the duel: 1X2X1 a blow for pure neutrality
The healers hall had been swamped all morning; the casualties coming in steadily since the latest battle outside the city. It was early evening now, and things were finally slowing down, the wounded, tended to and sent up to the regular hospital for further care. Most of the healers on duty sat around the room, slumped in exhaustion, praying for shift change, and hoping that the influx was over for the night. Anna herself was cleaning up the discarded, blood soaked bandages, and stripping soiled linens from those beds that needed it. It was really a job for the apprentices, but the two on duty were leaning against each other in the corner, asleep, and she didn't have the heart to disturb them. It had been one hell of a hard day.
They all heard the thump of a heavy tread in the hall and then the sound of tired voices.
'Was not my fault!' The first voice was faint, sounding weak and strained.
'Well it certainly wasn't mine!' Rumbled a second voice, sounding tired and angry, 'I told you not to charge in there!'
The first voice murmured a reply, but it fell too soft to hear.
'You are not going to die!' Growled voice number two, 'I'm not done yelling at you yet!'
Then the pair appeared in the doorway. Anna looked up, as did every other person in the room, to see an Outrider stagger into the room, he carried the limp body of one of his comrades draped in his arms. Anna didn't see how he was able to lift and carry the man; they seemed to be near the same size.
She hated tending to the Outriders; the elite horseman who rode out in advance of the main troops. They went out in small groups, sometimes only teams of two, they were the eyes and the ears of the King, and went where others didn't dare. When they came the way of the healer hall, they were usually so far gone that there was nothing to be done.
The upright one turned to her, probably because she was the only one standing, and she felt herself pinned to the spot by a pair of icy blue eyes, and wishing she had been sitting down with the others. But that wasn't her job, and she quickly shook off her paralysis and moved forward to lead the glaring man to a worktable.
He lay his partner down, with a surprising gentleness, and stepped quickly away to let her work. She felt two of her comrades move up on either side of her as she got her first good look at the young man now under her care. She heard the sharp intake of breath on her right and glanced up to see Samain trying to cover a grimace.
The body before them was a mess. If Anna had not herself heard two voices in the hall, she would have sworn by the Goddess that this one had to be dead. She was fairly certain from looking, that at the very least, he had been trampled under the hooves of a battle horse.
His face was almost untouched, and she found that he was a comely lad; sweet faced, and with a braid long enough to make most of the girls in the room jealous. It was such a damned shame. Such a waste. Looking at him with a practiced eye, she didn't hold out much hope.
Then dark circled eyelids blinked open, and she found herself looking down into a pair of clear eyes so perfectly blue, they were almost violet.
'H…have we been introduced?' The sweet face smiled faintly, though the voice was bubbly and thin.
On her other side, Bella stifled a chuckle and dared to brush a strand of chestnut hair from his eyes, 'Aren't we the charmer?'
She had almost forgotten the other Outrider, but he moved up to stand across the table from the three healers and looked down, 'Duo, you idiot; be quiet and let them work.'
'Heero? Stop tellin' me wha...' The amethyst eyes struggled to stay open and failed, and his head lolled to the side again.
Anna spread her hands and moved them slowly down the length of the body on the table in front of her, muttering her findings to her fellow healers, 'Broken collarbone…five…no, six broken ribs…that one's punctured a lung.' She frowned, eyes closed, as her gift showed her the extent of the injuries, 'Something here…a lot of bleeding…damage to the liver, kidney too, I think. This leg is broken in several places.' She opened her eyes and sighed heavily, 'Goddess, I can't believe he's alive at all.'
She looked up sharply at the other Outrider, blushing furiously, having forgotten he was standing there, he was so…still.
'Anna.' Samains voice held warning, and she looked to him, 'His spirit…'
She looked down at the battered Outrider with her 'other' sight, and saw what her fellow healer was telling her. The spirit was trying to leave the body behind, the only thing keeping it, was Samains 'holding', which wouldn't last.
'What's wrong?' Demanded the one named Heero, 'What's happening?'
'His spirit is trying to flee the pain, Outrider.' She told him plainly, 'I'm sorry; we can't hold it here long enough to heal this kind of damage.' She looked around sadly, seeing the hold Samain had on it slipping. 'If there were any of the others here who were not already exhausted, we might be able to lodge it there, but…' She let the thought trail off, sorry she had voiced it out loud. It was cruel to offer hope just to jerk it away. It would take all three of them to heal the mess in front of them, and none of the sleeping forms around them had the strength left to harbor a strange spirit.
The ice had melted in the eyes across from her, and she looked up to meet a blazing stare.
'You can do that? Place his spirit somewhere else while you heal his body?'
'I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said anything, there isn't anyone who can…'
But he cut her off, 'Let me hold him.'
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Samain, who had been on the verge of releasing the spirit from its pain, clamp down with renewed effort, sweat beading his brow.
'What?' She looked hard at the man across from her, in his sweat and blood stained leathers, 'You don't know what you're asking, Outrider.'
He brushed her aside with a flick of those cold blue eyes, 'Can you do it?'
'It will probably hurt you a great deal, and there's no guarantee that you'll be able to harbor him.' She stated it matter-of-factly.
'What do I do?' His resolve was plain on his face. She had heard of the legendary bond that was said to exist among the select few who had what it took to become Outriders, and she didn't doubt that if it could be done; this one would manage it.
'Anna!' Samain was hissing at her, and she knew he was about to lose it.
'Lie down, here on the table next to this one.' She told the Outrider, moving quickly around to help him. He climbed instantly up, lying down and folding his arms across his chest.
'Samain, get ready.' She called over her shoulder, then to the Outrider, 'Close your eyes, try to relax.' She shifted his arms to lie at his sides. 'When his spirit comes into you, try not to fight it. He'll be confused, keep him calm.'
That was all she had time to warn him before Samain was yelling that it was now, by the Goddess, and they shifted the spirit of the dying Outrider into the body of his partner.
I lay still and took several deep breaths, trying to calm myself down and relax, as the healer had instructed me. It was hard, not knowing what to expect. My anger didn't help; it was unbelievably frustrating, coming all this way, clinging to the hope that if I could just get Duo back here to the healers that they would help us, only to arrive and have them appear to give up so easily. I wanted to kick the hell out of somebody.
I felt the healers hand on my forehead, and I jerked despite myself.
'Get ready.' She hissed at me, and suddenly, I was…somewhere else.
That wasn't entirely accurate. Let me try again. I could still hear the voices around me…faintly, almost unimportant. I think if I had tried to move my hands or turn my head, I could have done it. If I had opened my eyes, though, I don't think I would have seen the hall around me. I didn't try.
I just felt like I was elsewhere. A dark place. I felt strangely light and unburdened by the cuts and bruises that had been plaguing me all damn day. The hovering exhaustion seemed to have eased as well, I had been feeling, there at the end, almost as though I wasn't going to make it…but now; I felt rested.
Then I heard Duos voice, and there was a note of panic in it.
'Here, my heart.' I called to him, not really knowing where he was, 'I'm here.'
And he was in my arms. Just like that, as though wanting him there had shown him the way.
He was trembling, his arms tight around my neck. I hadn't expected for him to feel so…real, so solid.
'It's all right now, love.' I whispered to him, 'I've got you; you're safe. I'm here.' I found myself swaying gently, rocking him in my embrace.
'Oh Heero, the pain…Gods; it hurt so bad!' He was pressing his face against my neck, taking shelter in me, and I could feel his guilt and shame that he had not been able to cling to his own tortured body any longer.
I wrapped him close, letting my hand cup the back of his head, 'Duo…Gods, when I saw you go down, I thought I'd lost you.'
'I…I can't see you.' He questioned me, 'Are we…dead?'
I tightened my grip on the body I couldn't see, letting my hands slide up and down his back, 'No…we're in the healer hall.'
I wanted to explain it to him, but didn't quite know how since I really didn't understand it myself.
'I'm in your body?' He asked me, incredulous, as though my wanting to share what I knew with him had granted him the knowledge.
I chuckled, 'If I understood her right.'
'But she said it might hurt you.' And I felt him grow a little less solid in my arms.
'It doesn't.' I breathed, willing him back with me, 'In fact…it feels…good; right.'
He was a solid, real weight in my arms again, 'It…does, doesn't it? You're…warm.'
I sought his lips and kissed him lightly.
'Heero, I'm so sorry…I tried so hard to hang on,' His voice held such sorrow, 'It just hurt so bad.'
I gathered him close and kissed him again, and he opened his lips to me, searching me hungrily, suddenly full of need. He tasted of cinnamon and honeyed wine and I explored and tasted and opened to him as though it was our first kiss.
'I love you so very, very much.' He said to me, and I heard his voice plainly and clearly, even though my mouth was still locked over his.
You are everything to me.' I told him in return, 'It was awful, just getting you here was causing you such pain; I'm sorry, so sorry. I didn't want to hurt you...'
'I'm here. I'm with you, that's all that matters now, love. It's all right now.' And I felt his love and concern like a caress on my heart. I shivered and gasped with the overwhelming feeling and it echoed back to him and he moaned into me.
'I want you.' He sighed, finally breaking the kiss and bringing his lips to the hollow of my throat. 'Love me, Heero. Love me now…please.'
There was fear behind it, his and mine. We knew that outside this place we were in, that the healers were frantically trying to piece his shattered body back together. He was afraid they couldn't do it. He was afraid he was going to die and was asking me to make love to him one last time.
The very thought of it broke my heart and flamed my body and I was pulling him to me. I felt him pressed tight to me, touching me everywhere, his flesh bare and warm against mine. I could feel it, even though I couldn't see him, and I stopped trying to move my body and just wanted it.
Through the strange understanding we suddenly seemed to share, he mirrored my very thoughts and we came together in a flare of blinding light. I wanted him in me; wanted him buried deep, and he was. Filling me and stretching me and making me complete. I wanted to be in him, wanted to possess him, and I was. Buried to the hilt in his tight heat, feeling him squeeze around me. It was exquisite and impossible and we gave ourselves up to it. Lost in each other.
As we thought of, and found each new desire, it happened…and it didn't stop.
Penetrating and being penetrated. Taking and giving. Need for need.
Desire for desire. I was a flaring gold flame and he was a blazing red one. We wrapped and twined and touched and explored, found things about each other and felt things we had never known. I experienced everything about him that I loved; felt his textures, smelled his scent, tasted his essence. Somehow, joined so completely with him, I felt my own caresses, I felt what he felt and I knew that he was feeling along with me. The pleasure was a warm sea that took us under, not the usual, sudden rush of release, but a continuous flood of never-ending, fantastic completion. It washed through our body; our single, shared body and didn't stop. We wanted more. We desperately needed more.
I 'pulled' him a little closer, riding the waves of pleasure, and he 'held' me a little tighter, riding with me. We merged in a way we never had before. I felt like I was drowning.
And suddenly I was standing in that field of rubble holding a little, dead puppy…but this time, Duo was with me, holding me and easing the pain.
We were kneeling in the still smoking remains of a burned out church and Sister Helen was dying in our arms…and I was with him.
We crawled at night into a cold, hard bunk, exhausted from hours and hours of training, knowing that we would only be granted a few hours sleep before it started all over again…and he was with me.
We were watching the plague sweep through the streets of his village, we were holding tight to Solos hand while he breathed his last…and I was with him.
Two souls, twining and mixing until there was no Heero…there was no Duo…there was just some new creature, strong and perfectly balanced. Awash with the wracking bliss of answered need.
'You put two soul mates into the same damn body?!' Anna might have been angry at her superiors reprimand, if she hadn't been so bloody exhausted from healing the broken body of the Outrider. It had taken all three of them most of the stinking night, but they had pieced him back together enough that he would live. If….
'What the hell were you thinking, Anna! Did you mean to kill them both?'
It was finally starting to get to hot tempered Bella as well, and she couldn't hold her tongue any more, 'We didn't know they were lovers, damnit!'
Master Adair jerked and flushed, opening his mouth to turn his sharp tongue in her direction, and suddenly shut it. Rubbing at the bridge of his nose.
'Sir,' Calm Samain ventured carefully, 'We never guessed; they did nothing but snap and argue with each other during the brief period that the wounded one was conscious.'
'Master,' Anna finally managed, 'The deed is done. What do we do now?'
'The body will not live long without the spirit.' He told them, as though they were young apprentices, 'And the other one will soon burn out trying to house two spirits.'
Anna wanted to grab the man by the collar and shake him, to tell him to stop stating the damned obvious, but bit her lip and waited patiently for him to continue. But his next words were not what she wanted to hear.
He leveled a finger at her, 'You made this mess, girl. Get in there and fix it. And good luck to you; you're going to play bloody hell getting them separated.'
I was in Heeros arms. I was in Heero. I was surrounded by Heero. Maybe I had died and gone to Heaven after all…I had never in all my life felt so complete, so at peace. I knew things I couldn't know. I had given Heero things I had never known how before. We had merged together until I barely knew where I left off and he began. It was perfect, it was pure, it was impossible, it was right.
Anna, the healer; I knew who she was from Heeros memories.
'Duo, it's time to go back.'
We clung together all the tighter. I couldn't understand how she could ask us to give up this…peace…this unity.
'If you stay here, you'll both die.'
In that moment, we didn't really care.
'Listen to me; this is important.'
We didn't want to listen, could do little more than feel. It didn't seem there was an inch of my being that wasn't being caressed and cherished, embraced and loved.
'It's been almost too long now; you have to come back with me. To your own body.'
My own body? I felt Heeros remembered fear for my body.
'Duo, Heeros body can't hold out much longer, the two of you; together, are burning it out.'
I hesitated. Heero was in trouble?
'Heero, Duos body is healed, but it can't live without the spirit.'
He hesitated. I felt his apprehension for me.
'I have to go; don't I, love?' I whispered to him.
'I have to let you go, don't I, my heart?' He whispered back.
And the spell was undone and the pain of it was far worse than the wounds that had almost killed me.
We both let go and came back to ourselves with a sobbing, broken cry.
Anna slipped back into her own head, rushing out of the mind of the Outrider with the worst pain she had ever felt nipping at her heels. The tears streamed unhindered down her cheeks. The bare glimpse of the beauty she had destroyed enough to make her weep.
Samain came and put an arm around her shoulders.
'Healer.' The gruff voice surprised her, and she looked down into the blue eyes of the Outrider, blue eyes that weren't quite so icy any more, 'Thank you.'
All she could do was nod, amazed that he was awake already, that he even had the presence of mind to speak at all, after what he had been through. It had been a very near thing. Then he looked across at his lover and smiled softly, 'Can you get him a blanket, please? He's cold.'
She shot a glance at the still unconscious Duo, and wondering; looked at them both again with her 'other' sight.
Where the spirit of the one had shone a brilliant, metallic gold, and the other a deep, glowing red, they both now blazed with a rich amber light, and she could see that she had not destroyed the thing they had become, but merely housed the bonded souls back where they belonged.
All she could manage was a nod, through the silly, damn tears, and she went to get a blanket.