see ch. 1 for warnings. notes
Claim + Chapter 9
"How long has he been in there?"
Duo paced the hospital's private waiting room for what seemed the hundredth
time, twisting the end of his braid in his hands. Nothing but movement
seemed to hold back the panic that threatened to strangle him. "It's been
too long. Don't you think it's been too long?" He looked wildly at Treize
and Wufei, eyes pleading.
Wufei glanced meaningfully at Treize, who stood. "Duo, come sit down before
you fall down." He rested a comforting hand on Duo's shoulder and guided
him back to a couch, pushed him down gently, then sat next to him. To
Wufei, he said, "Duo needs some coffee. And a sandwich, if you can find
Duo shook his head vehemently. He wanted to throw up just thinking about
food. "I can't eat."
"Yes, you can." Treize's voice made it an order, and Duo didn't bother
to protest again as Wufei left. Arguing took too much effort.
Treize patted Duo's knee. "I have to take care of you, you know. I'll
face Zechs' wrath otherwise, and I'd really rather avoid that." He rubbed
his chin as though he'd been struck there and smiled ruefully. "I've found
his wrath unavoidable a few times in the past. I generally came out on
the losing end."
Duo tried to smile back, but it dissolved into something else.
"He's going to recover. He's been hurt far worse than this before. The
bullet went through cleanly." Treize sighed. He'd repeated the same arguments
now for hours, but Duo couldn't quite bring himself to believe them, and
Duo could feel the fear vibrating through him. He hated it, hating being
this afraid and this helpless. It brought too much back. But it wasn't
just the past he was afraid of now, it was the future, too--a future
without Zechs. Treize's calm, rational assurance couldn't begin to penetrate
"He couldn't breathe!"
"His lung collapsed." Treize made another visible effort to be patient.
"Duo, he's going to be all right." He looked at the wall clock. "It won't
be long now."
As if even doctors responded to Treize's orders, the surgeon came out
a few minutes later, while he and Duo were still alone. Duo leaped to
his feet. Treize stood, too, his hand again resting on Duo's shoulder.
Maybe he wasn't so sure as he sounded about the results of Zechs' surgery.
Realizing that Treize was scared, too, didn't do a damn thing to make
Duo feel better.
Duo's throat squeezed shut, but Treize asked, "How is he?"
"He's on a ventilator temporarily, and we're still giving him blood."
The doctor, a middle-aged woman with graying hair and a pleasant face,
answered Treize's question but looked at Duo when she spoke. "But aside
from the lung, which should heal, there was no other major damage. "
"He'll recover?" Treize interrupted, as though he had to verify what he'd
"There's no reason why he shouldn't."
Recover...sweet Jesus. Recover. Zechs was going to be okay. Duo's legs
nearly folded under him, and his voice shook as badly as his knees. "C-can
I see him?"
The doctor didn't wait for Treize's permission, although by all rights,
she should have. But it seemed that word had gotten around about Zechs
and Duo, and that gave Duo some sort of status among the people of Sanc.
"Yes. I'll take you. Your Excellency?"
"I can find my way, thank you." Treize squeezed Duo's shoulder. "You go,
Duo. I'll wait for Wufei. We'll be along in a few minutes." To the doctor,
he said, "You'll need to send someone to talk to the reporters. I'll speak
to them myself after I've seen him, but word will spread that he's out
of surgery, and I don't want any wild stories flying about."
"Of course, Your Excellency." The doctor turned to Duo. "This way, if
Duo followed the doctor down a corridor. They passed a few patient rooms,
but all appeared empty. At the end of the hall, just past a nurse's station,
the doctor paused. She spoke to Duo with a strange combination of deference
and maternal kindness that comforted him, even if it mystified him.
"His Highness is in a private room, although we're monitoring him constantly,
of course. If he should need assistance, someone will be here in seconds."
Duo nodded, steeling himself before he went through the door. The doctor
gave him a knowing look and said, "And if you need anything, you only
have to ask."
Her unexpected sympathy undermined Duo's ability to hold himself together.
What was it with these people? Doctors and nurses usually acted as though
he was a huge bother, even when he was the patient. Duo bit his lip and
pushed open the door.
The room itself was darkened, with heavy curtains blocking the windows.
Duo had lost all sense of time. Day? Night? Nothing here gave him any
clues. He took a hesitant step into the room, but he had a hard time staying
on his feet. He groped for the wall, but the doctor took his arm and steadied
him, and he went in.
It was the most luxurious hospital room Duo had ever seen, with real upholstered
chairs that looked like they might actually be comfortable, instead of
those vinyl-covered ones that made his ass numb after a few minutes. But
it still smelled like a hospital room, heavy with disinfectant and fear.
Indicator lights on a dozen devices winked steadily. Except for the regular,
mechanical click and whoosh of the ventilator, an eerie quiet hung over
the room. And in the middle of all the lights and tubes and wires lay
Zechs, still and white. Had it not been for the rise and fall of his chest
as the machine forced him to breathe, he could have been an effigy carved
from marble. Duo shivered. No one could look like that and be okay, no
matter what the doctor said.
"He's so pale..."
"He lost a significant amount of blood."
Duo stood at the foot of Zechs' bed, feeling lost.
"It's all right. You can sit next to him." The doctor pulled a chair next
to Zechs' bedside and lowered the rail on the bed. "His Highness is sedated,
so don't expect him to wake or respond."
"Will it hurt him if I...if I touch him?"
The doctor smiled. "No. It won't hurt him. He'll probably be aware of
it on some level. It could even do him some good."
Duo couldn't look at the doctor. He was really losing it, and any minute
now, he was going to fall apart. She seemed to understand and left him
alone with Zechs. He stood by the bed, staring helplessly, his hand trembling
as he touched Zechs' cheek, just above the tape that held the ventilator
tube in place. It seemed to him that there weren't many places not covered
with tape or bandages or tubes.
His knees wobbled, and he sat down heavily. Something broke inside him,
like an eggshell cracking, and he had no more strength to fight the tears
he'd been holding back for hours. Not just hours...years. This felt familiar--too
familiar--this sitting next to someone he loved, just waiting...his
mind refused to complete the thought, even though he knew deep in his
belly what he waited for. He curled his fingers around Zechs' unresponsive
hand. Cold...his hand was so cold. Feeling like a baby, he hid his face
against the bed and wept.
By the time Treize and Wufei came in, Duo had stopped crying, although
his breath still hitched and his eyes felt heavy and swollen, and he was
pretty sure his face must be a mess. Confirming his suspicion, Treize
took a tissue and held it up to Duo's face.
"Blow your nose." Duo obeyed. "Now go wash your face. You'll feel better."
Again, Duo obeyed. As he toweled his face dry, he glanced at Wufei. "Does
he order you around like this?"
"Of course not," Wufei said smugly. " I order him."
Treize attempted to look persecuted. "Indeed. So I must assert my authority
over everyone else, as I have none in my own house."
Duo smiled faintly at their banter, but it faded quickly, and his mouth
began to quiver. They reminded him of the few times he and Zechs had shared
that kind of easy warmth. And that maybe never again...he bit back a whimper
as fear stabbed him so sharply he felt it like a blade in his chest.
Once again, Treize said, "He's going to get better, Duo."
"Is that an order?" Duo struggled to smile again, but it was a weak, watery
"Absolutely. And here's another. Sit down and eat."
Too tired to argue, Duo sat in the chair next to Zechs and began to pick
at the sandwich Wufei brought him. He watched Treize move to stand on
the opposite side of the bed. The general couldn't get too close because
of the medical equipment, but he gripped the metal rail of the hospital
bed until his knuckles turned white. His suave, nonchalant mask dropped,
leaving his anguish painfully naked. Wufei slipped around the IV stands
and equipment carts to hold Treize's other hand.
After a while, Treize cleared his throat and spoke. "There's a crowd outside
the hospital. Word spread like wildfire that Zechs had been shot. I think
that the conspirators are probably safer in our custody than loose in
the city. The people--his people--they love him, you know."
"I know. He loves them, too." Duo swallowed. "He's a good man."
"That he is." Treize gazed silently at Zechs. After a few minutes, he
cleared his throat a couple of times, then said, "I have to go for a little
while, Duo. Will you be all right?"
"Me?" Duo blinked. Why did everyone keep asking if he was okay? It wasn't
like he was the one who'd been shot. "Sure."
Treize looked a little skeptical. "Do you want Wufei to stay with you?"
"If...if it's okay...I think I'd like to be alone. With him."
"Of course. We'll be back in a couple of hours. But if you need us, we'll
Duo forced his eyes away from Zechs, finally, and turned to Treize. "I
know. Thank you. You, too, ‘Fei. I...thanks."
Treize nodded, as though he understood the things Duo couldn't put into
words, and then he and Wufei left. As soon as they had gone, Duo put aside
the sandwich and took Zechs' hand again. It still felt cold, but maybe
a little warmer than before. Yes, it was warmer. He was sure of it. He
rubbed his thumb over Zechs' fingers, watched his face for any sign of
consciousness. There was none. Duo felt desperately alone, and he began
to wish he'd asked Wufei to stay with him after all. The silence of the
room weighed on him, and unable to stand it any longer, he began to speak
"This isn't how it's supposed to turn out. The story, I mean. Y-you were
supposed to rescue me, and take me back to your palace, and we were supposed
to live happily ever after. That's how it ends. Not with the prince getting
shot..." Duo's voice broke, and he took a deep breath. "Damn it, Zechs,
it's my story, and I ought to get to say how it ends."
He got no response except the steady mechanical clicks, but talking lightened
the suffocating weight in his chest, so he went on.
"I don't know when it started...before the orphanage, though. I used to
think that I got it from Sister Helen's fairy tales, but I've been thinking
‘bout it lots lately, and I can remember this one night, I must
have been like four or five, and we'd found this great place to sleep,
the gang I was with. It was this old office building or something, but
it was tall and skinny, and the top floors were in pretty good shape.
We went up there to sleep--see, the farther from the street you
could get, the safer it was. And I remember standing at the window, looking
down at the street, and playing with my hair--it was long even
back then--and thinking it was like a tower, like in Rapunzel...guess
maybe my mom must have read me stories, too."
Duo's eyes burned, and he drew another quivering breath. "I don't remember
her or anything, but I knew that story from somewhere. And anyway, that's
when it started I think...I remember going to sleep that night imagining
that I was rescued by a prince...'course, back then, when I dreamed about
getting rescued, it meant stuff like eating anything I wanted and living
in a house and having real toys...but later, when I started growing up
Duo stroked Zechs' hair tenderly, a little desperately. "He always looked
like you. My prince, I mean. Tall and strong.... had to be strong if he
was going to take care of me. I used to get so tired, you know...seemed
like I was always looking out for someone, and I didn't mind or nothing,
but that's when I really started making up the whole thing. Nights, especially,
like when we hadn't found a lot to eat, and the little kids were real
hungry. Sometimes I'd tell them parts of the story to try to make them
forget about their empty stomachs, stuff like how wise and wonderful the
prince was, and how he'd make sure that everyone in his country had enough
to eat. Didn't tell them the parts I'd started thinking about when I was
trying to fall asleep, though..."
"And after...well, by the time I was a pilot...I knew the whole thing
by heart. But I'd quit waiting, pretty much...quit believing. I knew it
was just a fairy tale by then. I knew my prince was never going to find
me. And then we lost, and you came along...and you looked so much like
him. It was like torture, you know? Like the last dream I had got pounded
into the dirt. I wanted so bad to hate you..."
His voice trailed off. It seemed like such a long time ago. How could
he have ever wanted to hate this man? He'd wasted so much time being angry.
What if...Duo's fingers trembled over Zechs' cheek, and the words started
tumbling out again.
"And then you were so nice to me. All the time, even when I acted like
a shit. I tried not to care. Tried telling myself it was all an act, and
you didn't really like me. Guess I couldn't believe that you would
like me. Didn't matter what I believed or didn't, though. ‘Cuz I
couldn't hate you. Remember at the very beginning, when you made me eat?
You didn't have to do that...you could've let me starve. And then you
sent Wufei to see me...I had to really work at being pissed off. I guess
I was starting to like you, even then. But I didn't want to admit it.
I still thought I was just a big inconvenience to you."
Duo's voice turned soft and heavy with longing. "And there was that night
you got drunk and kissed me...and what we did on the floor of your room...and
all I wanted was to be yours. And...and when we came here, and you showed
me around...I was watching you real close, you know, like when we were
at that school that got bombed. That's when I got it. You care.
About everyone. And I thought that maybe...well, maybe you would feed
a bunch of hungry, homeless kids...that's when I knew I loved you. But,
God, it scared the shit out of me."
"And then..." This was the hardest part, even if Zechs couldn't really
hear him, but now that he'd started, he couldn't stop. "I know I was stupid,
running like that, even if you told me to. I didn't mean to make you mad
at me. I was just so confused when I saw Heero. I started thinking that
maybe it was all an act, the way you'd been treating me. I knew it wasn't,
but when we got back and you wanted to..to...well, I got everything all
messed up in my head. I was scared. I still am. I'm afraid I'm going to
disappoint you, that I won't be any good at...at...but I want to find
out, Zechs. I want to--but just with you. I don't want anybody
else, not ever."
"So you have to get better. There are people waiting outside, just standing
in front of the hospital, waiting to hear if you're okay. Hundreds of
them, maybe thousands. You can't let them down. And Treize, you have to
get better to help him, too. And there's me...you can't leave me. You
can't." Duo laid his head on the bed again and held Zechs' hand against
his cheek. "We gotta make it to happily ever after."
Exhausted, Duo closed his eyes. So faintly he thought at first he'd imagined
it, Zechs' fingers twitched. He caught his breath and kept still, whispering,
Another movement, faint but unmistakable. Zechs rubbed his fingers against
Duo's cheek. Hardly daring to hope, Duo raised his head and looked up.
Zechs' eyelids fluttered a little, opening for a moment, and he gazed
lucidly into Duo's eyes. For that brief second, his blue eyes held the
same soft expression as when he'd said he loved Duo with all his heart.
His fingers twitched once more, and then consciousness slipped away. Duo
clutched Zechs' hand, but it had gone limp again. Frantic, he felt for
a pulse, and when he found it, strong and regular, tears burned in his
eyes again. Comforted, still clinging to Zechs' hand, he surrendered at
last to exhaustion and fell asleep.
Duo woke a little from time to time when nurses and doctors came in, but
no one tried to make him leave. Someone covered his shoulders with a blanket,
and he managed to murmur a sleepy "thank you" to his unseen benefactor,
but mostly he slept soundly for what must have been hours. Finally, feeling
vaguely more human despite the ache in his neck, he woke and stretched
as the doctor opened the door. He started to scramble out of the chair
to give her more room, but she waved him back.
"Please, don't get up. I'm fine over here." She maneuvered to the other
side of Zechs' bed, where some of the equipment had been moved aside.
She had a soft, liquid accent, and Duo liked her voice.
"How is he?"
"Much better. We're going to start weaning him off the ventilator now.
If that goes well, he could be breathing on his own in a day. We'll let
him wake up after that."
"Is he...is he really going to be okay?" Even though he'd slept, Duo's
voice still trembled.
The doctor looked up from the chart where she took notes. Her pleasant
voice was full of kindness, as though she didn't mind that Duo had asked,
and she'd answered, the same question half a dozen times already. "Yes,
he really is." She looked Duo over. "You ,on the other hand, don't look
so good yourself."
Duo felt his cheeks warm. He still wore the shabby shirt and pants he'd
stolen, and they looked worse than ever, rumpled, ripped from his escape
attempt through the window, stained with Zechs' blood. Conscious that
they were probably beyond help, he still tried to smooth his clothes into
something resembling neatness. "I slept..."
"Good, although I'm sure it wasn't enough. I'll find you some clean clothes
and some lunch. You can use the shower in here."
Duo started to protest, but decided he really did want to get clean, and
maybe he was feeling a little hungry after all. And she hadn't suggested
he leave Zechs. For that alone, he felt grateful enough that he could
get all soppy again if he wasn't careful. So he only smiled--a
real smile, for the first time in what seemed like ages--and said,
The doctor was true to her word, and Duo, clean and wearing borrowed scrubs
and a sweatshirt, was eating a lunch that he was pretty sure didn't come
from the hospital cafeteria when Treize returned.
"You're looking better." Treize smiled and went to Zechs' side. "So is
Duo nodded. "They've been letting him breathe some on his own, and he's
been doing great. They think they could let him wake up as early as tonight."
Duo saw the relief in Treize's eyes, and an edge of fear crept back into
his voice. "What is it? Did something else happen?"
"No, it's nothing like that. In fact, everything has gone remarkably well.
Heero has been very helpful. With his information, we've been able to
capture most of the conspirators. The few who have eluded us won't for
long, I'm certain."
"Heero helped?" Duo's eyes widened. Heero, working for OZ? Now, that would
be something to see. Duo felt a surge of relief that Heero had not wound
up in a cell--or worse. Sharp on the heels of relief followed guilt
at totally forgetting his friend in his worry for Zechs. Way to show your
gratitude, he thought. Nice way to say thanks for saving their lives.
"Yes, he's been most cooperative. Wufei is with him now. He's explaining
Duo smiled. "He's getting good at that."
"He's had some practice recently. But Heero has agreed to stay on, at
least for a while. With his abilities, he'll be quite an asset to our
"Heero--on the Security Council? Holy shit." That image had barely
sunk in when Duo had another thought. "So this means Zechs--and
you, too--are safe?"
"As safe as we can ever be. I think this threat is over, at least."
Duo felt cold suddenly, despite the sweatshirt. "Until the next one."
"There's always going to be a next one. But for now, we can actually think
about building peace instead of merely avoiding war."
"Peace seems awfully complicated."
"Oh, it is. Much more complicated than war. There's far more to it than
merely the absence of fighting. War is destruction. Peace is construction.
It's always easier to tear something down than to build something up."
Treize frowned thoughtfully, and Duo experienced a sudden, surreal realization
that he was chatting with General Khushrenada about politics like they
were old war buddies. But then, he thought, maybe in a way, they were.
He looked up at the tall general and tried to set his childishly round
chin as firmly as possible. Damn it, but it was hard to look fiercely
determined with eyes as big as a poster kid's for some relief organization
and a nose that could only be described as kittenish. But he managed.
"I want to help."
"You will. But first, help my friend get better. It's hard going without
Duo's fierce determination drained out of him like someone had pulled
a plug. All he could see was Zechs, who hadn't shown any signs of consciousness
since he'd touched Duo's cheek. Duo's mouth trembled again, and he looked
down to hide it. "I know."
"It's okay. Don't worry. He's getting better." Saying it out loud helped,
and he very nearly believed it. "And then we're going to help you, both
of us, build this peace you keep talking about."
The first thing Zechs realized
was that he was conscious without any particular effort. He'd tried to
fight his way out of the darkness time after time, only to sink back into
the mire. He'd made it once, though, long enough to let Duo know everything
was all right. Even in that black, weightless place, he'd felt his kit's
fear, more painful than the hole in his body or the tube in his chest.
The second thing Zechs realized was that Duo was still here. Silly kit.
He would have to speak to Treize about making his love take care of himself.
Zechs opened his eyes and found himself looking at the top of a tousled
brown head. Duo's forehead pressed against his uninjured shoulder, and
his fingers clutched the sleeve of Zechs' hospital gown. Zechs thought
he ought to send Duo home to rest, but for the moment, he let himself
be selfish. He wanted Duo here, with him. They'd been torn apart too many
times in the last few days for him to send Duo away willingly. He turned
his head and kissed Duo's hair because he needed to.
A sharp gasp told him Duo was awake. He smiled as two violet eyes blinked
owlishly up at him and a tremulous voice warbled, "Z-zechs?"
"Yes..." Zechs grimaced. His voiced sounded like sandpaper on steel.
"You're awake! Oh, God..." Duo erupted into activity, jumping up from
his chair. Zechs winced as the bed jostled, but his smile softened.
"What do you need? Can I get you something? Just tell me what you want--"
"I--" Zechs' voice came out as a dry rasp. "Water first...."
"Water. Right. Water." Duo fumbled with the yellow plastic pitcher, kept
filled religiously by the nurses. He managed to slosh a good bit of it
onto the table before he held a glass and drinking straw to Zechs' lips.
"Here. It's cold, they refilled it with ice all the time. I drank a little,
I didn't think they'd mind, but I know they were really doing it for you.
More? I can get you more if you want it--here, let me fill it again..."
"Kit. Come here."
Duo put the glass down. The frenzy bled out of him, leaving his face open
and vulnerable. "Oh, God, Zechs...I thought you were going to leave me,
Zechs stretched out his hand, ignoring the IV tube taped to it. He repeated,
Duo came back to him, and Zechs folded his small, quaking hand in his
own. He drew Duo back to the chair beside him, still clasping his hand.
"I'll never leave you."
Duo opened his mouth to speak, but his eyes filled with tears and no words
came out. Zechs reached up and wiped his cheek. Duo's eyes were red and
tired, rimmed with shadows. Anxiety weighted down his mouth, and his lips
twitched from lack of rest. Zechs' heart ached for him, sitting here alone
with his fears for all those empty hours. "Poor kit. You look done in.
You've been doing a lot of this in the past few days, haven't you?"
Duo's cheeks colored, and he suddenly seemed to find the bed sheet of
great interest. "Feel like a damn cry-baby. Everyone probably thinks I'm
a total sally. Couldn't help it, though. Every time I'd look at you, I'd
just...just..." He stopped, clearly on the edge of another bout of embarrassing
"I don't mind--as long as you were crying about me."
Duo rolled his eyes, but he grinned faintly, and some of the careworn
look left his face. "Are all princes as arrogant as you?"
"Only the devastatingly handsome and brilliant ones."
Duo laughed finally, and Zechs chuckled, too, though he winced when it
hurt. Then Duo turned somber again, although not with the same load of
fear he'd carried earlier.
"What is it?"
"Zechs..." Duo hesitated, as if he were uncertain how to ask his question
but knew he had to ask it. "Why did you do it? Push me out of the way
like that? Take the bullet that I should have taken..."
So that was part of what haunted him. Zechs squeezed Duo's hand with surprising
strength. "Do you have to ask? I love you. It's as simple as that."
"Nothing's that simple."
Duo looked, not disbelieving, but confused. Zechs supposed that while
Duo would have given his life without hesitation for someone he cared
for, or a cause he believed in, he couldn't fathom that someone might
do the same for him.
"I'm afraid you'll just have to trust me."
Duo still looked bewildered, but his eyes filled with hope when Zechs
lifted his hand and kissed his fingers. "I guess I can do that." Duo's
smile was like the sun breaking through clouds to Zechs. "I think you're
pretty crazy for loving me like that, and I might be crazy, too, for all
I know. But if this is crazy, I think I kind of like it."
Zechs nuzzled the little hand still wrapped in his own. "So do I, kit.
So do I."
Ten days later, Zechs left the hospital. Even though he looked and felt
recovered, Treize had insisted he take Duo and leave the city for a few
days. Zechs protested, but in fact, at the moment, he had little enough
to do. The Colonial elections had gone off without a hitch, and the media,
both on Earth and in the Colonies, were distracted with stories about
the new governments. He welcomed the relief from being in the spotlight;
the reporter's overblown, romantic descriptions of the whole affair made
him uncomfortable. The traitors in Romafeller and their accomplices had
been rounded up. Several of the conspirators had confessed, when they
realized they'd been used by the very men they'd wanted to eliminate,
and their evidence, along with Heero's and what Duo had heard and seen,
was certain to seal Tuberov's fate. He would go on trial in Sanc, and
given public opinion regarding the man who'd tried to have their prince
murdered, he would be lucky if he were locked in a cell and never let
Zechs had no excuse, then, for not going away for a few days, at least.
Not that he really wanted an excuse. The promise of spending those days--and
nights--alone with Duo eliminated his remaining resistance.
Treize and Wufei had come to see them off, and they brought Heero with
them. The little group stood on the tarmac where Zechs' private plane
waited. Vague guilt at leaving Treize to deal with the mess made him protest
one more time, if faintly.
"Treize, are you sure--"
"Absolutely." Treize looked him over with a critical eye. "You still need
rest, my friend. And you and Duo need the time. Go."
Duo stood at Zechs' side, fidgeting nervously. Until they were actually
on the plane, he suspected Duo would be afraid that something would happen
to stop them, or that Zechs would change his mind. To reassure him, and
possibly himself, Zechs took his hand and tucked it under his arm. Duo
blushed a little, seeming suddenly shy now that they were actually going
away together. Zechs wondered if that had anything to do with the fact
that everyone else knew exactly what they'd be doing while they were gone.
Still keeping Duo close, Zechs offered his other hand to Heero. "I've
never really thanked you properly, Heero. You saved our lives."
Heero looked at Zechs' hand long enough that Duo tensed, and Zechs wondered
if there would be a confrontation between them after all. Duo told him
that Heero had come to the hospital with Wufei once, when he'd still been
unconscious. They'd had no chance to meet face to face since then, but
Zechs wondered what Heero had wanted to say. As though he doubted Heero's
intentions, Duo inched a little closer to Zechs.
Heero must have seen Duo's movement. He looked steadily at his friend,
who clung to Zechs' arm, and his lips curved in a small, sad smile. Zechs
had the sense that Heero expected Duo to recognize both the expression
and his thoughts, but nothing in Duo's face showed that he did. Then he
grasped Zechs' hand at last.
"I was willing to kill him. You were willing to die for him. I guess that
makes all the difference."
Zechs' eyes widened slightly. He stole a sideways glance at Duo, but he
didn't seem to attach any particular meaning to Heero's words. For Duo's
sake, he didn't respond except to shake Heero's hand. But he knew Heero
would be able to read in his eyes that he understood.
"Thank you." Zechs shook Heero's hand firmly. "Again."
Heero released Zechs' hand, then stepped back to stand next to Wufei and
Treize. Duo, who seemed confused by the whole interchange, opened his
mouth to speak, but Heero caught his eye and nodded slightly, as if to
say everything was all right. Wufei must have seen, as well, because he
smiled, a wolfish little grin that made Zechs momentarily regret that
he was going away and missing the action. Then he looked down at Duo's
hand where it rested, pale and small, against his red coat. He covered
it with his own, and Duo lifted his head, their gazes meeting as if they
were drawn together. His violet eyes were eager and tender and unsure
all at once, and suddenly, Zechs knew he wouldn't be missing a damn thing.
[ch. 8] [ch. 10] [back
to RazorQueens' fic]