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

Warnings: slight angst

Rest for the Weary - Part 2
Duo's Friendship Arc 15
by Dyna Dee

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

"Get the doctor. Duo won't wake up." Heero yelled over his shoulder as he continued to try and revive the unresponsive boy in the bed. "Duo." he growled in a tone of helpless warning.

The doctor was in Quatre's room when Trowa rushed in. The older man only had a moment to grab his black medical bag as he was pulled out of the room and down the hall, leaving the blonde in the massive bed wide-eyed and alarmed. Rashid, hearing the commotion, joined them as they entered the pilot of Deathscythe's room to find Heero sitting on the edge of the bed. He had lifted Duo up and was holding the limp boy in his arms and close to his chest. "Wake up, Duo." he pleaded more gently now as he rocked back and forth ever so slightly.

Heero looked up to observe the newcomer. "Here, let me see him, son." the doctor insisted gently. He was an older gentleman, mid fifties, of middle eastern descent, with a shock of white hair covering his head that contrasted sharply with his dark skin. His face and slightly protruding belly seemed to be the only roundness on this otherwise sharp angled man. To offset the roundness of his face, he wore small oval, half glasses which seemed to balance quite comfortably on the end of his nose.

Gently, Heero lay Duo down, making sure his head went back onto the soft pillow with his braid pulled to the side before standing up to let the doctor take his place. Moving behind the older man to observe, both Rashid and Trowa noticed that Heero had an odd and very unfamiliar look of helplessness on his face and in his stance of having his arms wrapped tightly around his middle. The Heavyarm's pilot moved up and put his arm around the Japanese boy's shoulders, lending him his support, knowing he had felt the same helplessness only a few days ago when the doctor examined Quatre.

The doctor quickly checked the braided boy's pulse and dilation of his pupils. He felt his face and, when he pinched his skin, it stayed puckered.

"He's in a similar condition as Master Quatre, though I'd guess a bit worse." he said out loud to no one in particular. "Comatose from exhaustion and dehydrated."

Pulling out a cell phone, he hit a speed dial button and began giving a list of urgent supplies needed immediately to the person on the other end. Putting the phone down, he unbuttoned Duo's pajama top to examine his skin.

Rashid stepped forward. "I prepared him for bed, Dr. Yemin." he volunteered. "I checked for broken bones or suspicious bruising indicating internal bleeding, but found neither, just a lot of bruises. He just appeared to be asleep."

The doctor nodded and reached for the black medical bag he had placed on the floor when he sat to examine the boy. He pulled out an empty syringe and a long elastic band. Rolling up Duo's right sleeve, he tied the band around the limp arm and began to prepare to extract a blood sample.

"His pulse is a bit thready, but I'd expect that." he told the three behind him, hoping to alleviate the deep frowns of worry on their faces.

"Why doesn't he wake up?" Heero asked.

"I suspect it's from a number of reasons." the doctor replied calmly, but was interrupted when a woman rushed into the room carrying an armful of supplies requested only moments before. "I'm going to give him an I.V. to pump fluids and nutrients into his body, both of which I suspect he's lacking. I'll run the blood tests and, if he doesn't improve in a couple of hours, we may need to get him to a hospital for a full body scan."

The two pilots and Rashid stepped several feet back in order to give the doctor and his assistant room to do what they needed for their friend. The I.V. and the drawing of blood took longer than expected as the unconscious boy's dehydration made it difficult to find a vein. Yet after some diligent work by the doctor and nurse, the thick needle was inserted into a vein in Duo's right hand where a larger vein was found, then his forearm and wrist was secured to a white plastic board to keep it immobile. Two bags of fluids were hung from a quickly erected metal apparatus and soon drops of liquid ran into the I.V. tube.

A half hour after it all started, the doctor tucked the covers around the peaceful looking boy. The five standing around the bed stared at the slumbering form for a moment. He looked so young, pale and....beautiful in his unnatural stillness.

The doctor turned to the two silent boys behind him. "I think after this episode that maybe I should examine all of you." he studied them with a critical eye, taking in their weary stances and their tired and pale faces.

"I'm fine." Trowa replied quickly to the white haired man.

"The three of us are healthy, just tired." Heero stated firmly.

The doctor nodded. "Yes, I was told another boy wandered in this morning, and looking better than the rest of you. I suspect you all need an iron rich diet and maybe a shot of vitamins with iron. I'll speak to the cook and see if she will prepare those foods rich in the nutrients that will help return your strength quickly.

Both boys nodded their approval.

"For the next few days," the doctor began his oral prescription for them. "I want those of you walking about to limit your physical activity and take at least one nap a day. No alcohol and only healthy foods. Understood?"

Both nodded again.

"Very well." The older man smiled, pleased. "Mirum," he indicated the older lady that moved about the room bringing a chair closer to the bed, "will sit with the boy to monitor his condition." Bending over, he put some of the objects he had used in examining Duo back into his bag. He stood up and was surprised to see the Japanese boy standing directly in front of him. His cobalt blue eyes were intensely studying him. Seeing a flicker of movement, the doctor looked down and saw that the boy had extended his hand, which he happily received with his own.

"Thank you, Dr Yemin. I'm Heero, and he's Duo." he indicated with a motion of his head to the boy he had just treated.

"You're welcome, Heero. Please, try not to worry too much about your friend. You either Trowa." He gently admonished, with a smile for the serious boy standing behind Heero. His eyes returned to the boy in front of him as they released their handshake.

"I'll come with you back to Quatre's room." Trowa said as the doctor bent over to retrieve his medical bag and leave the room. "He'll want an explanation of why I dragged you out of there so quickly."

Heero turned to watch them go, then returned to look back at the boy in the bed. Mirum, the doctors assistant, now sat in a chair by Duo's bedside. She looked up at the standing boy and smiled. "Go on now. I'll look after him." Her voice was gentle and reassuring.

Not really having anything else to do, Heero hesitated, then turned to leave as she made a "get moving" motion with her hand in directing him to the door.

Wufei woke mid afternoon to find his clothing had been removed from the room with a note explaining they were being cleaned and that some fresh clothing had been left on the bed for his use. After a relaxing shower, he dressed in the provided clothing and prepared to leave his room in order to find some nourishment and to check on the others. He chuckled to himself as caught sight of his reflection in the mirror just before departing. He was amused by the clothing, obviously Quatre's, khaki pants and a long sleeve oxford shirt, and realized that his Arabian friend, despite his vast riches, was as limited in his choice of clothing as Heero was. At least the shirt that was left out for him was white, not pink. On exiting his room, he was surprised to see Heero leaning against the wall next to a bedroom door. He then remembered the Wing pilot saying earlier that morning, as he led him to his room, that it was Duo's room.

"Nice outfit." Wufei smiled sardonically at Heero as he approached, noting that Heero was dressed in very similar clothing to his own. But the stoic pilot didn't seem to share his humor, indeed, he looked quite intense. "Anything wrong?"

Heero nodded his head, and then related to him the events of the morning and went on to explain why he was there. "Rashid told me a short while ago that the doctor's assistant summoned the doctor to Duo's room. I'm waiting to hear what's going on."

Heero's usually placid face was now etched with worry. Wufei felt the need to reassure him, even though he himself felt alarmed at the report he had just heard of Duo's condition. "Let's hope for good news." he said firmly as his hand reached out to clasp Heero's shoulder reassuringly.

The Wing pilot nodded, grateful Wufei was here to lend his support to both Duo and himself.

A short while later, the door opened. Mirum stepped out and jumped at the unexpected appearance of the two boys waiting directly in front of the doorway.

"Oh!" She gasped and clutched her hand to her chest. "You startled me."

"Sorry." Heero apologized to the older woman in his unique deadpan voice, his eyes staring in an intense manner at her as if willing her to tell him what was going on.

"I was just coming to look for you." she smiled and the corners of her eyes lifted upward to match the corners of her mouth. "He's awake and asking for you." She opened the door and stepped aside in a silent invitation for them to enter.

Seeing the two boys come through the door, Dr. Yemin stood from his position on the edge of the bed and turned to greet them. "He's going to be alright." he assured the Japanese boy who had been so concerned.

"Dr Yemin, this is Wufei." Heero introduced him to the boy at his side. He then moved around the doctor to look at the boy on the bed. Duo lay on his back, his head turned to the right, his eyes closed. The I.V. was still dripping nourishment into his outstretched hand. Heero sat in the spot the doctor had just vacated and reached out, taking up Duo's other hand that lay on his stomach. Duo eyelids fluttered a moment before he managed to open his eyes and turned his head to look up into Heero's face. A small, faint smile formed on his lips and there was the slightest spark in his tired eyes.

"Heero." he spoke in a weak, faint voice. "You okay?"

Reaching his free hand out to brush the long strands of chestnut brown hair from covering the blue/violet eyes, Heero smiled in relief. "Baka." he chided Duo softly. "Of course I'm fine, and you will be too, after you have some rest.."

Duo's eyes focused to the right of Heero's shoulder. "Wu-man. You're here, too?" He tried to smile, but barely managed a slight curve of his lips.

Wufei nodded to the bed-ridden pilot. "Heero's arranged for a little R&R time for us. So, you better get your strength back soon so we can have some fun." he smiled encouragingly.

"K." Duo answered as his eyelids and faint smile began to droop.

"You need anything?" Heero asked before Duo could go back to sleep completely.

"Hungry." the boy whispered a moment before he was sound asleep.

Dr. Yemin chuckled. "His first and last words were about food."

Wufei smiled crookedly. "My advice then is to have a massive amount of food ready when he wakes up again. On a good day he can eat us all under the table."

"I'll warn the kitchen staff." the doctor smiled with good humor.

Wufei clapped Heero on the back. "I'm starving myself. Want to join me in the kitchen?"

Heero shook his head. "I think I'll sit with Duo for a while."

"Alright, I'll see you later then." The Shenlong pilot turned to leave, the doctor in tow, leaving his two friends alone with Mirum hovering over them like a mother hen.


Four days later, Heero and Wufei had been coaxed outdoors by Rashid, to the large heated pool at the back of the villa. The beautiful stone-inlaid patio overlooked the shoreline and the beautiful blue water of the Mediterranean Sea. A slight, barely noticeable breeze whispered warmly through the ancient olive and cypress trees that grew around the villa. Both boys sighed in contentment at the peaceful surroundings, so far from the battles and raging war.

The sound of the glass door behind them opening caused both boys to turn around from their chaise loungers in time to see Rashid holding the door open as Trowa walked through the doorway, Quatre in his arms. Both sunbathers scrambled out of their places and motioned for Trowa to use their chairs. With deliberate gentleness, the tall boy set the small blonde down and quickly adjusted the chair so that his head was just slightly elevated.

Quatre smiled at the three looking down on him with concern in their eyes.

"I don't look that bad, do I?" he asked chuckling softly. He didn't miss the nervous looks that passed between the three.

"You look better than the last time I saw you." Heero said diplomatically.

Quatre looked up and smiled gratefully at the Wing Pilot. "So do you." he replied.

Trowa fussed over the pajama clad boy to make sure he was comfortable and soon, the four pilots were relaxing in companionable silence.

"This is one dead party." Duo's tired voice sounded from behind them a short while later. The four turned in unison again to see Rashid holding their friend in his arms as he approached the small group. The Deathscythe pilot's eyes sparkled, though dimly, with mischief as he looked upon his friends. "Rashid insisted you guys couldn't have fun without me." he smiled slightly. "Now I see for myself that he was right."

The four greeted him happily, but voiced their concern at his being well enough to be out of bed. Rashid assured them that the doctor had approved as long as neither he nor Quatre tried to get up. Accepting the Maguanac's word, another reclining chair was quickly brought over to join the group. Duo was made comfortable and all five relaxed, content to be reunited and in a picturesque setting.

Duo and Quatre began and kept the conversation going by asking a few question and briefly answered the few directed to them. But for the most part, they listened to their friends. The three quieter ones of their group managed, with some effort, to keep the conversation going.

Duo lasted about twenty minutes before dozing off. Quatre managed another fifteen after that.

Heero and Wufei carted over a weighted and very large patio umbrella to shade the two slumberers. Without the need to entertain, the three fell back into their normal non-communicative state, alternating between looking out over the veranda to the clear blue water below, and watching the two sleepers with concern.

Quatre woke after an hour had passed and began the conversation again. Duo woke a short while later and added to it, though he was not the lead participant as usual.

It seemed odd to have the dynamics of the team shift. But the five adjusted and enjoyed each other's presence more than what was said.

Cool drinks and a light repast were served, and shortly after, Rashid insisted the two recovering pilots return inside to their beds. "Enough excitement for one day." he declared.

"You call this excitement?" Duo smirked at the Maguanac, and then promptly yawned. He tried to protest, but Heero stood and picked him up effortlessly to take him back to his room.

"Take Duo to my room, Heero." Quatre spoke up. "When we're awake we can keep each other company. Then when you guys come to visit, you can visit the both of us. It's more efficient." he declared with satisfaction at his reasoning, then turned to look at the braided boy in Heero's arms. "That is, if you want to, Duo."

The American nodded sleepily, and lay his head against Heero's shoulder as his little bit of energy reserve gave out.

"You don't know what you're letting yourself in for." Wufei warned with a crooked smile.

Quatre looked up with puzzled eyes that matched the color of the sea that surrounded the island.

"Ever seen Duo's favorite cartoon, the Tasmanian Devil?" he asked.

Quatre nodded, remembering Duo pulling him into the T.V. room to watch the cartoon staring a furry brown creature that talked incoherently and spun around like a tornado, destroying everything in its path.

"That's Duo in his sleep." Wufei snickered and looked up to see Heero with an amused smile on his face, nodding his head in agreement.

"Hey. No fair picking on the tired guy." Duo mumbled with a faint smile.

"Well, we can always modify the arrangements later, when we're feeling better." Quatre wisely amended.

With a nod of his head, Heero turned with his charge and moved through the glass doors that were held open by Rashid. Trowa bent and lifted Quatre who clasped his arms around the Heavyarms pilot's neck and smiled shyly at Wufei who stood watching them. "Take care of Heero and Trowa for us, okay Wufei?" The Chinese boy agreed with a nod and a smile as the two left the patio, pleased that the blonde strategist saw fit to leave him in charge of his and Duo's self appointed job of watching over their welfare. He deemed it a high compliment.

The three healthy boys found Quatre's new arrangement convenient. The enormous bed had more than plenty of room for the both of them to lay side by side with room to spare. Apparently, to the surprise of Heero and Wufei and to Quatre's benefit, because of his weakness and lack of energy, Duo's usual tumultuous and legendary restless sleeping habits ceased. They took shifts in sitting with both boys during the daylight hours when one or both of them were awake. At night, Duo was returned to his own bed and Heero volunteered to stay with him in case he was needed.

Another week passed before the doctor allowed both boys to dress and join the others downstairs for meals and quiet entertainment. They watched a lot of movies, though the two seemed to tire easily at the least exertion and usually slept through any program they watched. It was apparent to all that Quatre was recovering quickly, but Duo continued to be plagued by weakness and a lack of appetite and energy.

Three weeks had passed from the time Heero and Duo arrived on the villa's doorstep. As the morning eased itself into the early afternoon hours, Heero stood at the large glass window that looked out over the calm and scenic sea. He heard the familiar click of Duo's boots on the marble tiles and turned to greet the still-too-thin boy. Duo gave a lazy smile in return. Heero made a mental note that the sparkle in his eyes was still not as it had been and the smile, though welcome, seemed to come with effort.

"Hi, Heero." Duo greeted him warmly as he stopped at his side and joined him in gazing at the scenery. "Whatja doing?" he asked with a one-sided smile.

"Thinking." Heero replied, knowing one word answers always riled Duo.

His partner turned to study his face. "You contacted Dr. J, didn't you?" There was only a hint of mild accusation in his voice.

"Hai." Heero answered and saw a flicker of worry cross his friends expressive face just moments before he covered it up with a not so sincere smile.

"So...... when do we leave?"

Heero turned to look his friend in the eye. There would be no skirting around the issue, and he knew Duo was not going to be happy. "Wufei and I leave tonight night on a fact gathering mission." The braided boy seemed to slowly take in the information and then his eyes strayed to a movement outside the window and a slow smile grew. Heero turned to follow Duo's line of sight to see what he found so amusing.

His eyes lit on the large pool and the scene playing out just to the side of it. It looked like Wufei was meditating near the pool's edge, sitting in a lotus position on the cement surface. Behind him, Quatre and Trowa, dressed in swimming trunks, were in stealth mode, coming up behind the apparently unaware Shenlong pilot. Just as they reached him, the Chinese boy jumped to his feet, spun around in one fluid motion and grabbed the two would-be tricksters, throwing the both of them behind him and into the pool. The splash and their laughter could be heard into the villa. It was obvious that Quatre was nearly returned to full health.

"Quatre and Trowa will take out several key manufacturing sites in a couple of days." Heero's voice continued on to appraise Duo on what was going to happen soon.

Duo looked up knowingly into his friends eyes. "I'm being left behind?" he asked sadly, already knowing the answer.

"You'll stay here with Rashid until your strength has returned sufficiently enough for you to pilot your gundam." Heero replied gently, knowing that Duo hated feeling weak, just like the rest of them, and he would look at being left behind as a sign of his weakness.

Duo's shoulders slumped as his eyes moved down to study a spot on his boot. "I'm sorry." he mumbled dejectedly. "I'm trying." He looked up as Heero's hand settled on his shoulder.

"Its not your fault." Heero assured him. "The doctor said your slow recovery has to do, in part, with your lack of important vitamins and nutrients when you were younger. Added to that, is your overly active metabolism. Your body is having a hard time recovering after being depleted and having little reserves. With your appetite not back to normal, it can't get enough to fuel you properly."

Duo nodded and his brows drew together unhappily. "Dr. Yemin's got me peeing into a cup twice and day," he complained. "and he took me off all the good food and has me on a high protein and vegetable diet." he grimaced. " There's only so much of that food that I can eat."

"Your kidneys and liver were shutting down." Heero explained again. Duo knew this, but needed to be reassured. "He has to make sure their functioning fully before he'll release you." Duo nodded that he understood. "Speaking of food," Heero continued. "Your lunch is waiting for you. Try to eat everything on the plate this time." He took the other's slender shoulders and forcibly turned him to face the direction of the kitchen and gave him a little push.

"Okay, okay. I'm going already." he complained and looked back with a wry smile. "You're getting to be as bad of a mother hen as Quatre." Duo mumbled as he moved in the direction he was pointed towards.

Wufei exited the door Duo was walking towards. They paused to greet each other and exchanged a few words before the braided boy continued on his way. The Shenlong pilot moved towards Heero, noting the look of worry on his face.

"The others want us to come swimming. Want to?" he asked.

Heero looked out at the two splashing in the pool and shook his head. "I've still got some arranging to do on the computer for our mission. We'll stay at a school, and I've been working on transferring data and funds to the admissions office.

Wufei's eyebrows rose. "I thought this was a one or two day mission. Will we be gone that long?" he asked.

"Several weeks." Heero confirmed and his gaze moved from Wufei's face to look out the window once again. This time his eyes followed the black clad body that exited a side door onto the patio, a plate of food and a glass of milk in his hands.

"The others will stay here?" Wufei asked.

Without looking away from the boy now moving to a patch of lawn near a tree and sat down under it, Heero answered. "Trowa and Quatre will leave within the week."

"Duo?" Concern flashed in Wufei's eyes. He turned to see the object of Heero's scrutiny, and joined him in watching the other boy as he slowly lifted his sandwich to his mouth and took a bite. After several more, Duo put the other half of the sandwich down and took a drink of the milk. Putting the glass back down on the grass, he followed it. Lowering himself down to the green coolness, he settled on his side, pillowing his head on his arm.

"He'll stay here with Quatre's staff looking after him."

"He won't like it." Wufei stated the obvious.

"He realizes he's not strong enough to pilot Deathscythe. I'll have him join us as soon as he's well enough and have Dr. J contact G and make sure Duo is paired with at least one of us until he's one hundred percent again."

Wufei nodded, his eyes still on his braided friend. "He didn't even finish his meal. That's a strong testament to his state of health. Should I carry him to his bed?" he turned to look at Heero for permission.

"No." Heero moved and put his hand on the nob of the glass door in front of them. "I'll sit with him for a while and then see that he finishes his lunch when he awakens. Why don't you go swimming with the others?"

Wufei nodded as he watched the Japanese boy exit the room and move silently to sit next to his sleeping friend. He watched the two curiously and reflected, once again, at the changes in Heero. Over the past few months that they had been working as a team, he and the others had observed the cold, distant soldier that Heero had been slowly become more caring and open with the rest of them. There was no doubt in anyone's mind that Duo was the reason for it. It was obvious to all of them that the two had become very close friends. Duo trusted Heero implicitly and refused to let him retreat back into the perfect soldier mode when he was off the battle field.

Wufei remembered the conversation he'd had with Trowa several weeks after the incident when Heero had hurt Duo and caused the boy to go silent on them. Each of them had to prove to the braided boy that they valued his friendship and wanted it to continue. After confronting Heero about the incident, Wufei had left the room disgusted with the cold boy's actions. Trowa related to him how Quatre had admonished Heero to look into his heart to see that he too, needed Duo in his life. He must have found the need there and made it a mission at some point, because Duo and he seemed as close as brothers after that incident had been resolved. That test of friendship affected all of them, it drew the team closer together. Now, they laughed, played, danced, cared, and were even affectionate with each other, though it obvious that Quatre and Duo were the more tactile ones. They had grown from soldiers to acquaintances, and from there to friends, and over time, to a strange sort of family. Alright, a very strange, dysfunctional family of kid terrorists. Wufei smiled sardonically at that thought.

Taking a deep breath, he allowed his cheeks to puff up as he blew the air out of his lungs, letting go of some of the frustration he felt. He didn't like the idea of leaving Duo behind. Yet watching him fall asleep after the slightest of exertions, had caused a strong surge of protectiveness in all of them for the weakened boy. Watching Heero as he guarded his sleep, he knew the Wing pilot was also reluctant to leave him. Leaving was going to prove difficult for all of them.

Later that night, before their departure, they all sat together in the dinning room for the evening meal. Duo sat quietly, smiling occasionally as the others carried the conversation. He pushed his food around his place, disinterested in the moussaka and assorted vegetables on his plate. Seeing his lack of appetite, the others teased and cajoled him into eating most of it. Rashid then brought in a tray of one of Duo's favorite dessert, flan. They managed to get him to eat two servings.

"You're looking better tonight." Quatre observed, smiling at his braided friend.

"I feel a bit better." Duo returned, obviously forcing a smile.

"Keep eating like you did tonight," Trowa calmly spoke up, "and you'll be back in Deathscythe before you know it."

Duo simply nodded and turned his gaze to Heero. "When do you leave?" he asked.

"Midnight." he answered with a look at his watch. "I should probably rest before then."

Wufei stood. "Me too." he said, and moved over to Quatre, extending his hand. "Thank you, Quatre, for your hospitality. I appreciate the rest your home has afforded us."

The blonde took his hand in his own and shook it firmly, smiling warmly. "You're welcome, Wufei. Hopefully, it won't be too long before we're reunited again." He then rose from his chair and quickly embraced the Chinese pilot. "Stay well." he told him.

Wufei blushed. Quatre's embrace was not unexpected, as he did it often. But it still was something Wufei had not experienced in his own, more formal family, and it took some getting use to. He turned and went to Duo's place and extended his hand to the American, expecting, more or less the same treatment. Duo stood and brushed aside his hand as he embraced the Chinese boy. He held the embrace until he felt Wufei's hands raise and hug him back. "Get well soon, Duo. Then come join us." Wufei whispered.

"Take care of yourself and Heero, okay. No self-destruct buttons." Duo voice came out muffled as his face was pressed against the slightly taller boys shoulder.

Wufei nodded, knowing Duo could feel his answer. Being released, he then moved to Trowa who simply smiled and shook his hand. They were all pretty predictable, he mused.

Heero stood and Quatre took that as his cue to approach the pilot. "Take care, Heero." Quatre embraced him the same as he had Wufei. Heero found it comforting that he would be given the same warm embrace that the Arabian gave only to the closest of his friends. He returned the hug, grateful to be included in that group. "Thanks for everything." he said as he patted the blond's back affectionately.

Once released, Heero took Trowa's hand in a firm shake. No words were needed between these two quiet friends. They understood each other well.

"Say good night, Duo." Heero took the braided boy's arm.

"But...." he started to object as Heero began to pull him from the room.

Heero interrupted him. "You've had a good couple of hours. You need to rest and you can keep me company while you're at it."

Duo did feel tired and, other than the short nap he'd had on the lawn earlier that day, he'd managed to stay awake all day.

"Go on, Duo." Quatre urged smiling at the departing two. "We'll see you tomorrow."

The braided boy only had time to wave as he was pulled from the room. He was led to Heero's room, which was much like his own, similar furniture and color accents. On the bed was Heero's duffel bag, packed and ready to go. The oh-too-familiar lap top was closed and sitting on the table. Heero sat on the edge of the bed and began to remove his shoes and socks. He set them neatly at the foot of the bed and pulled back the covers. He paused, looking questioningly up at Duo. "Go ahead and get comfortable. Take off your shoes and jeans." he ordered with a slight smile.

With a shrug, the braided boy complied as Heero stood and removed his own jeans revealing the red silk boxers Duo have given him as a gift several months ago. He set the clock on the night stand and crawled unto the bed and under the covers, moving over to leave room for his friend to climb in next to him. A moment later Duo lay on is side with his back pulled firmly against Heero's chest as strong arms held him in place.

"Comfortable?" Heero asked. Duo nodded.

"It's been a long time since we were alone like this." Heero spoke softly. "Could you tell me a story? That is if you're not too tired."

"Well, maybe a short one." Duo yawned as he felt sleep drawing closer in the warmth of his friends secure embrace. Then a sudden thought entered his mind. "Heero?"


"What do you think the others would think of this?"


"Yeah, you know, this. You holding me like this."

There was a pause as Heero contemplated the question and his answer to it. "Is this wrong?" he asked.

"Maybe to some people." Duo replied.

"Do you think it's wrong?" Heero asked, his tone worried.

He felt Duo shrug. "As a kid living on the streets, we always huddled together for warmth, comfort, and a sense of security and belonging. That's what this feels like to me. How can that be wrong?"

He could feel Heero nod his head. "That's what I feel, also." he replied and then continued slowly to explain his thoughts. "I was trained to ignore my needs and feelings, and it always felt so cold and empty. There was a gaping void inside me. I filled that void with my missions, but there was still this cold and empty feeling." He paused as he remembered the internal ache of being so alone.

Duo turned in his embrace to lay on his back to look up questioningly at his friend. Heero continued. "That void has now been filled with friendship, yours and the others. You've no idea how much you've changed me, Duo. Dr. J would be thoroughly pissed if he knew." he smiled weakly.

"We can see the changes, Heero." Duo replied. "And you're a much better person for it." He smiled up at his friend. "And, I won't tell J if you don't, okay?"

Heero nodded and pulled Duo back into their original position. "My story?" he reminded the braided boy.

Duo closed his eyes and began to tell Heero of Joshua and the battle of Jericho, though later, he wasn't sure he ever finished it, but drifted off in the telling.

The Deathscythe pilot slept deeply that night, and awoke in the morning realizing that Heero had left quietly without waking him. He was surprised that he didn't even hear the alarm go off. Snuggling deeper under the covers, he wrapped his arms around his thin body. He vowed to himself to eat everything they put in front of him to try to get better so that he could join his friends again, and soon.

Closing his eyes, he thought of what Heero had said, about the ache of loneliness causing a void in his life. He was fully aware of such a void in himself, and it made him shudder even under all the warm covers. He had analyzed his feelings over the last couple of years and he knew that it was loneliness that haunted him when he was left alone for too long. He had lost so many, was left alone and mourning too often. He knew it was a risk to let himself care for these boys that were his teammates, his friends, but he couldn't help it. It was a chance he took because they chased away the overwhelming emptiness that could so easily overtake him. When he was near the others, he felt whole, needed, and wanted. It was a good, warm feeling. They were the family and home that he'd always longed for. He belonged to something good, and it felt wonderful.

After laying quietly and thinking for some time, he climbed out of bed and stood to stretch languidly. "Yep!" he spoke aloud to himself as he patted his flat stomach. "Today I'm going to eat like a horse." He vowed and his stomach replied with a deep, hungry growl. "And, I'll join the others soon." he promised himself, then smiled, because he never lied, not even to himself.

on to dfa 16: 'the never'

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