Disclaimer: This is fanfiction based on the characters and universe of Gundam Wing.

Another Version of Events
by Karan Seraph
Chapter 25

Many red pillars which Heero thought he'd seen earlier in the hotel restaurant and Duo the grinning pyromaniac in candlelight. Beautiful pyromaniac in a red robe decorated with hotel logo, leaning on a black walking stick, but, pyromaniac. Grinning. Hair loose and shimmering in the light of very many dancing flames.

"We do have power on this side of the beach?" Heero asked lamely.

"We even have water. You've gotta see the tub?"

Tub? Heero just wanted a bed right now. Why was Duo so amused? Heero tore his eyes from watching Duo's hair sway and peered into the slightly less bright areas of the room. It was even more ostentatious inside the rooms. The headboard of the bed was shaped like a heart and it was covered in shimmering red and purple satin. Likewise much of the other furniture was fuzzy or red or figurative. "Is this some kind of love hotel or honeymoon suite?"

Duo hobbled quickly along a path of light formed by the candles positioned on almost every surface. Foot... foot with walking stick... foot... foot with stick, Heero wasn't used to Duo moving like that. "Come on, Baby!" It passed his lips so naturally, that word, it made him seem even more American, Heero thought. He called from an adjacent room, "I just know all the rooms are equally interesting, I didn't pick this one especially if that's what you want to know, but I did persuade my homeboys downstairs to give you they key to this room after I got it."

There were more candles in the bathroom. The tub, it was red, fiberglass and heart-shaped, evidently equipped with jets for a massage like bath, as the water spun and bubbled.

Duo put his stick aside and stood, confidently, with his weight mainly in his good leg. "I made it really hot too, just how you like it!"

Heero looked toward the tub and then to Duo. "But you don't like it that hot. You don't want to share?"

"I-uh..." Heero was watching Duo as he spoke and he noticed the seemingly unconscious straightening of Duo's robe. He understood that Duo must still have various abrasions or bruises and must not want Heero to see his body. Heero didn't think he would mind. Well, he wouldn't like that Duo was hurt, but he wouldn't ever think him ugly either. Duo laughed, it was his nervous and disarming laugh. "I did already wash."

Heero glanced to the tub again. He thought he would feel better after a bath. "I didn't expect you to do all this. I really just wanted to sleep, but a bath sounds like a good idea, if you promise to stay and make sure I don't fall asleep and drown?"

The nervous laugh again. "No problem."

"No problem," Heero repeated. He removed the clothes he'd been wearing for over a day. Not wanting to take time to eat or sleep he hadn't gotten a shower and so changing his clothes had also seemed pointless. Heero decided it was a good idea he take a bath.

Heero climbed up into the tub. The water was hot and moved forcefully against his body. It felt good. Heero saw Koi came in and lay on the floor. Koi often guarded him when he was in the bath, though the dog was still yet fairly young and in training. Heero saw Koi and Duo eye each other suspiciously.

Duo moved to the steps in front of the tub and sat down, arranging the edges of his robe again. Heero saw a flash of dog tags, prayer beads and bandages. Heero closed his eyes then and let his body relax.

"I kissed Gibson."

Heero sat straight. "Nani?"

"He's dead now," Duo said, so calmly, as if announcing that the Sun still burned.

Heero opened his mouth but no words formed. He blinked then and turned his head to catch Duo's eyes, but Duo was evading.

"I just did it because he was dying and he knew he was dying and that's why I did it, but we pretended like he was going to be OK. Mariemaia was crying and we just couldn't get her to stop. It was hurting him to see her, so they had to make her leave."

"Mariemaia was here."

Duo chuckled and it sounded cold. "Une sent her here for safekeeping, because she suspected the Capitol might be targeted."

"She's nine. Right?" born in 189, it was 198. Just nine-years old and she'd been in the area when it happened. "Was she here? I mean, out there?"

Duo sighed. "Yeah. South Beach. The beach was packed when the alarms went off. Apparently she went directly to one of the shelters and managed to get a lot of people to follow her. A lot of people on South Beach didn't even have time to get out of the way or far enough along the tunnels even if they tried. He tried not to do it. It's true. We were in radio contact until I lost consciousness, so I heard it when they stabbed him. I mean, the noise you try not to make when you're being beaten. It was just bad intelligence. I mean, not that we had much of a choice. We couldn't manage to get them to stop and the only option was one of us boarding. It wasn't like they let us have beam cannons to blow them apart before they can crash." Duo laughed coldly. "We just didn't know how many people were on the shuttle. At least four."

"I am sorry."

Duo shrugged. "Wasn't your fault. That's just how it was. One of us had to board her, he volunteered, though we were in his mobile suit. I said I'd go and that I trusted him to do what he could with Hera. He looked at me all serious and he said, 'I know you're better and you'll do everything this suit will let you to protect the Colony, let me go over.'"

"So, it was like a suicide mission..."

"We didn't know. We had no information on that cell. In some other universe maybe Gibson could overpower all of them, or there weren't so many, or something and he'd live. I knew he was passed out, I heard them over our comlink. I think Gibson heard me shouting at them. He knew I'd let them hit me. There was some chance the mobile suit would absorb the impact. Somehow he got up then and tried to stop the shuttle. You see, I don't actually remember. All I remember is the shuttle approaching and Gibson being conscious and calling to me and then thrashing about in the hospital and finding out that moving hurt like hell. But I know, Heero. He did everything he could not to let the shuttle kill people."

"I believe you." Heero paused. "Didn't know they would target this colony?"

"We knew there was a threat, but we just couldn't get specific information. I mean..." Duo drew a ragged breath and shoved his hands into his eyes. "We know, right? You send out multiple cells that aren't aware of each other's plans unless they meet by chance on a beach one day or something, right? Even so, not having specific information, they had us here just in case. Two of their best pilots. An expert in terrorist activities."

Heero felt like he could cry. "I know everyone has said it to you already today, but you did everything you could have. That's not failure. Together you probably saved lives. More people would have died if you had not bought them time stalling the shuttle and struggling over the controls. It's sad that people died, but not your fault."

Duo turned and folded his arms on the edge of the tub and hid his face in his arms. Heero knew he was crying. Heero scooted through the water so he could reach Duo and lay one hand against Duo's back in attempt to comfort him. "Could you look at the people who lost their family members and tell them that?" Duo asked angrily, "If you were me? Could you tell them you did your best? Or would you want to just let them all be angry at you and take the blame?"

Heero told the truth. "I would take the blame."

Duo trembled and Heero thought it was rage more than anything else. "I'm so pissed off that he's dead! I don't care if you didn't like him. He was just a kid. He should have lived."


"Fuck! I did not want to do it again, Heero! I don't want boys dying in my arms all my life!"

"It is my fault," Heero said.

"Fuck you!"

"I should have trained you better. It's not good enough you tried to protect the Colony, you should have just done it. Things should be easy and black and white and it is my fault for letting you be anything less than perfect. But, even admitting responsibility, you did fuck up, so I'll have to punish you to teach you a lesson."

Duo lifted his head. "What the...?"

Heero smiled. He was joking of course. "Things should be as we think they should, shouldn't they?"

Duo cracked a smile.

"I shouldn't punish you while you are in such poor health. That would just be wrong. But, you will be punished for making mistakes, Duo-chan. I will punish you and then you will feel better."

Heero wasn't sure what that expression was on Duo's face. Maybe need or awe. "Are you... angry that I kissed him?"

"I agree that it was the right thing for you to do in that situation, but unlike other partners you may or may not have, we did discuss this one, didn't we? You broke a promise. That is why I have to punish you. If you feel like you have failed, you will seek punishment. When I punish you, you will feel better."

Duo gave a nod, saying that he thought this mad plan Heero was suggesting would actually work.

"Then, when you are in better health, I will see about your punishment," Heero promised. It would be like a trick. Like conditioning maybe, like hypnotic suggestion. Duo would believe that it would make him feel better and it would. It would probably not last forever, but probably it would last long enough to get Duo through the coming weeks of news coverage and clean up. Then maybe when there weren't families who had lost loved ones in such concentration Duo could find some more normal way to heal emotionally, without any crutch.

If walking with the stick was OK, then this was OK.

Heero wouldn't do real damage.

Duo smiled weakly and pushed himself to his feet with some effort. Heero quickly washed his hair as Duo was washing his face at the sink. Heero thought Duo might be keeping something else back yet, but he didn't want to press Duo to talk too much. Heero slipped beneath the water as Duo left the room. When he lifted his head Koi and Duo were both watching to see if he was alive. Seeing he was, Koi dropped his head again and Duo left again.

Heero stepped from the bathroom in one of the provided robes when he was washed and dry. Most of the candles were out, but for a few near the bed. Duo was already in the bed and covered, that meant Heero still wouldn't see his body. That bed was the only ugly thing as far as Heero was concerned; it was humming.

Heero gave the bed a skeptical glance.

Duo looked amused again. Heero sighed out of relief when he thought that what he knew of survivors applied to Duo. He had needed to talk and tell the story and getting that out helped him feel better. It made things hurt less to define them with words, perhaps.

"It's a vibrating bed," Duo laughed, "C'mon, get in."

Heero sighed again. He had missed Duo very much and then he had been worried and for the past day just busy and now he wondered what Duo felt, knowing they had been so close to having sex, setting a date and everything and then meeting up days later under these circumstances. "I am very tired," Heero announced.

Duo laughed. "That's OK. I'm very injured. I know you need to rest. But, just get in and relax. It's kewl."

Heero removed his robe and then sat down on the bed. He licked his fingers then snuffed the remaining candles. It was fairly dark then; the windows let in the lamplight that workers continued to labor under. Heero lay back and arranged the covers over him. The whole mattress vibrated slightly beneath him and created a strange sensation that made Heero feel he was not in his body or weightless.

They were at half gravity, enough that things settled toward the floor, but not so much that things felt heavy, including one's own body. If Duo was hurting when he moved now then in Earth gravity he would have been in even more pain.



"Are you in much pain?"

"Some. Why, did you want to do something?"

"I am so tired," Heero said honestly, "I was just wondering if I could hold you. I did miss you."

"Hold my hand?" Heero felt Duo's hand grope and put his hand in Duo's path. Their hands clasped together.

"Spasíba," Heero said sleepily. "The room doesn't seem so awful now. It does feel nice, relaxing."

"Yeah, it doesn't hurt. This bed is so comfortable, tacky as it looks. It only hurts when I try to do the moving."

Heero squeezed Duo's hand, gently. He didn't have to put himself to sleep, he just fell.

Duo was shouting when he woke, or rather the shouting and thrashing woke him. Heero scanned the darkness even as he reached for Duo. Nothing. Duo was dreaming. The movement was only going to aggravate his injuries.

Heero reached for a lamp and switched it on then turned back toward Duo and called to him. "Duo!" he repeated.

Duo went still and panted breaths. He made some dry sound. Heero didn't think he was fully awake.

"Duo! Wake up. You're having nightmares."

Duo relaxed finally and his eyes opened to look at Heero as he leaned over Duo and lay a hand to his face. "It's not fever," Heero decided, "but you are warm I think."


"Yes. You had a nightmare."

"I couldn't move."

"You were moving," Heero assured him. "I think I have bruises too, now." Heero realized as the words came out that he could see most of Duo's body in the light now. Nothing severe, but there were so many small cuts.

Duo immediately drew the sheets back over his body. "Incubus attack."


"That thing where you half wake up and you feel like you can't move?"

"You were moving," Heero assured Duo, again.

Duo sighed. "So, X18999 has a gaping hole in it and Gibson is dead?"


Duo sighed more deeply. "I keep thinking it didn't happen, that it was a dream or a movie and not real. But, I remember now. It's real. Sometimes it gets very real, huh?"

"I suppose."

Duo rubbed at the square of gauze tapped to his chest. It was just over his left nipple.

"The ring didn't... tear?" Heero asked.

"What?" Duo shifted his eyes toward his own body. "There's a minor burn there."

Heero grit his teeth.

"It's not that bad," Duo said, pulling the tape away quickly.

Heero made himself look. The burn wasn't on the nipple after all, but it was close. Not high degree or anything, but not pretty, even if it was mostly the sheen of ointment.

"It looks gross, ne? They told me burns need to breathe and shit, but, when I was dressed it made sense to tape it, because my shirt would just rub it every time I moved. Hurts enough to move, ya know?"

Heero just stared. Usually he would be the one delivering disturbing news in deadpan. Now Duo was sounding like him, only more slangy.

"You ever see that trick with the swords?"

"I don't know."

"You know, illusionists do it. There's this sort of cabinet and they go inside and someone runs swords through the box and they come out uncut?"

Heero shook his head. Vaguely he understood. "I might have seen it once on television."

"That's what Hera's cockpit was like when they found me. I got to go look at it today, or yesterday... what time is it?"

"I think that it's Thursday morning, I mean it is, but I lost track of the local time zone tracking, but it would be about 8am at home."

"I guess I woke you? Sorry. You should try to get some more sleep. It's tough out there and they probably still need you." Duo managed to make his voice more forceful. "When you've had sleep and eaten. I know for a fact they've had time to send for more support personnel, so no one has to think they need to be on 24/7."

Heero was still trying to picture how Duo had lived. In his mind he saw Duo in a box trying to dodge the swords that were stabbing inward. "Did you do it?" Heero asked then covered his mouth as he yawned.

"Do what?" Duo asked. He was trying to get comfortable again and wiggled between the sheets.

"Did you make all the shrapnel or whatever stop short of puncturing vital organs?"

"I was unconscious," Duo said bitterly.

Heero lay down and turned to his side to watch Duo. "Well, could you have done it unconsciously?"

"Well, I doubt I could have done it on purpose if I tried, so, how the Hell should I know?"

"Well, how did the cockpit look?"

"Basically like there was a me-shaped hollow amongst twisted struts and wire and a whole lot of shit like that! God's not done fucking my ass yet, huh?"

Heero smirked. "We're not supposed to discuss your other partners during our experiment, Duo."

Duo raised a hand and flicked him off.

"Maybe it was a miracle and not a curse."

"A miracle?"

"Well, the shuttle hit Hera, head on, correct? And then after that Hera broke the shuttle's fall as it were, impacting with the skyglass with the shuttle driving it. And then Hera fell into the Colony."

Duo writhed with agitation. "I told you I don't remember. I was unconscious after the first impact and hi! head injury! Don't seem to remember the seconds immediately prior to that event."

"Relax, I was just saying how improbable it is that anyone could have survived all that, maybe even in a Gundam it would be improbable..."

"It wasn't a miracle! Miracle indicates God and if God exists why would he be such a dumbass to cause Hera to land on a church?"

Silence. Heero did not believe it. "You are joking."

"I'm not fucking joking. Yesterday was a bad day. Gibson... and then..." Duo huffed, "insisting I go find you but falling on my ass even though I was walking on three legs and then being taken to the crash site and seeing that my unconscious ass 'landed' a mobile suit on Star of the Sea!"

"I fell down too."


"Were there people in it?" Heero whispered.

"Well, no. Sorry, but I think I would have offed myself right there if there had been bodies, romantic as it is you claiming my life. What I was told is that they were holding daily mid morning mass... older people in resort areas like a mid morning daily... and the priest was giving this homily about preparedness and as an example going over the Churches emergency escape route... and then the alarm went off so they all orderly made their way to shelters and none of those people happened to die. I guess it's true, because Mariemaia told me and she heard from Trowa and he doesn't like me enough to make up that big a lie for me and he likely was interviewing all the ladies who had been at mass."

Heero couldn't suppress his laughter after Duo finished speaking.

"What the fuck?"

"I did that," Heero laughed.

Duo sat up and glared down at him. "What the fuck are you talking about?"

"I mean it," Heero said through laughter. "My community work. We organized a campaign of many Colonial churches to talk to their followers about preparedness and checking emergency equipment and the usual."


"I made the church be empty when you fell on it, I had something to do with it anyway. It's like... karma... or something. And you didn't die! I actually prayed for that!" Heero made a small laugh. He tried to stop. Duo looked really angry. But Heero thought he did feel happy that Duo was alive, especially understanding how close he had been to death and he was happy Duo hadn't had to deal with killing people at a church.

"Don't you have to have faith in God to pray, Heero?" Duo demanded.

Heero schooled his face and relaxed. "I did not know if it could work, but I did pray that you would be alive, twice, yesterday, rather, Tuesday. I prayed that you would not be dead, and you weren't."

"You're such a fuckin' arrogant bastard, you know?" Duo turned his back to Heero and then lay down again. He was sort of muttering, loud enough that Heero could hear. "I'm Heero, I saved the world, twice. I make spaceports magically secure and churches empty so Duo can fall on them..."

Now Heero felt angry. "I did not mean to brag, I was only very happy to hear that you wouldn't be further emotionally scared for life," Heero offered in monotone.

"If you are already emotionally scared for life it doesn't much fuckin' matter what else happens, you're already screwed!"

"Duo." Heero slid over the sheets and put an arm over Duo. He shrugged Heero's arm away but when Heero tried again Duo let the arm stay. "Duo."

"I'm sorry, OK? I was just having a pity party for one or some shit. You did save people and I am glad you did."

"Sometimes you save people. You've saved me before. If you hadn't done that then maybe I couldn't have saved the other people. Besides, usually you were there with me."

"It doesn't feel like a miracle. Why should I be spared all these times?"

"Duo, maybe it wasn't a miracle. I mean, I think you did it yourself and science can explain that, in theory. But, you could look at it as a sign if you want, I think."

"A sign of what?"

"God promises not to fuck you anymore... because he wants you to be with me."

Duo laughed. "You are a fuckin' arrogant bastard!" He said, but Heero thought he might only be teasing. That was fair, Heero had been half joking. But, in case he wasn't teasing Heero flipped to his back. He supposed he did need sleep. He hadn't been sleeping well even on the days he had gone to bed.


Maybes, I wish Duo wasn't so badly injured that I can't even touch him, Heero thought.

Duo flipped to his back and generally made restless noises and struggled with keeping his hair from getting trapped beneath his body.

Heero closed his eyes and started counting.



"Maybe I could fall asleep if you turned the light off, or turned the bed on again."

"Maybe? You're asking then?"

"Please," Duo said quietly.

Heero sat up, he examined the panel attached to the bed and decided 'start' was the appropriate button. He then reached for the light as the bed began to vibrate again. Again Heero lay down and closed his eyes. In the darkness Duo moved close.

"Duo made some little sound like, "hmmn?"

Of course he wanted to. "I was concerned that your injuries would be aggravated or else... you would have seen how long I can keep from breathing... when underwater."

Duo understood, though it seemed to take him a few seconds. Duo hadn't had Heero's dreams about the bathing servants. Heero didn't think he had. Duo seemed to shrug it off. "Fuck my injured body, I need you!" Duo said as he slipped a hand to Heero's neck and then into his hair.

"Just to be clear: you did not mean that literally?" Heero asked. He did not wait for an answer. He took Duo's face in his hands and kissed him. Heero was certain Duo had meant to use one of those other definitions of 'fuck.' Duo was trying to close the space between them entirely and he groaned in pain even as he was speaking affirmatives.

Heero drew his head back to judge whether Duo was all right. "Daijobu ka," Heero asked.

Duo made a noise. Heero thought it was an animal noise, like a purr. Somehow, he knew that was a definite affirmative.

"Maybe I should..." Heero started.

"Under the pillow."

Heero reached. "Forethought?"

"Had me when you walked into the hospital in your flightsuit," Duo confessed, "I was just trying to see if I could stay away long enough to heal up a bit."

Condoms in hand Heero pulled the covers over their heads and snuggled close to Duo again, shutting out the world. He kissed Duo again and then spoke, "I wanted to get in that bed with you."



"I kinda do need you to be gentle."

"Ninmu ryokai. No athletics," Heero said with laughter.

Duo made that purring sound again. Heero decided he thought it very sexy.

For a while Heero forgot about the mud and the death and how the world would deal with one more tragedy, and it was so much fun. It was the answer to his prayer. Maybe he should pray more often.

He understood perfectly what Duo had talked about before, when he had told Heero that sometimes he needed to be with someone to feel alive. It was not absolutely forgotten where they were and why, they knew the next day they would have to deal with it all over again, but while they shared the bed for the night it was well communicated that neither regretted surviving.

Heero didn't feel guilty then. He was just grateful to have Duo there one more time. And he felt that Duo might have also forgotten the guilt and sadness, for a while.

Heero even managed to keep breathing, though breathing seemed to mean soft, wordless dry sounds escaped his lips. He was sure that he could really feel that Duo was happy.

Heero closed his eyes to sleep and promised himself he was going to keep trying to live. I enjoy my life, Heero thought. He really did. There had been a sort of reward and punishment as a child and a mad cold glee when he beat a system or a game or blew an enemy mobile suit out of the sky so easily, but this was different. It was better. By Duo's movie rules Heero should tragically die soon, but he thought, he'd lived in reverse. He'd already done the tragedy, so now was his time to be happy.

He was going to stay strong and smart so that he could do his best to stay alive. He could experience more life, do more work, and he could be with Duo.

"I love you," Duo whispered. Heero heard him clearly; he'd even said it in English. But, he probably thought Heero was asleep. Heero continued the pretense of sleeping. He felt a sort of weightlessness and knew it was not shift in artificial gravity or the bed; it was Duo.

Heero woke later on Thursday, when it was still morning according to local time. He saw that Duo was sprawled and sleeping peacefully across most of the bed and that Koi was curled on the pillows above Heero's head. Heero sat up, recalling very clearly the events of the past few days and the night before. He touched the rosary beads hanging from his neck that earlier Duo had worn. They had played a sort of game with them that was probably sacrilegious, if one had ever been Catholic.

Heero pet the fur along Koi's back. "Koi, down, before Duo wakes and sees I let you in bed."

Koi lifted his head and looked at Heero as he licked his jowls.

"Down," Heero said reasonably. He swung his own legs from the bed and scanned the room. The windows were still obscured by an encrusted film of salt and sand and let in little light from outside the building, though, Heero noted the light outside seemed some magnitude brighter than the day before.

He collected his satchel from the floor and went into the bathroom, Koi leaping from the bed and following. Heero set his mobile on the wide vanity and looked over the latest press releases as he brushed his teeth. Heero tuned in a newscast and adjusted the volume to make it a little louder as he got a quick shower, Koi prancing around in the water at his feet.

The public had most of the information now it seemed. There had in fact been many related cells operating independently and for the most part each in a different area. The prior apparent accident near Z10299 had been related. Lieutenant-Colonel Wufei Chang was currently in charge of a special Preventer taskforce to pursue and prosecute the terrorist organization responsible for the recent attacks. Preventer John Gibson was confirmed to be the agent who had boarded the shuttle that struck Colony X18999 in attempt to stop the attackers. Gibson had survived the crash and died Wednesday afternoon in the Barton Foundation Memorial Hospital. Mariemaia Khushrenada, through her attorneys, was setting up a Johnny Gibson Memorial Scholarship fund for young children orphaned in the attack on Tuesday to attend University in the future. State of emergency had been lifted and all citizens were encouraged to go about business as usual, though there were some event closings in the area of X18999.

Heero got out of the shower and stood under the lamp toweling his hair dry. He logged into the Preventer system using only his legitimate access codes, to view information and any standing orders or news. No change for him. Heero was still reporting to Sally and until he heard different he was to assist the rescue and clean-up efforts.

Heero then accessed Duo's files. He wasn't really supposed to, but he had the ability and it didn't really compromise Preventer security, only Duo's. As of Yesterday Duo was reporting directly to the Director and assigned to some IT work. Seemed that with two of their suits pretty much destroyed and others likely damaged the Preventer special mobile suit Defense Squadron was going through reorganization and Duo had temporarily been removed from their roster. There was no indication that it was a disciplinary action. It was more like Duo was in the area and injured and Une wanted him assigned to making sure the Preventers and local security and medical teams all had access to updated information and had the ability to quickly contact each other.

Well, Heero thought, Duo was pretty good with telecommunications and related technologies. He'd mainly be working on site with a mobile and where needed acquisitioning hardware and software and then distributing it, in order to ensure secure and real-time communications.

Heero rubbed Koi with the towel and then took Koi's brush from his bag and made all his dark brown fur slicked down again.

Heero dressed in his spare clothing and then cleaned up the bathroom as much as he could. Koi had shaken water in all directions and there was a sort of litter of used complimentary items about the room. He set the tub to fill with hot water as he left, thinking it would be cool enough for Duo when he woke.

Duo was still asleep. Heero knew he should get some food and go back to work. Before he did that he needed to check his personal messages. He knew they had collected and that some people would be worried. Heero viewed the various text and video messages that had been left and listened to the audio messages, making a mental list of all the people ne must contact and what information they most required.

Heero typed out a text message and address list for it to be sent to. He confirmed that he was well. Duo was injured but recovering and already able to be quite active. They were both assigned to work in the area until further notice. It looked bad here, but everyone present was working together peacefully and efficiently to restore the Colony and to help the people who were hurting. He wished that everyone was well and that their families were well. He hoped to see them when he was home again.

Heero sent the message, his list including just about everyone he now knew.

Duo was stirring on the bed so Heero walked over there and sat down beside Duo. He checked his pulse and then felt his temperature and listened to his breathing. Duo seemed to be doing well. He moved his head so that his cheek rubbed Heero's hand and then his eyes opened. They looked clear and focused and very pretty. "Suki," Heero said.

Duo smiled.

"I should go find something to eat and report for duty. I did not want to leave you without saying goodbye."

"Mmmn, don't say 'goodbye,' just say 'ja ne' or 'later' or something, 'K?"

"OK." Heero smiled a little. "Do you feel all right?"

Duo tried sitting up and got as far as propping himself up on his elbows. "Sore, itchy and scabby... pretty gross, huh?"

"Aa, doesn't 'gross' mean something else in German?" Heero asked, rather mused aloud.

"Ja, 'great.'" Duo said through a yawn. "Verzeihung," he apologized for the yawn.

Heero nodded. "well I was very close to your body and I only thought you great, Duo. If you feel uncomfortable because of your injuries you will probably feel better after a bath. I filled the tub. It's probably not hot anymore."

"Thanks. You thought I was great?" A grin.

"You know you are."

"It's still nice to hear. I can totally understand you being so satisfied you blissfully fall off to sleep, but..."

Heero smirked. "What can I say? You are the best lover I ever had."

"Heero," he scolded.

"Yes, as you suspect, very well satisfied. I would say you are back in my good graces, and except for that special punishment I promised I think you can look forward to some rewards for being such a good partner. Not only was I pleased with your body, but you went to effort to create atmosphere and to make me feel comfortable. I think that is what a good boyfriend does."

"Really looking forward to my reward. I won't slack off, you'll see. We have missed dates to make up for. I'll do my very best."

Heero smiled. "Well, when you feel up to it."


"If you really feel you can?" Heero said like it was a question.

"Well, they did give me pain killers and muscle relaxant, but I'm trying to be careful how I take them. If I knew when we had time... I could figure out a schedule, you know, so I'm not overdosing but I can be with you about when they kick in. I seriously need some right now."

Heero thought about it. Prescription drugs like that should be used wisely. They were powerful but potentially habit forming. Admittedly Heero had abused prescription drugs during the war, in that he'd written his own prescriptions without a doctor's diagnosis or consent, but he was wary of serious abuse and knew Duo was too. "You really want to do it that way?"

"Heero, I wanted it weeks ago. Don't you think, now, it makes you feel that things shouldn't be put off, if you can do them now? I don't plan on dying, but I don't know what will happen every next day. You know how it is."

"Right." Heero surely wanted to live more than ever, but if it came down to a choice between his life and the lives of many others he was sure he would make the sacrifice, even if he regretted being separated from his friends as he did it. "I want to..." Heero realized he was staring at Duo's chest and somehow not seeing the burn and scrapes but just wanting Duo. He tore his eyes away. "The work is more important though."

"I agree. I didn't mean right now."

"How long?"

"Depends. What do yo think you'll be doing in 12 hours?"

Heero shook his head. "You're doing IT work, right...?"

"Bastard," Duo accused, in a playful sort of way. Of course he knew how Heero knew that information.

Heero smiled smugly. "So, I can take my phone with me or you can find some other way for us to stay in touch and we will figure it out later."


Heero leaned in and kissed Duo's lips quickly. "See you later," he said then.

"Wait, let me go downstairs with you. I'll just throw on some clothes and then wash later. It's likely I'll get to pick where I work from, so it'll work out."

"Hurry then."

Duo dressed quickly, grunting somewhat with pain and hobbling about with his walking stick. Heero didn't know why he had not chosen to have crutches.

Downstairs had changed overnight. It was much more crowded for one thing. And now, it seemed more organized. There was signage directing workers to various stations and announcing changes. There were tables set up to serve as specific offices.

Heero took in the information. This hotel, the Star, was now the central lodging, deployment and food service for all workers except for coronery and medical staff, which stayed in the Hospital's containment area. Another hotel, the Ramada, was lodging non-injured survivors in processing and the offices for workers assigned to process or offer support to those people.

Heero supposed that meant Trowa would have stayed here as well, and gone to work at the other hotel. There were secured underground passages between them.

Heero looked to his side where Duo was downing his pills with a bottle of water. Then Heero looked at the many other people about them, on their way through the lobby to work or sleep or eat. Two things struck Heero. One was the number of partial OZ uniforms in the room and the other was that it seemed very many people were coupled off or generally being flirty.

"Duo, look around. Tell me if it is just me."

Duo looked. "You mean our vets? It's just that mostly who ended up staying at the hospital or living in this Colony either fought for Mariemaia or Treize at some point. They're OK. Think about it, don't you once in a while just want someone around who knows what happened to you? Even if you don't talk about it?"

That was part of the reason Heero liked being with Duo. Not the only reason, but an important factor. He did not have to explain many things or be misunderstood or be thought strange for the occasional flashbacks. Duo just understood.

Heero supposed that the veterans, whether still significantly disabled and at the hospital or living in the area as out patients or just enjoying the resort community must feel the same way. They wanted others who had been in OZ or served the World Nation or been convinced Mariemaia should succeed Treize as a Leader, because they did not have to explain themselves or their feelings to those people, they just knew.

Still, it was surreal and even a little frightening, having been one of the few Gundam pilots and thus often at odds with Treize and his unfortunately manipulated daughter and now seeing the uniforms again.

"Heero! Duo!" Heero recognized the voice but did not immediately associate it with a name. It took at least two seconds. Quatre. Then Heero saw him waving from the restaurant.

"I didn't know Quatre was here!" Duo said happily. He waved in Quatre's direction. "C'mon, Heero, it's Quatre."

"I see that." Heero let Duo go first, watched him wind through the crowd with his hobbled walk, ready to catch him if he fell. Koi gave Heero a glance and then fell into pace with Duo, at his left side.

Quatre was smiling at them. He did look older and maybe very many people would have thought him sexy too, particularly in the navy and sage. He wasn't as tall as Trowa or Duo, but he was a little taller than Heero now. Heero frowned for a second. "I definitely want to talk to you, Duo," Quatre said, but he was looking at Heero. "I haven't seen, you, Heero, in a very long time."

"I was away."

"I know," Quatre said, still smiling. "You've changed. I like this color a lot." His hand lifted the hair from Heero's brow. And then Quatre was hugging him. Heero allowed it and then after a moment he put his hands on Quatre to return the gesture. He did like Quatre very much and endeavored to share in normal physical interaction, but Quatre was very... exuberant, which took getting used to again.

"It is good to see you," Heero said. He thought that was a lame thing to say.

Quatre smiled as he took a step back. "I didn't expect Koi here."

"It's Heero's dog."

"He helped with rescues."

"Really?" Duo asked.

"I know some dogs can be trained to do that," Quatre said.

"Well, it could have just been instinct. I do try to teach him some useful things. He is getting very good at Hide and Go Seek."

Quatre laughed. He bent and patted Koi's head. He straightened then and looked at Duo. "I will assume you can take care of yourself, Duo, but let me know if you do need help."

"You could carry me. The painkillers haven't kicked in yet."

Carry him?

"Get on my back," Quatre said. He turned and Duo lifted his injured leg. Quatre put his hand beneath Duo's knee. Duo hopped and Quatre caught his other knee then. Heero thought they looked ridiculous, but Quatre walked through the dining room with Duo on his back. Heero just followed.

Quatre stopped and let Duo slip down. Trowa and Dorothy were at the round table, being very quiet and in chairs away from each other. Dorothy looked at Duo, moved her eyes up and down over his body. "You could have called us!"

Duo sat down in the chair next to Dorothy's and looked mainly apologetic. "I had a bad day yesterday."

Dorothy took Duo's closest hand and put her hand over it. "If it's OK, could you tell us all what happened once, when we are all together? We all feel very bad right now, but we are all glad you are still with us. Une says she'll have us back together soon."

Duo nodded.

Heero saw Trowa give him a look. He understood the silent communication. He answered Trowa in a quiet level tone of voice. "They are both close with Relena and Hilde. And, both part of that Defense Squadron, as Gibson was."

Trowa nodded in understanding.

"I will get you some breakfast, Duo," Heero told him.

"That would be nice of you," Duo agreed. He could play invalid to amuse Quatre, Heero supposed. Heero didn't think he could tolerate that, not when he had seen how able Duo was, even wounded. But he was quite willing to fetch or prepare food for Duo. He required food himself. Pets required food.

Koi was sitting beside Duo's chair, his dark eyes tracking to Heero often for commands. "Watch Koi for me," Heero said.

Heero walked to the buffet table, which had been filled by someone. He was aware of Trowa speaking behind him, apart from the noise of other voices in the room. A moment later Trowa was at his side. Silence between them and then Heero saw Trowa was filling two plates and that at the table Dorothy had been eating from a half-finished plate while Trowa had had only a mug and every other place setting had been undisturbed. This told Heero that Trowa had waited until Quatre arrived and then offered to get his food. But, the two plates still did not make sense.

"Quatre is highly intelligent. He might recall that you do not eat breakfast."

"I could eat breakfast." Trowa insisted, quietly.

"You do not eat breakfast. You have coffee. You snack, but do not eat junk food except for chocolate and you eat dinner late in the evening."

"Sweet of you to notice. I asked Quatre if I could get him food and he did that thing."

"Aa." Quatre had used a phrase like 'if it isn't any trouble' or 'if you are getting up anyway.'

"You are the one actually professing to teach yourself social skills. What would be the better strategy in this scenario?"

Heero thought about it. "Next time, do not ask. Just tell Quatre you will get the food. If you want to be more fair and polite, add 'this time' so that he can return the favor at a later date. That way he will feel he must dine with you again."

"And this time?"

"Show up with one plate. If he calls you on it say that you were glad to do it to give him a chance to catch up with Duo or that you thought he was only being polite."

Trowa glanced, coolly, over his shoulder. He looked at the plates then abandoned one on the table before them.

Heero chuckled. "Does Quatre eat breakfast?"


"He eats breakfast. I was playing with you."

"What does he eat? And, you know it's disturbing the files you keep on us in your head?"

"You really don't know?"

Trowa exhaled sharply, blowing the sheaf of hair from his face for an instant. "Heero, the most amount of time I spent with him was, you know, years ago."

"But I thought that when he lived in the Colonies and I was gone you all saw each other more often."

"The part of the year I was in the Colonies Quatre would invite me to meet with him and Wufei and Duo and then we would all do whatever activity Quatre and Duo thought fun and then say goodbye."

"Oh. But, you do love him?"

Trowa was not going to answer.

"Tea and toast, occasionally some other carbs, such as cereal or a pastry. He eats at least three meals a day and likes food that he imagines is exotic. To Quatre American food seems very unusual and exotic."

"I knew that, about the American food."

Heero looked around to see if they had bagels.

"This is so difficult."

"Normal people can do this, Trowa. And, they don't have to think about how. They just do it. But if it helps, pretend it is a mission. Make Quatre your target for surveillance and find out what he likes..."

"And then pretend I like all the same stuff?"

"That is what you would do if he was an enemy agent. You find out what he likes and then you compare that list with your likes and when you find matches you exploit them. You have to be genuine to get genuine results."


Right. Genuine did not go well with this plotting breakfast. Heero saw their escape route present itself. He quickly grabbed both of Trowa's half-full plates, combined them and rushed to the end of the table.

Sally looked up, sleepily.

Heero smiled wide, trying hard not to look like he was up to anything and not doing it very well. "You look like you are in a hurry. I made you a plate."

"Xia xia," Sally murmured.

Heero ran back to Trowa. "You get Quatre tea and get some more coffee while you are at it."

"I forgot my mug."

"Aa, because you were so sleepy and obviously needed more coffee. I will get us all some bagels to share and you can eat half of one."

"It is not a lie. I couldn't sleep even when we had breaks." Trowa left to get the tea. That was one of the symptoms as well, a human reaction to stressful circumstance. Everyone might be chemically off balance.

on to chapter 26

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