Iím so high
I can hear heaven
Iím so high
I can hear heaven
No heaven donít hear me
My head swims momentarily, the ceiling above me blurring as I try to clear my vision. The dizziness fades, slowly, and the room comes back into focus. I sigh heavily, sagging into the stool Iím perched on. The bonds strain against my wrists as gravity pulls my hands downward. They remain suspended in front of my sternum, hanging from a roughly spun rope tied to the single window.
I wriggle my fingers, wincing as the rope bites harshly into my already raw skin. I donít know how long Iíve been here, tied to a wall, in this tiny, stifling office room, waiting, waiting for--what? Actually, I donít know. I donít know who the hell is here with me in this old building, who nabbed me, bound my wrists and tossed me into this makeshift cell. I donít know if they want information, or money, or my life or what. All I know is that theyíre not happy with my presence.
My mind drifts back to last night, when I turned on my computer to find that the connection was suddenly working again, after two months of being broken. To find that single e-mail from Trowa waiting for me had cheered me up beyond scientific measure. To have communication again after months of not hearing from any of my friends and nearly a year without seeing them. It made even the grey metallic atmosphere of the colony seem bright.
The contents of the message had stifled that happiness a little. Trowa had as good as said nothing, it was just a bunch of pointless rambling--which, had it been vocal, would have been way out of character for him. All I got out of it was that he and Heero, the only two of our group still involved in the military, were coming to this colony to investigate a possible rebellion.
Heero. He was one of the reasons I had quit the military in the first place--I couldnít be around him anymore. Not that I disliked him--God, no, I could never hate Heero. What drove me away was the single fact that when I was around Heero, I became a liability. I can think of at least two occasions where I very nearly got us all killed when I panicked and went after him, fearing him injured or worse, only to find him alive, kicking, and mad enough at me to spit fire.
Now he was coming here. On a mission. The knowledge nearly killed me, and to clear my head, I had left my apartment and sought refuge away from the memories. My travels eventually brought me here, to this old blackened, charred skeleton of a building, once a bright shopping centre, until it went bankrupt and then caught fire. I had thought it was empty. I had been wrong.
I squirm on the stool, uncomfortable, but glad of its presence. It had been nearly two hours of standing before I had managed to snag one leg of the thing with my toe and drag it over to me. But while it beat standing up, it sure got tedious after an entire night.
My vision clouds over black, exhausted, dehydrated and overheated, and I wish that Iíd worn something other than the heavy black shirt. I lean my forehead against the wall, my thoughts turning against my will to Heero. In my mindís eye, I can see him, messy dark hair, endless sapphire eyes, face a stony emotionless mask. I used to stare at him, when I thought he wasnít paying attention, and try to see past his face, past the hard eyes and set mouth. To see what went on inside the head of the Perfect Soldier. Not for the first time, I muse that maybe I would only find metal and wires, that maybe Heero is nothing more than an artfully created robot.
Sometimes, in my dreams, he smiles. Tiny, tiny smiles than nevertheless take twenty years off him and make him look nineteen again. Sometimes, in my dreams, he drops the mask.
In my head, I hear voices. Duo no baka! Omae o korosu! Do you want to kill us all? A gun being cocked, a clink as he points it at meÖ How many times has he threatened to kill me? In my delirious state, I laugh silently, as good as counting on my fingers, but running out all too soon. I laugh out loud, this time, rolling my head against the wall to focus dizzily on the door.
I blink. I must be worse than I thought. In my hallucination, Heero has opened the door and stepped inside, is walking towards me, face unreadable. I squeeze my eyes shut and shake my head, willing myself to focus.
"Duo?!" Heís there when I look again, but closer. I start, nearly falling off the stool, and his hand is there on my shoulder, holding me on. Speechless, I gape at him like an idiot, unable to do anything but stare into those crystal midnight eyes.
"Duo?" He shakes me gently. "Daijoubu?"
I try to reply, but it takes two tries before my voice works. "What the hell are you doing here?"
Not very eloquent, maybe, but straightforward.
Satisfied that Iím not dead, he scowls, and barks, "Could ask you the same thing. Get up, letís get out of here." He takes out a small knife and hacks away at the ropes on my wrists, and I pull myself free, wincing at the sight of my raw skin. I stand unsteadily, flexing my hands to bring blood back into them. I almost expect another gun to my head--it wouldnít be the first time heís done it.
But Heeroís checking the door, looking for anyone who might be looking for him. He nods once, then sends me a pointed glare that obviously means I should follow him. We creep silently into the small hallway, Heero somehow managing to walk in a straight line without once looking directly forward--heís sweeping his eyes over and over around the small corridor, ever expecting attack. A mockery, I shuffle dazedly along behind him, my head spinning from going from still to locomotive with no time for transition. To quell the dizziness, I focus on the only thing that remains steady--in this case, Heeroís t-shirt clad back.
He stops before the door at the end of the hall, and holds up an arm for me to do the same. I step up beside him as he peers out the tiny, broken window, its glass smashed long ago. I wait for him to nod at me, then working from years of practice, I undo the latch and ease the door open without making a sound.
I blink like an owl in the light, taking in the rest of the building with a kind of detached fascination. Weíre about two floors up on an oval path around the edge of the mall, the centre of the building opening up over what used to be a mini-golf course far below us. Most of the glass around the edge is broken, and that which isnít is cracked and blackened, clinging to the brass handrail. Frozen escalators, one on each side, link the floors. Around the edge, behind us, the stalls where the stores used to be are empty behind the cage, the soot coated shelves and racks holding the charred remains of their wares.
Artificial noon light illuminates the place right down the middle, through the dilapidated skylight a good four or five stories over our heads. Dust and soot, glowing in the huge beam, float slowly downward.
Heís moving away from me, towards the motionless escalators. I hold up a hand to stop him, frowning. Something on he other side of the building is moving. I squint, shading my eyes with my hand, straining to see. Heeroís frozen, waiting for me to speak.
Movement again. I force my eyes to focus.
There is a BANG that echoes through the entire building. The hand by my eyes flies down towards the gun I donít have. It never makes the journey--around shoulder height, its trek is cut short as a bullet passes clean through it, and pings off the wall behind me.
There is a moment of stillness. Even the dust seems frozen.
Then Iím doubling over in pain, biting back a string of obscene words, and Heero is fumbling for his gun, shooting blindly at the opponent he canít see, wasting his bullets. I gasp for air on my knees, clutching my wrecked hand with the other, trying to squeeze it and stop the bleeding without further crushing the already broken bones. Heero shoots again, and is rewarded by a shout of pain from across the drop. Momentarily satisfied, he darts around to crouch in front of me.
"You OK?" he demands, almost sounding concerned. Almost.
"Hai," I rasp, raising my head again to search for the gunman. I catch him--damn!--coming towards us around the corner, weapon raised. I shoot up to standing, and he follows me. "Heero!"
He spins around, and swears, aiming. They both shoot at the same time, and my ears ring at the sharp sound.
Its like someone slows down time. I see the bullets slow in the air, both headed directly at their target. The message is simple--I dance around Heero, even as time rights itself, grab him by the shoulders and throw him to the ground.
There is no pause this time. Just Heero sprawled unceremoniously on the cold, blackened tiles, and me draped on top of him. The bullet meant for him had missed--because my shoulder got in the way. It throbs there now, lodged in the left side of my trapezius, until my consciousness is narrowed right down to that little point of muscle and metal. My hands are still gripping Heeroís upper arms, the injured one smearing blood over his bicep. I draw and releasing shuddering, ragged breaths into his collar, swooning from the pain.
Heero blinks, then shoves me off him and stumbles to his feet. I stay on the ground, my hand and shoulder screaming as they protest the sudden movement. I draw my bottom lip between my teeth, biting down hard until I taste still more blood. The combination of the pain and the stinging tears blurs my vision, and the cracked remains of the mirrored ceiling run together. Heero raises his gun and aims it down the hallway. He pulls the trigger, but nothing happens. A curse falls from his lips.
"Donít," I choke out. "You got him--" I shift, and my hand catches fire. "You got him before."
He shoves the gun back into its holster and then hauls me upright by my forearms. I supress a scream as my left arm pulls forward in its socket, straining against the punctured muscle. Heero keeps the grip on my wrists, and yanks me into a recess, sliding down the wall to squat in the corner. I sit across from him, gingerly leaning back into the wall, hissing as my shoulder makes contact.
"We can talk now."
My head snaps up, an action I regret instantly. "Huh?"
Heero digs into his pocket for a new cartridge of bullets. "Like, what the hell are you doing in a known rebel hideout, in the middle of the night, with no weapons on you?" He jams the cartridge violently into the gun, his voice climbing in volume as he gets more upset. "How stupid can you get, Maxwell? I know you quit the army, but did you leave all your sense behind with your uniform?"
"How was I supposed to know it was a goddamned hideout?" I shoot back, pain thickening my voice and shortening my temper. "Itís not like thereís a big sign out front! I havenít gotten any e-mails since December!" The years away from the military have weakened my immunity to pain, and the fading endorphins only make everything that much sharper.
Heero heaves a sigh, setting the gun down beside his foot. "Let me see your hand."
Reluctantly, I extend my arm, my empty stomach turning over as I get my first good look at my hand. There is a neat hole in my palm, but the back of it is gone, a mess of lacerated flesh, blood and bone splinters. The whole thing bleeds sluggishly, pulsing with every beat of my heart.
To his credit, he has the humanity to look slightly green as he takes in my hand. "Jesus Christ." Before I can say a word, heís reached under his t-shirt and pulled the thing over his head. I bite my lip, staring at the ground as he brings the hem of it to his teeth and tears off a long strip of cotton. A strangled cry falls from my lips as he winds the fabric around my hand, maybe a bit tighter than necessary, tearing another strip and wrapping that as well. The rest of the shirt he uses to wipe away the blood that has trickled down my forearm, shoving the dampened sleeve of my shirt back to mop at the inside of my elbow.
"That should slow the bleeding a little, for now," he tells me, his voice once more calm and emotionless. "Youíll be fine."
He doesnít know about my shoulder, I realize. A spark of annoyance lights in the back of my head. Perfect Soldier my ass. His observation skills are down. Iím about to open my mouth--though what Iím trying to say escapes me--when I see movement down the hallway.
"Heero." I indicate our pursuers with a jerk of my head, and he twists around to look before curling back into our shelter and grabbing his gun.
"We want to go up," he tells me shortly, checking his weapon over. "Barton has a chopper on the roof. Just get as high as you can and weíll wing it from there." He climbs to his feet, and I follow, my head reeling as I get up way too fast for its liking. My shoulder bounces repeatedly against the wall as I rise, each time blackening my vision more.
"Just do it, Duo." He turns his back to me, focusing all his attention on the people walking quickly towards us--two men and a woman.
Exasperated, he whirls around to face me. "Do you have a gun? If you did, could you shoot it with that hand?" The bandages are already soaking through.
But three to one? No way Iím leaving him like this. "No, but--"
So I do. I break away from him and run as fast as I can towards the frozen escalators, stumbling now and then, arms swinging, and blood pumping out of me with every stride I take. My head spins, scrambling my vision.
I nearly go flying as I collide with the bottom step of the first escalator, and I scramble forward, taking the stairs two at a time, my left hand half-steadying me on the banister, my right held against my chest. Up, up, my brain blurs and clears over and over again.
I sprint down the path, the empty stores fly past me, I dance around the remains of benches, metal skeletons of signs, half-melted tree planters. Another escalator behind me, another hallway, another escalator, another hallÖ
The third escalator has fallen away behind my feet. I stare up, realizing I have nowhere left to go, there is nothing between me and the skylight but air. Go to the light, go to the light. Dazed, I giggle. Even as I run, I can feel my senses draining away with my blood. And I donít see the fallen planter that blocks my path.
For a moment, I just lie there, stunned, face down on the floor, ignoring the fact that I landed on my hands and jarred my shoulder. I just stare at the cracked tile in front of my nose, frozen.
My eyes fill with black as I realize the pain pounding through my body. I close them and press my forehead to the ground, but my stomach has other ideas. With a groan, I curl into a kneeling ball, using my arms as little as possible, and shuffle on my knees to the edge that hangs over the drop. The glass in front of me is webbed with cracks, and it falls to pieces as I reach out and push it away. I hang my head out, ignoring the height, and vomit.
I havenít eaten much, but what still remains quickly exits my body, and I am left heaving dryly as my stomach works to dispel that which has already left it. Finally, I calm, pushing myself back away from the edge, and breathe hard. I draw my knees to my chest, shivering as I feel a rivulet of blood trickle down my back to soak the hem of my shirt. My head is spinning, growing faint as my awareness seeps out of my back and hand. I focus all my energy on staying conscious, even as I hear footsteps coming towards me, gunshots ringing, and Heeroís voice shouting something in Japanese, words I might have understood if I were a little more alert.
I donít move, but I see his runners in front of me, and his face as he drops down to look me in the eye. "Duo, come on." He shakes me gently by the shoulder, which is exactly the wrong thing to do. I nearly pass out. Looking up, he signals someone above us with a wave of his hand. I hear a crash, and a tinkle of glass a moment later.
Heero stands and moves away from me towards the edge. I hear him swearing as he tries to reach whatever just smashed through the skylight. I fight a wave of blackness, but then heís back beside me, grabbing my arm and hauling me up with one hand, gripping a thick rope in the other. I slump against him, dizzied and faint, and he catches me around the waist as I strain to regain my balance.
"You canít climb with that hand," he mutters, more to himself than to me, frowning as his mind works. He looks at me, right arm braced against his shoulder, left bent at the shoulder and clutching at his elbow. Iím afraid to move. If I werenít so far gone, I would have been blushing like a tomato now, jumping backwards as I realize I have just glomped a half-naked Heero and as good as buried my face in his bare shoulder. But now, as he steps backwards and looks up to where Trowaís catlike form is peering down on us from the broken skylight, a good twenty feet up, holding the other end of the rope and bracing himself for our weight--now, I can only latch onto his neck and hang on for dear life as my knees buckle under me.
I feel him sigh, and then tense as an idea comes to him. He reaches behind his head, grabbing my left hand and wrapping it around my right wrist, ignoring my gasps of pain as my left arm pulls in its socket. "Keep you arms around my neck," he orders me firmly. "Hold on as tight as you possibly can, all right?"
I nod dumbly into his neck, already hanging off him. He wraps an arm around my waist, hitches me upward, and I get my grip again, tightening my arms. Satisfied, he pulls me to the edge, breaks the brass handrail with a single kick, then lets go of me to put both hands on the rope. A moment, a preparatory breath. Then he pushes away from the floor, and weíre hanging in the air.
We must be quite the image, me clinging to Heeroís neck, my legs dangling useless below me, eyes staring at nothing. Heero focused intently on the hole above us, face set with determination as, hand over hand, he hauls us both towards the light. Sweat runs down his naked torso as he works. We are directly under the beam of artificial sun, the only things lit in the dark building.
Iím beyond that, though. My entire consciousness is focused on the hand gripping my wrist, not daring to let go even to fix my grip. I donít feel the bullet holes anymore. I donít feel my cramping shoulder muscles. I donít feel the blood seeping through the bandage on my hand and falling in scarlet droplets off my little finger, sometimes hitting Heeroís back, sometimes falling past him. Or the blood running in tiny rivers down my back, where it isnít intercepted by the thick fabric of my shirt, soaking it in red.
I only feel the tightly clenched hand. And now, I can barely even feel that.
Higher. Heís breathing hard now, really working. Higher. But he never slows, never looks down.
Higher. The rope jerks as Trowa ties off his end to something on the roof. Higher. Iím very glad I can no longer see, as I would be puking all over Heero if I could make out the ground. Higher. Oh, God, Iím gonna faint in a minute. HigherÖ
A bump. Hands under my armpits, pulling me up. "Let go, Duo." I comply, letting, letting my hands fall to land on the cement beside me. Iím dragged backwards, and gently laid on my back. Above me stretches an expanse of grey metal. I blink, then gasp as my shoulder touches down.
"Heís not fully conscious."
"How? Did he hit his head on something?"
Whoís talking? Why wonít they shut up? God, I just want to roll over and sleep. Sleep? But itís noonÖ Besides, rolling over would hurtÖ
"I watched him on his way up. He never hit his head. Tripped, once, threw up a bit." Someone holds open one of my eyelids, then feels around my throat. "His pulse is weak. Blood loss."
"What, from his hand?" Heero. Thatís Heeroís voice. My God, he almost sounds worried. Someone picks up my wrapped hand, and I groan as pain shoots up my arm. "But I bandaged it."
"A lot more likely from this."
An arm slides under my back and lifts me partly off the ground. My chin drops to my chest. Gentle fingers against my shoulder. TrowaÖ was the one who pulled me up, he must have blood all over his handsÖ
"Oh, sweet JesusÖ"
Trowa supports me, half sitting up, and I register dumbly on Heeroís quick fingers moving down the front of my shirt, undoing the buttons, pushing it off my shoulder and down my back to expose the wound. Heís kneeling over me, now, straddling me, deft hands searching the area around my collarbone.
"Thereís no exit wound. The bulletís still in there."
He prods the muscle, and I feel the bullet move inside my flesh against his fingers. I draw a strangled breath, curling in on myself as Iím laid back down. Heero straightens on his knees, and I hear metal scraping leather.
Steel against my skin. He slices a gash in the area opposite the wound. I let out what might have been a scream as the blade scrapes over the bullet. I can feel sweat running off my forehead, blood trickling off my shoulder.
Heís so close to me. I can feel his breath on my skin. My head spins, my eyes cloud over. For a moment, I feel nothing.
When Iím back again, Heeroís mouth is on my neck, sucking. I lurch, torn between bewildered shock and mindless pain, as I realize heís sucking on the gash heís just cut. Then heís gone, spitting on the ground beside me. Sucking again, then spitting, sucking, and I writhe under him, retching, ready to faint again, only still because Trowaís holding me down.
A jerk, and I really do scream. In my blurred vision, I see Heero supporting himself over me with one hand, while the other reaches up and takes the bullet off his tongue, setting it beside my head, and wiping the blood off his mouth. He pushes sweat-soaked bangs off my foreheadÖ "Duo--can you hear me?"
God, he really is concernedÖ
I open my eyes again. Heeroís right above me, hand resting on my hair, eyes focused intently on mine. Nothing else matters--Heeroís here, itíll be OKÖ I smile dazedly, ignoring my throbbing limbs, channelling all my being towards the boy above me. On his dark hair falling into darker eyes, eyes filled with anxiety, fearÖ and now relief---
Before I even realize it, heís dropped down and pressed his lips to mine, the hand on my hair sliding around to rest behind my ear. I sink into his hand, too stunned to do anything else. Behind me, I vaguely hear Trowa gasp, and move away when he realizes Iím not fighting.
He pulls away before I can get it together enough to respond. When I look at him, heís still close to me, but looks ready to run. His breathing is short, and he reminds me of a trapped wild animal, hand over his mouth like he canít believe I havenít killed him yet.
I shift under him, ignoring my shoulder, letting go a slow breath. My right hand drifts towards him, and blood runs down my forearm and pools in my elbow. Slowly, dazedly, I pull his hand away from his mouth and give it a tug, coming off the ground slightly. "Hee--HeeroÖ" My voice is so quiet even I can barely hear it.
He doesnít have to be asked twice. For a split second, I find myself staring into his deep blue eyes, barely two inches from mine--and then I donít see anything, and Heero is kissing me.
I shudder beneath him as his hand finds its way back to my face. His tongue brushes my bottom lip, and I open my mouth, gasping as he lets his body sink onto mine. My head is spinning, not from my injuries, and I bring my left hand up to touch the side of his ribcage, my fingertips barely brushing his skin. He finds my tongue, spars with it, and I can taste my own blood.
I donít care. I donít care that Iím still bleeding, either, or that Trowa is maybe three feet away from us. All that matters is Heeroís mouth, the taste of him, his hands sliding down my body as he sits up on his heels and gathers me against his chest, breaking away momentarily to draw a breath, before pulling me back to him.
I kiss him back with all I have--small, but enough for now. I cling to him, drunk on the taste of his mouth, my bloodied hand painting red smears over his face and neck as I drag it lower to his naked chest. He tenses, and I can feel his breath hitch as I touch him. I snake my arm around his waist, pulling him closer to me, needing to feel him.
I wonít last long like this, I can feel myself slipping. But still, I kiss him, and he responds roughly, his tongue dancing in my mouth. My mind clouds over, my body goes limp in his arms--but only one thought plays over and over in my head. Donít stop. Donít stopÖ
It seems like an eternity before he finally lets me go, and too soon even then. I fight to stay conscious, gasping for breath, opening my eyes as he presses his forehead against mine, holding me tight. Iím drowning in his eyes, lost in the colour, my world narrowed down to those two points of blue.
The air stirs and churns around us as the blades of the chopper begin to spin. I hear Trowaís voice shouting at us before the noise overcomes him.
"Duo." He can tell Iím slipping. "Donít die on me, Duo."
I try to tell him, I wonít, Iím fine, just dizzy. But my voice doesnít work. Instead, I smile, hoping my eyes say it as clearly.
Black floods my vision. And I let it take me.
Now that the world isnít ending
Itís low that Iím sending
It isnít the love of a hero
And thatís why I fear
It wonít do