When You Are A Soldier (SongFic)
By LoneWolf (kodoku na okami)
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DISCLAIMERS: Gundam Wing and related stuff are property of Sunrise and whoever else. The song "When You Are a Soldier" is property of Steven Curtis Chapman or his label or something like that. My only reward for all this hard work is knowing someone else read it and liked it.

COMMENTS: My plans for this one were so detailed that even Heero envied them. Then the Terrible Twosome came through and did everything the opposite of what I'd planned. They liked the song, though (right down to the instruments -- piano with a touch of soft synth). Lyrics are set off by square brackets.

WARNINGS: Sweetness (yeah, Heero's soft, but love can do that, ne?), painful emotions (pitch-black at one point), shonen ai/yaoi (depending on where you draw the line between them).

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The tapping computer keys woke Duo. He pried his eyes open far enough to squint out the numbers on the clock. "Whatcha doin' on the 'puter at 3AM, Heero?" he mumbled.

Heero ignored him and Duo drifted back to sleep.

[
When you are a soldier I will be your shield
I will go with you into the battlefield
]

That's right, Duo. Sleep. You need the rest. The next two days are going to be Hell for you.

And me.

I don't know how you got past all the walls and armor to reach my heart, but you have just as surely as a mortal blow. I had all my emotions locked away in a little box, under control. Like -- what was her name -- Pandora, in that story you told me when you thought I wasn't listening. You always think I'm not listening, but I am. You opened the box and set free all the things I'd caged. They don't show, but now, every time I see you, every time I think about you, they clamor inside me, confusing me. Distracting me. I don't dare show you how I -- feel. It would be too dangerous for both of us.

This mission is too dangerous.

I don't know why they're sending you out with no backup. I should be going with you -- instead of you. I'm already dead. My whole life has been dedicated to killing, fulfilling missions, following orders. But you're alive. You deserve to live. You have hope. When this war is over you'll pick up your life again and help move the world forward.

What will I do when there are no more missions? What will I do when it all ends?

I'll think about it later. This mission is more important right now.

If I can't come with you, I'll do the next best thing. I'll take your plans and make them better. We always turn out our best plans when we work together. Why didn't you ask for my help this time? Were you afraid to let me see how dangerous this mission is? Did you think I wouldn't find out?

Probably. You never notice how I watch you. The things I know about you that you don't. Like how you become so serious before a risky mission. I see. I know.

It will be a long night tonight, and a long two days and nights waiting for you to come back.

If you--

No. You'll come back. A little missed sleep is worth it if it brings you back alive.

[
And when the arrows start to fly
Take my hand and hold on tight
]

God, I'm tired. Piloting a Gundam isn't the bed of roses everyone thinks it is -- or maybe it is. Roses have thorns. Only three Leos between me and the fuel depot. Just three more and it'll be clear sailing.

"You've seen me! Now you must die!"

Slice. Duck. Jab. Slice. Spin. Feint. Slice. There. Pant, pant, sweat, sweat. God, I stink. I want a long, hot shower. Mmm, that would feel so good right about now. Hot water, soap, shampoo. Yeah.

I'll just take a little breather before destroying-- Huh? An alert! A battalion of Aries transferred to Powland Base two days ago? I don't remember anything about that. They'll be drop range in… 20 minutes? There's no way Deathscythe picked them up that far out. Then how--.

A mission note set to alarm when the last Leo was destroyed?

So that's what he was doing.

"Thanks, Heero. You just saved my cute little ass a lot of pain." I wonder if he likes my cute little ass. He's been looking at it -- at me -- a lot lately. Weird look on his face too.

Well, I'd better take care of the depot before the Aries get here and all Hell breaks loose. Now where was that pipe junction that feeds back into all the storage tanks…

WOOOO-HOOOO! BOOM! BANG! FAWHOOM! There's nothing like a good explosion to lift your spirits. Heh, heh.

About ten minutes to drop range by Heero's estimate. Whups. There they are on the scan, right on schedule. Time to turn on stealth and head for Powland. Nice of them to clear the base for me. Hope they left me a carrier.

Ugh, it hurts just thinking about having to take out three more like this.

[
I will be your shield, 'cause I know how it feels
When you are a soldier.
]

It's 2:00 AM. Should be any minute now. Ah.

Hnnn. Get through the stupid blurbs and get to the talking head. Here she is…

Depot destroyed. Aries arrived too late. Carrier stolen from Powland. Good. Duo got away clean. Whatever God or gods may be out there protecting him, thank you -- and keep doing it.

Three more targets. I hope I gave him everything he needs.

Duo, I wish I could do this for you.

[
When you're tired from running
I will cheer you on
Look beside you and you'll see you're not alone
]

Shinigami strikes again! Third target of the mission -- destroyed. What kind of parts did this place make. Something for the Cancers, I think.

Heero's changes to the plan have helped a lot, but God, I'm tired. I just want to crawl in bed and sleep. I can get a shower after I wake up. Hell, it doesn't even have to be a bed. I'd settle for a hard piece of ground if I could just stretch out and-- Huh? Another alert? Shit.

"Duo." Heero? What's Heero doing calling me in the middle of a mission? He knows that's too risky.

"Duo, I know you'll be tired when you hear this." Ah, a recording. "You've been through a day and a half of Hell by now. I wish I were there to help you. There's only one target left. I know it will be the hardest, but you must complete the mission. The colonies are counting on you."

Good old Heero. Always the practical one. Always wishing he could be in the battle. Funny the way he said that part though. Almost as if--

Huh? Heero's face on the monitor? He recorded video? "Duo … I'm counting on you. Be careful."

Whaat? Hmm. There's that look again. I think there was more to that "wish I was there" line.

Hmmm.

For you, Heero. Right now, the colonies can go to Hell for all I care, but I'll do it and I'll be careful -- for you.

[
And when your strength is all but gone
I'll carry you until you're strong
And I will be your shield 'cause I know how it feels
When you're a soldier
]

He heard the carrier passing a dozen kilometers to the north. Duo would have set the autopilot so the plane would continue east until it ran out of fuel. Heero was waiting when Deathscythe touched down at their hiding place in the forest. The landing was rough, lacking Duo's usual flair and finesse. He pulled the tent from its compartment in the Gundam's leg and pitched it in his quick, efficient manner, laying out the sleeping bags inside.

Deathscythe was still powered up. There was still no sign of motion from the cockpit.

Worried, Heero climbed up and entered. Duo was unconscious in his seat. A quick check showed no serious injuries, just the bruises and strains a body suffered when it was thrown against the safety harness too many times. They were worse than usual, but it had been a brutal mission.

Heero selected a pre-programmed sequence and grabbed the seat as Deathscythe lurched down to lay among the trees, then he hit the shutdown switch. Careful not to wake the sleeping pilot, he unbuckled the harness and lifted the wiry, supple body out of the seat. It was difficult getting him out of the cockpit and harder still carrying him off the Gundam without falling, but fifteen minutes later Heero had him snug in a sleeping bag. He curled up next to him. Duo had rigged a solar cell and battery so Deathscythe could run stealth even when it was shut down. Camo-net could wait until tomorrow.

"Sleep, Duo. I'll keep you safe." Tonight would be hard on them both. The restraints in the cockpit protected Duo's body, but no one had invented a safety harness for the soul.

[
I will be the one you can cry your songs to
And my eyes will share your tears
I'll be your friend if you win
Or if you're defeated
Whenever you need me I will be here
]

Duo thrashed and screamed, jerking upright in the sleeping bag.

Heero felt the uncaged things swarming inside him. To Hell with danger. They faced it every day they breathed. Duo needed to know someone was with him. Heero pulled him close, comforting him. "It's OK, Duo. I'm here."

"Heero?" He panted, taking in his surroundings, guessing how he'd gotten there. "I -- I got your messages. Thanks." He shuddered, remembering the dream and the reality. "God, Heero. That last target was a training base. There were soldiers and … and…" He wept on Heero's shoulder.

"It's OK Duo." Duo thought he heard a tremor in Heero's voice. "I've been there before too."

Duo woke four more times during the night. Heero held him each time, but each time he seemed to be worse.

[
When you're lost in darkness I will hold the light
I will help you find your way through the night
]

Three days and nights without sleep had taken their toll on Heero. He woke as the first breath of light touched the east. Something was wrong.

Duo was gone!

Heero was out of the tent in a heartbeat, scanning the ground. He'd probably gone to check on Deathscythe.

No.

Duo's footprints went the other way, along a trail that led up a small hill. In memory, he saw Duo waking that last time. It had taken an hour to get him back to sleep. Uneasiness spun a hurricane in his belly as he raced up the slope. Duo was kneeling at the top, facing east. Praying? That seemed odd. For all that Duo claimed to be Catholic, Heero had never known him --

Shit! "DUO!!!" He ran. "NO!!!"

Duo's head turned toward him for a moment, then looked back to the east as raised the gun to it.

Heero leaped at him.

A shot fired.

Heero's heart stopped.

Duo fell forward.

[
And I'll remind you of the truth
And keep the flame alive in you
]

He heard Duo weeping. His heart crashed into motion again. He'd pulled the gun away in time. He stood, glaring at the hateful thing in his hand, and threw it down the side of the hill.

"Damn you, Heero. Can't you just let me die? Shot at sunrise. It's a good way to go. You get to die looking at something beautiful." When he raised his head from his knees, he saw something he'd never seen before -- horror and fear in Heero's face.

"Duo, why?" To Hell with danger. He knelt beside him. "Why? You're the one who told me to always choose life over death. You've always been as alive as I've been dead. What happened?"

Somehow the tears flowed faster. "The training base. The soldiers and their…" He gulped, took a shuddering breath. "Their families." Duo screamed in anguish, "God, why did there have to be children there?!"

He let Heero pull him close -- and felt wet drops falling on his shoulder. "Heero?"

Heero's arms grew tight around him. "Damn you, Duo. You can't die. You’re the only person I care about enough to keep living for."

They held each other, finding comfort in their shared tears. When they passed, Duo felt the sun warming his face.

"The sun's up." His voice caught as he pulled away from Heero's embrace. "I … I guess it's too late to die at sunrise now." He tried to force a grin onto his face, but it shattered under the strain. His vision swam between present and memory. "God, Heero. The children. I didn't know they were there until… I didn't see them until…"

Heero took him in his arms again wishing it were enough to protect Duo from the assaults of memory. When the sobbing against his shoulder subsided, he whispered. "Tell me about it, Duo. Give it to me."

He did.

It hurt.

He hadn't seen them until it was too late. He tried to stop the burning arc of light as it swung toward the boy, maybe two years younger than himself. He failed, watching every year-long millisecond as the scythe vaporized the boy's torso. He tried to scream, to stop, to leave, but Shinigami was an impartial killer, caring nothing about youth or age, civilians or soldiers, innocence or guilt -- or the wishes of his avatar. Duo watched and listened as he wiped out the base, laughing.

They held each other as the evil memories, pain and self-hatred flowed out of Duo's mouth and Heero countered them with whispered words of peace. He was far past caring about the danger of his emotions. Like Pandora, he'd kept one thing from escaping. Now he held it in his arms. The danger of showing the million things that fluttered free inside him was nothing compared to the danger of losing this one, priceless thing.

Hope.

The faint glow of the Milky Way spread across the sky before Duo finished pouring the darkness from his soul, but he knew Heero had heard every word he said. For the first time since he'd met him, he was sure Heero had actually listened to him.

Sharing the sorrow softened it for them both.

[
And I will be your shield
'Cause I know how it feels
When you are a soldier.
]

They walked single-file down the narrow path back to the tent, Heero behind Duo.

Duo whispered, "Did you mean that part about caring about me?"

Heero caught him and turned him around, the moon filling the cold blue eyes with its soft light. "You're the only person I care about enough to keep living for." He felt the things inside him urging him on. "Sometimes you make me so angry I want to kill you, but I can't. If you ever died…" He shrugged. "I wouldn't have anyone I cared about enough to keep living for. So I don't, because the times when you don't make me angry are worth the times you do." He looked at Duo, the beautiful braid, the lovely violet eyes and the joyful soul that lit them with the life that was so precious to him. "Is that love?"

Moonlight exposed the rare uncertainty on Heero's face. It was a genuine question. Heero had never known love. "Yes, Heero. That's love." Duo leaned forward and kissed the cool lips. He'd always wondered what they felt like. "That is the kind of love that can last forever." He felt Heero take his hand.

"Stay with me, Duo." Live for me, Duo.

"I will." Duo tried a small smile and was relieved when it didn't crumble under its own weight. He led the way back to the tent. It had been four days since either of them had a decent night's sleep. They collapsed onto the sleeping bags, too tired to crawl into them.

"Hold me," Duo whispered.

Heero rolled over and wrapped his arms tight around Duo, his cheek against Duo's forehead. "I'll never let you go." He felt Duo's arms circle his waist, warm under the tank top. A moment later Duo's breathing slowed to the steady rhythm of sleep. Heero smiled and joined him.

[
I will be your shield
'Cause I know how it feels
When you are a soldier.
]

When the ghosts of slaughtered children came haunting, Duo woke to feel Heero's arms around him and to hear whispered words, "It's OK. I love you."