After a weekend spent trying to wade through several hundred pages of fine Russian literature, I have come to the conclusion that cliff's notes are wonderful things. It's been a busy weekend, but now it's Monday and I have time to kill again... <pauses> Ya know, that's really weird... Oh well.

NEway, it's back to GW and FY for me... It's pretty much gone AU by this point, but when creative inspiration fails me, I borrow heavily from FY. So there. As my government teacher once told me, "Plagiarize plagiarize plagiarize!"

Strange man.

But I'm babbling now. AU, OOC, yaoi, random spoilers, and so forth.

Written under the influence of Veggie Tales and Ben & Jerry's. Be warned.

Okane and Omae o Korosu
Part Sixteen



Relena set her carton of take-out Chinese and looked at Duo gravely.

"Duo, this isn't one of your pranks, is it?" she asked suspiciously.

"Things like this don't *happen*."

Duo snorted and pointed at Tamahome with his chopsticks. "Ne, ojousan, do you think he's acting like the Heero we all know and love?"

Relena paused and considered Tamahome for a long moment as he worked his way through the cartons of take-out. "Ano... Heero wouldn't be caught dead watching soap operas," she admitted. "Are you sure he didn't just... hit his head or something?"

Tamahome shook his head. "It's real, very real, Relena-san." He sighed mournfully. "Ch. I just want to go home."

"Yeah, it's bad enough that Heero keeps self-destructing in his own body--to do the same thing when he's in somebody else's skin... that's just bad manners, ne Relena?" Duo chuckled.

"Since when has *Heero* been known for being polite?" Relena replied, laughing. "But... why would this happen?"

They looked at each other, unable to concoct a satisfactory explanation.1 Then Duo shrugged. "Pass the fried rice."


They set out for Sailo very early the next morning, despite protests from Tasuki (never a morning person) and Nuriko (who was extremely tired and didn't care who knew it). By the time the sun had risen fully above the horizon, they were an hour away from Hokkan and moving swiftly. As the morning wore on, and they began waking up, conversations picked up as well. About mid-morning, with his customary level of tact, Tasuki reined his horse in next to Heero's to talk. "Oi, Heero, what's it like ta almost die?"

"Tasuki, I cannot believe that you just asked that," Nuriko stated flatly. "What kind of thing is that to ask a person?"

"Ch. I just wanted to know," Tasuki said defensively.

"It hurts like hell."

"Huh?" Nuriko and Tasuki broke off the incipient squabble to stare at Heero after his unexpected comment.

"Dying hurts like hell." Heero snorted softly. "That's what I told Trowa when he asked the same sort of question... the first time I self-destructed."

"Ne, Hee-chan... you do this sort of thing often?" Nuriko asked, raising an eyebrow.

"Baka. I'm a soldier, and failing a mission is not an option," Heero answered.

"What kind of fucked-up world do you live in?" Tasuki asked indignantly. "If you fail your mission, you're expected to get yourself killed? Ch."

Heero glanced at him briefly. "The ultimate mission... is to bring about peace. Even if it requires the sacrifice of a few soldiers' lives."

Tasuki digested this. "You actually believe that?"

Heero paused and thought before replying. "It's what I've been trained to believe."

"But do you actually believe it?"

//flash of warm smiling indigo eyes... would he sacrifice the laughter in those eyes for the sake of the mission?//

Heero remained silent, and Tasuki, giving up on an answer, spurred his horse forward to join Chichiri.


"I gotta say one thing, Relena, you've got good timing... with the guys gone on a mission, there's no one around to criticize me for this," Duo chuckled, putting the final touches on the Monster Sundae from Hell.

Relena stared at the concoction incredulously. It had begun with a quart of vanilla-mocha swirled ice cream scooped into a mixing bowl; Duo had then covered the ice cream with caramel topping and hot fudge. Having pounded a bag of cookies into submission, he poured the fragments over the syrup, and then coated the entire gooey mess with whipped cream. As the final artistic touch, he place a single maraschino cherry on top of the pile. "Ano... is it safe to eat that thing?" Relena asked.

Duo grinned and handed her and Tamahome a spoon. "Of course it is!" He admired his masterpiece for a moment and then attacked. "Why wouldn't it be?"

"I'm sure I heard somewhere that people can die from sugar overdoses..." Relena murmured.

"Then they die happy hyper deaths," Duo said, nodding emphatically. "Dig in. Trust me, you do *not* want me to eat this all by myself. I'll lose my slim girlish figure, you know."

Relena snorted. "More likely you'll act even more like the baka that you are." She poked at the sundae. "God, Duo... you're crazy."

"Thank you!" Duo beamed. "Now eat, both of you!"

Laughing, Relena took a huge bite of ice cream, while Tamahome cautiously tasted the sundae. His eyes went wide as his tongue went into sensory overload at the incredibly complex, too-sweet dessert melting in his mouth. Duo and Relena took one look at his dumbfounded expression and burst into laughter. "Damn, don't they have ice cream where you come from, Tamahome?" Duo asked, licking at another bite.

Tamahome violently shook his head no, scooping up another spoonful of slowly-melting sundae.

Relena looked shocked. "How can anyone live without ice cream?" she asked.

"It's a tragedy," Duo agreed solemnly.


After a long day of riding hard, no one was in a mood to talk much as they settled down for the evening. Even Miaka's generally unfailing genkiness had flagged noticeably, and Chichiri's mask seemed almost to droop with fatigue. "One more day of this no da, and we should be in Sailo," he sighed.

"Good," Nuriko commented. "I don't think we can take much more of this. Especially Miaka and Chiriko." He nodded at the youngest seishi, who was already asleep against Mitsukake's shoulder. Nuriko plopped down next to Heero. "Ne, Hee-chan, you've been about as talkative as a rock today. What's bugging you?"

Heero blinked at him. Then he looked at Tasuki. "No. I don't believe it," he said quietly.

"Huh?" Tasuki looked confused for a moment. "You don't believe what?"

"Some things should not be sacrificed," Heero told him, before turning his gaze to the flames and wondering what a certain braided baka was doing.


[1] And somewhere in authorspace, Emily laughed.

<sighs heavily> I'm sorry this is taking so long, but RL is being annoying lately. Not a lot of action in this part, gomen, but it should start getting interesting in the next part. After all, we haven't met Tomo yet, ne?

C&C always welcome!



Ah, at last, the long-awaited P17... gomen to all of you who've been waiting for this, I've been... a touch uninspired. But Bob, having received pocky *and* an interesting offer from another muse, is feeling considerably more talkative. <pats her muse's bottom>

NEway, GW/FY, a few spoilers for FY, yaoi of course, and AU.

Okane and Omae o Korosu
Part Seventeen



Nuriko yawned, and then smirked down at the blanket-wrapped lump that was the slumbering Heero. He made a face at the first faint stains of dawn in the east, then put a hand on Heero's shoulder. "Ne, Hee-chan, ohayo."

Heero reacted with remarkable speed, sitting up and reaching for a weapon that wasn't there and casting about for danger. "Nani?" he demanded.

Nuriko sat back and grinned at him. "Time to get moving, sleepyhead."

Heero grimaced. "I just *got* to sleep," he muttered, laying back and pulling the blanket over his head.

Nuriko laughed, amused by the almost childishly petty tone to the "perfect soldier's" voice. "Well, sorry you couldn't sleep, Hee-chan, but we've got to get moving... it's still a long trip to Sailo."

The only response was a muffled grunt. Nuriko nudged Heero again, only to catch the response, "Omae o korosu."

"Well, if that's the way you want it," Nuriko sighed. He grasped the blanket in one firm hand and stripped it off Heero.

One cobalt eye cracked open, promising death. "I have had precisely one hour of sleep. If I am to function properly as a protector of the miko, I require more sleep," Heero growled, reaching for the blanket.

Nuriko scuttled back, clutching his trophy. "Why'd you sleep so bad, Hee-chan? You dropped right off last night. I could hear you snoring."

"Don't call me that, I don't snore, and I slept all the way through the past hour," Heero muttered, rolling to his feet and advancing on the now-laughing Nuriko.

"You do too snore. Which is funny, because Tamahome *never* snores," Nuriko retorted. He yelped and dodged away from Heero's lunge. "And it's been an entire night, Hee-chan."

"Do not. Has not." Heero tackled Nuriko, wrestling with him for possession of the blanket. "It's been one hour."

"You do too. Hey, ow... no fair biting... gimme that..." Nuriko pushed Heero's hands away, pinning the boy by dint of sheer strength. "And it's been an entire night."

Heero glared up at him, but there *might* have been a hint of a smile tugging at his mouth. "Do not. And I know it's been an hour." With a grunt of effort, he flipped Nuriko, the blanket getting wrapped tightly around them both in the process.

"Do too. And how would you know, anyway?" Nuriko demanded, eyes sparkling despite the dark circles beneath them. He twisted them again, the blanket wrapping even more snugly around them.

"Do *not*. I'm trained to be aware of how long I sleep," Heero retorted, his face just inches away from Nuriko's... and there definitely was a faint smile there, a pale mirror of the grin on Nuriko's face. He tried to turn, but the blanket and Nuriko's firm (though gentle) grip kept him effectively pinned.

"Do *too*. And how can anyone be that well-trained?" Nuriko inquired, curiously.

"Do *NOT*. Don't ask," Heero grunted, still struggling to counter Nuriko's superior grip.

"Do *TOO*. Y'know, you're cute when you're trying not to smile," Nuriko announced, teasingly. He closed the distance between himself and Heero, gently brushing his lips against Heero's.

Heero went very still, shock running through his mind. *What the hell...?* he thought, dazedly, as Nuriko kissed him again, this time more insistently, and he found himself kissing back. Nuriko made a soft noise, somewhere between a whimper and a moan, and coaxed Heero's mouth open with an insistent tongue. Heero's eyes drifted shut under the sweet assault of those soft lips...

*Duo. Suki da...*

"Nuriko, isn't he awake yet--Oh, shit!" Tasuki stood, dumbfounded, in the entrance to the tent. As Nuriko broke away from Heero, blushing, Tasuki turned as red as his hair. "Uh, gomen... I'll just... wait outside... uh, yeah... that's it..." He retreated hastily, but his comment the moment he was safely out of sight was clearly audible. "Damn, you're not going to believe what they were doing in there, guys!"

Nuriko groaned, disentangling himself from the blanket and Heero. "I--gomen, Heero. I got carried away." He rolled into a sitting position, arms laid across bent knees, facing away from Heero.

Heero continued to stare at the tent above him. "Aa." *I thought... he was Duo.* "Daijobu."

"Is it, really?" Nuriko asked wistfully.

"...Hai." Heero sighed softly.

"I forgot... that you had someone. I didn't mean to--" Nuriko continued apologizing. "Gomen."

"Iie." Heero sat up slowly, and only then realized that Nuriko was crying. Feeling awkward, he scooted over and touched his shoulder carefully. "Nani?"

Nuriko leaned against him, crying softly. "'m just a baka, that's all," he mumbled indistinctly. Heero, by this point on completely foreign ground, bit his lip and tried to think of what to do next.

*Think, Yuy! What would Duo do?*

He tentatively put an arm around Nuriko's shoulders, who gratefully leaned into the support offered. He didn't seem inclined to speak any more, and Heero had no idea what to say, so they simply sat together for a few minutes, silent. Finally, a cautious voice from outside the tent interrupted them. "Heero, Nuriko no da? Are you ... busy, no da?"

"Daijobu desu ka?" Heero asked Nuriko quietly. He nodded. Then Heero raised his voice. "Not any more, we're not."

A moment of embarrassed quiet from outside the tent, then--"Shit, that's more than I wanted to know!"

Nuriko chuckled slightly. "Well, let's not keep them waiting, ne, Hee-chan?"

"Aa." Heero squeezed Nuriko gently, then released him. It was time to go face the rest of the group--and the final leg of the journey to Sailo.


Bob: Well, that went off in a direction that *I* totally didn't expect. <pokes Emily, who died during one of the pauses between writing the above part> Ne, if *you* had been around, that probably wouldn't have happened.

<sighs> Crazy authors, up and dying on you at the oddest moments. Ah well. C&C always appreciated.




<waves chipperly> Hi, minna! It's time to play the O&O game again! Bob: <sweatdrops> Forgive her, she's genki... NEway, here's part 18.

FY/GW, spoilers for FY, yaoi, AU, OOC, generally weird, sympathetic Relena, and a partridge in a pear tree...

The various characters belong to whom they belong. Which is not me.

Okane and Omae o Korosu
Part Eighteen



Relena and Duo stared at Tamahome in awe. "I can't believe he ate so much," Relena whispered.

"Heero's going to kill me if he comes back and finds out he's outgrown his spandex," Duo replied, in an equally soft voice.

Relena giggled. "I can't believe he fell asleep at the table..."

"Well, he *is* still recovering from his bout with a self-destruct, ne?" Duo observed.

"He looks different when he's asleep, doesn't he?" Relena asked quietly, face gentle as she studied Tamahome, whose head was pillowed in his arms and turned slightly to the side. His face was slack and peaceful, a slight smile turning up the corners of his lips.

"Well, I know for sure he's not Heero," Duo conceded.


"No snoring." Duo chuckled wryly.

Relena glanced at Duo incredulously. "You're kidding. Heero snores?"

"Yep. He refuses to admit it, though." Duo smiled. "But he doesn't relax even that much when he's asleep..."

"Don't worry, Duo... I'm sure the real Heero will come back soon," Relena said consolingly, reacting to the heartache that she could tell was lurking beneath the surface of Duo's cheerful attitude. She patted his shoulder.

Duo let the act slip away. "God, I hope so," he muttered. "Wonder what he's doing right now..."


Tasuki lasted all the way till mid-morning before he could no longer contain himself. "Oi! So are you two a couple now or what?"

Heero could see Nuriko flush to the roots of his cropped hair. Coolly he turned his best glare upon the bandit. "It's none of your business," he retorted.

Tasuki, to his credit, didn't back down. Much. "Well, I was just wondering what was going to happen when Tamahome came back to his body, that's all... Ch. No need to go all defensive on me."

"Ano... da... Tasuki... maybe this isn't the right time no da," Chichiri suggested.

"Nothing happened," Nuriko said unexpectedly, heat making his tone fierce. "And nothing's *going* to happen. Heero and I are just friends."

Tasuki knew better than to comment at that, considering the threat apparent on Heero's face and the expression of pain on Nuriko's.

"Aa... wakatta. Gomen."

The party lapsed back into silence, until Miaka complained, "I'm so tired..."

Heero's attention snapped to her as he gladly shoved the problem of what to do with Nuriko aside. "That's because we've only had about an hour's worth of sleep," he replied matter-of-factly.

"You're *still* insisting on that?" Nuriko sighed, even as the rest of the group gave Heero a very funny look.

"What do you mean no da?"

"Hn. We've only slept for one hour," Heero replied.

Chichiri shook his head. "I wish you'd mentioned this earlier no da..."


Tomo frowned. *Nani?* he asked himself, as the Suzaku seishi ceased wandering about in circles through the desert. *It's only midmorning for them...*

Frowning, he sent one of his simulacrums into the shin to investigate.


Duo saw Relena to her car, then went inside with a sigh. With her help, he had managed to get Tamahome to bed without waking him up. He collapsed on his nest on the couch, worn out by the day's events. *At least Tamahome doesn't hate me... as much...* Duo thought wearily. *Heh. Wonder what brought that on, anyway?* And that was the last thing he remembered before sleep overtook him.


Heh. Well, Tomo *finally* makes the scene. Ch. Can't believe it took me this long to work the Painted One into the story. Now, if only Bob would tell me how to get them *out* of the illusion...

Bob: Heh, yeah, right. Right now I'm encouraging you strongly to go work on Two's Company... p3.

<smirk> Oh, well, in *that* case...

C&C welcomed always, minna!

<bounces away genkily>




Warning: It gets weird now. I'm writing this after an evening of RPing... Heh heh heh.

GW/FY, some spoilers for FY, AU, OOC, yaoi, and oddness.

Oh yeah... it gets a touch limey, too...

This is for Michi, who begged shamelessly for a certain pairing... but she can't say I didn't warn her!

Okane and Omae o Korosu
Part Nineteen



Six pairs of eyes watched Chichiri expectantly as he concentrated on scanning the area for enemy ki. At length, the mage sighed and shook his head. "Nothing no da. Everything seems normal na no da."

"Iie. There's something ... wrong," Heero maintained, jaw jutting out stubbornly.

"If you insist," Nuriko sighed. "I just wish you could tell us what it *is*."

"Hn," Heero grunted, surveying the landscape, wondering what was going on, prompting his sense of unease. Somewhere, somehow... there was hidden danger. A flash of movement, caught from the corner of an eye--Heero half-turned to see what it was--A face, framed by two locks of silver grey, the rest pulled back into a ponytail. Cruel golden eyes, a mocking smile, then--

--He sat bolt upright in bed, breathing hoarsely, staring at the darkened bedroom with wild eyes.

"Nani?" came the sleepy, husky protest. Duo rollled over, glaring at Heero resentfully.

Heero stared down at him in disbelief. "Duo?" he asked.

"What, you were expecting Wufei?" came the dry answer. "Oi, Heero, daijoubu?"

Heero blinked, clenching and unclenching his fists. "Aa..."

*A dream? Just... a dream?* He thought dazedly, staring down at his braided lover. Slowly, moving methodically, he slid back down to lie next to Duo.

Duo snuggled closer to him. "Ne... since we're both awake..." he murmured suggestively, sliding a hand across Heero's chest.

Heero blinked... catapulted back through memories to an identical situation, when he had woken from a nightmare in the middle of the night... and then he and Duo had--and after, Duo had said--

Even as he was trying to puzzle out the meaning of his vivid--dream--Heero was reacting to Duo's insistent mouth and touch. *Is this... a second chance? A warning, to tell me to do it right this time?* Heero groaned as Duo's teasing fingers and mouth made coherent thought next to impossible.

"Nnnnggg... Duo..." *I... missed this...* He grunted as Duo penetrated him, moaning as he moved skillfully within him, hitting *that* spot, pumping him at the same time. After a few enthusiastic minutes spent in the most intimate embrace, Heero exploded in Duo's hands. Duo came then, with a groan he muffled against Heero's shoulder. He curled up next to Heero, idly stroking his lover's sweaty chest.

Heero closed his eyes, waiting... the quiet whisper came floating through the darkness. "Suki da, Heero... suki da..."

Heero opened his eyes. *This time, get it right, baka...* "Aa... Suki da, Duo." He pulled Duo closer and kissed the top of his head.

Duo went still at his side, as if not quite certain he had heard properly.

Then, with a muffled gasp, he propped himself up on one arm, leaning over Heero. "H-honto ni?" he stammered, with a strange little catch in his voice.

"Hai... suki da," Heero told him, a little stunned by the enormity of what he had just admitted. Then a drop of moisture hit his face--and another, and another. *Rain?* he thought incongruously, before realization struck. Duo was crying. He reached up slowly, touching Duo's wet cheek.


Duo leaned down and kissed Heero tenderly. "'Cause I'm happy, baka... I'm really, really happy..."

"Hn." Heero wrapped his arms around Duo's wiry form. "Me too."


Nuriko broke away from the tentative first kiss, blushing furiously. Heero stared up at him with confused, hazy purple-grey eyes. "G-gomen, Heero--" he stammered, trying to disentangle himself from the blanket and the other young man.

"Aa..." Heero worked a hand free of the blanket, catching hold of Nuriko's arm lightly. He hesitated visibly, looking bewildered. "I--don't... go."

Nuriko shook his head, wisps of purple hair floating around his delicate face, but he couldn't pull away. "Gomen ne, Heero," he whispered. "Demo... you have someone..."

Heero looked troubled. "I know... but..." His grip on Nuriko's arm tightened.

"But what, Heero?" Nuriko allowed himself to be pulled forward by the insistent pressure until they were practically nose-to-nose again.

"I don't know what to do about you..." Heero breathed, sounding more vulnerable than Nuriko would have thought possible.

"What do you want me to do?" Nuriko asked softly, his breath ghosting across Heero's skin lightly.

Heero stared up at him, pleadingly, unable to articulate what he needed from Nuriko. "Don't--leave--"

"Aa..." Nuriko lowered his mouth onto Heero's again, giving him plenty of opportunity to retreat or refuse. Heero did neither, relaxing into the soft pressure after a moment's initial stiffness.

Nuriko melted against Heero, eagerly exploring the other's mouth and showering questing kisses across his skin. Heero's hand clenched on his arm as Nuriko moved down the side of his neck, nipping curiously, discovering the flavor of his skin.

Heero was a silent and passive lover, Nuriko discovered, working the cumbersome layers of clothes off in order to explore the expanses of smooth skin beneath. The soft sounds he made played counterpoint to Nuriko's less-restrained cries of pleasure as he did the things to Heero that he had fantasized about many times since meeting the enigmatic soldier. They came with quiet cries, and Nuriko collapsed beside Heero, cuddling against him tiredly.

Heero seemed inclined to drift off to sleep, Nuriko noted absently. "Ne, Hee-chan... suki da," he whispered.

Heero moaned slightly. "Ai shiteiru, Duo..." Then he began to snore softly.


Relena started to tell Pargan to head home, but paused. *I might never have another chance like this one,* she told herself. *But... isn't it taking advantage of him?* She sighed softly. "Pargan, wait here. There's something I--forgot to do. I'll be right back." She exited the vehicle and ran back to the safehouse.

She knocked on the door--no answer. She waited, and knocked again. Still no answer. Feeling slightly furtive, she tried the handle--it was unlocked. Unusual, but convenient. Relena slipped back into the house, only to find Duo sprawled out on the living room couch, out cold. *No wonder he didn't answer the door...* she thought, taking a moment to appreciate the sight. In repose, Duo's face was tranquil and possessed of an almost angelic beauty. His braid, gleaming with its own light in the gentle glow of a forgotten lamp, snaked across the pillows, dangling off the side of the couch.

Relena smiled softly, almost unwilling to disturb such serenity. Then she firmed her resolve. *I may never be able to do this again.* She glided over to the boneless heap of sleeping pilot and leaned over him. *It's almost like a fairy tale...* Hesitantly, she pressed her lips to Duo's.

Duo made a soft, sleepy noise, his lips curving slightly beneath hers as an arm snaked around her back, pulling her closer.

"NANI?!" demanded an outraged nasal voice.

Duo's eyes shot open, staring directly into Relena's startled blue eyes.

*What the fuck?* he thought, as she scrambled back. He sat up, highly confused, only to see a highly incensed Tamahome standing in the doorway.

"Huh?" he asked.

Tamahome, looking tousled from sleep, pointed an accusing finger at him.

"Teme! I can't believe you--you're absolutely the center of his world, and here you are, kissing someone else! You disgust me." He spat and walked away.

Duo blinked and turned to Relena, who was a brilliant crimson. "What in the hell just happened?"

She refused to meet his eyes. "I--was kissing you."

Duo's jaw dropped. "You--what?"

She twisted her fingers in her lap, the words tumbling out rapidly. "I just couldn't help myself... now that Heero's not here, I thought that maybe, just for a little while, I could be the one to be there for you... especially since he never really treats you like you deserve anyway. I--like you, Duo... a lot. I guess I was just hoping that I would have a chance with you now, since Heero's..."

Duo leaned back into the couch, rubbing his eyes. *Geez... I'm too tired to handle this...* "Relena, you have no idea how *flattered* I am, but..."

She nodded imperceptibly. "I know. Let's just be friends, right?"

Duo heaved a breath of relief. "Yeah... please?"

Relena looked at him, lips turned up in a smile that failed to reach her eyes. "Friends, then. If you ever need me for anything, you know how to reach me. I'll... show myself out." She turned and fled.

Duo let his head drop back, staring at the ceiling. "Why me?"


Tomo frowned, examining the private dreams of each of his victims. There was something off... about the Suzaku no Shichiseishi Tamahome's dream...

It was nothing like any of the others. The illusion master studied the dream more closely, and uttered a muffled curse in surprise. "Masaka! He is... from the mikos' world?" he asked softly. He compared the two dreams. *No... they are different worlds... Can it be that there are more than two worlds?*

He laughed, quietly. "Nakago-sama will be pleased by this information," he whispered to the shin. "Tamahome is missing... there is an imposter among the Suzaku seishi..."

He turned, leaving the Suzaku seishi caught in illusions of their own creation...




Duo: Oi, Em, you *are* evil.

Heero: Hn.

<blinks innocently> But that's what you guys wanted me to write, ne? <giggles> It's good to be eeeeeeeeevil.

If this doesn't generate noise, nothing I do will. C&C, please?



Ya know, when I started this, I *never* expected it to hit twenty parts and still be going strong. <sweatdrops> Oh well, guess that's life.

Okay, the standard: GW/FY, spoilers, AU, OOC, yaoi. Not mine, don't sue.

Okane and Omae o Korosu
Part Twenty


Through the whole of Tomo's report, Nakago gave no sign of what he was thinking. At length, he accepted the two shin containing the illusions of Miaka and the stranger's worlds. Eager to please the shogun, Tomo excitedly guided Nakago through the two illusion worlds.

Miaka's world--complete with its own happy, smiling version of Yui--was vastly different from the imposter--Heero's--world. Heero's world was filled with war and gigantic killing machines, contrasting sharply with Miaka's gentle, ordinary world. The illusion trapping Heero portrayed a group of five boys--children in everything but experience and spirit--fighting a nearly hopeless war in hopes of building a better future. Miaka's world... was much softer. There was no war raging out of control there, no children-warriors caught up in a web of politics and obscure motives.

Nakago, at length, withdrew from the illusions. "How much longer will they survive?" he asked.

"No more than a matter of days, Nakago-sama. They are rapidly losing strength... especially the miko and the young one."

Nakago nodded briefly. "Carry on, then." Tomo recognized the tone of dismissal and bowed. "Send the lady Yui in on your way out."

"Hai, Nakago-sama."

Yui arrived within moments. "What is it?" she inquired, looking petulant.

"I wished you to know that there is an imposter among the Suzaku seishi," he replied.

"Again?" she answered, indifferent to Nakago's schemes. "As I recall, the last attempt to infiltrate the Suzaku team failed miserably, and cost us an easy summoning ceremony."

"We did not place him among the Suzaku seishi. He has, however, taken the place of Tamahome, even to the point of occupying his body," Nakago told her, sounding almost careless.

Yui's eyes widened, and he could almost see the mental processes in her mind. "When did *this* happen?" she demanded.

"I am not certain. Presumably before the seishi arrived in Hokkan, if my calculations are correct. The Suzaku seishi plan to send him back to his own world and retrieve the real Tamahome with one of the miko's wishes."

"I see. Was that all?" Yui asked, her eyes glinting with renewed determination... and not a little malice.

"Yes. I merely wished to keep you appraised of the situation," Nakago told her.

Yui smiled faintly. "I appreciate you concern for my edification, Nakago."


*Why the hell should I even _care_?!* Tamahome thought angrily, tossing and turning uncomfortably. *So what if Duo's cheating on his boyfriend while he's not around? As long as I get back to my own world, it doesn't matter...*

Tamahome made a face. It *did* matter. He come to accept the idea of two boys loving each other as being as acceptable as a guy loving a girl... mostly in response to sharing, if only for a while, Heero's views of the world around him... and his views of Duo in particular.

So it bothered Tamahome [to see him] flagrantly kissing Relena, directly contradicting his earlier avowal that he loved Heero.

*I suppose they could've set up a threesome...* his mind supplied helpfully. Tamahome groaned, flinching and burying his face in his pillow at the hentai thought. There were still some concepts that he refused to accept. *Besides... I don't think Heero is the type...*

*Admit it, you're just disappointed in Duo,* the quiet, rational part of his mind said.

Tamahome rolled over and conceded the point. Heero trusted Duo--loved him, even. Knowing that Duo was betraying that trust was painful.

*I'll discuss it with Duo in the morning,* he decided sleepily. Then he drifted to sleep, dreaming fond dreams of being reunited once more with Miaka.


Heero frowned slightly, readjusting his grip on Duo, not wanting to let go of the braided baka while they watched television. After all, why waste a perfectly good opportunity to hold onto his lover? And he could care less about what the other pilots thought about the situation...

Duo shot a sly grin at him, snuggling a little closer on the couch. Quatre caught the motion and smiled slightly.

So far, no one had said anything at all about him and Duo, and their newfound closeness. Not that Quatre and Trowa *could* say much, considering their own status as a firm couple. Quatre had smiled broadly to see Duo able to lavish affections on Heero, and Trowa's eyes had softened slightly. Wufei had merely shrugged, obviously dismissing it as none of his concern.

And Duo... was estatic. If Heero was reluctant to let Duo out of sight, Duo was reluctant to be out of instant touching range. It was ... nice, actually, Heero decided, if occasionally constricting. Duo seemed to be making up for all the lost time when he hadn't been able to hug Heero, or snuggle with him while watching television, or just *look* at him with his heart in his eyes.

Heero toyed gently with Duo's braid. It was a perfect moment... the five of them, just watching television and eating popcorn like normal teenaged guys. He never wanted it to end, even though he knew it would. In a few moments, his laptop would beep with an incoming mission and they'd all have to leave, becoming hardened soldiers once again.

This time, though... *this* time he wouldn't self-destruct. This time he had no feelings to hide from.

This time--Heero blinked. The moment for the disturbance had come... and gone.

There was no mission where there was supposed to be a mission.

Heero frowned. *What the hell? I _know_ there's supposed to be a mission...*

Beside him, Duo groaned in frustration as the program on the television was interrupted for an official announcement. "I *hate* it when this happens," he grumbled. "They always pick the best parts of the show to do this, too."

Wufei hushed him as a telecaster, beaming, began speaking on the screen. His message was brief, but shocking.

"Masaka," Quatre whispered, as the news camera panned across vistas of celebrating crowds in cities on both earth and colonies. "It's... too good to be true..."

*This isn't how it's supposed to happen...* Heero thought dazedly. *It's... so easy...*

Trowa was holding Quatre, his eyes every bit as shocked as anyone else's in the room. Wufei's mouth was opening and closing slowly, but no sound emerged. Duo, with a suspicious hitch in his voice that might have been a sob, finally dared utter the word that they couldn't quite fit their minds around. "Peace? Honto... honto ni?"

Heero tightened his grip on Duo, mind whirling with possibilities. "Duo--"

The other boy threw his arms around Heero's neck, stuck between laughing and crying. "Heero, they declared peace!"

Heero hugged Duo fiercely, throat tight. Then he took a deep breath. "Duo. Look at me, Duo."

Duo lifted shining indigo eyes to Heero's face. "Nani?"

Heero placed his hands on either side of Duo's heart-shaped face and kissed him tenderly. "Duo... aishiteru." He inhaled deeply. "I--just wanted to say it, at least once, to your face."

Duo's face was a study of overwhelming joy, confusion, and love. He pounced Heero, covering his face with kisses. Then, noticing that Heero wasn't responding, he drew back. "What's wrong?"

Heero stared up at him, slowly tracing the curve of Duo's cheek. "This... isn't... real," he whispered slowly. "I don't know why, or how, but this isn't real. None of it is real. The peace isn't real... and you aren't real, either."

From the floor, Wufei spoke up irritably. "For God's sake, Heero, can't you accept a good thing when he throws himself into your lap?"

Heero sighed deeply and forced himself not to believe... not to believe that he was lying sprawled on the lumpy, cigarette-smelling couch... not to believe that he could still taste the salty, buttery popcorn that Quatre had inflicted on him... not to believe that he could hear the static-fuzzed cheers from the television... not to believe that there was a shampoo-scented weight on his chest poking him and demanding to know what the hell he was babbling about anyway... not to believe that he was staring into two pools of concerned, loving indigo...

Heero forced himself not to believe.

And he sat bolt upright in the midst of a scrubby, unfamiliar terrain, surrounded by the dazed figures of the Suzaku shichiseishi.




<blinks> Well, I believe that about wraps it up for this evening's ficcing... Time to go watch ZSQuatre! <giggles madly>

C&C, anyone?