Disclaimer: I don't own GW nor its characters, nor do I profit from my writings.

Warnings: slight angst

Rest for the Weary - Part 1
Duo's Friendship Arc 15
by Dyna Dee

Grunting from the effort it took to climb up and into his gundam, Heero Yuy literally fell into his pilot's seat. He was tired, bone weary, as Duo would say. Every fiber of his being ached with the need for rest. For the past six weeks he and the other pilots had been sent across the globe and into space with mission orders to attack Oz at their various facilities as the need rose. At a near frenzied pace, the five pilots tried to ebb the flow of weapons and mobile suits that OZ was reproducing at an alarming rate in an all out effort to flood the earth and the space colonies with their ominous, dominant presence. The leaders of OZ were making an all out push to advance their plan for global and space domination in order to dictate their version of peace. The five pilots had grown up in the space colonies with the Alliance's version of peace at any cost. OZ didn't smell any different or better than its predecessor.

During this time, Wing's pilot had very little contact with the other pilots. Once in a while more than one of them would end up being ordered to the same location, fulfill the mission, and have time only to greet each other briefly before they separated in different directions with new mission orders. He knew that the others, like himself, were basically living out of their gundams, getting only a few hours rest before another target was assigned.

Strapping himself into the pilot's chair, his fingers moved more slowly than usual, but with familiarity ease over the controls, starting up the systems. As he switched on the computer and communications console, he saw that a message was awaiting him. Keying in the codes, Trowa's face popped up on his right screen. His face looked drawn, tired, and worried.

"01," he began the recorded message. "I just wanted to inform you that 04 and I are standing down." His green eyes looked dull on the recording, missing the vibrancy that we usually housed there. "04 has collapsed from exhaustion and I'm taking him to safehouse #17 to help him recuperate. I haven't seen 05, but ran into 02 a couple of days ago. He looked bad. Really bad." He paused for a moment, then continued, a defeated tone to his soft voice. "We can't keep this pace up any longer. One of us is going to make a fatal mistake without proper rest. If you can square it with the "Powers That Be", join us, I'm sure you're as weary as the rest of us. I'll try to reach 02 and 05 to inform them of our status. Take care." The message ended and the screen went blank.

Bringing up the list of safehouses on Wing's computers, Heero established that #17 was a Winner owned villa on the Greek Island of Corfu. Closing his eyes, he envisioned the island surrounded by pale blue and serene water and, despite himself, he sighed deeply with longing.

He was currently in Northern Europe and had already accepted the mission to blow up an OZ factory in Belgium. He checked his computer again for the details of the factory and its location. Confirmation came in that pilot 02 had accepted the mission also and would meet him there at 1600 hours. Hitting the controls, the gundam lifted from its hiding place, the pilot noting that it responded as sluggishly as his own body. Time for a tune up. With a smirk he thought his gundam must be as tired as he felt. He put the chore of tuning up his war machine on the list of things to do once he had a little time. The top priorities on that list were sleeping and eating.

He arrived at the scene on time, and his long range scanner reported that Deathscythe was already there and engaged in battle. As he made his approach, he watched as the deadly, green glowing scythe cleft two Leo's in half as he spun in a circle. But to Heero's surprise, the black gundam then stumbled and fell to one knee.

"Duo!" he called out after activating the COM board. He waited for a few moments for the usual humorous reply from his partner, and when the COM board finally lit with visual, he was shocked at what it revealed. "Are you alright?" he asked, even though his eyes told him the answer.

"Mnn ok." Duo mumbled as he looked up through his long bangs and Heero evaluated the other pilot over the visual link. He could clearly see that exhaustion lined the braided boy's face. He had obviously lost weight and his face looked sunken and gaunt, his eyes were dull and dark circled, and his usually well groomed hair was limp with oil and sweat and was falling in loose stands around his face and shoulders.

"Stand down!" Heero ordered brusquely. "I'll finish this."

Duo shook his head. "I'll... back...... you." His voice sounded flat, matching his eyes as they shifted to his scanners. "More Leo's approaching from the west." he reported listlessly.

Heero checked his own scanners to confirm. He looked through his viewer to see the factory workers scurrying to escape the building that was his target. He'd give them a few more minutes to make it to safety. "You take the two on the left. I'll get the group approaching on the right." Duo nodded and his screen blanked out, though his audio remained on. Heero was pleased to see the black gundam rise and move towards its next victims, though almost haltingly. Heero maneuvered Wing to leap up into the air with his beam saber drawn, ready to battle with the approaching defenders of the factory.

Over the COM, he could hear Duo's labored breathing and grunts of exertion as he battled and realized that it was even taking a greater effort on his own part to eliminate the mobile suits before him.....more than it usually did. Trowa's words of warning echoed in his ears. As the last of the enemy fell before him, Heero turned his attention to Deathscythe. The black gundam stood alone, the two mobile suits he had been sent after were in splintered pieces at its feet.

Disengaging his beam saber, he lifted his buster rifle and targeted the now vacant building. "Move out, Duo." he warned the other pilot. Aiming, the targeting system quickly locked on, and in a heartbeat, the building exploded. "Move now!" Heero shouted at the immobile gundam behind him.

The black gundam moved as if in slow motion backwards a few steps, and as the aftershock of the blast hit them, his steps faltered completely, and in an most ungraceful movement, it fell back and sat down, hard.

Heero's eyes widened. "Retreat!" he shouted with no reaction from the other gundam and hearing nothing from his partner, he quickly closed the distance between them, worried that Duo was injured.

"Duo. Duo are you okay? Turn on visual." He yelled at the uncommunicative pilot as Wing landed next to the sitting gundam. The screen flicked on and all that Heero could see was the top of Duo's head as his chin rested on his chest. From the COM's audio and visual Heero could assess that the American's breathing was rapid and shallow. "Duo?" he called out, and slowly the braided pilot lifted his head with what seemed to be a with great effort.

"Cant..... do.... any.... more." his voice rasped out wearily. "Self destruct.... get away." A single tear rolled unheeded down his cheek.

"No, Duo." Heero's voice said firmly. "You are not in any danger of being captured. Do not self destruct." He ordered, his voice tight and authoritative.

"Can't.... anymore." an exhausted sob broke free from his throat.

Duo hated to cry, and it was then that Heero realized that his friend was not thinking clearly and was desperately exhausted. He knew he needed to do some fast talking to keep his friend from making a terrible mistake. "Duo, you're just exhausted. We all are. We're going to join the others and rest for a while. Do you understand? Don't you want to see our friends again, Duo? Quatre will cry for a year if you don't come." It had recently been something that they'd joked about. Quatre himself had started it when the others realized how tender his feelings were towards them. He told each of them that if they didn't live through the war that he would probably cry forever. It had become something they all teased the Arabian about, though not unkindly. They were all touched that their kind-hearted friend cared so much for them.

"Can't ... move." Duo whispered in defeat and his head slowly fell forward again.

"I'll carry you. Sleep. I'll get you to safety, Duo. Please..., trust me." Heero told the apparently unconscious boy, knowing that if Duo was alert, he would be able to detect the uncharacteristic desperateness in his voice. He didn't know if his partner heard him or not, but he needed to reassure him, and maybe even himself that everything would be fine.

Sending Wing skyward, he maneuvered the controls and brought it into flying mode. Circling once, he dove down and clamped onto the shoulders of the motionless gundam and, with great effort on both his and his gundam's part, he lifted Deathscythe, with its exhausted pilot, and began the flight southward.

It was after midnight when he stumbled up the steps of the villa with his still unconscious partner slung over his shoulder. Rashid had been alerted by the security system and met them, his gun in hand quickly withdrawn when he saw it was his expected guests.

The tall Maguanac quickly removed Heero's burden and cradled the limp pilot in his arms.

"Is he wounded?" he asked alarmed.

Heero shook his head. "Nothing recent or life threatening, just exhausted from what I can tell. He just needs some sleep." Looking up at the boy in question, Heero noted how small and frail Duo looked as he was held carefully in the large man's arms.

"Like the rest of you." Rashid commented, his tone disapproving. But his frown immediately faded, replaced by a warm, sympathetic look in his eyes. "Come. I'll take you to your room so you can rest. Are you hungry?"

Heero paused to evaluate his condition. Yes, he decided, he was hungry. "Yes, but I'm too tired to eat." he replied.

Rashid nodded and led Heero up the large curving stairs and down a long hallway. He opened a door and indicated Heero should enter. Inside, a small light burned in the corner of the room, dimly illuminating the bedroom. Heero noticed the bed had been turned down for him and it looked undeniably inviting. He stumbled, almost blindly on his way there, giving in to his weariness. But he stopped short, and turned to the tall man. "Duo?" he asked simply.

Rashid smiled. "I'll put him to bed and check for wounds." he answered the implied question. "If you promise not to shoot me, I'll return and see that you, also, are secured for the night."

Heero nodded, too tired to argue that he didn't need any help. "I'll try." he replied and fell onto the soft and welcoming bed murmuring his thanks.

He was barely aware when the Maguanac returned later and removed his shoes and shocks, and the gun from the waist of his pants. He smiled briefly at the comfort he felt of being carefully and gently placed under the covers and the blankets were tucked snugly around him. His head was cradled by a soft pillow as he drifted back into a deep, dreamless sleep.

A soft tap on the door awakened the perfect soldier. He felt only a moments disorientation before the events of the day before flashed in his mind.

"Enter." he called out, his voice thick and deep from the long sleep. The door opened and Trowa's head peered around the edge of the door.

"Can I come in?" he asked.

"Hai" Heero replied and sat up, noticing his arms and legs felt heavy and sluggish. His eyes followed Trowa as he crossed the room and opened the curtain to reveal a dim-lit sky.

"What time is it?" Heero asked not seeing a clock.

"Seven..... p.m." Trowa answered and smiled at the rare look of shock on Heero's face.

"I..... I slept all day?" he asked in disbelief.

"Yeah.... you needed it." Trowa crossed the room to sit on the end of the bed. "How are you feeling?"

"Better." he answered as he pulled his hand through his messy brown hair. "How are you, Trowa, and the others?"

The taller boy shrugged. "I'm.... functional, and Quatre is under medical care for exhaustion. Duo is still sleeping, and Rashid said I should let him wake up on his own. Wufei isn't here yet, but sent a message that he's coming. He actually sounded better than the rest of us."

"I think we'd better have him teach us his techniques of rest and meditation." Heero suggested. He took in Trowa's appearance. He had dark circles under his eyes and he appeared thinner. Heero deduced that he would need time to rest also before continuing on to fight.

Trowa smiled and nodded. "If you feel like getting up, Rashid has dinner ready in the dinning room. Or if you prefer, I could have a tray brought up."

"I'll come down." Heero replied. "That is, if I have time for a shower."

Trowa stood. "I'll inform him and see you in..... a half hour?"

Heero nodded, knowing it wouldn't take him that long. He didn't indulge himself in the long, drawn-out showers that Duo loved.

Twenty minutes later, he left his room, feeling somewhat refreshed from the hot shower and dressed in borrowed clothes that someone had kindly left on his bed. The pleated khaki pants and white dress shirt were obviously Quatre's. He wondered with a slight smile if all of them would be dressed like the Arabian until they got the strength to gather their things from their hidden gundams.

As he stood in the hallway, he looked down at the many closed doors. He wanted to check on the other two pilots, but didn't know where they were. He proceeded to the door of the room next to his and knocked softly. There was no reply. He tried it again and placed his ear to the door. Again, nothing. With his hand on the door nob, he slowly turned it and peeked his head around it. A small dim lamp was shining on a table, gave only enough light to show him the layout of the room and the vague outline of the furnishings. On the bed was a noticeable lump, and a head surrounded by dark hair lay on the pillow.

Letting himself in, he silently approached the bed. Once there, he looked down on its occupant. His fingers reached out and pulled the strands of long hair from Duo's face, seeing that someone had washed off the grime from the day before. The boy lay on his side in a loose fetal position. He looked peaceful, and his stillness seemed unnatural to the normally active boy. Heero suddenly realized that the bed covers were still neatly tucked around the slight body, not rumpled or tossed as they usually were when Duo was in a bed. Even in his sleep he rarely stayed still.

With growing concern, Heero reached out his hand to touch the boy's still and pale face. His relief made him feel foolish afterwards as he felt the normal body warmth of the other seep into his palm. He had momentarily thought that the stillness resembled death and it had frightened him that his friend might have expired while he slept.

He stood and wondered if the other pilots would think him foolish for such thoughts and emotions, or wonder at the change in him. They looked to him to be the perfect soldier, the example for them to follow. He scoffed at that. No one was perfect. But Duo had accused him of always striving to be just that, and at times, snidely referred to him as the "perfect soldier", especially when the American was worried or disapproved of a rash or dangerous action on his part. Heero knew his duty. He had been trained for it, casting his emotions and personal needs aside. Well, that was until the others had put a crack into his idealized vision of what he was and his single minded objectives. He still carried the objective of peace with him, but his view on who and what he was had now evolved. He had become more than just a soldier. He had become a friend, and that, in his eyes, had made him both vulnerable and valuable at the same time.

The boy on the bed didn't wake from his touch and, feeling satisfied that Duo had been sufficiently taken care of, he turned and left the room as he had found it. Trowa met him in the hallway, just outside the bedroom door.

"Do you want to see Quatre, too?" he asked, a slight grin on his face at the Wing pilots concern for his friends.

Heero nodded and followed the other boy down the corridor to the door near the end. He opened it and gave way for Heero to enter before him.

The room was obviously the master bedroom. It was large and expansive, the bed enormous, and the furnishings more lavish than the two rooms he's been in. On the right side of the bed was the small figure of the Sandrock pilot. There was a faint light shining from a small lamp set on the small table next to the bed.

Heero walked to the bedside followed by Trowa. Quatre lay on his back, his head and shoulders slightly elevated by several pillows. His pale blonde hair framed his impossibly innocent and young looking face, an I.V. in his arm and a bag of fluids hung from a metal apparatus next to his bed.

As if sensing their presence, his aquamarine eyes fluttered open, but only managed to make it halfway, as if it would take too much effort to open them all the way.

"Heero!" he said weakly. "I'm sorry."

"Hello, Quatre." the Wing pilot studied the boy in the bed and managed to smile. "You've nothing to be sorry for."

"How are you, Heero?" he asked, always the polite one.

Heero's eyes narrowed. "Don't worry about me. I'm fine. You concentrate on getting well." he ordered, trying to sound firm but not unkind.

"I'll be fine." the blonde answered yawning and his eyes fluttered closed. "Just tired."

Reaching down, Heero took the other's small calloused hand in his. "Then rest, and don't worry. Trowa and I will take care of everything. Wufei will also be here soon."

Quatre nodded, but then a frown creased his brow. "Duo?" he whispered.

"He's here.... sleeping."

Quatre nodded his satisfaction and his head soon rolled to the side as he drifted back to sleep.

"He doesn't stay awake for long, but the doctor said to give him time and he'll be fine." Trowa said as the two turned to leave the room.

Dinner was a quiet event. Rashid seemed to add or begin conversation as he walked into or through the room, carrying out various tasks in making sure the pilots had every thing they needed. They related to each other of finding their respective friends and the dire circumstances that brought them to the villa.

Trowa listened to Heero, his brows drawn together in worry. "I found Quatre in a similar state, though he had battled with me, he kept off his visual. We managed to finish the mission and take off, when Quatre quit responding. I followed him, concerned for his welfare." Trowa reported. "He wouldn't or couldn't answer my hails." He looked up his face grim. "He crashed Heero." he said, his voice strained. "He hit a few tree tops and then fell into a lake. Sandrock sank to the bottom immediately." The Heavyarm's pilot pulled his hand through his hair in agitation. "There was enough damage done to his gundam that it was no longer airtight, and if I hadn't been right there to pull him out....." he stopped, unable to say it, and let Heero come to the logical conclusion that they would have lost Quatre. He would have drowned in his gundam.

They both sat in morose silence for a few moments before Trowa changed the subject.

"Have you communicated with Dr. J?" He asked.

Heero nodded as he pressed his napkin to his mouth. "During my flight here. I was monitoring Duo's condition and realized that we couldn't continue. I informed Dr. J that, as of that moment, all pilots were on medical leave and, unless the world itself was in danger, we were not to be contacted."

"Thank you, Heero." Trowa looked gratefully at the boy they all looked to for leadership. "I wasn't going to contact mine or Quatre's director until he was recovered. We were basically both AWOL."

"Not anymore." Heero assured him.

After the meal was finished, the two pilots were escorted to a comfortable recreation room and talked about their missions over the last six weeks and shared their observation of the continuing war as they played a slow game of pool.

They retired early still feeling fatigue tugging at their minds and bodies.

Heero was up well before dawn. Dressed in his borrowed clothing, he wandered the villa, not to be intrusive, but to familiarize himself with his surroundings and possible escape routes. Stepping outside the dwelling, he found a familiar figure sitting on the stone steps leading to the front door.

"Wufei." he called out in recognition of the other. The Chinese boy turned but didn't rise.

"Morning, Heero." he said in greeting, a slight smile on his face.

Wing's pilot raised his eyebrows in mild surprise that the other reacted in such a relaxed manner. He moved to sit down next to him on the steps when it was clear that Wufei wasn't going to stand.

"How long have you been here?" Heero asked.

"An hour or so." Wufei shrugged. "I didn't want to disturb the household so I snuck through the security and decided to wait for the sunrise.

"Are you well?" Heero inquired. Studying the other boy in the dim pre-dawn light, he couldn't visually tell if the Chinese boy was in good health or exhausted like the rest of them.

"I'm well enough, but grateful for the respite." he replied.

Heero's eyes narrowed only slightly as he studied all the nuances that were Wufei; the glint in his eyes, his posture, and the strength of his voice. Heero came to the quick conclusion that Wufei was tired, but his mind and body were "well enough."

"How are the others, are they here?"

"Hai." Heero answered as he looked out at the horizon as it slowly brightened. "Trowa's okay, but Quatre is bedridden with exhaustion. Duo is close to that." He turned to look Wufei in the eye. "He nearly self destructed because he was too tired after the last battle to pilot his gundam away. If I hadn't been there..." And like Trowa the night before, he let the rest of his thoughts and fears of what might have been trail off, finding it hard to face the reality of it. Though hiding it, his eyes betrayed his emotions to the other boy intently listening and observing.

Wufei clasped his cool, reassuring hand on his friend's shoulder. "You are a good friend to him, Heero. You saved him again."

"We almost lost the two of them, Wufei." Heero said sadly in realization of the fact.

"But we didn't." Wufei stated firmly, sensing that the normally stoic pilot they all looked to as their leader needed his strength to buoy him, at least for the moment. He in turn studied Wing's pilot. There was a slight slump of the shoulders, his emotional state was not as stolid as usual, especially when speaking of almost losing the others, and there was a hint of dark shadows under his eyes. He concluded that the almost perfect soldier was in need of this rest period as much as the rest of them.

"How long is our down time?" Wufei asked.

"As long as it takes for the others to gain their strength back."

The two pilots sat silently, side by side, as the sky brightened in the east, and the first burning orange and curved edge of the sun peeked over the edge of the eastern horizon, casting it's first brilliant glow on a new day full of possibilities. Both boys turned at the sound of the front door opening.

"Good morning young masters." Rashid's deep voice boomed happily across the short distance. "Come, breakfast is nearly ready and a glorious day awaits us." he smiled broadly.

Exchanging a smile at the large man's cheer and optimism, Heero stood and offered his hand to the Chinese boy, who gratefully accepted the hand up. Together they followed the tall, obnoxiously happy man inside.

Around 10:00 a.m., Heero entered his room carrying his lap top and duffel bag as well as Duo's familiar black duffle. He shrugged the straps from off his shoulders and dropped them onto the bed. Moving his lap top to the desk near by, connected the necessary wires and he opened it, but paused as he held his index finger hesitantly over the power button. Mentally forcing his hand from automatically turning it on, he spun away, retrieved Duo's bag, and left his room.

Knocking on his partner's door, he waited, listening for permission to enter. His brows furrowed at the silence. Surely Duo was awake by now. He knocked louder and as only silence answered, he opened the door. The curtains covering the large window had been only slightly opened to let some natural light spill gently into the room. Putting the duffel on a chair against the wall, Heero turned and approached the bed.

A sharp intake of air displayed his alarm at seeing the small figure in the bed in the exact same position he had been in the night before. Without hesitating, Heero moved to quickly throw back the covers, revealing a pajama clad body. Sitting on the edge of the bed, he took hold of Duo's shoulder and began to shake it. "Duo! Wake up!" he called to the other. No sound or movement came from the braided boy. "Duo!" his voice rose, the tone reflecting his growing alarm.

"What's the matter Heero?" Trowa asked from behind him. He turned to see the Heavyarm's pilot standing in the open doorway.

"Get the doctor. Duo won't wake up." Heero shouted as he continued to try and revive the unresponsive boy in the bed. "Duo." he growled in helpless warning.

on to part 2

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