by: Sunhawk
Moments of Rapture entry (Fall 2003)
Warnings: Angst, OOC, language, Duo POV. Weird science of the made-up kind.
Standard disclaimers apply.


This was the place that should have held my most precious memory. This was where I should have found my life. My redemption. My soul. My love.

Instead, it only held the echo of the dream of what might have been. A memory of a thing so beautiful… so yearned for… that it cuts like a razor.

I had held it in the palm of my hand, had only to close my fingers around it, had known what was within my grasp. And had known the price.

The cost of one Duo Maxwell finding the happiness and joy of a lifetime had been the Earth itself.

The cost of saving the planet… of saving the peace had merely been one Duo Maxwell.

Not much of a balance.

So the day that Heero Yuy had sat down beside me in this very field of poppies, reached out to touch me… had looked as though he might just kiss me… I'd had to reject him. Quite soundly.

Even though I'd already seen that kiss, had already felt the magic that his touch would bring. Knew that the next moment would have handed me the key to healing my battered spirit.

I'd had to turn away. I'd had to turn him away.

Ah, God in Heaven, but the pain of that moment still bites as sharp as it ever has.

You see… Heero Yuy saved the planet. He won the damn war. Sure, the rest of us did our part, but it was Heero who was able to do what had to be done again and again, no matter what was asked of him. No matter the cost to his body and psyche.

And you know why? Because he didn't care. If he died in the line of duty… all the better, in his eyes. He just didn't care. And if I had given him something to care about… he'd have never been able to do what he'd done in the end.

And the Earth would have died.

Not much of a balance at all.

You think I'm being melodramatic? You think I threw away my life on a might have been? I'm not that altruistic.

We didn't fight and win that war because we were hard-headed little punks. We didn't win because God smiled on us. We didn't win because of luck.

We won because we were tailor-made to do what we did. Genetically engineered, if you will. Fucked over, if you won't.

Didn't you ever wonder what in the hell a batch of sixteen year old kids were doing piloting Gundams in the middle of a stinking war? We weren't supposed to be. We weren't quite 'ripe' yet. But the war had come all uninvited and the five men that had molded and made us had had to make their move or lose their chance.

So off we went to hell. Still learning to use the 'skills' built into our brains.

Quatre's 'space heart'? Everybody's heard of that, right? Did you think he was the only one who had… abilities? Did you think he was just born with that strange empathy? Not hardly. Thank good Doctor H.

At the same time, you can give your regards to the lovely Dr. G for gracing me with the ability to see the future.

Too bad it was such a sporadic, fucked up ability. Too bad it only granted me my damn visions when it felt like it. Too bad it had to go and show me what life would have been like in Heero's arms. Too bad… too God damn fucking bad.

I never learned what 'gifts' the others had been given, though it was a cinch that Heero's had something to do with his strength, and Trowa, most likely his agility.

Not that it matters now. Not that any of it matters now.

The war was over. Treize was dead and Zechs had been stopped. There was peace between the Earth and the colonies. It was over. We won. Heero pulled it all out in the end and saved the world.

Too bad he only had to hate me to do it.

It's probably petty, but I hate those damn scientists. And probably not even for the right reasons. I hate them… hate Dr. G, for giving me this ability that has done nothing but haunt me from the day it awoke in my head. I don't hate him for the training. I don't hate him for turning me into a killer and a soldier. I don't hate him for the hours of torturous practicing and exercising. Some part of me understands that he was simply playing out his part in this monstrous stage production just like the rest of us. No… I hate him because this field of poppies, this place that should hold my sweetest memory, only holds recrimination and broken dreams.

Seeing the future isn't an easy thing. You don't get a nice little summary all typed up and explained for you. You get… flashes. Images. The longer it takes you to make up your mind what to do, the more it fractures… splits. The future is a constantly changing thing. There is no such thing as predestination. There are possibilities. One giant fucking program full of if/then statements. Unraveling it, following the threads, is a mind bending task and you can't always be sure when you made the right decision, because the damn 'gift' abandons you as quick as it comes on. Fleeing through the corridors of an Oz prison, trying to avoid detection because you can barely stand up, a gift like that could come in real handy. But, no; damn thing never worked when I needed it to. It waited and kicked in when all I wanted to do was enjoy the moment. When all I wanted was to feel the touch of the man I loved.

When all I'd wanted was the one thing I couldn't have…

* * * * * * * * * *

"Is this seat taken?" Heero asked, voice a little hesitant, not at all like I was used to hearing him. I looked up and had to shield my eyes from the sun.

"Nope," I grinned. "I think there's room for two."

My heart did a funny little hop in my chest as he settled down next to me, not all that far away. It was rare for Heero the soldier to take time out from the cause for something like a little scenery gazing.

"This is… beautiful," he told me, looking out across the huge field of flowers. "How did you ever find it?"

"Just out walking one day," I shrugged. "Stumbled on it by accident. I was kind of glad that we're staying on at this school for a couple more days; I figure the flowers won't last much longer… I've been coming out here every day."

He was quiet for a moment and then softly said, "I noticed that you seemed to be gone a lot."

I smiled, thinking that I liked his saying that he noticed my absence, but, "It's peaceful here," was all I said.

"It is," he agreed, and then we got quiet for a little while more. At first, I thought it was my imagination that he shifted, moving a little bit closer to me.

I can't curse those moments of hesitation, much as I'd like to, because they saved the world. But I've often wondered how things would have worked out if he'd just leaned in, right then and there, and kissed me.

But he didn't, and my wonderfully well-timed 'gift' kicked in and I got to dream of him kissing me, got to dream of us making love for the first time in a sweaty tangle back at the dorm, got to dream of him telling me he loved me.

He loved me. I got to hear that… got to know that… before it ever happened. I got to feel his love for me from his side… from my side… got to feel the strength of it. Got to feel the beauty of it.

But when I traced that thread, that bright and solid thread, I got to see the flaw… see the weakness… see where it would all go wrong. See how it would all end.

The end of the world. The corpse of the Libra crashing to Mother Earth. The coming of the second ice-age. The end of everything.

So when Heero Yuy, the man I already knew loved me, the man I loved with all my heart, reached out hesitantly to touch my cheek… I had to jerk away. Had to flash him a grin that was sick and frightened for a whole different set of reasons than the ones he thought and I had to say, "Watch it there, buddy… I don't swing that way."

"I… I'm sorry…" he stammered, and I saw Heero blush for the first time ever. I thought that my heart shattered right there in my chest. I watched him snatch his hand back and felt like a drowning man watching the shore slip below the horizon.

"S'ok, man," I told him flippantly. "No offense or anything. I'm just not into guys, if you know what I mean?"

He just looked fucking miserable, and I retreated so far behind the jester's mask it wasn't even funny. Teasing him until he was redder than a tomato, and he finally muttered an excuse and fled.

I sat in that field of poppies and wept until I thought I would die from it. I had not wept since the day Sister Helen died. I have not wept since.

You see… Heero wasn't the only one who went on to do what they had to, because they just didn't care anymore.

The hero makes the sacrifices, huh? Well… the hero doesn't always have to fucking like it.

* * * * * * * * * *

So, peace obtained, that's where I fled; back to my field of poppies. But they didn't make me feel peaceful anymore, they just make me feel… cold. And very alone.

I held in my hand a bottle of unhealthy looking green liquid; the last will and testament of my favorite mentor. It came to me, as I suppose similar bottles came to the other guys, as a kind of… reward when the war ended. From some lawyer who had been entrusted with it; instructed to pass it on in the event of the end of the war happening to couple with the death of all five of the scientists. How scarily prophetic was that?

The letter I got with my ugly green cocktail, informed me that it would undo the chemical changes that had been wrought in my brain for the purposes of 'making me into one of the solar system's most perfect fighting machines'. That it would rid me of this damn ability that had done me almost no good since the moment it began to chew holes in my sanity.

I should have been thrilled, right? I should have been chugging the damn stuff down and dancing through the flowers, right? Well, there were two reasons that wasn't the case.

One; I was a little peeved about the timing.

Two; I didn't believe it.

You want to know what I thought was in that bottle? You know what I thought Dr. G had sent to me from beyond the grave? Death; that's what.

My personal theory was that those five scientists wouldn't want their creations running amok after they were gone. They wouldn't want to leave such powerful weapons lying around for just anybody to possibly control. I was sure that vile looking green liquid would erase my foresight, all right, along with the rest of me.

And, of course, my fickle abilities would tell me nothing about what was in the bottle. Nothing about what would happen if I drank it.

But you know; for the first time… I didn't care that it failed me, because it really didn't matter. I intended to drink it either way.

As much as I was tired of the frustrating glimpses of the future, I was just as tired of the struggle to go on, knowing what I'd thrown away. Knowing what I could have had. Knowing I'd had to destroy it, and knowing it was too late now.

So I took Dr. G at his word and I planned on swallowing his bitter gift, but I just wanted to sit for awhile first and look out across the sea of poppies and remember what might have been.

Because if I kind of scrunched my mind up, and looked at the dream of a memory that never was, at just the right angle, I could forget that I'd killed a thing that would have been beautiful. Hope. I'd destroyed that for the both of us. Though I was the only one who knew that. We'd each dealt in our own ways; him with fire and me with ice. He'd gotten angry. I'd just gotten… numb. Either way, we'd managed to achieve that place of 'I don't matter' that let us play out our parts in the stupid, damn war.

It let us win.

Even while I lost.

I didn't even flinch when the shadow fell across my own.

"Is this seat taken?" he asked and it was the surly tone that let me know I wasn't just remembering.

I shrugged noncommittally, feeling my shoulders hunch. Heero had not been… overly friendly since the last time we'd sat in that field of flowers.

He sat down beside me, though some part of my brain told me that he should be closer. I had to chide myself; had to force my head out of my memories. Almost memories.

"It's still just as beautiful here," he said, though he almost sounded like he was talking to himself.

"I don't know," I heard myself say. "It isn't the same somehow."

"Maybe we're what's not the same," he said and it surprised me, but I couldn't look over at him.

"Maybe," I said and nothing more.

It got quiet then, and I found myself fiddling with my bottle of 'Fix-a-pilot'. Rolling it between my hands and contemplating drinking it. I wondered if Heero had drunk his yet, but was afraid to ask.

I can't quite say what I thought about at that point. Not a hell of a lot with him sitting right there. It was stretching my grasp on reality; setting my nerves on fire trying to keep the might-have-beens in line. Though I distinctly remember wondering why he was there, but it was another thing I was afraid to ask.

"You sure as hell didn't hang around long," he suddenly said, his tone somewhere between accusatory and mocking. As though he were telling me it was no more than he'd expected of me.

"Not much reason to, I guess," I replied, looking out over the poppies, the blood red poppies, kind of glad that the conversation had strayed from the original. It helped me keep hold of reality.

"You could have at least stayed through Relena's celebration," he grumbled, voice going a little flat. "You worried Quatre."

"Oh," I said, hurt despite myself by the implication that he was here on Quatre's behalf. You'd think I'd learn. You'd think I'd give up; I'd done it to myself after all. "Didn't think anybody would miss one scrawny little street kid."

He didn't seem to know what to say to that, looking at me side-long with a strange little disdainful smirk on his face. Thinking about it a little harder, I suppose I wasn't all that damned scrawny anymore. Gundam training will do that to you. I didn't bother to retract the statement though; most of it was still true. I just sat and gently rolled my bottle of peace between my hands, waiting for him to get to his point.

"You going to drink that or play with it all afternoon?" he suddenly said, abandoning the other track completely.

'"Drink it," I found myself saying. "Once I'm done looking."

He turned to glance at me straight on for a moment, before following my gaze out over the field again. His voice lost a little of its edge then, "What… will you be erasing?"

I snorted, opening my mouth to tell him, everything, but then closing it again. Best not go there; I didn't think I could bear his sneer right then. In that moment, I was sorry he'd come… I'd wanted the memory of the what-if. The memory of the almost-was. But I couldn't for the life of me dredge up the feel of his trembling hand tracing over my cheek with him sitting there with that… snide look in his eyes. I'm afraid I fell back on the jester. "Why, Heero my man; I can see the future!" I raised the bottle in my hand in mock toast, looking at the field through the green contents and watching the flowers turn black.

Heero grunted with a hint of surprise in his voice. "Pre-cog?" he asked.

"Pre-fucked is more like it," I growled, closing one eye so I could make all the flowers in my line of sight turn black. But then the joker reared his head again and I grinned, dropping my arm back to rest on my knee, dangling my bottle of salvation in my fingers. "Gift is as fickle as love's first kiss…"

The pain that flared in his eyes caught me flat-footed and I choked to a stop, somewhat appalled at what my whirling thoughts had led me to say. "I… I'm sorry…" I mumbled, dropping my eyes to my lap, feeling hideous. God… the last thing on Earth I ever wanted to do was hurt Heero. Sooner cut out my own heart than hurt Heero. I wished suddenly that I hadn't delayed drinking my mad scientist potion.

"God damn it!" he snarled in sudden exasperation. "Which one of you is the real one?" And he grabbed my wrist in a bone crushing grip. I jerked my head up to look at him, and for a long second, our eyes locked. I think mine were watering… his flew wide and then he let go of me like he'd been burned.

"Sorry…" he murmured and looked quickly away.

I couldn't speak, didn't trust my voice at all. Just hunched in a little more on myself and decided that maybe I should just shut up.

I sat and cradled my bottle and my faintly throbbing wrist in my lap and he sat and rubbed his hand absently over his pants leg and I hurt a little more, watching him wiping away at the lingering feel of my skin.

"Heero," I ventured after a great deal of time went by, and it was obvious he wasn't going to speak on his own. "Why are you here?"

It did break him out of his revere and he glanced at me, but ignored my question. "You really believe that stuff was meant to kill us?"

I just sat and stared at him, ignoring his question for what he'd just implied. "Telepath?" I breathed, after a long moment to think it through, and watched him nod sharply. I started to panic, started to try and turn my thoughts away from the thing I didn't want him to know. But then I realized the other thing that had also been implied. "Through touch?"

He nodded again and admitted, though it seemed reluctant, "Surface thoughts only."

So he'd picked up my thought that I wished he hadn't found me until it was too late. I felt myself flushing, wondering if he'd also picked up on my need not to hurt him.

He turned to look at me again, a little of the sullenness gone from his face. "You can really… see the future?"

I dropped my head down on my knees and didn't look at him. Couldn't look at him with my face burning and my thoughts trying to run and hide. "Yes and no," I told him. "I have no control over when it works and when it… more often… doesn't."

It was quiet for a long moment, then I caught movement out of the corner of my eye. His shadow told me he was reaching out to touch me. I jerked and looked up at him sharply. "Don't," I commanded, though it came out not all that steady.

He hesitated and I saw in his eyes for a second, a kind of belligerent stubbornness that was telling him to do it anyway.

"Please," I breathed, feeling very damn afraid of a sudden.

His hand dropped away, but he frowned at me. "What do you want to keep hidden so badly?" he demanded, and that hurt was back in his face.

It twisted at my gut, that hurt, but I couldn't assuage it without showing him a thing that would hurt a thousand times worse. It was my cross to bear and need not destroy the both of us. I only wished that the future had demanded something easier of me; had asked me to step in front of a bullet for him, or self-destruct a Gundam. Something besides bearing the weight of the never-been.

I had no words to speak to him with, only sitting and looking at him, thoughts so jumbled up that I felt lost. His face softened further and he whispered, "Why do you hurt so much?"

"Lost dreams," some part of me told him before the rest of me shut my damn mouth.

He growled his frustration and we got quiet again.

I started thinking about what I would do if the damn elixir from beyond didn't actually do the job of putting me down. Mad dog Duo; crazy as a loon from all the visions. Tired as hell. You put down mad dogs, don't you?

For a truly surreal moment, I thought about asking Heero if he'd brought his gun with him. It seemed a bitter-sweet notion to find my peace at his hand.

"Heero," I finally asked again, when I trusted my voice a little. When it was obvious he was thinking too hard to offer up any words on the altar of conversation. "You never said why you came."

He grunted and I didn't think he'd answer for the longest time. But I wouldn't ask again, I'd already asked the question twice. But finally he told me in that flat voice that guards his emotions, "Closure?"

I sighed. Despite my efforts to spare him as much as I could, there was something binding us together still, something that I needed to figure out how to… severe. I needed to let him go so that at least one of us could move on. "Consider me a closed deal, man," I said flippantly, but couldn't look at him.

I could feel his anger like a ripple through the air around us. I swear I thought I saw the flowers sway before it. "You can be such an ass sometimes," he snapped.

"That's me," I grinned mirthlessly. "Duo Maxwell… ass extraordinaire…"

I wasn't expecting it when he grabbed at me, and barely evaded his hand, falling over on the ground flat on my back. "Heero!" I warned frantically. "Don't!"

He was on his knees, hovering over me almost before I'd figured out I was falling. "Why?" he barked and I could see his hands and knew he was on the verge of touching me. Of taking the answers he wanted.

I tried to calm down, tried to sound reasonable, tried not to let myself push away from him. You don't run from an aggressive dog; they'll attack you every time. "There… are just things you can't know."

"Can't?" he growled, a hint of that mockery in his voice again.

"Shouldn't?" I clarified.

"Explain yourself," he warned, low and almost menacing. "Or I'm going to find the answers myself."

I blinked up at him, feeling a little horrified by that notion, and whispered, "Mind rape?"

He looked positively stricken, sitting back on his haunches and staring at me like I'd just sprouted a third arm. I levered myself up and looked at him hard, taking advantage of his disconcertion. "The future isn't set in stone, Heero. It's a million possibilities branching out in front of you, changing as fast as you can unravel it. Some of the things I've seen… shouldn't be shared."

It seemed those visions rolled over me then, like a wave crashing in to shore and I remembered things I'd dreamed that had left me shaking and cold and desperate to figure out how to alter a history that hadn't been yet. I shivered hard and was surprised in the next moment to find myself flat on my back again and not sure how I'd gotten there. I took stock of Heero, but he wasn't touching me.

He looked odd… concerned or upset or some damn thing I couldn't figure out.

"Walk away, Heero," I told him and knew I sounded scared.

"I… can't," he said and he sounded a little scared too. "I have to understand… this."

"Some things just aren't meant to be understood," I told him and though I meant it sincerely, I saw him get angry.

"Are you saying I'm too stupid to follow your reasoning?" he growled, glaring daggers through me until I got a little angry myself.

"You damn son of a bitch!" I barked, shoving up from the ground and getting in his face. "I'm fucking trying to protect you! Leave it go!"

He looked shocked at first and then he looked confused. Somewhere in there I realized just how close I was to him and flung myself to my feet, stalking a couple of paces away.

"Your gift…" he began, and I cut him off with a ragged laugh.

"Gift?" I cried in disbelief. You call this a fucking gift? It's been nothing but a nightmare! Never works when I need it to… rears its ugly head at the worst possible times… twists my damn head with all these possibilities… shows me heaven and makes me destroy it…"

The vision I'd had that day so long ago, was painting itself behind my eyes again, overlaying reality, subverting what I knew as truth, rubbing my damn nose in it. It filling my senses and I knew I was swaying drunkenly. If Heero spoke, I couldn't hear him over the roaring in my ears.

Heero, leaning in so hesitantly, so gently, and offering me our first kiss. His lips feeling so soft and warm against mine. His hands softly tracing over my face… my throat, like a blind man learning a new thing.

Heero was suddenly there, the only thing keeping me on my feet, his face twisted up with apprehension and uncertainty. It was too much for me, too much to process and I sagged completely. He went down to the ground with me.

"Duo?" he called, a tiny thread of panic in his voice. "Can you hear me? What's wrong?" I wondered inanely if he thought I'd already drunk my elixir de mad-scientist and had truly poisoned myself. That made me think about that bottle and I realized that it was no longer in my hand. For a moment, I feared I'd dropped it, but registered that it was in Heero's possession now.

"S'ok," I managed and my… ability gave me the final betrayal. Twisting my head until I forgot reality for a moment. Until my mind told me that my lover was frightened for me, was worried for me, and the me that hadn't turned him away all that time ago, reached out to stroke reassuring fingers over his face. Bare skin to bare skin.

I felt nothing. Not so much as a tingle. But Heero's face changed so suddenly, eyes flying wide and looking shocked, that it brought me back to the here and now and I tried to jerk away. But I had initiated the contact, he hadn't taken it, and he wouldn't relinquish it so easily now that it had been offered. He caught my hand in his and held tight and all I could do was try desperately to blank my mind, to make the pictures go away. To save him from knowing the pain of what I'd done.

For all the damn good it did…

* * * * * * * * * *

He was quiet for a moment and then softly said, "I noticed that you seemed to be gone a lot."

I smiled, thinking that I liked his saying that he noticed my absence, but, "It's peaceful here," was all I said.

"It is," he agreed, and then we got quiet for a little while. At first, I thought it was my imagination that he shifted, moving a little bit closer to me. But then I realized I wasn't just dreaming it and my heart began to beat in my chest like a trip-hammer. I looked up at him, seeing my own hopeful, shy expression through his eyes. Emboldened, he reached out with a gentle hand and stroked it along my jaw. I smiled and turned into his touch, feeling my eyes fall closed. His lips, when they found mine, where warm and soft.

My foresight somehow let me feel it all. I could feel his hunger for me as well as I could feel my own for him. Could feel the hammer of his heart echoing my own. Could feel his love for me as solid and steady as a mountain. Fierce. Real. Steadfast.

When we ended up in the grass, I couldn't have told you if I pulled him down or he bore me down.

He broke the kiss at length, looking down at me with his eyes on fire and his hands roaming over me as though he couldn't touch enough. "I've dreamed of you like this for so damn long…"

"I know," I breathed. "I never dared hope you felt the same…"

Our next kiss was slower… deeper. And led us to rush back to our shared dorm room before we did something very stupid in broad daylight.

* * * * * * * * * *

Suddenly, I didn't need to pull away from his touch, because he jerked free with a hoarse cry. "What was that?" he blurted, holding his hand as though he'd burned it. "What in the hell was that?"

"Damn it, Heero," I gasped, off balance and still struggling to get free of the visions. "I tried to tell you… why didn't you just go away when you had the chance?"

He didn't answer and I struggled around to hands and knees, trying to get my bearings enough to get away before this mess got any worse. My head was splitting, trying to wrap itself around the now and the then. Around the real and the dream. Around the wanting and the didn't have.

Heero seemed troubled by my dizziness, but also seemed loathe to come near me again. He just sat back, watching me fight for control.

"What…?" he managed after a little time, hesitating and starting again. "That never happened."

"No," I sighed, not able to erase the regret and the pain from my voice. "It never did. Not in this reality."

It took him a second, but when his voice came, it was laced with anger, which has always been his way of dealing with the pain. "Why in the hell did you stop me?"

I laughed once, sharply and just a little bit on an edge I was struggling to stay away from. "The… cost was too high," I told him when my voice steadied.

"Cost?" he sneered. "To who?"

"To the whole bloody fucking planet, you bastard!" I snarled, irrationally angry with him for jumping so quickly to condemn my choices.

He looked… disdainful, and I knew he doubted what I was telling him. Doubted maybe, that I was even sane.

"Do you know how in the hell you did what you had to do when Zechs decided to hit the Earth with a planet-sized holocaust?" I asked him, breath hissing between clenched teeth.

"I just did what had to be done," he growled, his eyes narrowing as he glared at me.

"You did what had to be done because you didn't fucking care," I informed him. "It did not matter to you if you lived or died."

His glare lost a little of its anger and leaned more toward sullen. "The individual does not matter in the middle of a damn war."

"If I had let you kiss me that day," I told him. "You would have cared."

He looked at me and his expression told me he thought I was so full of shit it wasn't even funny. I'd done my job and made him hate me. Had erased whatever he'd once felt for me so well, that now he couldn't even listen to what I was trying to tell him.

"I am a soldier," he began, starting some rationalization that I just didn't want to hear.

"Stop it, Heero," I told him and let myself lean heavily on my arms, let my head sag until I didn't have to see him. Didn't have to see that judgmental look on his face. "Go away… none of it matters now… just go away and leave me alone."

"How do you even know if you… 'followed the right thread', as you put it," he asked, not listening to me in the slightest and I just kind of lost it.

"I don't fucking know!" I yelled, jerking my head up and getting in his face again. "I never fucking know! I have seconds to unravel the whole damn fabric of time and all I've ever been able to do is the best I can! This is what my God forsaken 'gift' showed me; what in the hell was I suppose to do?"

I grabbed his arm and I saw the flinch that told me he was afraid of my touch now, but I was too far gone to care. I remembered what I'd been shown as hard as I'd tried to not remember the rest of it.

Force fed him the end of the world…

* * * * * * * * * *

No Gundam went after that chunk of Armageddon. No one dared take on what appeared to be a suicide job. That great, hulking chunk of space ship plummeted into the atmosphere unhindered and wrought so very much more than Zechs had ever schemed. More than he'd ever intended. And if it was poetic justice that his precious Sanc kingdom was in range of ground zero, it didn't much matter in the long haul.

There was nothing much left of the majority of the Asian continent when it was all said and done. Millions of people died in those first minutes from the impact alone. They were the lucky ones.

What followed was pretty much what you would expect. The dust of the destruction blanketed the Earth, blocking out the sun. Blocking out the heat. The plants went first, if not dying from the lack of sunlight, then falling to the bitter cold. Nuclear winter to all effects and purposes. What was left of the planet's population tried to flee to the stars, but the colonies just didn't have the room to take them all in. Millions more starved or gave in to the elements. Those left were pretty much taken by the plagues that followed.

Riots broke out on the colonies as colony-born and Earth-born tried to integrate. Bitterness won out over intellect and it all went to hell.

In the end… there was nothing left at all. Man was but a memory best forgot.

* * * * * * * * * *

I was not altogether surprised to come back to myself flat on my back again, the tears burning their way down the sides of my face. "How could I accept that, Heero?" I breathed to the open air. "Tell me how I could risk that when the price was nothing more than my own sad little soul."

He sat beside me, looking a little shell-shocked, cradling the arm I'd touched to his chest. It took him a long damn time to come out of his own head to look down at me and all the anger seemed to be gone. "It cost the both of us," he told me softly.

"You weren't suppose to know," I had to tell him, staring up at the gray sky and feeling like I was about to fall off into it. "You were never supposed to know."

He shifted, and came to crouch over me, blocking the sky from my sight and making me blink. "You… meant to bear this alone?" he asked, though it was hardly a question.

The damn tears that I hadn't let fall since that day so long ago, seemed to have no end. I let them go; knowing that fighting them would only lead to helpless sobbing. I just ignored them the best I could. "On my life, Heero… I never meant to hurt you. I would sooner have died than hurt you. But how could I have risked that?"

His hand rose and seemed to want to touch me, but fell away again. Twice burned, and all that. He didn't seem to know what to say, just hovering there above me and it awakened an ache in my heart that I just couldn't take.

"Give me my bottle back and just walk away, Heero," I told him. "It's too late to undo what's been done."

His eyes got a little hard then; oddly determined, and he straightened up, kneeling over me and staring down. "What I felt in that vision… that was our future?"

I blinked up at him, unsure of what he was asking. "A thread… a possibility," I whispered. A cool wind blew across my skin and the poppies swayed around us while I watched the glint in his eyes turn to sudden resolve. Before I could stop him, before I could object, he had unsealed my bottle of offered peace, thrown back his head and drained it. I think I cried out.

But just as quickly, he leaned down, his lips covering mine and I opened my mouth to his touch. The flood of mint and acid should not have taken me by surprise, but it did, and I had to swallow frantically at what he was sharing with me before I drowned in it. He gave me space for one gasping breath before plundering my mouth again for the simple pleasure of it. I met his kiss in a faltering stumble at first, so shocked by what he'd done that my mind was still scrambling to keep up.

It was not at all like that first shy kiss of memory; almost harsh in our new reality, but even as that thought flitted through my mind, he gentled and slowed. As much as I wanted to lose myself in his touch, the bitter taste of it wouldn't let me. The burning feel of it in my stomach wouldn't let me. I remembered my thoughts that Dr. G had meant to kill me with that vile potion, and for a moment, I was horrified at what Heero'd done, thinking that he'd just killed us both. Then I was taken with a rush of guilty relief that it had ended up being Heero who had taken my life after all. But that was followed quickly by an aching grief for his sake and the tears only flowed harder even as I hungrily returned his kisses.

"Stop it," he commanded, drawing away with my face caught in his hands, forcing me to meet his steady gaze. "You have to remember it for the both of us, Duo. Help me make it real."

My wits felt as scattered as the damn flower petals the wind was tugging at all around us. I tried to focus on what had been. What had almost been. What had never been. But now that I wanted the visions, they seemed to elude me. Like everything else in my life, when I needed it most, it seemed just out of reach. I began to panic.

"Hush," Heero said, his tone as gentle as I remembered, and I caught at him in desperation, feeling the beginnings of a burning that some part of me knew was only going to get worse. "I'm here now… I'll help you…" he sighed, and his fingers stroked gently along my jaw line. "Like this?" he whispered and I nodded sharply. "Close your eyes the way you did," he guided, and I did as I was bade. I felt the shifting of reality under my feet and he whispered gentle encouragement as his lips found mine again, with that hesitant, cautious feel that I remembered from never before.

I cried out as the vision rushed home to roust, and Heero cried out with me. "That's it… hold on to it as long as you can. Remember it for me… let me feel it all… we're in this together…" More. So much more. He held me together with his kisses and his touch, with his words and resolve, when I didn't think I could hang on to anything.

Because while the crap in the green bottle proved not to be poison… I thought the remedy would kill us anyway. It burned though our systems like liquid fire and I think there was a point when I might well have blown my own brains out to make the pain stop. A point when Heero traded his encouraging words for curses of his own.

And then it began to rain.

It seemed like… a cleansing.

* * * * * * * * * *

I suppose that's why the rain makes me feel so… introspective. Why I'm always drawn to watch it fall and remember that day. Even now, all these months later. I think the rain will always be bitter-sweet for me.

I probably shouldn't have opened the window, it had really been a bit too cool for it, but I like to hear the rain as it hits the ground… hits the leaves on the trees. And the mug of hot chocolate I'd held in my hands had helped ward off the slight chill.

Second chance? Or the first one all over again? Sometimes I'm not altogether sure. It's all jumbled in my head until I can't make sense of it. I'd struggled for a long time trying to sort it all out, until Heero had told me that it just didn't matter. All that mattered was that we were together, and the serum had worked. No more trying to unravel the future. No more unraveling my own head trying.

Maybe we don't have that giddy, innocent love that we might have had once upon a time; there was just too much pain between us. But what we did have was as solid as steel tempered in the harshest fires.

"What have I told you about brooding at the rain," Heero's voice teased gently and I looked up to find him home from work, hair looking like he'd rubbed a towel roughly through it to get the worst of the rainwater out, shoes and jacket already gone.

"I didn't hear you come in," I told him, smiling in invitation and he came to the window seat to lean down and kiss me hello. He smelled of the rain.

"That's because you were thinking too hard again," he chided and I knew he was only half teasing. Knew that it bothered him a little when I let the memories plague me. Let my guilt and my fears eat at me.

I snorted and ignored the comment, because I couldn't control my thoughts any more than I ever could. "How was your day?"

"Too long without you," he said with just the hint of a theatric sigh and leaned down to kiss me again, his hand cupping the back of my head. Memory had made need sharp in my heart and I reached for him without thought.

Until my mug tilted in nerveless fingers and I broke away from him with a surprised yelp. "Shit!" I blurted and was only thankful that the liquid had cooled as much as it had or I'd have been ripping my pants off for a whole other reason.

It took Heero a second to figure out what my problem was, and then he chuckled at me, his expression oddly affectionate for a guy who was about to help me figure out how to get chocolate out of the upholstery. "Graceful, love," was all he said.

I glared at him for a moment, gingerly removing my wet self from the equation before I dripped any more chocolate on the window seat. "Well," I muttered, half to myself. "I sure as hell didn't see that coming."

There was a moment of silence, and when I looked up at Heero his expression made me hear what I'd just said. "No," he agreed with a warm smile. "You did not."

Then he took me into his arms, sopping pants and all, because even without his extra ability… he always seemed to know what I needed the most. And after letting myself remember what I'd come so close to losing, what I always needed was him.

"In this together, love," he soothed, holding tight.

"We made it real?" I whispered, quite despite myself.

"We made it very real," he whispered back, and gave me one of those gentle kisses that lets me believe in the reality we'd forged between us.

It wasn't quite what it might have been… but that made it no less beautiful.

The End

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