author: girl_starfish

Upgrade + Part 1

This was ridiculous. I'd faced many obstacles far greater than this one-many. I'd been shot, jumped from a thirty-eight storey buildings, survived situations that would give grown men nightmares without batting an eyelid. But I couldn't do this.

I took a deep breath and edged around the door.

My target was in plain sight. He was lost in concentration, totally absorbed in the metallic parts spread out around him. Sprawled on his stomach, he still managed to be somehow graceful. His nose wrinkled as he bent over some minute alteration, focusing on it-

My heart thudded painfully in my chest.

Duo was so beautiful and he didn't even know it.

I stepped cautiously towards him. I could do this, I could, I could-

"Hey, Heero, ya can't toss me the batteries while you're there?"

I could turn and run. Yes, that was a much more sensible plan.

I took one step backwards and he looked up, and I was powerless to move any further. The warmth in his eyes, the life that sparkled within them-

Clumsily, I fumbled for the item he'd requested.

"Thanks man," he said, eyes sparkling at some hidden joke. "I'm almost done here. I think I've managed to work out how to increase output without showing signs of things being monitored but I haven't quite finished testing-you want to give me a hand with that?"

I blinked, looking down at him. "I'm not in the right suit-"

"That's not a problem, Heero," Duo said, unaware he was splintering my good mood beyond repair. "You can just unzip your left arm-I only to access your UBD cables."

I complied, silently.

"Read out?" Duo asked, absorbed in the machine.

"0.5, 0.7, 0.54. 0.3." My voice sounded clipped even to me.

"Uh-huh. . ." Duo made a slight adjustment. "And now?"

"0.45, 0.15, 0.5, 0.17, 0.32-"

"That's good enough," Duo smiled, winking at me. "Give me a moment to get cleaned up, and then I'm all yours."

I smiled in response, but it was an automatic gesture and faded as soon as he'd gone. I didn't sigh, but my expression darkened as I caught sight of myself in the mirror.

On the surface I looked like any human boy my age. Slightly more serious perhaps, Duo often told me I was unnaturally neat-not to mention sexy. I kept my hair ruffled to offset this. It was enough to allow me to pass as human-as long as one did not look to deep.

Below the layer of artificial construct that was my skin, pistons and cogs whirred, fed by my blood, self-renewing fuel. My internal organs were mostly real, as was my face-if you didn't count the improvements that had been made there-heat and UV sensitive filters, target lock, magnifying glass to my eyes, increased processing and memory capability to my brain.

Despite my thin veneer of humanity, I was mostly machine.

Silently I opened the door to what Duo had christened 'the bat cave' for reasons unknown. Bats were a form of vermin that swarmed around the underlayers, fighting amongst each other and spreading disease. What relation they had to mechanics was beyond me. Perhaps Wufei would know, but I would never ask him. This was where we stored my other bodies.

I'd grown in the few years since I met Duo and we'd escaped together from J's lab. My body had no longer fit me.

Duo had grumbled about having to stoop to kiss me, then dug out computer spreadsheets, a tool box and a very large syringe ("This will hurt me more than it hurts you, babe"-yeah, right), and built me a larger body, outfitted exactly as the original had been, with only a few Duo-ifications. Almost as soon as that body was finished, however, he began construction on a second. Then a third.

Now I had five. The original suit, somewhere between cyborg and human. Then an armoured battle suit, with more guns than a small war. My face was half covered by a protective visor in this one, and although it was useful, I disliked it. It made me feel like the war machine J had designed me to be. Its only good point was the fact that it had allowed me to pull Duo out of tricky places more than once.

The third was a stealth suit, with self-cloaking device. The material used in it was lightweight and flexible, weapons minimum. I wore this one when Duo needed my help in infiltration and retrieval. Duo seemed very fond of this suit. I wasn't sure whether it was because it was because the suit was fashioned out of black and form fitting material, or because it was so useful. After mission activity had given me reason to suspect the former.

The fourth was halfway between the heavy armament of the second suit and the flexibility of the third, with the added bonus of allowing me to operate underwater.

The fifth was the one I wore now. It was designed to allow me to infiltrate and communicate with people without them realising what I was-it allowed me to pass as human in other words. At least, that's what I told myself. I'd created the comfortable illusion that when I wore this suit I was human-and without even realising, Duo had blithely shattered that.

I stared at myself in the mirror, my suits behind me.

This was my favourite-I needed to believe I was human if only for a little bit. But was it only fantasy?

"Heero? There you are!"

Warm hands wrapped around me from behind. That was something I could not replicate-Duo was always warm, was always soft.

"What was it you wanted earlier?" he whispered, cuddling into me.

The package in my pocket felt very heavy. It was impossible to give it to him now. Mission Abort.

"It's past the allotted meal time," I told him. "You require nutritional intake."

"Oh-thanks, babe. I guess I lost track of time." Was it just me, or did Duo sound disappointed? "Although," he whispered pressing his body more firmly against me. "I'm not very hungry-you want to help me work up an appetite?"

My skin might have been a synthetic blend, but the sensory pads beneath were very sensitive. I caught my breath as Duo ran his tongue along my neck.

"I would like that very much," I whispered.

Duo leaned in to kiss me, then pulled away with a grin I could only describe as wicked. He caught my hand and pulled me in the direction of our sleeping quarters. I hurried after him.

"Oh-Heero!" Duo had halted abruptly, in the entrance way to the dining/kitchen area. Looking over his shoulder I saw the table laid and the candles burning-how could I have forgotten?

"Some special occasion?" Duo asked.

"Research indicated that intimate dinners ensure good relationships," I answered, trying to keep my voice as calm as possible so he wouldn't know how nervous I was about all this.

"Then perhaps we should delay-" Duo suggested.

"No," I said hastily. "It can wait."

Duo raised an eyebrow. "If you say so, sunshine." He slipped ahead of me, hand lingering on the door handle. "Anything you say."

The promise made my sensory output feeders fluctuate wildly. I smiled back at him, then abruptly remembered the rest of my plan. "Duo-"

"Ack!"

Duo was standing, staring at the roses pooled around his feet with a very surprised expression. "Uh-Heero?"

"I ran out of places to put them all," I said. "I'm sorry. I was using the bench space for the candles after all, and. . ."

Duo had peeped round the door, to see our bedroom lit by a multitude of tiny flames. "Sorry, Heero, but I'm still not getting it."

I felt a little desperate.

"You said it was romance." I took a breath and repeated his very words. "Couples often do things to show each other how much they appreciate each other. Flowers, chocolates, candle-lit dinners, dancing, the works."

Duo was giving me a somewhat stunned look. "I said that? When?"

"Yes. Precisely ten minutes twenty-eight seconds before our first sexual experiment."

"Oh," Duo said. "You remember that?"

"Vividly."

Duo coloured, very attractively. "Hell," he said eloquently, before turning his attention to the pile of flowers at his feet. "So, run by me what these have to do with this again?"

"My sources indicated that of all flowers those most prized in romantic circumstances were roses," I said worriedly. Had my research been outdated? Was Duo allergic? Were these defective roses? I ran my internal catalogue of Duo's expressions past myself swiftly.

Duo had picked up one of the roses and was turning it over, his expression unreadable. "You don't mean to tell me these are roses? Where did you get them all? There must be hundreds--"

"Six hundred and twenty eight," I answered. "I tracked down a greenhouse upside-a few greenhouses."

"Shit," said Duo. I was alarmed to see a sliver of moisture escape his eye.

"What's the matter?" I asked worriedly-I'd really wrecked things this time. Duo never cried-

"You know, I've heard expressions like 'coming up roses' all my life, right? The sister tried explaining flowers to me once when I was little-she had a dried bouquet in her treasure box, from ages ago-but nothing grows downside. Nothing."

I frowned. Duo's expression was strangely still and serene-"You've never seen roses before?"

Duo smiled at me, quietly, reverently. "Heero, you have no idea what this means to me."

At last my catalogue had found a match. Duo had smiled that smile at me before, two minutes fifty three seconds before hauling me into our room for what had been some of the best sex in our existence.

Maybe I was on to something here.

Duo tucked the rose he was holding behind my ear and let his hand drift gently down the side of my face. "You are too completely wonderful, you know that?"

"I believe you've mentioned that before," I agreed and was promptly pounced upon.

It would appear that there was a relation between that smile and good sex.

The flames flickering along the benches gave our room a dream-like aspect. I sighed happily as Duo pushed me back into the mattress. He'd already divested me of my clothes and now seemed determined to make every inch of my body need him. The scent of the roses hung over everything. I knew then that I would never smell them again without thinking of Duo and this perfect moment-

The vid-phone rang-three rings-that was the urgent signal.

"Damn!" Duo threw a sheet over us as I grabbed the phone. "I am so pulling that thing out by its cord after this-"

I smiled as with the sheet safely around my shoulders I answered the phone.

"Who is this?"

Wufei's irritated expression flashed onto the screen. "Heero. A situation has arisen that needs urgent attention."

"Couldn't agree more," Duo murmured softly and I realised that instead of answering the phone he'd chosen to slip under the sheet, out of range of the vid-phone. I had difficulty keeping my face impassive as I realised what he intended-

Wufei seemed to be expecting something. A response perhaps? "Ah-is that so?"

"Where's Duo?" Wufei demanded. "I need to talk to him."

I winced as Duo let me know exactly where he was. "He's rather busy right now-can't come to the phone-"

"Well what is he doing?"

"Currently he's giving me-"

The sheet was abruptly in my mouth and Duo was draping himself over my shoulders, hissing in my ear, "Subtlety."

"Yo, Wufei. What's up?"

Wufei looked-I don't know. One minute he was irritated and cross, the next-just very sad. "We have serious news."

"Wufei?" Duo said, the smile leaving his face.

"Treize has made his move. At five o'clock this morning he led an attack on the heads of state. They're hostages or dead, and he's fighting the rest of the upside troops."

"What does that mean?" I asked, drawing Duo closer to me.

"He's bloody declared war on everyone," Duo said, slowly. "Hasn't he?"

"That's what it amounts to," Wufei said. "I'm bringing Quatre and Trowa round. We'll be there soon."

The vid-screen flicked off.

Duo shivered.

I wrapped the sheet around both of us, and held him, trying to pretend it was the room that made him cold.

[part 2] [back to girl_starfish's fic]