Sleet rattled against cracked windows, cold wind creeping through rattletrap wooden frames. Duo shivered.
Run duck hide scramble run squirm dodge run hide
Dark...they can't find you in the dark...can't grab you hit you make you hurt ...can't see them either...quiet too quiet...where are they?...scared don't cry don't cry so scared don't cry they'll hear you find you hurt you if you cry...
Hear them....closer...where? can't see can't see don't cry...no...go away please go away please don't hurt please don't make me cry
Duo clawed his way to consciousness, trying to escape the nightmare. It hunted him down, dragged at him with hard, merciless hands. "No..." He thrashed as he tried to push the hands away from him. Too strong. Always too strong.
But there had been someone...someone strong who hadn't hurt him. Someone who might help him. A powerful body, but so gentle. Who was it? His terror-soaked mind grasped for the memory. A name coalesced, and he reached for it desperately.
Heero jerked back from Duo's quaking body as though he'd been shot. The name burned through him, radiating pain from its point of entry somewhere near his heart.
Duo tossed and whimpered again. His moans grew louder and Heero clapped a hand over Duo's mouth, silencing him. With his other hand, he pressed Duo's shoulder to the floor in an attempt to still his flailing. Restraining him had the opposite effect, though, and Duo's struggles increased, his cries a keening wail behind the gag of Heero's hand.
"Duo!" Heero shook Duo's shoulder. "Duo, wake up!" He shook harder, his fingers digging into the boy's flesh.
Violet eyes snapped open. They held no recognition, only helpless horror.
"Be quiet." Heero growled, refusing to relax his grip. His conditioning screamed at him to choke the life out of the boy before he alerted their enemies. He ignored the order despite the panic that blossomed in his belly at his disobedience. "Shut up, damn it! I don't want to have to kill you!"
Heero didn't realize he'd said the words aloud, but their effect on Duo was dramatic. His body went limp as he ceased fighting; the frightened wailing stopped. Relieved, Heero released the boy, but Duo's childish whisper chilled him.
"Won't cry. I promise." The boy swallowed, his huge eyes fixed on Heero, pleading for something the Japanese pilot could only dimly imagine.
His first impulse was to slap Duo into awareness. But the tight, stricken face, expecting to be hurt but desperately hoping for something else, stopped him. Awkwardly, he stroked Duo's cheek, startled to find it damp. In a voice he hoped was soothing, he said quietly, "It's all right, Duo. It's Heero. I'm not going to hurt you."
The boy blinked. "H-heero?"
"Hn." Embarrassed by his ministrations and thoroughly confused by his own response to Duo's nightmare, he pulled his hand away. "Are you..." All right? Afraid? "...awake?"
Duo nodded. He sat up, wincing as he forced his cold-stiffened body to move. How much of his dream did Duo remember? Judging from his pinched mouth and haunted eyes, he recalled far too much of it.
Did he remember calling for Treize?
Duo leaned back against the wall. The thin metal gave slightly under the pressure from his shoulders and he squirmed a little to find a more comfortable position. The shed was as frigid as a meat locker, and Heero knew from experience how cold intensified every ache until even a bruise was agony. Treize might have treated his prisoner well, but he doubted the guards had been as kind. Duo hugged his chest, shivering violently. One hand clutched the end of his braid, like a child clinging to a favorite toy for security. With a force that rocked him, Heero was suddenly aware of how small and lost-how vulnerable-Duo seemed.
He reached a tentative hand toward the boy. If ever someone needed to be touched, it was Duo. But Duo had cried out for Treize. What good would his offer of comfort do? Heero let his hand drop back to his side.
The movement must have caught Duo's attention. He looked up, his eyes tired, wary. "So you didn't kill me after all."
"It's no longer necessary." Heero clenched his fists. The look in Duo's eyes hurt. And he didn't have a clue what to do about it.
"Thanks a hell of a lot, pal. Damn glad to hear my death is 'no longer necessary.' I can sleep at night now." Liar. Perfect Soldier chalked up another "mission accomplished," but guess who got the bad dreams?
Nothing else, no other explanation offered. Heero had battered down his defenses, leaving him open and scalding like a half-healed burn, and it was nothing more to him than the fucking mission.
"You really know how to win friends and influence people, y'know that?"
Duo tried to still the tremors that rippled through his body, aftershocks of his nightmare. How many months would it be this time before he was able to push the memories back into their box?
He rested his head on his knees. God, what had he been thinking, going to bed with an OZ officer? But Treize didn't seem like an OZ officer, not once he took off that uniform. Duo couldn't forget the way Treize had touched him when he thought he was still sleeping, as if he were one of those expensive antiques the Colonel collected, something that might break if it weren't treated very carefully. Like he was something valuable.
Why couldn't Heero ever treat him like that?
No use asking that now. He could forget that. Not that Heero had wanted him in the first place, but he sure as hell wouldn't be interested in Treize Khushrenada's leftovers.
Duo stole a look at Heero. The other pilot sat on a crate, one knee drawn up under his chin, hands clasped around his leg. He liked Heero's hands. The first time he'd realized that was back when they had just come to Earth, and he helped Heero repair Wing. Or rather, he watched Heero repair Wing, because Heero flatly refused every gesture of friendship Duo made. So Duo had been reduced to studying him, chattering artlessly-mostly to himself-and becoming fascinated by a pair of square, capable hands. Even then, he'd wondered what it would feel like to have those hands touching him. That night, and most nights afterward, he'd fantasized about Heero handling his body as skillfully as he handled his tools.
Screw that. He'd blown that fantasy to hell, and all because, as Heero had pointed out, he thought with his dick.
Must be nice to be like Heero, at least sometimes. Now, for instance. It would make everything a lot easier if his feelings had an on-off switch. If he could say, "Wanting you is no longer necessary." But that would be pretty much like saying, "Breathing is no longer necessary." Convenient, but untrue. Too bad, though, that his training had been so different from Heero's, no lessons on eliminating "inefficient" emotions.
Lucky Heero. He didn't have to feel anything he didn't want to.
Heero Yuy was afraid.
He'd never met an enemy who frightened him. Enemies existed only as data points in a constant equation of destruction. His own death didn't scare him. He'd lost that fear so long ago he no longer remembered ever possessing it. His training had even eradicated a human being's only two instinctive fears.
So why did Duo Maxwell terrify him?
He tried analyzing the problem. Duo's piloting skills equaled his own, but he was capable of human error like any pilot. Physically, the other boy could not match his own engineered strength. He might be smaller and faster, but Heero's greater endurance cancelled any advantage there. His mind was as quick as Heero's, but he lacked discipline. What frightened him then?
A long, brown braid that Duo refused to part with, despite its impracticality. A pair of wide, blue-violet eyes that couldn't conceal the pain or fear that hid behind a clown's mask. A cock-eyed grin that somehow managed to be both foolish and sweet at once. A slender, pale body shrouded under the false chastity of a priest's garments. Heero had no shield against those weapons.
No blow from an enemy had injured him like hearing Duo call Treize's name. But Duo looked so miserable, huddled there on the floor. And that, Heero discovered, hurt even more.
"Duo," he began hesitantly, his voice husky with fear. "Do you want to go back to Treize?"
Duo jumped at the sudden sound. "Huh?"
Heero felt as though he had his hand on his Gundam's self-detonation button. "If you want to return to him, I won't stop you."
"Why would I want to go back to Treize?" Duo blanched. The confusion in his face changed to sickened realization, a wound that cut far too deep for anger. "You really do think I'm OZ's whore, don't you?"
"No!" The denial burst from Heero with a force that startled him.
Duo snorted in obvious disbelief.
"I regret calling you...what I called you." He couldn't say the words. He couldn't be responsible for that wounded, anguished look, not again. Why had it never occurred to him that Duo had his own scars? But it hadn't.
"You regret?" Duo laughed, although it sounded more like he was choking. "I didn't think you made mistakes."
"I make plenty of mistakes."
"Yeah?" Duo stretched out, crossed his arms over his chest. "Name one."
"Field Marshall Noventa."
Duo winced. "That one doesn't count. You...we were tricked." He avoided Heero's eyes, apparently remembering that he had just slept with the man who had duped them into killing the Alliance leaders. "Try again."
"What do you mean, me?"
"I don't know what to do with you. How to treat you. I only know that everything I do is wrong."
Duo's eyes widened.
"I know I hurt you. I can't even say I didn't mean to, because I did. But I'm sorry." Wasn't Duo going to say anything? Heero found himself talking to fill the empty space between them. "I can't make it better. I can't change what I did to you, any more than I can change what those men did to you. I can't do anything about the past."
Heero stared at the wall of the shed, a spot beyond the other boy's shoulder. Looking anyplace was easier than looking in Duo's eyes. He would lose himself in those eyes. "I'm not sure what I want, Duo. But I can tell you what I don't want. I don't want to hurt you any more. I don't want you to be afraid of me. I don't want you to come on to me because you want a warm bed to sleep in." As he spoke, his desire slowly clarified and he struggled to put his nebulous need into words. "I want you to come to me because you want to. Not because you need to. Not because there's no one else to take you. Not for any reason except that you want me."
Duo felt like someone had punched him in the stomach. "You want to say that again?"
Duo frowned, looking Heero up and down. "Looks like Heero Yuy. Same charming smile, same well-groomed appearance. Sure doesn't talk like Heero Yuy, though. Must be an imposter. Yep, has to be, because I just heard this guy admit he makes mistakes."
Run duck hide scramble run squirm dodge run hide
Ah, hell. Sometimes Heero didn't understand a damn thing about people and sometimes he understood way too much. "Yeah, old habits die hard."
"Does it help?" Dark...they can't find you in the dark
"Sometimes. Sometimes not. It's worth a try, though."
"I wish you wouldn't hide from me."
"Wish I could trust you enough not to have to." Shit. That wasn't at all what he meant to say. But Heero's unexpected honesty had startled him. And since when did he engage his brain before his mouth anyway?
Duo suddenly felt embarrassed. Damn it, this was Heero, for God's sake, and this scene was starting to play like something from a cheesy old movie. "You want to tell me what's going on? I thought I knew you, and this sure as hell doesn't sound like you."
Heero looked at him. No, not exactly at him. Sort of in his general direction. Was Heero embarrassed, too? No way. Couldn't be. Could it?
"What's going on is that I can't function efficiently without you. I made foolish errors, maybe fatal ones. We aren't out of this yet. I've lied to myself about my motives and jeopardized the mission because of it. I can't ignore you or what you do. I-I appear to need you, Duo."
It wasn't the most romantic declaration, but this was Heero, after all. Not quite what he'd fantasized about hearing, but maybe as close as he'd ever get. "I guess if you can need me, I can trust you. A little."
He flashed his generous grin and was shocked to see Heero smile briefly in return.
"I'll take that. For now."
Heero moved a step closer. Duo realized a split second before it happened what Heero meant to do, but pure shock held him motionless. Heero kissed him, hard. His arms, all wiry muscle under the stolen OZ uniform, anchored them together. His questing tongue parted the smaller boy's lips and ignited a slow burn that spread through Duo's arms and legs.
Duo melted against him with a tiny mewl that a startled Heero felt as much as heard. He would have been less surprised if Duo had punched him, even though the braided pilot had agreed to trust him. A little.
How far would a little trust take him? Tentatively, Heero ran his hands over Duo's taut, lean arms even as his tongue drew more kittenish noises from the boy. When his cautious explorations met with no resistance, he grew more bold, sliding one hand under the long braid, brushing his fingers across the back of Duo's neck. He smiled into the kiss as he felt the willow-slim body in his arms shiver, and he allowed his hands to roam down to the small of the boy's back.
Duo's body responded eagerly, as if he were hungry for more. He pushed their hips together, and Heero could feel the hard mound of his erection through the layers of their stolen clothing. Heero's grip still welded them together, and Duo began to run his hands along his partner's back, mimicking the rough caresses he'd received.
Heero felt his control slipping. He meant to go slow for Duo, but his resolve rapidly deteriorated under those persistent hands. He grasped one of the boy's wrists, stopping his greedy fondling. "No," he told himself, growling his frustration in a low moan. Whatever it took, he refused to hurt his Duo again.
Duo's body shuddered with beggared desire, but his mind knew only the steely grip on his arm. He knew what would come next, and he closed his eyes, dreading it. Not the act, the hurried coupling, frantic with heat; he could lose himself in the sex, no problem. But after... They despised him when he enjoyed it and hated him when he didn't. And then they left, and he was alone again. Always.
Heero only wanted to use him. He said he needed Duo, but what did that mean? He was no different than the others.
Need and grief wrestled for possession of his fantasy. How long had he dreamed of being more to a lover than just a body to be used and forgotten once the craving had been satisfied? But look at him, humping up to Heero like a dog in heat, willing to spread for anyone who whistled. He couldn't blame Heero for treating him this way. He'd asked for it.
Still...just once. Just once he'd like to have been something more than a convenience. With a stifled sob, he gave up his dream and surrendered to Heero.
Heero pulled back at the sound of Duo's choked cry. "What's wrong? Did I do something wrong?"
Duo shook his head. "No, no. It's all right...not your fault."
So why did Duo seem as though he were about to shatter into tiny bits? Heero released the boy's wrist and raised his hand to the chestnut head tucked against his shoulder. Tenderness sat uneasily on him, but he stroked the soft hair with clumsy gentleness. The feeling that he held something infinitely precious overwhelmed him, and he pulled Duo close in a sheltering, protective embrace.
"Hn. I thought you promised to trust me." He tilted the heart-shaped face, lightly brushing his thumb across a dark bruise. "When we get out of here, I'm going to make you forget about him."
"Does this mean you like me?"
Heero frowned. Always the joke, even now. But something in those amethyst eyes made him realize Duo wasn't joking. Heero's answer mattered.
"Baka. Of course."
Duo said nothing but snaked his hand behind Heero's head and pulled his face close. He closed his eyes and hesitantly, almost shyly, offered his mouth to be kissed. Heero accepted, the velvet of Duo's lips warming under his own. Keeping his own eyes open, he watched the nuances of Duo's face as the kiss deepened. His partner's forehead creased as though he worried. Heero cupped his hand over Duo's cheek and nudged the pliant mouth open with his tongue, languidly stroking his other hand along Duo's spine. Slowly, the tension in the other boy's face eased. He nuzzled against Heero's hand like a cat demanding affection from its master. Heero pressed his palm flat against the small of Duo's back, pushing them together. He worked his thigh between Duo's legs, groaning himself as the smaller boy rubbed his erection against his leg. Gripping Duo's buttocks in a possessive, agonizing vice, he sought friction against his own hardness. Duo panted softly next to his ear, his hands clutching at Heero's sleeves as their clothes thwarted his efforts to meld their bodies closer. The braided pilot whimpered in frustration. He moved faster against Heero's thigh, but the heavy cloth of his coveralls prevented him from achieving his goal.
"Shit...Heero..." Duo squirmed against him, nearly sobbing with disappointment.
"What? What do you want me to do?" Heero looked into the half-lidded eyes, glazed with yearning.
"Anything. Touch me...please..."
Heero shifted, turning Duo with a roughness that betrayed his determination to be gentle. He drew Duo close to him until the round little backside fit against him, then draped Duo's leg over his own. This time, Duo didn't fight him. Instead, he grasped one of Heero's hands, pushed it between his legs. Heero needed no more encouragement. He cupped his hand over the quivering length of Duo's erection, his fingers searching out the head of the boy's cock through the barrier of clothing, rubbing it with his thumb. With his palm, he applied pressure to the shaft, stroking feverishly, losing himself in the challenge of making the boy squirm and cry out for more.
Duo jerked against his hand, flinging his head back against Heero's shoulder. "God...don't stop...."
Heero gritted his teeth, vowing to make the other boy come before he took his own release.
The door of the shed slid open, bathing the two young men in sunlight. A tall man stood silhouetted against the pale winter morning. Duo gasped as Heero's hand tightened on him involuntarily. Heero quickly pulled his hand away and moved Duo off his lap as the man chuckled.
"Well." The rich, cultured voice rumbled in amusement. "I'm pleased to see the two of you have resolved your differences."
On to part nine. Back to part seven.