Author: Bane's Desire
see chao. 1 for warnings, disclaimer

A Grudging Seduction: Chapter Nine
Facing Darkness

Wufei and Duo spent a pleasant, relaxing morning together. They talked, enjoyed each other's company and even played a competitive game of poker on top of the blankets of the injured boy's bed. Wufei suggested some deep muscle stretches and isometric exercises for the leg injured by the bullet and knife wound, then worked with the American for a good hour on loosening up the tight muscles. As morning turned into midday, the Chinese teenager made lunch for the both of them, and because the day proved to be sunny and warm after the morning fog burned off, the two decided to relocate themselves outside on the apartment's small balcony. After eating their lunch, Duo stretched out on a blanket in the sun, basking in its glorious warmth.

Wufei, being the practical person that he was, wouldn't let his fellow comrade stay out long, warning Duo that his pale colony skin would burn quickly under the sun's unfiltered rays and then he'd have more aches and pains to complain about. The braided teen grudgingly complied, but was easily placated with the promise of Wufei renting a video.

The next three days fell into a pattern of three meals a day, each followed with time spent on exercising Duo's leg muscles and then some quiet activity to pass the remaining hours between meals.

Heero entered the apartment midway through the afternoon on the third day. He shut the front door behind him with only the barest amount of noise as a warning to the other two in residence that he'd returned. He then moved towards the kitchen where he could hear their familiar voices and entered the sunny room to see the other Duo and Wufei sitting opposite each other at the kitchen table playing a game of cards.

"How'd it go, Heero?" Duo greeted the new arrival cheerfully while placing down his next card on the table. The question went unanswered for a long moment, causing Duo and Wufei to react in unison by turning their attention to the silent boy leaning heavily against the frame of the kitchen door. Both seated boys grew concerned at seeing a uncharacteristic dullness residing in the deep blue eyes. In stead of his emotionless mask, Heero looked lost and the shifting of his eyes displayed a barely controlled panic lurking within those dark depths that put both of the other teens instantly on guard.

"What is it, Heero? What happened?" Duo asked cautiously, becoming more concerned with each passing moment. He could see the Japanese boy was fighting to shield his emotions, to keep a stiff upper lip; but it wasn't working. It seemed as if Heero was at the verge of crumbling apart right before their eyes. His whole appearance, the way he held his body and his facial expression, told the Deathscythe pilot that something had definitely gone wrong during his mission.

Leaning heavily on the table and his chair, Duo rose to his feet and, favoring his left leg, he limped his way towards the silent but obviously distraught boy. "Heero, man, talk to me, buddy. What's happened? Did something go wrong?"

Despite the straight line of Heero's lips and the tight facial expression, Duo could see within the blue orbs watching his approach that a silent agony was being dealt with. He had to wonder if Heero's eyes had always been that expressive, that maybe he'd just never taken the time to see it before. His heart went out to the other boy, knowing from first hand experience how hard it was to hold back tears and grief, pain or rage when there was a job to do or the need to maintain a mask of indifference when you felt ripped up inside.

Reaching his hand out, he touched Heero's upper arm, a small gesture meant to offer him support or some form of comfort. Duo was witness then to Heero's eyes being glossed over by a sheen of unshed tears. "The mission?" he asked.

"Completed," Heero replied, then turned away from the braided teen to head for the stairs. He climbed them three at a time and his running footfalls in the upstairs hallway were easily followed by the two still in the kitchen as he went to their shared room.

Concerned, Duo turned to Wufei to get his take on things. Dark eyes met his own. "Go to him," the Chinese boy said in a firm voice. "He needs you right now. I'll start dinner."

Feeling a little self conscious at Wufei's words, hinting that he knew of his recent change of status with Heero, Duo turned to follow Wing's pilot and limped up the stairs and down the hall to their room. He entered without knocking and closed the door behind him. His eyes went to the other boy's bed to see Heero sitting at the top end of it with his knees drawn up to his chest, his arms tightly wrapped around them and his forehead resting against knees.

He knew Heero was aware of his presence, hell, he was walking like a one-legged elephant, but the boy on the bed didn't respond. "Hey, Heero," he called out in a gentle voice. He limped over to the bedside and reached his hand out to touch the top of the Heero's bowed head. Through his fingers he could feel the heat and damp scalp of the Japanese boy as he threaded them through the thick, coarse hair. Slowly, Heero's head rose until their eyes locked. There were still no trace of tears falling from them, but the inner anguish he'd seen downstairs hadn't diminished.

"What happened, Heero?" Duo asked, carefully sitting on the edge of the bed facing the other boy, mindful of his own wounded legs.

A pained looked flared on Heero's face, his dark eyebrows pinched together as anger rose to the surface. "My mission was to destroy a munitions depot," Heero began in a low and strained voice. "I knew it wouldn't take much to destroy it, a simple shot from my beam cannon into the center of it and the whole thing would blow."

Duo watched as Heero swallowed hard, knowing they were getting to the crux of the problem. "They must have anticipated the importance of the site and that we'd target it. Their line of defense against us was to surround the main building with civilians." He closed his eyes, still seeing the hundreds of innocents in his mind. "I could see them in my scope," he continued in a tight voice. "Frightened men, women and children were lined up against the building's outer walls. At my approach, I saw them cower in fear at the sight of Wing. Some of them knelt to pray and several panicked and ran in an attempt to escape only to be shot down by the soldiers set to guard them and keep them in place." Heero's voice took on a never before heard anguish. "I had to make a choice. I had to either carry out my mission or back off, knowing that in doing so I would be showing a weakness to OZ that they would employ at every tactical target." The dark eyes looked pleadingly up at Duo. "I really had no choice, Duo. I couldn't show them a weakness they could exploit."

Duo's heart suddenly felt like lead in his chest as he asked the question Heero was waiting for. "And your mission was successful, right?" He'd already asked the question downstairs and knew from Heero's earlier statement that the mission had indeed been just that.

Heero nodded, sinking his head back down on his knees, his arms tightening even more around his legs.

Staring at the top of the mop of dark brown hair, Duo wondered what he would have done if he found himself in the same position Heero had been in. A shudder of revulsion went through him as past memories came to mind. "This isn't anything new, Heero. They tried this before with the colonies when you self destructed." His eyes fixed on a splash of golden light that came through the bedroom window to fall upon the off-white wall, and his voice when he spoke had a distant tone to it as he continued, remembering the past all too well. "The Alliance and L-2's rebels also used this tactic on the people of L-2 quite often. The orphanage I lived in was destroyed because the rebels used me to get a hold of an armored suit. They held a priest, a nun and a bunch of little kids as hostages." His voice lowered with remorse and deep bitterness as he added, "The Alliance killed them all in retribution, not caring if they were innocent or not."

Heero's head rose again and his eyes fixed themselves on the braided boy whose face was dark with the painful memory. Duo slowly came out of the memories of his past to realize Heero was staring at him and, for a moment, they each felt a connection, a shared sense of grief, of helplessness, of anger and inner rage at the inability to change the way things were. Raising his arms and lowering his legs, Heero reached for Duo and latched onto his shoulders with firm, desperate hands and pulled the other boy forward to rest against his chest. He then wrapped his arms around him and held on tightly.

Ignoring the nagging pain in his legs and side, Duo gave himself up to Heero's embrace, sensing the other pilot's needed of the physical contact, maybe as much as he'd needed it after that haunting memory of L-2 had resurfaced. He brought his own arms up and held Wing's pilot just as tightly. "It's okay, Heero. Somehow you get past it and survive. Just remember, this is why we fight our enemy. We can't give up until we win, until there are no more innocents being sacrificed for political gain."

Heero agreed with a nod of his head, yet his hold on Duo remained constant, his head buried into the crook of the other boy's neck. After a time, and when Duo's soft complaints of discomfort finally reached his ears, he eased the both of them down to lie stretched out on the mattress while his hold on the other boy's body remained. They lay together with their limbs entwined, both experiencing an unexpected sense of security and comfort from the close, intimate contact.

Duo lay contentedly on his side within the shelter of Heero's arms, listening to the other boy's breathing slow as he fell into an exhausted sleep. His hand continued to caress Heero's back in a comforting manner as his thoughts returned to his friend's earlier distress. Never before had he seen this side of Heero, the boy he'd always deemed lacking normal human emotions. He contemplated the turn of events that led him to be privy of the fact that Heero could be jealous, possessive, desirous of a relationship, and now he'd learned that he also felt remorse and sorrow. He decided there was certainly more to the L-1 pilot than being the consummate soldier, and Duo had to admit to himself that he liked what he was seeing. He couldn't help but mull over the realization that Heero really wasn't any different than himself or the other pilots. He evidently needed comfort, companionship and acceptance, like any other teenager. A lazy smile grew on his face at that thought, then enjoying the warmth of the body pressed against his own and the sense of security the arms wrapped around him promised, he relaxed. Closing his eyes, he was unaware that his breathing pattern had come to match the same pattern as Heero's as he, too, fell asleep. Neither slumbering boy registered the silent opening of the door to their room, nor the shutting of it several long moments later.

Duo carefully disentangled himself from Heero's limbs and rose stiff and sore a little over an hour later and hobbled as quietly as possible from the bedroom to join Wufei in the living room.

"There's some food in the refrigerator for you and Yuy," the other pilot said from his position on the couch without bothering to look up from the book he was reading.

Duo went to the kitchen, yawning the whole way, and opened the refrigerator door to peer inside. Seeing two foil-covered bowls, he removed the top one and lifted the covering to see some kind of stir-fry dish with shrimp and vegetables that was set on a bed of rice. He hobbled over to the other counter and put it in the microwave to heat it up. As he watched the numbers count down to zero, his thoughts lingered on Heero, still heavily asleep upstairs, and knew that the other pilot probably wouldn't be up for several hours if not until the morning. He worried about Heero's mental state, never having seen him that emotionally upset before. It was the second time Wing's pilot been put in a position to make that kind of a decision, a choice between innocents and the war. But this time it had been the civilians who were sacrificed for the cause, not himself.

Taking the heated bowl and grabbing a fork and a cup of milk, he went out of the kitchen and into the front room with the intent of watching some television while he ate his meal. Setting the plate and cup down on the rather beaten-up coffee table, he snatched up the remote and turned on the T.V., purposely avoiding the news channels.

"How is he?" Wufei asked, nose still buried in his book.

"He'll be fine," Duo replied in a subdued voice. "They lined the target with a civilian shield."

Wufei's head jerked up and a look of intense anger filled his dark eyes. "There is no honor in that type of defense," he snarled.

"Tell me about it," Duo said with a weary sigh. "But you better be mentally prepared to handle a situation like that yourself. OZ doesn't seem to want to follow the right and proper steps to this dance anymore."

Wufei frowned, the American sometimes used the strangest analogies to describe the enemy's atrocious behavior. War as a dance, he mentally huffed. But then as he thought about it, it made sense. There were rules to war, and OZ was proving to be an unpredictable, ruthless enemy who seemed to be making up the rules as they went along. He recalled clearly when Lady Une had turned the Alliance's space weapons on the colonies and threatened to blow them up, an act that would have killed thousands of innocent civilians just to get her hands on the gundams and their pilots. Heero had called her trump card that day by self destructing. That was a moment in time and an example of personal sacrifice on Heero's part that none of them would soon forget.

"He killed them, didn't he?"

Duo sighed deeply. "He had no choice. The target had to be destroyed and if he didn't, they'd pull the same tactic over and over again. We might as well give up our gundams and throw in the towel if we decided a few innocents couldn't be sacrificed for the greater cause."

Wufei thought it over for a minute and could see the logic of Heero's actions. "Would you have done it?" he asked, looking pointedly at the long haired American.

After taking a moment to think about his answer, Duo nodded his head. "With regret, a year's worth of nightmares and a lifetime of penance, you bet I would have done it."

The Chinese teen observed his comrade with a critical eye and came to an opinion about the character of the often unorthodox boy from L-2. "You're good for him," he concluded out loud.

Duo jerked his head around, his eyes wide with surprise. "What do you mean?"

"Yuy. You're good for him. I sense he's vulnerable right now, so be careful you don't hurt him," Wufei answered with a definite look of warning in his eyes before he turned back to his book, appearing to give it his full attention.

Duo's mouth open and shut several times, thinking of a quick retort, then swallowing it, realizing that whatever he said would damn him either way as far as Heero was concerned. If Heero learned he'd denied their budding relationship, it would ruin his chances of completing his mission and undermine their new friendship. If he acknowledged something was going on, the other pilots, his friends, would observe him in his devious scheme to attach Heero to himself in an emotional and physical way to keep Wing's pilot from self destructing. No doubt they would later hate him for his duplicity, so he opted to say nothing; his mission regarding Heero was a private one and it was better kept that way.

He observed the black haired youth for a minute. Wufei's statement seemed to express that he wouldn't have a problem with he and Heero being 'involved'. He filed that information away, feeling it wasn't going to be a problem anyway. He planned on being Heero's friend, not his lover, if he could help it. So he might end up being a friend with some side benefits, but he had already decided that he wouldn't fake falling in love with Heero when he wasn't. It would be lying, and he had his own moral code where that sin was concerned. He liked Heero, and even more so after seeing his more human side. But guys didn't fall in love with other guys, right?

Satisfied with his own reasoning, he turned back to the television and ate his dinner in relative silence.

He retired for the night in the early hours of the morning. The brief nap he'd taken that afternoon and his inactivity due to his injuries had satisfied any desire for sleep until then. Tiptoeing into the dark bedroom, not wanting to disturb the other boy's much needed sleep, Duo first took off his socks and then undressed, preparing to sleep in his boxers and t-shirt.

"Duo?" Heero's voice unexpectedly called out to him through the darkness, causing the Deathscythe pilot to pause.

"Sorry if I woke you," he answered back in a whisper, then moved forward to find the top of his bed and began to pull down the covers in preparation for climbing in.

"Why did you leave?"

"I wasn't tired, Heero, and besides, Wufei made dinner." He paused before climbing between the sheets. "Are you hungry? Do you want me to heat something up for you?"

"No, but I wonder, could you sleep with me?"

Even though he couldn't see his own hand in front of his face, Duo turned towards Heero, grateful that the other pilot couldn't see the incredulous look on his face. "Why?" he asked nervously.

When Heero answered, his voice sounded strangely small and unsure. "I keep seeing them. All of those frightened people looking at me in horror. When you held me earlier, it felt... better." A few strained, silent moments passed before Heero spoke again in a quiet, pleading whisper filled with need. "Please?"

The braided teen thought about it. Heero's need was evident in his voice and as his friend, could he really turn down such a request? "All right," he sighed, resigning himself to the task. "Let me get my pillow."

He patted the darkness of his bed and quickly found his pillow, then turned to make his way towards the other side of the room where Heero's bed lay. Hearing the rustling of fabric, he sensed that the covers were being pulled back for him. Using his hands again, he found the top of the bed and eased himself down and lay stiffly near the edge of the narrow twin bed, feeling the heat of Heero's body, a scant inch from his own. He reached down and self-consciously pulled the covers up and over his legs and chest.

The room fell silent. His slow, regulated breathing, though soft, was loud in his own ears. Then came the sound and movement of Heero's body shifting and then Wing's pilot was suddenly pressed up against his side, his right arm, reaching over to lay across Duo's stomach and held tightly to his waist. Heero's head came to rest on his shoulder and Duo could smell the earthy scent coming from the brown, unruly hair.

Reaching his hand up, the braided teen patted Heero's forearm, resting on his stomach, and stretched his right arm out to ease the pain on his healing skin and loosely placed it around Heero's shoulder.

"Thank you," Heero whispered, turning slightly and nuzzling his face into his bed companion's neck for a moment. "This helps."

"You're welcome," Duo answered, feeling both uneasy and oddly comfortable at the same time while he comforted Heero. And then, for the second time in less than a day, Duo Maxwell gave into his need for sleep, with Heero Yuy cradled against him and their arms securely wrapped around each other.

[ch. 8] [ch. 10] [back to Singles a - k]