right." Trowa spoke for the first time since they entered the kitchen. "We can't afford to wait until J sends it. It might get held back by OZ."

"Or worse. It might never get here." Duo added bitterly, mostly talking to himself. He was sitting in the far edge of the table, slumped into the chair, his shoulder slumped and his head bowed. His features were pale, his violet eyes haunted. He was very quiet the whole evening. His voice was frighteningly quiet and cold while he broke the news to his friends. Something was bothering the Deathscythe pilot, but he didn't say a thing. He kept playing with the tip of his braid, as he sat there, drowning in his own gloom.

"Dammit!" Wufei called out angrily, punching the table. His worry had translated into anger, and he had to force himself to keep calm. Taking a deep breath, he threw himself back into his chair.

The dim kitchen fell silent, the only sound was the wind hitting against the window shades. Dark and orange shadows flickered over every corner, and the silence grew prolonged.

Once in a while, some wood would creak or the old pipes of the house would rattle with some strange noise, but other than that, it was only the wind and the cracking of the small flames.

The silence was then broken by a series of muffled coughs, coming from the upper floor.

The four boys looked up at the ceiling, their gaze worried. Heero's bedroom was located RIGHT above the kitchen, and they could hear the bed screech against the rotten wooden floor, as it moved under the coughing that assaulted Heero's body.

"What do we do?" Quatre whispered sorrowfully, turning his pained gaze away from the ceiling.

Trowa took a deep breath, looking down as well. "First of all, we need to find out all that we can about this disease." He stated, and Wufei nodded with agreement.

"What's to know?" Duo mumbled bitterly. "Your body rots inside and outside until you're nothing but fucking jelly inside. You cough out blood and shit and your body burns with fever. You get a little delusional and then you die!" His voice was quiet and bitter, but his eyes were shooting out lightening. Hate, fear, bitterness and aggression were all boiling beneath the surface.

The other three pilots could do nothing but to stare and blink for a few moments, startled but Duo's outburst.

The braided boy was panting now, looking at them with angry eyes. Finally fed up with the stares he was receiving, Duo pushed his chair back stormed out of the room, running out of house, and into the twilights of the setting sun.

The door slammed shut behind him.

The three pilots kept staring, confused.

"I better go talk to him..." Quatre muttered, and then got up, sighing.

* * *

Up in the pink-room, Heero tossed in his bed, sheets damp with sweat getting tangled around long limbs. He coughed weakly, and then took a few deep breaths, trying to control his breathing. He moaned silently, miserably, and turned again, still trying to find a comfortable position. He turned so he was now facing the door, glazed blue eyes blinking against the darkness of his room. The door was wide open, letting in some cool air from the hall. He closed his eyes, inhaling deeply, indulging himself in the cool feeling.

He was so hot... he felt as if his body was on fire. Every muscle ached and throbbed painfully, and those who didn't just felt like useless jelly. He was covered with sweat, his T-shirt clinging to his heated skin, making it hard to breathe. His head was pounding hard, his temples pulsing. But most of all, was his breathing. It was so hard to breathe, and even the smallest movement made his breath labored.

Sighing deeply, Heero reached up a trembling hand, trying to push his sweat-soaked bangs out of his eyes. They thick locks of hair clung to his sweaty features, making him uncomfortable and hot. He glared up at his messy bangs, but it did him little good. Letting his hand drop limply down onto the pillow, he let out a small cough and sighed.

Sick on a mission... how humiliating. Out of all the times to be ill! He had to lie up here while others did his work for him?! That was UNACCEPTABLE! He was supposed to be the strong one! He was NOT supposed to get sick! The way J looked at him... he couldn't see the man, but he knew that look. He knew it all too well. He didn't like that look. Not one bit. It always spelled trouble.

"Chk!" Heero snorted softly, closing his eyes. As if that old geezer can cause him any trouble right now... that was the LEAST of his worries! Right now, he had to concentrate on getting better. Four days... maybe even more... he wasn't sure he could make it. He barely made it the first time he had fallen ill... If it weren't for Odin getting him that medicine... he would have surely died.

Heero frowned, scowling at himself. Why was he thinking about that man now? Out of all the times to be thinking about him... Chk! He should stop it! He hated being sick! His mind kept wandering like that and it was NOT good. It made him feel out of control. And being out of control meant that he wa---

TAP. TAP. TAP.

Suddenly, Heero became aware of a certain noise. He wasn't sure what it was, so he quickly snapped his eyes open, wincing in the dark.

Tap.Tap.Tap.

It sounded like tapping, against wood. Or was it against the floor? Was someone coming upstairs?

Tap... Tap... Tap...

Heero turned his gaze at the door, and waited. But no one passed through the hallway.

Tap. . . Tap. . . Tap. . .

Frowning, Heero narrowed his eyes, trying to see well in the dark.

Tap. Tap. Tap.

He could hear the tapping getting closer, but still saw nothing. With an effort, he forced himself up on one elbow, and wiped the sweat off his brow. Senses as alert as they could be in this condition, Heero watched the door closely.

Tap.Tap.Tap.Tap...

His eyebrows drew closer, and the sound of the tapping approached his door. He found that he was holding his breath, and berated himself for it. Shaking his head slightly, cursing at the dizziness, he looked up at the door, waiting.

Taptaptaptaptaptap...

His entire body tensed, and he promised himself that if it was someone playing a joke on him, they're dead! But he knew that it wasn't the case. He was pretty dame sure. He was sure because, he had heard that sound before. Last night, while they were having dinner. He could have sworn that he heard something bang against the ceiling. Like tapping on wood...

The tapping ceases all of a sudden, and Heero turned his gaze up at the door.

His eyes widened in brief surprise, then quickly narrowed.

Rolling down the hallway floor, slowly passing by his bedroom door, was a single, pink, ball. 

* * *

"Duo?" Quatre's voice came soft and hesitant as he walked carefully towards the sulking boy. He found Duo sitting outside, in the small grove, busying himself with `checking on the equipment'.

"Duo, are you all right?" He asked timidly, coming to sit down by Duo. The wind was picking up, and the treetop rattled as they fought against the strong breeze. Duo's long bangs also flipped violently under the warm and dusty wind, a few stray hairs that escaped his braid were flying about in all direction.

"Duo?" Quatre tried again, reaching a hand towards his friend, who was squatting in front of some monitors, holding one piece of their gear up to his face, checking it over under the dim moonlight.

Quatre sighed and looked away. "Duo, please say something."

"There's nothing to say." Duo let out coldly, looking through a set of thermo vision goggles. He looked at Quatre's heat-print, smiling bitterly to himself. "They better start searching for a new pilot, that's all."

"Duo!" Quatre exclaims, a hand over his heart. "How dare you say such a thing!"

"Well face it, Q-man, someone will have to pilot Wing!" Duo spat, throwing the gear aside. It crashed into a pile of other equipment, making a loud sound in the process.

"Duo..." Quatre whispered softly, placing a gently hand on the other boy's shoulder. "Duo, there's no use to be thinking like that."

"How else should I think..?" Duo mumbled, casting his gaze down. He slumped down on the ground, drawing his knees up to his chest, hugging them. He rested his chin on his kneecaps, staring down at the base's lights, sparkling down in the valley.

Quatre sighed, trying to think of a proper response. There was none.

He inched closer to his friend, sitting down beside him. He rested an arm over the braided boy's shoulder, taking a deep breath before speaking. "Duo."

Sighing, Duo turned to look up at him, violet eyes shimmering with unshed tears, gleaming in the moonlight.

"Duo, have faith in him. I know I do. He overcame so much already... I'm sure he can win this over."

"And if not?" Duo asked, his voice hoarse from tears. "What if he dies, right here, right under our noses?! Huh?! What if I have to watching him die again?! What if he'll... what if I'll be alone again!?"

"Duo..." Quatre whispered his name, tightening his hold around the boy. He was pretty sure it was not Heero the boy was talking about. At least, not all of it was about Heero.

"Do you want to talk about it?" He asked, after he calmed down a little.

"No." Duo answered, turning away from the blond's touch. He slowly got up, and smiled sadly down at his friend. "Thanks Q-man."

Quatre smiled back. "Anytime."

Duo nodded his thanks, and turned to look up at the house, about a hundred meters away. He could not see any lights, which was a good thing, of course, and his eyes immediately looked up at the second floor, at Heero's window. More tears welled up in his eyes, but he did not let them pour out. Taking a deep breath, he looked away and began to advance back towards the house.

Quatre hurried to follow.

* * *

Heero followed the small ball with his eyes, a curious light shinning in those dark blue depths. His breath quickened as he tried to sit up, wanting to get a better look as the pink ball slowly rolled into the room, making a silent scrapping sound as it brushed against the rough wooden floor.

Mystified by the strange ball, Heero watched as it roll all the way down to the corner of the room, stopping by a small chest drawer that stood in the corner, by the window. It came into a silent halt, and just stood there, unmoving.

But still Heero couldn't get his eyes off of it. Slowly, he turned to the door, blue eyes narrowing in suspicion.

"Duo?" He croaked, voice husky. He shifted a little on the small bed, and it creaked when he leaned forward, trying to see if someone was hiding in the corridor, beyond his line of sight. There was a movement, he was sure of that, and his eyes narrowed even more. "Duo? This isn't funny."

Again he caught a movement, but it was mostly out of his line of sight.

Rolling his eyes in spite of the dizziness, Heero slumped back into his mountain of covers. "You just keep standing there, Duo." He called weakly, not amused. "I'm sure you're having the time of your life!" He grunted, crossing his arms over his chest.

He didn't bother to look up as he saw a movement in the corner of his eyes, and someone was now standing at his door. But the figure didn't move, and Heero smirked to himself, closing his eyes in satisfaction.

"Hn. Baka. Got tired of your game?" He snarled, but no answer came. That was weird, considering Duo will NOT let such a thing pass. Opening his eyes, Heero sneaked a peek from behind messy bangs, looking up at the door.

He gasped.

Standing in his doorway, large hazel eyes looking up at him, was a small, blonde, girl. She was wearing a beautiful little dress, which was mostly white but with some pink on it. Or so he guessed, for it was too dark to really tell. His eyes widened, as he looked her up and down, mouth slightly open in shock as he examined her dark blonde hair, held back in a small ponytail, held by a single blue ribbon.

He had to force himself to breathe, for he was holding his breath the whole time, just gaping at the little girl. He reached up a trembling hand and rubbed his eyes as hard as he could. But the girl was still there, looking at him in amusement.

Heero gulped silently and hit himself on the head, trying to knock some sense into himself.

Looking up again, he saw the girl giggle in response.

Heero felt his face drain of all color as the small girl skipped into the room, smiling happily. She skipped over to the corner of the room, Heero's stunned blue eyes watching her all along. He watched as she bent down to pick up her ball, tossing it up in the air only to catch it when it came down.

Forcing himself to breath again, Heero blinked, feeling the sweat sliding down his temples and onto his cheeks.

A hallucination... It must be... He thought to himself, reaching up a shaking hand to touch his own forehead. He was burning up. That must be it. The... the fever... that must be it... Heero thought desperately, watching the girl as she sat down by the small chest drawer, small legs straddled.

He threw himself down into the bed, watching the girl with numb eyes as she tossed the ball up in the air, only to catch it and then again.

He closed his eyes, taking deep breaths.

A hallucination... that must be it... a hallucination...

* * *

"We cannot afford to get ill ourselves." Wufei began sharply, once Duo and Quatre came back into the kitchen. "We have a mission to complete after all. So I guess the first thing we have to find out is if it's contagious."

"Extremely." Duo spat bitterly, sitting the same way he was sitting before he had left, playing with his braid. "There's a fucking REASON they called it a fucking plague!"

"Duo." Quatre tried to calm him, sending him a comforting look.

"Sorry." The braided boy mumbled, slumping even more into the chair. He sighed deeply before looking up at Wufei. "It's a highly contagious disease. Anyone who was not immune got it. Only those who were `important' enough to the Federation got the vaccine." He looked up in the direction of Heero's room, and his gaze turned a few degrees colder. "Not that it helps much, huh?" He muttered bitterly, casting his gaze down again.

All were silent for a while, until Trowa finally dared to speak. "I remember, a few years back, some soldiers came to us, in the Barton foundation, they gave us all shots. I don't recall for what, but I have a pretty good guess."

"Same with me." Quatre spoke quietly, bowing his head in sorrow. "I remember I complained to my sisters about having to go through with those, um, commonly shots..." He admitted, blushing slightly.

"The same was in our colony." Wufei spoke last, his voice quiet. "I remember they took us out of class, and Meri--" He paused, sighing deeply. "Some of us thought that taking the shots would be admitting our weakness. Sh--they had to be convinced in order to take the shots..."

Duo looked down at the end of his braid, keeping silent. No one dared to even THINK about vaccinating street kids... they were unimportant and left to die a horrid death on the streets. It still baffled him why he had survived, but who was to say that he was to survive this time? Chk! That would be fitting. To die of the same disease, on the same day it took Solo away from him... He just had to smirk at the irony.

"Duo?" Quatre's voice spoke up softly, and Duo could feel everyone's gaze on him. He looked up, only to meet three pairs of worried eyes.

Snorting softly, he flipped his braid back, and looked up at them sharply. "No one bothered with us street rats." He said, voice cold and bitter.

The silence returned after that, as all three pilots looked down at their fidgeting hands. Duo just folded his arms across his chest, scowling at the wall ahead.

Finally, Wufei spoke. "Then it would be wise if you will stay away from Yuy."

Duo's head shot up, and he glared defiantly at him.

"Duo, think this over." Trowa added silently, his stern green eyes looking up at the stubborn boy. "It will do little good to have another pilot down."

"A PILOT DOWN!?" Duo burst, punching the table. "Gee, Trowa, that was sweet! Remind me to send you a `thank you' card later!"

"Duo!" Quatre called, trying to calm the spirits around the table. "Please, Duo. Shouting won't help!"

"And what will, huh?!" Duo yelled once again, jumping out of his chair, causing the thing to fall back. "It's always the mission, huh?! Nothing else! It's all for the sake of the FUCKING CAUSE! WELL, EXCUSE ME FOR CARING! REALLY!" He shouted, tears in his eyes as he glared accusingly at his friends. "If you want me, I'll be upstairs, trying not to COMPROMISE the PRECIOUS MISSION!!"

And with that said, Duo stormed out of the kitchen and ran up the stairs.

Quatre flinched a little as he heard Duo's door slam shut, and then silence fell over the house.

Outside, the wind kept blowing, fat and warm drops of rain falling against the windows.

* * *

Much later that night, after the moon had long risen over the grassy hills, Duo's bedroom door creaked open. The house was silent, except for the sound of the harsh winds and a few tree branches that scrapped against the windows. The hallway was a bit chilly, sending a shiver down Duo's spine as he slowly padded down the dark corridor, his steps were silent, as the old and dusty carpet that decorated the wooden floor swallowed them.

He had just spent the last few hours in his room, lying curled up on his bed, glaring at the walls or looking out the window. Tears shone in his eyes while he lay there, watching dark storm clouds drift lazily over the nearly full moon. But he didn't shed even one tear. He doesn't cry. Boys don't cry. Solo's last words to him, he had to promise not to cry. Boys don't cry.

After a few hours, hunger and thirst made him pull out of his gloom and walk out of his little sanctuary. He had skipped dinner, and lunch, AND breakfast, so naturally, he was VERY hungry. He hoped he could make it down to the kitchen without tripping down the stairs and breaking a bone. After all, the last thing they needed was another pilot down...

As he crossed the large hallways, he could feel the chilly air cause Goosebumps to appear all over his exposed arms. It was warm enough in his room, and he had been wearing a t-shirt all day. Maybe the storm had brought some cool air with it, he mused, rubbing his upper arms and trying to stifle a sneeze. It would do little good to wake the others in such an un-Godly hour. He wondered who was on shift outside in the storm, but shrugged it off quickly. Right now, he REALLY didn't care.

He stopped for a minute when he reached Heero's door. It was closed, but still, Duo could feel Heero's presence from behind the door. It was odd, and it was scary.

Sighing deeply, Duo prepared to walk away, reminding himself that he was NOT allowed into that room. He took a few steps forward, but then quickly halted. He was sure he heard something...

Turning around slowly, Duo took a good look at the wooden door, and
frowned. There it was again... just a faint little sound... Heero?

He quickly jumped back in front of the door, reaching a hesitant hand to the round doorknob. He took a deep breath, and then slowly, silently, opened the door. He held his breath, and then finally dared to peek in.

His eyes took in the dark room, the pale light from the window illuminating the small bedroom like a weak projector of light, aimed straight at the bed. Lying on the bed, damp sheets tangled around his body, was Heero. He was lying on his back, the blanket drawn down a bit, exposing his sweat soaked t-shirt, and one pale leg.

Duo swallowed, turning to examine Heero's face. The boy was obviously sleeping, his features washed over with pain and perspiration, sticky bangs of dark hair clinging to his face. His breath was labored, his chest heaving up and down with every breath, as his body struggled for oxygen. All in all, he did NOT look good.

Duo swallowed and prepared to close the door. Heero was sleeping, so he couldn't possibly have made that sound. Sighing deeply, Duo prepared to look away.

That's when he heard again, just a whisper, but now, with the door open, he could make it out clearly as it rang in the silence of the night.

"...wa...ter..."

He flinched, his heart clenching painfully.

"...p...l...ease..."

Slowly, he turned back; amethyst eyes shinning with unshed tears. That voice, so weak and pleading, hoarse with thirst and sickness. Just like Solo's before he...

"Ahhh..."

The soft moan made Duo look up again, and he gasped silently as he saw Heero lick his lips with thirst, thrusting his head aside, face contracting in pain. "P...please..."

Swallowing hard, Duo opened the door wider, and slowly, uncertainly, walked into the room. He padded silently to Heero's bed, holding his breath all along. He made it quickly to the small nightstand by the bed, where a bowl of water, a cloth and a few other things were lying. Among them, was a jug of water and a glass.

Lungs burning for oxygen, Duo hurried to fuddle with the jug and glass, pouring Heero some water. In his haste, he accidentally spilled some of it, but dismissed it as unimportant. He then turned to face the bed, frowning at Heero's slumbering form.

He then reached down clumsily for Heero's hand and shoved the glass into his hand, struggling to curl his limp fingers around the glass, so it will not fall. He was desperate to get out and breathe. The minute Heero had some sort of grip on the glass, which now lay on the bed next to him; Duo tapped quickly on his shoulder, and prepared to run out of the room.

But the glass just slipped and fell, shattering into a million pieces.

Duo came into a quick halt, his face turning red from the need for oxygen. He whirled around, a pained expression on his face. He saw Heero's hand twitch a little, his fingers searching for the glass, even in his sleep.

"P...p-please..."

But he obviously couldn't find it, and he let out a small, desperate whimper.

That did it. Duo rushed back towards the bed, taking deep breaths on the way. He kneeled down by the nightstand, searching for another glass. But there were none. Sighing to himself, Duo picked up the jug from the nightstand and carefully sat down on the bed, next to Heero's heated body.

Carefully, gently, he pulled Heero's head up, supporting him with a few pillows. He then poured some water into his palm, which was cupped next to Heero's dry lips. And then, cautiously, he served the cool liquid to Heero's lips, watching him carefully as he drank.

Heero sipped the water gratefully, moaning silently as his sore throat was washed with the cool liquid. His cobalt eyes slowly fluttered open, and he blinked against the darkness, trying to see where he was and who was with him. He only got a blurry vision of an image, a silhouette, illuminated from behind by some pale moonlight, making it look like the shadow had a magical aura around him.

Struggling to keep his eyelids open, Heero continued to drink as more of the blessed liquid was served to his lips. He gulped it hungrily, sending quick glances to the corner of the room. But there was nothing there. Nothing but a small chest drawer, and single, small, pink ball.

Heero's eyes widened at the sight and he nearly choked on his drink, for he was so startled. He began coughing loudly, taking in shaky breath for air, his eyes on the ball all along.

"Hey... easy there..." A voice whispered soothingly, but Heero could not bring himself to calm down. His lungs burned, and the coughing continued, until he fell down to the bed, exhausted.

Long and cool fingers settled carefully on his forehead, and Heero sighed, his coughs subsiding. His heavy eyelids threatened to close as he looked up at the ethereal creature hovering above him, gently pushing his damp bangs out of his eyes. Heero blinked, trying to adjust his blurry vision, but sleep was already threading at the edges of his consciousness.

"Shhh... go back to sleep..." The voice whispered soothingly, and Heero sighed heavily, unable to resist any longer. "Shh... Heero... shhh..." The voice continued, and Heero's eyes opened wide for a second, looking up in surprise.

Duo? He blinked, unsure, but after a few tries, his eyes just remained closed and Heero drifted back into a dreamless sleep.

Duo... was it Duo? Was he... was he real?

* * *

Quatre wringed the cloth over the bowl by Heero's bed, sighing quietly to himself. He turned to face the sleeping boy on the bed, gently wiping the sweat off his worn features. He smiled slightly to himself as he noticed the boy was slowly waking up, and soon enough he found himself looking down into a pair of confused blue eyes.

"Hey." He whispered with a smile, reaching down to wipe Heero's damp forehead. "Nice of you to wake up, sleepy head."

The boy on the bed just blinked a few times, trying to stay awake. He struggled to lift his head up and look at the room, but Quatre's gentle hand carefully pushed him back down. He was too weak to resist.

"Just lie down, everything is okay. The mission is going fine. We just had to make a small change in shifts."

Heero rolled his eyes. It was NOT what he wanted to know!

He blew some bangs out of his eyes in irritation, and turned to look up at Quatre. "D-Duo?" He asked, voice rough and almost screechy. He frowned at his own voice.

"Oh, he takes the nightshifts." Quatre informed him casually.

Heero fought back the urge to roll his eyes again. He sighed, looking at the door. He tried to open his mouth and explain to Quatre that he merely wanted to know where the baka was, but then thought better of it. Why should it matter where the baka was? He wasn't here last night, now was he? He was on his nightshift. So the creature in his dream... he was just that, a dream. Another hallucination caused by his fever.

Heero sighed sadly and closed his eyes. The baka was probably in his room, snoring and drooling all over his pillow!

"We added a few more hours for each shift, to cover up for yours." Quatre told him carefully, pouring some water into a plastic cup. He had cleaned the broken glass earlier, musing that Heero must have flung the glass down in his sleep.

He turned to serve the drink to Heero's lips, smiling apologetically as he helped the Wing pilot raise his head up.

"We'll take our turns in taking care of you. I hope you don't mind our help, Heero, but it's for the best." He said, sighing silently. "Duo won't be able to come in here, because he is not immune to the disease. But the rest of us are, and we'll do our best for you."

Not immune to the disease? Heero mused sadly, closing his eyes. Duo couldn't come here... so he was a hallucination after all... He didn't know why, but for some reason, it made him feel... well, he wasn't sure, but he didn't like it.

Heero closed his eyes and turned away from Quatre, wanting to go back to sleep. He felt too upset to keep awake.

But why would he feel upset? Was it the vision of the little girl? Or was it because of him... that... that baka who was probably slobbering all over his pillow?

* * *

PART THREE

* * *

Soft sunshine filtered thought the drapes, illuminating Duo's room with orange rays of light. Dust particles danced lazily in the air, as if moved by an unknown force. Lying on the large bed in the middle of the room, was Duo. His braid was sprawled carelessly over his pillow, short strands of hair sticking out in every direction. He lay on his side, facing the window, watching the thick clouds as they crawled slowly through the heavens.

He had slept little that night, guarding Heero's sleep until sunrise. He tried to keep the fever down, washing the boy's face gently with the cloth, trying to ease his discomfort. Heero's breathing seemed to be calmer that night, and the boy had slept soundly throughout the hours of darkness. When the sun rose from behind the grassy hills, Duo silently left the room, not wanting to be there while the others were awake and ready to rebuke him.

He slumped tiredly on the bed, but only managed to sleep for about three hours or so. Nightmares plagued his sleep, memories of a hard past full of pain and sickness. He didn't remember a lot of the dream, but it woke him up and left him to brood in his misery. And so he lay there in his bed, curled into a fetal position, watching the view out his window with numb eyes.

Heero looked pretty bad last night. He could swear that the Japanese boy barely recognized him. The look in his eyes... it was so confused... like he wasn't sure where he was. And then the coughing fit... it was getting worse each time. It was a wonder Heero was still breathing at all. Two days into the disease... Solo was barely alive two days into the disease... But Heero... he was holding on. He was so strong... Maybe... just maybe... maybe there was a chance? Could he dare hope?

Duo sighed, closing his eyes sadly. No. Hope was bad. It makes you feel even worse when it is crushed. He had hoped Solo would live. He had hoped that once he will give him the antidote, he would be okay. But he wasn't okay. He was dead.

Whimpering silently, Duo reached two hands to wipe his tears away. "Boys don't cry..." He mumbled to himself, feeling bad for shedding tears. "They don't cry..."

He then promised himself, that when Heero dies, he would not cry.

Boys don't cry.

Not for anyone and not for Heero.

Again Duo whimpered, turning in his bed, burying his face into the pillow. "Heero... I don't want to cry... so... so please... I don't want to cry..."

* * *

Tap. Tap. Tap...

Heero looked up from his bed, blue eyes hazed from fever. He forced himself up on one elbow, trying to get a better look at the room.

Tap... Tap... Tap...

Again, the soft sound came to his ears, and Heero's breath quickened in anticipation. He felt his body tremble under the effort of keeping himself up, so he slumped back into the bed.

Tap. . . Tap. . . Tap. . .

Sighing and cursing his curiosity, Heero pulled himself up, sitting on the bed, leaning heavily against his small mountain of pillows. Panting, he reached a hand up to wipe his sweaty face, and blinked a few times, adjusting his vision. He slowly turned to look at the corner of the room, and was surprised to see that the ball was gone.

Had he imagined it too? Was it another hallucination? Or did someone take it away? Was it Quatre?

Tap! Tap! Tap!

He whirled his head around, facing the doorway again. His cobalt eyes widened in brief surprise as he saw the pink ball bound once, and then land at the opening of his bedroom. After that, it just stood still.

Puzzled, Heero tried his best to get up, but his limbs were un-cooperative. Sighing heavily, he slumped back into the cushions, and just stared tiredly at the ball.

Hazed cobalt eyes blinked slowly as a pair of small feet came to stand by the ball. Thin ankles, white pantyhose clad around chubby little legs, and white, polished shoes that shone under the soft rays of sunshine.

Heero blinked again, swallowing slowly, as the little girl bent down and picked up her ball. He followed her with his numb gaze as she slowly stood up again, smiling at him.

He gasped in response, and the girl giggled. But no sound came from her mouth. Heero frowned, wondering why his hallucination came with no sound. That would be pretty boring, he mused.

Still giggling, the child tilted her head sideways in amusement, studying the Japanese boy on the bed. Heero just stared at her, unable to look away from those large, and haunting, hazel eyes.

At last, the girl raised the ball up with her hands, smiling at Heero.

He nearly flinched when she threw it at him. Acting on reflex, his arms flew up and caught the ball. He stared down at it in shock, surprised that he could catch something his imagination had conjured up. He just looked down dazedly at the ball in his hands, studying it from all direction, as if it was an alien thing that he had never seen before.

Deciding that it was indeed a solid, existing, ball he was holding, Heero looked back up at the girl.

She was still standing by the doorway, studying him with her large blue eyes. A smile was playing on her pale features, and she slowly raised her hands up, gesturing Heero to throw her the ball.

Baffled, Heero looked down at the ball in his hands, then at the girl, and back again. He sent her a questioning look, raising the ball up in question. No one EVER wanted to play ball with him...

Smiling kindly at him, the girl gestured for the ball again.

Sighing, Heero gave up on trying to figure this all out, and raised the ball up in the air.

He threw it, cobalt eyes following it as it flew across the room, descending down towards the little girl.

And passing right through her.

His eyes widened in surprise as he watched the ball fly right through the little girl, who was jumping up in the air, hands up, trying desperately to catch the ball.

But the pink sphere just kept flying out the door.

Until it hit Trowa on the head.

The Heavyarms pilot came into a quick halt, standing in the middle of the hallway, right in front of Heero's door.

Heero watched him, eyes wide, as the green-eyed pilot blinked a few times, then slowly turned his head down to look at the floor. He blinked again as he saw the ball, and then slowly bent down to pick it up. He rose slowly back to his full height, looking down at the pink ball in puzzlement. He then slowly turned his head to look at Heero.

The Japanese boy was sitting in his bed, blue eyes scrutinizing Trowa's reaction. He remained stoic and silent as the other pilot gazed down at the ball again, blinking in confusion. For a few long moments the two just gazed at each other, faces unreadable.

Eventually, Trowa nodded, bent down again and carefully rolled the ball into the room.

Heero watched with numb eyes as the small object rolled right past the doorway, and through the girl's body again. He whirled his head up to look at Trowa's reaction, but the other boy just nodded once and walked away.

Confused, Heero let his gaze down, staring at the ball.

The little girl giggled soundlessly.

* * *

Trowa walked silently into the kitchen, heading towards the fridge to get himself a drink. The kitchen was flooded with pure white sunshine, making the gloomy room look brighter than usual. Sitting by the kitchen table, was Quatre, a bunch of papers, folders and reports spread all around the table. He was busy reading through one of the reports, looking quite thoughtful.

The wooden floor creaked under Trowa's feet as he walked, and Quatre looked up.

"Oh! Hi Trowa!" The Arabian called, looking up with a smile. "Did you sleep well?"

Trowa nodded, and then bent down to look through the refrigerator.

"How did your nightshift go?"

"Nothing noticeable occurred."

"It was really nice of you to cover for Duo." Quatre commented, looking at his friend while he drank.

Trowa shrugged. "Someone had to do it." He gazed out the window briefly, and walked to sit across of Quatre. "Is Wufei outside?"

"Yes." The blond nodded in confirmation. "I'm switching with him in two hours."

Trowa nodded in understanding. He gazed over his shoulder, at the kitchen door, then turned back to face the other boy. "And Duo?"

Quatre sighed, bowing his head down sorrowfully. "He hasn't come down yet."

Trowa didn't answer, and Quatre sighed silently. He returned to reading his reports.

"What are you reading?" Trowa asked after a long while of silence.

"Oh, just the mission briefing. I realized that I didn't go through all of it yet." He explained sheepishly, turning a page and beginning to read another. "There are some interesting facts about this house."

Trowa raised an eyebrow. "Interesting? How so?"

Quatre scanned a few more sentences, and then looked up at his friend. "Well, we were sent here to watch the base because there is some suspicion that OZ are training some, um, well, to put it bluntly-psychopaths, as soldiers."

Trowa nodded. "That's right." He confirmed, gazing out the window again. "We are to confirm the suspicion, and if it's true than we must destroy the base."

"Yes, I know." The blind muttered with a silent sigh. "That's what they told us. What they didn't tell us, I found out today."

Trowa raised an eyebrow in question, and Quatre sighed again. "It appears that there's been some serious murder cases in this region. In the farms around the base, including this house."

"OZ?" Trowa asked, already knowing the answer.

Quatre nodded sadly. "They were using civilians as target practice."

Something dark flashed in Trowa's green eyes, but other than that, he showed no response.

"There was a family living here a few years back, they were all brutally killed."

"Who was killed?" A new voice came from behind, and both pilots looked up to see Duo standing in the kitchen door, yawning.

"The former residents of this house." Trowa replied silently, watching Duo as he walked into the kitchen, stretching his arms.

"Oh. Neato." The braided boy spat sarcastically, walking over to the fridge. "So what should we expect? Rattling chains? Flying white sheets..."

Quatre giggled. "Nothing of that sort, I'm afraid. They were all buried far from here."

"Oh. Bummer." Duo commented dryly, taking out a bottle of water and coming to sit by his friends. "So ghosts don't bother traveling ten thousand miles just to haunt their old place?"

Again Quatre smiled. "I don't think they do. But I wouldn't know, I don't believe in ghosts."

"Hey! C'mon! Just about EVERYBODY believes in ghosts!" Duo exclaimed. "It's like the laws of nature of something. Ya gotta be afraid of a spooky thing like that, right Trowa?" He turned to the other pilot for help.

"I don't believe in ghosts, Duo." Trowa informed him quietly. "At least not the kind you refer to." He sighed, looking Duo straight in the eyes. "Everybody has a ghost, we all have the things that haunt us. Dead or undead."

Duo sighed, casting his gaze down. "Yeah, I know..." He muttered, looking numbly at his drink. "Everybody's got a ghost..." Mine has golden hair, pale features, and golden-green eyes with their light long gone...

* * *

Tap! BANG! Tap! BANG! Tap! BANG! Tap!

Sitting up in his bed, Heero sighed and caught the ball. He was lying supported by his mountain of pillows, facing the opposite wall. He was busying himself with throwing the ball at the wall, watching it bounce back at him and then throw it again.

The room was empty and silent, aside form the noise of the rubber ball hitting the wall and flying back to Heero's waiting hands. The girl was long gone, leaving her ball behind her. Heero mused that it's a sign that his fever was going down a bit. He really did feel a little better now, almost refreshed. While he still felt ill and weak, he was able to sit up and play with the stupid pink ball.

Tap! BANG! Tap! BANG! Tap!

Heero let his mind drift as he mindlessly threw the ball at the wall, his vision blurring as he stopped paying much attention to his game.

Tap! BANG! Tap! BA---

Heero looked down at his palms, waiting for the ball to bounce back to him. But it did no such thing. Baffled, Heero looked up, and gasped.

The little girl was standing in front of his bed, holding the ball in her small hands.

Heero swallowed, pushing himself up a bit, still gaping at the girl.

The child smiled kindly at him, raising the ball up and looking at him in question.

Slowly, Heero nodded, his body still numb with shock. He watched in mild surprise as the girl threw the ball at him, and raised his hands to catch it.

The girl giggled silently, making no sound of course, and then bounced in the air happily, clapping her hands.

Heero couldn't help but smile weakly at her joy, and then slowly raised the ball up in a questioning look. The girl smiled and nodded, urging him to throw her the ball. Taking a deep breath, Heero did just that, and watched with dread and anticipation as if flew across the room.

It landed on the floor behind the girl.

Sighing, he looked down sadly, bowing his head. Looking up through his messy bangs, he could see the girl pout sadly, looking down at the ball with tearful and longing eyes.

"I'm sorry..." He whispered weakly, looking up at her forlorn expression. He didn't understand why she couldn't catch it. His illusion could obviously HOLD the ball, and even THROW it at him, but it didn't work the other way. Why was that? Why was this illusion so strange?

The girl just sighed, and then shrugged helplessly. She smiled this little sad smile at him, and slowly walked over to his bed.

Heero's body tensed in reflex as the small child walked over to his bedside, looking at him with her large blue eyes. They were so innocent and pure... so much like... so much like her... that girl...

Suddenly, the girl's smile faded, as if she could sense his misery. She reached a small palm to comfort him, but he could not feel her touch. He just looked down numbly at where her small palm was touching his hand, but he could feel nothing. Just his little tingle, but it was faint and disappeared quickly. Raising his head up slowly, he turned to look at the girl.

She was reaching a hand to the back of her white dress, pulling something from there. He watched with wide eyes as she handed him the delicate item.

A flower.

A single, white, flower.

Heero had to force himself to breathe, taking in a shaky breath, his hand trembling as he reached up to take it. Slowly, hesitantly, he touched the flower, looking at it as if it was God himself he was touching. Once his fingers made contact with the delicate flower, he gasped and pulled away, surprised that it was real.

His stunned blue eyes darted up to the girl's face, and he saw that she was smiling. He looked back down at the flower, and then gently pulled it out of her grasp. He slowly brought it up to his face, looking at it with wide blue eyes, mouth slightly open in shock.

Again the girl giggled, and he looked up as he caught her movement in the corner of his eyes. She skipped over to a small white chair across the room, parallel to his bed. She flashed him a wide smile before finally sitting down, her small legs dangling down from the chair, swinging from side to side. Her blue eyes were dancing with a new light, lighted by her smile.

Somehow, Heero managed to smile back, this faltering little smile, and that made the girl's beaming smile grow. He looked down at the flower in his hands, too shocked to try and process what just happened.

That's when Wufei walked into the room.

"Yuy, I brought you some lunch. Are you up to it?" The Chinese pilot called as he walked into the room, carrying a small tray with a single bowl of soup.

Heero followed him with his eyes as he came to the bed, placing the tray carefully on a small table, right next to the chair the little girl was sitting on. He was sure that the pilot will have something to say about the girl's presence in the room, but he said nothing. It confused him. If the girl could hold a flower, a real flower, and a ball, then she must be real. Or at least not a figment of his imagination. Or maybe the flower was an illusion as well?

Staring dumbly at his little white flower, Heero sighed and carefully looked up. He then handed the flower to Wufei.

Wufei, who was just picking the steaming bowl of soup off the table, turned to look at Heero, and blinked. He looked at the flower he was handing him, and blinked again. He looked up at Heero, very much confused. Heero Yuy had just handed him a... flower?! What the hell?!

Clearing his throat, Wufei coughed nervously, and then looked at Heero, a frown on his face.

Now feeling very silly, Heero let his hand down and looked away.

Wufei sighed and shook his head, muttering something under his breath. He handed the soup to Heero.

"I just wanted to see if it was there." Heero mumbled in a hoarse voice, taking the soup from Wufei, but he was too embarrassed to look up at the other pilot.

Wufei paused for a second, before handing Heero a spoon. "Of course it was there, Yuy, you were holding it."

Heero sighed and nodded weakly. A few hours ago, that would have made perfect sense. But now, it was just darn right confusing.

Sighing again, Heero took the spoon from Wufei and dipped it into the soup; his gaze on the girl all along. She was still sitting on the little chair, giggling soundlessly to herself. Heero turned back to Wufei, but the Shenlong pilot didn't seem to notice the girl's presence.

"Careful!" Wufei called as he saw Heero had spilled some soup over the bed, while raising the spoon up to his mouth, but not looking at what he was doing.

Heero flinched, a bit startled, and looked down at his mess. "I'm sorry." He let out hoarsely, and sent another quick glance at the girl. She was laughing now, pointing at him and rolling back in her chair. Heero frowned and then glared at her.

"Do you need any help?" Wufei asked, looking at Heero with concern.

"No." Heero answered without turning to face him.

The Japanese boy turned to face his soup, picking up the spoon again. Sighing deeply, he began sipping his soup. Wufei remained seated next to him, making sure he eats and doesn't spill the soup again. From time to time, Heero would look up at Wufei as he ate. He clutched his fists around the flower he was holding, wanting to make sure that it was indeed there. He studied Wufei's features, and frowned. He glanced quickly at the girl, and his frown deepened.

The girl was right there... why couldn't he see her?

* * *

That evening, Quatre walked silently into Heero's room, seeing Duo glance at him from where he was climbing up the stairs. Ignoring the boy's indifferent look for now, Quatre stepped into the room.

A soft summer storm entered the room through the window, filling the room with the scents of spring and the upcoming thunderstorm. It played with the thin curtain, flipping them up and down, the dim twilight that came form the outside flickering as the curtains rose up and down.

Heero was lying in his bed, sheets tossed aside, exposing the bare mattress and Heero's boxer clad body. His t-shirt was thrown aside, down on the floor. Quatre didn't remember seeing him take it off, but he mused that Heero had done it by himself. The soft breeze washed over his sweat-covered torso, caressing the smooth bronze skin as Heero's chest rose slowly with each labored breath.

Sighing deeply, Quatre walked towards the small bed, heading to the nightstand. He dipped his hand into the small bowl of water, sighing when he found that the water had warmed up, and that there wasn't much left. He picked up a few bottles of medicine, and took a small cup for measurement. He poured some cough syrup into the tiny cup, making sure to put just the right amount. Plucking open a few bottles of pills, he set them neatly next to each other, and then sat down on Heero's bed.

He took a few moments to just look down at Heero's pale features, calm and relaxed in his sleep.

After some moments, Quatre reached down a hand and gently nudged Heero awake.

Coughing weakly, the Japanese boy opened his eyes, blinking a few times before looking up at Quatre. The blond smiled kindly at him, and helped Heero up a bit, fluffing some pillows for him to lean on.

"Pill time." He whispered, handing Heero the small cup of syrup.

Sighing silently, Heero took the cup from him, his blue eyes looking up and about the room. It was dim, and quite hot, but other than Quatre and he, it was empty. Sighing again, he gulped his medicine, silently thinking that it did him little good. He was sure that Quatre knew that as well, but still, the blond insisted on giving him at least four more pills, and two glasses of water.

After he was done, Heero slumped back into his covers, moaning silently and closing his tired eyes. Even the last dim rays of sunlight were hurting his eyes. He felt rotten, hot, sticky and sweaty. His body still ached, but at least breathing was somewhat easier.

"Heero, do you need anything?" Quatre asked silently, pushing a few damp bangs out of Heero's closed eyes. "Are you hungry? Do you think you can eat anything?"

Taking a deep breath, Heero somehow managed to slightly shake his head. As silence fell between them, Heero slowly opened his eyes, and carefully turned his head to look at the door. It was open again, and he could see the soft flickering of candles coming from the hallway. His eyes widened briefly as he saw Duo, walking down the corridor, past his door, placing a small candle on the floor, while holding another one in his other hand.

Noticing that he was being watched, the braided boy slowly stood up, from where he was putting the candle, and turned to look at Heero.

Cobalt met violet and Heero couldn't help but gape at the sight of Duo's eyes. Never, in all the time he knew the baka, did he see those eyes look so... serious. Almost haunted. Silent. Without a spark of laughter. Maybe it was the shadows dancing across his face, or maybe it was Heero's blurry vision, but nevertheless, Heero could fit only one word to the look on Duo's face: Dark. Duo's face looked dark and ominous. And for some reason, Heero found that was the most disturbing thing he had EVER seen. It made him sick to the core, seeing that wretched look in Duo's usually lively eyes.

He couldn't take much more of it, so he turned his gaze away, closing his eyes.

Duo sighed heavily, and looked away as well.

Just then Quatre realized that Duo was standing in the doorway, and his eyes widened briefly. "Duo, you're not supposed to be here." He whispered harshly.

"I know." Duo let out bitterly, taking a deep breath and straightening up. "I was just going."

On the bed, Heero coughed.

"I'm sorry, Duo." Quatre said apologetically, his eyes shimmering with sorrow. "But we can't risk it."

Again Heero coughed, louder this time. His cough was followed by a silent moan of pain.

Duo's gaze was soon on him, eyebrows nearing in worry. "Heero? Are you okay?"

Coughing, Heero nodded weakly, brining a hand up to his chest, placing it over his heart.

"Heero?" Quatre asked worriedly, looking down at his friend. His eyes widened in fear as he saw that the boy was having difficulty in catching his breath, gulping for large amounts of air, his eyes wide, looking numbly up at the ceiling.

"Oh God! Heero!" Quatre cried out, jumping off the bed with worry. He struggled to pull Heero up, trying to clear his airways, but Heero's sweaty body kept slipping out of his grasp.

Seeing this, Duo hurried into the room.

"Duo- no! Stay back!" Quatre commanded, still struggling to help Heero.

"But--" Duo began, looking desperately at Heero.

"No buts! Just stay out, Duo. I can handle it." Quatre assured him.

Still gasping for air, Heero looked up at Duo's direction, seeing the boy slump his shoulders sadly, looking at him with an unfamiliar gleam in his eyes.

"Onii-san?" A new voice suddenly whispered, and Heero's eyes widened in surprise. Still gasping and struggling to breathe, Heero turned his head aside, to face the other side of the room.

"Can you hear me?!" The small and childish voice called, and Heero sucked in a deep breath, then the coughing returned. His blue eyes widened even more if possible, when he saw her. Standing in the corner of the room, her ball in her hands and her big blue eyes staring at him, shimmering in the dark.

"Ah--ek!" He choked out, reaching a trembling hand up, as if calling for her.

"Heero, calm down! Just relax and try to breathe!" Quatre begged him, grabbing his hand and gently pushing it back to the bed.

Heero choked out another groan of protest, trying to raise his hand up again.

"Heero, please! Just try to calm down!" Quatre's voice rang in his ears again, but he ignored it, looking at the girl all along, his eyes begging her to speak again.

But the girl remained silent, looking at him with a somewhat detached look in her eyes.

"That's it, Heero, just take deep breaths..."

He could feel Quatre's hands on him, patting his back, raising his upper body up, trying to help him breathe. Eventually, the coughing ceased, and Heero fell back into the bed, exhausted. He just lay there, breathless, not taking his eyes off the girl, still waiting for her to speak.

"Heero, are you all right?" Quatre's voice rang softly in his ear, but he paid him no mind. He held his breath as he saw the girl open her mouth, and waited breathlessly for her to speak again.

But no sound came out of her mouth.

Sighing deeply, Heero slumped back into the covers. The girl let her gaze down sadly, her small lips pouting.

"Heero?" Duo's voice came from the door, and Heero forced himself to look up at him. "Are you okay?"

He sounded so... worried. His voice full of dread. And that weird gleam, it was still in his eyes, shining under the soft candle light of the hallway.

Heero tried to figure what that gleam was, but then another coughing fit began, and he had to concentrate on keeping his breath even. He felt his lungs burn, and his face grew hotter, all red and trickling with fat beads of sweat. He could feel Quatre's hands on him, trying to help, to soothe, anything.

At last, the coughing subsided, and Heero sank back into the covers.

The room was now silent again, and all that could be heard were Heero's labored breathing as he took quick breaths for air.

"Heero?" Quatre began carefully, sitting down by the boy again. "Is everything okay now?"

Struggling to keep his eyes open, Heero slowly turned to look at Quatre. He sent a quick glance over to the girl, and then turned back to Quatre. Licking his cracked lips in thirst, he took a deep breath and finally spoke: "...I can't hear her..."

Baffled by Heero's statement, Quatre reached down and rested a cool palm on Heero's forehead. Wincing at the contact, Quatre hurried to pull the hand away, looking down worriedly at his friend. "You're burning hot." He looked up at Duo, who was still standing by the doorway, looking paler than snow on a mountain top. "Duo, go fill a tub for him. Make the water cool, but not too much. I think he might be delusional."

With no arguments, Duo nodded and ran towards the bathroom.

Quatre sighed and turned back to look at Heero. The boy's eyes were closed again, and he had apparently fallen asleep, one hand over his chest as it slowly rose up and down.

In the corner of the room, large hazel eyes shimmered in worry.

* * *

Duo's foot tapped nervously on the bathroom's floor as he watched the tub slowly fill with water. He bent down and dipped his hand in the water several times, checking on their temperature. He had put a few candles in the room, which made the white porcelain walls shine with a dim orange color. Shadows danced around every corner, and only the sound of the running water could be heard, echoing in the small room.

After the tub was halfway filled, Duo ran out of the room, heading back to where he had come from. He skidded to a stop by Heero's door, one hand on the doorframe, and peeked inside.

He could see Quatre, struggling to help Heero out of his bed. The Japanese boy was too weak to stand on his own, and he leaned heavily over Quatre's shoulder. Unfortunately, the smaller boy could barely support Heero's weight as the Wing pilot leaned heavily over his shorter form, one limp hand over his shoulders. He had to hold that hand to keep Heero from slipping, and he put his other hand around the boy's slender waist. By the time Heero had managed to stand up, he was panting hard, coughing from time to time.

"C'mon, Heero." Quatre groaned in effort, hoisting Heero higher, for the boy kept slipping down, his legs unable to support him any longer. "We're just gonna go to the bathroom, it's not far."

Barely conscious, Heero forced his eyes to remain open, glazed pools of cobalt staring numbly up ahead.

"C'mon..." Quatre breathed, taking a step forward. He waited for Heero to take a shaky step as well, and then took another.

"Quatre, this is stupid." Duo's voice came from the door. "At this rate, you'll be there in a year!"

"You keep a safe distance, Duo." Quatre warned, panting, struggling to keep Heero from collapsing down to the floor. "You don't want to get sick, now do you?"

Duo rolled his eyes. "As if it really matters!" He grumbled, and then stalked into the room.

"Duo!" Quatre called harshly. "I thought that we agreed to--"

Ignoring Quatre's speech, Duo walked over to the two and quickly scooped Heero off his feet, cradling the ill boy in his arms.

Disoriented, Heero blinked a few times, trying to force his hazed mind to work and understand why he could no longer feel the floor. He coughed and moaned miserably; unable to clear his fogged mind enough to get some answers. He just let his aching muscles relax and sank into the soft embrace, resting his head against what he thought was a cushion.

"Duo, you'll be infected!" Quatre protested as Duo turned to walk out the door, shifting Heero's limp body in his arms, to get a better hold of the unconscious boy. He began to walk out of the room.

"Duo!" Quatre called after him, his voice filled with worry. "Duo!"

"Don't worry, Q-man. I'll hold my breath." Duo snarled and walked down to the bathroom. Behind him, he could hear Quatre sigh heavily, but he could tell the blond was following him nonetheless.

Turning his attention back to the boy in his arms, Duo was surprised at how light Heero was. Sure, he had a slender figure, but Duo never thought that the boy would be so light. His smaller body fit just perfectly into his arms.

He rushed to the bathroom, feeling the heat radiate out of Heero's body, his sweat also clinging to his own clothes.

Once inside, he kneeled in front of the bathtub, Heero still in his arms. He looked down at the unconscious boy, and took a deep breath. "It's gonna be a little chilly." He said quietly, and then gently, carefully, lowered Heero into the cold water.

"Ahhhh..." The boy called weakly, flinching at the shocking touch. "N-nan desu ka..?"

"Shhh... it will make you feel better." Duo soothed, as he cupped some cool water into his palm, washing Heero's fevered face.

The Japanese boy moaned silently, shivering under the cold water. "Iiya... na--no... out..."

"Shhh... just a little longer." Duo promised, softly pushing a few bangs out of Heero's eyes. He was holding Heero's head up with one hand, making sure he will not sink under the cool water, while he used his other hand to washed Heero's pale features.

For a long while, the bathroom was silent, aside form the soft flickering of flames and the sound of dripping water. Duo watched Heero carefully as the soft candlelight glistered on his wet skin, reflecting off the drops of water. Heero's face was a game of shadows, his golden skin looking richer and more exotic under the dim ginger light. He kept taking deep and shallow breaths, moaning silently as Duo's hands traveled carefully over his heated skin, washing him gently.

"C-c-c-cold..." Heero suddenly mumbled, his teeth chattering, body shivering violently.

"I know, Heero. I know." Duo whispered, looking down at him with pained violet eyes.

"Duo," Quatre's voice came from behind, where the blond boy was standing, watching the two carefully. "It's not good to leave him there for too long."

"I know, Quatre." Duo sighed, cupping some more water in his palm and pouring them slowly over Heero's burning forehead. "But he's still very hot. I'm just gonna let him cool down a bit."

"All right." Quatre whispered, looking quite helpless. "I'll just... I'll go make his bed." He finally mumbled and left the room. Before exiting, he turned to face the two, looking worriedly down at Duo. "Just... just make sure he doesn't pass out under the cold."

"I will." Duo answered without looking away from Heero.

Quatre nodded slowly and left the bathroom.

Down in the tub, Heero continued shivering, struggling to keep his eyes open as he looked up at the boy who was washing him.

Duo forced on a little smile for Heero, using the hand that was supporting Heero's head to caress his thick and damp hair.

Heero blinked a few times, looking confused. "D-Duo?"

"Yes, Heero?" Duo answered slowly, noticing the growing confusion in those cobalt eyes.

Heero didn't answer though, his eyelids slowly closing.

"No! Heero! Stay awake!" Duo called as he felt Heero's body go limp in his hold. "You gotta stay awake, Heero. Stay awake."

Those glazed blue eyes opened again, and the boy looked up at him, blinking. "Na...ni..?" He rasped, looking around in confusion.

Duo sighed, and gently caressed Heero's cheek. "Hey, buddy, ya gotta keep awake, okay?" He spoke softly, slowly enough for the boy to understand. "No sleeping."

Heero blinked a few more times, just gaping at him for a while, before finally nodding.

Duo smiled faintly. "Good boy." He frowned a little as he felt Heero try to get up, his blue eyes looking around the room as if searching for something. He gently pushed Heero back down into the water.

"Just a little longer, Heero. I promise."

Sighing deeply, Heero let his body sink back into Duo's hold. He closed his eyes, and took a deep breath. "She's not here..."

Frowning, Duo looked over his shoulder, and then back at Heero. "Who's not here?"

But the boy didn't answer, blue eyes watching silently as Duo proceeded in washing him.

* * *

After making sure the boy's body had chilled to a more normal temperature, Duo scooped the Japanese boy into his arms and exited the bathroom. Heero was drifting in and out of consciousness, holding weakly onto Duo's shirt, glazed blue eye barely able to register what went on around him. When they entered Heero's bedroom, Duo could feel Heero's body tense a little, and the Japanese boy's hold of his shirt tightened.

"It's okay, Heero." He whispered to him, looking down at him with reassurance. "The room is safe, don't worry." He could see Heero's eyes scan the room warily, searching, but after some time he just slumped back into Duo's hold, resting his head on the braided boy's shoulder.

"I'll just go get a new blanket." Quatre's voice carried softly across the dark room, and his short figure could be seen standing by the bed, illuminated by a single candle.

Duo nodded and walked over to the bed. He gently placed Heero on the small bed, noticing that the boy was still shivering. He was wearing only a pair of boxers, but they were soaking wet.

"C'mon, lets get you out of these wet clothes..." He mumbled with a sigh. He walked past Quatre, who was just leaving the room, and paced over to Heero's duffle, which was lying somewhere on the floor.

On the bed, Heero was still looking around, his eyes searching under the dim orange light of the room. His eyes widened briefly as he spotted her, sitting in her white little chair, watching him with her big blue eyes. He swallowed, slowly pushing his trembling body up.

"Say something." He asked her, panting a little at his effort.

The girl just shrugged and shook her head helplessly.

"Please." Heero asked again, his hoarse voice barley a whisper.

"Huh? Did you say something, Heero?" Duo asked, coming back to the bed, holding a new change of clothes for Heero. He frowned as he saw that Heero was looking aside, not even facing him. His body was still trembling with shivers, his teeth chattering, water dripping down from his hair and torso.

"C'mon, we'll dress ya in something warm." Duo encouraged him softly, settling down on the bed, sitting on his knees and facing Heero. He nudged Heero gently, trying to gain his attention. "Heero? C'mon, just put it on. You're shivering."

Slowly, Heero turned his numb gaze to the other boy, still highly aware of the girl's presence. She was looking at him with curious blue eyes. "G-get d-d-dresssssed?" Heero managed to stutter between chattering teeth.

"Yeah, c'mon, I'll help you." Duo assured him, handing him a clean and dry pair of gray cotton shorts.

Heero swallowed, sending a nervous glance at the girl. He turned to face Duo again, shaking his head. "N-na-no."

Duo rolled his eyes. "Nah! Heero, c'mon!" He called, a little annoyed. "Don't tell me you suddenly decided to grow a sense of modesty!"

The girl giggled and Heero blushed furiously. He swallowed, tearing his gaze away from the girl. "Not now."

Duo snorted. "Chk! Heero, I assure you it's NOTHING I haven't seen before!" He exclaimed, and jumped off the bed. "You gotta get out of these wet clothes!"

Heero turned his head away stubbornly and then slumped down into the bed.

"Heero," Duo tried again, letting the annoyance show in his voice.

"She'll see."

"Huh?!" Duo blinked, more than a little confused. He looked left and right, and then back at the bed. "Who will see?" He sent another look over his shoulder, after seeing Heero watch the chair with a nervous glance. He rolled his eyes and turned back to the boy on the bed. "Heero, there's no one here."

Shaking his head, Heero closed his eyes and looked away. "No... she's there... she'll see me..."

Duo sent another glance around the room, but came up with the same result. Now worried, he turned back to Heero. "There's no one here, Heero." He let out slowly, sitting down by the boy. He noticed that Heero was still shivering, water trickling down his exposed torso.

"No... she's there... watching... she's always watching... tell her to leave..." The boy mumbled, shaking his head weakly. He opened his eyes, looking up pleadingly at Duo. "Please... tell her to stop watching..."

"Heero," Duo began, getting a little desperate. He reached down for the boy's hand, feeling how hot it was despite the cold shower. "Heero, it's only us here."

"No..." The boy protested, coughing weakly. "...tell her..."

Sighing heavily, Duo squeezed Heero's hand, his other hand carefully pushing a few wet bangs out of Heero's eyes. "All right, Heero. I'll tell her." He whispered, watching painfully as the boy drifted into unconsciousness. "I'll tell her." He repeated softly, getting up to his feet. Casting a finale unsure glance over the room, Duo sighed and then turned back to Heero. He hurried to undress the unconscious boy and put some warm clothes on his shivering body.

If he could have, he would have seen that on the small white chair, stood a lonely pink ball, his owner now gone.

* * *

PART FOUR

* * *

A few hours after Heero had fallen asleep, Duo had to go out to his nightshift. He was reluctant to leave his friend, but Quatre assured him that if anything will happen, they'd call for him. So, with a worried glance at his best friend, Duo left the house and jogged over to the small grove, taking over Trowa's shift.

He slumped down to the moist ground, lying down on his stomach, hiding behind a few bushes. The surveillance monitors were right in front of him, over-looking that base. A strong wind played with the treetops, making a soft noise as leafs and branches struggled against the strong currents. The tension before a thunderstorm was in the air, dark and thick clouds gathering up in the night sky. Every now and then a fat and warm drop of rain fell down, and a low thunder rumbled from a far.

Sighing, Duo picked up his night goggles, cursing silently at the damn weather. Spring was nice, but hot and dusty summer storms, were NOT that nice. Especially when you had to spend the whole night outside, getting soaked with yucky dusty and hot rain.

Looking through his goggles, Duo gazed down at the small base, zooming in a little to get a better view. Not much had happened the last time he was on shift, and he hoped that at least today, SOMETHING would happen and ease his boredom. And help to keep him awake. He hadn't slept well for the last two days, worrying over Heero all the time, while trying to escape his nightmares.

Again Duo sighed, looking down at the small date that flashed at the corner of the night vision screen. It was the fifth of the month. Two more days to the horrible date. Two more days for Heero to live...

"Damn it!" Duo cursed himself, shaking his head violently. "Stop thinking about it!" He told himself, and forced his mind to concentrate on the current mission.

But it did little good. His mind kept wandering back to the boy who lay sick in his bed, fighting for every breath of air.

Heero's condition was getting worse by the minute. His fever was so high, it was a wonder his brain still functioned. He was so hot to the touch; Duo could swear that one could fry an egg on his forehead. And all that shit he mumbled about... seeing someone? Talking to someone? He was getting delusional, and that was NOT good.

Solo got delusional as well, but he didn't talk or claim to see anyone. He didn't act crazy. Not like Heero did, anyway. He was too weak to act that way. He just lay there quietly, in their small shelter, behind an old scrap yard, and fought silently for each breath. Once in a while he mumbled something, but it never made much
sense.

Duo sighed and closed his eyes heavily. The only time that Solo was coherent enough to speak, was when he died, muttering those last few words to him... saying he wished that they could spend some more time together. But they never had the chance. Solo died just then, right in front of his young eyes.

He had promised his friend then, that they would be together always. Holding on to Solo's lifeless body, he had given himself the name Duo. Never alone, always two. Never alone.

He wanted to die just then, having no reason or will to live, but his life was spared from the plague. He never understood why, but in his heart, he hoped that it was Solo, watching over him. Never alone.

He had to live. He had to keep on living for the two of them. And he had gone through life, living each moment to the fullest, trying to live for two people. And looking. Always looking. Always searching for that one person... that one person he could finally be with... to share everything with... to be together. Never alone...

With all his searching and seeking, he became blind. Blind to see that the person he was looking for, that one person he longed for, was there all along. He was there in a form of a boy with a stern face, and deep blue eyes that always betrayed his cold exterior. The comfort he was seeking, could be found so easily, if only he would have looked closer. But now... now it was too late... There would be no shoulder to cry on. He was going to loose that shoulder just when he found out that it was there. It will be gone soon, leaving him behind like everyone else did. Alone.

Always alone.

Duo sniffled, wiping the tears away before they had a chance to pour out of his eyes. He took a deep breath, and looked up at the base again. There was no point dwelling on it now. He had a mission to do. Besides, maybe if he thought less about it, it will hurt less when Heero dies. He shouldn't get too attached now, right at the end. It was too late anyway, so it shouldn't really matter. Just a comrade dying, nothing else.

"Just a comrade..." Duo muttered sadly, picking up his goggles, looking down at the base. "Just a comrade."

* * *

Tap. Tap. Tap.

Sighing, Heero stirred in his bed, sheets rustling in the dark.

Tap. Tap. Tap...

He opened his eyes slowly, and blinked a few times. The room was dark, the candle long extinguished, but the door was slightly open, letting in some light from the hall. Sighing deeply, Heero turned to face the door, his eyes searching for the familiar ball.

He showed no particular response as he saw it roll down the hallway, passing by his bedroom door, and stopping right there. He looked up calmly as the door was slightly pushed open, held by a small hand. When the little girl peeked into the room, Heero merely blinked, and returned her gaze calmly.

The little girl smiled at him, waving a small hello.

Heero's lips lifted up slightly in response, and he pushed himself up a little, propping himself on one elbow. He watched silently as the little girl disappeared behind the door, away from his line of sight. He bent forward a little, trying to look for her, but it did little good. Coughing silently, Heero tilted his body at the door's direction, but he still couldn't see her.

The ball began moving down the hallway.

Frowning, Heero waited for the girl to follow it, but as the seconds ticked by, he didn't see her. He frowned to himself, a little confused, watching the door for a while longer. He could hear the ball roll down the corridor, scrapping silently against the rough wooden floor.

Then, he could hear it drop down the stairs, making a soft noise as it bounced down each step.

Curious, Heero threw the covers aside, and brought two shaky legs down to the floor. Hissing softly at the cool touch of the floor against his feet, Heero slowly got up, trying to steady himself on his feet. Coughing, he took a few deep breaths, and then looked up at the door again.

The ball was still bouncing down the stairs, the sound echoing in the darkness.

A little dizzy, Heero walked slowly towards the door, leaning heavily against the doorframe when he finally got there. Catching his breath, he peeked into the hallway, looking left and right.

The girl was nowhere to be seen.

Sighing, Heero turned to look in the direction of the stairs, eyes narrowing in the darkness of the hall. Only one candle was burning, its small flame struggling against the darkness of the hall. It gave little light, and more shadows, but it was enough to see.

Taking another deep breath, Heero pushed himself off the doorframe, taking a small step into the hall. He padded silently down the hallway, his bare feet making no sound as they stepped over the carpet. He was leaning against the wall for support, his breath labored as he walked.

Finally, he reached the staircase, and took a moment to catch his breath. Listened well, he could hear the ball make its way down, tapping against wooden steps as it fell.

Panting, Heero blinked a few times, wiping the sweat off his brow and fighting to keep awake. It looked like a long way down, but he just had to do it. He wanted to know.

Slowly, carefully, he walked down the stairs, holding onto the thick wooden banister as for dear life. By the time he got down to the ground floor, the ball was silent again. He guessed that it rolled onwards, without waiting for him (how rude!), and now he had to look for it.

Unfortunately for him, the ground floor was completely dark. Well, that shouldn't be hard to fix.

Looking left and right, his breath still a bit shaky, Heero reached up a hand and felt around the walls. He smiled slightly to himself as his fingers encountered what he sought, and without thought, Heero flipped the switch on.

The whole floor lit up in a bright display of lights.

Heero nodded in satisfaction, pleased that he had found such an easy solution to his problem, and began searching for the ball.

* * *

"Boring... boring... boring..." Duo mumbled silently to himself, scanning the base through his night goggles. "Still there... hm hmm... definitely still there... Yep! The base haven't moved an inch!" He sighed heavily to himself, his tired eyes watching the regular change of shifts down in the base. New guards replaced sleepy guards, and that was the only thing that had happened in HOURS.

Yawning as loud as he can, Duo shifted position again, for his body was becoming numb. He was still laying on the ground, which was now moist with rain, his clothes damp and itchy. He blinked a few times, trying to keep awake, something that was easier to do when the rain was falling.

He glanced at the small display on the side of his night vision, and saw that he was only three hours into his shift.

How very boring.

He looked up quickly as he spotted movement down by the gate, leading into the base. A small vehicle was just parking in front of the gate.

Zooming in a little, Duo could see that it was a motorcycle. He lifted himself up a little, leaning closer as if it would matter, and watched carefully as the biker got off the bike and headed towards the gate. He was carrying something in his hands. Duo's eyes narrowed and he zoomed in even more, but he could not tell what the package was.

Two guards came to greet the man, looking quite casual and cool. They exchange a few words as one of the guards examined the package.

Duo leaned down even further, anxious to see what he was on to. He held his breath in anticipation as he saw the guard slowly open the package.

"Got you now..." He whispered with a sly smile, shifting the goggles so he had a better view of the box. Now he could see that the box contained...

Pizza.

"A pizza box!?" Duo whined, throwing his goggles aside. "Oh come on!" He snorted, rolling his eyes. Cursing the whole situation, he flipped over to lie on his back, two hands behind his head. "Pizza!" He exclaimed, unable to get over it.

He sighed heavily, and closed his eyes. "Well, it's good to know that I'm not wasting my time here..." He muttered sarcastically. "When I could be doing something as useless as sleeping..." He yawned, opening his eyes again. He looked up sleepily at the house up ahead, and suddenly, his eyes widened.

The lights on the first floor were on.

"Oh shit!" Duo cursed, jumping up to his feet.

He began running towards the house.

* * *

"Hello?" Heero called out hoarsely, peeking behind the couch. There was no one there, and Heero looked up again, disappointed. He scanned the large living room, trying to think where he didn't search yet.

"Little girl?" He called again, taking a few steps towards the center of the living room. "Where are you?" He asked, and then coughed silently, covering his mouth with his hand to muffle the sound. "Hello?" He looked around, his gaze confused. He was sure that he heard the ball fall down here! Where was it?

The bright light was beginning to hurt his eyes, and Heero lifted a hand up to shield them from the light, panting at the strain he was putting his body through. Sweat trickled down his temples, and his bangs were sticking to his face again. He took a shaky step forward, looking around desperately.

Eventually, he spotted the ball lying by the door.

Sighing in relief, Heero slowly began to walk to it, holding onto the couch for a moment as dizziness assaulted him. He took a few deep breaths, struggling for balance, unable to even walk in a straight line as he made his way to the door. He was panting hard, a hand still over his forehead, eyes closed in pain as he fought to keep walking. He waddled from side to side, his hand searching for something to hold onto. And just before he was about to make it to the door, merely two feet from the ball, the dizziness was too much, and Heero's body toppled forward.

Just then, the door opened and Duo walked in.

"Heero!" He called out in surprise, catching the boy just before he fell. "Oh God! Heero!"

Coughing loudly, Heero tried to push himself away from the boy, but his trembling arms had little strength left in them.

"What the hell are you doing?!" Duo demanded harshly, kicked the door shut with his foot, while hoisting Heero up and helping him stand.

"Ba...ll..." Heero rasped, his shaking hand reaching down for the ball.

"Huh?!" Duo let out, looking down at Heero's hand. He frowned as he saw that Heero was reaching for a stupid little ball that stood by the door. "Is THIS why you came down here!? Jesus, Heero! Really!"

"What's going on?!" Wufei's voice came from the stairs, as the rest of the pilots came running down.

"Oh God! Who turned the lights on!?" Quatre exclaimed, looking around worriedly.

"Heero did." Duo let out with a sigh, while Trowa turned off the lights.

Darkness fell over the house once again, and only Heero's panting could be heard in the dark.

"Heero? You came down here by yourself?" Quatre asked, astonished. "How did he manage that?"

Heero didn't answer, and just kept looking down at the ball. He was leaning heavily on Duo, his chin resting on Duo's shoulder, and if Duo's hands weren't around his waist, he wouldn't have been able to keep standing up.

"I don't know." Duo answered solemnly, looking down at Heero's dark head. "But I saw the lights were on so I came right up here."

"What were you looking for?" Trowa's voice was finally heard. He was holding a candle now, brining some weak light into the house.

Heero remained silent, still struggling to catch his breath.

"C'mon, lets put you back to bed." Duo spoke with a sigh, pulling Heero up a little, for the boy kept sliding down.

Blinking, Heero turned his gaze up from the ball. He looked up silently at the rest of the pilots, standing by the staircase, illuminated by Trowa's candle. His glazed eyes looked at each of them numbly, and then he could feel Duo carefully scoop him off his feet. Unable to resist, he let Duo cradle him in his arms, his head coming to rest on Duo's shoulder. He was unable to look at the pilots anymore, too weak to move his head, and so he just gazed numbly up ahead, at the large window in the living room.

Lightening cut through the dark skies, and Heero's eyes widened. He tensed in Duo's embrace, his head jerking up, looking intently at the window.

Another flash of bright blue light, and Heero's mouth open in silent surprise.

The strong winds were causing the planes of tall grass to look like giant waves in a raging ocean. The trees were threatening to cave under the strong winds, struggling against the storm. And in the middle of all that, stood the little girl, looking up at Heero with her big blue eyes.

Heero gasped and looked away, suddenly frightened by the sight.

"Calm down, Heero, it's just a storm." Duo's voice soothed, and the braided boy began walking towards the stairs.

Another lightening and Heero looked up, seeing the girl in the brief flash of light. She was waiting for him to come.

"N-no..." Heero protested weakly, trying to free himself from Duo's hold.

"Heero, it's just me, Duo. It's okay."

"No!" Heero called, louder this time, trying to push Duo away, pressing two trembling hands against his chest. "I have to... to go outside... I have to..."

"Heero, there's nothing but a storm outside." Wufei's voice came to his ears, but he ignored it, trying to free himself.

Another jolt of electricity cut through the night sky, and Heero could see the girl looking at him anxiously.

"I have to go! She's waiting!" He called desperately, hands reaching towards the window.

"Heero, no one is waiting!" Duo shouted, now having difficulties to walk with Heero struggling in his arms.

"No! No! She's there! She's there! Let me go!" Heero screamed, nearly crying. He was panting hard now, his fevered body shaking under the effort.

"Heero, please calm down." Trowa asked quietly, coming over to help Duo to contain the delusional pilot. "There's no one here but us."

"No... I have to..." Heero whispered tiredly, unable to shout or fight anymore. He sank into Duo's embrace, leaning heavily against his shoulder. His glazed blue eyes kept looking out the window, his mouth slightly open as his lungs fought to breathe. "She's waiting for me to come..."

Looking up worriedly at Trowa, Duo fixed his hold on the boy's burning body. He turned to look at the window, just as lightening hit, but he saw nothing there. He felt Quatre's hand touch his shoulder carefully and forced himself to look away.

"Come on, Duo, let's get him to bed."

* * *

"It's getting worse." Trowa's voice stated the obvious, watching Duo as he tucked their Japanese friend to bed.

"What can we do?" Wufei asked helplessly, also looking down at the boy on the bed.

Heero's features were haggard and sweaty, his mouth slightly open as he fought to breathe. His chest rose slowly up and down, his limbs lying lifelessly on the small bed, twitching in pain from time to time.

"There's nothing we can do but wait." Trowa answered quietly, turning his gaze to look up at Duo. The braided boy was sitting on the edge of the bed, holding Heero's hand in his, looking silently down at the boy. He frowned, and then sighed. "I can cover for you if you want."

"Thanks." Duo answered without looking up.

Trowa nodded and left the room.

Quatre watched him leave, and then turned back to face the two boys on the bed. "We should wake him up." He said quietly, one clutched hand over his heart. "With such a high fever, it would be better to keep him awake."

Duo nodded slowly, still not lifting his gaze off Heero's sleeping features.

"Make sure he drinks something." Wufei added, turning to the door.

Duo showed no response, and Quatre sighed. He felt Wufei place a hand on his shoulder and looked up to meet the Chinese pilot's eyes. He saw Wufei gesture at the door with his head, and nodded. The two left the room, closing the door silently behind them.

At the sound of the door closing, Duo looked up, a bit startled. Sighing, he let his gaze down again, looking down at his friend with pained amethyst eyes. He reached down carefully, pushing a few damp bangs out of Heero's eyes. He watched Heero for a while as the soft flickering of flames danced over his damp features, small drops of perspiration glistering under the soft candlelight. His fingers lingered on to the heated skin for a bit longer, slowly caressing Heero's flushed features.

He smiled sadly at the boy as Heero moaned silently, leaning into the cool touch. He turned to take the cloth off the nightstand, and dipped it into some water. Wringing the cloth gently, he turned back to Heero, and slowly began to wash his fevered face.

Again Heero moaned at the cool touch, taking a deep breath as he turned his head in Duo's direction. His eyes slowly fluttered open, and Duo couldn't help but to smile down at those swirling blue oceans.

"Hey." He whispered, refusing to break the pleasant silence with a loud voice.

Heero blinked a few times, looking up at Duo in a confused expression.

"Here," Duo whispered again, handing Heero a glass of water. "Drink this."

He helped Heero up, supporting his head, and slowly served the glass to his lips. He watched carefully as Heero drank, his eyes narrowing painfully as he saw some of the liquid escape Heero's mouth and slide down his chin and onto the bed. He was so weak, he could barely swallow.

Smiling kindly down at the boy, Duo reached down a hand and gently wiped the water off Heero's chin. Heero sent him a baffled look then, surprised by his kind action, but he let him do it.

After making sure Heero had had enough to drink, Duo gently lowered him down to the pillow, and put the glass away. He saw Heero prepare to go back to sleep, and then remembered Quatre's words to him. He reached down and nudged the boy slightly.

"Heero, you can't go back to sleep." He whispered to him, shaking him gently. "You have to keep awake."

"...tired." Heero whispered, his eyes still closed.

"I know, but it's not good to fall asleep now. You're fever's too high."

Heero didn't answer, nor did he open his eyes, so Duo nudged him again. "Heero, c'mon, buddy. Wake up."

Coughing weakly, Heero opened his eyes, tired pools of cobalt staring numbly up at Duo. "D-Duo?" He asked, his voice barely a whisper. "You're here?"

Baffled, Duo could do nothing but try to soothe him. He reached down a hand to push Heero's bangs aside, and smiled kindly at him. "Yes, Heero. I'm here."

"N-na-no good..." Heero mumbled, struggling to keep his eyes open. "Quatre said... get... sick..."

Duo sighed sadly, and gently caressed Heero's burning forehead. "Don't worry about it, Heero. I'll be fine."

He was surprised to see Heero smile slightly in return. "A-ari...ga...tou..."

Duo forced himself to smile back. "Anytime, Hee-buddy."

Heero nodded, and closed his eyes again. But he did not allow himself to go back to sleep.

Shifting uncomfortably in his spot on the bed, Duo tried to think of a way to keep Heero awake. Eventually, he resorted to the one thing he knew best: talking.

"Ya know, Heero, all this time we've been together, and I think that I barely know you."

Cobalt blue eyes slowly blinked at Duo in confusion.

Duo forced out a small chuckle, shrugging helplessly. "Well, it's true. You never talk." He frowned, looking down at his friend. "Why is that?"

Heero sighed, looking away. "I have... nothing... to say..."

Duo rolled his eyes, settling more comfortably in the bed. "Sure you do! Why all you have to do is try. Just like we do, sit around and talk. Hell, even TROWA does it. But you... you never join in..."

Again Heero sighed, closing his eyes and looking away. "You're having fun, I don't want to interrupt."

"It's not interrupting, it's interACTING. Just join in and talk!"

"What should I say?" Heero asked hoarsely, turning his head to face Duo, cobalt eyes shining in the candlelight.

Duo frowned, thinking. "Well, you can talk about yourself, so we'll get to know you better."

Heero snorted softly, turning his head away once again. "There's nothing to know."

This time, Duo had to take a few moments to think of a proper response. He bit his lower lip, thinking, until his eyes suddenly lit up with an idea. He bounced up in the bed happily, and turned to take Heero's hand in his. He looked down at the boy in the eyes, smiling to himself at the sight of Heero's stunned expression.

"We can start with the facts." He finally said, earning another baffled look form his friend.

"Facts?" Heero croaked, raising an eyebrow.

"Yeah, you're good with those, right?"

Heero just blinked in confusion.

Duo smiled. "Here, I'll start." He took a deep breath, still holding Heero's hand, and looked the boy straight in the eyes, his own eyes warm and gentle. "I'm Duo Maxwell, and I'm fifteen years old."

Again Heero blinked, gaping at Duo. He felt Duo take the cloth from the bowl and place it gently on his burning forehead. The braided boy then smiled kindly at him, waiting for him to speak. After a few moments, he managed to gather his wits, and blinked in confusion. "Uh... I-I'm Heero Yuy and I'm fifteen years old."

Duo's smile broadened, happy that Heero was playing along. He took another deep breath, and then continued. "I'm Duo Maxwell, and I'm fifteen years old. Duo isn't my real name."

Eyes widening briefly, Heero gaped at Duo for a few more moments, before realizing his little game. "I'm... Heero Yuy and I'm fifteen years old." He coughed weakly, taking a deep breath before continuing. "Heero isn't my real name either."

Duo nodded, his smile slowly fading. He looked away for a second, before turning back to Heero, his violet eyes losing some of their light. "I'm Duo Maxwell, and I'm fifteen years old. Duo isn't my real name. I named myself."

Stunned, Heero could do nothing but stare at Duo for a few long moments. Duo just shrugged and smiled sadly at him. He squeezed his hand gently, looking kindly at him. "Your turn."

Body numb, Heero barely managed to nod his head. He took a deep breath, coughing before finally speaking. "I'm Heero Yuy and I'm fifteen years old. Heero isn't my real name either. J gave it to me because I needed a name for the war."

Feeling his heart clench painfully, Duo nodded in understanding, again looking away before turning back to Heero.

"I named myself after the people that I loved and cared for."

Wincing silently, Heero swallowed the lump in his throat, closing his eyes sadly. "I... I too had people I lo--loved and... ca-- …..cared for." He whispered sadly, unable to look up at Duo. He felt the braided boy squeeze his hand softly. He looked up at Duo, and was stunned as he found himself looking straight into a pair of shining violet eyes. Duo's eyes were glistering with tears, shining under the dim candlelight. But despite of the tears, Duo was smiling down at him, his smile warm and compassionate.

Heero gasped as he felt Duo's cool fingers slowly brush a few bangs out of his eyes, and he blinked, confused by Duo's actions.

"Solo used to take care of me on the streets... Father Maxwell and Sister Helen took care of me when I was in the church."

Heero found that he had lost the ability to speak under that warm violet gaze. "I... My... my mama took care of me when I was little... after that, I had Odin."

Duo looked down at Heero lengthily, before he nodded in silent understanding. He took a deep breath, closing his eyes sadly. "Solo died from the plague. Father Maxwell and Sister Helen were killed." He kept his eyes closed after that, in a useless effort to stop the tears. He couldn't believe that he had just told Heero about it. It was something he didn't say out loud. Not ever. Not to anyone. But... but he felt like he could tell it to Heero.

Suddenly, he felt Heero tighten his grip around his palm, and he turned to look down at the ill pilot.

Heero smiled sadly at him, coughing weakly. He took a few deep breaths, before his hoarse voice spoke up again. "My mama died because Odin killed her." He let out, his voice sounding more or less detached. But then another small smile appeared on Heero's moist features, his blue eyes suddenly sparkling. "Odin used to tell me stories when I was sick."

Duo smiled weakly, some light returning to his violet eyes. "Sister Helen used to read me from the bible when I was sick. That would make ANYONE wish to get better in NO time!" He chuckled at his own small joke, and then smiled as he saw Heero was smiling as well. It was just this weak and sad little smile, but it was worth the world just to see it play over Heero's pale lips.

He tightened his hold on Heero's warm hand, smiling down at him. "See? It's not so hard."

Heero nodded his head, slightly blushing as he felt the pad of Duo's thumb caress the palm of his hand.

"So," Duo began in a more cheerful tone of voice. "Shall we give it another go?"

Thinking it over for a few seconds, Heero finally nodded.

Duo smiled and held his hand tighter. For the rest of the night, he allowed himself to forget about Heero's fatal condition, and just stayed by his side, talking. He did not allow himself to think about the uselessness of the conversation, about how silly it was to be getting to know Heero when the boy was at his deathbed. He just wanted to enjoy those last precious hours, maybe even make Heero feel a little better. But most of all, it's what he wanted to feel. He wanted to be with Heero. He wanted to stay and speak with him. He wanted to feel what he had only recently realized. He wanted to feel what it's like to once again, have a best friend. Someone he could speak with about ANYTHING. Someone to share his joy and sadness. His tears and his laughter. His dark memories of the past and his hopes for a brighter future. Someone who would listen and understand.

Someone like Heero.

* * *

The next morning, Duo came downstairs, yawning and stretching his hands up in the air. He waddled sleepily into the kitchen, sending a tired smile of `hello' to Quatre, who was sitting in the kitchen. Wufei was out on his shift, and Trowa was probably sleeping after covering for Duo last night.

Yawning loudly, Duo poured himself some strong coffee.

Quatre chuckled. "You should get some more sleep, Duo. It's not even noon yet. Did you sleep at all?"

Shrugging, Duo threw himself into a chair across of Quatre. "A little." He yawned again.

The blond pilot shook his head, smiling in amusement. "I heard Heero and you speak all night long. Are you feeling any better?"

Still in the middle of a yawn, Duo nodded his head. He turned to sip his coffee, shrugging. "A little. Nothing I can say for Heero, thought. He began vomiting each time I gave him a drink. He can't keep anything down."

Having nothing to say about that, Quatre just bowed his head sadly.

The kitchen fell silent, and Duo returned to sipping his coffee. He arched an eyebrow as he saw that Quatre was reading through a bunch of thick old papers. He put his mug down, and reached for one of the papers. "What's this? Mission reports?"

"Huh? Oh, no." Quatre answered, looking up. "It's just some old articles I found on the net."

"Articles?" Duo asked, scanning the paper he was holding. After reading a few lines, he looked up at Quatre in confusion. "You're reading about murder cases? I never knew you were into mystery novels and stuff..."

Quatre chuckled. "I'm not, but this thing caught my eye. I just had to do some research."

"Research?" Duo let out, taking another paper off the large pile that lay on the table. His eyes widened as he spotted a picture in one of the articles. "About this house?" He showed his friend the picture he had discovered, an old photo of the large farmhouse they were currently living in.

Quatre's eyes widened and he reached for the paper. "Oh! I was looking for that! I thought I dropped it..." He muttered, taking the paper from Duo and quickly reading it over.

"Quatre, why are you so interested in that murder?" Duo asked, still very much confused. "There's been about a billion of them in this region. Why this one?"

"Oh, it's not the murder I'm curious about. It's the fact that they never found one of the bodies." Quatre explained solemnly. He looked up at his friend, smiling slightly. "Besides, there's nothing better to do."

Duo forced on a smile. "Yeah, yer right. Waiting is kinda boring..." He picked up a few papers, and took another sip of his coffee. "So, you're trying to figure out where the body is?"

Quatre blushed slightly. "It's silly, isn't it? I thought I'll practice my detective skills a bit..."

Duo chuckled. "Hm, Quatre Sherlock Winner... sounds pretty cool." He sent a quick glance over his shoulder, and then turned back to face the blond. "So, did you try any of the closets?"

Quatre chuckled and shook his head. He returned to reading over his paper.

Duo smiled bitterly. He leaned back in his chair, putting two arms behind his head. He looked up at the ceiling, at Heero's floor, and sighed heavily to himself. I guess that this is a good time as any to take some skeletons out of the closet... Ne, Heero?

* * *

Strong rays of high noon sunshine filtered through the pink drapes of Heero's room. The said boy was lying on his small bed, curled into himself, lying on his side, facing the window. His eyes were closed, his breath even, deep asleep. The bright rays of sunshine washed over his pale features, making his hair look as if it was shining under the white light.

BANG!

Heero's eyes snapped open and he gasped. He immediately closed his eyes as the bright light assaulted him straight in the face, and he moaned miserably at his aching body.

BANG!

Again that loud sound, and Heero sighed heavily. He pushed himself up, turning over to lay on his other side, facing away from the window.

BANG! BANG! BANG!

The angry sound continued, ringing loudly in Heero's ears. He flinched at the noise, rubbing his eyes to clear his vision. When he finally opened them, he was faced with one unhappy, and angry looking, girl.

BANG!

She was throwing the ball forcefully at the floor, her blue eyes glaring angrily at Heero.

Blinking, Heero looked up at he, baffled.

BANG!

The ball crashed forcefully on the floor, along with the girl's foot as she stomped it down as well. Her eyes kept glaring accusingly.

Groaning, Heero pushed himself up, leaning down on his pillows. He wiped some sweat off his forehead, and turned to look back at the girl.

BANG!

Heero sighed and shook his head. "That's quite an attention getter." He told her in a cracking voice, gesturing down at the ball. "What's wrong?"

BANG!

Heero rolled his eyes and sighed again. "Are you angry with me?"

BANG!

"You are, huh?" Heero concluded, scratching his head helplessly. "Is it something I did?"

This time, the girl caught the ball, keeping it in her hold, and still glaring at Heero.

"Is it because I didn't come out?"

The blue eyes kept glaring.

Heero sighed and bowed his head sorrowfully. "I'm sorry. You waited for me, huh?"

Suddenly, the ball was thrown his way.

Surprised, Heero caught it, and looked down at her, puzzled. If she was angry, why did she still want to play?

The girl sighed sadly, and then gestured at him to throw her the ball.

Although tired of that game, Heero complied. He threw her the ball, and, as usual, it went straight through her.

Heero sighed and looked away.

The girl stomped over to the ball, and picked it up. She glared at Heero for a few moments, and then forcefully, angrily, threw him the ball.

Again Heero caught it, and looked up at her, desperate. "There's no use, you can't catch it." He let out dejectedly, raising the ball up to his face. He examined it for a while, and then looked back at the girl. She was still looking angrily at him, her hand on her hips, waiting for him to throw her the ball. But what was the point of this game?! She couldn't catch it! Why was she insisting on playing with him?! Why won't she go away? What kind of a hallucination was she, anyway?!

Heero gasped and his eyes widened. He looked up at the girl, the ball held up in his hands.

The girl looked up at him, her features softening once she saw the stunned look on his face.

And then, slowly, numbly, Heero's hands worked as if on their own accord, and he threw her the ball.

The girl's head shot up, looking up at the ball in anticipation.

"You're not an illusion."

The ball fell right into the girl's hands, and she caught it.

She smiled, looking happily up at Heero. She shook her head, throwing him the ball.

Heero caught it, still a little confused. He looked down at the ball, and then at the girl. Frowning, he threw it back to her.

"Are you a ghost?"

Again the ball slid into the girl's hands, and she bounced up in the air, clapping her hands happily.

Heero smiled weakly, his confusion growing by a tenfold. "Did I kill you?" He asked, voice quiet and uncertain.

The girl shook her head.

Heero sighed in relief, and then looked up at her again, his cobalt eyes shimmering in compassion. "Did you die here? In this house?"

The girl bowed her head sadly, and then slowly shook it.

Heero made a face, unpleased with the confusing answer. He looked up at the girl again, noticing her sudden sad demeanor. "Why can't I hear you?"

The girl just shrugged.

Biting his lip in thought, Heero looked around the room, as if searching for answers. He turned to look at the girl again, and his eyes narrowed. "What do you want from me?"

The girl's head jerked up, and her big blue eyes suddenly glimmered with hope. She smiled sadly at him, and then opened her mouth to speak.

Heero concentrated, trying to read her lips. The girl's lips began to move, but then the door suddenly flew open and Duo walked straight through the girl.

Heero flinched, startled by the sight, his wide blue eyes darting up to look at the intruder.

Duo flashed him a smile, walking towards the bed, a tray of food in his hands.

"Morning Hee-chan! Got some food for ya!"

Heero rolled his eyes at the baka, and leaned aside a little, trying to peek behind Duo and see the girl. But Duo kept standing in the way, moving aside just as Heero leaned down. Heero snorted and rolled his eyes. Why won't the baka move?!

Duo was leaning over the small table by Heero's bed, placing a tray with some soup and bread on it. When he straightened up, he was surprised to see Heero doing the same, like he was leaning aside to look for something. Duo frowned and sent a look over his shoulder. As usual, there was no one there.

He rolled his eyes and sighed quietly to himself. He then picked up the bowl of soup and went to sit on Heero's bed. The Japanese boy was still looking at something, staring in concentration at the door's direction.

"Hey, Heero." Duo spoke to get his attention. Heero slowly turned to look at him. Duo smiled, handing a spoon up to his mouth. "Quatre says you gotta try to eat something. Think yer up to it?"

Sighing heavily, Heero nodded. He sent a glance over to the door, seeing the girl slump her shoulders sadly.

"Here, I brought ya some bread too." Duo announced with pride, handing a piece of bread to Heero's mouth.

Heero glared at him. He hated being fed!

"Oh! You're right! Better soak it with some soup!" Duo called as he spotted that glare, though he knew it was not the reason. He dipped the bread into the chicken soup, humming to himself.

Heero rolled his eyes and coughed.

"There ya go! All mushy and ready to be eaten!" He said, handing Heero the bread, which was dripping down soup and looking like a very unpleasant thing to chew on.

Heero sighed and took the small piece of bread. He brought it up to him mouth, just as another cough slipped out of his lungs.

"Wow, careful there, Hee-chan! You dunwanna choke on it now do ya?" Duo teased, sending Heero a small wink.

But Heero did not respond. Instead, he coughed again, his eyes suddenly widening in distress.

"Heero?" Duo called, worried. "Heero, what's wrong?"

Again the boy coughed, but it came out all muffled and choked.

Duo's eyes widened as he realized that Heero was not breathing. "Heero!" He called, panicked, jumping up on the bed. "Oh God! Heero!"

Again the Japanese boy tried to cough, to clear his airways, but it was doing him little good. He brought one hand up to his throat, signaling Duo that he was suffocating. His face was turning red, his skin breaking sweat as he tried to force his lungs to breathe. He punched his chest a few times, desperate for oxygen, but the lump in his throat would not budge.

"Oh God! Oh God!" Duo was panicking as he hurried over to Heero, patting him forcefully on the back, trying to help his breathe. He positioned himself behind Heero, wrapped his hands quickly around the boy's chest and did the Heimlich maneuver.

Coughing, Heero spat out the chunk of bread, gulping for large amounts of air. He slumped back into Duo's body, panting heavily.

Duo breathed in relief.

And then Heero started coughing again. So loud and deep, that it sounded like he was suffocating again. Duo's eyes widened as he felt Heero's body quake in his hold, and the Japanese boy's loud gasping filled the room.

"Heero?"

"D-D--ah--ek!!!" Heero choked out, raising his hand up in the air as a call for help. He could feel his lungs burn, begging for oxygen intake, but he could do nothing but cough out air, struggling to inhale, but unable to. His chest felt heavy, and it refused to move, burning with heated white pain.

A gasp and then a cough. His body burned in pain in lack of oxygen. Another short gasp, and ten more coughs. It was getting harder and harder to even try to breathe. His mouth hung wide open, wide blue eyes looking up at the ceiling in shock.

"Heero! Oh God! Shit! QUATRE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Tears began to fill Heero's unblinking eyes, and he took short and shallow gasps for air, feeling the darkness sipping into the edges of his mind.

"HEERO!"

Duo voice sounded like an echo from a far, as Heero's life began to slowly slip away. His body had given up on the struggle, his lungs empty of air and refusing to work.

He could hear his own heartbeat, loud and overpowering the silence that suddenly surrounded him.

He felt himself fall down, lower and lower into a dark abyss, as his body crashed down onto the bed.

Duo was hovering somewhere above him, wide amethyst eyes panicked.

And somewhere, in the distance, he could hear the girl's voice.

"Come to me..."

* * *

PART FIVE

* * *

The rush of blood in his ears.

The desperate cries for air.

His body burned.

It was so hot.

A heartbeat.

And one more.

One more.

And then, none.

Silence.

* * *

"QUUUUUUUAAAAAAATREEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!"

"Duo! What's wrong?!" Quatre called, running into Heero's room, panting.

"He just stopped breathing man! He can't breathe!" Duo called, panicked, his face hysterical. He was sitting on Heero's bed, leaning over the suffocation boy, his hair a mess and his face pale from fear. Without waiting for Quatre's reaction any further, Duo leaned down and began CPR. He leaned over Heero's head, pressing his lips to his and began mouth to mouth.

Quatre ran to the bed, standing at the opposite side of Duo, and dropped down to his knees. He reached down to check for Heero's pulse, and his eyes suddenly widened. "His heart stopped!"

"God dammit- Heero!" Duo yelled, panting heavily, and dived back to continue respiration.

Quatre also jumped up on the bed, putting two hands, fingers entwined, above Heero's heart and began pushing.

One!

Two!

Three!

Four!

Five!

He stopped to take a breath.

One!!

Two!!

Three!!

Four!!

Five!!

Heero's blue eyes were still wide open, looking lifelessly up at the ceiling. Duo's body was hunched over him, breathing air into his lungs. The bed shook, screeching against the wooden floor, as the two boys worked furiously to bring their friend back to life.

"C'mon Heero! C'mon!"

One!!!

Two!!!

Three!!!

Four!!!

Five!!!

* * *

He could hear them, from far far away. Their voices were mere whispers, echoing in the dark.

He could see them, from far far away. The vision of the two boys was at the end of a long, dark, tunnel. They were bent over him, shaking him and begging him to come back. He could feel the hot air being forced into his lungs, and he could feel the force of Quatre's hands on his chest. He could feel the pressure over his heart, but there was still silence. His heart refused to work.

"What's going on here?!"

Wufei. Panting. Worried and out of breath.

"Quatre! What happened?!"

Trowa, sounding more emotional than he had EVER heard him.

"Oh God! Heero! Please!"

Duo. He was crying. Calling to him. Begging him...

The vision at the end of the tunnel was beginning to fade. Black mist slowly crept down the edges of the distant picture.

It was getting hot. He wanted to get away from the uncomfortable darkness. He wanted to sleep...

"No Heero! NO! YOU GOTTA STAY HERE, YA HEAR ME?! YOU GOTTA!"

Duo... Why was he crying?

"No... Heero... c'mon buddy... breathe... c'mon..."

No... don't cry... please? Don't' cry...

And then suddenly, her voice. Closer and clearer than he had ever heard it before.

"Onii-san? Please come..."

* * *

"No! No! Heero! C'mon! C'mon Heero! C'mon!" Duo cried over and over, tears running down his cheeks, pouring out in gallons from his frenetic eyes. "COME! ON!" He shouted, punching Heero's chest. "I WON'T LET YOU GO DOWN LIKE THIS HEERO! THIS IS TOO EASY, YA HEAR?! TOO EASY!" He sobbed, and then threw himself down at Heero, breathing frantically into his mouth.

"Duo..." Quatre's voice came softly to his ears.

"Shut up!" Duo shot, taking a deep breath and then diving back in.

"Duo... It's been half an hour already..."

"I said SHUT THE HELL UP QUATRE!" Duo screamed, looking up at the blond, hate and accusation in his wild eyes. Those purple depths were swirling with fear and desperation, a haunted look in their deepest pits. "I'm not giving up!" He spat, and then turned back to Heero. "You hear that Heero!? I'm NOT giving up!"

The three pilots could do nothing but watch helplessly as Duo fought for Heero's life. They had tried all they could to bring the boy back, but after half an hour of CPR, there was little chance that Heero would live. They had taken turns in helping Duo revive the dying boy, for the work was far too exhausting for one person to do.

But their effort was in vain.

Heero was still laying on the bed, lifeless, his wide blue eyes glazed over as they stared up at the ceiling. His limbs lay sprawled over the mattress, pale and covered with cold sweat.

Not one sign of life could be seen on the boy's pale face.

There was no way of denying it. Heero Yuy, was dead.

"Duo! That's enough!!!" Wufei screamed, calling Duo by his first name for the first time since they met.

But the braided boy ignored them all, sitting on top of Heero, legs straddled at each side of the boy's body, panting as he pressed his hands over Heero's heart, and then leaning down to breathe into his mouth. His wild breathing filled the room as he struggled, the bed shaking back and forth as he moved. The sound of the headboard hitting the wall echoed throughout the house.

But still, Heero's heart remained silent.

* * *

"Onii-san?"

The girl?

"Onii-san? Can you hear me?"

Where was she?

"I'm right here."

Where?

"Please, Onii-san, you gotta come."

Come? Come where? Where was Duo?

"Please, you have to find me. Please?"

Find? Find where? Who? Where was he? Where was everyone? Why can't he hear them?

"They're calling for you. Can't you hear their voice?"

Hear them? Where?

"HEERO!"

Duo?

"Heero! Please! Not now... please!"

He was still crying...

"You have to go back and find me, Onii-san."

Back? How?

"You have to go back."

But... but how?

"Like this."

LIGHT!

PAIN!

BURNING!

CAN'T BREAHTE!

SO MUCH LIGHT!

HOT!

Someone was touching him.

PAIN!

Someone shouting.

PAIN!

Calling him.

LIGHT!

It assaulted him all at once, and if he could have, he would have gasped, or at least blinked, because suddenly, he was back.

He could see them now, standing over his bed, looking worriedly down at him.

Quatre, his aquamarine eyes filled with tears.

Trowa, his green eyes looking haunted.

Wufei's eyes were looking down at him with dread and breathless anticipation.

And then he felt something touch him, forcefully, pressing over his chest. The force was so great it nearly drove him into the headboard.

And then someone kissed him.

No. Not a kiss.

A rush of hot and thick air was pushed past his lips and into his lungs.

And then the blurry fog that covered his mind lifted, and he realized.

Duo.

He was leaning over him, talking to him, crying so that so many tears fell out of his eyes. They slid down his cheeks and soaked his face, messy hair sticking to his damp features. And his eyes... so sad, haunted and frightened at the same time. Looking down at him. Crying. Begging. Pleading him.

But he couldn't do a thing. He tried to breathe, to call out, to force his heart to beat once again, but it was out of his control. He couldn't do it. He lay there helpless, feeling his own essence slip away once more... into the darkness... into the cold hands of death...

And then, he saw it. It was just a glister at first. Something faint and barely recognizable. It shone under the bright light of the room, hovering like a feather over Duo's shoulder. Heero watched it, enchanted by the growing glow of light as it slowly grew and took shape. At first, it looked like a large and long snake, but then, he realized that it was an arm. Looking up, he could trace that thin arm all the way up to a body.

Another breath was forced into his lungs and Heero's eyes widened a bit.

The body belonged to a boy, about their age, maybe a little younger. He was wearing ragged and baggy clothes, their color undetermined for the whole boy's body was glowing in an eerie golden light. His skin was paler than Heero had ever imagined possible, his hair, shoulder length, was smooth and golden. It shone under the golden light of his aura, and Heero could see the boy lift up a slim hand to push his hair behind his ear, long and pale fingers brushing against the yellow stands. Then there were his eyes... the strangest shade of green... with a touch of gold to light those hauntingly large eyes. They looked so big and vibrant compared to the rest of him, that Heero found himself unable to look away.

"Heero. . . Heero. . . please, Heero! Please. . ." Duo's voice cried hopelessly, his hand clutching Heero's shirt as he buried his head in Heero's chest, sobbing brokenly. "Please..."

The boy caught Heero's gaze in his, and Heero found himself unable to think about anything at all under the boy's captive gaze.

The boy smiled at him faintly, and Heero watched him as he placed a comforting hand on Duo's shoulder, his other hand caressing the boy's hair as if soothing him.

Everything was in slow motion. Time seemed to have stopped from moving. Heero turned his gaze, without really moving his eyes, and scanned the rest of the room. He was shocked to see that the four pilots and the golden boy, were not the only occupants of the room.

Standing at the far end of his bed, was Quatre. Next to him, was a woman. A bit taller, a bit older. She had curly locks of bright blond hair, and a kind look on her graceful features. Her arm was wrapped around Quatre's shoulder, silently comforting the boy as he cried.

Next to him, was Trowa. He had a man standing next to him, tall, blond and blue eyed. He looked young, and quite stern, but Heero could sense that he was guarding Trowa, though he did not touch him, his arms crossed over his chest.

After that was Wufei. He was standing at his bedside, and behind him, was a young woman. She looked a little younger than the Chinese pilot, and very similar in her looks. She too had short black hair and black eyes. Her long and slender hand was resting on Wufei's shoulder, offering comfort as the boy stared numbly down at Heero.

And then there was another figure. Standing right next to him, holding his own hand. It was a little girl. But it wasn't the girl he was used to seeing. It was a different one. One with big blue eyes that radiated innocence, and a small, white puppy that danced at her feet, wagging his tail.

Heero flinched inwardly as he saw the little girl smile at him, and then he saw her look up. He followed her gaze and saw that she was looking up at the boy standing next to Duo. The boy nodded his head, and turned to look down at Heero.

He reached down his hand, and plunged it straight into Heero's chest.

Panicked, Heero wanted to scream, but he was unable to. He could do nothing but watch, and feel.

The boy's hand closed around his heart, and he squeezed.

Heero flinched.

"Heero?" Duo's head shot up, his tearful eyes looking up in confusion.

Another squeeze.

Heero's body jerked up from the bed.

And another squeeze.

"HEERO!"

Heero's eyes flew wide open.

His heart was beating again.

He saw the little girl reach down a hand inside him as well, sweeping her hand through his lungs.

And suddenly they cleared, as if some barrier was lifted.

Heero took a loud gasp of air.

"Oh God! Heero!"

Another squeeze on his heart and Heero gasped again, his body arching off the bed.

He blinked, feeling air and blood running through his veins once again. He slumped back into the bed, taking large gulps of air. He saw the girl and the boy pull their hands out of his body, and he looked up at them gratefully.

"Oh my God... Oh my God... Oh my God!"

He could hear Duo mumble over and over, and that brought a small smile to his lips. He looked up at the boy, seeing his stunned face hover above him, his features pale and stained with tears. He had two hands over his mouth, his violet eyes wide with shock.

He smiled up at the stunned boy, and he would have chuckled if he could at his stunned reaction. He looked aside, searching for the two that helped him. He frowned as he found out that he could barely see them. They were slowly fading away from his vision. He caught the little girl smiling at him, before she finally vanished, along with the rest.

The room looked empty again, but he knew they were there. They were always there.

Smiling weakly, Heero let himself drift into unconsciousness, gratefully breathing the cool air into his lungs.

Before darkness finally took over, he could hear her voice whisper.

"Thank you for coming back, Onii-san."

* * *

Body quaking with sobs, Duo threw himself down at Heero, hugging the boy tightly and crying into his chest. "You fucking suicidal maniac! You had me so scared! I was so scared! Fuck you, Heero! Fuck you! Dammit!" He howled, his fists closed around the fabric of Heero's sweat-soaked shirt, his head shaking from side to side as he cried.

In the back of the room, Quatre sagged back against the wall. He slid down to the floor, his tearful eyes looking up at the bed.

Trowa kneeled down beside the shaken blond, placing a comforting hand on his shoulder. He looked down to make sure that his friend was okay, and then turned his gaze up to look at the bed as well.

Wufei was the only one who remained standing, his arms crossed over his chest. He looked down at the bed, watching Duo's back shaking as he cried, and then he looked down at Heero's face, calm and serene in his sleep. He walked over to the bed, reaching a hand down to touch Heero's sleeping form. He checked for a pulse, and was relived to still find it there. He breathed in relief and backed away a little, shaking his head.

"Chk! Leave it to Yuy to make another trip back from the dead."

* * *

After his sobs had finally calmed, Duo opened his eyes, finding himself leaning over Heero's bed, his head resting on the boy's chest. He sniffled, blinking a few times. He could feel that a soft and warm blanket was resting over his shoulders, and he smiled a little, thankful for his friends' care.

Peeking from behind his messy and damp bangs, he looked up at Heero's face. The boy was still sleeping soundly, his light breath teasing his chocolate bangs like a soft breeze.

Duo smiled warmly, and closed his eyes again. He snuggled closer to Heero's body, his head over the boy's heart, and he listened to the soft heartbeat, letting it lull him back to sleep. He indulged himself in listening to the beating of Heero's hear, the feeling of his chest slowly rising up and down, the scent of his body and his warmth.

Alive.

Heero was still alive.

His eyes snapped open as he felt something tug gently at his braid. The lush rope of hair was lying casually on the bed, peeking out from beneath Duo's blanket. Again there was a soft tug, and Duo looked down, confused. He smiled when he caught a glimpse of Heero's long white fingers, teasing his hair playfully. He turned back to face the boy, and nearly drowned when he was faced with those haunting blue eyes.

Heero smiled, and Duo's mouth dropped open, nearly hitting the floor.

"Hn. Baka." Heero snorted softly, pulling Duo's braid a little harder. "You should see your face." He whispered hoarsely. "You look like you've seen a ghost." He smiled at his own joke.

Duo just kept staring, eyes unblinking. "H-Hee-Heero?!" He finally managed to stutter.

The Japanese boy arched an eyebrow in question. "Yes?"

"YOU'RE ALIVE!" Duo called, jumping up happily.

Heero chuckled. "Yeah, I've noticed."

Duo's face lit up with a stupid grin. "And you came back with a sense of humor too!"

Heero rolled his eyes.

Duo chuckled, sitting back on the bed. He reached down for Heero's hand, his eyes serious once again. He looked down at Heero, his expression honest and serious. "I'm glad you're back." He whispered, his voice quiet and lacking the usual cheerful tone.

Heero nodded his head slowly, his eyes never leaving Duo's. He looked down when he felt Duo squeeze his hand tightly, and after the initial shock cleared, Heero squeezed back. He looked up at Duo, catching the boy's gaze with his.

Duo had tears in his eyes now, and he was looking down at their joint hands, deep in thought. Heero considered saying something, but then he thought better of it. This was not a time for words. Even Duo knew that. He just settled for holding Duo's hand, feeling the boy's warmth against his body. He closed his eyes, sighing pleasantly. This was nice. He could definitely get used to it.

After some time, Heero felt Duo let go of his hand, and he opened his eyes to see why. He was confused when he saw Duo reach up two hands to the back of his neck, his fingers working on something. He studied Duo's expression, still unused to see him so solemn and serious. His eyes had that dark look in them again, the purple depths distant and haunted.

He looked down when he heard Duo sigh heavily, and then pull something out from underneath his shirt. Heero's eyes widened in surprise as he saw the delicate object glister under the dim afternoon light. It was a necklace. Stunned blue eyes followed the shiny necklace as Duo slowly brought it down, the silver chain dangling from side to side, and at the middle, shone a small, silver, cross.

Heero gasped and looked up at Duo.

The braided boy just smiled at him sadly. He leaned down towards Heero, bringing the chain down with him. Gently, carefully, he put it around the Japanese boy's neck, his fingers trembling a bit as he closed the small metal fasten. He then straightened up again, tearful violet eyes shinning in the dying afternoon light. He smiled sadly at Heero, his fingers caressing the cross that now lay over Heero's chest.

Body numb from shock, Heero looked down at the cross, his blue eyes wide with disbelief. He reached up his own trembling hand, his fingers touching the cross carefully, caressing it slowly, as if not believing it is there. He felt Duo's fingers brush against his, and he gasped, looking up again.

Duo just smiled kindly at him, putting his hand over Heero's, both their hands lying over the cross.

Heero took a shaky breath, his chest rising up quickly, pushing the cross up against their joint hands. He was unable to look away from Duo's gaze, those intense violet eyes bearing a hole through his very soul.

"D-Duo..." He finally managed breathe out, shock written all over his face. "Why?"

Again the braided boy smiled sadly. He let go of Heero's hand, pulling his hand away, laying it on his lap. He turned away from Heero, sitting on the edge of the bed, and took a deep breath.

"Do you believe in God, Heero?"

Bewildered by the question, it took Heero a few moments before he finally managed to reply. "I... I was taught about God." He explained quietly, looking away from Duo. "If you're a bad boy... you go to hell. And if you're a good boy..." He sighed. "You go to heaven." He turned back to look at Duo. "Is that God?"

Duo sighed, still staring down at his hands. "It's a part of it, yeah."

"Oh." Heero let out, and looked down again. He took a deep breath, thinking. "You make wishes to God, is that it?"

"Yeah, that too." Duo let out quietly.

Slowly, Heero turned his gaze up to look at his friend. He studied Duo's profile for a while, noticing the wretched look on the boy's face.

"Did you ever make a wish to God, Duo?"

".…..yeah."

Heero winced at the bitterness in Duo's voice. He sighed and looked away again, closing his eyes sadly. "I never made a wish before."

He could feel the bed shift and hear the sheets rustle as Duo slowly turned to face him. He looked up as he felt Duo hold his hand again, and was surprised to see that Duo was smiling weakly. "It's never too late to start." He said, his voice heavy and his gaze intense.

Heero swallowed.

"What do you wish for, Heero?"

The Japanese boy sighed sadly and looked away. "I... I wish... I wish to go to heaven."

Duo flinched back a little, startled. He tightened his hold on Heero's hand.

"I... I won't mind to just stand at the gate..." Heero continued silently, a single tear sliding down his cheek. "I don't mind... just as long as I can... just as long as I can see her face..." He sniffled silently, closing his eyes.

"Whose face?" Duo dared to ask, feeling his heart beat faster and louder, throbbing in pain.

"My mother." Heero whispered, his voice barely heard. He sighed and turned to look up at Duo, his blue eyes sad. "I don't remember her face."

Duo nodded silently, having nothing to say. He took a deep breath, closing his eyes in an effort to keep the tears away.

"Just one look..." Heero continued silently, sniffling. "Just one look, and then I can go to hell..."

A choked whimper escaped Duo's lips, and he tightened his hold on Heero's hand, feeling his fingers brush over the cool metal of his cross.

There was silence after that, both boys sinking into the aftermath of Heero's little confession. There were no words to be said, nothing could be said to ease the pain and comfort, and so they both remained silent.

Moments passed by slowly, the sun setting behind the grassy hills outside Heero's window. Warm and golden rays of sunshine filled the room as the skies were painted in a heavenly display of colors. In that golden light, Heero could swear he caught a glimpse of the heavenly golden boy, sitting next to Duo, a hand over his shoulder. But maybe it was just the light playing tricks on him.

Slowly, Heero looked up, searching for Duo's eyes. "Did... did your wishes ever come true, Duo?"

For a long while, Duo didn't answer. He kept his head bowed, refusing to meet Heero's hopeful eyes. "...no."

"Oh." Heero let out sadly, looking away. He took a deep breath, feeling tears threaten to come. "Do they ever?"

Duo remained silent.

"Even if you believe?" Heero asked, turning to look up at Duo, cobalt eye pleading him to answer.

But Duo just closed his eyes sadly, turning his head away.

"Maybe... maybe mine will come true?" Heero asked, eyes shimmering with unshed tears.

"Maybe." Duo whispered, though his voice betrayed his answer. He took a deep breath, releasing it with a heavy sigh. He then turned to face Heero again, reaching for his hand. He looked down at the boy, his eyes also shining under the dying light.

Heero smiled sadly at him, another lone tear a escaping his eyes. "Then... then I want to make another wish." He whispered, voice hoarse from tears.

Duo nodded leisurely.

Heero smiled up at him. "I wish for your wishes to come true."

"H--Heero..." Duo choked out, completely stunned.

The Japanese boy just smiled sadly, squeezing Duo's hand. "Maybe... maybe he'll listen to me?"

Duo smiled weakly and squeezed Heero's hand. "Maybe."

Heero nodded his head, apparently satisfied with that answer.

Duo watched him as the cobalt eyes slowly closed, and the boy drifted back to sleep. He reached up a hand to wipe his tears away, sniffling. He tightened his hold around the cross, his fingers slowly caressing it. "God, I hope so, Heero. I hope so..."

* * *

Three pairs of eyes looked up as Duo slowly entered the kitchen. They followed him silently as he walked to one of the cupboards, taking out a cup. They scrutinized his every movement as he made himself a cup of strong coffee, and then followed him as he walked towards the kitchen table.

"What?" Duo asked dumbly, looking down at his friends. "Do I have something on my face?"

The three sighed and looked away.

It was Quatre who spoke first. "How are you feeling, Duo?"

"Huh?" The braided boy let out, settling down in his chair. He shrugged. "Okay, I guess. Sorry for bursting out like that..."

Quatre smiled kindly, and shook his head. "No, I mean physically. How do you feel?"

"Huh?" Duo asked again, looking up at him, baffled. He shrugged. "Fine."

"No coughing?" Wufei asked, raising an eyebrow.

Duo shook his head.

"No fatigue?" Trowa added, looking at Duo as well.

Again the braided boy shook his head, stirring his coffee.

"Nausea?" Quatre offered worriedly.

Duo blinked, confused. He sighed and shook his head. "Nah. I feel great, thank you." He took a sip of his coffee and then looked up at the rest of the pilots. "Why?"

Quatre sighed and leaned back in his seat. "We were just saying, how odd it is that you haven't caught the virus yet."

"WHAT?!" Duo burst, nearly spitting out his drink. "What do you mean?!"

"You said that you were never vaccinated against the disease." Trowa reminded him quietly, his gaze intense. "It's been nearly three days, and you did not show any sign of infection."

Duo nodded and bowed his head. "Yeah, you're right..."

This time, it was Wufei's turn to speak. He leaned forward, leaning on his arm, which rested on the table, his onyx eyes on Duo. "How did you escape the disease the first time?"

Duo sighed, refusing to look up from his fidgeting finger. He shrugged.

"Duo," Quatre spoke once again, his voice compassionate. "I know this might sound a little odd, but we think that you were already immune to the disease."

Duo's head jerked up. "Huh? How could that be? I never got a shot in my life! Why would I be immune, huh?! Why me and not others?!"

"Duo," Trowa tired to calm him. "Duo, please hear us out."

Taking a deep breath, Duo nodded and sunk back into his seat.

"There is a possibility, remote as it is," Trowa continued, looking intently at Duo. "That your body was naturally immune to the disease."

"That's BULLSHIT!" Duo called, anger in his eyes. "How can that fucking be, huh?! I was just a little street rat! Why would I be protected and others won't?!"

"Duo, please calm down." Quatre begged. "Think about it, don't you find it odd that you have escaped the disease... twice?"

Duo made a face, but forced himself to calm down. He took a few deep breaths, and then leaned two elbows on the table, burying his face in his hands. "And what if I am immune? What does that have to do with anything?"

Trowa sighed. "People who are naturally immune, carry the antidote in their blood."

"Yeah, well, you guys are immune, you have the antidote too. So what?"

Trowa shook his head. "No, Duo. While we are immune to the disease, we cannot produce new antidotes. Only you can."

Duo looked up, peeking out from between his laced fingers. "I can?"

Trowa nodded his head.

"You mean I was carrying the cure inside me? All along?"

Again the Heavyarms pilot nodded his head.

"We want to run some tests, first." Wufei informed him quietly. "We need a blood sample."

Straightening up in his chair, Duo nodded, his gaze cutting through the air like a knife. "Sure."

* * *

After extracting a small amount of Duo's blood, Trowa and Wufei set to work. They were sitting by the kitchen table, a dozen candles around them, papers and medical equipment sprawled all over the table. They had limited means of research, but it was enough to run a thorough blood test.

Duo stood by the kitchen door, leaning against the wall, his arms crossed over his chest and his gaze locked on the two working pilots. Quatre was up in Heero's room, checking on the boy. They had long forgotten their surveillance work, leaving the station empty and deserted. They had more important matters on their hands.

"How's it going?" Quatre's voice rang softly as he entered the kitchen.

Trowa looked up from the microscope he was looking through, and nodded his head. "We've confirmed it. Duo's body is capable of producing the antidote."

Duo let out a sigh of relief, bowing his head briefly. He pushed himself off the wall and walked over to the table. "So, what now?"

"We need to extract the cure from your blood." Wufei answered, looking up from his work as well.

Duo nodded. "Tell me what I have to do."

The Chinese pilot sighed and shook his head. "Unfortunately, it is not so easy. The antidote is a small part of a very complex mixture. It's basically looking for a needle in a haystack."

Duo's eyes flashed darkly. "Then we look for it!" He growled, glaring down at the other pilot. "Heero doesn't have much time, and you know we can't afford to wait for that shuttle to arrive!"

Trowa looked up. "Wufei, what do we need in order to separate the antidote form Duo's blood?"

The Chinese pilot sighed. "If I remember my studies correctly, we'll need a chromatography in a high liquid pressure in order to separte the cells from the rest of the blood. That would give you about thirty or forty samples. Of course each sample should be check and--"

"Okay! Okay! We get it! Long process!" Duo snapped. He turned to Trowa. "What else can we do?"

The green eyed pilot sighed heavily, rubbing his chin in thought. After some time, he looked up at Wufei again. "And what if we put the blood in a centrifuge? We can then quick freeze it and--"

Wufei's eyes widened. "I see where you're going with this! We just separate the red blood cells and plasma components, and inject Yuy the rest!"

Trowa smiled slightly and nodded his head. "Exactly."

"Brilliant!" Wufei called, hitting his head with his hand. "Why didn't I think about it sooner?!"

Duo smirked. "I could answer that for you." He turned back to Trowa. "So we just get rid of the rejectable parts in my blood and give Heero the rest? Is that safe?"

Trowa nodded. "Like you said, Duo, if we get rid of the rejectable parts, it should be fine."

Duo smiled in relief. "So what are we waiting for? Lets do it!"

Silence suddnely fell over the kitchen, and Wufei's heavy sigh could be heard. "Even if you COULD do it, we don't have the means. The equipment we have here is not suited for such a task."

"Then we find one that is!" Duo called stomping his foot on the floor. He whirled around to look at Quatre, his eyes pleading. "Right?"

The blond boy sighed and bowed his head. "Where can we go, Duo? We're miles out of nowhere. There's no hospital around here."

"Bull! The base is right down the hill, right?! I bet they have EVERYTHING we need in there!" Duo burst, pointing eagerly at the window, where the base's lights could be seen, down in the valley.

"We cannot risk to break our cover, Maxwell." Wufei reminded him. "We have a mission to fulfill after all."

"ONE MORE WORD ABOUT THE FUCKING MISSION, WU-MAN, AND I'LL USE DEATHSCYTHE TO BLOW YOU INTO ORBIT!" Duo roared, glaring down at the stunned pilot. "Heero's dying up there, damn it! So just forget about the fucking mission already!"

"Duo!" Quatre exclaimed, shocked. "Duo, this isn't the place to start a fi--"

"No, he's right." Wufei let out quietly, looking up at the raging boy. He sighed and bowed his head helplessly. "He's right. We have to go down to the base."

"How?" Trowa asked, voice calm. "We mustn't raise a commotion."

"Trowa's right." Quatre agreed, sitting down by the table. "The last thing we need is running out of there with OZ on our tails. We need time to extract the cure and we need a safe place for Heero."

The rest of the pilots nodded in agreement.

The dim kitchen fell silent as the four boys bowed their heads down in thought, trying to find a solution to their problem.

Suddenly, Duo's head snapped up and a devious smile played on his lips.

"I gotta n' idea."

* * *

PART SIX

* * *

Dark storm clouds, thick with rain and charged with lightning, crawled through the dark night skies. Not a star was sparkling up in the heavens, the full moon hidden behind the black covers of mist. Fog flowed down in the valley, the thick mist crawling down the hills and into the small valley; white and blurry waterfalls of vapor spilling down the steep surface. The trees shook and rattled under the strong winds, the drops of rain that covered the tall planes of grass sparkled as lightning lashed through the heavens.

The only sounds around were the swirling winds and the falling of rain. The valley was completely silent, aside from the occasional howling of a lone wolf.

Racing down a muddy road, making its way through the slippery road that twisted and curled as it went further down the hills, was a motorcycle. The roaring of its engine and the sound of the wheels turning against deep puddles of mud, echoed through the valley.

The vehicle skidded quickly down the hills, heading towards the sparkling lights of the base, beaconing in the night. It cut its way through the harsh winds, the rider's long braid flapping violently against the wind. Rain fell down over the rider's black leather clothes, his chestnut bangs of hair wet and sticking to his face. Sharp violet eyes looked forward, a sense of dark malevolence and determination permeating the very air around him.

Duo clenched his hands around the bike's handles, his eyes narrowing as he approached the base. He could see the gate, a few hundred meters away. Two guards were standing there, under a small, makeshift, shelter from the rain. They were armed but they weren't paying much attention to their surroundings.

Duo smiled darkly, driving down the finale curves that lead up to gate. He pressed the gas harder, and the engine roared.

The guards looked up, startled.

Duo chuckled to himself, reaching up a hand to push his damp bangs aside. Driving down the rest of distance between him and the guards, Duo put his best Joker-mask on, and came into a quick halt, the bike turning and splattering mud and water everywhere. He killed the engine and jumped off the bike, flipping back his water-soaked braid.

The guards looked up, startled, as Shinigami approached them with determined steps, carrying a box in his hands.

Duo grinned, waving his box at the guards. "Pizza delivery!"

* * *

Lightning cut through the skies, and the roar of thunder rolled through the valley. Heavy rain crashed against the roof and windows, making a loud noise as it descended. The downpour of rain fell onto the large tiled roof, pouring down like a large waterfall, the water sliding down the glass of Heero's bedroom window.

Heero lay on his side, facing the window, his eyes closed in sleep. A thick blanket was tucked around his thin body. The room was dark and silent, aside for the sound of rain against the window.

Lightning lashed through the darkness again and Heero's eyes flew wide open. He flinched at the loud roar of thunder, and then sighed. He reached a hand up from underneath the covers, reaching for the silver chain that dangled down from his neck, the cross lying over the bed. He closed his hand around the delicate cross, taking a deep breath. His blue eyes looked around the room, noticing that it was empty. Everything was quiet. Too quiet.

Heero sighed and closed his eyes. Duo promised that they'd be back soon. How long ago was it? How long did he sleep? He cursed at his condition, feeling bad for sleeping all through the week. He had completely lost the sense of time. He didn't even know what day it was!

But Duo promised that they'd be back soon, so he probably didn't sleep for long. He wondered where they went. Probably something to do with the mission. Duo didn't say anything. At least, he wasn't sure that he did. He was so out of it when Duo came into his room, saying that the four of them were going out for a short while. His mind was so dazed, barley functioning, so he just nodded and went back to sleep.

Heero coughed, and then smiled slightly to himself. He tightened his hold on the cross, looking up at the window, following the downpour of rain with his eyes. Duo had given him his cross. Heero remembered him whispering something about how it will protect him when he was gone. Or something like that. He wasn't sure. He was too sleepy. But nevertheless, it made him smile, remembering the shine in Duo's violet eyes as he held his hand and brushed his hair aside, promising to be back soon.

It was so odd how he was getting so used to Duo's touch. A few days ago, he could barely stand the company of the loudmouthed boy. But now, it was different. He had discovered a whole new side to Duo. He got to see past the joker-mask. He got to see the real boy behind Duo's smile.

Heero chuckled to himself, shaking his head. Usually, people said it about him. He had heard the other pilots talk about it. Hell, even that Relena chick was always insisting that his soldier pretense was just that, a mask. But he already knew that. Everybody wears a mask, why should he be any different? And why would Duo be any different? He was just happy that Duo allowed him to see beyond that clown-mask. And in return, he had decided to take off his mask for Duo. Which, he had to admit, was inevitable, with the high fever and all. It was getting harder to keep in control. He barely remembered all that he said, but he was sure that it was more than he would have said if he were in his right mind.

Heero coughed loudly and shivered. It was getting colder. He pulled the blanket higher, chills running through his body. He took a few deep breaths, and then coughed again. The small cough soon turned into a loud coughing fit. Heero's gasps and throaty coughing filled the room, as the boy's slim body shook on the small bed.

Eventually, he calmed down, and slumped tiredly onto the bed. He sighed, closing his eyes, exhausted. He felt something wet slid down his chin, and opened his eyes again, puzzled. He reached up a trembling hand, wiping the liquid off his chin. He brought two fingers up to his face, and his blue eyes widened.

Blood.

He had coughed out blood.

That's probably NOT such a good sign...

Sighing, Heero closed his eyes, letting his hand drop down to the bed. He tightened his hold around the silver cross.

He was running out of time.

But he had to make it. Duo promised just a little longer. He will try. He had to try. For Duo, he will try.

Heero rolled over in his bed, coughing in the dark.

Outside, the storm continued raging.

* * *

Duo smirked at the two stunned guards, coming to stand right in front of them, looking up at the two older men with fearless amethyst eyes. He was a head shorter than the two guards, but he didn't let it count as a disadvantage. He was seven times deadlier than them.

"Pizza delivery?!" One of the guards exclaimed, looking up at his friend in question. "Were you informed about this?"

The second guard just shrugged.

The other guard sighed and turned back to Duo. He frowned. "So, uh, where's Nick?"

"Oh, he called in sick today." Duo answered casually, pushing a few wet bangs of hair aside. He smiled slyly at the guard. "My guess is that the bastard had himself a date..." He winked, poking the guard with his elbow.

The second guard chuckled. "Ha! That would be Nick alright!"

The other guard seemed to relax, and looked down at Duo's package, easing his weapon down. "So, what have you got for us?"

Duo smiled and reached down to take a small piece of paper out of his pocket. "Let me see..." He muttered, brining the wet piece of paper up to his face. "I got an order here for one, uh..." He shifted the wet paper in his hand, trying to make out what the scribbled letters said. But the paper was wet from the rain; the ink leaking down and the words couldn't be read. He shrugged helplessly, grinning inwardly at his little act, and turned to the guard. "Maybe you guys can make this out?" He said with a sigh, handing the paper up to the man's face.

In the corner of his eyes, he caught a small movement, and he smiled slightly to himself as he managed to catch a glimpse of a small blond head sneaking in the shadows. He turned back to the two guards, who were currently busy at looking down at the paper.

"No, can't understand a word." One of them said, sighing. He handed the paper to Duo. "Damn storm... you don't remember who placed the order?"

Duo shook his head. "Hey, I'm just covering up for my buddy Nick while he's shagging with some gal, ya know?"

"We're sorry, we can't let you stay if you don't know who ordered this." The second guard let out apologetically. "Maybe there was a mistake. In any case, you'll have to go back."

"Go back!?" Duo exclaimed, voice angry. "I just drove about a billion miles through a fucking storm and you're telling me to go back!?"

"Sorry." The guard let out, preparing to turn away. Duo's eyes widened when he saw he was about to walk to where a few certain figures where tiptoeing through the dark.

"HEY!" He called after him, and the guard whirled back, startled. Duo growled, stalking over to the man, waving an accusing finger up in the air. "Lets make one thing clear here, mister! I am NOT leaving until someone takes this God damned pizza! I did NOT drive down here for nothing!"

"Okay! Okay! You know what, we'll take it!" The other guard grunted, reaching for the box.

Duo smirked and whirled around to face him. He stretched out his hand impatiently, his foot tapping against the muddy road. He glared up at the guards, his face angry. "That will be sixty five dollars and twenty nine cents." He smirked. "And that does NOT include the tip for driving down to this hellhole!"

The guard's face paled. "Sixty... five... dollars and twenty nine cents?!?!?!" He looked up at his friend, smirking. "Um, maybe you should pay this time."

"Nah, it's okay. You can pay."

"No, no I insist... you can pay..."

Duo smirked to himself as the two began fighting over the money, glaring down at each other and not paying much attention to the three figures who slipped silently through the gate.

* * *

The windows suddenly flew wide open and a strong wind crashed into the room. Sharp drops of rain were blown in by the wind, wetting the pink carpet and hitting Heero's curled up body on the bed. The Japanese boy sighed, and opened his eyes. He turned around slowly to look at the window, and his eyes gazed numbly at the curtains as they flipped violently under the strong wind, wet from the heavy rain.

The cool drops of water were blown straight into Heero's fevered face, and the boy indulged himself with the cool feeling.

Lightning stroke and thunder roared, and the dark room was filled with a blinding flash of light. Heero's eyes looked up again, and then widened as he spotted the girl standing by the window. Again the bright blue flash and Heero gasped at the frightening sight of the little girl. She was standing still, her white dress flipping in the wind, her fists clenched and her blue eyes piercing. She was looking down silently at Heero, her pale face darkened by an ominous and cold glare.

Heero swallowed and pushed himself up, sitting on the bed and panting. The thin white fabric of his shirt was quickly getting soaked with water, his messy bangs of dark hair swinging left and right under the strong wind. He locked his gaze with the girl's dead eyes, returning her piercing gaze in a calm silence.

Again a flash of lightning, and the girl's eyes suddenly darted down, looking sharply at the shiny object that dangled down Heero's neck, thin drops of rain glistering in the flashing blue light. She slowly turned her gaze up, looking at Heero in question, though her gaze was still icy.

Heero reached to cup the cross in his hand, slowly looking down at it. He looked up at the girl again.

"It's from Duo."

The girl did not respond, and only took a few steps forward, nearing the bed. She stopped right in front of Heero, slowly reached her small hand up. She took hold of the cross, examining it from every direction.

Heero watched as she ran her small fingers over the delicate cross, running the pad of her forefinger up and down the silver object. Her gaze was sad and forlorn, as she carefully wiped away a few drops of rain off the cross.

And then she forcefully ripped the cross of his neck.

"Hey!" Heero called, startled. "That's not mine! Give it back!" He exclaimed, glaring down at her. He reached to take it away from her, but the girl quickly pulled away, jumping out of his reach, still glaring at him.

"Give! It! Back!" He growled, launching towards the girl.

But she just jumped out of the way again.

Heero fell down to the floor, face down.

He coughed weakly, again spitting out some blood. He moaned miserably, wiping his mouth. He just continued lying there, breathless, rain pouring down over his fevered body. After an endless silence, Heero looked up at the girl, panting, unable to push himself off the floor. "Please give it back. It's not mine..." He whispered hoarsely, his cobalt eyes pleading with the girl. "Please?"

The girl looked down at him sadly, still holding the cross in her hand. She slowly walked to Heero, and kneeled down in front of him. She reached down for his hand, and Heero flinched when he felt her icy touch. He briefly wondered why he could now feel her touch, but then he was distracted when the girl put the small cross in his hand, closing his fingers around it.

He looked up at her, puzzled, and was captured in the endless blue of her eyes.

The girl smiled sadly at him, still holding his hand in hers, pushing his fingers down against the cross.

"This is where you'll find me."

* * *

"I don't care who'll fucking pay! I just wanna get out of here already!" Duo roared, glaring up at the two guards. The two idiots were still fighting over the damn pizza, yelling and arguing like there was no tomorrow. All around them were curious soldiers, who came to see what was the commotion all about. They were all looking very amused by the little incident, chuckling to themselves and watching with great interest.

Duo was giving his best show at being stubborn and boneheaded, not letting the guards get away without paying. He whirled around to their small `crowd', pointing up an accusing finger.

"Now look ya all! I KNOW that one of you bums ordered this pizza, so just be a God damn man and step out!" He shouted, glaring at them one by one.

The soldiers just chuckled and shrugged. Some shook their heads.

Duo fought the urge to smirk at the situation. "Don't just stand there and stare you idiots! Someone come and pay for the God damned pizza!"

It was no big surprise that no one volunteered.

Duo growled. "I'm warning you! If one of you ain't gonna come and claim this pizza you will lose your free drink! There will be NO free drink privileges for you! Uh uh! Not at all! Now come and take the damn box already!"

Again a few chuckles, as Duo continued to get nothing but blank stares. He rolled his eyes. Gee, you would think that someone would have done something by now... Ch! Stupid OZ...

He caught a small movement in the corner of his eyes, and carefully looked up. He could see Quatre's hand wave his way, and his grinned inwardly. Mission accomplished, Heero. He thought with a smirk and then snapped his head up, glaring up at the guards.

"Fine! You know what?! Take it! I certainly don't need it! Sixty five bucks is not a price one would stand in the rain for!" He snorted, shoving the pizza box into the men's hands. He then stomped over to his bike and climbed up, glaring at the soldiers around.

"But you can forget about the free drink!" He called, starting the engine. "There would be NO free drink for you tonight!" He spat, and the engine roared. "Good! Bye!"

Baffled, the soldiers looked up at the crazy teen as his motorcycle sped off into the night.

"HEY!" One of the guard called, startled.

All pairs of eyes darted back to him, and then a loud roar of laughter echoed through the crowd as they realized that the guard was standing there, holding an empty box in his hand.

Duo's motorcycle raced through the night, the roar of his engine echoing in the valley.

Hold on, Heero. Duo thought as he raced up the hills, the bike cutting through the storm. Just a little longer...

* * *

He was dying. Heero knew that he was. He could feel it. He could feel the end of his being as it neared, his life span slowly dripping like the sand in the hourglass.

He continued lying on the floor, his hot body enjoying the feeling of the cool floor, as rain dripped down from above, soaking his clothes and wetting his fevered skin. He was wearing only a pair of boxers and a white T-shirt, and so his body was already shivering violently from the cold. His eyes were closed, his cheeks flushed with fever, his breath slow and shallow gasps.

"I'm dying, aren't I?" He whispered huskily, glazed blue eyes looking forward at nothing but air.

The little girl, who was sitting down next to him, slowly nodded her head.

Heero sighed and then suddenly chuckled bitterly, closing his eyes. "Maybe I'll get to see her face after all..."

The girl let her gaze down sadly.

"Do you think... do you think she'll want to see me?" Heero whispered feebly, and then coughed. "I've been a bad boy..." He let out with a sad sigh, casting his gaze down sorrowfully.

The girl kept silent, her gaze sad.

Heero opened his eyes and looked up at her. His features softened in compassion. "You miss your mother too, huh?"

The girl slowly nodded.

Heero smiled sadly, reaching his hand up a little and rested it compassionately on her thin arm. "You never told me your name..." He whispered, looking up at her with shimmering cobalt eyes.

The girl turned to look at him, startled.

Heero's smile slowly faded. "Do you mind telling me your name? I... I never knew her name... that girl... she never told me her name..."

The little girl nodded silently in understanding, raising her hand up and putting it over Heero's hand. She smiled down at him kindly, though her were eyes sad and bitter. "You have to hurry up, Onii-san. There isn't much time."

Heero coughed and looked away.

"Please, Onii-san. You have to find me. I want to go home."

Slowly, Heero raised his head up, tearful cobalt eyes looking up at the girl thoughtfully. After some time, he nodded his head and coughed, trying to push himself off the floor. He panted in effort, his arms trembling as he used then to support his weight, pushing himself up. Finally, after much effort, Heero sat down on the floor, panting and looking down at the girl's expectant hazel eyes.

Lightning flashed and thunder roared. Heero whirled his head around and looked up at the window. His deep blue eyes examined the dark heavens for a while, until a jolt of lightning distracted him from his thoughts. He sighed and took a deep breath, turning to face the girl. He smiled at her gently.

"I'll get you home. Your mother's waiting."

* * *

"We're back!" Duo's voice rang throughout the dark halls of the large house, wind and rain pouring in as the front door was opened, the four pilots rushing into the safety of their shelter.

"I'll go set the gear." Wufei stated, running over to the kitchen, a large bunch of equipment in his hands.

"I'll go look for more candles." Quatre muttered, following Wufei.

"Duo," Trowa's voice came softly behind the braided boy. "We'll need another sample."

Duo nodded and rolled up his sleeve. "Sure."

The two walked into the kitchen as well.

Outside, lightning lashed through the sky and the winds howled.

* * *

The minute he was done in the kitchen, getting about half a gallon of blood drained out of him, Duo ran out of the dim room, skipping two stairs at a time as he sprinted up to Heero's room. Still in mid-run, he flung the door open and stormed into the room, his wet braid flying wildly behind him.

"Heero! We're back!" He called, breathless. He stood in the middle of the small room, panting, waiting for his eyes to adjust to the darkness. Water was dripping down his wet bangs, his black clothes also soaked. He narrowed his eyes, trying to get a good look at the bed, but it was too dark.

A flash of blinding blue and Duo's eyes widened.

He ran over to the bed and threw the covers aside. His eyes widened. The bed was empty. And there was blood on the pillow.

Breath frantic, Duo whirled around to look around the room, anxious violet eyes searching in the dark.

But the room was also empty.

Another flash of lightning and Duo's head snapped into the window's direction.

His eyes widened again and he gasped.

The window was wide open. The wooden window shade creaking as they tossed violently back and forth.

Panicked, Duo ran over to the window, leaning down over the wooden windowsill. He cursed as he saw a small and rusty ladder, leading down to the ground, swining and creaking under the strong wind.

"Oh FUCK! Heero!!!"

Without second thought, Duo ran out of the room.

* * *

The wind howled, playing a vicious game with the defenseless trees, rocking them back and forth, laughing as they caved and bent under her assault. The leaves were hanging on to their branches as for dear life, flinging back and forth. Some lost the battle and were violently ripped from their tree, swirling and dancing wildly in the strong currents of wind.

Sharp rain poured down like daggers, crashing to the ground and mud, dozens of puddles splattering water as the drops descended down forcefully. Up in the dark skies thick clouds of rain collided, creating a blinding display of lightning and a low rumble of thunder.

The tall grass that covered the hill swayed from side to side, the dark green meadow resembling a raging ocean.

A pair of bare feet touched down on the muddy ground, cutting their way through the stormy chaos. They sunk into a deep puddle, long white legs getting soaked with mud. But they carried on.

Heero made his way down the hill, struggling against the storm. His arms were raised up in front of his head, shielding his face from the freezing wind as he walked. His clothes, completely soaked with water, clung onto his skin, making him uncomfortable and cold. He was shivering wildly, teeth chattering as he forced himself to carry on. His wild bangs of hair were wet as well, sticking to his face, his glazed blue eyes hidden behind the thick brown curtains. He pushed them aside, grinding his teeth as the sharp and freezing wind hit him in the face like a million needles.

"Ah--hh!!" He let out weakly as he fell, his knees giving way, his body unable to keep walking. He hurried to put two hands in front of him, stopping his fall. He continued sitting there, on his knees, supported by two trembling arms. He panted and coughed, blood splattering down to the muddy ground.

He felt her small hand rest gently on his trembling shoulder, and slowly turned his head up. Glazed blue eyes staring at her numbly.

The little girl smiled, reaching another small hand down for his hand. Heero followed her hand with his eyes, and the blue orbs slightly widened as he discovered that he was still holding Duo's cross, his fist clenched around it as if his life depended on it.

Carefully, the girl took the cross out of his grasp, and slid the chain over his neck, closing the metal fasten. She then turned back to look down at Heero, and smiled compassionately, her eyes begging him.

"All right." Heero rasped, pushing himself up with a groan. "Lets go." He said, and took the girl's hand in his.

The girl smiled and nodded her head.

They continued making their way through the rain, the girl leading Heero through the dark night.

* * *

"HEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEROOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

The front door was violently pushed open, and Duo's voice rang through the storm, swallowed by the strong wind.

"HEEEEEEROOOOOO!!!!!!!" He called out desperately, running out of the house and into the storm. "CAN YOU HEAR ME, HEERO?!!!!!!"

"Duo!" Quatre called after him, running out of the house as well. "Duo! What happened?"

"It's Heero! He ran off somewhere!" Duo explained, shouting over the wind.

"Oh no!" The blond boy exclaimed, a hand over his heart.

"HEEEEEEEEEEROOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" Duo screamed from the top of his lungs, running deeper into the storm. "HEEEEEEEEEEEEEROOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" His clothes, which still hadn't dried from his last trip in the rain, were immediately soaked again. His braid suddenly felt heavy under all the weight of the water, and it tapped forcefully against his bottom, flying up and down as he ran. "WHERE ARE YOU!!?!!!"

Quatre hurried to join the search, running in a different direction from Duo, also calling out Heero's name.

In the dim kitchen, Trowa and Wufei worked furiously on the cure.

* * *

PART SEVEN

* * *

Slowly marching through the darkness of the night, the girl led Heero into the small grove behind the large house. By now, Heero was panting hard, his heavy eyelids threatening to close as he forced himself to keep his eyes open and his legs moving. He concentrated on every step, fighting against the strong wind that blew in his direction, making it harder to walk.

The treetops rattled loudly and sharp daggers of rain descend down from above. The grove was dark, not a ray of moonlight to light it. The skies were completely dark and menacing as a bright flash of lightning cut through the heavens.

Heero's trembling feet carried him on, dirty with mud and shivering under the cold. He slipped in a small puddle of mud, falling down with a silent cry.

"Onii-san!" The little girl called worriedly, kneeling down before him. "Onii-san! You have to get up!"

Panting, Heero pushed himself off the muddy ground, and leaned against a tree, trying to catch his breath.

"Onii-san!" The girl begged anxiously. "Please, Onii-san!"

"...rest..." Heero rasped, his breathing heavy. He leaned his head back against the wet tree bark, closing his eyes and letting the rain pour over his heated face. "Just... a little... while..." He whispered, taking deep breaths of air.

The girl sighed but nodded her head, sitting down next to him. Unlike Heero, her white dress was still dry, her hair not even flapping in the wind. She seemed to be completely unaffected by the storm. Heero on the other hand, was soaked to the bone and shivering violently, his teeth chattering. He opened his glazed eyes, and slowly turned his head in the direction they came from. He frowned as lightning stroke and he saw the house, merely a few hundred meters away. Turning his head in the other direction, Heero could see that the girl had led him to the small grove where Duo and he had set the surveillance equipment. He turned to look down at the girl.

"How much further?"

"Not long." She answered quietly, looking in the direction of the base, at the bottom of the steep cliffs that pointed out of the hill. She turned back to Heero, waiting for him to get up.

Sighing heavily, Heero forced himself up to his feet. The two kept on walking, the girl holding Heero's hand as they made their way towards the cliffs.

Lightning cut through the darkness above, and the rain grew stronger.

* * *

"HEEEEEEEEROOOOOOO!!!!!!!!! Dammit! WHERE ARE YOU?!!!!" Duo's voice called into the storm, as the braided boy ran down the hill, nearing the darkness that surrounded the tall trees in the small grove. "HEEEEEEROOOOO!!!!!!"

Lightning lashed up in the sky and the wind grew stronger, throwing a thousand sharp needles of rain at Duo's face.

The braided boy continued searching.

* * *

"Why can't I see the others?" Heero breathed out the question as the two walked onwards. He figured that talking would help him stay awake and help him fight the urge to fall down and sleep forever. "Why just you?"

The little girl shrugged casually. "Because I want you to."

"Why?" Heero rasped, taking another shaky step forward. They were only a few meters from the cliffs, walking slowly through the dark night.

"So you could help me. She said that you would."

Heero turned to look down at her, puzzled. "Who said?"

The girl shrugged again. "The other little girl. She said you were nice."

Heero blinked, completely baffled. He looked left and right, and then sneaked a peek over his shoulder, but he could see nothing but the swaying trees and the cold darkness of the night. He turned back to the little girl. "Is she here now?"

The girl nodded. "She's always here. Mary too."

Heero looked around once more, his blue eyes narrowing as he searched the darkness. But there was no one there. He felt the girl stop walking, and came into a halt. Looking forward, he saw that they had reached the edge of the hill, standing above the sheer drop of cliffs, which led down into a dark abyss.

Panting to catch his breath, Heero tightened his hold on the girl's hand, and slowly turned to look at her. "What now?"

The girl sighed and let her gaze down.

"What's wrong?" Heero asked kindly, kneeling down before her. He coughed weakly, taking a few long gasps for air, and then reached up a hand to caress her icy cheek. He smiled gently. "You still haven't told me your name." He reminded her softly, running his fingers over her tender skin.

The girl sighed again and slowly looked up at him, her hazel eyes shimmering in the dark. She smiled sadly, and nodded her head. But she gave no answer. Instead, she reached up two small hands, and ran her fingers over the silver cross.

Heero looked down at the cross as well, confused by her fascination with it.

"This is where you will find me." The girl repeated the words she had spoken not so long ago. She looked up at him, her little face sad. "I cannot go any further."

Heero nodded his head in understanding. He reached up a hand to hold the cross, his eyes closing for a brief moment.

"Onii-san?"

"Hai." Heero let out quietly, his cobalt eyes opening slowly. He took a deep breath, and turned to watch the cliffs again. His blue eyes studied the steep surface of the stony slope, narrowing as they focused on one particular overhang stone. It was the same stone he had been watching the day they had arrived to the place, while he was setting up the equipment with Duo. And it suddenly dawned on him, that the thing he had seen that day was not a game of light and shadows, but something else. Something that made him flinch back then, for he was surprised to see it there.

He looked back down at the girl. "It was you. That day, when I got sick."

The girl nodded, looking up at him with her large blue eyes. "Will you go?"

Heero nodded his head and clenched his hand around the cross. "Of course."

* * *

"HEEEEEEROOOO!!!!" Duo shouted as he ran into the small grove, making his way between tall trees and thick darkness. "Heero! Are you here?!" He called out again, panting hard as he ran. "Heero!?"

He cursed as he suddenly collided with something, and it apparently broke. He looked down and saw that he had stepped over a piece of their surveillance gear. "Damn it! Not now..." He muttered, kicking the damn thing aside. He snapped his head back up.

"HEEEEEEEEEROOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

"Duo!"

Gasping, Duo whirled around, but was disappointed when he saw it was only Quatre, running in his direction.

"Any luck?" The blond asked as he came to stand next to Duo, panting from the effort of his run. He too was completely soaked with rain, his blond bangs of hair sticking to his forehead. His eyes were moist as well, shimmering with worry.

"No." Duo sighed, shaking his head. "Damn it! How can he move so fast in his condition!?" He kicked the piece of equipment again, and it went soaring up in the air, and then crashed a few meters ahead. Duo sighed and let his head drop sadly. "I shouldn't have left him..."

"Duo..." Quatre let out softly, placing a comforting hand on his friend's shoulder. "Don't lose hope. We have to keep looking. Giving up is not like you."

Duo snorted and rolled his eyes. "There's only so much disappointment a person can get..." He whispered, looking down at the ground. His violet eyes shone with unshed tears as he gazed down at his feet.

Quatre remained silent, having no words to comfort the boy's pain.

"I just don't want to lose him again..." Duo whispered, sniffling quietly. "I... I thought that maybe... ya know, just maybe, he'll be... you know..? And then..." He was mumbling incoherently, sniffling from time to time as a silver trail of tears slid down his damp cheeks.

"Duo..." Quatre whispered mournfully, and gathered the weeping boy into his arms. Duo sank into the embrace, burying his face on the smaller boy's shoulder. "Shh..." Quatre soothed, stroking Duo's hair softly. "He'll make it. You'll see. Have faith, Duo. Have faith..."

The braided boy chuckled bitterly, but it sounded more like a sob than a chuckle. "Faith..." He muttered into Quatre's shoulder. "In what exactly? For all we know he's already dead..."

"You can't think like that." Quatre whispered in his ear.

Duo sniffled. "I tired to have faith, Quat... I always try... but I can't... it just doesn't work..." He sighed and closed his eyes sadly. "I gave him my cross..."

"And why is that?" Quatre asked quietly, stroking his hair.

"Because... because I thought... maybe... I dunno..." Duo mumbled, sniffling.

"Maybe," Quatre began, reaching down to cup Duo's chin and slowly pulling his head up. He smiled kindly, looking into Duo's tearful eyes. "Maybe, deep inside, you do believe. Maybe, you're just afraid to admit it."

Duo just stood there, gaping down at his friend, rain pouring from above, sliding down his hair and to his face like waterfall, mixing with his tears.

"Everyone has his moments of doubt, Duo. And it's our faith that gets us through them." He reached up and wiped Duo's tears away. "Have faith in him[2], Duo. Heero can make it. I'm sure he can."

Duo took a few moments to let it all sink in, and then finally took a deep breath, and smiled sadly. "Thanks, Q-man. I needed to hear that."

Quatre smiled back. "Anytime, Duo." He looked up ahead, at the direction of the cliffs, and then back at Duo. "Now, lets keep looking."

Duo hurried to wipe his tears and then nodded his head. "Kay."

* * *

Large waterfalls of rain ran down the sharp cliffs, slippery stones glistering under the dim moonlight that filtered through the clouds. The rush of water filled the air, as the flood poured down the hill and crashed into a large puddle, now almost a small lake, at the bottom of the steep hill.

Making his way down the slippery slop, Heero groaned in effort as he eased himself down from another large foundation of rocks. Small stones slipped and rolled down into the abyss as Heero's hands searched for a good hold. The rocky surface was slippery and wet, making it hard for the boy to find a good grasp as he continued to climb down. He made his way in the dark, having no real idea where he was going. He just knew that he had to get down. The answer as to why and where was beyond the capabilities of his fevered mind.

Water fell down on his head as he accidentally stepped under a waterfall of rain. He sneezed and shivered, shaking his head from side to side to get his wet bangs out of his eyes. He took a few moments to catch his breath, and looked around him.

It was a long way down. He couldn't see the bottom of the hill, but he could hear the rush of water as it flowed down into the `lake'. He narrowed his eyes, trying to see through the darkness, and turned his gaze to look left and right.

Right. He had to go to the right. He had no idea why, but he knew that he must. There was no need to go down any further. He had to go right.

Concentrating on his every move, Heero began to move to the right, climbing up rocks and searching for a hold in the dark.

He was getting closer. He knew it.

* * *

"Oh fuck." Duo spat as he looked down into the abyss. Quatre and he had reached it in no time, and now they were standing at the edge of the cliff, looking down at the waterfalls of rainwater.

"HEEEEEEEEEEROOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!" Duo screamed down into the chasm, cupping two hands around his mouth as he screamed Heero's name. But he doubted that his voice was heard over the rush of falling water. He looked up at Quatre, a desperate look in his eyes. "Do you think he might have fallen down?" He asked, voice dreadful.

"I don't know, Duo." Quatre whispered, though he knew very well that it was a possibility. He just didn't want to upset Duo any further.

"I'm going down there to look!" Duo hurried to say, already easing himself down a slippery rock.

"Duo! No! That's suicide!" Quatre called in fear. "You don't know for sure that he's down there! And you don't have the gear to climb down such a slope!"

"I DON'T CARE!" Duo roared, looking up angrily at Quatre. His body was mostly down already, only two arms and a head peeking on the ground level. He bent his head down to look at his dangling feet. He saw a suitable surface for landing, and prepared to jump down.

Quatre's hands stopped him. "Duo- no! At least wait here until I get you some of the equipment!"

Duo rolled his eyes and resisted the urge to growl. "Fine." He spat, glaring up at Quatre. "But hurry up or I'll just jump down there!"

"I'll be right back!" Quatre promised, breathless. He got up and ran into the grove. "Wait for me, Duo!"

Duo sighed and forced himself up to the muddy surface of the hill. He threw himself down at the ground and waited, violet eyes fighting to see in the dark as he scanned the chasm once more.

"You better not be down there, Heero."

* * *

Long and slim fingers slowly felt around in the dark, brushing against the wet and slick surface of rocks. A pair of bare feet, scratched and covered with mud, timidly took a step sideways, walking along a tall wall of smooth black stones. It was merely a foot of horizontal rock separating him and the gorge, and if he took a step back or lost his balance, he was sure to fall into a black and wet death. Keeping that in mind, Heero slowly made his way along the stony wall, his trembling white fingers feeling around for a rough surface to grab onto.

His damp clothes were now torn, the white fabric of his shirt and boxers wet and covered with mud. The tight and cold material clung onto his skin, wrapped tightly around his slender figure. His hair was flapping wildly in the wind, his teeth chattering and his whole body quaking under the cold, which made it quite difficult to keep balance.

A few rocks rolled down to the black abyss, making a slight sound as they fell. Heero forced himself to keep moving, ignoring the warning bells in his head. He had to keep moving. There wasn't much time. The burning in his lungs and the foggy haze of his mind were enough of an indication.

Lightning flashed up above, and for a moment Heero thought that he could hear his name echo down into the valley. But maybe it was just the thunder.

His fingers continued searching, his hand stretched ahead of his body, securing his route before his shaking feet took another step.

Suddenly, they brushed over something, like a long and deep scar in the rock.

Heero frowned and came to a stop, thrusting his head aside to get his damp bangs out of his eyes. He blinked against the darkness, but the blackness did not sway. He sighed deeply and settled for using only his sense of touch. He felt along the lines of the deep carving, tracing it slowly up and down.

His eyes widened as a picture of the ingrained shape was created in his mind.

A cross.

It was an image of a cross, embed into the large stone.

Breath quickening with anticipation, Heero's fingers began to search around frantically. He threw the palm of his hand against the large wall, as if slapping the stone, feeling around. The sound of his flesh hitting the slippery wall echoed around the gorge, until Heero's hand flew straight forward into thin air. The wall ended, just like that.

Lightning stroke and cobalt eyes flew wide open. In the brief flash of light, Heero could see the reason for the wall's disappearance. He was standing in the entry of a cave.

* * *

"Oh fuck it all!" Duo spat at no one in particular. Nearly five minutes had passed and Quatre wasn't back yet. He wasn't about to waste more time, he needed to find Heero!

He looked down into the gorge again, narrowing his eyes to see well in the dark. He was lying on his stomach, his knuckles curled around the edge of the cliff; his head leaning down so he could get a good look at the vertical cliff. His braid dangled down as well, swinging wildly in the wind.

"HEEEEEEEEEEROOOOOOOOO!" He shouted with all his might, just as lightning stork up above. The roar of thunder swallowed his cry. "Dammit!" He cursed, glaring up at the heavens. "Just a little cooperation! That's ALL I'm asking for!" He shouted up at the skies, his voice angry. "Just let me have this one GOD DAMNED THING! JUST THIS FUCKING ONCE! THAT'S ALL I'M ASKING!"

As if answering, the lightning and thunder returned, and the rain poured down even harder.

Duo rolled his eyes. "Figures." He spat, looking down again. "When was the last time you sent me help anyway, huh?!"

Again a bright flash of blue lit the dark skies and Duo's eyes widened.

"Oh... my... Go..." He whispered, slowly leaning down into the abyss. "That's my..."

Another lash of lightning and again his violet eyes widened. They widened because, as the flashing blue stroke, Duo could see a shiny object down in the chasm, swinging left and right as it slowly moved along the side of the mountain. It glistered under the lightning, sparkling and winking in Duo's direction.

Duo's mouth hung wide open and he jumped up to his feet. "That's my cross!"

When lightning stoke again, Duo was no longer standing at the top of the hill.

* * *

Slowly, carefully, Heero walked into the cave. The place was completely dark, the sound of water dripping slowly echoing in the cool air, bouncing off the stony walls. Heero felt his way around the walls, his shallow breath echoing in the dark cavern.

Outside, the wind howled and the rain fell harder. The low rumble of thunder echoed through the cave and Heero stopped to catch his breath. He breathed in the crisp and cool air, leaning heavily against the wall, panting. He kept his gaze up at the tall ceiling, wincing a little as lightning flashed through the cave.

He sighed and pushed himself off the wall. Slowly, he walked deeper into the carven, holding the walls for support as his aching feet took one step at a time.

* * *

"DUO! DUUUUUUUUUOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!" Quatre's voice screamed against the storm, and the call of thunder was his only answer. He was standing at the edge of the gorge, looking down worriedly. In his hand, were a long rope, a few spears and night vision equipment. But it appeared that there was no use, his foolish friend went down without caring for his own safety.

"DUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

* * *

At the sound of Quatre's voice, Duo looked up, wincing as sharp drops of rain his straight in the face. Shaking his head, Duo looked down again, and continued his climb into the darkness. Quatre meant well, but he just didn't understand. He can't afford to lose Heero. Not when he had just realized how much he needed the boy. How much they needed each other. They needed each other to fight off the loneliness, to find comfort and ease. They needed to find a friend in one another.

And he'll be damned if he'll let his best friend throw himself off a cliff. Again.

He reached up a hand to grab hold of some solid surface, carefully lowering himself down. His violet eyes scanned the cliffs as lightning cut through the skies. He could no longer spot the sparkling vision of his cross, but he had the general idea of where it might be.

Grinding his teeth and tensing his body, Duo continued his descent, determination shining in his purple-blue eyes.

* * *

A loud sound echoed throughout the cave as Heero fell down to the ground, his feet giving way. Wincing in pain, he coughed loudly and sighed. He took a few moments to control his breathing, and then slowly pushed himself up to his feet. Thunder roared from a far, but Heero was too distracted to take notice. He concentrated on his breathing and walking, his legs stiff and numb from cold as he forced himself to move. Now that he was out of the rain, there was only the cold wind against his wet body, making him ten times colder. He shivered violently, wrapping two arms around himself as he walked.

He bumped his head into something and staggered back in pain. Lightning hit and he could see that the ceiling of the cave was much lower now, and he was standing in the opening of another, smaller, cave. Sighing and rubbing his aching forehead, Heero went down to his knees and examined the smaller opening, feeling around with his hands.

His eyes widened briefly as his fingers brushed against another, smaller, cross. And another. And another. There were at least thirteen of them, carved all around the smaller cave. Knowing that he was getting closer to his target, Heero bent down and crawled into the cave.

* * *

"Ouch." Duo let out as his fingers slipped into a slot in the stone, creating a large scratch on the pad of his finger. Blood oozed from the narrow wound and Duo wiped it over his shirt. Sighing in irritation, he slowly ran his hand over the sharp slot in the stone, and frowned as he felt around, and saw that it was beginning to take shape.

"DUUUUUUUUUUUUOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Quatre's voice rang from above and Duo let go of the carved shape. He looked up, sighing. "DOWN HERE!" He called as loud as he could.

There was silence, and then: "WHY DIDN'T YOU WAIT, DUO?! I WAS WORRIED SICK!" Quatre called down again and Duo rolled his eyes. He decided to ignore Quatre and continue his search. Pressing his hand against the slippery wall, Duo moved onwards, feeling along the side of the wall.

"DUO?! ARE YOU THERE!?"

Suddenly, there was no wall to press against to, and Duo reached out a second hand, grasping what he thought was the edge of the wall.

"DUO?"

"Wait a minute, Q-man! I found something!" A small smile touched his lips as lightning flashed and he saw what he had found. "I found a cave."

* * *

After a few meters of crawling, Heero could feel the narrow cave getting wider, and the ceiling getting taller. He reached up a hand to feel around, and indeed, he had reached the end of the smaller cave. Crawling out of the narrow shaft, Heero dusted himself off and coughed. Dust and soil were clinging to his went hair and clothes, but at least there was no more wind or rain.

He looked around the darkness of the hall. There was actually a little light in the huge hall, and looking up, Heero could see small holes up in the ceiling, letting in some rain and moonlight. He blinked a few times, waiting for his vision to adjust to the dim light. He looked around him, seeing the shiny outlines of the wet walls, water glistering in the moonlight. But the center of the cave was completely dark.

Sighing, Heero took a few steps forward, his hollow steps echoing in the blackness. He stopped after a while of aimless walking, and looked around again.

Lightning stroke and the cave was briefly lit with a flashing blue light. Heero whirled his head back towards the center of the cave, positive that he had caught something in the corner of his eye.

Again the flashing blue and Heero's eyes widened.

A low thunder rolled in the distance and then another blinding flash of lightning.

Shocked, Heero fell down to his knees, wide blue eyes looking up ahead.

Another powerful jolt of lightning, and Heero forced himself to take a quick breath.

The vision before him was lit in another flash of blue.

And all he could think of, was the little girl's face. It flashed before his eyes, her large hazel eyes and her smiling lips. Her small and innocent looks, and her childish little laughter. It all came in quick white flashes and then there was nothing but the horrifying vision in front of him.

This great and unstoppable force boiled deep inside of him until he could hold it no more.

Heero's head snapped up at the heavens and he screamed.

* * *

"HEERO!" Duo yelled, the terrified scream still ringing in his ears. "Oh God! Heero!" He called desperately, running into the cave. He stopped, panting, looking around as another lightning lashed through the skies. But there was no one there.

"HEEEEEEEEROOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!"

Another bright glow of lightning and Duo spotted the smaller cave. Without any thought, he ran to it and dropped to his knees.

"HEERO! ARE YOU THERE?!?!" He called as he began crawling down the narrow shaft, the wind howling loudly in his ears, and his heart beating frantically. He panted as he hurried down that cave, the palms of his hands getting cut by many small and sharp rocks. But he didn't care.

He had to take a few moments to adjust to the dim light as he entered the large hall, his violet eyes looking around in urgency.

He spotted his friend sitting down on his knees, his body still as he looked up at something ahead of him. If it weren't for Heero's bright white clothes, Duo would have never spotted him there, so small and fragile looking as he stared up at the ceiling. The sight reminded Duo of all the pictures of various Saints they used to have in the church. Looking up at the heavens, their tortured body and tormented soul asking for salvation.

"HEERO!" Duo forced himself to snap out of it and quickly jumped up to his feet. He ran over to his friend, and then another flash of light came from above.

Duo stopped with a gasp, his wide eyes looking up in horror.

There, in the center of the cave, stood a large, wooden, cross. And on that cross, sharp barbwire all around it, was a small, twisted, skeleton. It was tied to the cross, the small body, clad in a simple white dress, was tied in the shape of the cross. Crucified. Damned and left there to rot in the awful act of crucifixion.

Duo dropped down to his knees, right next to Heero. His mouth was wide open, his eyes unable to leave the sight of the small and fragile body, her little head dangling down to the side, the empty holes of her eyes looking down at him in a frightening stare of death.

He was speechless. He couldn't even scream. He was somewhat aware of Heero being next to him, but his mind was too shocked to process the information.

And then another lightning, and Duo's eyes widened even more if possible.

All around the cave, on the walls and on the ceiling, were large graffiti marks, glowing in the blinding blue of light. Slogans, of all shapes, colors and sizes were imprinted on the walls: `Death to the enemies!', `We decide who lives or dies!', `Glory to his Excellency!', `Death to the colonies!', `Burn Gundam! Burn!'

And then the largest one of them, in huge and glowing writing, standing there right before their eyes:

`OZ!'

A muffled sound echoed through the cave, and Duo flinched, finally snapping out of it. He numbly tore his gaze off the horror that was in front of him, and turned to look down at the source of the sound.

Heero had passed out.

He lay lifeless on the ground, his body devoid of the strength to even shiver under the cold. Duo reached down a shaking hand and touched his friend, his hand trembling as he searched for a pulse. He was relived to find it, very weak and unsteady, but still, it was there.

Duo sighed heavily and turned to look up at the crucified body. He shivered and then coughed. He couldn't help it and he began vomiting, leaning down on all four, gagging and crying at the same time.

From somewhere behind, Quatre's voice called out worriedly. "Duo! Are you here? Where are you?!"

Using the ropes Quatre had carried, the two pilots managed to somehow hoist Heero's limp body up from the cliff. Once back on solid surface, Duo hurried to gather the unconscious boy into his arms and ran towards the house. Heero's arms and head dangled down lifelessly, swinging from side to side as Duo ran.

He kicked the door open and rushed upstairs. Quatre quickly informed the others of the situation and hurried to follow.

Duo stormed into Heero's room and sat the boy over the small table by the bed. He quickly tore the clothes off the boy's body, throwing the wet fabric aside. Heero was now shivering violently, and Duo scooped him off the table and hurried to put him in bed. He covered him tightly with the thick blanket, just as Quatre and the others ran into the room. Quatre was carrying a few more blankets, and he quickly tossed them to Duo. The braided boy nodded and tucked Heero under the thick covers.

Trowa and Wufei came to stand by the bed, eyeing Duo worriedly. The Deathscythe pilot was soaked to the bone and shivering as well.

"Don't mind me!" He growled and gestured at Heero.

Sighing, Trowa nodded and turned back to the bed. Wufei kneeled down beside Heero, taking the boy's trembling arm from underneath the covers. He held up a syringe in his hand.

Duo felt a warm blanket being gently placed over his shoulders, and he looked at Quatre thankfully. The blond nodded in acknowledgement. Duo wrapped the blanket around him tightly, shivering, as he watched Wufei inject Heero with the antidote. Once he was done, he covered Heero again and got up to his feet.

"Will it work?" Duo asked through chattering teeth.

"We can only hope so." Trowa answered solemnly. "We will know by morning."

Duo nodded, not tearing his gaze off Heero's sleeping form.

"Will you be all right, Duo?" Quatre asked softly.

The boy didn't answer for a while, and then finally looked up from the bed. "I'll know by morning."

The three nodded in understanding and prepared to leave the room. Before leaving, Quatre turned to face Duo again. "You need to get warm, Duo. You're shivering."

"I will." Duo whispered. "Thanks."

Quatre nodded and left the room, closing the door silently.

Sighing, Duo tossed the blanket down to the floor. Body shivering under the sudden cold, Duo peeled the wet clothing off his freezing skin, and tossed them aside as well. Shaking, he made his way to the bed and crawled under the covers, along side with Heero. He wrapped a chilling hand over the other boy's body, trying to share body heat. He rested his head on Heero's chest, snuggling closer to him as much as possible.

"Don't get any ideas, soldier-boy." He whispered to his friend, teeth still chattering. "This is... strictly... business..." He finished, trying to control his trembling. He blushed slightly as he realized that the two of them were lying naked in Heero's all-too-small bed, but then dismissed the thought quickly. This was not a time for hentai thoughts.

He reached up the hand that was wrapped around Heero's body, his fingers searching for his cross. He brushed his fingers over the delicate object, and turned his head up so he could look at Heero's face.

"Don't let me down now, you hear?" He whispered, hand clenched around the cross. "Not when I'm so close to believe..."

He closed his eyes as tears threatened to come, and buried his face in Heero's chest. The boy's breathing came slow and shallow, but his shivering was slowly stopping.

Duo continued lying next to him, watching the skies through the bedroom window. He continued watching as the skies slowly cleared, the storm gone and the clouds drifting away to reveal a beautiful full moon. He watched as the moon slowly disappeared behind his line of sight, and the skies were colored in the heavenly shades of dawn.

A new day. April seventh, AC 195. Eleven years from Solo's death.

Duo whimpered silently and looked up at Heero's sleeping features. His hold on the cross tightened.

"Please... don't let me down, Heero..."

* * *

EPILOGUE

* * *

Warm rays of light washed over green parks and shiny streets. The air was warm and carried the sweet scent of flowers. Everything was bright and quiet, the singing of birds echoing between tall walls and buildings.

He ran down the street, as fast as a streaking bullet. He let himself be caressed by the warm wind as he ran; his wild bangs of hair tousled by the soft breeze. A spark of laughter danced in his deep blue eyes as he launched up in the air, jumping over a tall wire fence.

He landed down on a soft grassy surface and continued running. He smiled to himself, engulfed by the sweet air and warm light. It caressed his skin and he inhaled deeply, enjoying the clean feeling in his lungs. The burden that was there not long ago was gone, and he could barely remember that it existed. He ran up a hill, slightly panting at the effort, but he felt refreshed nonetheless.

Reaching the top of the hill, he bent his body forward and rolled down the grassy slope, laughing as the world preformed a merry dance around him. He landed at the bottom of the hill, dizzy, but happy. He lay down on his back, his legs spread over the soft green meadow, his fingers playing with the smooth lawn. He looked up at the sky, his blue eyes shining. He smiled to himself, feeling content.

He liked being here. This place was his refuge. Nothing bothered him when he lay here, the soft rays of light washing over his skin, the sweet wind caressing him, tousling his hair playfully, like a mother soothing her child to sleep. There was nothing to disturb the silence but the song of the birds, and he let himself drown in the peaceful bliss.

This place was his favorite of all places in the universe. If he could help it, he would never leave it. This is where he felt good, loved and his mind at ease. After all, this was his home. He should feel safe here. He felt like he belonged between the tall and shiny buildings, the green parks and the towering trees. He knew that no harm could ever come to him here. He knew that a few steps to his right, two floors up and three doors down, was his home. He knew that the minute he'll open the door he'd be greeted with her sweet sweet scent and her smiling face.

"Ne, Onii-san, are you lost?"

But then again, this place was also a source of many nightmares.

This place was the origin of many bad memories and experiences. The peaceful atmosphere would never last long. The minute it was gone, he would forget all about the house a few steps to the right. He would forget about the smiling face and her bright blue dress. There would be only pain and sorrow then, the reminder of what he had destroyed.

His home.

"Ne, are you lost?"

He opened his eyes, blinking against the bright light around him. A large shadow suddenly fell over his face. He was not surprised to see the face of a little girl, big blue eyes looking down at him kindly. He returned her gaze calmly, for after all, he had seen her MANY times.

Slowly, he sat up and looked around. The park was still beautiful and peaceful, but he knew it wouldn't last long. And unlike many other times, this time, it didn't matter. He didn't care anymore. The destruction would come, he knew that. He was prepared for it. But this time, it wouldn't be so bad, because this time, he didn't have to face it alone. He was not alone anymore.

He looked down at his hand and smiled as he saw that he was holding a small silver cross.

He was not alone anymore.

"Ne, Onii-san?" The little voice called again and he turned back to the girl, smiling kindly at her.

"No. I am not lost." He answered softly, his eyes shining in the soft light. "Not any more."

The girl smiled and sat down in front of him. He looked down and saw her little white puppy wag her tail happily, running around in small circles, as if performing a little dance. He smiled at the small animal and reached down a hand to pet the soft fur.

The girl chuckled. "You never caressed Mary before." She commented, looking down at her small dog.

He nodded in agreement. "Yes. I wonder why is that. She's really quite fun." He ruffled the top of the furry head and the little puppy barked happily. He chuckled, enjoying himself.

The little girl smiled.

"Is this a dream?" He finally asked, suddenly unsure. "Or something else?"

The girl shrugged. "If I told you that this isn't a dream, how can you be certain that it isn't?"

He thought for a moment, seeing that she was right. A dream figure could say that it was not a dream, but it doesn't necessarily mean that it's true. After all, a dream figure does what he wants her to do. So, there was only one way to find out. He looked up at her, smiling playfully. "Then tell me something I don't know."

The girl smiled and nodded her head. "I'm Annie[3]."

His deep blue eyes widened in surprise. "A-Ann...ie?"

The girl smiled and nodded. "Yes, and you already know Mary." She gestured down at the dog.

He smiled, feeling as if a great burden had been lifted off his heart. "Annie..." His tested the name on his lips once more, and then his smile suddenly faded and his face paled. He turned his head up to look at her again. "Did I kill you, Annie?"

Annie nodded, but her smile didn't waver. There was not a hint of sadness in her lively blue eyes.

"And Mary..." He mumbled quietly, looking down at the small puppy. "I killed everyone..." He let out sadly, a single silver tear rolling down his cheek. He tightened his hold around the small cross, and turned to face the girl again. "Then why are you... why are you here, with me?"

Annie shrugged. "So you won't be so sad." She smiled shyly. "And I kinda like you."

He smiled back.

"Besides, an eternity is a looooooooooong time."

"And your family?" He asked, voice dreadful. "Did I kill them too?"

The little girl nodded, her eyes suddenly sad. "Yeah..."

"And don't you want to be with them?"

Again she shrugged. "They'll wait. Like I said, we have all the time in the world." She reached down to caress her puppy, playing with her a little and laughing to herself.

A small smile touched his lips and the light slowly returned to his eyes. He watched her play with the little white dog, until realization suddenly dawned on him. His smile disappeared and a worried frown appeared on his features. "Why are you here? Why now? Is it because I died?"

The girl looked up, surprised, as if she didn't expect him to speak so soon. She watched his saddened expression and her eyes filled with compassion.

"I did die, right? I can't be with..." He sighed, another silver tear escaping his eyes. He looked down at Duo's cross, and slowly caressed it with his finger. "I can't be with Duo anymore..."

He felt something touch him gently and he looked up, startled. He saw the girl rest a comforting hand on his shoulder. He felt his heart miss a beat as he looked down into two pools of blue compassion, and the girl smiled at him.

"Don't worry, Onii-san. I'm just here to deliver a message."

He blinked, puzzled. "A message?"

"Hai." The girl nodded her head, still smiling. "She said that she wants to thank you."

"Thank... me?!"

"Yes, for brining her back home."

His eyes widened as the memories rushed back to him. "The girl! Is she... is she all right? Where is she?" He looked around, panicked.

Annie chuckled, her laughter echoing in the silent park. "Don't worry, she's back to where she belongs. And she wanted to thank you, by giving you the same thing."

"What do you... what do you mean?" He asked, finding that he suddenly lost his voice.

The wind picked up, the warm rush of air flying past him, tousling his hair wildly from side to side. He looked up, baffled, as the green park grew brighter and brighter. He looked back at the girl, his eyes fearful. "What's going on?" He asked, raising his voice over the strong wind.

The little girl smiled, and he noticed that she was slowly fading from his vision. "I'll see you around, Onii-san." She whispered before finally disappearing. Mary barked once and ran after her, waging her tail at him and sending him a finale look before finally disappearing into the light.

He remained seated there, on the grass, confused, frightened and very alone. As the wind picked up, he forced himself up on two feet, looking left and right, blinded by the light. He could see his building being swallowed by the strong light, and whirled his head back, only to see the trees and the fence and the park disappear as well.

And then the wind stopped and there was only silence.

He held his breath.

And waited.

The silence stretched for an eternity, and only the beating of his heart was heard within the blinding white light.

One beat. Two. Three.

Something moved within the light, and he whirled around, senses alert.

A melodious laughter filled the endless white void, echoing like the ringing of a dozen silver bells. Something moved towards him, and a sense of peace suddenly came over him. He did not feel threatened anymore, nor did he feel the urge to run. He stood there, completely still, his blue eyes watching silently as a figure stepped from the light. It approached him slowly, her movements graceful. Her bright blue dress flapped gracefully though there was no wind.

His mouth dropped wide open, his blue eyes stunned.

The figure laughed again, her rich laughter engulfing him like a soft blanket. And then her warm arms, long, soft and elegant, wrapped themselves around him, pulling him into a warm embrace.

He smiled, inhaling her sweet sweet scent deeply, unable to get enough of it. He turned his head up; anxious blue eyes shimmering with unshed tears, glistering under the heavenly light. He looked up at her face, seeing her long black hair flapping softly in the "wind", shiny ebony curtains opening to reveal her lovely face.

He smiled, feeling himself drown in the vision of her smile and the depths of her eyes. He wrapped his arms around her tightly and buried his face in her chest, crying like a small child in his mother's embrace.

"Oka-chan..."

The wind picked up and her soft fingers caressed him gently. He cried in her arms, shedding the tears he had been keeping inside for countless of years. Her was a mere child in her embrace, clinging to her as for dear life. He presence engulfed him and he allowed himself to be drawn deeper and deeper into her comforting spirit, drinking as much of her sweet scent and the sound of her loving voice.

"Hush now, my little angel, hush..."

* * *

The early rays of morning light found Heero Yuy sleeping soundly in his bed, the joyous of smiles playing over his content features.

* * *

When he awoke, there was only darkness, a sharp contrast to the heavenly light that surrounded him not long ago. He felt warm and pleasant, the soft touch of thick covers caressing his body. He frowned, not remembering going to bed. He blinked a few times, letting his vision slowly adjust to the dim light. He could tell that the sun was barely rising; the feeling of dawn was in the air. Turning his head slowly to look out the window, he saw the dark skies begin to slowly lighten as the sun crawled out of her hiding to greet another day. The soft sound of awakening birds slowly began to fill the air, and the dew that covered the green meadow sparkled in the pale morning light.

Heero sighed and took a deep breath. That heavy and sick feeling was gone, and his lungs felt as if they've been cleansed of all mucky evil. He smiled and closed his eyes, content with just breathing the crisp air. His numb mind slowly began to drift back to sleep, and the warm and fuzzy feeling of slumber fell over his body.

He heard sheets rustle and cracked open half an eye, peeking from behind thick and long lashes. He saw something move on the top of the bed, and his eyebrows drew near as a mass of messy chestnut hair moved over the covers, as if nuzzling itself into his pile of warm blankets. Heero forced his eyes to flutter open again, and gently pushed himself up a bit.

He smiled as he saw Duo, half-sitting sitting on a chair by his bed, half-leaning on the bed, deep asleep. His face was turned the other way, so he could not look down at his features. He slumped back down into the bed, throwing himself back at the pillow. He looked around the room, examining it with a clear mind for the first time.

He frowned.

It was pink. The room was pink. Why pink? Out of all the colors to chose from! Pink?!

Heero chuckled silently to himself and shook his head, suddenly noticing something. He looked up, and smiled. Sitting on a small white chair in the back of the room, was a little pink ball. He smiled at the memory of the little girl, suddenly wondering where she was.

"Ah...mumm..." A sleepy moan was heard from somewhere below and Heero turned back to look at his friend. Duo was slowly waking up, turning his head so he was now facing Heero, rubbing his eyes sleepily. The violet orbs slowly fluttered open, looking numbly up at Heero. The Japanese boy smiled kindly down at Duo, and the other boy blinked in confusion. He kept staring up at Heero, until his eyes suddenly flew wide open and he jumped off the bed.

"Heero! You're awake!"

Heero chuckled. "And so are you."

"And you're okay!" The braided boy was grinning like a complete idiot. "God! I can't believe it! Man, I thought that you'd NEVER wake up!"

Heero frowned. "How long have I been sleeping?"

"Four days." Duo answered with a sigh, slowly sitting down. "Four fucking long days..."

Heero sighed and nodded his head, looking away.

Silence fell over the room as both boys sat on the bed, avoiding eye contact. Eventually, Duo looked up at Heero.

"Are you feeling okay?"

"......Aa." Heero answered quietly. He felt Duo take his hand, and turned to look up at the other boy. He was greeted with Duo's warm smile and his shining violet eyes.

"I'm glad."

Heero smiled slightly and nodded his head. The two just kept looking at each other, until Heero finally broke eye contact and slid his hand out of Duo's gentle grasp. Duo looked at him, puzzled, as the Japanese boy reached up to hands to the back of his neck, and slowly prepared to take the necklace off.

"No, Heero, don't." Duo stopped him, taking hold of his hand. Heero looked up at him, startled. He was about to protest when Duo smiled kindly at him, squeezing his hand lightly. "It's yours."

Another small smile appeared on Heero's lips and he let go of the necklace. He bowed his head shyly, fingers fidgeting a little, playing with the covers. "Thank you."

"You're welcome." Duo answered softly, still holding Heero's hand.

The sound of an explosion shook the house and Heero looked up, senses alert. He looked in the direction of the window, and saw smoke fill the early morning skies. It was coming from down in the valley.

"The guys should be finishing up soon." Duo informed him, looking out the window as well. He turned back to the boy on the bed. "Quatre took the car, he had to do some arrangements. He should be back soon to pick us up."

Heero nodded slightly, still avoiding eye contact.

Duo sighed, glancing at the window. "Trowa and Wufei should catch up the minute they're done with the base."[4] He turned to place a hand on Heero's arm. "Can you get up?"

Heero tested his strength and tried to push himself up. It took a little effort, but he could manage. "Hai." He answered, sitting up and placing his bare feet on the floor. "Just a little dizzy." He let out as the world began to spin. He reached up a hand to hold his spinning head, trying to regain his balance on the bed.

Duo nodded and put an arm around Heero's shoulders. "C'mon." He said, helping Heero up.

"There's something I need to do first." Heero mumbled as he attempted to stand up.

"First lets see if we can get you out of this room." Duo muttered as he put his arm around his slender waist, pleased to feel the boy's warmth once more. He wasn't running a high fever, just a little above average. He was out of danger and Duo was glad for that. They began to slowly walk out of the room.

Heero's steps were slow and careful as he was concentrating on walking in a straight line. "Where did... Quatre go?" He breathed, panting a little from the small effort. He was still very weak and his lungs hadn't healed completely, but it was far better than a few days ago.

"He had some things to take care of."

"The girl?" Heero asked, looking up at Duo from between messy bangs.

The braided boy paused his walking, looking intensely at his friend. After a few moments, he nodded. "She deserves a proper burial, and since we're the only ones who know about it..." He sighed, brushing a few bangs out of his eyes, and turned back to look at Heero. "This reminds me..." He reached down one hand for his pocket and pulled something out of it. "We found this on the body." He said, handing the item to Heero. "I thought you'd might want to see it."

Heero reached down a hesitant hand, and gently took the delicate item out of Duo's grasp. It was a small piece of fabric, its color long faded, but he could tell that it used to be pink. There wasn't any dirt on it, and Heero assumed that Duo had washed it. He examined it from all directions, until he reached the conclusion that it was a small purse, handmade. The sewing was a little sloppy and it wasn't perfect, probably sewed by the hands of a six-year-old girl. He traced the pad of his thumb over the soft material, his fingers brushing against something.

He looked down carefully and his blue eyes widened. Carved onto the shabby little purse, large and sloppy letters sewed into the fabric, was a name. Heero let out a small chuckle, or a whimper, it wasn't clear, and traced his hand over the small name, his blue eyes shimmering with tears.

"Samantha..." He breathed, speaking her name for the first time. He looked up at Duo, blue eyes glistering in the early morning sun. "Her name was Samantha." He whispered, smiling sadly. He looked back down at the small purse, holding it tightly. He closed his eyes, trying to stop the tears, but a few stray silvery diamonds escaped and slid down his cheeks. "She finally told me her name..."

Duo watched, stunned and amazed by Heero's display of emotions. He seemed to be really affected from this incident, and Duo wondered if it was a good thing.

"How did you know about her anyway?" He decided to ask, trying to sound composed as he looked up at his friend.

Heero remained silent, looking down at the purse and refusing to meet Duo's eyes.

Duo sighed and shook his head. "I think that I already miss the talkative-fevered-Heero..." He muttered and continued walking, still supporting his friend.

Heero ignored him and continued to walk carefully out of the room. There will be another time to give Duo some answers. For now, he was still struggling to comprehend them himself.

* * *

The cool spring air was a welcomed blessing to Heero's lungs as the two stepped out of the large house. It took him a few moments to get used to the brightness of day, and he had to stop at the threshold, blinking and holding his hand up to shield his eyes from the light. When his vision adjusted, he looked out at the outside, and couldn't help but stare in awe.

The sun was just rising behind the horizon, the large golden sphere washing the green hills with a heavenly light, making the dew sparkle on the tall green grass. The skies were painted in a divine set of colors, a mixture of pink, yellow and the faintest of blue. The green meadow that covered the hill looked greener than ever, the grass rich and full of life. Trees heavy with leaves swayed gently under the soft breeze and the melodious singing of the birds echoed in the sweet air. Small and fluffy white clouds made their way lazily through the skies, and a few birds flew over the valley. Everything seemed to be greener and more alive than ever and the calmness of dawn gave Heero a sense of peace as his eyes studied the scenery around him.

Heero smiled secretly to himself and took a small step forward, the wooden steps that led out of the house creaking under his weight. Duo was walking right behind him, watching him like a hawk, making sure that he will not fall or anything. They made their way slowly down the hill, Heero leading them towards the small grove behind the house.

They walked between tall green trees that cast cool shadows on the ground, playing over their body as they walked. The rising sunshine filtered between lush branches as the treetops swayed lazily from side to side, and a few birds were heard here and there. There was no more equipment scattered around the small grove, and the green little forest looked calm and peaceful once again.

Duo looked up at Heero when the boy stopped, and he went to stand by his side. They were standing at the edge of the hill, right above the tall cliffs. Duo looked up at Heero's features, his amethyst eyes worried. "Heero?" He asked, placing a hesitant hand on the boy's shoulder. "Is everything all right?"

"......hai." Heero let out silently, and then took another step towards the cliffs.

"Heero!" Duo called as the Japanese boy lowered himself down, preparing to climb down into the gorge. "Heero, no." He hurried to reproach, bending down himself. "You haven't regained full health yet, remember?"

"It will only be a moment." Heero groaned as he jumped down and landed on a rocky surface. He looked up at Duo. "You can join me if you want."

Duo rolled his eyes, shook his head and jumped down as well. "Of course I'm gonna join ya..." He muttered as both boys climbed down. "Someone has to make sure you won't do anything STUPID..."

Heero chuckled lightly and shook his head, still climbing down the rocky slope. He was carrying his duffle over his shoulder, and the bag swung from side to side as Heero carefully lowered himself down the cliffs, moving slowly and cautiously. Duo was somewhere above his head, looking down worriedly as they descended deeper into the abyss.

Sounds of explosion echoed down in the valley, bouncing off the steep walls of rock and fading into thin air. Heero sent a glance over his shoulder and looked down at the valley. He could see the small base, down below, fire burning through of every building, thick black smoke rising up to stain the perfect skies. Narrowing his eyes, he could see the two large Gundams, Shenlong's armor glistering under the weak sunlight and fire, and the blinding flashes of Heavyarms' guns flickering within the smoke. The sounds of alarms, shooting and battle cries filled the air and Heero turned his head away, sighing. He closed his eyes briefly and took a few deep breaths.

"Heero?" Duo's hesitant voice came from his side, and Heero could feel a warm hand rest on his shoulder. "Are you all right?"

Cobalt blue eyes slowly opened, looking up at the green hill, watching the tall grass and green trees sway softly under the wind. He smiled slightly, taking comfort in that. "Hai." He finally answered, and then continued onwards.

Duo watched him, confused, but said nothing. He sighed and continued to follow his friends as the loud sounds of explosions filled the air.

* * *

It took them some time, but eventually, they reached their destination. Duo looked around in awe, unable to believe his eyes. They were standing before the cave, which up until four days ago, had looked like a dark and ominous tomb. But not anymore.

He could now see that the cave was actually standing out of the mountain, the main halls making two domes, that stood high and proud out of the hill's steep surface. Both domes were covered with the greenest of grass, the tall weeds swaying gently under the wind. And flowers. So many flowers... he didn't remember EVER seeing so many flowers in one place. White little flowers covered the entire cave, peeking out from every crack and between the green grass. There were so many of them, it seemed like a lush white carpet covered the cave. Their sweet scent and delicate looks took Duo's breath away, and all he could do was stand there and watch in awe.

Movements from the corner of his eye made him turn his gaze away, and he turned to look to his left, seeing that Heero was walking towards the cave. He watched him, curious, as the Japanese boy reached for one of the little white flowers that seemed to be growing out of the cave's stony wall, and then he gently picked it. Duo continued watching him, astonished, as he saw the boy go down to his knees, and carefully place the flower at the entrance of the cave.

Feeling like he was interrupting a very sacred moment, Duo went down to his knees as well, watching Heero intensely as the boy continued sitting there, looking up at the cave, his blue eyes full of mystery and something else that Duo could not decipher.

The wind picked up, tousling Heero's wild bangs playfully. A small smile touched Heero's lips, and he turned to reach for his bag. Duo watched him in confusion as the boy pulled out something from his bag. It was a little, pink, ball.

Duo frowned and looked up at Heero, confused. He was about to open his mouth and ask what the hell was this all about, but he found that his voice refused to come. This was not a time for words.

He watched silently as Heero slowly cleared a little soil off the rocky surface they were sitting on, slowly making a small hole in the ground. He followed Heero's long white fingers as the boy gently placed the small ball in the hole, and then covered it again, burying the small sphere right before the entrance of the cave. His eyes filled with awe as he watched Heero take the small white flower from where he had placed it before, and gently place it over the small mountain of moist soil. He stuck the flower into the makeshift "grave" and made sure that it will not fall down. Once done, he turned his gaze up again, looking up at the heavens.

Duo was too shocked to say or do anything. All he could do was sit there and stare at his friend as the wind playfully ruffled his chocolate brown bangs. He was... speechless. There was no way to describe what he was feeling right now, after witnessing Heero's strange burial ritual. He had looked so thoughtful, so caring, so... sad, but yet content at the same time. He had NEVER seen Heero like this. Hell, he could never even imagine that his Japanese partner was capable of such an act. His heart was beating so fast and he felt like he had witnessed something that wasn't his to witness. Something very private, very sacred to Heero.

But then again... Heero did say that he could join him if he wanted. Heero didn't say anything about his presence. He didn't seem to mind at all. Duo smiled to himself, feeling more relaxed. Heero wanted him here, with him, while performing this little ritual. He trusted him well enough to have asked him to join. He had offered Duo a chance to be with him in this precious moment, and Duo was deeply touched. Heero had sure changed. This experience seemed to have affected him a lot more than he had initially thought.

He turned his gaze up again to look at Heero. His friend. His best of friends was sitting right here beside him, sharing his life with him. Duo smiled to himself, studying Heero's features. The boy's skin was still very pale, but not sickly colored. His cheeks were slightly flushed with the small fever, and most of all... his eyes. Those deep blue pools seemed softer than usual. Warmer. Compassionate. He had never seen Heero's eyes so gentle and caring. So exposed and honest. It touched his heart and he reached for the boy's hand, covering Heero's hand with his.

The boy did not pull away, and instead he turned his hand and returned Duo's hold. He turned to face his friend, and Duo nearly gasped as they were face to face. His eyes widened as he realized that Heero was smiling ever so slightly, looking at him with those incredibly kind eyes. He had to force himself to breathe and swallow as he realized that he could not make his brain work under that soft blue gaze.

Heero chuckled lightly and shook his head, muttering a soft `baka' as he turned his gaze back to the cave.

Duo relaxed and sighed pleasantly. He turned his gaze up to look at the cave as well, his expression thoughtful.

This week hasn't been such a bad week after all. Sure, it was long, frightening and very hard on him emotionally speaking, but all in all, it hasn't turned out so bad. He always knew that this week was the worse of all weeks, he was prepared. The date of April seventh always marked the approach of a week from hell. But this time, it wasn't so bad. This week had brought him back something he thought that he would never have again.

A friend. He might have lost his best of friends nine years ago from that week, but then again, he had also gained a friend in that same week. He was not alone anymore. Not alone. He had Heero. And Heero had survived the plague. Heero was all right. He was sitting here, right next to him, holding his hand. He could feel his warmth, smell his scent, and hear his lightly labored breath. Heero was alive, and he was with him.

Never alone. Not ever again, it was a promise.

This week had given back his hope, his faith and Heero. In one week he had regained what he had lost nearly a decade ago, and wasn't able to find since. He had found himself someone to share his joys and tears with, someone he trusted and cared for. He had found the companionship he had been searching for. He had found that he cared for his Japanese friend more than anything in the world, and he was surprised to see that maybe the feeling was mutual. Heero wanted him as a friend as well, and maybe, with some work, they can get over all obstacles and build a good and deep friendship. And who knows, maybe someday, it will go even beyond that. He had learned that everything was possible. Especially when it comes to Heero. But for now, he decided that it would be best to take it slow and see how far they can get. The future was always an uncertain thing, but for now, he was certain about one thing: he wasn't alone anymore, and for that, he was grateful.

Slowly, Duo bowed his head and closed his eyes. He tightened his hold around Heero's hand as his lips began to slowly move, no voice coming out of his mouth. When he was down, he raised his hand and quickly made the sign of the cross over his heart. He could feel Heero's gaze on him, but still he took a few moments before finally opening his eyes.

Slowly, he looked up, only to meet a pair of shinning cobalt eyes. Heero smiled kindly at him, just this little smile, barely visible, and nodded his head in appreciation. Duo smiled back as he felt Heero squeeze his hand gently.

Both boys continued sitting there, on the cliff, as the wind blew softly around them, playing with their wild bangs of hair. Sounds of explosions echoed from below. Behind them, smoke soared up to the skies, marking the destruction that grew down below. In front of them, the hill stood proud and tall, green and full of life. The white flowers seemed unaffected by the fact that they were overlooking the destruction of the base, and they swayed playfully from side to side as a bird cut through the heavens.

The two boys continued sitting there, on a small cliff, as the sun slowly made its way up the heavens. A large and dark shadow fell over them as the sun rose higher, hiding behind the hill and coloring the cliffs with a contrasting game of light and shadow. They were hanging between the growth of nature and the destruction of the base. Between Llight and shadow. Life and death.

As the smoke ascended up to the heavens, it cleared, spreading around the infinite blue until finally vanishing. Only the white clouds were allowed to travel through the light of the azure skies, making their way through the vast heavens. Two clouds parted slowly, fluffy white haze kissing goodbye, the view of the burning valley and the green hill could now be seen way down below. A small pale hand reached down, bright golden light radiating out of the small palm as it reached down towards the earth. Small fingers let go of a single white flower, and a pair of large hazel eyes watched as it slowly descended down to the ground, swinging from side to side as the wind teased it, but never swaying off its course as it made its way down.

A pair of small lips lifted up in a smile and the melody of angelic laughter filled the heavens.

"Arigatou, Onii-chan..."

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OWARI.

 

Nah. . . how was it? Please tell me!

 

A FEW NOTES ON THE STORY:

First of all, I would like to state that know little about medicament (you probably figured that already) and so I ask for your forgiveness if the details were all wrong. Some of the things I wrote are wrong, and I'm aware of that. The others I wrote down after seeing it in a certain movie, so I'm not so sure about their reliability, so please keep that in mind. By all conventional laws of science, Heero should have been brain-dead from the fever... >.<

Second of all, I would like to say that I do NOT believe in ghosts, and the only knowledge I have on the subject comes from scary movies (and extensive abuse of my x-files tapes a few years back...). I do, however, believe in God, so forgive me if I sounded like I'm preaching you or something... I had no intention to do that. Nor was I trying to show that I doubt God. I wrote down that DUO doubted God, not me. In the Episode Zero manga he had CLEARLY stated that he does NOT believe in God. Same with Heero. So please don't try to blame me for saying that I do or do not believe. Each of us is entitled to his own beliefs.

And while we are on the subject of religion, I would like to point out that I know little about Christianity as well, so if I made a certain mistake, I apologize.

As a finale word, I would like to say that I wrote this story for FUN and not because I wanted to preach you about God, ghosts or other things. My sole purpose was enjoyment and so I ask you not to take it so hard if I made a few errors here and there... after all, this is only a fan fiction...

Thanks for reading!

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[1] Umm… if anyone is interested what's the story behind that... it has to do with another fic I wrote, called Shattered Moments. The part I am referring to is in one of the `fill-ins' I wrote, but it's not essential for the understanding of this story. Just FYI

[2] By this, I mean either Heero or God; it's your pick.

[3] It took me HOURS to think of a name, and I couldn't find one. Suddenly, I heard my brother turn on the computer and I hear Homer Simpson say- "To start press any key. Where's the any key?" So... any turned to Annie and that's how I came up with the name. It doesn't hold any special meaning...

[4] Just in case you forgot, the reason the G-boys were there in the first place was to determine if OZ were training psychopaths, and if so, destroy the base. Well, I guess they had their proof, didn't they? So there was no reason to keep watching the base.