Disclaimer: I want to own them, but I dont.
Warning: No sex, but implied Yaoi. Angst. Poor Duo. You have been warned. 1x2
You cant make me!
Did. Heero lifted the intricate piece of metal so that Duo could see it. You cant go anywhere in Deathscythe without this and, he lifted a motorcycle part in his other hand, you cant ride your bike without this.
Yes, I am, Heero agreed grimly and it wasnt an attempt at humor. Youre very ill. Trowa ordered you to stay in bed for a week.
Since when do you care so much? Duo demanded, his indignant expression ruined by the need to blow snot into a wad of Kleenex. I did what I had to. I broke into Oz security, slogged through the swamps to escape, rescued my Gundam, and made it back in one piece, mission accomplished. Thats all you usually care about. Why is this time different?
You have pneumonia," Heero snapped back, determined to get through to Duo and force him to see sense. That makes it different. If you dont follow Trowas orders, you might become very sick. Since we cant risk taking you to a hospital, you might also die.
Duo grinned flippantly, Aw! Heero! You care! You really care! Come on now, give me a kiss!
Shut up, Baka! Heero scowled, hand automatically going to his gun in its butt holster, as if he were really afraid Duo might try and kiss him.
Duo had to chuckle. Pale as a ghost, nose red, and violet eyes watering and bloodshot, he looked like Shinigami warmed over lying in his bed; not a threat to anyones virtue. He doubted that he could even stand. Not that he would have tried anything with Heero Yuy if he could have. The man was just too cold, too dangerous, and too ready to use that gun of his even on his friends. It was a puzzle, the way he was worried about Duos health now, but Duo was sure there was some military advantage to be gained, or mission position to be filled, that required that he, Duo, go on living.
So, who gets the duty of taking care of me?
Heero raised an eyebrow. Take care of you? Youll take care of yourself. I cant spare anyone-
Breakfast! Quatre came in with a sunny smile and food balanced on a tray. Prop him up, Heero, so he can eat properly.
Yeah, Heero, Duo grinned cheekily. Fluff my pillow, will ya?
I have maintenance schedules to keep, Heero growled. Ive wasted valuable time as it is.
Heero stalked out of the room, leaving an awkward silence. Duos smile faltered and he allowed himself to sink back into the bed, exhausted. He hadnt wanted to look weak in front of Heero. The pilots opinion of him mattered more to him than he was willing to admit.
Damn him! Quatre swore softly, as he put the tray on a small desk, shoving Heeros laptop almost onto the floor. Duo tensed, gritting his teeth, and then sighed in relief as Quatre caught the computer absently and slid it back to safety. Duo wouldnt have given odds on Quatre staying alive long if that laptop had hit the floor. That thing was Heeros life blood!
Why are you surprised? Duo wanted to know as the blonde Arabian helped him to sit up. The new position made Duos face flush and he felt dizzy. He hated that, the damned illness that was sapping all of his strength, making him a prisoner in his own bed. It was a moment before he realized that Quatre was answering him and that he had missed some of the explanation.
-rotten bedside manner, Quatre was saying as he picked up the tray and brought it over to Duo. I shouldnt have left him alone with you, but I thought he would...
Turn into nurse Heero, or something? Duo laughed and then coughed as his throat filled up with phlegm. He felt Quatre rub and pat his back as hacked up a Kleenex full of the stuff.
Duo recovered, tossing the wet Kleenex into a wastebasket filled with them. It worried him, that fluid. When he saw a flickering echo of his worry reflected on Quatres face, he became even more worried. Just how bad was he? Maybe they werent telling him something?
Quatre was too cheery. It was obviously forced. The pilot always wore his heart on his sleeve. He wasnt good at lying. As he put the tray into Duos lap and hovered helpfully, Duo gently pushed him away.
Im not a baby, Quatre. Heeros right. I can take care of myself.
Duo, Quatre was careful with his words, trying to make Duo understand where Heero had failed too. You spent three days in Deathscythe, in a cold swamp, with a raging fever. I dont know how you managed to pilot your Gundam back to the hanger, but you were delirious when we reached you. Trowa went through bags of saline solution and antibiotics to stabilize you. You arent out of danger yet. You have to do everything right, okay? You have to rest and let us take care of you.
K, Duo replied in a small voice, feeling suddenly very frail. It made him angry, irritable, and something else he didnt want to admit to... afraid. It lodged down deep, in the center of Duos being, as dangerous as the phlegm threatening to fill up his lungs until he suffocated. Shinigami didnt want to know that he was mortal, that something like pneumonia could kill him when bullets and Oz soldiers hadnt been able to.
Well do everything for you, Quatre was saying gently, seeing Duos troubled expression. You can have anything you want, even that outrageous double decker cheeseburger you keep pestering me to make. Just... Just get better, Duo.
Duo forced on his trademark grin, lifting the mask that kept the world from seeing his real insecurities. Youll regret those words, Quatre Winner! Its dangerous to promise Shinigami everything!
Theres one thing Shinigami cant have, Quatre replied and it wasnt Duos nickname he was speaking of, but the real Shinigami. The Arabian was determined that Death was not going to claim his good friend.
Thanks, Quatre, Duo said, embarrassed by Quatres affection, but grateful all the same. He needed the Arabians strength. He didnt have enough of his own. When the boy settled into a chair though, as if he were going to stay a long time, Duo felt uncomfortable. Uh, youre staying?
Quatre nodded as he fished a paperback book out of his back pocket. English poetry, Duo was able to read on the cover, before the boy opened it up to a well worn, book marked page. You cant be left alone, Quatre informed him as he began to read. Well switch off watching you until your fever breaks and you improve. Quatre looked over the pages of his book at Duo. We know you well enough by now, to know that you wont stay in bed unless youre forced to.
Duo felt helpless anger, but he continued to hide it behind his smile. The Arabian didnt even realize that he was twisting a knife already buried in Duos heart. Duo felt the fear and insecurity inside him begin to grow.
Nightmares plagued Duo, formless blobs of writhing reds and blacks interwoven with clawing hands and prickling heat. Again and again, Duo awoke, sweating and afraid. He didnt know why. He couldnt remember what the nightmares were about after his head cleared. He just felt threatened, helpless, as weak as a baby afterwards.
The others were worried. Duo wasnt getting enough sleep. His health seemed to be getting worse, not better. Trowa even felt it necessary to hook Duo up to an I.V. again and begin another course of antibiotics. It kept the others busy, acquiring the things from the nearby hospital that he needed by any means necessary. It didnt make Duo feel any better about himself to know that he was making them risk themselves like that for him.
Damn body! Duo thought. Get better! Youre young! You are, were, healthy! Damn it, its just not right that this sickness keeps eating away at me!
Heero was watching him today, or pretending to as he tapped away at a mission report on his laptop. He didnt say anything or even look at Duo for nearly an hour. Duo, for his part, almost began to cry and beg for some attention, some relief from the boredom and the constant, spiraling depression and fear about his failing health.
Uh, Heero? Duo began.
Get me that manga over there, would you?
You have six already in reach, Heero replied as he continued to type. You made me get them one at a time. I suggest that you organize your needs in a more coherent fashion and then make another request. It will be your last, so make a list carefully.
Why are you such a bastard?
Is that your request? Heero grunted without turning or getting angry. You must not need anything then.
Lying almost flat in a mound of pillows and comforters, hooked to clear, plastic lines and suspended bags of fluids, Duo felt as if all he needed now was a toe tag and someone to declare him dead. His head hurt, his vision was blurry, and his skin felt dry. He struggled to draw in one breath after another, trying to squeeze air into his fluid filled lungs. Everyone had been sad and solicitous, even Wu Fei. Everyone had jumped to fulfill Duos every whim. They didnt understand that they were only reinforcing the fear inside of Duo, his feeling of helplessness and frailty. Heeros cold, matter-of -factness, and his casual disregard for Duos condition was actually exactly what Duo needed. He needed someone to be a bastard to him, to believe that he wasnt that bad off, and that he could do something for himself.
Go to sleep and leave me alone, Baka, Heero growled.
I cant, Duo replied anxiously. He didnt want to admit to Heero that he was afraid to sleep, afraid that the nightmares might come back or, worse, that he would die in his sleep.
Then dont sleep, Heero retorted. Just shut the hell up.
I-, Duo thought with desperation. I never go to bed without brushing out my hair first. It tangles so easily when Im sleeping. Could you-
I will not brush your hair! Heero replied in exasperation, but he was rising from his chair and going into the bathroom. He reemerged with Duos hair brush. Handing it to Duo, he said sternly. Do it yourself.
Duos hand closed on the hairbrush. The hand shook. It looked very thin, the bones and veins standing out and the skin waxen pale.
Duo looked up at Heero, but he managed a grin as he began pulling his hair out of its braid. You are a bastard, Heero Yuy. If I die, will you make me bury myself too to save you the trouble?
There was silence. Heeros blue eyes narrowed and his mouth went into a hard line. He spoke after a long moment and there wasnt the slightest doubt or hint of a lie. You wont die.
Duo blinked up at him. Why not? Everyone dies, Heero.
Not you, Heero replied, but he didnt elaborate as he turned away and picked up his laptop. He tucked it under his arm and headed for the door.
Where are you going? Duo wondered in confusion. I thought I was supposed to have a guard at all times.
Youre a Gundam pilot, Heero replied, pausing at the open door, not a child. If you want to get out of bed and therefore kill yourself, that is your business, not ours. As to where Im going... I have a mission. Ill be back in four days. Duo began to ask questions, but Heero was already gone.
Sighing, Duo finished with his hair. He was only able to braid it halfway, and he did a crappy job of it, but it was accomplished and he felt better about himself afterwards. When he stretched out to sleep, he was relaxed, the fear of death held at bay by Heeros belief that he, Duo, was going to get well. Heeros confidence kept the nightmares at bay too, and , for once, Duo slept peacefully.
How could he? Quatre shouted in disbelief. He had Duos breakfast on a tray and he was looking furiously at the room empty of Gundam Wings pilot. Why didnt you call for one of us, Duo? The door was open. We would have heard you.
Duo was still sleepy. He rubbed at his eyes and tried to think about what Quatre was saying. Sall right, he murmured around a yawn. I didnt need anyones help. I just slept.
Quatre put the tray aside onto a table and then leaned over Duo, feeling his forehead in concern. Youre still running a fever. What if something had happened last night? I cant forgive Heero for abandoning you! Ill call for Trowa and he can check your vitals.
Fear. It oozed from Quatre and infected Duo. The boy was really afraid for him. It leached away the confidence Heero had given Duo the night before. Trowa, when he came, didnt make Duo feel any better. The quiet boy went very grim when Quatre informed him of what Heero had done.
You could have tangled your lines in your sleep, Trowa grumbled. Your fever could have risen or your blood pressure could have dropped dangerously. Yuy might as well have just... he stopped and took an angry breath.
What? Duo wondered with a plastered on grin, Shot me? Am I really that bad, Trowa? Come on! Heero was just being Heero! I slept pretty good, for once, and i didnt need him at all. Wheres the harm?
Youre just lucky there wasnt any or I would have- would have..., Quatre blustered when Trowa put a finger to his lips.
Youre upsetting, Duo, Trowa told him calmly. Well deal with Yuy when he comes back. Forget about it for now. Duos going to be in our care from now on.
They hadnt answered his question, Duo thought, and the fear bloomed inside of him again. He watched in trepidation as Trowa attached new bags to his I.V.s and frowned helplessly at the instruments monitoring Duos vitals. I wish I was more than just a medical hack, Trowa muttered to no one in particular.
He needs a hospital, Quatre seethed.
Trowa didnt reply to that. They all knew that taking Duo to a hospital was out of the question. Oz had been stepping up its security details of late. Duos beloved braid marked him too well. He simply couldnt be slipped in under an assumed name.
Hey, guys! Duo beamed. Come on! Stop the sad faces! Im fine! Really, I am. In a couple of days, Ill be bouncing around and making your lives miserable again.
Of course you will, Duo, Quatre replied in a tone that was sickening to Duo. The man was trying to humor him, comfort a dying boy. Duo wanted to scream and lash out, prove to them all that Shinigami was still strong and that something as simple as a fever couldnt take his life. They wouldnt believe it, he knew. He didnt believe it.
The fever raged. Duo wasted. The fear of death grew.
He needed to escape them, Duo decided on the second day. He needed to get away from the people who believed that he was going to die. They did think that he was going to die. Hed heard them talking outside his room when theyd thought he was asleep.
Trowa: Hes burning up.
Wu Fei: Theres no justice in this.
Quatre, swallowing: Theres no chance at all of recovery?
Trowa: Theres always a chance, but.... he should have been getting better by now. Instead, hes getting worse. Those nightmares of his... theyre sapping what strength he does have. Ive tried sleeping pills and other medications, but they dont stop the dreams.
Wu Fei: What could he be dreaming about?
Quatre: I asked him, but he said he didnt know.
Damn them! Duo thought. They had him buried already! Didnt they have any confidence in him at all? Didnt they think he was man enough to get over this? No, they didnt , because they knew more about his condition than he did. They knew how bad he really was and refused to tell him.
Yes, he had to get away. It was an irrational thought, but he wasnt aware of that. Delirium had set in. It seemed perfectly logical to run away from everything that could help him live, because he was also running away from their belief that he was dying.
Duo looked down at his hands. He had been idly scribbling on the napkins that had come with his lunch. His pen had sketched out a familiar figure. He smiled as he crumpled the napkin in his hand and then let napkin and pen fall to the floor. He knew where to go now. He knew where he could find comforting arms and someone who had always been there for him, who had helped Duo believe in his strength and his invincibility. He knew now where there was safety.
How long was he in the hallway? Quatre demanded as Wu Fei carried a limp Duo back into his room and placed him gently back on the bed. Tubes and I.V. needles lay everywhere.
Trowa leaned over Duo and checked under one eye lid. When the pupils dilated, he only allowed himself a moment of relief before he was reattaching the I.V.s and checking Duos blood pressure.
I dont know, Wu Fei was replying in exasperation. He asked me to go get him some ice cream. When I came back, the devil was stretched out in the hallway in his robe.
Trowa scowled. Where did he think he was going?
Wu Fei shook his head. I dont know. He said something about being bored out of his skull, but I never guessed he had the strength to get out of the bed, let alone down the hallway. Perhaps he was going to find something to do?
Shinigamis love, Duo murmured fretfully in his delirium. Have to get to him. He understands. Hell save me.
What did he say? Wu Fei breathed in shock. He was trying to get to his love? ...A man?
Quatre and Trowa looked at each other behind Wu Feis back. Heeros on a mission, Quatre said, but meant something else entirely. Trowa shook his head in disbelief. Quatre nodded and glanced over at Heeros empty bed. The two always did sleep in the same room no matter what the situation. Still, it was hard to believe that someone as outgoing and fun loving as Duo could have developed an attachment for the cold, unfeeling Heero. Trowa wasnt ready to believe it. He shook his head in the negative again. There had to be someone else that Duo was talking about.
Did you know this about, Maxwell? Wu Fei demanded, turning about suddenly to stare at Quatre and Trowa.
Quatre stammered, not sure how to reply, but Trowa was adamant. We dont know anything. The mind can behave oddly when under the stress of a fever. Its best just to ignore whatever he says.
I usually do, Wu Fei admitted, but then looked guilty. I should have when he asked me for the ice cream. He wanted me gone so he could try and get to this... this man of his.
We need to watch him more carefully, Trowa replied and pulled up a chair so that he could more closely monitor Duo. Ill take over now. You two rest up so you can relieve me later on.
When Trowa was alone with Duo, he sighed and rubbed at his eyes wearily. Come on, Duo! Shake this thing off and smile again! Im actually beginning to miss your practical jokes and that endless, idiotic chatter of yours.
I wish I had a recorder, Duo breathed, awake now, but barely lucid. He coughed up phlegm and Trowa held him until his lungs were clear again. This was the real problem, Trowa knew, not the fever at all. No matter what he did, he couldnt get Duos lungs to clear. That, in the end, was what was going to kill Duo.
I refuse to repeat it, Trowa said with false humor. He watched Duos glassy, violet eyes take in the room and the bed he was lying on. Trowa could see him thinking and then remembering.
Duo smiled weakly. Guess you caught me.
Where were you going? Trowa demanded. Do you want to die?
No, Duo said with all seriousness, he face losing its smile and constricting in the first expression of fear, Trowa had ever seen on the pilot. It was there for only a moment and the it was gone, replaced by sly blandness. Just bored.
Trowa was repositioning some of the tubing to the I.V.s. He scowled and looked up to begin a tirade about how sick Duo was, but he caught the words before they escaped his mouth. Duo was asleep. The Baka always did know how to get out of a tongue lashing.
Quatre was crying in heaving sobs. I-I fell asleep! Damn me! Damn me to hell! Trowa, please tell me hes all right?
They had found Duo in the rain just outside the front door of the safe house, collapsed and comatose, chill and shaking violently. They all carried him upstairs and all of them helped bathe his waxen body in a hot tub of water. The boy had cried out then, thrashing and coming to his senses all in an instant, sobbing and demanding that they let him go.
Shinigamis Lover is waiting for him! Duo sobbed. Hell save me! Why cant you just let me go to him? He knows how to keep me safe! He wont let me die!
In the end Trowa had given Duo the strongest sedative he had and put him to bed. Still, the boy had tossed and turned in nightmares, still calling out to his mysterious lover.
One more day, Duo, Trowa whispered. Heero will be back in one more day. You dont have to go to him, hell come right here and stay with you. If-If the bastard doesnt, Ill kill him myself! His voice had risen with his emotions. He caught himself and looked around at the others. Wu Fei especially was staring.
Heero? Wu Fei breathed. Yuy?
We think so, Quatre said between sobs.
Heero Yuy? Wu Fei repeated stunned, and Duo Maxwell? His jaw firmed. He had better be kind to the boy when he returns or I will kill him as well!
He hit me on the head when I leaned down to check his I.V.s, Trowa explained to Heero. When I came to, he was gone. We searched the entire house and the surrounding grounds. It seems impossible that he could have gone further than that, but sickness does strange things. Sometimes a man can regain his strength and seem perfectly fine right up until he- Trowa stopped and swallowed. "Well, everyones still looking, he finished lamely. I stayed to see if there were any reports of Oz capturing him or any new admissions to the hospital, though I cant see him getting a far as town in his condition.
Heero surveyed the room with a cold, analytical eye. Mission; recovery of pilot. Mission: accepted. It was as unfeeling as that and Trowa felt himself shiver.
He kept wanting to get to you, Trowa told Heero uncertainly.
Heero stared. Why?
Why? Trowa echoed. I guess because you and he are... he couldnt finish. He could tell Heero didnt know what he was talking about. He kept talking about going to Shinigamis lover. For some reason, he felt he would be safer with that person than with us. He was clearly delirious."
Heero narrowed his eyes. You thought he was speaking of me when he said this?
Uh, well, Trowa felt afraid. Heero could be violent when he was unhappy with someone. He was relieved when Heero decided to not pursue it.
Continue your monitoring, Heero ordered.
Trowa knew when he was dismissed. He took a last look at the empty bed. It was cold outside in the dark. If they found Duo, he was almost certain it would be a corpse and not a living Duo they would discover. He felt his throat tightening and he left Heero in the room alone, not wanting the pilot to see his tears.
Duo Baka! Heero hissed in annoyance as he let his eyes rove the room once again for some clue as to where the man had gone. What had been in Duos mind? Had it been anything coherent or just the instinct of an animal going to find a quiet place to die?
Heeros eyes fell on the crumpled up bit of paper and the pen still on the floor. He picked up the paper and flattened it out. When he saw the drawing, he suddenly understood.
Heero was a soldier first and fore most. He didnt let anxiety for Duos safety make him leave unprepared to take care of Duo on site. He gathered a medical kit, blankets, heating packs, water, food packs, and the saline solution bags into a duffel bag. Throwing it over one shoulder, he made a quick mental check list to be certain he wasnt leaving something important behind. When he accounted for everything only then would he allow himself to leave. He took to the woods at the back of the safe house with a mile eating lope.
The Gundams were nestled in the curving arm of a ravine with a makeshift , vine covered barn constructed over top. Heero had fully expected Duo to be stretched out dead somewhere inbetween the safe house and the Gundams. He felt an odd pleasure to discover that the pilot had made it all the way. Duo was tougher than he acted. Heero had always suspected it. This was the proof.
Using the lift up to the cockpit of Deathscythe, Heero wasnt surprised to find Duo inside. Nestled in the reclining command chair, the braided Baka was fast asleep, curled in on himself and shivering with cold and fever. When Heero opened the cockpit to slip inside with his duffel bag, Duo didnt react except to curl tighter as the cold rushed in and sucked out what little heat there was in the Gundam.
Heero made everything airtight again as quickly as he could, and then set about unpacking his supplies and taking care of Duo. He placed heat packs all around the boy and activated them. He wrapped blankets around boy and reclining chair and then set up the saline solution and reattached the line to the needle still sticking out of Duos arm. Hooking the bag to an upper strut, the solution began to drip slowly into the line.
Why did you come here? Heero said to the sleeping boy. Did you want to die in Deathscythe? Heero could understand that, but he felt there was something more, maybe something he could never understand. He recalled the drawing he had found of the Gundam, lovingly rendered. Shinigamis Lover. Is that the way he thought of his Gundam? When Trowa had thought it was him that Duo had been trying to reach, Heero had felt something uncomfortable, a longing he had kept buried deep for some time. It bothered him to know the truth, to know that Duo would rather care for a cold machine than... Heero cut that train of thought off like a bad limb. What good did it do to think of things like that now? Duo needed him, the Perfect Soldier, not the person Dr. J. had buried alive so long ago. Duo needed a calm head, a firm hand, and someone to make him see sense. Cold, unfeeling Heero could do that very well.
Duo looked very ill, but, strangely at peace. It surprised Heero when he stirred and opened his eyes, looking lovingly about him at his Gundam. When he saw Heero, he blinked and then smiled weakly. The voice that came out of him gurgled and couldnt rise above a whisper.
Would I be here if it werent? Heero growled back.
No, Duo chuckled. It sounded like he was strangling. He appeared lucid, not the delirious boy trying to crawl off to die that Trowa had made him out to be.
Explain, Heero ordered simply.
Duo puzzled over the command. I wanted to feel... safe, he said at last. Deathscythe is the one place where Ive always been in complete control. I-I feel like I can do anything when Im here, even go on living when my damn body doesnt.
You arent dying, Heero snapped in contempt. Youre just sick. Get over it so that I can send you on another mission.
Duo blinked and smiled. Good ol Heero. Everyone else knows I'm going to die. Why dont you? They sneak around and whisper it, but... I heard them. I know. You dont have to pretend.
Pretend? Heero crossed his arms over his chest, glowering. You know I dont pretend. I deal in facts, not useless emotions like the others. I know your strengths and your weaknesses. I know that you wont die from this because I know you, Duo Maxwell.
Duo let that sink in and then he sighed. Yes, thats what I needed to hear. I needed to be in this place with you telling me what a baka I am for thinking that Im going to die. The others... they gave me nightmares. They made me feel weak and helpless. They were killing me, not this virus.
Hn, Heero agreed. Sleep. Well stay here for now. Ill keep watch for Oz patrols. You left the hanger light on, Duo Baka. Anyone could have seen it. A sickness isnt an excuse for sloppiness. You endangered the Gundams..., Heero stopped his tirade. Duo had fallen asleep.
Heero pulled the blankets up around Duo, frowning down at the pale features of the boy. He put a rough hand on the clammy forehead and felt that it was cool. The fever had broken at last. Now Duo was feeling the chill even more. Without consideration or self consciousness, Heero added his body warmth to the mix. He slipped onto the reclining command chair and pulled Duo into his lap. Laying back, he tugged and arranged the blankets around them both. Duo sighed and rested his cheek against Heeros chest.
Deathscythe and Heero; Shinigamis lovers, Duo breathed in his sleep. They wont let me die.
Heero stiffened at the revelation. He relaxed in the next moment, accepting the burden as he held the boy closer to his warmth. It seemed that Duo loved more than one cold, unfeeling machine. No, we wont let you die, Heero whispered. Mission: Accepted.