Disclaimer: I do not own these characters from Gundam Wing, nor make any profit from torturing them.

Pairing: 1+2
Warning: Shounen-Ai

Flirting With Death
by Dyna Dee

After stumbling through the dense wooded terrain for several miles, four teenage boys, winded and looking worse for wear, came to a halt by silent agreement. With eyes narrowed, Heero meticulously scanned the forested area surrounding them, silently hoping they'd lost the soldiers tracking them. At this juncture he wouldn't upset his comrades by telling them that he wasn't entirely sure they were still moving in the right direction. While the tall trees of the wooded landscape created a thick, leafy canopy that successfully hid their location from the helicopters searching for them, they also, unfortunately, completely blocked the sun's position in the sky, hindering their ability to properly navigate their direction.

Heero frowned, unhappy with the entire situation. With the burning manufacturing plant behind them and two of their comrades injured, they'd improvise on their original escape plan. This was one of those missions in which things hadn't gone exactly as planned. He now regretted their decision against using their gundams for the mission - though they'd initially made the decision with the hope of keeping down the number of casualties or injuries to the many civilians who worked and lived in close proximity of the target.

The mission objective had been to infiltrate the manufacturing plant at dawn, entering the building with the employees arriving for the morning shift. Once inside, Duo and Trowa were charged with placing small explosives and incendiary devices in areas that would bring an abrupt halt to the production of computer components used in the circuitry of OZ's mobile dolls, Leos and Virgos. Wufei and Quatre were to guard their fellow pilots' backs while Heero retrieved information deemed useful from the main computer. The five were to exit the building as soon as their work had been completed and meet up with each other at the jeep, hidden in the woods and located approximately four miles due north of the target's parking lot.

The infiltration and planting of the devices went off without a hitch, but OZ had apparently anticipated some form of strike by the colonies' terrorists and had planted armed soldiers in civilian clothing amongst the workers. One of these men happened upon Wufei as he stood guard while Duo set several devices in a storage room. As a result of their discovery, all hell broke loose and within moments the disguised soldier managed to alert his fellow soldiers that an attack was underway.

Heero feared that civilians had needlessly been injured or possibly killed in the ensuing gunfight. They'd been forced to battle their way out of the building even as angry flames and dark smoke engulfed the large manufacturing plant. Amidst the chaos of blaring alarms, sprinkler systems and panicked employees, the five regrouped and formed a quick plan to escape from the roaring inferno together. Wufei cried out in pain just before making it through the exit door. Luckily, Duo had been there to throw the Chinese injured pilot's arm over his shoulder and half carry him out of the building, his gun firing indiscriminately behind them in an effort to cover their backs. They made a run for the thick wooded area northeast of the plant with a hail of bullets from pursuing soldiers hitting the dirt and trees around them.

Their luck turned sour once again when, just before they found shelter within the woods, Trowa caught a lucky bullet. Quatre went immediately to the taller boy's aid, supporting him as they all began a labored run in a northerly direction, towards the jeep they'd hidden under camouflaged netting. Their escape from the plant was slowed by the injuries sustained by their two comrades. With Trowa and Wufei partially incapacitated, it was became clear that the remaining distance to the jeep might prove to be just too far for them to reach before being overtaken.

Heero shifted his hold on his Chinese comrade who was struggling to keep his weight off his left leg, wounded by the lucky throw of an OZ soldier's knife as they exited the burning building. Duo had immediately removed the blade and the deep gash began bleeding heavily. The wound was of great concern to them all, and not only for the Chinese boy's health but also for the traceable trail it was leaving in their wake.

The four boys, grateful for the brief rest, were breathing more heavily than they normally would from their exertions. Looking over to his teammates, Heero observed the other two. Quatre wore a worried expression on his pale face as he fussed over the bullet wound in Trowa's shoulder. The bloodstained hole in his shirt pointed to the exit wound located in the fleshy part of the Heavyarms pilot's upper arm. Heero's estimated that the auburn-haired teen's injury would keep him out of action for a week or two. As he and Wufei began to move forward again, Heero decided that the mission-related injuries the two pilots had sustained were treatable and acceptable. After all, their objective had been successfully accomplished with no lives lost on their side. Unfortunately, he couldn't say the same thing for those working within the factory.

The sound of running feet crushing dry leaves on the forest floor came from behind their position and alerted the four that Duo was catching up. Once they'd reached the protection of the forest, he'd handed Wufei off to Heero and announced that he was taking the rear position with the intention of covering their trail as much as possible while guarding their backs. Heero turned to watch Duo approach and noted that the L-2 boy's usually pale cheeks were flushed with large red dots on each and that his eyes were bright as they shifted repeatedly from one direction to the other, his gun was drawn and ready. Knowing him as well as he did, the Wing pilot knew Duo was running on pure adrenaline and was prepared for anything.

"Dogs," the braided pilot said a bit breathless as he jogged up to where they were waiting for him, pointing his gun to the ground. Together, the five turned to look behind him and their ears strained to hear evidence of his warning. Heero could just make out the faint sound of dogs barking in the distance. He knew the drops of blood left on the ground by Wufei and Trowa's wounds would make it easy for trained dogs to find their trail. Damn. OZ always seemed to have a full kennel of dogs no matter where they struck. They had to move, and quickly.

"We won't make it to the jeep," Duo stated with a glance behind. "They're coming up fast behind us. There's a diner on the road east of here." He pointed in the direction to his right. "My guess is that it's about a quarter mile away. Go as quickly as you can and steal a car. I'll meet you back at the safehouse."

"What are you going to do, Duo?" Quatre asked, sounding worried as he looked from the braided teen back to the wooded area behind them.

The Deathscythe pilot grinned like the Cheshire Cat. "Why, take ‘em down the path to hell," he chuckled darkly. "Don't worry, Q. It'll be fine." He waved his hand, dismissing the blond's worry.

"Duo." The deliberate tone of warning in Heero's voice was not surprising. He knew how the other boy's mind worked and the risks he liked to take.

"Don't worry about me," Duo said, his blue-violet eyes boring into Heero's. "I'll be back at the safe house before you know it. Hell, I might even beat you there."

"What are you planning?" Heero wanted to know what hair-brained scheme Duo had going through his mind so that he could talk the crazy American out of it. But the rebellious glint in Duo's eyes clearly told him that he was not about to be talked out of anything.

"We don't have time to make a formal presentation, analyze and tear apart my plan, Heero." The boy dressed in black stood with his feet firmly planted with his fists resting on his hips; his stance indicating he was going to be stubborn. "Just trust me to do what needs to be done and that I'll get the hell out of here when I'm finished."

Feeling the weight of the other three staring at him, intently watching and listening to their conversation, Heero knew they trusted him to deal with the sometimes unreasonable teen from L-2. "Do I have your word that you'll not endanger yourself needlessly?"

Duo held up three fingers, then quickly changed it to two and brought them up to his eyebrow and grinned jauntily as if he hadn't a care in the world. "Scout's honor."

Heero frowned yet gave a reluctant nod of approval while thinking that Duo was anything but a Boy Scout. He really had no choice at the moment other than to take the braided teen at his word. "Go." The four watched as Duo's smile widened just before he turned and ran towards the direction of the barking dogs, now closer and more audible, with his long-brown braid swishing behind him as he ran, as if waving goodbye. Heero continued to frown after the boy, thinking that one of these days he was going to make a leash out of that braid and keep that baka in place and marching to the same tune the rest of them followed. Regaining his grip on Wufei, he gave a nod to the others to head in the direction Duo had pointed to. The Deathscythe pilot had an uncanny sense of direction that always came in handy. It was a talent of his that they'd all come to rely on.

A quarter mile wouldn't normally be a long distance to travel on foot for the four trained teenagers, but they'd already run several miles and having to half carry the injured two had taken a toll on all of them. Behind them and still at a distance, they heard a rapid succession of gunshots as well as the baying of the hound dogs that sounded like they'd found a trail. With a shared feeling of trepidation and urgency, the four kept their feet moving forward while their thoughts remained on the boy they'd left behind.

They found the diner just as Duo had said they would, and if the filled parking lot said anything, it was a good place to eat. Heero didn't doubt that Duo had probably visited the place during his reconnaissance and that was most likely how he'd known it was there. Scanning the area filled with cars, he carefully selected a gray, nondescript, four-door car that was located at the back of the small long, narrow lot and effortlessly broke in began to hot wired it while Quatre got their two wounded comrades settled as comfortably as possible in the back seat. Shutting the back doors, the blond joined him in the front seat, with Heero sitting behind the steering wheel, his hands working the wires under the console until at last the engine turned over. Careful not to attract the attention of the diners, Wing's pilot drove in a an unhurried manner out of the parking lot and turned north on the highway, driving at the posted speed limit to avoid any undue attention from the local authorities.

Quatre turned the radio on low and searched the dial to locate a local station to see what the news reports had to say about their attack on the local plant. If Duo had been captured or killed, OZ was bound to boast of it. He found a clear station that was in the middle of their report addressing the attack, but there was no word of a capture. The four listened to every word spoken, then breathed a sigh of relief, believing Duo was still on the loose. With two of them injured, it would be difficult to go back and attempt a rescue if he'd been captured.

Ten minutes into the otherwise quiet ride, a sudden and loud noise startled the car's occupants just as a black blur roared past them, bringing everyone to attention.

"What the..?" Quatre sat up straight in his seat to see what had gone by. His eyes widened, as did all of the car's passengers, at seeing a large black motorcycle with high set handlebars pulling away from them at an alarming speed.

"He's got to be going well over one-hundred miles an hour," Trowa said with a trace of awe in his voice. Heero's eyes narrowed as he focused on the long brown braid flapping wildly behind the familiar black-clad rider of the quickly disappearing motorcycle. His hands gripped the steering wheel until his knuckles were white as he envisioned how he was going to deal with the reckless teen once they got back to the safehouse.

Upon entering the safehouse, they found Deathscythe's pilot sprawled out in the far corner of the ramshackle, faded-blue floral sofa with his braid hanging over his left shoulder and his hands positioned behind his head, looking for all the world like he hadn't a care in the world. He turned his head to his fellow pilots at their entrance and grinned triumphantly. "Told you I'd beat ya back."

Heero made sure that Wufei was safely seated on the other end of the sofa before he turned an unhappy glare towards the American. Duo, lowered his arms and had the good sense to look alarmed after seeing the dark expression on the Japanese teen's face.

"Heero!" It was Trowa's voice that called out a quiet warning in a not-so-subtle reminder to control himself. None of the other pilots would interfere with his handling of the Deathscythe pilot in order to keep him in line, but neither would they allow Wing's pilot to hit or abuse the sometimes maddening boy. Though Duo managed to upset them regularly with his reckless stunts, they'd all taken a liking to the affable American and looked to his welfare even when Duo didn't seem concerned about his own well being.

"What?" Duo asked, pushing himself back into the cushions while watching with growing wariness as Heero moved to loomed over him.

Bending over, Heero put his hands on the back of the sofa and on either side of Duo's head, then leaned his face down, stopping mere inches from the other teen's nose. Between gritted teeth he asked, "What the hell did you think you were doing going well over one hundred miles an hour on a motorcycle without a helmet?"

"I was getting the hell out of Dodge," Duo joked, but his smile fell when he realized, a bit too late, that Heero wasn't in a joking mood. Wing's pilot moved fast to grab hold of the brown braid resting on Duo's shoulder, then cured it in his fist and pulled, quickly hauling the American to his feet.

"Hey!" Duo's hands shot up to pry at Heero's fist, trying to get the other boy to let go of his hair. "Don't pull the hair."

"Then you'd better come with me to our bedroom so we can have this discussion in private."

Seeing the anger in Heero's eyes, Duo nodded, suddenly looking rather meek. Heero then led him towards the stairs, not easing his firm clasp on the braid.

Glancing over his shoulder at the other three, Heero looked directly to the blond. "Take care of them. I'll be back down shortly to help bandage their wounds."

There was a crease of worry wedged between Quatre's blue-green eyes as he looked at the two teens on the stairs, yet he said nothing as he answered Heero's order with a simple nod of his head.

Without any further word, Heero moved, leading the suddenly docile braided teen up the stairs with the word "ouch," being the only complaint coming from the boy dressed in black.


As soon as the upper bedroom door closed, the arguing behind it commenced. The two voices were muffled to those listening downstairs, but it was clear that there was anger behind the unintelligible words. A loud bang shook the old cabin and it sounded like someone had hit the door... hard, causing the three in the living room to cast their eyes towards the stairs. A crashing sound followed, then the house went eerily silent.

After a moment passed with nothing further coming from the room above them, Trowa looked at the worried blond pilot and asked, "Can you get the first aid kit?"

Quatre blinked, then gave the two a look of apology. "Sorry. I'll be right back." He helped settle Trowa in Duo's former place on the sofa, then hurried to the kitchen to get the medical kit that was stored under the sink. He returned a moment later and went back to Trowa and began to cut off the auburn haired teen's blood-stained shirt. "Take your pants off, Wufei. I'll be with you in a couple of minutes."

"I can tend to myself," the Chinese boy said stubbornly, even as he began to follow the blond's instruction.

Quatre didn't argue with him, but turned to the task of cleansing the entry and exit wounds in Trowa's upper arm. "I'm not very good at this," he apologized in a soft voice to the taller boy, a blush on his fair cheeks. "Maybe when Wufei or Heero are able to, they can see if there's any internal damage."

Trowa remained silent, his lips pursed tightly together as the cautious, slender fingers painfully probed his wounds with the antiseptic filled cotton ball.

As he concentrated on his work, Quatre ventured to ask the question that had been bothering him for quite some time. "Why does Duo take so many chances? It's as though he doesn't value his life."

A disdainful snort came from Chinese pilot, now sitting on the sofa wearing only a pair of blood-stained boxer briefs and using his discarded pants to dab at the blood still oozing from the wound in his thigh. "Who knows what goes on in the mind of that crazy American."

"It's not right," Quatre sighed. "I'm afraid for him."

"There's nothing you can do about it, Quatre," Trowa spoke in his usual gentle manner to the caring blond. "We've all talked to him but he keeps doing it. I think he must get some kind of perverse pleasure from risking his life, of living on the edge. Maybe it stems from his childhood, of his being abandoned to the streets or his losing everyone he's ever cared about." He stopped for a moment to hiss in a breath between his teeth as Quatre began to work on the wound on the exit wound.


When he spoke again, the Heavyarms pilot's voice was just a bit tighter. "Heero is closest to Duo. We can only hope he can keep him in line."

"You don't think he'll hurt Duo again, do you?" The hands tending to the wounds paused as Quatre contemplated what might have happened upstairs.

"We warned him," Wufei said. "He agreed not to hit Duo again and I believe he'll hold to his promise."

The three were immediately taken back to the time when they'd first begun working as a team. After a strenuous mission and Duo's constant pestering for Heero to get some rest, Wing's pilot lost all patience with his roommate and had not held back when he hauled off and hit him in the face with his fist. Duo hadn't expected it and failed to duck in time. Knocked out, Duo remained unconscious for several hours with a concussion. The long hours of waiting for their comrade to wake up from his pale and unnaturally silent state, having the appearance of a corpse, had been spent with each of them chastising Heero for his actions. His sudden and violent action against his teammate had put Duo out of commission, unable to accept a mission. He remained out of action until his headaches stopped, his vision cleared and his equilibrium stabled.

It surprised them all that Duo hadn't held a grudge against his roommate. He complained about his discomfort, milked his condition a bit in order to get some extra attention and was skittish for a while by any quick or unexpected movement Heero made. Despite that, he didn't shy away from Heero's presence and insisted they continue to be roommates. They were all confused by Duo's reaction towards the boy who'd struck out so violently at him, but didn't question it as they were grateful that things had more or less seemed to go back to normal.

After putting butterfly closures on Trowa's bullet wounds and bandaging both of them, Quatre went to Wufei and ignored the Chinese teen's protests as he began the cleansing process. The antiseptic on the knife wound quickly brought Wufei's protests to an end as he tightly clenched his jaw. They all knew the Chinese pilot had been fortunate that the knife hadn't hit a major blood vessel or bone.

"Do you remember the time we came across that rattlesnake on our way to our gundams?" Wufei said in a strained voice through gritted teeth, trying to distract himself from the discomfort he was experiencing as Quatre cleaned the wound.

Trowa gave a weak snort of laughter. "What possessed him to think he could catch it before it bit him?"

Quatre shook his head. "I still can't believe that he asked Heero to distract the snake while he proposed to move behind it and grab it by its neck so he could steal the rattle off its tail for a souvenir."

A smile came to Wufei's face. "The look on Duo's face was pretty funny when Heero whipped out his gun and shot the damn snake, cut off the rattle and handed it to him."

"Ruined Duo's fun that day," Trowa said, yawning around a grin. Quatre nodded as he worked. "I'll never forget the time he thought he could ride a long-horned stag by just jumping on its back and holding onto its antlers?"

"He was almost crushed," Wufei said sobering at the memory. "Thank Nataku that Heero was there after Duo was thrown off and snatched him up from under the beast's hooves before he was stomped on."

Trowa nodded. "What about that time he thought he could ride on top of the subway car, train surfing he called it."

Quatre paused in his bandaging of Wufei's thigh. "I almost had heart failure the time he came back from a mission and joked about strapping himself to the belly of a low-riding transport truck in order to escape a base. One speed bump and he could have been crushed."

There were more harrowing incidents to recall, all of which featured the American pilot, but their conversation abruptly came to an end at the sound of Heero coming down the stairs. He nodded to the three who had turned their heads to observe his descent, then proceeded to walk to the kitchen. He came back out of that room several minutes later carrying two canisters. One they knew contained coffee and the other held packets of hot cocoa mix - the mainstays of Duo's diet. He also held in his arms all of the sweet cereals and treats that were usually purchased with the Deathscythe pilot's sweet tooth in mind.

"I'm putting these in your room for safe keeping, Wufei," Heero said in a low voice. "Duo is restricted from sugar and caffeine for two weeks. No one is to supply him with any food containing those substances."

"A food restriction?" Wufei scoffed, a black eyebrow rising at the ridiculous idea.

"A junk food restriction," Heero corrected. "I know it sounds ludicrous, but he enjoys these food items enough that depriving him of it will be seen like a punishment." Turning, he silently climbed up the stairs with his armful of loot.

Quatre looked dubious as he turned back to the two injured teens on the sofa. "Do you think that will work?"

"It's worth a try," Trowa answered. "It's less harmful than trying to restrict his movements as a punishment. We all know he's an adept escape artist."

The other two nodded in agreement. Duo could get out of just about any place or even handcuffs without breaking a sweat. Then Wufei put his head back on the sofa, suddenly feeling very tired. "I just hope Yuy knows what he's doing. Handling Duo seems tantamount to holding a short-fused stick of dynamite in your bare hand."

The other two solemnly nodded their agreement as Quatre held up a container holding the familiar antibiotic pills.


Whatever Heero did to calm Duo's destructive urges that day, it seemed to work, so much so that the others let go of some of their worry for their braided teammate. Weeks came and went as the war progressed. There were several moves to new safehouses and brief separations for individual missions that were followed by welcomed reunions.

On one such reunion, Quatre volunteered to pay for a day of recreation. Having seen a sign along the roadside just south and outside the small town from where they were located, Duo suggested skydiving. The idea appealed to everyone, and so on the next free weekend they had, the five went to the airstrip, located the advertised business and signed up. As part of the jump, they were required to take an instructive course on skydiving. They learned which ripcord to pull and where the cord to the secondary emergency chute was located as well as how to cushion their impact once their feet hit the ground. Duo snickered at that one. They all knew perfectly well how to jump and fall.

Excitement sparkled in the eyes of all five teens as the small jumper plane took off from the rural airport and began to climb higher into the sky. The instructor sat in the back of the plane with them, checking their harnesses and chutes to make sure everything was in place. At a signal from the pilot, the side door was opened and a rush of cool wind swept into the cabin, momentarily taking their breath away.

Heero looked to his comrades, watching as they set the goggles they'd been provided over their eyes for protection. He noted that Duo's eyes were wide and had a wild look about them. Warning flags went up in his mind, for it was that particular look that Heero had come to be wary of. He worried for a moment about what the American could possibly have in mind, but as the instructor signaled for them to come to the open door, he had no choice but to set his worries aside, deciding he'd speak to Duo once they were on the ground.

The five had planned to jump out in quick succession so that they could enjoy the experience of skydiving together. Wufei was the first one out the door, immediately followed by Trowa and then Quatre. Heero's turn was next, but he paused for a brief second to check on the boy behind him. Duo stood at his back, his smile wide and pupils dilated.

"Go!" Duo yelled over the wind, and Heero did just that, launching himself out into the open sky as if her were following orders.

Free falling was as exhilarating as Heero thought it would be. He found his breath taken away as the wind battered his body and clothing and filled his lungs. He looked to his comrades just below his position and noticed that they were angling towards each other, their arms and legs spread wide to slow their descent. He closed his arms, pushing them towards his side to increase his speed, heading rapidly in their direction. Out of the corner of his eye he caught sight of Duo descending in the same manner from above him.

Once he was at eye level with three of his comrades, he could see the wide smiles on their faces; everyone seemed to be enjoying the experience. Then, in the blink of an eye, their enjoyment was shattered when Quatre's eyes rose above him and a look of shock, quickly replaced by horror, crossed his face. He began yelling and vigorously shaking his head, but his words were lost to the rushing air as they continued to fall. Not understanding what was happening, Heero turned his head to see what the problem was... and lost his breath completely. Above him, Duo was busy working at his harness, and it obvious the crazy American was in the process of undoing it. Heero's heart felt as if it had moved up from its place in his chest to lodge in his throat. A sense of utter betrayal filled him as the pack holding Duo's parachute separated from the slender teen's body and flew off in another direction.

Duo, for his part, smiled, but it wasn't his usual manic grin. The daredevil grin was a bit too wide, hinting that it was forced and that he was nervous and maybe regretful of his actions. Then suddenly his expression changed and he began to move through the air, doing somersaults and diving towards the shocked, stricken four. Heero didn't even think to look at anyone other than Duo. He decided that the boy had finally lost it and was trying to commit suicide and a deep sadness filled him. If that was Duo's intention, he realized there was very little he could do about it. A sudden, loud snapping sound caught his attention, and Heero glanced up to see that Quatre had pulled his parachute and his descent slowed considerably as it opened fully. As they fell away from him, the Arabian teen seemed to be hovering in the air above them. A moment later, Wufei followed, his red and white chute streaking out of his pack and opening. Trowa gave both he and Duo a sorrowful look as he joined the other two, choosing safety over the chance of getting too close to the ground.

Before Heero could look back at Duo, probably for the last time, a solid weight slammed into his back. He knew a moment's panic as Duo clung to his parachute and the thought went through his mind that maybe the self-destructive kid from L-2 intended to take him along in his fall into the hell Duo always claimed was his final destination.

Slow to react in his stunned state, Heero realized that Duo was clawing his way around him, and in a relatively short time he was affixed to his chest with his slender arms and legs tightly wrapped around his neck and waist, ankles and wrists locking them firmly in place.

"Pull the dam ripcord," Duo shouted in his ear as his arms and legs tightened their hold on him. Moving to act, Heero pulled the rip cord, then immediately wrapped his arms around the other boy to make sure the sudden jerk of the chute opening wouldn't take Duo out of his embrace.

The chute opened with a pop and a sharp jerk, and though the remainder of their descent to the ground was less dramatic, the grasp each boy had on each other remained firm and a strained silence came between them. As the ground rushed up to greet them, Heero prepared himself to bend his knees the moment his feet touched down. When they did, he stumbled forward, the extra weight against his chest testing his balance. After several large and awkward steps, he tripped over a stone and fell forward, causing Duo to land on his back in the deep grass and weeds that covered the open field. They lay there a moment with Heero's body planted solidly on top of Duo's chest and between his collapsed arms and legs. Neither boy moved, each taking a moment to recover. It was Duo who finally spoke in a voice filled with forced laughter. "Man, that was wild."

As if released from a bad dream, Heero jumped to his feet and began to undo his harness with jerky movements while his fiercely disapproving gaze narrowed as he released his anger on the other boy. "Dammit, Duo, what kind of an idiotic stunt was that?" he yelled. "What are you trying to prove? You could have killed the both of us!"

The Deathscythe pilot slowly climbed to his feet, rubbing the sore spot on his backside caused by their awkward landing. "I knew what I was doing, Heero. Yeah, it was a risk, but a calculated one."

Once free of the harness, Heero dropped the pack off his back and stepped forward to come within inches of the other boy. "If you ever do something like that again, we're finished. You might carry a death wish, but believe it or not, I don't. There are more important things to die for other than an adrenaline rush."

Duo blinked at Heero's words, his face sobering as he replied softly. "I don't have a death wish, Heero."

"Then what the hell would you call it?" he shouted in anger. "You keep doing these stupid, dangerous things that no rational thinking person would do. I've asked you to stop, but you don't. Do you even know why you do the insane things you do?"

"I have my reasons," Duo replied. Somewhat subdued by the force of Heero's anger, he cast his eyes down to the ground. He bent and picked a wild flower that he thought was called a bachelor button at its base, and straightened to twirl the long green stem around his fingers.

"Really?" Heero snorted. "Well please enlighten me. I would really like to hear these reasons. Give me two of them," he demanded, and he mentally congratulated himself for showing a great deal of restraint in not grabbing the American and violently shaking some sense into him.

Duo looked up and over the other teen's shoulder to see their friends, now on the ground and off in the distance, gathering up their parachutes and watching them warily in return. As it didn't look as if they would be coming over to join them any time soon, he turned his attention back to Heero. "Well, I... I guess I'm trying to win your approval," he said at last.

"My approval?" Heero questioned incredulously, his anger mounting. "How do you think you'll earn that when I've asked you not to do these things? How can you win my approval if you're dead? Doing these crackbrained stunts serves no purpose other than to fulfill some twisted desire for near-death experience, and I'm sick and tired of it, Duo. When's it going to stop? When your six feet underground?"

Duo wore an expression of confusion. "Don't you think you're being a bit of a hypocrite, Heero, that you're actually condemning me for emulating you?"

That was not what he'd expected Duo to say. "What do you mean?" he demanded, frowning at the braided boy whose eyes never left his own.

"You're the one who showed me how to live on the edge, Heero, from the moment we first met. You're the only person I know who would have ignored my gun in your face and kept going until I shot you... twice. Even wounded you jumped onto an armed missile like some rodeo cowboy on a bucking bronco just out of its pen. And don't forget that you were the one to show me how to free fall. After I got you out of that Alliance hospital you dove out of that building and didn't pull your chute until the last moment."

Heero's eyes widened at his partner's words, momentarily at a loss about what to say as the braided boy continued. "We won't even go into how you set your own leg. I can't even imagine how painful it must have been even after you set it, and still, you crawled inside my suit, stole parts from Deathscythe to repair Wing and then you piloted your gundam out of there. If that's not impressive, I don't know what is."

It wasn't hard to see that Duo had been impressed by his rash actions early in their acquaintance, but he'd never realized they would lead the other boy to be so reckless with his own life in return.

There was a touch of awe in Duo's voice as he continued. "You were the absolute definition of fearless, Heero, when you stood out on Wing's hatch and showed our enemies your strength of will and dedication to the colonies when you pushed the self-destruct button. And you did it with such conviction. You didn't hesitate, probably not even thinking about whether or not I'd be crushed by your death or that it would be almost impossible for us to win the war without you. You did what you did because you thought it was right."

"And so you do these... things, risking your life in order to be like me?" Heero asked as he looked into the eyes that had always spoken volumes to him.

"Would you respect me if I didn't take the same kind of chances you do? If I always chose the safe route?"

Grabbing the other boy's shoulders and holding them tightly, Heero fought the urge to violently shake him once again. "I want you to live, Duo. I want you to survive this war. I... I don't want to be the reason for your death because you're trying to prove something to me. I can't believe you'd do this just to get my approval. There's some other reason why you put your life on the line when you don't need to, isn't there?"

Duo's chin quivered just slightly, but his eyes remained clear. Heero knew the other boy didn't like to look too deeply inside himself for answers to personal questions for there was too much loss and grief buried beneath Duo's smile and carefree attitude.

"Tell me, Duo."

Unable to free himself from his tight grasp without a knock-down, drag-out fight, the braided boy's shoulders slumped and his head bowed, a sign of defeat.

"What else are you trying to prove, Duo?" Heero persisted, softening his tone.

The single flower that Duo had been holding dropped unnoticed to the ground. "That I'm alive," came the whispered reply.

"And you don't feel that you're alive unless your flirting with death by going a hundred miles an hour on a motorcycle without a helmet or falling out of an airplane without a parachute?"

Duo shrugged, his eyes on the ground. "I think I feel more alive when I'm scared to death that I might die," he confessed. "It's in those moments, when I'm caught between life and death, that I truly value living."

Heero knew Duo Maxwell better than any other person alive, and he knew of the pain the boy carried within himself, the survivor's guilt that he usually managed to keep hidden. He sensed that deep down and underneath the brash, boisterous and daring persona the American displayed, Duo was just a boy who was desperately in need of something or someone to ground him. Someone who wouldn't leave him behind. He'd guessed from their long conversations late at night, while lying in their beds before sleeping, or after a nightmare had awakened them, that Duo craved to love and be loved and to have someone who would protect him, mostly from being alone. Heero thought he'd done his best to help Duo, managing to physically keep him at arm's length while being his comrade and friend. He knew Duo wanted more from him, a deeper, romantic relationship. The braided teen's actions at times had made that desire more than clear. But he knew the American would never ask him for more than what they already shared, a solid friendship, for Duo's fear of rejection was too strong. He wouldn't take the chance of losing him by asking for more.

Pulling the slender, unresisting body into his arms, Heero held the other teen tightly to his chest. With his nose pressed against the side of Duo's head, he breathed in the floral scent of the conditioner the long-haired boy used, as well as his natural scent that was clean and slightly musky. He'd fought his attraction to this boy for a long time, determined that they were too young and preoccupied with the war to act on their feelings for each other, knowing that such a relationship would most likely be short-lived when one of them died in battle. He wasn't a person who could take a relationship lightly, and he couldn't treat Duo as anything but an important person in his life. He considered for a moment that maybe he'd been wrong in keeping Duo at arm's length. His mixed-up, deluded friend had been trying to win his approval by more or less following his own pattern of considering his life expendable.

Leaning back slightly, he looked into Duo's questioning eyes, noting that his eyelids began to droop as he closed the distance between them, placing his lips over the braided teen's mouth. It wasn't their first kiss, but it was similar to the few they had shared. It was soft, tentative and non invasive, as neither one of them had much experience with such things. Even in its simplest form, the innocent kiss sent coursing waves of pleasure through both teens, as evidenced by their satisfied moans and the pressing of their bodies closer to each others.

Pulling back from the kiss, Heero looked into Duo's flushed face once again. "Did that make you feel alive?" he asked, stroking the fair cheek with his thumb.

Duo nodded, a satisfied smile forming. "Yeah, and a whole lot more," he chuckled.

"Could that be worth living for, rather than an adrenaline rush or winning my approval?"

The smile slipped. "I'll always try for your approval, Heero. You're the one who matters to me."

"Then win it by staying alive. Lay off of these dangerous stunts and I'll promise to give you my undivided attention at least once a day."

"Just once?" The crooked smile showed Duo was teasing.

"It can be negotiated with good behavior," he grinned back.

"I can be very, very good if I put my mind to it."

"That's good to know."

The sound of the other three coming up behind them caused the two reconciled boys to pull apart. "But for now," Heero said, knowing the other three pilots expected him to reprimand Duo for his recklessness, "considered yourself on report. No sugar, no T.V. and you're sleeping on the couch for two weeks."

Duo's eyes widened at his punishment. On the couch for two weeks was rather harsh. He could give up sugar and even television easily enough, but to not be in the same room with Heero at night was truly a punishment. He reluctantly accepted it with an unhappy nod, knowing that Heero was only looking out for his best interests. He'd waited this long for the other boy to take a step in their relationship, he figured that, if he had to, he could wait just a bit longer for the next one.

"Good," Heero said in reply, then took away any sting his reprimand might have caused by giving his partner another memorable kiss.

Not too far in the distance, Trowa stood with his gathered parachute bundled up in his arms watching the scene unfold before him. From the corner of his eye he glimpsed Wufei approaching him on his right and he knew that Quatre was still rolling his chute as he walked towards them to the left of his position. He'd kept an eye on the Heero and Duo while he floated to the ground, observing from above as they landed, stumbled and fell onto the ground moments before he'd touched down. Though relieved that both boys appeared unharmed by Duo's reckless actions, he'd continued watching them and observed Heero as he stood up. It appeared by his stance and stiff movements that he was reprimanding the braided boy. He'd worried for a moment that Heero was once again nearing the end of his patience with Duo, that they might have to have intervene and initiate another discussion with him about how to handle the dangerous antics of the pilot from L-2. There was no doubt in his mind that Duo was going to receive a stern lecture from all of them.

He was surprised to see Duo climb to his feet and stand before Wing's pilot, his body language showing he was relaxed and unguarded. Yet a moment later the real shocker came in seeing Heero step forward and embrace and then kiss the braided hellion.

A snort sounded from his right.

"Do you think things just got better or worse?" Wufei grumbled as he came to stand at the Heavyarms pilot's side.

Trowa merely shrugged, not really knowing the answer.

"It's about time," Quatre piped up as he too approached them and stood on Trowa's left, his gathered chute almost covering his face as he struggled to contain it in his arms as he stopped next to them, a pleased smile on his face.

"Think it will work out between them?" the auburn-haired teen asked, his eyes returning to the couple talking once again in close proximity. In a silent agreement, the three began to walk towards their friends.

"Why not?" Wufei replied, a trace of sarcasm in his voice. "They've been tip-toeing around each other for a long time now. The three of us know they're both emotionally crippled, have damaged more brain cells than any normal person and are basically suicidal lunatics. What could possibly go wrong?"

Trowa cast a quick glance at the ebony-haired teen. "Maybe Duo will settle down now that Heero's made a move. We can only hope that he'll stop trying so hard to get Yuy's attention."

"Do you think that's what he's been doing all along?" Quatre asked, his blond eyebrows pinching together as he thought about Duo's past actions. "I thought he pulled those stunts just for the thrill of it."

"That's what I think," Trowa answered, turning his gaze back to the two not-so-distant teens. Once again, the two boys came together for another kiss, and this one appeared to be a bit more involved than the first. "We've all known that Duo's been drawn to Heero from the beginning but that he lacked the confidence to do anything about it."

"Heero cares deeply for him, too," Quatre said quietly, not needing to explain how he knew such a thing.

"And Yuy's pulled as many suicidal tricks as Maxwell, so it seems to me they're perfectly matched," Wufei added, a small smile growing on his face as he watched with the others the two pilots in the distance as they separated and Heero's hand rose to lovingly stroke the long braid that fell against the other boy's back.

"I think they'll be good for each other, that they'll find happiness together," Quatre said dreamily. And then like a storm rising out of a blue sky, his face grew cloudy with anger. "That is after I seriously knock some sense into Duo's fat, hairy head for scaring me like that. I just about had heart failure when I saw him take his parachute off."

"You're not the only one," Wufei chuckled darkly and pointed off into the distance where a four-wheel truck was barreling down the dirt road towards them, a cloud of dust shooting up behind it. "I think we've just been banned from that skydiving school and airport."

"Let's go," Trowa said and began to jog towards their friends, still standing close to each other. "If that guy is as upset and angry as I think he is, we're going to need to get out of here quick before they call the police to report an attempted suicide."

"Do you think that someday can we manage to have a normal outing together?" Quatre asked, sounding somewhat annoyed as he ran alongside the other two, racing to beat the truck raced across the field towards their friends who were obviously kissing once again. An amused snort from Wufei and a roll of Trowa's eyes answered his question all too well.

"If you ever try a stunt like that again, Maxwell," Wufei huffed darkly as he stepped up to the two, pulling his parachute tighter in front of him, "I'm going to sever that braid from your head and strangle you with it."

"That goes for Trowa and I also," Quatre said, his face still unnaturally pale from the fright Duo's latest stunt had caused him. Trowa merely offered a cool stare of disapproval.

"It won't happen again. I swear," Duo said soberly. "Heero and I have worked out a deal, so you don't have to worry about it."

"A deal?" Trowa asked, one eyebrow rising as his eyes shifted from Duo to Heero and back again.

"A deal," Heero confirmed, moving to stand at Duo's side and slipping an arm around his waist.

Though the "deal" wasn't spelled out, Heero's actions indicated it was something to be kept between he and Duo. The air went still around the five at the silent declaration. "Well it's about time," Wufei said, turning to begin rolling up his parachute.

Quatre nodded, a smile of approval replacing his anger. "We never thought you two would figure things out much less act on how you both obviously feel for each other."

"You knew?" Heero asked, surprised. He thought he'd hidden his feelings for Duo quite well.

Quatre pointed to his heart, telling the two just how he'd known.

Trowa chuckled. "Well I don't have a space heart but it was obvious to me."

"Then no one minds?" Duo looked hopeful at the three.

Wufei rolled his eyes. "Mind? You two are equally crazy, suicidal-prone and opposite in temperament. It seems to me that the war is more or less couple's therapy for you. By the time it's over, assuming you survive OZ and each other, you'll be saving the world from having to deal with you in the dating pool. So no, we don't mind."

A muffled laugh from Trowa and Quatre showed their agreement. The sound of their transport drew the five boys' attention as it came rumbling towards them, officially ending what would probably be the last time they'd try skydiving together.

Just a bit of fluff before I post a more dramatic story. Soon, I promise


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