Author: The Manwell
Disclaimers: My therapist, Heero Yuy, tells me my ownership of Gundam Wing is merely a delusional fantasy...  Not smart words for a guy I'm paying by the hour, huh?
Rating: PG-13 [Subject to change]
Warnings: Angst, Language, Shounen-ai [Subject to change]
Pairings: Trowa and Duo
Summary: A.C. 198: Trowa's instincts are telling him that something is VERY wrong with Duo.  And even though he barely knows the former Deathscythe pilot, he's determined to at least confirm that Duo is all right.  His inquiries, however, only fuel his belief that Duo needs help.  Trowa leaves his home in order to find Duo and help him.  No matter the cost.
Notes: I am a big fan of the Episode Zero manga and the official series so, wherever possible, I have used those materials to support the plot.  I try to avoid being repetitious and tend not to go into great detail about the events already portrayed by these media.  I've included footnotes, but if my vague references are confusing, I apologize.

Italics: thoughts, flashbacks, letters, journal entries, dreams
+ : Scene changes

Shinigami Sleeps + Chapter 1
False Memory

I walk toward the designated safe house, my thoughts barely discernable above my exhaustion. The mission had been… difficult. Backup would have been welcome. But that does not matter now. The mission objectives have been completed and the targets eliminated. Although it had been a challenge, I'd managed to stay on schedule. And now I've arrived at my destination. I look forward to a brief sojourn at this old, abandoned farm house where I can rest. Relax. And wait.

The door opens slowly and I reach for my gun. I'm aware that someone will be meeting me here, probably one of the other pilots. Still, it would be the height of stupidity for me to let my guard down now, so close to the promised refuge.

"Trowa?"

My hand drops back to my side, gun still tucked away. "Quatre."

The young man offers me a smile and it seems twice as brilliant as the last time I'd seen him. I suppose memories really do fade. I inquire, "How have you been?"

"Fine. Fine. And you, Trowa?"

I nod.

"You look exhausted."

I blink and take a moment to study my acquaintance more closely. "You as well," I observe.

Quatre offers a rueful smile in reply.

"What is it?" I ask.

His frown is one of thought and concern. "It's Duo. He was supposed to show up four days ago."

I don't ask him if he's been monitoring the emergency frequencies or our enemy's communications. I simply look at him. He somehow knows what I would say.

Quatre shakes his head. "Nothing. I can't find anything on where he might be."

"He'll show up."

Quatre doesn't look convinced. "After you get some rest, would you mind…?"

I nod. "I'll help you look for him."

+

I spend two days scouring the air waves and hacking into communication satellites but there's no sign of Duo. I watch Quatre's smile diminish with every dead end we encounter. I can clearly sense Quatre's acute worry but can think of nothing of substance to offer him by way of encouragement.

Approximately seventy-two hours after my arrival, I am settling into bed at some insanely late hour---had just closed my eyes---when I hear it: the door opening and Quatre's shout. I throw myself off of the musty cot and rush to the front of the house in time to see Quatre gathering a limp form into his arms.

"Duo? Duo! Are you all right? Duo!"

And it is Duo. Unconscious but apparently otherwise uninjured. I kneel down beside Quatre and offer my assistance. Between the two of us, we manage to maneuver Duo Maxwell into the house and into the nearest room, which happens to be mine.

+

I'd never... realized... before this moment.

Standing in the doorway, I watch Quatre's unsuccessful attempts to persuade our unconscious comrade to take a sip of water. The liquid trickles out of the corner of Duo's mouth and Quatre sighs, putting a wealth of concern and frustration into that one breath.

It's been over ten hours. No response from Duo. I step into the room holding the cup of broth I'd just heated up. I place the soup on the bedside table and gently remove the cup of water from Quatre's fingers.

"Sit behind him," I direct. "Hold him up." Cup of water and spoon in one hand, I sink down onto the bed as well. Quatre does as I suggest and the two of us begin the slow process of re-hydrating him. I carefully spoon the water into his mouth until he swallows reflexively. It takes most of the afternoon but the two of us manage to get both the water and the soup into him.

Task accomplished, I have no real reason to stay. Quatre will look after Duo. But then, when I should have gotten up and returned the few dishes we'd used to the kitchen, I don't. I set them down by my feet and look over my shoulder at the picture the two of them make on my bed as Duo sleeps leaning into Quatre's chest. I stare at the hand Quatre holds against the crown of Duo's head, pressing our unconscious comrade back against his shoulder. The other hand rests on Duo's limp fingers. I stare. And I... feel. I...

"Trowa?"

I look up, into Quatre's eyes. I see the realization in his gaze. He's caught me. I have no words to express what can only be felt. Slowly, my hand reaches out to his. I settle my palm over Quatre's hand and, consequently, Duo's beneath it. I am not sure if my meager attempt at reassurance is successful.

Quatre diverts his gaze to Duo.

As do I.

I reach out to him with my free hand, trailing my fingertips gently over his cheek and jaw. I do not know if he can feel it; he remains unconscious. And then I hear myself… in a voice only I am aware of… whispering to him. To Duo.

I whisper that I want him to wake up. I want him to see what's in my eyes because I cannot say this. I cannot find words to describe this emotion that I cannot ignore. For him.

Duo.


+

Trowa blinks open his eyes and frowns slightly at the ceiling, remembering. Had he been dreaming? But no, all of Trowa's dreams are dark, violent, bloody. For a long moment, he remains unmoving and confused. He glances around the room. He's in a trailer. At the circus. Not on assignment.

So he had been dreaming.

He pulls in a deep breath and releases it as he takes note of the calendar opposite him. Even in the dim light he can see the date. February, A.C. 198.

Trowa's eyes close once again.

Odd. He'd been dreaming of the past, of the time when he'd fought in the war with the others, but the actual events that he'd experienced in the dream had never really happened. And the emotions he'd felt... That hadn't happened, either.

He's never had a dream like this one.

He wonders about it.

His mind buzzes with questions. Why had he dreamed of something that had never happened? Why hadn't the dream been filled with screams and blood and ammunition explosions like all the others? Why had the Trowa in the dream felt so strongly? And why had he felt that way toward Duo?

The last question is, perhaps, the most perplexing. Trowa only knows Duo in passing. And most of those rare instances when the two of them had met could not, even remotely, be considered pleasant. Perhaps the only moment they'd shared that had been, for lack of a better word, friendly had been when Trowa, Duo, and Quatre had destroyed their Gundams together after the battle against Dekim Barton's forces. [1]

Trowa pauses. The last time he'd seen any of the pilots had been then. And he'd been with Duo and Quatre. [2] Maybe this explains the dream.

But does it?

He sighs in perfect silence. Since when do all dreams require an explanation?

He knows they don't. But he also knows that most of his dreams stem from regret and guilt.

Had he dreamt of Duo because he regretted much of what he'd done to him during the war? [3] Did he feel guilty because he'd never taken the opportunity to get to know him?

He tells himself to simply forget about it.

But as he attempts to relax back into sleep once more, the image of Duo, unconscious without an apparent cause, haunts him.

++

[1] From "Endless Waltz."
[2] From "Endless Waltz."
[3] What few memories Duo and Trowa do share aren't necessarily pleasant. Duo and Trowa's interaction during the series: Trowa and Duo fight when they first meet at New Edwards; Trowa destroys Deathscythe to get hired by Oz; Trowa is an officer with Oz when Duo is captured the second time; Trowa punches Duo in order to pass on information about Duo and Wufei's Gundams; Duo is the first to find a very confused and frightened Trowa after he'd lost his memory; On Peace Million, Trowa and Duo play a game of chess and later Duo disagrees with Trowa about Heero's ability to rescue Relena from Libra without help. Their interaction during "Endless Waltz": Duo fights Trowa on X18999 and Trowa almost blows him up; Trowa throws Duo in a detention cell; Duo boards the shuttle Trowa is using only to find out Trowa hadn't been waiting for him at all; After destroying their Gundams, Duo and Quatre suggest that Trowa keep his name.

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