To Build a
Fire by Cassima
Series: Part 2 in the "Survival" Trilogy; sequel to "Absolute Zero".
Disclaimer: If I owned them, I'd be much happier.
Warnings: Hello, yes, yaoi here. Also, a bit limey towards the end, depressing
imagery, and an overuse of the word "cold". And, basically, the idea of
it being "cold". This was going to be a lemon, but my muse said no.
Summary: Duo can't get warm.
Pairings: 1x5, 3x4, 3x4+2, 2+5, 1x2x5
Notes on the story itself: II. TO BUILD A FIRE: Before this was a fanfic
by Cassima, it was the title of a story by Jack London, the author of
Call of the Wild. A depressing story, the title nevertheless stuck in
my mind. Thanks, Jack, and I mean no plagiarism.
Don't ever do
Those crazy, messed-up
Things that you do.
If you ever do,
I promise you
I'll be the first to crucify you.
-- "Call and Answer", Barenaked Ladies
To Build a Fire
+ Part 1
"Q, we're going
to be here for two weeks?" Duo's incredulous voice broke the startled
silence. "No offense, man, but are you insane?!?"
Quatre tried to stay on the bright side. "It's not so bad, Duo,"
he said. "It's, um, cozy. And Oz'll never find us here."
"It's a deathtrap," Duo protested. "It's, like, 30 below
"That's why we have the cabin, baka," Heero said with a glare.
"Don't be such an idiot, Maxwell," Wufei told him haughtily.
"It has multiple rooms, electricity, and running water."
"And, look at the fireplace!" Quatre cheered. "Perfect
Duo rolled his eyes. "I think I'm getting a touch of Quatre's Uchuu
no kokoro; I can see exactly how much fun these two weeks are going to
"Quit whining, Maxwell, and help carry in the groceries." Heero
handed him a few large sacks and pushed him towards the door to the cabin.
"Just make sure someone brings my bag in soon," Duo called back
grumpily. His medication was in there, and if it froze, he was certain
to have another relapse before it was time to leave. Murphy's Law demanded
it. Great. Wonderful. Fuckin' terrific. Two weeks, locked up in an icy
cabin with two pairs of lovers. God had most assuredly sent him to hell,
where it snowed all the time and there was no fucking central heating.
Sure, yes, very romantic, Quatre. Thanks for the good sell. All Duo needed
right now was for Heero and Wufei to get all gooey and mushy on him.
Their romance was strange enough without Heero reciting poetry, and Duo
still wasn't quite sure how they'd gotten together. His memories of that
time period were fuzzy at best; he remembered quite a lot of pain followed
by some nice, black darkness, all overlaid by an overwhelming sense of
cold. It was the cold he remembered best; it had filled him, consumed
him until he couldn't think of anything but the ice in his lungs...
He shivered and busied himself with putting the groceries away. The cold
outside made him cough, despite the thick scarf wrapped around his throat,
mouth, and nose, and when the coughing started, the others always took
great joy in fretting over him. It was like a competition of Olympic proportions:
which of them could annoy Duo the most the fastest. So far, Quatre and
his mother-hennish clucking was winning, though Heero's glaring as he
tried to do anything came in a close second.
And then they always went off together and left him alone.
Trowa silently deposited a few more bags filled with food next to Duo,
indicating that he should put them away, before slipping back out into
Ironically, Duo loved snow. He loved it dry and powdery, he loved it soft
and wet, he even loved it when it was too hard to do anything with. He
even loved how clean it looked, and how it sparkled, and how tiny snowflake
patterns got frozen onto the windshield during the night. They hadn't
had snow on L2; they'd had a lot of dirt, yes, but no snow. There hadn't
been any snowmen, or snow forts, or snowball fights, or snow angels, and
he supposed it was a good thing they hadn't had to dress for the elements--it
made living on the street a heck of a lot easier in that respect.
As he stacked the large canister of oatmeal in the back of the cupboard
next to the box of rice cereal--so many dehydrated foods, so little time!--he
pulled his muffler a little tighter around his face and sighed. Even though
Sally hadn't expressly forbidden it, she had put "playing in the
snow" on his list of Stupid Things To Do. It could be years before
he recovered enough to do anything like that.
He wondered what was taking everyone so long; Quatre'd been complaining
about the cold, himself, earlier, and Wufei and Heero were always fond
of getting things in order as quickly as possible. It seemed odd that
no one else seemed to be in the house. As he left the kitchen and headed
towards the front door, he could hear sounds of laughter coming from outside.
Duo looked out from the doorway at the impromptu snowball fight and debated
the pros and cons of joining in. He might get sick--but, then again, he
"Having fun without me?" he called to them, leaning against
the doorframe. "You're just lucky the Shinigami's feeling kindly
today, and doesn't feel like coming out and whooping your ass!" It
wouldn't do to push Lady Luck, not in this climate.
Quatre grinned at him. "Come out and join us, Duo!"
"Baka!" Heero snapped at that, shaking the snow out of his hair.
"He can't, remember?"
"Heero's such a crab," Duo told Quatre archly with a wink, trying
to dispel the disappointment on the blond's face. "Stuff some snow
down his shorts for me, woncha?"
"Maxwell!" Heero protested.
"We need to bring some more wood in," Trowa said. "For
"Is there anything left in the car?" Duo asked Heero.
"Wufei and I can get the rest of it. Trowa'll get the wood; you and
Quatre work on cleaning up the house a bit."
"Okay," Quatre agreed amiably, and joined Duo in the house.
"I'm sorry," he said, now that they were alone. "I didn't
"Don't worry about it, Q," Duo replied with a warm glance. "I
know you didn't."
"Are you feeling okay?" Quatre asked, really beginning to feel
guilty. "You're not too cold, are you?"
"Quatre, it's fuckin' freezing! Of course I'm cold!" he rolled
his eyes. "I'll be fine later. Don't worry about it."
"Are you sure?" Quatre asked worriedly.
"Would I lie to you?"
Quatre finally smiled. "Yes, you're right, Duo. Let's get rid of
the dust covers!" They went around the room, pulling the sheets off
the furniture carefully so the dust didn't fly everywhere.
"Hey, did you know there are only two bedrooms?" Duo casually
asked the group.
Wufei blinked. "What?"
"One bed a piece," Duo said with a nod. "Guess it's a good
thing this couch is so comfortable, ne? I wouldn't want to wake up with
a stiff back."
Trowa added another log to the slowly-growing fire, but didn't say anything.
"I'm sorry," Quatre said, large-eyed. "I didn't realize--"
"Don't worry about it, Q," Duo said, trying to stop a new round
of fussing and clucking. "Just don't wear out my couch."
"Hn. Thanks," Heero said from the desk where he'd set up his
laptop. Duo hid a smile; trouble in paradise? For lovers, Heero and Wufei
hardly spent any time together, and barely touched. It hardly seemed that
their relationship had changed at all since they'd started sleeping together.
But then, maybe that was just the kind of people Wu and Heero were.
"I will start dinner," Wufei declared, setting his book aside.
"I'll help!" Duo cried, eager for something to do. Wufei sent
him a leery look that had nothing to do with the state of Duo's health.
"Oi!" he cried, as if stung. "I'll do only what you tell
me! No improvising this time, I promise!"
"You better," the Chinese boy warned, and allowed Duo to follow
him into the kitchen.
Duo liked to do things with Wufei; he rarely treated Duo like glass, and,
although he crabbed and tended to expound on virtues and morals, he had
an amazing patience. It seemed it was only when Duo slacked off that he
got especially snappish, because he was willing to explain when Duo seemed
sincerely confused or lost. "We have to cook the fresh vegetables
as soon as possible," Wufei told Duo after they'd washed their hands."Get
out the carrots. You know what those are, right?"
"Orange and pointy, right?" Duo brought out the bag. Yes, he
knew what carrots were. He wasn't a complete doofus in the kitchen.
"That's right. I'll prepare the meat, you peel and wash the carrots.
Don't peel them too thick, though."
"Yeah, yeah. What are we making?" Duo began to carefully slice
off the outer skin, making sure not to take off too much.
"Vegetable beef stew." Wufei's hands moved quickly with the
knife on the cut of meat, and Duo whistled his appreciation. "Maxwell!
Eyes on the knife!"
"Right." Duo concentrated on not nicking himself with the sharp
blade. Knives ordinarily posed no danger to him, but he didn't have a
large amount of experience in peeling.
When he had finished three-quarters of his stack, Wufei told him, "That's
good. Now cut off the tip and the top." He demonstrated for Duo.
"Just like that."
Duo began to talk idly about the cabin and the way the wind sounded on
the walls and roof. He finished with the carrots, and Wufei put him to
work chopping tomatoes, still chatting away.
"Maxwell, do you ever stop talking?" Wufei asked him once when
he paused for breath.
"Not usually," he cheerfully replied, and continued his rhetoric
on the landscape.
When they had thrown everything into the pot and put the pot on the stove,
Wufei insisted they clean up the kitchen ("You wanted to help, Maxwell,
you stay and finish the job!").
Duo just hoped he hadn't somehow ruined dinner again. He remembered, back
to the first time he'd tried to make food...
"I'm hungry..." he whined. In agreement, his stomach rumbled
The three pilots chose to ignore him.
"I'm hungry..." the boy looked around, searching for the target
most likely to help him. "Wu, will you make me lunch?"
The Chinese pilot rolled his eyes. "Make it yourself, Maxwell. I'm
not your servant."
"We're busy, Maxwell," Heero said from the other side of the
room, not looking up from his computer. "Make yourself your own damn
food for once."
Duo frowned for a moment, biting his lip, before nodding once and turning
to find the kitchen.
Half an hour later, Wufei had the urge for an apple. They'd picked them
up the other day on the drive to this safe house Trowa'd found them; wind
fallen, they were lying on the ground, and the boys could hardly turn
down free food. Though slightly bruised, they were still crunchy and tart,
and well worth eating, dispite the occasional brown spot. Putting his
book aside for the moment, he left the cabin and headed for the kitchen
next door, already imagining the sweet taste of the fruit.
When he entered the room, however, all thoughts of apples flew momentarily
from his head. Smoke was trickling out of a pot on the stove. Measuring
cups and spoons lay messily all over the counter, along with a half-used
stick of butter, water slopped everywhere, and powdered cheese. Duo was
rummaging through one of the drawers, looking for something.
"Maxwell, what the hell are you doing?" Wufei demanded, and
marched over to the stove to turn it off. Daring to look inside the pot--what
could the idiot have possibly been making?--he found the crispy, un-appetizing
remains of noodles plastered to the bottom. "This is disgusting!
Look at the mess you made!" He picked up the pot and showed it to
Duo. "How stupid do you get?"
Duo frowned. "I followed the directions on the package..." At
Wufei's skeptical look, he amended that statement. "Well, okay, so
I was hungry! I just figured, 20 minutes on low heat, so that's, like,
eight to ten at high, right?"
"Are you just an idiot, or do you have to work to be so inept?"
Wufei asked coolly.
"Well, excuse me, Mr. Perfect, but I've never done this before!"
"You've never boiled water?" Wufei tossed the pot into the sink
and crossed his arms.
"I've never even had a kitchen!" Duo yelled.
"...never mind," Duo responded, whipping around and wiping cheese
powder off his face with a cheese powder-covered hand.
"Maxwell..." Wufei warned.
"I ate out of garbage cans for most of my life," Duo responded sullenly,
to mask the hurt. "And the rest of the time, at schools 'n' the orphanage
'n' at the bases, all I had to do was go to the cafeteria." He turned,
angry and embarrassed. "So, excuse me if I can't do it right! It's not
like I didn't ask for help!"
"You could have said you didn't know how," Wufei said quietly.
"Wouldya have believed me?" Duo asked. "Besides, I didn't
think it was that hard. I mean, all you hafta do is follow the directions
on the package, right? Even an idiot can do that, right?"
Wufei sighed. "Tell you what, Maxwell. I'll help you clean up the
kitchen, and then you and I will find something for you to eat. Okay?"
"Really?" Duo looked at him hopefully for a moment before jumping
on him and giving him a big hug. "You're the greatest, Wu!"
"Hn," Wufei replied, squirming a little. "Don't mangle
my name, Maxwell. And, promise me one thing."
"What's that?" Duo asked, complying to Wufei's struggling and
pulling back from the hug.
"You are not to cook without supervision."
That night, while lying on the couch, Duo frowned and stared at the ceiling.
Heero and Wufei had long since retired to their room, as well as Quatre
and Trowa, leaving Duo all alone in the still-warming room on his lonely
couch in front of the fire. It became evident to him in only twenty minutes
lying there that there was no way in the heat of all that was hell that
he was going to be warm enough to sleep that night.
He moved the couch closer to the fire and pulled the blankets up as far
as he could without losing them over his feet. Unfortunately, now he was
too cold on the side away from the fire, and too warm on the fire-side.
He sighed. Sometimes it was hard living with four boys who were involved.
He loved them all, even Trowa and Wufei; they were his family for now,
and, though they might not always appreciate him, he liked them all as
people. But, still, they weren't easy to live with. He saw their happiness
and felt empty and isolated, and somehow strongly reminded of all he'd
loved and lost.
His thoughts strayed to Heero. He'd thought, a few months ago, that maybe
they had some chemistry, that maybe Heero might have been attracted to
him. Hell, Duo'd fallen hard; why else would he have spent so many countless
hours pulling and pushing against Captain Trigger Happy's locked shields
and rather violent defense mechanisms? To say he'd been--surprised--to
wake up from his sudden illness to find Heero and Wufei an obvious item
would be an understatement of grandiose proportions. If he closed his
eyes, he could almost feel Heero's hand on his cheek...
The Japanese boy seemed fairly happy with Wufei, though. Well, as happy
as Heero could get. They apparently had good sex; the walls were thin,
and the pillows Duo pulled over his head didn't dampen as much sound as
he would have liked.
Quatre and Trowa didn't help much. They were just so--happy. It
was disgusting. They never fought, never got tired of each other, never
bothered each other. Trowa practically worshipped the ground Quatre deigned
to trod, and Quatre wasn't much better.
His friends had so much happiness, and all he had was death.
That wasn't true. He had his chronic lung infections. Whoo-hoo, break
out the piñata.
He glanced over to the bag sitting over on the desk, rather ominous to
his eyes. Sally had given all the pilots lessons on how to take care of
him in case he had a serious relapse and couldn't medicate himself, but
so far only Quatre had needed to lend him a hand--for which he was sincerely
grateful. He didn't need Wufei's cutting remarks when the cold came creeping
over him, or Heero's haughty glare, or Trowa's mechanical sympathy. It
always started in his hands and feet as a general coolness changing to
numbness. His nose went next, cold like a dog's. When he felt it spreading
through his back, he knew it would only be a short matter of time before
the shaking and sweats started, before it became harder and harder to
With a sigh, he wrapped the blankets more tightly around him. He didn't
need this crap. He really didn't. He wasn't going to think about it; he
was going to close his eyes and relax all his muscles, and fall asleep.
He wasn't going to think about the cold.
He wasn't going to think about the ice.
He managed to doze despite the cold, but couldn't quite fall into a restful
sleep. When a door opened and Quatre came out, he sighed in reluctant
"Duo," the quiet boy said softly. "Please come share the
bed with Trowa and me. It'll keep you warm."
"I'm fine, Q," Duo mumbled, though his shivers hardly made his
"Come on, Duo," Quatre said, pulling him up from the cushions.
"It'll be like a slumber party."
Duo sighed and allowed himself to be pulled up, albeit reluctantly. He
didn't want to get sick again, and didn't want to upset Quatre...
He followed the blond into the room he shared with Trowa, and Quatre pulled
back the covers and slithered over to Trowa. "Climb in."
Duo did so rather uncomfortably. Exactly how many fantasies had he had
involving sharing a bed with two people in love with each other? Exactly
none, that's how many. Trowa and Quatre whispered to each other lovingly
in the darkness, and Duo felt even more like an intruder.
Throughout the night, he lay there, listening to the gentle breathing
of the two entwined lovers as they slept. He wasn't comfortable, despite
their warmth--or maybe because of it. Their love only reiterated how alone
he was... how lonely.
Did they remember what it was like to be alone?
He slept only fitfully that night, and slipped silently out of the room
before daybreak, so they could have some private time together in the
[part 2] [back Cassima's