Author: pyrzm
see ch. 1 for warnings, notes, disclaimer

Broken Warriors + Chapter 12
Flashback

October, AC 195
Earth-side, Northern Hemisphere


The intelligence on the Finland raid was fucked from the word go. It was supposed to be a simple Shinigami hit and run: touch down at dawn, smash the bejeezus out of a Taurus production plant and get the hell out. Instead, Duo found himself in the middle of a major shit storm, facing off against an entire squadron of Leos that shouldn't have been there. Their weapons might not be able to pierce Deathscythe's gundanium hide, but they were knocking holy hell out of his insides, and Duo's, too. Maybe that blond kid, Quatre was right, he thought, firing off his last Vulcan rounds and deploying the energy scythe. Maybe they would be better off fighting together, rather than these lone wolf runs?

"Naw! Just more fun for me!" he cackled, wading into another wave of defenders, as he tried to break through to the plant beyond.

The second worst thing that happened was a lucky hit by a Leo that overloaded his forward shield, blew out the circuits on the upper con panel and dropped the whole shebang on his head.

The first worst thing, noted just before he blacked out, was the sight of Wing descending out of nowhere to save his bacon. It was bad enough getting his butt kicked by a bunch of tin cans on legs, without Heero "Perfect Soldier" Yuy there to see it . . .

+

Heero Yuy wouldn't have been happy to see any of the other gundam pilots already attacking his target, but why did it have to be Maxwell? The open ground around the facility was already littered with smoking wreckage in Deathscythe's wake.

Quatre hadn't proven to be much competition so far, and the one who called himself Trowa could be depended on to get the job done and disappear. Oh well, at least it wasn't that arrogant Chinese pilot. But Maxwell? He sighed. This wasn't the first time they'd shown up at the same battle, and that fast-talking, braided menace always insisted on treating it like a good thing. If this was anything like last time, he'd want to chatter and joke through the whole battle, instead of paying attention to the mission, then try to buddy up to him afterwards.

It was unsettling.

As he powered up the beam cannon, however, he saw that something was wrong with Maxwell's gundam. Heero had seen him fighting as he approached, but now Deathscythe stood frozen, energy blade flickering like a strobe light. Smoke was spiraling up from the top of the gundam's "head."

He opened a narrow com band. "02, status?" There was no reply. Not good, but Maxwell was going to have to wait.

He opened fire with the cannon, obliterating the central facility with two powerful blasts, then switched to the shoulder-mounted machine cannons as the Leos closed in, mowing down those Maxwell had failed to take out. To his credit, he'd gotten a lot of them.

Heero exhausted his ammo, then used his beam saber to dispatch the stragglers. Several tried to escape but he launched himself after then and sliced them in two before they got a half a kilometer.

Turning back toward the smoking blast site, he saw Deathscythe still standing stupidly in the middle of the wreckage field. He opened his com link again. "02, get the hell out of there!"

No reply, just static.

"02? Snap out of it! They've probably sent for reinforcements by now. There's a support base less than thirty kilometers to the south. 02!"

'If that idiot let himself get killed before initiating the self destruct sequence on his own suit--' Heero thought angrily. He didn't have enough power left to destroy the suit here.

The com crackled and Heero heard a faint "Oi?"

"02, status!" Heero snapped.

There was a long pause and more static, then a muttered, "Fucked," and more static.

Heero growled in frustration. He had a wounded pilot and a potentially functional gundam on his hands. With no attack imminent, his duty was clear: save both valuable resources, if possible. If Maxwell died or was too badly wounded to save, he'd destroy both to keep them out of enemy hands once he'd powered up again.

He called up an area map on the shipboard computer, looking for the abandoned SAC base he'd noted during the mission briefing. It lay near the shore of a small lake, twenty kilometers to the north and deep in a heavily forested quadrant. If the missile silos were still accessible, they should be large enough to hide both gundams. If not, they'd use the trees as cover. Even if they only made it as far as the forest, it was safer than staying here.

Stowing his weapons, he grappled onto Deathscythe and took off. There was no further communication from Maxwell. That concerned Heero, but there was nothing to do but keep going.

+

The base was in worse condition that Heero had hoped. Most of the buildings had fallen into ruin and all of the reinforced concrete silos had been sealed. Cursing under his breath, he set the gundams down in the trees nearby, hunkered Wing and deployed the camo netting. Deathscythe lay on its back on a bed of crushed trees like broken toy.

Heero grabbed a survival pack and ran to Deathscythe. The entry port was open. Maxwell was still strapped in to the pilot seat, but unconscious. Heero scowled at the amount of blood covering the othe pilot's face and the front of his black priest's shirt. Lowering himself down, he checked him for damage and was relieved to find nothing obvious beyond a long gash and bruising on his forehead, near the hairline. The thick, unruly bangs were sticky with blood. He looked around and saw that an overhead instrumentation panel had come loose. The baka must have looked up just as it came down on him. It was big; he was lucky it hadn't broken his neck.

Maxwell's face was very pale under the blood, and his skin felt overly cool and moist, but his breathing was normal. Heero peeled back one of the young pilot's eyelids, then the other, noting the unevenly dilated pupils: concussion, with possible shock complications. Field training indicated anti-inflammatory meds, rest, fluids and warmth. He growled. It would probably be better to spend the night here, and move him in the morning, when he was stabilized. Or not.

Heero unbuckled the unconscious boy, hoisted him over his shoulder and dragged him up through the open hatch. Maxwell hung limply, braid slapping the backs of Heero's legs and threatening to tangle his feet as he climbed up. Heero growled again. "Baka!"

+

Duo came to with the unhappy knowledge that he was cold, upside down, and dangerously close to puking. Opening his eyes, he got a blurred glimpse of two long braids that both looked a lot like his trailing in the dirt below him, just behind four Spandex-clad legs. Duo blinked, choking back bile as his chin banged against a hard, green-shirted back. OK, Heero had him in a fireman's carry, and was running through a--forest? Where did that come from? Oh yeah, and he was hurt. His head felt like it was going to explode and there was blood on his dangling arms; they were leaving a blood trail. He knew he should either stab Heero for carrying him like a sack of dirty laundry, or warn him. Before he could do either he puked and passed out again.

+

Heero gritted his teeth as he felt Maxwell heaving, but kept running for the ruined buildings. Reaching the first silo, he kicked in a rusted metal door and sidled cautiously inside, pistol drawn. He was prepared to dump his unconscious burden at the first sign of trouble, but nothing moved. With the missile port sealed and the doors locked for who knew how many years, there probably weren't even pigeons in here. The silo was a huge echoing chamber, dark and chilly as a meat locker. Depositing Maxwell and the pack near the doorway, Heero checked his vitals again. No change, except for the sour vomit all over his shirt and in his braid. It had gotten on the back of Heero's clothes, too. Cursing under his breath, he changed into the spare shorts and shirt he carried, then stripped Maxwell's shirt and the worn white tee underneath. Shock was definitely setting in. Maxwell was shivering in his sleep and his teeth were chattering. Heero pulled a thin primofleece blanket from the pack and wrapped him in it. At least there'd been no sign of blood in the vomit.

Maxwell stank, and it wasn't just from throwing up. In the short time Heero had known him, he'd discovered that L-2 kid's hygiene standards were lower than most. As far as Heero knew, Maxwell only owned one set of clothing and the terrorist lifestyle didn't allow for too many laundry days. Wrinkling his nose, he tugged off the black boots and unfastened the fly of the jodhpurs. Underneath Maxwell had on something similar to Heero's shorts, but shorter in the legs. It was an indistinct beige color. Between that and the form-fitting tightness, he looked almost naked. Heero shook his head. He was no fashion plate himself, but Maxwell's clothes were just strange. His opinion changed a bit, however, when he discovered the collection of lock picks, wires, tools, and small weapons Maxwell had hidden in the loose pockets.

"Hn!" Heero's opinion of the boy went even higher as he found a wad of explosive C-94 putty in the left side and a metal case of detonators in the right. He already knew about the knife in Maxwell's right boot, the small pistol in his left, and the throwing blade in a spring sheath strapped to his right forearm. It wasn't a bad array, actually. He set the weapons out with the rest of the materials. Maybe there was more to Maxwell than it seemed. But he still smelled bad.

Heero resignedly acknowledged that he was going to have to do something about that, at least the blood and vomit. There was enough in Maxwell's hair that if he left it to dry, he'd probably end up having to cut it off. It would be doing the baka a favor, he thought, gingerly picking up the soiled braid by its tufted end. Nearly a meter long, it was the most impractical, tactically hazardous thing he'd ever seen on a soldier.

"Touch the hair and yer dead man," Maxwell mumbled, not fully conscious.

Heero shrugged. He's suspected as much.

Leaving Duo's weapons in easy reach, Heero jogged back to Deathscythe and searched for rations, water, and another med kit. He also found a battery lantern, a blanket and sleeping bag, and a collapsible plastic water jug. Adding these to his take, he went back to Wing, double-checked the proximity alarms and his remote, and then scanned the outlying area for intruders. Nothing yet. For now, at least, they were relatively safe from attack. It was cold, though, and increasingly overcast. This far north snow was a possibility, come nightfall and neither of them had come prepared to camp out. At least they had shelter. A fire wouldn't be a problem, either.

He returned to the silo and found Maxwell curled on his side now. His legs had tangled in the blanket, pulling it down and leaving his upper body uncovered. He didn't look much like a terrorist now, just a sick, skinny kid. His ribs showed through his pale skin, and the knobs of his spine. Heero was thin, too, but more densely muscled and compact. He pulled up the blanket again and opened the med kits.

He cleaned the wound with antiseptic wipes and water from his canteen, then closed it with medical adhesive and some small butterfly bandages. There wouldn't be much of a scar but Maxwell was going to have one hell of a headache. The area was already bruising. Rummaging in the kit again, he found the acetaminophen and shook out three. He'd have given himself twice that, but Maxwell was a lightweight, without Heero's unusual metabolism. Maxwell came around groggily as Heero placed the pills in his mouth, saving him the trouble of poking them down his throat with his finger. He managed a few gulps from Heero's canteen, then closed his eyes again and lay back with a groan.

"You crashed my party," he mumbled, slurring the words.

"I saved your ass."

"Mmmm. Both of you." He was still drifting in and out but suddenly he grinned that crazed grin of his and chuckled hoarsely, mumbling something that sounded like, "Nice ass."

Heero blinked. His left hand had recently been in very close contact with the ass in question. He supposed it could be described as "nice." Maxwell was fit, and more muscular than he looked. His buttocks had been noticeably firm and lean . . .

Heero blinked again, startled by this train of thought. Distracting. Yes that summed Maxwell up all too well. His current priority was to get him cleaned up and warm. It would be most efficient to carry him down to the lake and deal with it there. The water would no doubt be cold, but it was be faster than carrying water back and forth.

Duo opened one eye and scowled at him as Heero lifted him in his arms. "Crashing my party, Yuy?"

"Hn." Maxwell talked too much as it was; now he was repeating himself.

"Mouth tastes nasty."

And stating the obvious. Heero bent and snagged the dirty clothes. It was going to be a long day.

The lake was shallow, with a gravel beach. Heero threw the clothes in the water to soak. Tugging off the blanket, Heero waded in to knee depth and lowered Maxwell into the water.

That brought him around. Violet eyes flew open and he began to struggle, managing to elbow Heero in the face.

"Stop it!" Heero ordered, plunking him down on his backside in the water and holding him in place. "This will only take longer if you fight me."

"Wha' the fuck?" Maxwell blinked up at him, not comprehending the situation but seeming to recognize him.

"Washing." Heero proceeded to do just that, using a handful of the clean, fine gravel as a washcloth to get the blood off Maxwell's chest and back. He used his hand on the rest of him, careful not to cause him undue pain as he cleaned his face and swished the braid in the water.

The hair presented a problem. Worried about soaked-in blood, he pulled off the elastic tie and unbound the hair to clean it thoroughly. Maxwell was more alert and shivering, but it had to be done.

Maxwell had a lot of hair! He'd guessed as much, given the length and thickness of the braid, but as it came loose under his fingers and unfurled in the water, it seemed to quadruple in volume. He helped Maxwell lie back, supporting his head with one hand so he could wash the crusted blood from his bangs and forehead. The longer hair fanned out just under the water's surface like some exotic aquatic plant, brushing around Heero's shins. It reminded Heero of something he'd seen in a book once, when he was with Lowe. It had been a children's book, with colored pictures; a reward for doing well in his training. The long, honey brown mass swirled around Maxwell's bare shoulders.

Mermaids. It had been a picture of mermaids swimming in a tropical lagoon. Peter Pan, that was the title. He'd lost the book years ago, hadn't thought about it since. The mermaid's hair looked like that, spreading out around them in the water. Just like this. His logical mind searched for the proper adjective and came up with "pretty." Maxwell's hair was pretty. But highly impractical, all the same. And distracting.

"Don't forget the conditioner," Maxwell grumbled through chattering teeth. He was shaking badly now.

"That's the best I can do." Heero hoisted him out, soaking himself in the process. He scowled at his own foolish move. He really hadn't thought this out. Then again, he'd never given anyone else a bath before, either. He didn't even have a towel. Maxwell's hair hung in a wet, heavy curtain against his arm and side, streaming water down his leg. His shoes were soaked anyway.

"Can you stand?"

"Yeah." Maxwell wobbled unsteadily but managed to stay upright, arms locked over his chest. His lips had a blue tinge and fine blue veins showed through his skin. His wet under shorts were nearly translucent.

Heero averted his gaze, though he wasn't quite sure why he should feel embarrassed. He seldom felt embarrassed about anything, so why should an indistinct pink bulge and the hint of dark hair at Maxwell's crotch bother him?

Increasingly irritated with himself, he grabbed the blanket and wrapped Maxwell in it head to toe, then carried him back toward the silo.

Maxwell closed his eyes and rested his head against Heero's shoulder, face framed by the blue fabric of the blanket. "Don't feel so good."

"Nausea? I want a warning this time."

"Not yet. Head hurts and I'm cold!" He was whining! He shifted, as if trying to get more of his body against Heero's chest. "Stupid time for a swim."

"You'll thank me later. You had blood and vomit all through your hair. You smell better, too."

"Gotta comb it. The hair. Gotta get the tangles out before it dries."

"It's more important to get warm. We're both in danger of hypothermia and it may snow."

"Warm's good. But I seriously need a comb."

"Hn."

"Good. I'm sure you'll do a good job, since this is your fault."

Heero glanced down in dismay. Was Maxwell sulking? He was tempted to drop him on that nice ass of his and let him walk the rest of the way.

Just then Maxwell looked up at him and managed a lopsided grin. "Kidding, 'Ro. Don't listen to the stupid baka with the concussion. I'm still seeing double."

The smile made the corner of Maxwell's eyes slant up a little. The pupils were still different sizes, but less so. It made the left one look more blue, the other more violet. He supposed that "pretty" was a suitable description of Maxwell's eyes, too.

Maxwell blinked. "What?"

Heero looked up, not wanting to stumble on the uneven ground. "I'm going to leave you in the silo and gather firewood. Don't touch the other bedding until I get you dry. I won't be long."

Maxwell chuckled. "Yeah, me neither, after that ice water bath."

Clearly his mind was still wandering. That made absolutely no sense at all.

+

Heero found an ample supply of fallen branches without going very far. He built a fire for Maxwell with the first armload, then went out for more. When he had enough to get them through the night, he went back to the lake for their clothing. While wringing them out, he found a large comb in a pocket of Maxwell's shirt. It was plastic, with long, widely spaced teeth. And it was pink. Shaking his head, he slipped it into the waistband of his damp shorts next to his pistol and carried the clothing back to dry in the silo. This was not how he'd pictured spending his afternoon when he'd woken up this morning.

He found Maxwell huddled by the fire with the wet blanket draped over his shoulders, holding a gun on him with both hands. He lowered it as soon as he saw it was him.

Heero tossed him the comb and spread the clothes on the dusty cement floor. "Pink, Maxwell?"

The other boy shrugged and went to work on his hair. "Beggars can't be choosers." His hands were shaking too badly, however. He dropped it several times and gave up, looking defeated.

Heero stripped off his own wet things and used the few dry places left on the blanket to get them both more or less dry. Using the other blanket as a folded pad, he placed it beside Maxwell, close to the fire, then unzipped the sleeping bag and shook it out to its full size. Sitting down facing the fire, he pulled Maxwell over to sit between his legs with his back against Heero's chest, then draped the sleeping bag around both of them, leaving the front open to the fire's warmth. The skinny boy's skin was icy against his, and the wet hair was a problem. Heero pulled it forward over Maxwell's chest, hoping it would dry quickly.

"I need to assess your condition."

"I'm fucking cold, thanks to you, and my head hurts!"

"I already know that, Maxwell. I need to assess your medical--"

"Duo."

"What?"

"Call me Duo. I mean, if I gotta spend the night naked around a fire with you, you could at least call me by my first name, right? And quit talking like a fucking computer. It pisses me off!"

"Irritability due to lingering disorientation from mild concussion," Heero noted calmly.

Maxwell hunched forward, hugging his knees. "You're still doing it!"

"I talk the way I talk, Duo."

Maxwell, or rather, Duo, looked back over his shoulder. "Well now, that wasn't so painful, was it? And I'm always irritable when someone hits me over the head and tosses me in a lake."

"I didn't hit you. The bath was necessary."

Duo rested his face in his hands. "Like arguing with a wall. Where's my comb?"

Heero reached over and retrieved it, then pulled the wet mass of hair back again, shivering a little as it fell into his bare lap.

"What the hell are you doing?" Duo demanded.

"Combing your hair. Your hands are too unsteady, a side effect of the hypothermia. It will pass, but probably not before your hair dries."

He couldn't see Duo's face now to gauge his reaction to this, but he didn't object as Heero separated the mess into sections and started working from the ends up. It wasn't as tangled as Duo had feared and soon half of it lay damp and smooth over his left shoulder. Heero lifted it forward onto Duo's chest to dry.

As he started on the right side, Duo sighed. "Done this before?"

"Only my own," Heero replied, carefully working out a tangle. "This seemed a logical method and it's working."

"Logical." Duo was dozing off. "Gentle, too."

Heero had never been called that before, but assumed Duo was talking about his hair combing technnique.

He finished with the right side, pushed it forward, and pulled Duo back against his chest. Duo fell asleep at once, head damp and heavy against Heero's left cheek. He'd warmed up and wasn't shivering much. Heero ran his hands over Duo's chest and arms. Yes, circulation was coming back. His back felt warmer, too. Heero let him sleep for a while. He was strong enough to support Duo's slight weight indefinitely, but after half an hour or so the fire needed tending.

Duo woke with a start as Heero got up and put the sleeping bag around him. "Whasat?"

Heero tossed more wood onto the fire, building up a sizeable blaze, and went to the silo door. "It's almost dark, and starting to snow."

"Aren't you cold?" Duo asked, peering at him from the depths of the bag. "I mean, being---uh-- naked and all?" He sounded a bit odd as he said that. Heero wondered if he was feeling the same illogical embarrassment he had experienced earlier. He'd never been inordinately modest himself, but perhaps Duo had been raised differently. Whatever the case, it couldn't be helped. Wearing wet clothing could be life threatening in this climate. Still, the thought of the normally cocky pilot feeling off balance for once pleased him a little.

"I'm aware of the ambient temperature, but now that my core body temperature is restored to--"

"Sorry I asked! Just get back here, will ya? I'm getting cold just looking at you."

"Not possible," Heero replied, then smiled to show he was joking.

Duo eyed him warily as he settled behind him again. "Y'know, you look even scarier when you do that."

Heero chuckled in a manner he hoped was only a little scary and pulled Duo back against him again, running a hand over his hair to test its dryness.

"Uh, Heero?"

"Yes, Duo?"

"What the fuck to you think you're doing?"

"Sharing body heat, as you advised, and feeling whether your hair is dry yet. What did you think I was doing?"

"Uh, nothing. You just-- y'know, startled me a little. I never figured you for such a touchy feely kinda guy."

"Basic survival, Duo. Are you uncomfortable?"

+

'Depends on what ya mean by uncomfortable,' Duo thought, trying to decide if he was relieved or disappointed that Heero had stopped stroking-- Whoa, no, strike that! Had stopped testing the dryness of his hair.

Uncomfortable? Not really, he had to admit now that the shock had worn off, and he guessed that proved it. Shinigami had a little Heero Yuy problem. Not that Heero Yuy was small; not even stark naked standing in a Finnish winter draft. Nope, not small at all. In fact, that not-smallness was pressed right against his backside at the moment and he was damn glad Yuy had left his underwear on. Sure his head still hurt like a sonofabitch, and his stomach wasn't all that happy and his mouth still tasted like--well, puke, but he was still basically young and mostly healthy and hormonal and mostly naked in the arms of the guy he'd been having wet dreams about since the day they'd met. And how crazy was that?

It wasn't like he hadn't figured out he liked guys. That wasn't the showstopper here. You grew up fast on the mean streets of L-2, and around rough characters like the Sweepers. He'd messed around a little, nothing heavy, but enough to think that girls weren't what he wanted. Guys liking guys was no big deal. He was pretty certain there was something going on with Quatre and that Trowa guy, for that matter, although that was an even weirder match than this. Hey, that Trowa was good looking and kinda intersting in a sullen, aloof way. Quatre was cute, but too girly for Duo's taste. But if they were happy, who was he to interfere?

No, the sixty four dollar question was, why was he falling for Heero Yuy, the guy who had hardly spoken six words to him in the past year? Who'd have guessed that Shinigami would get the hots for the not-so-tall, dark, not-so-verbal homicidal maniac type? Currently braiding his hair, for fuck's sake! Then again, too much had happened so far today that was off the map for this latest development to even raise an eyebrow.

'Let's see," he asked himself. 'First he shows up to save my ass, 'cause let's face it, pride aside, if he hadn't ol' Shimigami would be either dead or getting a helluva lot less TLC from some OZ soldiers right about now. Then the medical care and a bath and getting called a 'mermaid'-fuck I know I didn't imagine him saying that! And then all this logical sharing of body heat--FYI, Yuy, you're 'snuggling' --and by the way, you can comb my hair 'logically' anytime you want, buddy, if you promise not to notice my hard-on. So what's a little hair braiding between comrades, after all that?'

And, he added mentally, he felt safe with Heero. He always had, even when he knew Heero wasn't going out of his way to protect him. Not that Duo needed protection most of the time, or asked for it ever, but there was just something about Heero that made the world seem like a calmer place when he was around, even in the middle of battle. That's why Duo coaxed him to talk, just to make sure Yuy knew he was there. Same went for those gorgeous eyes. Those dark blue eyes could be cold as ice, full of anger, but Duo still liked it when they were looking at him.

So yeah-- here, now with Heero Yuy? He felt safe.

And safe was good for a guy like Duo Maxwell. Safe was being able to trust someone to get close without worrying about attack. Safe was being able to sleep knowing the other would keep watch. Safe was letting someone touch him without having it turn into something ugly and violent and unwanted and a betrayal.

"Duo?"

"Huh?" He started, realizing that the feel of those freakishly strong hands on his hair had sent him off to la la land for the second time in twenty minutes.

"Are you uncomfortable?"

"A little. My butt's going to sleep sitting here." And that was awfully close to a lie. "I should probably lie down."

And that's when the proximity alarm on Heero's remote went off and the Perfect Soldier was back, making the world real again. Damn it. Heero grabbed the remote and checked the small screen, his whole body suddenly alert and focused as a hi-intensity laser beam.

Duo shivered, watching him, and not just because Heero had thrown off the sleeping bag.

"North sector, near Wing." Heero grabbed his pistol and ran to the door, still naked but all business. He moved like a cat on the hunt, muscles like smooth iron under his skin. "I don't see anything moving. Arm yourself. I'll be right back." He pulled on a pair of wet shorts, and then he was gone. Duo couldn't even hear his footsteps.

Gathering his wits, Duo grabbed his pistol and pulled the sleeping bag around his shoulders. Following Heero in his condition would cause more problems than it would solve at this point, but he'd be ready to hold the fort. He fed more wood onto the fire, then melted back into the shadows beside the door, ready to ambush anyone who came looking.

Time dragged by and it got darker outside. Chancing a look, he saw a few stars twinkling through the thick branches overhead. Finally he caught the sound of feet approaching. Bare feet. He knew it was Heero, making himself known, before the soft, "02, it's me! All clear."

"All clear here, 01." Duo sagged back against the cold cement wall and lowered his weapon. He noted with dismay that he was shaking again, and seeing double unless he blinked a lot. He closed his eyes and let himself slide down the wall, only to be caught in strong hands and lifted.

"OK?" Heero asked, carrying him back to the fire.

"Yeah, just woozy," Duo admitted, a little miffed at being carted around like a baby again. "What was it?"

"A reindeer."

"Seriously?"

Heero nodded. Jesus, he was strong! The arms that held Duo were steady around him as Deathscythe's con chair.

"You're cold again."

'And you're all Perfect Soldier again,' Duo thought with a pang of regret. Heero was acting all logic and order and assess the situation as he checked Duo's vitals and made him drink from the canteen and take some more painkillers. Sitting side by side, Heero wrapped in the blankets, Duo still under the sleeping bag, they split a box of rations and Duo's stomach settled down. Yup, things seemed to be getting back to normal, right up until the moment Heero moved behind him and started pulling out the half-finished braid.

"I didn't finish this and now it's come loose," he said, as if it was the most normal, everyday sort of comment ever to pass between them. "Where's your comb?"

Duo's hands weren't shaking so badly now that he couldn't have done it himself, but he handed it to him anyway and closed his eyes, resting his chin on his knees as Heero ran the comb and those hands over his hair, smoothing it over Duo's shoulders and down his back. That warmed him plenty and he let the sleeping bag slide down around his waist, wanting more.

It was stupid, he knew. Heero had no clue the effect he was having, and Duo would have died of shame if anyone had popped in to explain it to him. He was quite certain that none of Heero's famous training exercises had included "Seduction 101." It didn't matter. Life was short, brutal and ugly and you had to grab the few good moments at they came and savor the hell out of 'em. Like that day on the Sweeper ship, right before Heero had ripped him off, the two of them lying on the deck in the sunshine, watching the gulls soaring overhead against that blue Earth sky. That was a good moment. So was this. Why question it or try to make it out to be more than it was? "Carpe diem, baby."

"Latin. Seize the day," Heero said softly, lifting his hair to section it for the braid. His fingers brushed the nape of Duo's neck and he couldn't suppress a shiver. "But who are you referring to as 'baby'?"

Fuck. He's said that out loud. And Heero had stopped what he was doing with one hand resting on Duo's left shoulder, the other in his hair. He was waiting for an answer.

+

Maybe it was the strange turn the day had taken and Duo's surprising ease with it all. Maybe it the discovery of how nice Duo's hair and skin were to touch. Especially that hair. Heero had only meant to be helpful, to prevent what would obviously be a time-consuming problem later, by combing Duo's hair and putting it back into a more controlled form, i.e.; the braid. He saw the logic of that style now.

And maybe it was the mutual adrenaline rush when the alarm went off and the way Duo looked at him when he came back, but something had changed. When they sat apart to eat, even though they were less than a meter away from each other, Heero felt cold. When their fingers brushed, reaching into the ration box at the same time, it felt like an electric charge jumped from Duo's body to his.

There was no question; this was sexual attraction. He'd felt it before, and read about the act in both scientific and fictional formats. He'd watched porn online. He'd masturbated and climaxed. But he'd never felt anything like this. Duo Maxwell, 02, pilot of one of the five most powerful weapons of destruction in the world, was the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen in his life and he was done pretending he didn't notice. It felt good to admit it. The question was, what was he going to do?

Ascertain the target's receptivity, his mission voice suggested.

Good plan.

There's been no question that Duo had enjoyed having his hair combed earlier. He'd left the job half finished before and now it was coming loose and tangling again. He moved back to his former place behind him and went to work again, sitting at a slight angle this time so he could see Duo's face in the firelight.

Even with the bruise on his forehead, he looked good, especially now with his eyes half closed and his lips slightly parted. Heero heard him sigh as he drew the comb, and then his fingers through the silky strands. His hair was almost dry, and it did feel like silk, in a literal rather than poetically metaphorical sense. It was very thick and heavy, too, and that added to the tactile appeal. Heero had never seen anyone with hair like this. Even if Duo had been ugly, or female, he would find this hair attractive. He wondered what it would feel like against his face.

Then he thought of the way it had felt with Duo's back against his chest, those firm small buttocks pressed against Heero's genitals, with only a thin pair of briefs between them. That had been good, too. Skin to skin contact could only feel better.

Duo had gone very quiet, and his eyes were closed all the way, but he wasn't asleep. Heero could tell by the way his breath caught every so often, the way a casual touch of Heero's fingers made him smile or sigh. Looking down, he considered how small and hard Duo's nipples were. Arousal did that, but so did cold temperatures. Would the application of warmth alter their configuration, and if so, how?

'I would like to have sex with Duo Maxwell,' he thought, amused by his own admission.

Then Duo whispered, "Carpe diem, baby," in the throatiest, sexiest voice Heero had ever heard.

Stunned to have his own thoughts guessed at so easily by a guy with his eyes closed, he fell back on logic, but only half seriously. "Latin. Seize the day." He brushed the smooth, warm skin at the nape of Duo's neck with his fingers and felt him shiver. He smiled, thinking Duo would find him very dangerous-looking if he opened his eyes just now. "But who are you referring to as 'baby'?"

Duo turned around and knelt looking at him. His eyes were wide open now, and looked purple in this light. The pupils had equalized and were functioning normally, dilated as a reaction to arousal and low light. In short, Duo had the prettiest eyes he'd ever seen and suddenly he was getting a very close look at them because Duo was leaning forward.

And they were kissing.

Heero had read that first kisses were often awkward or unpleasant, but maybe this wasn't Duo's first, because he was very good at it. His lips were full and warm and felt very good as they worked gently against Heero's. It seemed only natural to respond in kind. And to undo all his work on the braid, too, loosing that silken mermaid hair around Duo's shoulders and his own, so that it enveloped them like a cape. Then Duo was licking his lips and when Heero opened his to return the favor that tongue slid into his mouth. And that felt very good. So good that he pulled Duo into his lap and felt those long legs wrap around his waist, and Duo's arms encircle his shoulders. They were both still wearing their shorts, but he felt an erection as hard as his own pressed beside his and every time Duo moved they rubbed together. Heero groaned at the sensations overwhelming him and that only made Duo move more.

'Dry humping,' Heero noted, recalling the term from his research. He and Duo Maxwell were dry humping and Duo's hair was slipping and tickling all around him and Duo's tongue was in his mouth and life was very good indeed!

+

Duo wasn't thinking much. Feeling had pretty much taken over his brain. He was making out with Heero Yuy. He was messing around with the Perfect Soldier and the Perfect Soldier was totally getting into it! Duo wanted to say something clever and amusing about how far he went on first dates, and how splitting a box of rations wasn't the same as buying him dinner, but he had one tongue too many in his mouth at the moment to say anything at all.

Heero reached out one-handed and spread the sleeping bag on the floor, then laid back and pulled Duo and the blanket on top of him. They lay like that for a while, kissing and rubbing each other. Heero couldn't seem to keep his hands out of Duo's hair. That felt good. So did the way their legs tangled together and their hips rocked, finding a rhythm of sorts.

'I want to dance with you, Heero.' Duo thought. That would be hot, rubbing up against each other on a dance floor in a crowd. Like sex in public with your clothes on. No wonder people did that. He got it now.

"Beautiful!" Heero breathed, close to his ear.

"You too," Duo told him. "Feels good, and we got the whole night!"

Heero growled and rolled him over onto his back, then ran his tongue over Duo's left nipple. The sensation would have lifted him right off the ground if Heero hadn't been half on top of him. He arched up, seeking more, and found it. Heero licked both nipples, then nipped gently, and licked some more. It took Duo's breath away and every hot, sizzling sensation seemed to go straight to his cock. Yeah, he'd messed around before, but this? This was something else altogether! Heero shifted against him, seeking his lips and Duo felt that big hard, Spandex covered cock slide over his own again and that was it. Throwing his head back, he let out a yell and came with every fiber in his body.

He'd had hand jobs before and jerked off, and even had a blow job once, but nothing had ever knocked him clean out of his body like this half-clothed body rub with Heero. It left him weak and a little disoriented. He might even have passed out for a second, because the next thing he knew, strong fingers were slipping into the waistband of his underwear, tugging them down, and a hot, hard, very naked cock was rubbing against his leg.

He forced his eyes open and looked up at Heero. He was panting, still horny as hell, his face all flushed and beautiful. Those eyes looked black now, with a million mile stare going. And he was naked, and now Duo was, too. With something like a whimper, Heero stretched out on top of him and tried to get a leg between Duo's, which were suddenly very tightly pressed together.

"Heero?"

"Duo!" It came out in a soft growl, then Heero had both hands in his hair, kissing the breath out of him. "Need you."

"Need--me?" Duo looked up again, suddenly not liking that faraway look in Heero's eyes. "Heero?"

Heero reached back now and pulled at Duo's thigh, still trying to get his legs apart. "Need it, Duo. So good. Really, really need---"

And suddenly it wasn't Heero on top of him, not the guy who'd just sent him express mail to heaven and back. Duo wasn't in a silo. The fire was gone and the gundams and Finland . . .

He was in an L-2 alleyway, aged 9, face down over the hood of a vintage MG roadster with his pants around his ankles, about to be dry raped for the first of several times in his life, by a thin, good-looking blond man with white teeth and clean clothes and this great car, who'd just bought Duo the first ice cream he'd ever tasted . . .

And then he was back, with someone's scream still ringing in his ears and Heero was picking himself off the ground several feet away with blood spurting from his nose and what looked like terror in his eyes. The way he moved, it looked like someone had kneed him in the balls pretty good, too. Before Duo could put all the pieces together, Heero had grabbed his clothes and was gone.

By the time Duo figured it all out and found his clothes and staggered after him, tracking his footprints through the new snow to Wing, the access hatch was closed and Heero wasn't answering.

"Heero! Open up! Oi, Heero, I'm sorry!" Duo's voice was ragged in his throat. "I know you can hear me. Heero, please!"

+

Heero heard him, even with his hands pressed over his ears. He heard the voice, but didn't listen. It didn't matter. He didn't blame Duo for panicking and fighting back, because if he hadn't, Heero wouldn't have stopped, even though he'd heard Duo say, very clearly, "Please don't."

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