The cover was pulled over Duo's head. He was lying on his side in bed, fully dressed and waiting for the end. After showering, he had braided his hair and dressed in his clothes - his very own clothes - the ones he'd been wearing when they'd kidnapped him. A lavender colored dress shirt and charcoal gray slacks. He didn't bother putting on his shoes. He'd seen enough movies to know that they didn't bury you with shoes on.
Would they even bother to bury him? Maybe they'd leave his body to rot on the mountainside, and let the birds and animals pick at it.
Duo shivered. He didn't want to die, but he had no reason not to believe the threats. If he didn't continue fucking Heero, then he was of no use to them, and that meant it was all over. When he had shouted at Heero, "I don't want you touching me anymore," he had expected a fight. But Heero hadn't given him one.
Guess that means he's tired of me, Duo thought.
So, this was what it felt like to be on death row. Knowing the dark specter of death was drawing near and not being able to do a thing about it. And Duo had been the one to conjure Death to his door. But there could be any number of reasons to do away with him.
He pulled the blanket down just enough to peek at the digital clock on the night stand. Heero had been gone a long time. There must be a lot of preparations involved in setting up an execution. Heero had told him once that he wouldn't be the one doing the killing. Would it be some anonymous executioner in a black hood?
The bile rose in Duo's throat. God, he didn't want to die. Let Heero come back and fuck him all he wanted. He'd take it up the ass a thousand times more just to see another sunrise... and to feel Heero's hands on his skin.
"No..." Duo whimpered. It would only break his heart to have Heero touch him again. That was why he had made that declaration.
Click. It was the bedroom door opening. Duo held his breath. Maybe they wouldn't notice the lump in the bed...
It was Heero. Oh, God, they'd actually sent Heero to get him! It would've been easier if he hadn't had to look on that sweetly intense face again.
"Are you sleeping?" The bed dipped as Heero sat next to him. "I know you're upset, but I need you to come with me now."
Maybe if he pretended to be dead...
"You're going to have to talk to me sooner or later." Heero pulled the covers back. "Good, you're dressed. I want to show you something."
Did Heero plan on whipping it out one more time? The guy had a lot of nerve.
He grabbed Duo by the arm and rolled him onto his back. "Could you get up now?"
Duo opened his eyes. "What's the point?"
Heero sighed. "Forget you're mad at me for a minute, would you?"
"Mad? You think I'm mad?" Duo sat up, his cheeks quickly warming. "I hate you! More than I've hated anyone or anything in my entire life!"
Heero's expression cooled as he got up from the bed. "I don't blame you."
Duo stared at him, the fury in his veins overtaking his fear. And then, Heero held out his hand. Duo blinked, several times, disbelieving his eyes, but the hand remained extended.
"Come with me. Now."
It was the strangest thing, but Duo reached out and took Heero's hand. Why did he do that when he knew where Heero was taking him? He got out of bed and stood facing Heero, holding hands.
"Put on some shoes."
Duo's eyes widened. "No... I'd rather be like this."
Heero looked at Duo's feet and then back at his face. "I suppose it's all right."
Heero led Duo out of the bedroom and toward the apartment's main door. Duo's heartbeat raced. He let go of Heero's hand and came to a halt. Heero turned to face him.
"I know you don't normally leave my quarters, but you'll be with me, so it's okay."
"You don't have to lie. I know where you're taking me."
"Yeah, to an execution chamber."
Heero blinked, and looked perplexed. Then suddenly, he started laughing like a lunatic.
Duo gasped. "How can you laugh at a time like this?" The laughter continued and Duo felt as though his heart was being ripped from his chest. "You sick bastard! I hope you burn in hell for this!"
That last bit seemed to sober Heero. He wiped tears from his eyes. "I'm sorry... I thought you were joking."
"Some joke... Thanks for making the last minutes of my life a laugh riot."
Heero chuckled and shook his head. "You're not going to die. Just because of what you said earlier? Forget it. I was taking you to see some of my training facilities. I thought it might improve things if you got out a bit."
Duo felt woozy and lightheaded. He reached his hand out to a chair to steady himself. "Oh, my God..." He bent forward, taking in great gulps of air. He wasn't about to die? Ravens weren't going to peck out his eyes and coyotes eat his innards? "Fuck..."
Everything went black.
When he opened his eyes, Heero's face was just inches away. He was lying on the floor in Heero's arms.
"You passed out," Heero said. His eyes shone with that same concern Duo had seen before. "Did you really think you were going to die?"
Duo nodded and swallowed. His mouth was dry. It felt amazing to be in Heero's arms, breathing him in. Amazing to be alive. "You must think I'm a wimp."
"Actually, I think you're pretty brave. If I thought I was going to my death, I wouldn't have gotten out of that bed."
"Yeah, right." Duo snorted. It was impossible to imagine Heero ever being that vulnerable.
"Do you think you can stand?"
"Yeah." With Heero's help, Duo got back on his feet. He looked around the apartment like he was seeing it for the first time. "You've got a really nice place here."
Heero smiled. "Thanks. Can I get you something? You sound hoarse."
"Water would be great."
Heero's hand lingered on his arm a moment longer, and then he stepped away to the kitchen. In seconds, he was back with cold, bottled water. He twisted the cap open. "Here you go."
Duo took a long drink, reveling in the rush of cold liquid down his throat. He was alive! But for how much longer? He looked to Heero. "So, what does it take to get killed around here?"
"Don't worry about that. I have assurances that you're not going anywhere."
Assurances? Duo wondered what that meant, but it sounded good. Of course, there was still the issue of his captivity.
"Now, if you're ready, I'd like to give you that tour."
Duo wanted to laugh, but he was too emotionally drained. He'd gone from taking his final steps to having his captor want to give him a guided tour.
"Uh... I think I'll put on some shoes."
In moments, Duo was back wearing his black loafers, sans socks. He followed Heero into the hall, not surprised at the jumble of nerves in his gut. His captors had done a good job of making him afraid of freedom, even the tiniest bit. The last time he had been in this hall he had been running. It was a game then, and it was probably a game now, but he was intrigued.
They walked side-by-side and when Heero glanced his way, Duo took that as an invitation to talk.
"Did I pass some test?"
Heero's brow furrowed. "What?"
"Why the tour? I mean, it's not like you're not a busy guy, right?"
"It's time you saw more."
Duo blinked. Seeing more meant knowing more, and he knew damn well he knew too much already to ever leave this place. "Okay..."
It didn't make sense, but he wasn't about to argue at the chance to stretch his legs and breathe different air.
At the elevator, they continued down the corridor to the right. If not for the warm lighting and tropical hues of the paint, carpet and wood paneling, the space would've made Duo claustrophobic. There were no windows or doors to break up the long curving line of the corridor. At last they came to another elevator and next to it an emergency stairwell. It didn't surprise Duo when Heero chose to take the stairs. The space was pleasing, and reflected the architecture of the Corporate Tower with its use of white metal, and curved railings. How odd to put that level of detail into a utilitarian space.
Several levels down, Heero opened an access door onto a small, secured foyer. The walls were brushed silver metal, and again there were no windows. Next to the door was a security panel. Heero punched in a code and an optic reader lifted out of the panel. He leaned forward and his right eye was scanned for identification. The door's locking mechanism disengaged.
Heero looked over his shoulder at Duo. "We're here."
Duo's stomach did a flip. Heero pushed the door open and gestured for Duo to go first. He stepped inside what appeared to be a private workout facility. Heero led the way past a weight room, treadmill, spa, running track, rock climbing wall, and an Olympic-sized pool.
"All this is for you?" Duo asked, noting no one else was there.
"Yes. My physical training takes place here where it can be fully monitored and gauged." He pointed to several free-standing monitors. "When I'm in a session there are upwards of a dozen people here."
Duo now realized that Heero must be one hot commodity to get this much of an investment. But still the tour perplexed him. It was that line between being a captive, and possibly being something more that he didn't understand.
"How often do you have sessions?"
"Everyday, but the intensity varies." Heero took Duo to the pool and crouched down, dipping his hand in the water. "It's warmer than usual. They must be planning a tropical water simulation."
Duo instinctively bent down and put his hand in the water, too. "Not bad, but you normally swim in colder water?"
Heero nodded. "I have to be prepared for any situation. One of my most unpleasant training exercises conditioned me against hypothermia."
"Don't tell me they stuck you in a snow bank for the night?"
Heero grinned. "Not exactly."
"Geez, man. How do you do it?"
"Let these guys put you through the wringer like that. What are they, sadists?"
"You think this is deliberate cruelty? If it wasn't for this training I wouldn't have survived my missions."
Duo stood up, hearing the defensive tone in Heero's voice. "Hey, I'm just saying...." His words drifted off as Heero got up and faced him.
"What does it matter to you?" Heero asked.
The blue in Heero's eyes had gone dark, making Duo shiver. "Uh, it's no matter really."
Heero stepped forward, causing Duo to take a step back. "Doesn't it please you knowing they subject me to pain?"
"Why would I be pleased?" Duo laughed nervously.
Heero kept moving forward, pushing Duo back until he bumped into one of the monitors.
"You said it yourself..." Heero placed his hands on either side of Duo on the monitor, pinning him to the spot. "You hate me."
Duo gulped. There was no hint of softness in Heero's eyes. Was Heero going to hurt him? Give Duo some of the lessons in pain he had learned in this training facility?
"You shouldn't take everything I say so seriously." Duo's nervous laugh was back, and he cringed at the sound of it.
"A declaration of hate is not spoken lightly."
"So what if I said it?" Duo asked, regaining his defiant streak. "Look what you've done to me."
And to Duo's dismay, Heero searched his eyes, and God, he believed that Heero could see the truth of what he'd done... that he'd touched Duo's heart.
"Why are you blushing?" Heero asked.
Duo closed his eyes. Maybe he could pretend this wasn't happening, that Heero did not have him cornered physically and emotionally. Suddenly, there were warm lips on his - a passionate kiss forcing its way past Duo's defenses. Heero's tongue slipped inside, awakening his senses. His hands settled on Duo's hips, holding him in place as he kissed Duo again and again.
I don't hate you, Duo thought. I don't...
But he couldn't take back what he'd said. It was meant to protect him. And it seemed this kiss was meant to take that barrier away. But why would Heero care if Duo hated him or not? He was getting what he wanted anyway.
Duo pressed his hands to Heero's chest, trying to ease the kiss. But Heero's attention was unrelenting. He wrapped his arms around Duo's waist, bringing their bodies together, and deepening the contact.
When the kiss ended, Heero's lips glided along Duo's warm cheek, sending a tingle through Duo. Heero's breath was hot in his ear. "Don't hate me, Duo."
Duo gasped, but suddenly a loud, clanging bell sounded. Heero pulled away. He looked up at the wall where the words, "Report for duty," appeared on a flat screen.
"I'm being called for a mission."
"It can happen at any time. I'll get Doctor Po to take you back."
"I'd rather it was Miss Noin."
Heero gave Duo a curious look, but said nothing. He gestured for Duo to follow him to a communications panel where he made the call.
"I have to report in. You'll be fine until Lucrezia arrives."
Duo nodded, and took a seat. It shouldn't have surprised him when Heero just turned and walked away. He watched Heero exit the facility through a different door than the one they had used. When the door closed behind him, Duo cringed at the wave of emptiness that hit him.
"Damn it," he said, pounding his fists on his thighs.
The way Heero switched off in an instant made Duo wonder if he had imagined those words - "Don't hate me, Duo." They played again and again in Duo's mind, resonating in the deep tone of Heero's voice. It made his heart beat faster. Why would Heero say that? Was his conscience troubling him? It was such an odd thing to say unless...
Duo looked back to the door as if hoping by some chance that Heero hadn't gone after all. Could it be that Heero felt something, too?