Author: FancyFigures
Disclaimer: I don't own 'em, wish I did, just enjoy writing about 'em for free etc
Pairings: 1x2
Category: Romance, angst (some)
Warnings: Yaoi, lemon
Spoilers: None
Notes: Written for Sharon's contest at Moments of Rapture. Thanks, Sharon, for the picture as perfect inspiration!
The relationship between Duo and Heero has never been so confused. Duo feels isolated; but Heero's control of things is also slipping. Only the night time brings them the chance to work these issues through.

The Other Side + Part 1

The mission had been a total disaster.

An uncommon shambles. A succession of unforced errors and unstable equipment; no-one's fault in particular, but that didn't ease the pain of the command to Abort.

Duo gave the command.

He wasn't to blame, in any specific way. The explosive charges in his pack failed, one after another - a batch that had obviously snuck through quality control, and took their first real test in action. Where they failed, spectacularly, to ignite. There was no way the team could continue, when Duo had failed to blow the door to the arms cache - it meant that they were hopelessly outgunned; that the chances of success were totally compromised.

When Duo's tight voice came over the radio, this wasn't known to the others, who were in position, waiting in agonised suspense for the final word. All they heard was "Abort Mission! Abort Mission! Unable to pursue."

Even then, in retreat, Heero had turned back, to continue on into the compound, and only the intervention of the others brought him out. 'Intervention' - that meant that he was forcibly dragged away from the smoking corridor, because he raged and struggled to return there, and no-one could make him see reason. One of his own grenades had brought down a wall behind them, and he'd been temporarily stunned by the blast - it had allowed them to pull him out with them without further protest. There had been frenzied, confused messages on the radios; sudden shouts and ragged gunfire as they dodged the ambushes on the way out. Wufei had been injured in the leg, and Trowa had half carried him back to the jeep. Quatre had covered them well with two armfuls of what weaponry they had left, and the jeep had spun on three full tyres and the fourth rapidly deflating from a sniper's shot, back out of the compound and into the relative safety of the surrounding woods.

Then Duo had appeared, surrounded by clouds of dust and grenade smoke, and had been swung up into the jeep beside them. There'd still been no time for explanations, and anyway, he'd just gone on and on about whether Heero was OK, seeing him lying in the back of the jeep, covered in dust and still half conscious. Finally, Trowa had dragged the ranting pilot into the passenger seat beside him, to help him navigate their way out of the dense forestry.

They had made a sorry journey back to base from there.

*

The report had been made, the conclusions drawn. The mission was a failure. There was no chance of a second attempt at sabotage - the enemy were all too aware of their involvement, now.

Maybe another time.

Maybe another team.

Wufei was recovering well enough in a safe hospital. Trowa and Quatre were ordered back to remove all evidence of the team's presence in their previous safe houses. The trail would soon be cold. They'd soon be secure again.

But the taste of failure was harsh and bitter. The mood in the new safe house was subdued to the point of depression. They'd found this bolthole at short notice - they had to settle for few facilities, even fewer luxuries. Two sparse floors. Most of the rooms were unfurnished. But the pilots seemed to think it appropriate. If they'd been celebrating a success - yes, they'd have wanted TV and a well stocked kitchen, and even beds, rather than bedrolls on the bare floor! But this was just somewhere to lick the wounds, and to brood on the lessons learned.

*

The morning's conference was lacklustre. Quatre and Trowa were leaving that day - they would be gone for a few days, or however long it took to cover their traces since the initiation of this mission. Wufei was to be left at the hospital until he was mobile again. Duo and Heero would lie low in the house, apart from sourcing provisions for them all, for the hopefully short time they'd be there.

The tension had always been there, of course, because these were trained professionals, with a fierce and possessive pride in their work. They did not take failure lightly. All of them were dealing with this in their own way. But it took Duo to bring it to a head, as soon as he turned to Heero.

"Are you OK now, Heero? Dammit, fella, I'm sorry it all went apeshit, I was just so glad to hear you got out in time - "

The air was charged with a sudden, dark anger. Quatre sensed it, and winced. Trowa lifted his head, somehow aware of the breaking crisis. Heero wheeled round, and his hand shot out, grabbing Duo's upper arm. It was a death grip; it was vicious, it was unrelenting. Duo grimaced, but made no sound. He'd count the bruises later.

"Why didn't you test the charges before you went?"

"What?" Duo was genuinely startled. "Like there was time? We were called with only six hours' notice, remember - "

"Six hours, that should have been spent in preparation, and not chattering, or checking your wardrobe -"

"What the fuck -?" snapped Duo. "I spent as much time preparing as anyone! It's not my fault the damn charges were a crap batch -"

"Always the argument!" hissed Heero. "And always the excuses -"

"Not an excuse, goddamit -!"

"The mission failed. We have lost a golden opportunity to put the enemy's plans back by a month or more. They are searching for us as we speak, to counterattack. We were all at risk of personal danger - we still are. Wufei is out of action for weeks. What excuses could you offer up that would compensate for all that?"

"You bastard!" Duo's reply was spat out. "You gotta problem with me, you just come out and say it -"

"That's what I'm doing, isn't it?" growled Heero. "And it's not just me with the problem - what you do affects the whole team. Lets down the whole team..."

"Heero, that's enough!" came a cry from Quatre. "We don't blame Duo for what happened -"

"But you do!" hissed Duo, eyes still locked on Heero.

Heero stared back. "You draw your own conclusions. You know your own work."

"Christ, you are so damn perfect yourself, aren't you?" yelled Duo. "They'd never have dared fail for you, would they, oh God of Perfect Electronics -!"

"Pathetic excuses," Heero sneered.

"Pathetic, my ass!" came back Duo. He couldn't think of anything more effective; he was too angry.

They glared at each other, chests heaving with anger and passion.

Then Heero left the room. Not before they all saw every inch of him shaking with tension.

*

"He was injured as well, Duo," came Quatre's quiet voice. Duo had been hiding in the kitchen, but obviously not well enough. Damn house was too small!

"The only injury there, is to his gargantuan, fucking pride!" hissed Duo. He didn't need the blond's soothing words now. He was nursing his anger, and he was savouring it.

"No, to his nerve centres," replied Quatre, calmly. "That last grenade was too close for comfort. He lost consciousness for several minutes. The doctor says to watch, to see if there are any adverse reactions - if he acts against his normal instincts."

"Angry, aggressive, anally retentive, fucking rude - looks like his normal instincts to me!"

"Yeah..." sighed Quatre. "I'm not sure how we will know. He won't let anyone near enough to examine him. God knows why he ran back into the compound after the call to Abort."

"My call to Abort," winced Duo. "Guess he thought he could carry the whole damn mission on his own - didn't need his inept, useless staff to help out. If you want a mission done well, only the omnipotent Heero Yuy can do it for you!"

"I don't think that was the reason..." But Quatre didn't sound convinced either way.

Duo looked up at him through his untidy hair. He'd had no interest in his appearance for several days now. Sometimes the misery felt like it was soaking through his bones.

"D'you blame me, Quatre? 'Praps I should've checked all of the charges, not just a selection..."

"There was no time," said Quatre. "I'm not just saying it; I agree with you. It was bad luck, that's all. I don't understand Heero's reaction to you, I admit. It seems - extreme. I'm worried about him. But he's - well, he's -"

"He's part of the team, right? And you always say we have to work out a compromise amongst us."

"Everyone must speak their mind, Duo," said the quiet blond. "It doesn't always make for easy times."

He turned to leave, because he and Trowa had work to do, and soon. They were all still exhausted, else he might have tried to arbitrate between the two partners a little longer. But then, Heero had already frozen him out when he'd tried with him.

"Quatre -?" Duo was turned away from him, and his voice was a little muffled. "He lost consciousness, you say?"

"Yes, for a minute or so. There might have been concussion. But it seems he's recovered well."

"Like I fucking care," muttered Duo.

Quatre sighed, and left.

*

The days dragged by. Occasional radio messages assured them that Quatre and Trowa were successfully working their way back, but it was taking far longer than expected. The enemy had patrols out, trying to track back the team to their source. The two agents had to avoid them, whilst clearing out anywhere they'd ever stayed; any equipment they'd ever used.

Heero and Duo didn't seem able - or willing - to mend the rift between them.

They converted the third upstairs room into a lounge of sorts, leaving the downstairs for the kitchen and another room to store and maintain their equipment and provisions. Heero worked on his laptop down there, while Duo set himself up in the upstairs lounge, and kicked and cajoled an old palmtop for his reports and workings. Though there were few of those.

They took meals separately. They split the day into individual watches, by mutual consent, so that they were rarely together. The only time they connected was at night, when they slept in the same room. Somehow, neither of them seemed to think it appropriate to move into the other room, where Trowa and Quatre had bunked down, even though those two were absent. They found an instinctive way round it by going to bed at deliberately different times. Whoever went first, the other would find some suddenly critical job to do until his team-mate was asleep. And for when they did sleep, Heero had set up the mattresses at extreme ends of the room - enforcing a private space for himself that Duo was more than happy to copy.

They were both upstairs this night, though it seemed to be Heero's turn to sleep first - he paused in the doorway of the lounge, hearing a crackle from the radio that Duo had brought upstairs, trying out the reception. Duo had his back to him.

"News?" came his terse comment. His expression was a scowl.

"I'm astounded, as always, by your fluent conversation, Heero!" Duo snapped back, startled. He'd been fiddling with the radio to pass the time, and he flicked the off switch guiltily. "If there was any fucking news at all, I'd have called you -"

"I'm astounded, as always, by your fluent swearing, Duo!" hissed Heero in return.

"You want the Pope's speech, you get him on the fucking team!" growled Duo.

"Maybe his performance would be more reliable -"

"And maybe you'd have issues with God his-fucking-self!" came Duo's sharp rejoinder, and he whirled round to glare at the other boy.

The sight of Heero seemed to affect him in a strange way. His mouth opened to snap some more, then it closed again quickly. Heero stood there, perfectly still, staring at him, with a towel over one shoulder, obviously on his way to the very basic shower room. Duo's eyes ranged swiftly over his tousled hair, his naked chest. The way the sweat pants hung very slightly down at his waist.

"Looking for something, Maxwell?" He must have known that would infuriate Duo. It always did, when he used his surname in that scathing tone of voice.

"Yeah, maybe. Maybe a human being. But I can't see it anywhere here. Just some fucking superior being who thinks we should all be like him!"

Heero flushed. "We all have to live with ourselves, Maxwell. If you can't hack it -"

"Oh, I can hack it all right. It's living with you I find such a pain the ass!" Duo seemed to be struggling with some inner feelings. He swallowed harshly, and although there was a whole room between them, he leaned towards Heero menacingly.

"I've tried for a hell of a long time to find the other side of Mr Perfect, because I always thought there'd be one there. The human side. The tolerant side. The side of a friend. But this dead time has given me a perfect opportunity to find out how wrong I was. There's just not one there! What we see is what we get with you, eh?"

He turned away quickly, not seeing the reaction on Heero's face.

"You live with that, Yuy."

*

Duo sat at the window, nursing his hot coffee. Well, cold coffee now. He'd sat for over an hour, he reckoned, though he'd left his watch somewhere else in the apartment, and he was damned if he'd go searching and run into Heero again. He'd abandoned the radio - it was silent. The palmtop had decided on a go-slow, so he'd shut that off as well. There was a long window seat in the room, and he'd draped himself over it, feet up on the end. About the only furniture around, it seemed - there was a bookcase in the hall, a table and chairs and a basic gas stove in the kitchen, and bare boards across the whole of this top floor. But he could settle reasonably comfortably on the seat, and he had a view out over the back service road and fields beyond. They were well secluded here. There was very little external noise.

Fucking brilliant place, he thought brutally, for a little session of introspection.

He meant to wait for Heero to sleep, then he'd follow - settle down on the well-travelled bedroll; try to make the best of the plain surroundings. He didn't usually have a problem, even sleeping on the floor. But for some reason tonight, he was still delaying it.

Must be my natural aversion to sharing a room with Mr Perfect Fucking Everything, he thought. Didn't even snore, for God's sake!

Mr Perfect Planner. Mr Never-Yield Yuy, he thought, rolling phrases absentmindedly around in his restless brain. Mr Efficient Firearms. Mr Cheery Charges....

His mind wandered a little, to the earlier vision of Heero at the door.... Mr Pretty Perfect Physique. Mr Pert Little Nipples. Mr Soft Shadow at the Base of his Neck...

Oh Christ, he groaned to himself. Not that old bunch of dreams! No future in them, that was for sure. He'd rather cut off his left arm and testicle than let that take a hold of his nights again!

He sat there as the night grew darker outside, with the empty room behind him, where the unfamiliar bare boards creaked their weary comment at the end of the day. He was replaying the fiasco of the mission again and again in his head. Remembering the sick feeling in his gut as he ran through charge after charge, with nothing doing. As he heard the urgent voices on the radio for his call to go ahead. As he heard the distant gunfire of the troops piling into the compound, soon to be on their asses, as sure as night follows day...

And to think he'd been worried about that bastard Heero! As he'd dodged his way out of the basement that day, he'd heard the sudden, late explosion; he'd felt sick with the worry that one of the guys may have been hurt. He'd felt an even more shocking loss of control at the thought of it being Heero. And then the sight of him, white and half conscious in the jeep, not knowing how badly he'd been hurt.

Fuck him! thought Duo, fiercely. Like I care! He's made it clear what he thinks of me! I guess he's always thought that, even when the missions were successful. He probably thought he was carrying me all this time. We're no team at all, eh? Just Mr Yuy's personal - and entirely dispensable - retinue!

And then his nerves snapped suddenly to attention, though he never moved a muscle to advertise the fact.

Someone was in the room with him.

"Heero?"

"Hn."

He relaxed a little. Only a little. Had the damn man come back to beat up on him again, night as well as day, all over some stupid, crappy little charges -?

But Heero wasn't saying anything. In fact, he was so long silent that Duo turned to see where he was and what he was doing.

He stood at the doorway, mostly in shadow.

Duo felt a strange, almost painful tug at his chest as he looked at him. He was dressed again in his sweats, his hair still a little damp from his earlier shower. He wore no vest - the one thing that could be said for this house was that it was fairly warm inside. He didn't seem to mind Duo's staring, which was the first thing that jarred.

"What is it then?" said Duo, grudgingly. "D'you need something? There's no food left except what we had for supper and a coupla tea bags -"

"Where are the others?"

Heero had stepped a little way into the room, but Duo was rather shocked to see that his step was hesitant. He suddenly wondered if Heero had been hurt more than they all thought.

"What's up, man? They've gone to clear up the mess, remember?" My mess, he thought bitterly. Almost daring Heero to make the comment.

But he didn't.

"Where are they?" he repeated, and he stepped further in. He stood, looking round him, almost bemused.

Duo felt the anger rising - didn't the bloody man listen to him? "Christ, Heero, I just said, didn't I? And what do you want them for?"

"I'm on the other side, Duo. They have to help me get back."

"What are you talking about? What other side?" He laughed, to try to lighten the strange mood, but it just sounded manic in the bare room. "The only side I know is here, and you're here too. We're both here in this shitty little hovel, trying to lie low until we get the all-clear. You're eating dry rations, drinking cold coffee, and beating me up about my inefficiency - all the hardships you love to embrace, eh?"

"I need them to get me back."

What's up with him? thought Duo. For once, he didn't think that Heero was deliberately provoking him. It was like he wasn't really awake at all.

Is that it? Duo suddenly realised. Is he sleepwalking?

Spooky...!

"Heero, can't I help?"

He raised a little from his seat at the window, as if to reach to Heero, and he was amazed at the sudden flinch that met him. Heero seemed to shrink away, seemed to grow paler in the dim light.

Duo bit his lip. And then he sank gently back into place, as if he'd never moved.

"OK, I'm just sitting here, right? Nothing else. But the others may not be back for days. You've only got me, fella."

"You can't help, Duo."

"Why not?"

Heero looked at him with astonishment. For that sudden, blinding second, his large, deep blue eyes were fully aware of Duo. Duo felt like they searched down through his face, down into his body - into his soul. He shivered, instinctively.

Did Heero's look scare him? Or was there something in those alien eyes that was more basic - more physical? More hungry, perhaps? Duo was thrilled and shocked at the same time. This wasn't real, he had to remind himself! Heero was away in a NeverNever Land somewhere; Heero would never see him that way. In a possessive, lustful way! Duo's common sense would fight that suspicion - he would deny that dream. But his body - less innocent, more desperate - responded.

He watched, fascinated like a rabbit watches a snake, as Heero lifted a hand and pointed his fingers towards Duo, as if to touch him. To touch his cheek. He was too far away - he couldn't reach. Or else he thought better of it. The hand fell back to his side.

Duo had forgotten he'd asked a question in the first place. Heero's reply was a sharp slice through the confused ache of his thoughts; and it kick-started his breathing again.

"You're the last person to help, Duo! Because you're here on the other side as well. With me."

And he turned and left the room.

*

Duo sat at the wooden table in the cold, silent light of seven am, trying to muster up some enthusiasm for dry toast and muesli, and wondering how Heero would be at breakfast.

The issue never arose.

He gradually knew, even without looking, that he was alone in the house. When he got up wearily, and padded upstairs to the bedroom, it was confirmed. All that was there was the neatly folded bedroll, next to his untidy tumble of cloth. No Heero. He'd thought the guy had gone back upstairs for a shower, leaving the kitchen free for Duo. But it looked like Heero had slipped out of the house altogether.

Duo wondered if Heero remembered anything of the night before. It was a measure of his upset that he'd not left any note; they were meant to tell each other if they left the building, but relations had obviously deteriorated so badly that even Heero was ignoring basic security guidelines.

Duo felt like crying; felt like a damn fool.

Damned if he was going to let the Perfect Fucking Soldier get to him like this!

He pulled on a jacket and went out.

*

Duo arrived back at the house at supper time, and, inevitably, they argued again.

"You didn't leave any message, any notification as to where you were going."

"Neither did you!" snapped Duo.

Heero shrugged. "If you had waited another couple of minutes, I would have been back. I -" he paused, briefly, " - I went out only to check the back access. You were asleep when I went. Soundly."

"So it's all right for you to go AWOL, without a word? But not me?" Duo persisted. He knew why he was goading Heero - what he expected him to say. Wanted him to say, perhaps.

And he did.

"You cannot be trusted alone at the moment."

"What?"

"You are - erratic," replied Heero. There was an odd timbre to his voice. "You are disturbed, as a result of the mission failure. I - suggested that I supervise you, while the others are away."

"Supervise me? You patronising shit..." hissed Duo. How could he talk about him like this? Hadn't they worked together for months? Supported each other? One mistake, and the whole damn thing was shown up for the sham it was!

"I have to consider at all times the security of the mission; support of the team -"

"Some fucking team this is!" yelled Duo. His hand slammed down on the table and he wrenched himself to his feet.

Heero flinched. And Duo left the room, leaving an untouched supper plate vibrating on the table behind him.

*

Two more days dragged by.

Duo sat at his window seat, as he had for the last few nights, waiting for Heero to fall asleep. It had become the routine now, for Heero to retire first - it was taken as read that Duo would choose to sit up, brooding, on his own. They had almost ceased to communicate normally. And to be honest, Duo welcomed the time alone. His mind wouldn't give him rest, he was far from sleepy. And he was comfortable enough in his loose shirt and jeans, well fed for a change, as Heero had - grudgingly - cooked enough for them both. He was ignoring the seat by now, just hopping up on to the sill instead, dangling a bare foot down on to the slightly moth-eaten padding below. And the depression sat with him.

He wondered when the others would be back and he could be excused from this miserable, fucking duty. He wondered what other jobs were open to a failed, ex-Gundam pilot. He wondered how long it took to cultivate a taste for cold coffee. He wondered why he didn't just bring his bedroll in here and leave Mr Cold Streak of Steel to his sanctimonious sleep alone....

And then Heero was there again.

The other Heero. The sleepwalking one. Duo could see immediately - the glaze to his eyes, the unnatural stillness in his limbs.

The one he couldn't really be so angry with.

Heero paced softly across the room to stand beside him. He didn't sit down on the window seat. He didn't look at Duo. He just stared fixedly out through the window, out into the dark. Duo was damn sure there was nothing to see. It was the back of the building - there was nothing but a neglected service alley, and a drab little yard.

Duo gazed at him, openly. As in the previous time, Heero didn't seem to mind. He looked very young tonight, just an ordinary teenaged man, in brushed cotton jeans and a loose T shirt. No socks, no boots. Cute, thought Duo, rather sadly. Not that he'd ever say it aloud. What a weird thing this was, this contrast within a single man! By day, he was learning to hate Heero. A man he used to admire - no, much more than that, though he knew what he really thought had to be a deeply held secret. And it was clear that Heero already hated him in return. But by night - well, this guy before him was something else, wasn't he? The failure of the mission was forgotten. The other guys were barely referred to. They were alone, and it was all decidedly disorientating.

OK, Duo thought, shaking himself out of his reverie. I'm the only conscious one here, yeah? Better rise to the occasion. What do I know about sleepwalkers? Often a symptom of some inner troubles, something disturbing the person.. mustn't be woken suddenly... need to be watched in case they harm themselves...

How ironic, he thought, remembering Heero's words from earlier in the week - that the supervisor becomes the supervised!

But Heero seemed in full use of all his faculties, apart from a slight tinge of uncertainty. And judging by the other night, some weird speech patterns!

Maybe he could persuade him back to sleep...

"Hi, Heero. What's up?" His voice was gentle, he was almost surprised to hear it out loud.

"I have to get back. I need help to get back."

"Why do you have to get back, Heero? Isn't it OK here, on the - other side?"

"It's dangerous."

"Wha -?" Duo was suddenly aware how vulnerable he was, sitting - unarmed! - at an open window, gazing aimlessly out on to what might be the perfect camouflage for undercover soldiers - the perfect, deserted access for a surprise attack -

Was that what Heero had been checking out the other morning?

"It's dangerous with you here, Duo. I must get back."

"With me?" Duo sighed to himself. This was some kind of weird dream Heero was having! "Why the hell should it be dangerous with me? We're on the same side, remember?"

"No..." Heero's expression grew darker. He still didn't look at Duo, but the long-haired boy could feel the waves of emotion flooding out from him, waves of anger, and - was that fear?

"I can't let anyone know..."

"Know what, Heero?" God, groaned Duo to himself, can't you give me something more than these cryptic moans to work on? He reached for another gulp of his habitual cup of cold coffee.

"Know about you."

Duo stilled suddenly, the mug half raised to his lips. Was this a return to the earlier arguments? Even in his sleep, for God's sake?

"Know what about me?" His voice, had Heero taken any note, was colder now.

"What I feel about you."

"And that is -?"

Heero didn't reply. He turned his body to face Duo, and for the first time tonight, his eyes locked on to the other boy's. The pupils were dilated - they were wide and wild, but they were focussing totally on Duo now. No question. He leaned slightly forward, and Duo realised for the first time how close he'd actually come.

Just before he would have lost his balance, Heero pressed one knee on to the window seat and regained his position.

Still he gazed into Duo's face. Duo felt the same strange adrenalin surges through his body as he had before - the same emotional greed surrounding Heero's search. He stared back, feeling the return of that fascination; the locked gaze between them. He felt very uncomfortable with it - for all kinds of unexpressed and unrecognisable reasons. And for some rather more familiar ones.

"Heero, what are you trying to sa -?"

The sentence was never finished. Heero's left hand rose slowly and smoothly from his side, and rested gently on Duo's cheek. The thumb teased at the corner of his mouth; tugged at the lower lip as if it sought to coax it open. As Duo sat, stunned, unmoving, the right hand came to join it, until Heero's long, strong fingers held the American boy's shocked face tightly between them.

"Uhh... Heero... I ..." Duo's stammering faded away.

Heero gave no sign that he heard a single syllable. He sighed, once. It was like a surrender.

"This is what I feel about you, Maxwell."

He leaned even further forward, holding Duo carefully and firmly, and he kissed him.

[part 2] [back to Fancy Figures' fic]