by: Kracken
Disclaimer: I don't own them and I don't make any money off of this.
Warnings: Male/Male sex. Graphic. Torture. Violence. Language. Heero angst galore.

After The Rain series + Part 4
True Shinigami

"Wake up!" A hard hand shook at Heero. "Stupid bastard! Wake up! Crap! Too late! You better appreciate this you, freakin' asshole!" and then silence.

Heero tried to crawl out of the darkness, but it held him in tight claws and didn't want to let go. The more distant sound of someone in pain and loud, inventive cursing came to his confused ears. It pricked at memory. The voice should have been his, screaming, sobbing, shouting at his tormentors to stop as they tried to force him into the mold of the perfect soldier.

Heero's head was throbbing as if it were being blown apart from the inside in slow motion. His every nerve and muscle was on fire. After effects of convulsion, a small, coherent part of his mind analyzed, ignore it and become conscious. It was an order that Heero knew he couldn't refuse. The pain would come again if he did, worse this time. It was always worse when he tried to rebel against it, tried to hide in unconsciousness.

Heero pried his eyes open. He mentally shut off as many nerves as he could manage, enough to allow himself to slowly sit up and begin to try and figure out why he was outside, in the false light of dawn, and covered by old leaves. A stray thought occurred to him, that Duo had tried to bury him alive in revenge for failing the mission, and then he was thinking more clearly, realizing that someone, probably Duo, had tried to hide him.

"Hey guys! Come on!" Duo panted through groans of pain. "Leave enough for the bosses to interrogate, k?"

Heero swiveled his head sharply and found his gun in its' holster at his lower back. He drew it and peered through bushes cautiously. At once, he spotted Duo sprawled on the ground. He was covered in mud and leaves, his braid held in one Oz soldier's hand while another kept a foot on his back, holding him down. A third, stood back, holding a gun in case of trouble. Heero sorted through likely scenarios, determining quickly that Duo had probably tried to quietly eliminate one or more of the soldiers and that a third must have come up unnoticed and captured him.

"Interrogation?" the one holding Duo's braid snarled. "This is an execution, little terrorist! We followed the computer hack all the way to your dorm. We found bomb making residue. That's all the proof we need."

"Oh, proof!" Duo made a rude noise, blood dribbled out of his mouth along with it. He wiped at the blood with a shaking hand. "Sure, I did it! A five year old could have figured that out. What you can't figure out is who I'm working for or what my ultimate plan was. You'll have to take me back to head quarters and torture that out of me."

"You're full of advice," the one with the foot in Duo's back snarled and ground his boot down harder. "We're not taking advice today. We came for revenge!"

"Funny," Duo gasped, trying to get in air. "That's why I blew up your installation!"

The one holding Duo's braid jerked hard on it, dragging Duo towards him and out from under the foot of the other man. He then swung a booted foot into Duo repeatedly and viciously. "Shut up and die.... slowly," he said to Duo.

The man with the gun laughed and relaxed, thinking the situation was well under control. That was his last mistake. Heero came up behind him, grabbed him around the head, and twisted sharply. There was a sickening pop and the man fell twitching with a broken neck.

Unnoticed, the two men were now taking turns at Duo. Duo was sobbing and making helpless sounds like a small puppy, but he wasn't curling up to avoid the blows. Instead, he threw the dice and gambled on his life. He knew he was going to die under those kicking boots and he also knew he would probably die from a bullet from the soldier with the gun. Probably was better than absolutely. Duo gave up his pretense of helplessness and suddenly rolled onto his back and kicked back.

The one who had twisted his braid around one hand, suddenly let loose of it to clutch at his groin as Duo's boot sank into it. Duo was thrusting himself up off the ground in a lightning move then, braid snapping out behind him as he threw himself at the howling man and took him to the ground. The hard edge of his hand caught the man in the chin and shoved the man's head up. A pop and a crack sounded and the man stopped howling.

Duo had used the last of his strength. Eyes rolling up as the world thinned and drifted into a red haze, he wondered if he should give himself last rights and confess his sins, as he collapsed onto the dead body beneath him.

"You bastard!" The other man's voice boomed and Duo waited for the final death blow.

Nothing happened. Duo flinched as a hand pulled on him, pulled him up, and flung his arm over broad shoulders. Duo swiveled his head and blinked blearily at the man who was forcing him to his unsteady feet. "Heero?"

Heero didn't respond with anything except, "Report."

Duo spat blood, and a part of a chipped back tooth, and then he managed to reply, "You had a seizure of some sort. Oz stormed the school. My little piece of tail came to tell me about it. I knocked him out, threw our things together, and tried to escape with you. I didn't get far. We're still on school grounds. I was trying to get the jump on two those two Oz soldiers when number three came out of nowhere." He panted, gathered strength, and continued with sobbing breath, "Tell me you can get us out of here, Heero, because I'm pretty bad."

Weak, Heero thought. Duo had tears and blood running down his face and he was shivering and leaning heavily on him. He weighed his options, uppermost whether he could manage to escape with Duo nearly passing out and whining and moaning behind gritted teeth.

"Quiet" Heero finally hissed as he slung the pack Duo had discarded earlier over one shoulder and felt the comforting weight of his laptop and their personal things.

"Trying, man! Trying!" Duo hissed back and buried his face against Heero's side to muffle himself in Heero's coat.

Heero raised his gun and aimed the barrel at Duo's head, the oblivious pilot unaware that his life was in danger from the very man who had just saved his life. Heero's mind worked with the speed of a computer, pluses and minuses lining up in a column next to Duo's name. He hated the relief when more pluses than minuses occurred to him. Duo was a liability at that moment, but his expertise was invaluable to the war effort. He was a weapon and Heero didn't toss aside his weapons lightly.

Reversing the gun, Heero hit Duo behind the ear. The pilot crumpled and his noises stopped. Slinging him over his shoulder in a fireman's carry, Heero turned to try and win a deadly game of hide and seek with the Oz soldiers searching for them.

+

"You can get off now," Duo's hoarse voice informed Heero.

Heero snapped awake and unfolded from around Duo, his coat falling from them both. They were covered in leaves and branches and tucked in a hollow behind a fallen tree. At the end of his strength earlier that morning, Heero had done his best to conceal them, hoping against hope that they wouldn't be spotted by heat detection devices. He had allowed himself sleep then, sharing body warmth with Duo, who had been shivering and close to shock.

Duo's amethyst eyes were level and serious under his matted chestnut bangs. He stared hard at Heero for a long minute and then he said, "Well, THAT was a disaster! Any theories as to what might have happened?"

Heero blinked, feeling gritty, but recovering quickly, blood beginning to circulate and warm him, aches and pains becoming manageable. Duo didn't have his ability. He still looked pale and pinched, his face a network of raised bruises and contusions. He looked brittle enough to break, even though his voice came out strong enough in thinly veiled accusation.

"I tried the codes," Heero replied as he turned away and used keen ears and eyes to scan their surroundings. The woods he had fled into was deep and offered a great deal of cover. "I tripped a security system."

Duo thought over that, mind working on possible scenarios. "I covered all the bases," he replied with a frown. "The codes I stole, and the bugs I planted, were all in safe areas."

Heero admitted stiffly, "I went to an area that was restricted. I tripped the security system."

Heero felt Duo gripping his coat and spinning him around. He found himself looking into Duo's white, bruised face, his purple eyes wide and almost all pupil. He hung on Heero, too weak to support his own weight for long, as he shouted. "You stupid bastard! People died for those codes! I risked my life for them! What was so important? Tell me, dammit! What was that important?!"

Heero placed a broad hand over Duo's mouth and said icily. "Be quiet before you give away our position."

Duo jerked his face away, staggered, and sat down cross legged with his head in his hands. He breathed in shuddering gasps as Heero stared down at him. After a few, long minutes, Duo raised his head and his face was stiff and calm. "We have to get our Gundams out of here."

"Yes," Heero agreed.

Duo nodded. "Let's do that. I'll beat the crap out of you later."

+

Rescuing their Gundams turned out to be very difficult. There were too many soldiers patrolling the woods, beating the bushes for them, confident that any other escape had been cut off and that their prey had to be close at hand. Heero and Duo moved from place to place to avoid them, playing a deadly game of cat and mouse in cold and growing misery, and not making any headway towards their Gundams.

A light, misting rain, came down incessantly. Hypothermia was becoming a real fear, especially for Duo, who still hadn't recovered from his beating. After two days of crawling in mud and hiding under bushes, he was a wreck; covered in leaves and mud, braid a wet tangle, face pasty and sunken. He shivered constantly and walking was impossible unless Heero lent him his strong arm to hold him upright.

It was the first time that Heero had been able to spend that amount of time with someone since his training days. He was finding himself far superior to Duo in every physical way and wondered if it was just Duo he was superior too or other men as well. Had doctor J given him an edge, enhanced his body in some way that he didn't know about?

"Stop!" Duo whimpered.

Huddled together in the even temperature of a very small cave, the hard floor was their cruel bed, and their body warmth their only means of survival. Holding Duo against him, suffering the young man's stubborn, hate filled silence for yet another night, Heero almost welcomed the sound of Duo's voice, even if it was the product of a nightmare.

"Won't do it again!" Duo whimpered in a very young sounding voice. "Promise- promise.... don't hurt them! I talked them into it. Was all my fault. All my fault, damn you! No....," he squirmed against Heero, beginning to sob, and then he began thrashing madly, shrieking at the same time. "Fuckers! They're just babies!! Stop hitting them! Stop it! It was all my fault!"

Heero clamped a hand over Duo's mouth and shook at him. "Wake up, pilot!" he hissed in Duo's ear. "Wake up!"

Duo took in a sobbing breath. Heero couldn't see him in the darkness, but he could imagine tears. Duo stuttered out, "W-Wher am- Where am I?"

"A cave," Heero grated. "Now stop your noise before sound detectors pick us up!"

He could feel Duo thinking, remembering, mind putting everything into focus. "Oh, yeah.... I remember," he muttered and then louder as he shook at Heero, "I remember that you screwed up! I didn't get my revenge because of you!"

"Be quiet!" Heero warned. "Or I will be forced to eliminate you, despite your expertise."

"Aw, you think I'm good enough to keep alive?" Duo drawled sarcastically. "Isn't that sweet? Well, you're going to regret that decision, you bastard! I don't think we're getting out of this one and I don't feel too 'alive', so I'll get my payback right, now, thanks so much!"

Heero felt a fist connect with his jaw with unerring accuracy. Duo wasn't as strong as Heero, certainly not in his present condition, but he had big knuckles on a thin hand. They were sharp and hard. He hit with the force of a mule kick and Heero saw bright lights behind his eyes. He took a breath and grabbed out to pin Duo down. He needn't have bothered. Duo was unconscious.

Feeling along Duo's arm, Heero was going to travel up it to find Duo's pulse at his neck. Instead, his hand encountered a bump that was large enough to make it's presence known even under Duo's tight fitting, black thermal clothing. The arm might have been fractured before, but it was definitely broken now. The force of the punch must have caused it. Heero surmised, and the pain had knocked an already weakened Duo out cold.

Heero weighed options once more. Their situation had become intolerable. Two pilots and two Gundams were in danger of being lost to the war effort. It was time to forget careful planning and patient waiting. It was time to make a run for it. He would take Duo as far as his Gundam and put him in the cockpit. If he could pilot with a broken arm and reduced capabilities Heero would clear the way for him and make good their escape. If not, he was certain, just like in his own Wing Gundam, that there was a self destruct button in Deathscythe. Oz wasn't going to get pilot or Gundam.

Heero settled himself to wait then, until the moon set and they had complete darkness. A small part of his mind prickled pain, threatening him as he spared a thought for allowing Duo to recover as well and not because he wanted to save a good pilot. Something buried deep inside of Heero didn't want those amethyst eyes to close forever even if they only reflected Duo's hate for him.

Heero mollified his training, by cutting off the emotions that went with that thought, but the traitor thought had still come to mind, and that troubled Heero. To distract himself, he began running over mental maps of the area and running scenarios in his head. Not knowing the positions of the Oz troops, it was a worthless exercise, but it kept his training from attacking him as he pulled Duo closer into his embrace and found himself guiltily enjoying, as he had the previous nights, being in contact with another person. What was happening to him? He wondered. He hated this breach in his training and told himself he hated Duo for causing it, yet, he didn't change his position or try and wake Duo until the moon had set.

+

"I'm still alive," Duo panted through the pain as he woke up. "I don't think I want to be!"

"I went out and scouted briefly. I heard three ships pass over head. They haven't stopped looking for us," Heero informed Duo as he crouched close by Duo's head. "If you're done whimpering and trying to kill me, I suggest that we try and make it to our Gundams before pursuit can capture us."

"No can do," Duo hissed and Heero heard him try and sit up. He also heard Duo fall back with a moan. "Muscles stiffened during the night and my arm... God! It's broken! I can also feel a swelling under my ribcage. Something's not right, Yuy. I'm not going to be able to run and hide. I'm not going to be able to get into the cockpit by myself. You must know all of that, so, either I was wrong when I figured you for a genius, or you're really a magician and you're going to work a miracle. Which is it?"

Heero let the silence grow, hating Duo's flippant attitude, his insistence on being sloppy and defeatist, and his unwillingness to wait for information before passing judgment. "We need to rescue the Gundams. I can't save both of them by myself. If I attempt to take out Wing, it will alert Oz and they will search for, and find, Deathscythe."

Duo reached out into the darkness and gripped Heero's arm as hard as he could. It didn't seem very hard to Heero and Duo's hand was shaking. Duo released him. "If it comes to a fight, and it will, I'll need two good hands, Heero. Right now, I don't have any."

"I intend to save Wing," Heero said in a flat tone. "Deathscythe must not fall into enemy hands."

Duo understood then. "Doesn't seem right," he said at last. "You're the one that screwed up, but I'm the one that has to self destruct for it. Life just isn't freakin' fair!"

"I didn't 'screw up', " Heero replied sharply.

"No?" Duo shot back. "What would you call it then?"

"I was trying to gather important information," Heero replied in his defense. "I couldn't have known that such a simple search would trigger security protocols. You planted bugs in the system to allow for that very kind of access."

"Thanks, man!" Duo snarled and then whimpered in pain as if he had tried to sit up again. "Not only do I get to self destruct Deathscythe, but I get blamed for everything going wrong as well!"

Heero blinked, frowning as he replied. "I am not placing the blame on you. Neither of us could have foreseen what happened."

"At least tell me what you were looking for," Duo demanded hotly.

"Classified," Heero replied, shortly ,and it wasn't a lie. He didn't want Duo knowing what he had been looking for.

"That doesn't wash, Yuy!" Duo snarled back. "You don't keep secrets from me when we have to rely on each other during a mission. Tell me what you were looking for or I refuse to move an inch from this nice, freezing, rock floor."

"Perhaps you should start first then," Heero replied evenly. "Reveal your secrets. Reveal why you have an Oz tracking number on your leg."

Duo snorted derisively. "Is that all? It's not a big secret or anything." He paused as a thought occurred to him, incredulous, he continued, "Did you think I put it there myself, because I love Oz or something?! Is that what you were fucking looking for? The tracking number? Shit, Heero! Of course you tripped every alarm in the system. That's old data! There's security protocols for that and my hack didn't protect against it!"

Duo groaned and Heero heard him panting in fury. "Men died because you wouldn't just ASK me, Heero!"

"Tell me," Heero insisted, without sympathy, without emotion.

Duo's voice came out pinched and chill in the darkness. "I was part of a street gang. We stole here and there to feed ourselves, but we didn't have anything besides that; food in our bellies enough times to keep us barely alive." He paused in pain and then continued bitterly. "I had the bright idea to make a hit on one of the supply depots. We were caught and...." Duo stopped again for a long minute and then softly, "They tortured those kids. Beat them bloody. They laughed when they did it, like it was a game.... kick the street rat.... just like they were doing to me back there at the school only these kid were all under ten. Three of them died. Two were permanently crippled. They branded all of us on the leg with one of those irons they used to mark shipping crates. They told us, if they caught us again, they would kill us. They let everyone crawl away, eventually, those that could, but they found out the whole thing was my idea. They tied my leg down and they told me they were going to hamstring me so that I wouldn't get around anymore and make trouble like that again. They cut pretty deep before an officer showed up and told them to get back to work. He didn't even care that they were torturing me. They left me like that, just walked away. I had to stop the bleeding and get loose myself. So.... satisfied that I'm not an Oz operative? Was it worth all of those lives? Was it worth screwing up the mission?"

"We need to go," Heero said, cutting off emotions viciously, horror front and foremost. Duo's story was nothing new. It happened all too often. It was one of Heero's reasons for fighting, to stop that kind of evil and to bring peace. It was a contradiction that he had to be as cold hearted as those Oz soldiers and deny Duo sympathy, deny him a moment to recover, deny him the chance to place blame on him and punish him for it. They had to escape. They had to save the Gundams. They had to regroup and then return later to finish what they had started.

"Oh, don't go crying on me or 'nothing, Yuy!" Duo snarled. "Get me the Hell up and let's get the Hell out of here!"

Heero straightened with Duo, lifting him to uncertain feet, feeling him shaking and hearing the hiss and muttered groans of someone in horrible pain. Duo was a contradiction as well and Heero was confused by it. He couldn't understand how someone could be so weak and frail, both mentally and physically, yet strong too and determined enough to walk when Heero walked, even knowing that his death was their destination. He had peeled back some of Duo's past, but it had only spawned more questions and contradictions in himself. He had sentenced Duo to self destruction, yet he found himself driving his mind to all extremes to find an alternative. That divided attention was unacceptable, yet Heero couldn't stop himself. A dead Duo would end that confusion, that dangerous contradiction, but also, Heero felt, Duo would take something with him into death, a small part of Heero that had been dark until the braided, irreverent, pilot had come into his life to light it up. Against all training, daring the pain of correction, Heero searched for a way to save Duo, searched for a way to keep that small light burning.

[part 3] [part 5] [back to Kracken's fic]