Warnings: Language, Sarcasm, Pissy Quatre
Rating: PG-13
Author: Aya

Darker Side of Death + Part One

Long flowing hair and slender limbs framed the large picture window as Duo sat on the sill, gazing out blankly at the setting sun.

Normally expressive eyes were bleak and it seemed as though the boy was somewhere far away although he was not more than ten feet from Heero. The safe house wasn't anything spectacular, just a two story wooden cabin with a leaky roof. Trowa was on a mission and Wufei was out doing his lone ranger thing so that left only him, Duo and Quatre to occupy the living space.

Quatre was doing his best to pretend everything was okay when Heero could plainly see that worry was eating away at him. He was not sure how close Quatre and Trowa had gotten since their meeting, but Heero suspected that it was something deeper than friendship.

He heard Quatre crying softly in the middle of the night and he noticed how the slight empath would sometimes rub his chest murmuring that Trowa had to be alright. Sometimes Heero got a sudden urge to try to comfort the other teenager but his lack of communication skills prevented such a thing from happening. Heero put those thoughts out of his mind and concentrated on the boy before him.

"Duo, dinner's ready."

There was no sign that Duo had even heard him as his eyes remained focused on some distant point beyond the window. His expression was haunted and for the first time Heero took the time to study that heart shaped face. He had always admired Duo's beauty, wondered how a creature so physically perfect could serve in such a bloody war.

However, he had never actually allowed himself to gaze into those eyes for fear that he would be caught. Or rather, for fear that he would fall deeper into whatever trap those luminous eyes seemed to draw him into. Now Heero studied that face and noticed how hollow those normally round cheeks were. There were tiny lines around Duo's eyes with full dark circles to accompany them. He looked tired, drained and ashen. It was the expression of a man who had seen and lived through his worst nightmares.

Dark eyebrows drew together and Heero moved closer, placing a hesitant hand on his partner's shoulder. "Duo, dinner." Heero was not one for physical contact. He did not like people invading his personal space and he did not like invading other people's. However when Duo still did not respond, he squeezed one slender shoulder and blinked when the longhaired boy snapped out of whatever trance he had been in. Duo tensed and his eyes widened a fraction as he stared at Heero blankly for a moment. Then as if he were coming to terms with something, he relaxed and flashed an obviously forced grin. "Hey Heero, what's up?" The attempted cheer was half hearted.

Blue eyes narrowed and Heero's mouth tightened into a thin line. "What is wrong with you?"

Duo's eyes narrowed and the attempted smile faded. "Nothing you need to concern yourself with." He said coldly.

If Heero hadn't been so good at controlling his facial expressions, he would have flinched. Those words coming from Duo in such a cold manner made something inside of him twist. For a moment Heero could say nothing, but then he pushed his feelings aside and drew away from the boy. "As long as it doesn't mess with your performance, I won't."

Duo blinked and his mouth turned down into a disappointed scowl. "Whatever." He glared at Heero for another moment before getting to his feet and brushing past the Wing pilot rudely.

Heero clenched his hands into fists and stared after Duo, trying to figure out what the hell had just happened.

+

Duo sat at the table and smiled at Quatre, doing his best to pretend that Heero was not in the room with him. Everyone knew - well only Quatre knew - that he had feelings for Heero. However he was not a silly school girl like a certain blonde haired pacifist so he did not go running around broad casting his feelings. Instead he did the childish thing and was rude to Heero, using every sarcastic comment in the book to get under the other pilot's skin. Partly this was because Duo didn't know what else to do to get a reaction out of Heero and it was also because it got on his last nerve that the other boy acted so much like a mindless drone. The mission this, the mission that. Bah.

Usually that was Duo's excuse for being rude, but today it was something entirely different. He hadn't been able to get a good night's sleep in weeks. Not since he had had that horrible dream about that nightmare mission, the mission that he hoped would never happen in real life..

Recurring nightmares had plagued him, preventing him from getting any rest and made him irritable as hell. But if that was not bad enough sometimes while he was tinkering with his mecha, or even eating.. he would hear that girl's voice whispering again and those images would flash in his mind.

"Duo?"

The boy in question shivered and looked up at Quatre with another forced smile. Damn, it had happened again. "What's up Q?"

Quatre pursed his lips together and studied his friend. "Is everything okay Duo? You don't look very good."

Duo's smile crumbled into a frown and he bit savagely into his chicken. "What is with you guys? I'm fine. Christ almighty."

"No, he is not fine." Heero decided to pipe up as he sat across the table from Duo. "He has not been sleeping at all for the past several days."

"Why don't you mind your own fucking business, Yuy?" Duo growled, glaring daggers at Heero who stared back impassively.

"We are just concerned about you Duo. We are a team after all. We have to look after each other because if we didn't, who else would?" Quatre admonished as he took his place at the table.

Duo opened his mouth to reply but realized that it was true. He slumped down into his chair and stared glumly at his plate. "Sorry."

"It's okay Duo, we have all been under a lot of stress lately." Quatre replied with a tiny smile. "Anyway, I have to make a trip to town this evening. I am low on supplies, salve, bandages and the sort. I was wondering if you'd want to come with me."

Duo's expression brightened at the idea of leaving the house and Heero. "Sure thing Q. I need a few things myself. I don't want to be stuck in here all night with the perfect jack ass, anyway." As soon as the words were out of his mouth Duo nearly bit his tongue off. Whoops. He hadn't meant to say that last part out loud. He could practically feel Heero's eyes boring into him.

"You guys.." Quatre rolled his eyes and sighed exasperatedly. Sometimes he actually wanted to get a mission so that he could be away from the two bickering teens.

+

"--And remember, do not steal! We have enough money to buy things without you stealing, Duo!" Quatre was nagging as he and Duo entered the large discount store.

"Sure thing Q. Two teenage guys buying a shit load of medical supplies is so inconspicuous that we should just mosey on up to the register flashing our moola with enough antiseptic and gauze to wrap up the entire fucking Oz army when we could easily use the five finger discount without drawing suspicion. Genius. Really. No wonder you are the brains of this outfit," Duo drawled as he sauntered along beside the blonde. He could practically hear Quatre gritting his teeth in annoyance.

"Well then, if you are finished dazzling me with your witty repartee I will go search for antibacterial ointment while you shove whatever you can in your pockets. Yes Duo, really inconspicuous. Coming into a store and walking out without buying anything. No one will notice anything funny there," Quatre replied dryly.

Duo stopped in his tracks and gazed at his friend in astonishment. "Was that.. a retort? A retort worthy of even me.. the master of sarcasm!? Gasp! You have come far my little grasshopper!"

"Even `I'," Quatre corrected before rolling his eyes and walking down another isle.

"Coulda sworn it was `me'," Duo muttered as he continued down the toiletries isle smirking to himself. It was just so much fun getting under Quatre's skin. The blonde looked particularly cute with his eyebrows drawn together and lips pursed. If Duo wasn't so attracted to homicidal Japanese guys he might have developed a crush for the kid.

The longhaired pilot walked with a little more bounce in his step as he cruised the isles. Getting out and going shopping usually got him out of whatever funk he was in. When he went out to the town or the city he could actually pretend he was a normal kid going shopping instead of a terrorist looking for supplies. For a little while he could just mess with the staff workers, flirt with the cashiers and forget about all of his freaky dreams and missions. It was the same reason why he liked to frequent night clubs whenever he had down time. It was just a bit of time when he could get away from it all and step outside of his life.

"Sometimes life can knock you down, just gotta pick your ass up off the gro~und, probably don't matter anyway, cause in the end it's gonna be ok, cuz life`s a holid~ay.."(1)

Duo sang along to the pre-colony song as it blared over the loud speakers in the store. He danced down the isle feeling better already as he bopped his head in rhythm to the song. "and tomorrow's another day, and I just wanna pla~y, cause I know that we'll be o~k, cause life's a holi~daay.." He was practically yelling the lyrics now and grinning maniacally at the mental image he was getting of Quatre ducking his head in embarrassment and muttering about not knowing him.

Duo was now serenading a shelf of tissue and about to finish the song with a flourish when an ice cold draft blew across his back suddenly. He stiffened immediately and knew that someone was standing behind him.

"Shinigami-Chan..." A female voice whispered softly in his ear.

That voice... the voice from his dream!

Without hesitation Duo spun around and drew his gun all in one quick movement; aiming it at the girl who stood before him. He inhaled shakily, any trace of his good mood had vanished.

Slanted crimson eyes stared back at him. Eyes that looked like they could spew fire when angered but now looked as though they were sparkling with mirth. A small upturned nose sat in the middle of a pale, gaunt face with thin purple lips that were twisted into a sardonic smirk. Her hair was short, resembling Heero's messy mop and it was spiked out in a disarray of onyx and cherry all over her head. She was a thin slip of a girl, taller than Duo but fragile looking. She was clad entirely in black; an ankle length cloak with a black dress beneath with the kanji for Shinigami embroidered over her chest in thick red thread. She lacked Relena's wholesome good looks and didn't seem to be in the same category as Hilde's tomboyish figure. She was attractive in a scary way but the best way to describe her... would be to say that she looked like a ghost. Her pale bluish white skin made her look like the walking dead.

"Death can't die Shinigami-Chan, isn't it you who always says that?" She practically purred as she eyed him with a smirk.

"What the fu-- who the... how in the..." Duo spluttered as he kept his gun trained on the girl.

She laughed merrily not seeming too concerned about the fact that a rather large gun was aimed at her face. "I'm sure there's a sentence in there just dying to get out."(2) she said in a teasing voice.

Duo's eyes hardened and his lip curled in a sneer. "Who the fuck are you?" He demanded.

"I have many names, which one would you like me to give you?" She asked with a grin.

"You are the girl from that... that dream." Duo stammered, trying to get a handle on what the hell was going on.

"Dream? That ---"

"I want some answers now or I will shoot you."

"Will you now? Tsk tsk Shinigami-Chan! So eager to kill are you? You'd shoot a poor innocent girl just because you claim you saw me in a `dream'?" She asked mockingly.

Duo glared at her for all he was worth. "Who the hell are you? I am not going to ask you again."

She sighed dramatically and bowed in front of him, peeking out from beneath her bangs. "You can call me Takai, that is the name my friends call me." She winked at him.

Duo scoffed. "Friends? Lady I'm aiming a gun at you, I ain't your friend."

"You're `not' my friend."

He grit his teeth in annoyance. Why was everyone so fucking concerned with his grammar today?

"Well since you do not wish to be my friend you can call me by my... professional name," She offered with another disarming grin.

"Oh yeah? And what's that?"

If possible, her large grin widened. "The same name you use so freely in battle: Shinigami."

Duo's eyebrow twitched and he stared at her blankly. "Lady... you are seriously off your rocker."

Takai crossed her arms over her chest. "Am I now? You are the one claiming to have seen me in `dreams' so why is it so hard to believe that I am the God of Death?"

"Because you--" He stopped abruptly and glared again. "I am not going to argue over your lunacy."

She waved a hand dismissively. "Fine whatever, have it your way. What would you like to talk about then? Your little dream?"

He nodded, still holding the gun steadily. "That was one fucking disturbing dream and obviously you know more than I do about it, so start talking. And then tell me who you really are, or else."

She rolled her eyes. "You've got me quaking in fear Shini-Chan."

"And stop calling me that!" He growled.

Takai leaned close to him and smiled ominously. "I'm going to let you in on a little secret Duo. That was no dream... it was a vision." She whispered.

He stared at her blankly. "A vision."

She nodded. "Mhm. A vision of what will come to pass if you do not do what needs to be done and overcome your fears and attachments to the past."

Duo rolled his eyes. "Look chick - I don't know whose hydraulic fluid you've been sniffing but I don't have visions. I don't `sense' people's feelings, I don't have a `woochoo no coconut' or whatever the hell that thing is Quatre has and I most certainly don't see the future. So either you start talking truth or I start pumping lead."

"Duo! What the hell are you doing?!"

Duo looked over his shoulder and saw that Quatre was standing behind him holding a basket of items and staring at him as if he had lost his mind. "What the hell does it look like I'm doing?" Duo snapped.

Quatre glared at him. "Well I don't know what you want to call it but from here it looks like you're threatening the damned Windex!"

"What the hell --" Duo turned back to the girl and blinked several times. She was gone. "Wait a fucking minute! She was just here! A girl in a black dress!"

"I really don't know what you are talking about Duo but I suggest you put your damn gun away before someone sees it."

Duo looked around frantically but the girl was indeed nowhere to be found. He shoved his gun back into it's holster and growled angrily.

What the hell was going on?

+

`I am not going insane. I am not going insane. I am not going insane.'

Duo repeated the mantra in his head over and over on the ride back to the house. The girl had been there! He had not imagined her! And she had been in his dream! He hadn't even bothered trying to explain these things to Quatre because it would just make him look even crazier than holding a gun on cleaning fluids had. No, he couldn't tell anyone about this until he figured it out for himself. The last thing he needed was the guys thinking he was delusional and Heero thinking of him as a liability.

"Goddamn it Duo! What the hell were you thinking back there?" Quatre finally demanded.

Duo stared hard out the window. "I don't know Quatre, just leave it alone for now."

"Leave it alone!? What if someone had fucking seen you and called the authorities! That is the last thing we need! Sometimes I really wonder if your damn head is screwed on right."

Duo whipped his head around and glared hard at Quatre. "What the hell has gotten intoyou lately? When we first met you were all like `oh phooey I burned the darn muffins!' And now you walk into a bar and all the sailors come running out! (3) And I thought I had a dirty mouth."

Quatre's mouth dropped open and his angry expression turned somewhat sheepish. "I.. I don't really know. Everything is just so fu-- messed up. Trowa has been gone for so long, you and Heero are always at each other's throats and now this! I just don't know how to handle any of this! Sometimes I don't even think I'm cut out to be a Gundam pilot. All of this stress and all of these different emotions coming at me just make me crazy sometimes!"

Duo sighed and patted his friend's hand consolingly. "You're crazy? Heh. At least you weren't battling it out with Windex." He said dryly.

Quatre's eyes widened and he burst out laughing. Duo grinned wryly and looked out the window again. "Look Q, I don't know what's going on either. Hell, maybe I am really insane. I have to figure some things out before I can answer any questions... so for now can we just not talk about what happened? And please, please don't tell Heero."

Quatre drove silently for a few moments before nodding slowly. "Agreed."

Duo closed his eyes and once again started to chant the mantra in his head.

+

(1) The lyrics are from the song Holiday by Unwritten Law.
(2) Line stolen from Xena. ^^
(3) Line stolen from Samuel L. Jackson in The Long Kiss Goodnight

[prologue] [part 2] [back to Aya's fic]