Author: Gloria
Summary: Frayed, on edge. Duo would walk away smiling. Heero would have something to take with him into hell. It might be enough. Might be worth it. Neither of them ever expected to live long enough to regret it.

Disclaimer: Gundam Wing is the property of its creators. I do not own this franchise and no infringement is intended or profit gained by the writing of this fanfiction.
Pairing: 1x2, more may follow
Spoiler Warning: In the prologue, I intend to rely heavily on events occurring during episodes forty-five through forty-eight.
Alternate Warnings: Rating MA is for violence, swearing and adult sexual situations, which include, but are not limited to, homosexuality. Also contains characters dealing with serious subjects like death, war and grief, so standard angst warnings apply.

Author's Note: Hi! Haven't written for GW fandom in aaaaages, but I've been having the itch lately, thanks to TB, Bikko and Shi-chan. So, okay, here goes. Not precisely sure where I'm going with this, I just know I want to write a Preventers fic that deals with the early stages. But I also wanted to start with the history, so we have an idea where Heero and Duo stand with each other. This is not a one-shot, though it might be able to stand alone as one. Chapter one jumps a few years into the future. Hope you enjoy the nostalgia, I know I did.

Prerequisite + Prologue

A.C. 195

I almost forgot. You're as far from normal as they come.

I almost forgot.

The battle ended more quickly than Heero had thought it would, hoped it would. He wasn't even out of breath. The ZERO system hummed around him, placated and patient. Heero did a quick count and found one of them missing.

"Where's Duo?"

"I'm here." Duo's voice came over the intercom, gruff and strained, like it usually was after a battle. Duo had a habit of screaming obscenities at the enemy, made it hoarse. Even so, Heero thought it sounded different, lacking the exhilaration, the elation of victory.

Of course, there wasn't much to celebrate. Even Duo wasn't that blind. None of these units sent after Peacemillion were really meant to do anything. Heero was sure Zechs and Quinze were viewing the Peacemillion and its inhabitants as a threat, but it was only a matter of time before Treize came to space. Zechs Marquise had bigger fish to fry. And Duo could manage to crack a smile in the face of that anyway, without making it funny he would laugh. It was his way.

But, no. Duo was not somber because of the galaxy's political chaos. No, of course not. The galaxy could implode tomorrow and Deathscythe's pilot would probably find some part of it ironic enough to snicker at. No. Deathscythe was carrying an injured Taurus, the pieces brackish and breaking off in sparking bits, floating away into the void. Heero acted instinctually, even against Quatre's small sound of protest, a fizzle of noise over his radio.

"Get the hell out of my way, Heero." Quiet tone, low, deadly. Heero should have known better. Perhaps the battle had strained his nerves worse than he thought. ZERO had a habit of making him seem more invincible than he really was.

"That's an enemy suit," Heero said, pointing out the obvious, knowing it too. Wing paused, hovering squarely between Deathscythe and Peacemillion. Heero's left screen flickered, showing him Duo Maxwell in all his wide-eyed, furious glory.

"I wouldn't be carrying it back to base if there was an enemy pilot inside of it, asshole!" Duo spat, something wild in his eyes. "She's injured, let me through!"

Quatre's voice crackled over the com. "She's been hailing us, Heero. Duo knew her, went to get her. She came from Libra, they sent the unit out after her, I think."

"You think," Heero echoed, but he was already moving. He could feel Duo's glare hot on his screen. He worked the controls of Wing without looking up at him. "Fine."

You're as far from normal as they come.

As far from normal...

The girl was young. Young like them, but somehow it felt wrong, worse, like she was more vulnerable because she wasn't supposed to be a part of this. For whatever odd reason, she chose in. She chose in because of Duo. Quatre whispered to him, as they took the iron rail down to where Sally Po was leading a team of medics to the hanger floor, where Duo was already out of his Gundam and dragging the girl out of her destroyed mobile suit, Quatre whispered that it was a girl Duo was living with on L2, when White Fang was still looking for a face for PR. They'd asked Duo, of course, because who could represent the colonies better than the Gundam Pilot from L2? But they got stuck with the Peacecraft Earther that had a vendetta against, well, everyone.

Somehow, that might've been funny. Except even Duo stopped laughing when Zechs fired on the planet. Even Duo, stubborn colonist, loudmouthed Spacer that he was, wanted nothing more than to all out attack Libra, squash White Fang before OZ showed up to avenge Barge. Then, whoever managed to survive Libra would attack OZ. Duo wasn't thinking about surviving, he was thinking about numbers. Statistics. Quatre and Trowa were hung up on right and wrong. Wufei was struggling with honor, per usual. The girl was an unexpected anomaly.

Short, cropped black hair, pretty, even as the bruises began to form and the swelling made the blood on her face seem brighter than it ought to. Hilde, Quatre said her name was. Hilde. Infiltrated Libra, had information for Duo about Libra.

Duo laid her on the ground, handling her gingerly like she might shatter. Heero watched her smile weakly up at him, hand him something, a disk spattered with blood. He took it, making it disappear into his jacket. Slight of hand, Duo did it like Heero breathed. Then Sally was there, ordering another medic to pull Duo away. He struggled, throwing the man off of him, back at Hilde's side. She said something to him, he tilted his head to hear. Heero and Quatre were there, then, taking each of Duo's arms and hauling him away so Sally could do her work.

Duo didn't fight them, though a storm grew on his face, his eyes darker than Heero had ever seen them. "Stupid fool," Duo muttered. "Stupid idiot."

Duo shook them off as Trowa and Wufei approached and stormed away, out of the hangar. Heero looked at them not looking at him. Finally, Trowa braved a glance at him. Heero felt like he wasn't understanding something again. That happened a lot, whenever he happened to be around Duo and one of his random, spit-fire temper tantrums. Thankfully, Heero wasn't around Duo very often. More often lately, because they all happened to be on the same battleship.

"We all should go," Quatre suggested quietly. They went.

I almost forgot. You're as far from normal...

I almost forgot.

Heero, you wanna play?

Duo didn't go far. He was just outside the hangar, in the bleach-white halls, staring out one of the massive, plexi-windows. The great void of space stared back at him, as glum as the look in his eyes.

So, she was a friend. Duo did not like it when friends got hurt. Heero could admit to the feeling of her being a person that should definitely not be in this war, fighting this fight. Heero understood that, knowing an innocent was going out of their way to get themselves injured on some fool's errand to--

"She'll be fine, Duo." Quatre. He usually knew what to say.

"She shouldn't be here at all." Duo's voice seemed like it was from far away, absorbed by the plexi instead of bouncing off it. He turned, looking squarely at Heero. He was daring him, daring Heero to ask for the disc, to cheapen his friend's sacrifice by getting right down to business. Heero lifted his chin and refused to take the bait. Duo turned then to Wufei, whose frown was disapproving, but silently so. Trowa didn't even look at him. Quatre placed a hand on his shoulder.

The hangar opened and Sally's team, swarmed around the lift carrying Hilde's sleeping form, rushed by. Duo's glare crumpled, watching them pass, going wide-eyed again. It was odd how he did that, positively morphing his face for the sake of expression. Duo took a step forward and Sally lifted her hand, halting the escort and telling Duo to make it quick. Duo reached out to touch her hand, but decided not to at the last minute. He shook his head at Sally, a faint movement but enough to relay the message. With a curt nod, she ushered her team forward again, leaving the five pilots alone in the hallway once again. Heero leant against the plexi, his back against the abysm of space, watching.

"Hey, Heero."

Eh, Heero, you wanna play?

I almost forgot.

Relena. Relena's on Libra. Duo's voice formed the words, but somehow Heero felt them like blows, instead of the sentences they were. Hilde met her, spoke to her there. Relena's on Libra. Stupid fool. Stupid idiot.

Heero looked up, saw Duo's expression. Duo was clever, he knew exactly what to say. Maybe it was revenge for attempting to blockade him from getting back to Peacemillion. Maybe it was a lesson--Duo was fond of those, like he had made it his personal mission to make Heero a human. Whatever it was, it wasn't nice. Duo telling him, like that, at this moment, it wasn't nice. He didn't know everything about Duo Maxwell, but he knew that much.

Heero knew enough to be aware of the survivor's guilt. Duo seemed awfully young to have a heavy case of it, but anyone in Duo's presence longer than twenty minutes saw the blackness behind his grin. They all respected him for not allowing it to affect his judgment, not control his emotions and make him reckless. One only had to be around Duo for twenty minutes to see the blackness, but to know why it was there took a decent amount of research. Feddies managed to screw Duo since he could walk, and Duo managed to be at the heart, and the sole survivor, of every calamity wrought on L2 since the Alliance decided to play God. Government-induced plagues, massacres, criminal warfare--got to the point even the Sweepers had to leave. If it's too much for a Sweeper, it's too much for anyone. That's how Duo got off-colony. Stowed-away with the Sweepers until G decided he needed a kid-pilot with a vendetta.

Duo was walking past him, towards the inner-ship. Maybe to mess, maybe to barracks, Heero didn't know. Heero snagged his wrist, met the big amethyst eyes. He pressed with two fingers, saying he understood. Duo nodded, his mouth a grim line. Quatre was looking at him curiously. Trowa was already bored. Wufei was trying to ignore it. Whatever they thought, it wasn't true. It wasn't true. Not yet.

I almost forgot.

You're as far from normal as they come.

Duo told him ZERO showed him hundreds of copies of himself; nearly drove him mad. Duo said maybe ZERO thought he was his own worst enemy. Maybe that was true. Maybe that was true for everyone. It was certainly true for Zechs, and Treize, and definitely Relena, who couldn't keep her nose out of anything.

Wufei had been purposely ambiguous about his experience inside ZERO, but suddenly decided he wanted to fight with the rest of them. ZERO gave Trowa his memory back. Quatre was the only other one of them, of the five, that could handle ZERO; but he was too petrified of it to use it anymore. Heero could understand that, a little. ZERO had caused him to blow up a colony, after all.

For his part, Heero tried not to think of what ZERO showed him outside of the cockpit. Just like he tried not to think of Duo Maxwell when Duo Maxwell wasn't around. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't. It was damned impossible when he was around, though.

Duo didn't pester, not really. He really didn't. Tried to kill him once, when they first met. Saved his life. Became violently ill while watching him set his leg. Wouldn't speak to him for months after Heero stole his parts--not that Heero tried. Moon Base was strange though. Seeing him again there, seeing him battered and bloody and brave, strange. Moving. Enough to hesitate, enough to save him instead of kill him. After that, Duo didn't pester. Pestered Quatre and Trowa more. Laughed at Wufei. With Heero, Duo merely afforded cordial efforts at conversation. Heero noticed the effort, the distance, the reservation. Heero wasn't so sure if it was respect. Pretty sure it was something else.

Duo was in his room. He'd missed dinner. Heero wasn't going to wait around in mess for him to show up. He needed to verify if Relena was on Libra. He didn't have that sort of time, not now, not to play cat and mouse with Duo Maxwell. Heero walked in, coming up short just inside the door, waiting for it to swoosh closed again. Duo had his jacket around his waist, a white tee hanging around his skinny frame. He spat toothpaste and foam into the sink, hands holding back his hair as he did so. He rinsed his mouth, his toothbrush, met Heero's eyes in the reflection.

"Just burning to get your hands on that disc, aren't you?"

"I'm not sure why you're withholding it from us," Heero replied. Even to his own ears, his voice sounded flat and uninterested.

Duo rinsed his mouth again and wiped it on a towel. "Fought some suits today. The ones you and Trowa helped simulate."

"You fought the Vayeate and the Mercurius." Heero leaned back against the closed door, crossed his arms. "And you're back in one piece."

"Impressed?" Duo turned, a strange half-smile hovering at the corner of his lips, his eyes dark and glittering. He was still angry, then.

"Not really." Heero watched Duo's face darken. "You were piloting your Gundam. Shouldn't have been very difficult for you."

"Plus I had incentive," Duo said, implicating Hilde.

"Plus you had incentive," Heero echoed. His nerves were frayed, both their nerves were frayed. Duo had personally fought a battle every seven hours for the past six days. He was tired, they all were. Every single one of them. Duo had to watch his friend bleed. Heero wondered what it would feel like if he had to see Relena get hurt. She was a fool, but an idealistic, politically savvy fool. Heero believed in her. She needed to survive this.

Duo's hand slipped under his waist band, under the jacket tied around his hips. Heero's eyes followed the movement. Duo produced the disk, sill dotted with Hilde's blood. Duo's voice was very quiet. "You came for this."

Heero crossed the room. Duo watched him with a heavy-lidded expression. Heero stopped in front of him, toe to toe. He reached for the disc and Duo let it fall from his hands without a struggle. Heero lowered his arm, close enough to feel Duo's breath on his cheek, and placed the disc on the sink. His other hand settled on Duo's waist. He was hot, hotter than Heero expected. All heat and clothes and hair. That ridiculous hair that floated in low gravity like a scorpion's tail waiting to strike. Duo's body was thin, bony, like the rest of them, but on Duo the slightness seemed almost tragic. Like the black haired girl that was bleeding, the girl who didn't belong here, the reason Duo was so angry. Tragic, because at some point after all the crap that had been piled on their colony, someone should have stood up for them. And since no one did, Duo appeared, with his angry eyes, smart mouth and trigger-happy fingers sending a bullet through his leg to protect a girl just about as obnoxious as he was. Duo didn't even know her, but he wanted to protect her. Duo was like that, always standing up for someone. It was absurd, seeing him stare down a bully, knowing behind the gundanium he was all knees and elbows, like the rest of them, but absurd because it worked. Duo would be anyone he had to be to make things right. Heero didn't think things would ever be right, but he wasn't about to tell Duo that.

Duo's eyes were brighter now, feverish and indigo. Heero had never seen eye color like that before Duo. He looked ageless with eyes like that, frightening almost. Unearthly, but more than a Spacer; something of the phantom Duo claimed to be inside of Deathscythe. Heero licked his lips. "Tell me now if you want me to stop."

Duo didn't speak, didn't move; he watched him warily enough for his own sense of self-preservation to get its due, the rest of him was heavy-lidded and smirking. Heero ghosted his lips over Duo's, just barely touching. His muscles quivered as he pressed against Duo, as he dipped his fingers beneath the hem of Duo's shirt and splayed them against the flesh of his stomach. Heero lifted his gaze, coming out of the sudden rush, the abrupt heat spiraling through him, really looked at Duo. He didn't seem to be going anywhere. Duo's half-smile glinted in the dim light, teeth every bit as sharp as they looked and whiter than a kid from L2 had rights to, gleaming, feral.

Duo's mouth was hot on his when he finally began to respond, when he wasn't afraid to anymore. Hungry, tongues wet and gliding. Duo cursed at him foully for tearing his jacket in Heero's haste to get it off. Heero kissed him to shut him up. It might have been awkward, if it were with anyone else. All gangly, fifteen year old limbs and toothy kisses. But Duo was better than that. Duo was always better than that. Encouraging, patient, smirking and laughing, moaning at all the right moments. Made Heero feel like a god, with Duo's legs wrapped around him, his name an unholy chant on his lips, equal parts obscene and tender. Fingernails grinding flesh, drawing blood, causing bruises. Wonderful. Necessary. And explosion of catharsis, just when things were getting a little too out of control. Their nerves were bad, all of them. Frayed, on edge. Duo would walk away smiling. Heero would have something
to take with him into hell. It might be enough. Might be worth it.

Neither of them ever expected to live long enough to regret it.

I almost forgot.

Almost.

Never wanted normal anyway.

[ chapter 1 ]