Disclaimer: Don't own nor profit from GW.

Warnings: slight angst.

The Never
Duo's Friendship Arc 16
by Dyna Dee

"Come on, come on." the braided teen dressed all in black hissed between his clenched teeth. He looked nervously over his shoulder for any sign that he'd been discovered and, hopefully, to see his companions. The sounds of alarms had blared to life throughout the immense factory announcing to soldiers and workers alike that the security had been breached. Their presence had been detected from a computer trip alarm as the three of them worked to complete their assignment in the lower levels of the factory they'd infiltrated. The rapid sound of approaching booted feet had the gundam pilot's immediate attention, his adrenalin pumping at an all time high.

"Where the hell are you, Quatre?" he growled under he breath in frustration, and lifted the nozzle of the AK-47 rifle in a defensive posture.

As the first of the soldiers rounded the distant corner of the long hallway, Duo mentally crossed himself and pulled the trigger and watched as the first few men to appear in his line of sight, fell to the ground in a haphazard manner reminding him of bowling pins hit by a fast bowling ball. Turning his head, he yelled behind him in warning. "Q-Ball, company!" He shot off another round and ducked into the slight doorway, grateful for once that he was slight of build as bullets hit the wall and floor all around him.

"Duo, this way!" The Arabian boy's voice called out from around the corner, though not sounding as close as he'd expected, but further down the corridor, indicating something was wrong.

"Great," he growled out, so many of the mission's detailed plans were being shot to hell. "just great!" He prepared for his retreat, checking only briefly to see if there were any obstacles he might trip over and gauging the distance from where he stood to the corner of the adjacent corridor. Then turning his eyes back to the area from where the soldiers were coming, he fired sporadic bursts from his rifle to keep them at bay and forcing them to take cover behind the far corner of the corridor while he came out from his minute area of protection and quickly ran backwards, making sure his pursuers were unable to get a good shot at him.

Rounding the bend, he saw Quatre half way down the brightly lit hallway holding up a familiar, slumped figure in a factory worker's uniform. Trowa had come several days ahead of them to infiltrate and assist them in entering the building and acquiring the vital computer data, then shut down the computer chip factory. It looked like he'd been discovered or had run into trouble. A glance at the blonde boy face told him all he needed to know at the moment, Quatre's face reflected deep anxiety as he looked up to see his mission partner advance towards them. His face then took on a look of hope. "Duo, Trowa's been shot. Guard our backs. We'll retreat as planned." He ordered loud enough to be heard over the growing sound of the alarms.

The Deathscythe pilot nodded his agreement, and quickly poked his head around the corner he's just rounded. He quickly pulled his head back just in time, as a bullet whizzed past, dangerously close to his forehead. Taking a deep breath, he quickly turned, leaning against the wall with his gun immediately kicking out bullets as he let them fly down the corridor. Sounds of pain and shock were heard as men were hit by the steady stream of bullets. Some fell, others who were wounded managed to inch away, and the unwounded scrambled back the way they had come.

Jumping back around to the safety of the corner, he looked behind him to assess the situation. He could see the other two pilots were entering the stairwell at the opposite end of the corridor. Trowa was conscious, but leaning heavily on the smaller blonde, barely able to stay on his feet. Quatre was going to need his help, and soon, he realized. With one final spray of bullets down the adjacent corridor, Duo sprinted down the long hallway to catch up with the other two.

As he approached, Duo heard Quatre's not-so-calm voice speaking into his communication piece. "Heero, one down. Back up, south entrance. Now!" he yelled, his urgent voice emphasizing their need.

Without needing to be instructed, the braided boy approached his wounded friend and lifting Trowa's slack arm, he ducked beneath it, pulling the appendage over his own shoulder, then reached up to clasp hold of his hand. The two smaller boys then worked silently, in unison, and as quickly as possible to pull the their wounded friend up the stairs that led to the main floor of the factory.

As they neared the top, Duo let go of his hold on Trowa to turn with his gun in readiness, and fired off a few rounds, just to give any of those fools advancing on them fair warning to stay back.

Quatre continued forward, struggling to get the larger boy up the last few stairs and through the doorway. As they stumbled through it, Trowa slipped from his grasp, his body collapsing half-way to the cement floor carrying Quatre with him, he bent over awkwardly as he struggled to hold Trowa's dead weight up and off of the floor.

"Duo!" Quatre called out for help from the other boy. Their braided friend complied and was immediately at their sides, helping to lift Trowa up. Secured once more between them, they dragged the longer, unconscious body towards the nearest exit, about fifty feet from their present position. All around them factory workers were scrambling in a panicked state to run in the opposite direction from where they were headed. The reason was more than evident through the high, narrow windows above them. Wing had just landed.

Duo exited the door first, making sure their path was secure to the jeep waiting just beyond the fence surrounding the factory. He shot at the few soldiers who stood frozen, transfixed by the presence of the impressively menacing gundam known as Wing. The bullets, softly thudding into the blacktop near their feet, brought them out of their trance and sent all of them running in separate directions. Reaching back through the doorway, the braided boy took hold of Trowa's arm again, and with a nod of his head, signaled silently to Quatre to move forward. The auburn haired boy's head fell forward and his legs dragged beneath him as the other two supported his limp body as they struggled to run across the parking lot to the location of the cut in the chain-link fence.

Wing fired off warning shots to soldiers who braved his presence and a few even made to be so bold as to aiming at the foot-bound intruders in an attempt to keep them from escaping. He was easily successful in defending their retreat.

Once having reached the fence, Quatre separated himself from his hold on Trowa to pull back the cut metal, creating an opening and allowing the other two to awkwardly make their way through. Duo pushed Trowa ahead of him and into Quatre's arms as they successfully threaded him through the opening. It was tricky maneuvering, and Duo followed quickly behind, managing to get scraped and punctured several time by the sharp edges of the cut metal. Finally clearing the fence, they moved with all possible speed for the jeep that stood parked and ready for a hasty retreat only fifty feet away and hidden from view around the back of a commercial garbage dumpster.

As they reached the black painted jeep, Trowa's limp form was left in Duo's hands as Quatre jumped easily into the back seat, then quickly turned and put his arms out. Together they lifted the unresponsive boy up over the jeep's outer edge and into the back seat. They worked quickly to secure him against Quatre's chest. Then blonde somehow finagled the seat belt to fit the awkward angle of Trowa's position, then buckled himself in. Duo climbed into the driver's seat and reached under the mat for the key while the Arabian wrapped his arms around his injured friend to keep him secure during their flight. It was then that Quatre felt the sticky wetness on his arm. He looked down to see the red substance saturating his sleeve, then reached his hand out to feel the fabric of the dark blue jumpsuit Trowa wore. The color had effectively hidden the blood stain. He'd known that Trowa had been shot in defending his back while he worked at the computer, but he hadn't had the time to check his wound. His anxious eyes raised to meet Duo's, wide and filled with an emotion Quatre couldn't readily identify.

"Apply pressure until we can stop to check him out." Duo said quietly, then turned forward to start the jeep. With the snap of his seat belt, the black, topless vehicle whipped backwards from it's hidden spot, then shot forward down the gravel utility road.

Casting a quick glance back to the two behind him, Duo shouted back. "How is he?"

"I don't know." Quatre yelled back, worry etching his face and voice. "There seems to be a lot of blood."

Turning his face forward, Duo swallowed hard and tried to bring his focus back to the road. His foot hit the accelerator to quicken their speed to match his furiously beating heart. As they quickly made a main road, he looked back in his rear-view mirror to see Wing rising from the factory's parking lot.

"Wing!" Quatre shouted and Duo watched in his rear view mirror as the gundam lifted higher from off the ground and fired two missiles at the factory that made micro chips for mobile doll suits. The deafening sound of the factory exploding hit them a second after the missiles hit their target, a cloud of smoke, fire, and debris climbed into the air. Wing shifted into flight mode and flew over their heads to disappear into the northern sky.

"Lucky Heero." Duo scowled darkly. He'd rather be fighting in Deathscythe than driving a wounded friend to...who knew where at this point.

"Where are we going, Duo?" Quatre shouted, his blonde hair beating furiously against his face as the wind swept over the front of his jeep.

"I don't know.... I'm thinking." the braided boy answered as his mind turned over their options. The safe house was four hours away, and a quick look back assured him Trowa needed help before then. They definitely couldn't risk a hospital, which meant they were going to have to look out for Trowa themselves for the time being.

He wove the black jeep quickly through the traffic of the city, experiencing only a few hair-raising moments as he sped through stop signs and yellow-turning-red street lights. Somehow, they miraculously made it to the edge of the city without an accident and gained the faster moving highway. The busy roadway was surrounded on both sides by a forest of tall trees. After traveling several miles in silence, the wind furiously whipping at the jeep's three occupants, the drive sighted an unpaved, unmarked dirt road, ahead, Duo quickly slowed, but only just enough to safely swing off the highway and onto the dirt roadway, disappearing from view of the highway into the forested area. After five minutes of traveling on the bumpy, pot-holed path, the Deathscythe pilot saw an open area just to the side of the road and pulled over, bringing the jeep to a complete stop, pulling the hand break up sharply and turning off the ignition key.

Now that the engine had stopped and the quiet of the forest surrounded them, they could faintly hear the sound of sirens and alarms far off in the distance. Releasing his seatbelt, the braided boy quickly moved to the back seat, his eyes scanning the wounded boy laying so still. The top left side of Trowa's coveralls was darker than the rest of the fabric, obviously wet with his always the one's to deal with their injuries. He and Quatre usually stood as support, that is if they stood at all. With a quick prayer for strength, he used his fingertips to gingerly pull open the velcro fasteners of the blue jumpsuit the majority of the factory workers wore to work each day. As he pulled the now separated front sides apart, both boys could see a blood soaked tee shirt lay beneath it. Visibly swallowing again, the braided boy looked up into Quatre's pale face and wide, alarmed aquamarine eyes met his.

"Go on, Duo. We have to help him." the Arabian urged him gently on, his voice a bit wobbly.

Duo shook his head, and puffed out some air. "I know, I know. I'm just not..."

"We trust you, Duo." Quatre said with a certainty, cutting off Duo's insecurities.

The American's hands shook slightly as he reached for the tee shirt and swallowed loudly for his companion to hear. His stomach clenched as his fingers came in touch with the wet, blood-drenched fabric. The sucking sound of wet material lifting off of the set skin almost undid him as he lifted the tee shirt up.

"Cut it off, Duo." Quatre suggested weakly. He was beginning to look a bit green around the edges.

"Good idea." he agreed, and reaching into his pants pocket, he withdrew his switch blade and with a flick, it opened. Grabbing the top of the shirt at the neckline, he pulled it away from Trowa's neck and began to slice down the front. Finally cut in half down the middle, Duo glanced up to see that Trowa was still unconscious and Quatre's eyes were watching his every move. With a nod of the blonde's head indicating he should proceed, Duo pushed the red soaked material aside to reveal a round, blood-oozing bullet hole.

That was the final trick that did it. Never had Duo been more glad that he liked the top down on a jeep as when he threw himself over the side and emptied the entire contents of his stomach. Misery must love company, because from behind him, the same sound and action was being duplicated by Quatre.

Wiping his mouth off with the back of his hand, Duo couldn't help but chuckle at the thought of Trowa lying there with the stereo sound of the two other pilots retching on either side of him.

"It's not funny!" Quatre demanded unhappily.

"Maybe not now," Duo countered with a weak chuckle. "but later, it's gonna be hysterical." He turned to see the blonde also turning around with a look of disgust on his face and began repositioning himself behind Trowa once again, carefully shifting the tall pilot back into place. He then raised his eyes. The look on his face clearly telling the Deathscythe pilot to get back to work.

"Okay. I can do this." The American boy mumbled to himself, and tried once more to steel himself for the task ahead.

"Maybe the first-aid kit?" Quatre suggested practically, one eyebrow raised in slight sarcasm.

"Right." Duo jumped over the side door and opened the back door of the jeep. Shifting through the supplies he'd put there at the onset of the mission, he quickly found the kit and shut the door. Climbing into the back area of the jeep again, he opened the metal box and set it on the floor by Quatre as he took the small floor space opposite it. Removing the small container of rubbing alcohol as well as a small pack of disposable cloths, he doused the material with the liquid, and turned, ready to clean the wound. His hand paused, hovering just above the bloody mess and suddenly found that he couldn't move.

"I. I..." his hand wavered. "I can't." he gasped.

"DUO!" Quatre's voice called out sharply.

The blue/violet eyes looked up, filled with self loathing.

"Do it, and do it now!" The blonde ordered firmly.

'Heaven help me.' Duo thought to himself, mentally wincing, knowing he was in trouble now, 'Quatre's in command mode.'

Trowa chose that moment to regain consciousness. His eyes fluttered open even as a moan escaped him in reaction to the pain in his side. In front of him he recognized Duo's pale face looking at him with anxiety written all over his features. His eyes were impossibly large and dilated. He tilted his head back slightly to see Quatre above and behind him, looking just as a bad.

"Heero?" he managed to ask.

Duo shook his head, looking apologetic.


"Sorry." the braided boy's voice seemed weak and pitiful.

The Heavyarm's pilot groaned again. "I'm a dead man." he moaned in realization of who was there to care for him.

"No, you're not!" Quatre firmly insisted. "Duo, now!" he ordered just as firmly.

Both boys watched as a look of determination overcame the braided boy's internal hesitation and trepidation. His eyes narrowed as he focused his thoughts to the task at hand and lowered the alcohol laden cloth to the wounded flesh. With small upward strokes, he carefully begin to wipe off the thick blood from off the pale skin and away from the wound. He turned the cloth over and over, soaking up the red liquid until the cloth was saturated and unusable. Without much thought, he threw the heavily blood material behind and away from the Jeep to land on the dirt nearby. He then repeated the process until the package of four small hand towels was empty. He then quickly unbuttoned his black shirt, stripped it off, and began to use it. Through the process, the American noted that the bleeding had stopped, and the blood was clotting. It was a very good sign that there was no major internal bleeding.

"Disinfect it again. " Quatre instructed in an authoritative tone.

Duo nodded and performed the task the others had performed on him several times before when he had been wounded on a mission

"Bandage now?" he questioned when the area was wiped clean, leaving the round wound looking harsh and out of place on Trowa's pale skin.

"Yes." Quatre agreed. "Then we need to check for an exit wound."

Once the bandage was taped neatly in place, the two managed to turn the tall, silent boy on his side, the bloody remnants of his clothing falling away. There, between his ribs and his hips, they discovered a similar hole in a direct straight line from the entry wound and through Trowa's side. The bullet had passed cleanly through him. They made quick work of cutting off and removing the rest of the cut-up tee shirt and the top half of the jumpsuit. Duo proceeded to repeat the same clean up that he'd performed moments before on the entry wound, taking off his tee shirt to clean the area and wound, disinfected it, then taped a bandage around it. Only then did the Deathscythe pilot lift his head to look at his friends, a look of weary triumph on his face.

Quatre smiled warmly at him. "You did great, Duo." he praised him as they moved Trowa back onto his back, his head resting on Quatre's chest.

The Arabian's eyes followed the American as Duo turned away from them and raised his bloody hands to rest above the back of the driver's seat, letting his forehead fall forward to rest in between his forearms. He was bare chested with patches of Trowa's blood smeared and splattered across his pale skin. As he leaned against the seat, his lean body stretched, his rapid and deep breathing was quite evident as his stomach seemed to cave inward into his rib cage with each quick and deep breath inhaled. Quatre could see something was wrong and that Duo was in danger of hyperventilating. "Duo? Are you alright?" Concern filled his voice as he called out to his friend. Trowa, resting against him must have been aware of Duo's anxious state as his hand reached out to touch the braided boy.

The American shook his head and quickly jumped out of the car, careful to avoid the puddle of vomit he'd deposited there earlier. He moved about 20 feet away from the jeep and then bent over, lowering his head towards his knees.

"Quatre?" Trowa questioned weakly, concerned as he watched Duo.

"I don't know." Quatre answered the other boy. "Let me lay you down and I'll go to him." The wounded boy nodded and grit his teeth as he was gently repositioned.

Quatre eased himself out from under the wounded boy and climbed out of the jeep, moving around the back of it to approach to approach the obviously upset teen.

The braided boy was now squatting down on his haunches, his face buried in his hands. Quiet, almost inaudible sniffles told Sandrock's pilot how upset his friend really was. "Duo?" he questioned softly, placing a soft hand on a bare shoulder as he knelt down beside him.

"I'm ... sorry, Quatre." his muffled voice sounded from the between in his fingers. "I... I'll... be.. alright in a ... minute." his voice hitched as he kept his face covered.

The blonde was at a loss as to what he should do. Rarely had he ever seen Duo so upset. Was the clean-up of Trowa's wound that horrible for him to endure?

"Trowa's going to be alright, Duo." he tried to reassure the distraught boy. "You did a great job."

Standing suddenly, Duo turned away from his friend and took a few steps away to wipe at the wetness on his face. To his horror, he realized that the blood on his hands had inadvertently been smeared across his face. His body began to shake. "God help me, Quatre." he gasped, his voice a hoarse whisper laced with panic. "Get it off, get it off me!!" his voice rose to the point of yelling.

"What?" Quatre cried as he rushed to his side.

Duo turned and held his hands out, his chest and face smeared with Trowa's blood. "The .. b.b.b... blood.... get. it. off." He yelled in panic, his large eyes darted frantically about to find some way to accomplish the task he requested. Not seeing any quick solution, he looked skyward and squeezed his eyes shut. "Oh, God." he prayed to the heavens. "Get it off.....get it off." He held his bloodied hands out and away from his trembling body and froze in place.

"Okay, Duo. Okay. Hold on." Quatre ran back to the jeep and flung open the tail gate and shuffled around the limited supplies. He came away with a large bottle of water and ran back to the panic stricken boy opening the bottle as he ran, and splashed water over the open hands and frantically began to rub off the offensive, slick red blood. Duo stood like a statue, his face still looking skyward, and only his chest moved with the quick, panicked intake of air as his friend threw water on his chest and sides, rubbing away the blood until all traces of it were off his body. He then turned his attention to his friend's upturned face and emptied the remainder of the bottle on it, and rubbed softly with his fingers on this cheeks and closed eye lids.

The bottle was now empty and Duo was wet and dripping, but rinsed free of the offensive blood. "Okay, Duo. It's gone." Quatre announced keeping a careful eye on his friend.

Slowly, the Deathscythe pilot lowered his head and opened his panic filled eyes laced with regret. "I'm sorry." he whispered shamefully, his body still trembling slightly.

Quatre didn't understand what had just happened, but he opened his arms and pulled Duo into them, giving him as much comfort and support as he could. "What happened, Duo? What just happened?" he asked as his hand stroked his friend's bare and wet back.

"I... I'll tell you.., but later, okay. Not now." was the pitiful reply.

Quatre nodded and gave an extra reassuring squeeze before breaking away and taking Duo's arm to lead him back to the jeep, leaving the bloody puddle of water behind them.

"Duo?" Trowa questioned as the two approached. From his position in the back seat of the jeep he couldn't see what had transpired between the two, but what he heard was enough to cause him to be concerned.

"I'm okay, Tro. Sorry. Didn't mean to upset you." Duo replied meekly and obviously embarrassed.

"We better make some decisions, guys.' Quatre changed the subject seeing Duo's discomfort. "It's going to get dark soon and we either need to get back to the safehouse or lay low for the time being." He turned to Trowa. "How do you feel, Trowa? We're four hours away from the safehouse. The jeep isn't the most comfortable ride, are you up to it?" he asked.

"I'll do whatever needs to be done." the Heavyarms' pilot answered softly.

The Arabian's eyes narrowed as he took in his friend's health. He'd lost a lot of blood and was still in a lot of pain.

"Duo?" he turned to the braided boy who was looking at the steering wheel as if it was the most interesting object he'd ever seen. "You packed camping equipment in the back of the jeep. How would we be set up if we stayed in the woods for the night?"

Seeming to have gained some of his composure, Duo reported. "We have a three man tent, two sleeping bags, plus some food and water, enough to last three days."

Quatre nodded. "Alright." he said coming to a decision. "From where I see it, we are too close to the factory to be able to safety get a hotel room. There were plenty of witnesses that saw Trowa was injured, so hospitals will be monitored, can't go there either. I suggest we set the tent up deeper into the woods and camp for the night, maybe even two. We'll see if Trowa feels better after we've rested for the night and make a decision tomorrow on what to do next.

Duo nodded. "Sounds like a plan." he said in forced cheerfulness.

"I agree." Trowa added weakly.

Quatre opened the jeep door for Duo to take the driver's seat. "Go slower this time." he admonished the half naked boy. Duo nodded and eased himself into the seat. The blonde then went back to the other side of the jeep and climbed in over the side and repositioned himself behind Trowa to help cushion the bumpy ride they were about to experience.

"Wait!" Quatre called out as the jeep rumbled to life. "What about the bloodied clothes?"

"Leave um!" Duo said darkly and shifted the jeep into first and shot the vehicle away from the offensive remnants of Trowa's blood on the ground.

on to dfa 17: 'why tsuberov really pulled the switch'

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