by: Kracken
Disclaimer: I don't own them and I don't make any money off of this
Warning: definitely yaoi/male/male sex. Violence. Language. Graphic.

After The Rain series + Part 11
Cross Hairs

"Okay," Duo whispered as Heero lifted him into the passenger side of the stolen sports car, "What's the plan? You do have a plan, don't you, because, at this point, you're looking a bit crazy."

"You are baggage. Stay silent. I will implement all parts of the new mission," Heero told him briskly. He closed the door quietly and then moved around the car to climb into the driver's seat. The engine was running, Heero having already hacked the computerized controls. He added, as he pulled away from the curb of a well to do neighborhood, "I am not crazy."

"News flash, Heero," Duo croaked as he leaned back into the leather seat and closed his eyes. "Crazy people don't know they're crazy."

"Save energy. Keep still. Otherwise, you will die before we reach our destination," Heero ordered sharply.

"He cares!" Duo breathed with a mocking smile.

"I do," Heero replied, very low and hardly to be heard.

Duo started, eyes opening again and going wide. "What?"

"Sleep," Heero told him. "You need to lower your heart rate."

"Won't do any good," Duo replied, but he was already drifting off. When he began breathing evenly, Heero reached over and touched his arm. His skin was cold, even though Heero had turned on the heat. Transfusion, he thought. Internal bleeding. Saline solution. Antibiotics. Surgeon expert in... Heero narrowed eyes at the swelling just visible through Duo's hair. A surgeon expert in vascular surgery. He kept adding to his mental notes as he drove through the city. Once he had the list complete, then he would formulate a plan for acquiring and implementing them.

The trained soldier in Heero complained. He ignored it. He had given his mission to infiltrate the base, and acquire the new computer codes, to Trowa. He had given Deathscythe to Quatre. Both of the pilots, showing up separately at his specified meeting place, had been confused and stunned at Heero's behavior. They hadn't questioned him though. Neither of them had wanted Duo to die. Duo was well liked by them, unlike Heero.

Heero had felt awkward, but not wrong in his decision. To continue the war, he now required more than a mission and an urge to be perfect. He needed a friend. He needed Duo to keep smiling at him and turning his world upside down. Heero had been like a blind man, unaware of his colorless life. Duo had shown him the spectrum and Heero didn't want to return to his colorless world.

Heero's eyes blurred. He blinked and wiped a hand across them. He was exhausted and burning out the control module of his implant had not been without some damage. It wasn't only Duo who needed some medical care.

Heero pulled into the emergency room parking lot of a hospital and abandoned the car. Carrying Duo, with Duo's signature braid tucked out of sight, Heero felt a strange, familiar feeling, as he went through some of the same motions that had gained him entrance to the last hospital that he had taken Duo to.

"Where...?" Duo's faint voice came from the gurney where Heero had placed him. They had just rolled into an empty operating room. The unfamiliar surroundings almost made Duo panic, until Heero looked down into his face and showed him the anesthesia he was about to administer.

"Are you a surgeon too?" Duo croaked. It was all he could manage to pant out through the pain.

"Saving time," Heero explained. "I will call a surgeon and a nurse to this room from the roster that I acquired at the front desk. While they are in route and preparing, I will make sure that you are under. We have a narrow window before we are discovered. I have calculated the time required for each step of this mission."

"You don't know what's wrong with me," Duo chuckled weakly. "How can you calculate the variables?"

"There are many," Heero agreed, not liking the imprecision either.

"Crazy," Duo muttered.

"Unavoidable," Heero corrected and then administered the drug. He counted the dosage he had seen the nurse give Duo the first time he had been operated on. It took effect very quickly. Duo's expression of agony smoothed out and he sighed as his eyes glazed and then closed.

Heero felt a strong emotion. He reflexively braced for pain. It didn't come and his body twitched, confused. The strong emotion continued and Heero felt a wetness in his eyes. He reached up and touched tears. He had never been allowed to get that far with an emotion since the device had been implanted. It hurt almost as much as the pain, that emotion, and Heero almost wished that he had the device once again to stop it. He wasn't even sure what he was feeling. All that he knew, was that it had to do with Duo and that it wasn't fear.

Heero called the surgeon and the nurse. While he waited, he seated himself, went through supplies to find a sealer, some bio gel, and an antibiotic, and reached back to take care of his own injury. His fingers encountered fresh blood and a ragged wound. His exertions had caused it to unclot and open up. The steady flow of blood would quickly weaken him. Heero worked quickly to stop it.

When the surgeon and the nurse arrived, hurrying to what they thought was an emergency, they were both stunned to meet up with Heero's gun as soon as they passed the door. Wound patched and ready for any trouble now, Heero herded surgeon and nurse towards Duo. His dark, intense eyes spoke volumes, making it unnecessary for him to threaten, "Head injury above the ear. Operate or die."

The surgeon, a round, robust, take charge type of man, gave Heero a slow look up and down and then he bent over Duo. He made a quick diagnosis and then confirmed it with a few instruments. "Not bad... but life threatening if left untreated for much longer. You should have come sooner, soldier."

"Unavoidable," Heero responded. "Operate."

"You have blood all over you," The nurse, a petite, brown haired woman, with bright blue eyes, realized. "Do you need treatment?"

Heero glared. "No. Operate. Now."

"You can relax," the surgeon told him. "We're both colony sympathizers. We want to see your friend pull through as much as you do."

Heero didn't allow himself to believe that. He kept his guard up and replied, "If you hurt him so that he dies later, I will return and make you die, painfully."

The surgeon paled. "He has pressure on his brain. A damaged artery. When I said, 'Not bad', I meant, not much of an operation to correct the injury. That's different than 'he'll pull through.'

"You will use all means necessary to make certain he 'pulls through', " Heero told him.

"I'm not God, but I won't do less than my best, I assure you," the surgeon promised.

The nurse began prepping Duo. She discovered the long braid. "Pretty. What's his name?"

"Shinigami," Heero replied.

The nurse started, "Death?"

"The God of Death," the surgeon corrected with a snort of humor. "If we have the God of Death on our operating table, we can't fail, can we?"

The operation began. Heero leaned against a wall, watching carefully. Duo lost a patch of hair to the operation. Heero winced, knowing how much he would hate that. Better a patch of hair, than losing him, Heero thought, and that strong emotion overwhelmed him again, bringing tears to his eyes and constricting his chest. What was it? Why did it hurt so much?!

"So young," the nurse murmured. "Just a couple of kids. This war is so terrible!"

"They aren't children," the surgeon replied as he finished up and sealed the wound, "Not any longer."

The nurse cleaned Duo up tenderly and then both the nurse and the surgeon backed away. "He's finished," the surgeon told Heero, "but I don't know how much damage the pressure of the accumulating blood caused before you arrived here. Who ever did this... it's a war crime if I ever saw one. Without treatment, your friend would have taken days more to die, in great pain, with the pressure destroying his brain."

Heero approached the operating table. He had to pass both nurse and surgeon to reach it. "Thank you," he said sincerely and then struck out quickly, catching both doctor and nurse with the hard edge of both hands before they could react. Both of them slumped to the floor, unconscious. He should have killed them instead, Heero thought, but he was allowed compassion now and gratitude. They owed their lives to it.

Heero leaned over Duo. There was a quarter sized bare patch just over his ear and a thin red line where the skin had been sealed. Such a small thing to have almost robbed him of Duo. It could still rob him of Duo, Heero corrected himself grimly. The doctor hadn't made any promises, even threatened with death. The surgeon may have saved Duo's life, but if his mind was gone, crushed by the weight of blood, then he was as good as dead.

Heero caught his hands shaking as he transferred Duo onto the gurney again and covered him up. Heero clenched them. Not now, he snapped at himself. Now wasn't the time to let his emotions surface entirely. They were too confusing, too unknown. When both he and Duo were settled in one of Quatre's many safe houses, then would be the time to explore those emotions, to let them go entirely, and to learn what it was to feel them.

"Help you with that?" a tall, congenial young man asked. He was wearing an orderly uniform. Heero couldn't refuse. His own, stolen uniform, wasn't higher in rank.

"Yes," Heero replied. "He's to be transferred to another hospital for a special operation."

"Really?" The orderly looked down at Duo, noting Duo's pale features. "Looks like he needs some blood. Didn't they want him to actually make it to the next hospital?"

"Special blood type," Heero replied. "Bio rejection. There wasn't a choice."

"Poor bastard!" the young man said as he grabbed the foot of the gurney and began pulling it towards the ambulance exit. "I've seen that look before. They usually get it right before they slap a toe tag on them and give them to me to take down to the morgue. That's where I thought you were headed."

Heero felt a wave of anger. He didn't want to hear things like that just then. It made his hands shake even more. When the orderly glanced back at Heero's silence, he started.

"Uh, sorry, man! I didn't mean to upset you!" he was genuinely apologetic. "I've never seen you around here before. Are you new? I guess, when you seen it all, like I have, you develop a thick skin when it comes to patients dying. My motto is, be nice, but don't get personal. That way it doesn't keep ripping you up inside every time someone gets a sheet over their face. Some days, it's so bad, I just wish they had emotionless robot nurses to care for everyone. At least they wouldn't feel anything when they serve a guy lunch, see pictures of his grand kids, and then see him laid out for an autopsy."

"That would not be better," Heero told him with an intensity that made the orderly stop and stare. "I know."

"OOOkay!" The orderly said in a drawn out manner that let Heero know that he was questioning Heero's stability. "Let's get this guy... it is a guy isn't it? Let's get him to the ambulance before he really does kick off. Then someone else can worry about it."

Heero nodded, glad that Duo wouldn't be left in that man's care and almost glad when he knocked the man unconscious between the long line of ambulances. It was a simple matter then, to leave the gurney behind, wrap Duo in a coat, and duck behind cars in the nearby parking lot. Choosing a nondescript car with a wide backseat, Heero broke into it without any trouble. Putting Duo on the backseat, Heero was soon mixing with as many cars as he could on an interstate, satisfied that he was making any pursuit impossible.

Duo didn't stir and his breathing was shallow. Heero kept looking over the seat back at him, risking a collision as he expertly maneuvered in and out of traffic. Once or twice, he thought Duo had stopped breathing all together. Heero panicked each time, his entire body and mind acting as if it had been given a terrible shock. He shook, he shivered, he licked dry lips, taking long minutes to recover when Duo finally began to breathe again.

"I feel like a Gundam ate me for lunch and then shit me out," a very faint whisper came to Heero's ear. Heero smiled and it hurt.

"Quiet, Baka," Heero told Duo sharply.

Duo was still drugged and not feeling any pain. "Still alive," he said in amazement. "At least, I think I am. Weak. Drained. Hm, not quite drained. Have to pee."

Heero snagged a small, plastic litter bag from under the dash and tossed it back at Duo. "All there is," he informed him. "Can't stop."

"Hm, it'll leak," Duo replied dubiously, but then was quiet. "K, now what?"

"Here," Heero reached back without taking his eyes from the road. A heavy bag was put into his hand. He rolled down the window, tossed it out, and then rolled the window back up again.

"Is this going to hurt like Hell when the drugs wear off?" Duo wondered and then , in soft shock and anger, "Some of my hair is gone!"

"Not noticeable if you comb over it," Heero replied.

"Is that the truth or a joke? I can never tell with you," Duo growled and then sighed and was quiet.

Heero glanced over the seat and saw that Duo's eyes were closed in sleep again, but that his breathing was steadier now. That smile came to Heero's lips again, stiff and painful. He reached up and touched it. On a soldier level, he didn't think that such stressful, distracting emotions could be good. He needed to concentrate on getting them both to safety and then making sure that Deathscythe was recovered and the mission completed. He needed more control, Heero thought, but he supposed that control would come with experience. Once he understood what he was feeling, and why, he could better avoid situations that caused such intense reactions. He had decided to care, to have another reason to win the war besides a goal of perfection. It didn't mean that he would forget his training entirely or allow himself to be less than his best. He would allow himself to worry about Duo, to want him to live, to be happy that he wasn't brain damaged, but he couldn't allow those emotions to get in the way of his first duty; the war. Balance, Heero thought, he needed to find balance between the two.

+

In his wide, ornate bed in one of the many Winner estate houses, Duo snapped, "Well? Are you just going to stand there and stare at me all day long?"

Heero had been doing just that. Wearing a black jacket and black gloves, he was hunched down and looking keenly at Duo from under his thatch of dark hair. After a long week of recovery, Duo was finally looking better. He was acting better as well and that was a point of irritation for Heero, though he couldn't explain why.

"One of Quatre's desert soldiers came from this room," Heero said, stating the obvious.

Duo smiled impishly and leaned back in his bed. He was wearing a pair of dark shorts and a white tank top. Sitting cross legged and supported against a mound of pillows, he looked comfortable and sated, his pale skin flushed pink. Solo's, Heero saw along one leg, and the Oz brand, and... something else he hadn't noticed before, another, smaller tattoo on the inside of Duo's thigh in a very neat script. Solo N' Kid.

"Why?" Heero asked, needing information, needing to understand. "Why so many? Why so often? You aren't well. Is this sexual urge so strong that you can't wait until you recover?"

Duo looked down and saw that Heero could see his most personal tattoo. He put a hand over it, but it was more of caress. "I just like fucking, Heero. Nothing deep or mysterious about that," he replied, but his voice was tight and not as nonchalant as he wanted it to be.

"I don't like it," Heero found himself saying and then flushed. Why had he said that? What did it matter whether Duo had sex with every man and woman on the estate? It didn't concern him. It didn't harm Duo. The emotion surfacing contradicted those words. It was a dark emotion and strong. It minded that Duo had sex with other people. It minded a great deal and it wasn't responding to Heero's efforts to control it.

"You don't like sex?" Duo misunderstood. "That's too bad. I wanted to do you next."

It wasn't what Heero wanted to hear. Those words twisted in his gut. Emotions surfaced, tangled, confused him, and sent him from the room, almost breaking the door to get out.

"Heero?!" Duo was stumbling after him, still weak, a hand against one wall of the hallway to support him. His braid swung like a pendulum as he tried to hurry, his face anxious. "Stop!"

Heero did stop, but he didn't turn, hands clenched into fists. "My Gundam needs maintenance," Heero said over his shoulder. "I stopped by on my way there to see if you were operational yet."

"I'm not a piece of machinery, Heero," Duo replied. "Don't talk to me as if I were. You're upset. I want to know why. I've never seen you like this. You were so cold and distant before. Now... something's changed, hasn't it?"

"Yes," Heero admitted and then left Duo there, unable to cope with what he was feeling any longer. There had to be a way to control it. It was hurting too much.

Heero didn't go to his Gundam, instead he walked out of the safe house and down into the woods. It was cold and the air was thin. He hunched into his coat with his hands in his pockets and tried to clear his head.

"Nice day for a walk," Duo said and Heero spun in surprise. The pilot of Deathscythe was tottering after him, out of breath, pale, and still in his shorts and tank top. He had only stopped long enough in his pursuit of Heero to put on some low boots.

"Go back!" Heero exclaimed.

"I'll use your patented phrase, 'hn', as a reply, and see how you deal with it, okay, Mr. Silent Treatment?" Duo panted and sat down on a log.

Heero took off his coat and handed it to Duo. Heero had on a thick undershirt. Duo made note of that before he accepted the offer. Then he pulled Heero's coat on and huddled inside of it gratefully, legs drawn up close to his body.

Heero stared at the shivering Duo. "Why are you with those people?" Heero found himself asking.

Duo didn't mock him or laugh and pass it off. He regarded Heero thoughtfully, his purple eyes serious under his chestnut bangs. "I've been searching for something."

Heero understood that. "Information?" It wasn't unusual for an operative to dupe a target with sex, but Duo hadn't been targeting enemies. Heero was confused.

"Of a kind," Duo told him, "and it is a mission."

"Classified?" Heero wondered.

"Not to you," Duo replied and his eyes became intense. "You see, when I was very young, and living on the streets of L2, I had the best friend a person could ever have."

"Solo," Heero interjected and Duo nodded.

"Solo." Duo wrapped his arms about his knees and regarded Heero over them. "We were everything to each other, inseparable, brothers in everything except blood. If he had lived, we would have been lovers too." Duo sighed self deprecatingly. "I've been looking for someone just like that, Heero, someone who will always be there for me and a part of me, heart and soul." He looked down and picked at the dry bark on the log. "I guess I was getting desperate, going through men and women like some sort of back street whore... but it wasn't about the sex, Heero. It was just a way to get close to them without getting too close, without making a commitment I don't want to make with anyone but that one person, the one person who can take Solo's place."

Heero's hands clenched. "I don't understand what I'm feeling," he said quietly. "I don't like it. I don't want to feel this way any longer."

Duo looked at him with raised eyebrows. "What do you mean?"

Heero touched the back of his head and lightly touched the still healing wound. The soldier part of him balked, but the reemerging Human side couldn't hold back, couldn't not seek help. "I want to tell you something about myself..."

Duo gave him the ghost of a smile, but he was still serious as he said in surprise. "Wasn't that classified information?"

"Not to you," Heero replied, echoing Duo's words. He explained about the implant. He wasn't ready for Duo to be so angry. Duo came off of the log, closed the few steps between them, and dug hands into Heero's shirt.

"You gave up everything that makes life worth living for the war?!" Duo was incredulous. "I can't even begin to understand that kind of warped thinking! Heero, we're fighting for our right to be free, to do as we please, to govern as we see fit, and to live our lives in peace. How can you fight when you reject as weak and unimportant, the very things that you are fighting for?"

"I know that it was wrong," Heero replied. "I know that some detachment from emotions is necessary to be an effective soldier, but to exclude all of them creates a vacuum."

Duo frowned, asking, "Which will you pick and chose to have, Heero? How will you know which ones are the important ones?"

"I don't know," Heero replied. "I'm am still analyzing them. I don't understand what I am feeling now, or if it is necessary to feel this way at all."

"That's right," Duo said, looking into Heero's eyes worriedly. "Don't jettison something when you don't know what it is, soldier. Maybe, if could explain why you suddenly changed your mind about having feelings, and explain to me how you feel now, I could help you."

Heero looked down at Duo's clutching hands. It seemed an awkward position, vulnerable, yet Heero didn't want Duo to stop touching him, possessing him with those two hands. It was another strange idea. Another emotion he didn't understand.

"You showed me that you could have emotions and still be effective," Heero replied. "I believed I was right, that Dr. J was right to deny them, until then."

"When?" Duo pressed, eyes large and almost glowing with intensity. "Tell me exactly when you knew, when you understood."

"When you were lying in the darkness dying and I was repairing Deathscythe," Heero replied and felt a reluctance, a shyness that was confusing. "You didn't object. You didn't make any sounds. You allowed me to continue my mission. I- I didn't want you to die. I knew that I had to save you, that I had to stop allowing the implant to control my will and help you."

"Why?" Duo pressed, leaning even closer. He was warm, warmer than he should have been in a pair of shorts and loafers. "I was dying. You didn't have any hope of saving me. Why change everything you believed, everything that you were at that moment, to save me?"

Heero felt that painful squeezing of his chest and the twisting in his gut that was almost dizzying. He was overwhelmed by emotion. He tried to regain control and only half succeeded as he whispered back. "I don't know. I don't have any words for the things I felt then, that I feel now. I've never been allowed to feel such things before."

Duo suddenly reached out and cupped Heero's chin. His touch was electric and pleasant. He pulled Heero towards him and kissed him on the lips. It wasn't a soft kiss, it was deep and full of life, hungry and needy. Heero felt a warmth spread through every part of his body and center on that kiss. It was masculine, commanding... Duo's lips commanded Heero to open for him.

Duo's tongue darted inside of Heero's mouth and it wasn't an invasion. It was sweet and Heero found himself trembling and closing his eyes. The protesting soldier in him was drowned out by the beating of his heart, as Duo's hands slipped into the waist band of his pants and slowly worked them down. Duo's hands were expert, but that didn't matter to Heero. It only mattered that they were Duo's hands, touching him with feeling and something other than cold, callous, direction. It was his first taste of gentleness and Heero wanted more... much more as he came alive in Duo's hands and the place bellow his navel began to want.

"Is it just sex, what you're feeling for me, Heero?" Duo whispered, releasing Heero's lips and leaning so that his hot breath tickled Heero's ear. "You've never been this close to another person, I bet, not like this. Cold, callous, emotionless soldier. I don't think the recipe for that included tucking you in at night and drying your tears, am I right? Did you save my life, because I gave you more than that, because I tried to be your friend? Was it because I showed you how truly empty your one dimension soldier life was? Maybe it's gratitude your feeling, and nothing else." He chuckled as Heero shook even more. "Hard to tell, isn't it? That's why I get the sex out of the way first. Once that's over with... well, I never felt anything for anyone past that."

"What else is there?" Heero managed to ask, his head spinning and a gasp coming from his lips as Duo's hands slid to his backside and rubbed him there. "Sex. Gratitude. I don't know what I'm feeling."

"There is something else," Duo replied and licked at Heero's earlobe. "When everything else is burned away and used up, it will remain, if it ever existed in that iron heart of yours. Want to find out?"

"How?" Heero whispered back, losing control of everything, even his voice.

"Sacrifice a little. Pay me back for making you human again. Satisfy your body. Clear your mind of all the clutter," Duo told him and then smiled against Heero's neck, kissing it gently. "Most of all, trust me. Let down that super soldier guard of yours. Let me have my way with you."

Heero didn't say yes, he just couldn't resist Duo any longer. He melted against the young man and Duo, though he was much weaker, had strong arms to hold him up until they both sank to the leaf strewn ground.

It was very sweet, the best feeling Heero had ever experienced. It was also a sacrifice. Duo wasn't going to spare him. Heero couldn't protest, couldn't stop the unfolding events. Duo was like a runaway train and Heero was bound to the tracks by his own confusion and roiling, unnamed, emotions. He couldn't escape, even when Duo rolled him onto his stomach, kissed and caressed his back and then eased into him with a long, stiff member that was both pleasure and pain, the force of it softened only by the saliva from Duo's mouth.

Duo paused, holding Heero. That was pain too, nerves enraged, inner cavity breached and stretched impossibly wide. Duo seemed frozen, forever poised, hands under Heero's stomach and holding Heero's swollen member. Heero lifted his hips, both to escape those maddening hands and to relieve the pressure of being filled too much. Duo pressed deeper in response, refusing to be bucked off, hands beginning to stroke at last and hips beginning to pump ever so gently.

Heero felt something wet on the back of his neck, followed by the kiss of Duo's trembling lips. He was rolled over and Heero found himself looking up into Duo's eyes. They were full of tears. Duo entered him again and moved just as gently, even more so as he stared down into Heero's eyes with an emotion Heero didn't understand, but that made the emotions twisting and burning inside of himself grow more intense in response.

The world exploded. Heero bucked upwards, gripping at Duo with iron hard hands. His vision went dim as his mind reeled, a violent sensation swelling and releasing in his groin and a wetness spurting across both their bellies. His insides tightened and he felt a wet heat fill him, making his first, conscious orgasm that much more intense as Duo came too.

They lay locked together afterwards, Duo's cheek resting just under Heero's chin. Heero reached up and caressed Duo's chestnut hair, feeling suddenly possessive and possessed at the same time.

"So, "Duo finally said as if dreading the answer. "What now? Mind blowing sex. No more gratitude, you've certainly paid me back a hundred times... You must not feel anything now. Mission accomplished. Head clear, right?"

"No," Heero replied quietly, frowning, trying to understand and put it into words. He slid hands along Duo's back and pulled him close. "It hurts. My chest hurts and I don't know why. I want... I want you to be with me, always. I want to pull you inside of me somehow... It is illogical, but it is the way I feel. I don't want to move from here, even though we might starve or freeze to death. It doesn't matter as long as you are here, like this, with me. It isn't the sex. That hurt and I think I will have to learn how to do that better. It isn't gratitude. I don't feel that I am indebted to you. Duo... tell me what this is that I'm feeling. It's like the sex, terrible and wonderful at the same time. I want it to stop, to go away, and yet I don't."

"Are you afraid?" Duo asked.

"Yes," Heero admitted.

"Why?" Duo wondered.

"I feel...," Heero tried to explain, floundering and not able to help thinking he was being weak and ridiculous, that Duo would laugh at him, or worse, leave him there in the forest and in the cold.

"Tell me," Duo urged.

"I'm afraid that you don't want me, that you won't want to stay with me," Heero replied. "I'm afraid that you don't know what this feeling inside of me is, that you don't feel it too, even though I don't know why I should want you to feel such pain and confusion too."

Duo was quiet for a long moment and then he took Heero's hand and moved his leg so that Heero could touch his most personal tattoo. "I was Solo's," Duo told him. "We were a team. Solo n' Kid. I thought I loved him. I didn't. What I felt for him, was just gratitude and friendship." Duo leaned over Heero and brushed Heero's face with his fingertips as if memorizing every line. "What I felt for him wasn't anything like this, Heero. I thought it was love, but this is love. This is the most powerful thing that I've ever felt, Heero, what I feel for you. That's what I think you're feeling too."

"Love?" Heero smiled. It wasn't so terrible now that it had a name. He had often heard love mentioned and remembered Dr. J. telling him that it was over rated and better left unfelt. Now, Heero felt anger mix with that powerful emotion, anger for having lived so many years without it, without anyone feeling it for him or allowing him to feel it for others.

"You all right?" Duo wondered and Heero knew that Duo was afraid too, afraid that he was wrong, afraid that Heero didn't really feel love for him.

Fear and pain were a part of it, Heero realized, and he could see that fear and pain growing and overwhelming him easily if Duo were to reject him now. "Duo, I think... I think that , if you told me that you didn't feel the same way, that this was one of the jokes you like to play, or if you were saying the things you say to others to get sex from them, it would hurt so bad, make me so weak, that I would want to die."

Duo smiled and wrapped arms and legs around Heero. He sighed, but it sounded happy. "I feel the same way, Heero. It has to be love." He went suddenly still. "You don't think it's one of the bad emotions you should get rid of, do you? You won't change your mind and suddenly consider it a distraction in the war?"

"Distraction?" Heero considered that seriously and felt Duo begin to tremble, begin to be unsure. Love was a terrible emotion. It could destroy. It could rip a person apart moment to moment depending on the whims of the person being loved. Yet, Heero felt whole for the first time in his life. He felt full of energy, full of determination. He felt that he had a purpose and a stake in the war, that he had someone to protect.

"I don't want to stop loving you," Hero said. "I don't want to go back now that I know what life can be."

"But the war-," Duo began, wanting to be absolutely sure, not wanting the agony of betrayal later on.

"For you, I will win the war. It will not stop me from being with you, from being in love with you," Heero told Duo strongly. "I don't think anything can now."

"It's all gone to your head!" Duo chuckled, but with an edge of accusation in his voice, "Minutes ago, you didn't even know what love was and now you can make me promises like that?"

"Yes," Heero replied seriously. "Can you?"

Duo smiled, slow and sweet," Yeah, I can, actually. Don't ask me how, but it's true."

"Then, " Heero said as he sat up and pulled Duo into his arms. "I will take you back to your room where it is warm and, after you rest, you can instruct me-"

"In more sexual practices?" Duo broke in with a laugh as he wrapped his arms about Heero's neck .

"No," Heero replied, but felt a smile on his lips at the thought. "I need you to teach me more about emotions, about being..." He didn't want to say 'normal'. It brought to mind his painful, cold, life. He didn't want to think of that now in the warmth they had built between them.

Duo understood. "I will, but, unless you want everyone to know what we were doing out here, you better pull up your pants, Heero Yuy."

Heero looked down and saw his pants still around his ankles. He felt a blush of confusion and then laughed. It came out strangled and abrupt and it startled both Duo and himself. Duo laughed at his expression and the laughter became infectious. Heero continued to laugh more naturally as he pulled up his pants. The laughter didn't stop, even as he helped Duo to his feet and began assisting him back towards the safe house. It cleaned him inside and out, that laughter, and, by the time that they reached the house and passed through the doorway, Heero felt that he was leaving the cold, perfect soldier behind. The man who stepped through the doorway had changed into someone else, someone who was grabbing humanity with both hands and determined never to let it or Duo go again.

Owari

[part 10] [back to Kracken's fic]