by Makishef
Rating: R
Warnings: citrusy bits, violence, occasional angst, possible pretentiousness on the part of the author.
Disclaimer: If I owned Gundam Wing, there would be a lot less plot and a lot more sex.
Notes: Thank you, thank you, thank you to Dev-Aki Basaa for her beta skills. Any mistakes left are mine and mine alone.

Psychomachia

I. Invidia
"Nothing sharpens sight like envy." -- Thomas Fuller

The first time Duo sees Relena, he thinks she is insane. It takes some time, but now he understands the force of nature that swept her away.

Heero is unlike anyone Duo has ever encountered, quiet and serious and really, truly dangerous. He is terrifying and beautiful at once. He possesses a focus, a single-mindedness that Duo envies.

Envy, it seems, is something he will have to get used to because Relena circles them both like a hawk. She is kind enough, he knows, but she fears anything and anyone that may come between her and her fairy tale knight.

Duo, in turn, watches Heero slowly accept Relena's persistent presence, and he finds that he is relieved when a mission removes him from that situation. But this demon sinks its claws in deeper than he expects. Duo doesn't just envy; he wants, too.

When Duo has room to breathe, he finds his head filled with thoughts of Heero and how he's a disgustingly good soldier, and he thinks about Relena slowly working her way closer to him, and he thinks about Heero letting it happen. He also thinks that, whatever she's chipping away at, it's got to be ugly on the inside, because nobody's that perfect.

Duo squeezes his eyes shut and prays it is so; he's afraid these thoughts may consume him otherwise.

+

II. Acedia
"Apathy is a sort of living oblivion." -- Horace Greeley

Duo thought Heero was dead. He should have known better.

Now Duo sits alone in a cramped room with him, playing surveillance, and Heero doesn't seem to notice him or the slight bruises still visible on his own once-broken body. Duo doesn't do silence well, at least not when there's someone else.

Finally, he twists his headset to uncover one ear and says what's been on his mind. "You almost killed yourself. Why?"

Heero says nothing, but he does glance Duo's way for a second, which is more of a response than Duo expects, to be honest. He sits back with a sigh, a little annoyed and casting surreptitious looks in the hopes Heero might actually say something.

When he finally gives up on getting any sort of response, he starts to pull the earpiece back on. That's when Heero speaks, and Duo tenses a little at the sound of his voice, because it's rich and deep and Duo doesn't ever hear enough of it. "I blew up the suit. I didn't attempt suicide."

"Why, though?" Duo doesn't take his eyes off the screen, but he can feel the prickle of hairs standing up on his skin like Heero is staring at him.

"The enemy would have gotten hold of it if I hadn't."

"And you had no other options? Nobody else tried to blow themselves up." Heero shrugs and Duo wonders just how much Heero really thought it out before he acted. He thinks Heero might have just wanted the excuse to pull the trigger. "You'll serve the cause better alive than dead," he says.

"Maybe. But when the war is over, my purpose will be served." Heero's voice is strange and calm, and Duo thinks it's the sort of voice that could lull him to sleep -- if not for the cold, alien things he says. "What need does a world of peace have for an outdated instrument of war?" The apathy in his voice makes Duo's skin crawl, though there's a part of him that realizes this is the longest Heero's ever spoken to him. Any envy he might feel for Heero's single-minded determination finally dies with those words.

"You don't have anything to live for when it's over?" Duo can't help himself; he has to ask, even if he already knows the answer.

"What more can there be?"

Duo doesn't have a reply ready, not one that would make sense to someone who just didn't care, so he pulls his earpiece back on and tries to forget the conversation. Perhaps the silence is better after all.

+

III. Avaritia

"We are all born brave, trusting and greedy, and most of us remain greedy." -- Mignon McLaughlin

Duo is a packrat, a scavenger, and it's no wonder he ended up with the Sweeper Group. Even now, he holds on to anything he can find, be it scrap metal he can actually use or little things, trinkets and other useless items, just to know he has it.

He doesn't know that any of this will come in handy; in fact, he's pretty sure it won't, unless the Gundams start running on plastic bracelets or lost sneakers.

It's hard to change a lifetime of habit, even if he knows that there is no longer a need for it. The habit is more distraction than survival skill. It takes an act of will for him to get rid of the excess, but he does it when he catches himself because he knows he is greedy, knows he has no use for the things he collects.

Sometimes, though, there are little items he treasures and keeps near him, maybe superstitiously, as if these lifeless objects will protect him somehow. He has trimmed his collection down to three things -- a rosary, an empty bullet shell and a scrap of an old linen bandage -- and these things he holds dearest.

He keeps it his little secret. If anyone knew, he's not sure what would happen, but he knows it will change him. He doesn't know if he believes their knowledge will strip these objects of their power, or if he thinks they'll laugh at him, or if he's afraid someone will, against all reason, recognize one of the things and know immediately why he holds it so dear.

+

IV. Gula
"Gluttony is an emotional escape, a sign something is eating us." -- Peter De Vries

Any time Duo has the chance to sit down and eat, he sets into it like it's the last meal he'll have because, one of these days, he will eat a last meal, and he's determined to make the most of it. He knows what it's like to go without, and he knows that there will be times when he has to, if he's trapped or taken prisoner.

So he always makes sure to go back for seconds, no matter how big the first serving was, and no matter how full he might be. He endures funny looks for it, but he insists he's still growing and needs it, which is true enough.

Heero always takes small, thoughtful bites, and he watches him with what Duo is certain is disdain in his cool, blue eyes. Of course, it's Duo's opinion that Heero has no right to judge, considering his fucked up view of the world, so he keeps eating.

+

V. Luxuria
"Lust's passion will be served; it demands, it militates, it tyrannizes." -- Marquis de Sade

The first time Duo tries anything, he ends up at the business end of Heero's gun, and all he's done is enter his personal space at a bad time. Heero's eyes are cold and hard, not the wild animal wariness one would expect to see, and Duo cracks a crude joke and lifts his hands in surrender.

He hasn't lost this, though, because he can see Heero's lips are just barely parted, his chest moving up and down with rapid breaths. Duo wonders how well-prepared Heero is for the treason of his own body, and he thinks he isn't prepared at all, that Heero, smart as he is, doesn't understand this at all. Duo knows better than to push his luck just yet though; he thinks Heero's just crazy enough to kill him.

It takes a few more fumbling, brief attempts before Heero stops letting Duo pretend that this sad excuse for a seduction is an accident or a joke and tells him that whatever he's up to, Heero's having none of it. Duo's pretty sure that makes his desire worse, and if he doesn't become obsessed, he still thinks about it maybe more than is healthy.

Finally, because Duo isn't known for his patience, he decides to try talking about it, instead. He's in the middle of changing, and the top half of his jumpsuit is undone, hanging around his hips. He pulls off his undershirt and drops it to the floor, sitting down on the end of his bed to pull off his boots. "Heero, you don't have to stare at the wall when I'm changing. I really don't care."

If anything, Heero only looks more determined not to look at him. His jaw is set, and the stoic expression can't hide his reddening cheeks. Duo can see his throat working to swallow. When Heero says nothing, Duo just rolls his eyes and keeps undressing.

"Look, you're not weird or weak or whatever it is you think is wrong with you. It's totally normal." Duo laughs and leers a little because Heero isn't looking anyway. "I mean, I watch you change all the time, when you think I'm not. You always turn your back, too, and if you actually thought it through, you'd realize that only makes it worse."

Heero's blush is a furious red, and his eyes are flashing with something unfamiliar when he finally looks at Duo, who is now down to his boxers and standing, utterly unashamed of his body. Heero's eyes stay on Duo's face, but Duo thinks getting him to look over at all is victory enough, for now.

"It is a weakness. It's a distraction from our mission. Do what you want, Maxwell, but I'm not going to let it get to me." Coming from anyone else, there would be a visible sneer on his face.

The audible one is bad enough. Duo can hear the self-righteousness in Heero's voice, the implication that Duo is somehow less, and he feels anger rapidly swelling in his chest. He finishes undressing, then chucks his wadded boxers at Heero, because Duo knows it's the last thing he's expecting.

"Bottle it up, then," he snaps. "I hope it eats you alive." He stalks across the small room toward the shower. "You're a man, Heero, not a fucking machine."

He can feel Heero's eyes on him until he shuts the door to the bathroom, and he's too angry to care that this is another small victory.

The next mission is tense between them, but when it is over, when they return to their tiny, shared room, something about Heero is different. When Duo peels off his sweat-damp shirt, Heero watches him, and for the first time that Duo can recall, he is the first to speak.

"You were right," Heero says, and his gaze, unshielded for once, moves from Duo's face and down his naked torso, and he looks like he's dying of thirst.

"Yeah?" Duo asks as he steps out of his shoes.

Next thing he knows, he's on one of the beds in a tangle of sweaty arms and legs and clothing that's made it only halfway off. Heero's mouth is hot and hard against his, and it's messy and clumsy and everything he's wanted.

This isn't love, isn't anything, really, except a temporary escape, but when he finally sinks deep inside Heero's body, he is sure it's as close to perfect as he's ever going to get.

+

VI. Ira

"[Wrath is] the love of justice perverted to revenge and spite." -- Dante Alighieri

Duo's cold, even in his heavy jacket, and he glances over his shoulder to see how far along Heero has come. This mission is nothing. It shouldn't require two, but they're both used to watching each other's backs by now. They're just snatching some data, and they should be in and out before the guards even reach the end of their patrol zone to turn around.

It seems so simple, but there's something inside Duo that's tense and wary, paranoid maybe, like he's just waiting for the shit to hit the fan.

He hears Heero curse quietly behind him and his heart starts pounding, limbs tingling with anticipation. He presses his ear to the wall, watches the shadows in the hallway to see if any have changed, but all he can hear is the rush of his own blood and the quiet, furious tapping of Heero's fingers on the keyboard.

They gave themselves more time than they needed, just in case, but even now, he can feel the minutes creeping by, and he checks his watch. Heero is taking too long. Duo releases the safety on his gun and the click echoes, impossibly loud.

Still nothing in the corridor, and he's just starting to think they'll be able to scrape by on this one when he hears the slow, quiet sound of boots on concrete, reverberating off metal walls. "They're coming," he murmurs to Heero, barely audible, and he waits a few more painful moments before Heero's got the disk and readying his own gun.

They both slip out of the room and head back the way they came, away from the guards, quickly as they can manage and still remain silent. Heero's focus is ahead, and Duo's the one checking over his shoulder, listening for the guards' footsteps to grow louder, faster, anything signaling pursuit.

And then it happens.

The footsteps speed up behind them, and the guards are already past their usual patrol area. Duo breaks into a full run, grabbing Heero just above the elbow to propel him those first few steps. The tunnel is closed off just ahead. Somewhere, they must have tripped a silent alarm.

Duo starts craning his neck for an alternate route. Heero, ever straightforward, takes aim and shoots the keypad on the wall, and the little box sparks and sputters while the doors hiss apart, just far enough for two slender young men to squeeze through if they go one at a time.

Even so, they've wasted precious seconds, and the gunshot has made them easier to locate. There are more footsteps now, coming from different directions. They both have the blueprints of this building memorized, as always, and when Duo hears boots ahead of them, he hisses through his teeth and pulls Heero to the right, down a side hallway. Heero turns again and Duo scrambles to keep up this time, and he hears a gunshot.

Heero pushes Duo back around the corner and more gunshots ricochet off the walls very near their heads. Heero is crouched low, one hand hiding inside his jacket, and a thread of unfamiliar panic winds tight around Duo's chest when he finally understands. He steps in front of Heero and peers around the corner. He squeezes the trigger and he knows he has hit one of them; he's too well-trained for anything else. There's a loud curse and he shoots again, taking advantage of that one moment of shock.

The pair of guards is down, so he grabs Heero by the arm and drags him forward. Heero's running just as fast as before, but he stumbles every few steps, and his face looks pale and strained. Duo knows he's gritting his teeth, but he's staring straight ahead, determined, and there's no way Duo's going to leave him here. The chase is still on, and when another set of guards rounds the corner in front of them, Duo shoots, rapid-fire, before they can even react.

Heero trips over a fallen body and goes down after a few perilous steps, despite Duo's grip on him.

"C'mon," Duo gasps, trying to pull him back to his feet. Heero pulls his hand out of his jacket, and it's vivid red all over. Duo's still tugging, but Heero pats down his own body with that bloody hand then shoves the disk into Duo's jacket pocket. "Fuck, get up, man."

"Don't be stupid. Run," Heero says through gritted teeth and labored breaths, and Duo's heart is in his throat and his feet are frozen. Heero drops his gun, and with his shaking hand, he fumbles to try to grab it again.

Duo crouches by him, tearing off Heero's jacket and wrapping it tight about his waist, pressing a hard fist against the wound and trying not to think how huge the stain on Heero's shirt already seems to be. "C'mon, just get up and we'll get out of here," Duo says, and his voice is high and tight, unfamiliar even to him. "There's still time."

"Idiot. Finish the mission," Heero says. His eyelids flutter a little; he slumps over, panting in painful, shallow breaths.

A trio of guards comes through a nearby doorway, and Duo's world goes red and black as the self-proclaimed God of Death turns all his fury on the enemy.

+

VII. Superbia
"In general, pride is at the bottom of all great mistakes." -- John Ruskin

Duo wakes up for the umpteenth time, slouched uncomfortably in a tiny plastic chair. Automatically, he eyes the dozen or so monitors placed around the room; this, too, has become habit after a few days. Nothing has changed, and the steady beeps and blips become background noise again as he settles back into his chair to continue waiting.

He spends most of his days here, only moving to bathe and, after some bullying, to let them inspect him and bandage him up. His wounds are shallow and healing quickly, so the nurses leave him alone except to remind him to eat.

Relena, on the other hand, is harder to avoid. After all, it's her hospitality he's intruding on, but when he showed up on her doorstep, covered in blood and holding Heero's limp body, he wasn't terribly concerned about any kind of awkward social scenarios.

She checks in every few hours, and she seems intrigued that Duo is here all the time. She's been unfailingly kind, though, and she's had books and games sent to distract him while he waits. She's even had them bring in a television, though it's just so much more background noise to him.

He's so lost in thought that he almost doesn't notice the quiet voice saying his name. Then he startles and looks at the bed. Heero's eyes are open and staring at him, and Duo laughs a little, reaching out to put a hand on his arm, as if he has to touch him to be sure this is happening.

"You saved me?" Heero asks, though it is hardly a question worth responding to; Heero already knows the answer. His voice is rasping, and he is still pale, but he's awake and alive.

"I got your body out of there. The rest was all you and Relena's doctors. For being so willing to die, you're a stubborn bastard. How many times have you cheated death, now?" Heero doesn't answer right away, and he looks away from Duo, out the small window and over the lush, green beauty of the Sanc Kingdom.

"You should have left me," he says finally, a strange tightness in his voice. "If you had died, the scientists wouldn't have the disk."

Just like that, Duo feels angry and oddly hurt, and he wishes he could resent spending the past four days cooped up and waiting. "The disk is useless," he says. "There's nothing on it. We failed. You would have died for no reason at all."

Heero's jaw tightens a little, and he says again, "You should have left me."

Duo stands, then, sending the plastic chair skidding over the tile floor behind him. "Fuck you and your pride, man. I risked my ass to get you out of there --"

"You should take no risks that put the mission in jeopardy. This is principle, Maxwell," Heero says, all unflappable calm as he watches Duo pace in frustration.

"You're damn right it's principle," Duo snaps. "If you expect me to sit back and let you die, you've got the wrong partner. When are you going to get it? Maybe I did it because saving you was a worthier cause than finishing the god damned mission. Maybe I --" and here, Duo checks himself, because he's still got a little pride, too. "Look, maybe martyring yourself for one mission isn't worth it. Maybe the greater cause still needs you, and maybe there are people who still need you, too."

Duo is drained at the end of his outburst, and Heero only watches him, but there's a look in his eyes like something has clicked into place. Duo feels weighed down by his silence, and he retrieves the chair, sitting down again, elbows on his knees and face in his hands, because there's a thousand things he could say right now, but he can neither bear to speak them nor leave Heero here alone.

Stubborn seconds tick by and the silence stretches uncomfortably.

"Duo?" Finally Heero's voice, quiet and thready, forces him to look up, and Duo wonders vaguely how ragged he must look. Heero's expression hasn't changed, not really, but it's somehow softer, like there's less for him to hide, and he says, "I wouldn't have left you either."

It isn't a lot -- not spoken, at least -- but Duo smiles and allows himself to imagine, if only for a few moments, that maybe there are such things as peace and happy endings.

The End

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