DISCLAIMER: (Borrowed in part from Jay, with her permission) The Gundam Universe of Mobile Suit Gundam Wing is Sotsu Agency, Sunrise, ANB, and Bandai America, Inc. Characters, places, timeline and other elements of the Gundam Wing series are the property of said organizations, and I do not profess to own them. The original material herein is the author and not considered public domain. Please don't sue or plagiarize. I'm in a perpetually non-prosperous state and all spare change usually goes into coffee or bags of oats.

WARNINGS: Angst, violence, very slight shounen-ai hints

SUMMARY: A hit is put on Heero's head, and it's Duo to the rescue.

by Shira

<Mission accepted>
I said I'd do it.

A shiver raced up my spine, thinking of the looks of bewilderment that I'd probably get from the others. Wufei, well, he'd just think of it as another day's work. But Quatre and Trowa? I already know enough of them to know they'd be surprised to that I'd agreed to this. Well, Trowa, more so than Quatre. Quatre, I bet, would just be glad that the orders hadn't come down to him. He wouldn't be able to do it. Trowa would. That's why I'm glad the orders came down to me instead.

I pack my remaining personal items that are strewn about the little dorm room and zip up my duffel. Slinging the bag over my shoulder, my laptop under my other arm, I leave the campus, having called myself a cab to get me to the city. There I can arrange for a shuttle, or stow away on a transport or something. I have to get to the Lunar Base, and secretly, before all hell breaks loose, and the wrong people start dying up there.

Apparently, the problem is that after the fiasco at the New Edwards Base, and Heero's little 'mishap', word had quickly spread that it was a Gundam that did the damage. Now, not only have all the pilots been grounded, but the scientists have been sought out and captured. From the encrypted communication that I just received, it also seems that the eggheads are being forced into building a new Gundam for the Ozzies against their will. Not good. Even better yet, it also appears that someone has put a hit on dear Heero's noggin, another plot for OZ to make themselves look like the good guys here. They globally announced the hunt for the Gundam pilot who killed the peacekeepers, and after he's been executed, they'll take all the credit for delivering justice against a war criminal. They've lured him to the Lunar Base. The word is, they're going to kill him there, and they scientists have bargained for their freedom by allowing OZ to do this.

I found all this out from the message that somehow reached me today.

The situation has unfortunately become unstable. I have been taken, along with my colleagues, and remain incarcerated at the OZ Lunar Base. We have been forced to begin construction on a new Gundam, more powerful than the five that already exist. We expect the arrival of 01 at any time - another ploy of OZ. They plan to use 01 to gain the sympathy and complete trust of the colonies by executing 01 for war crimes. The colonies are wavering. This display of "justice" could win their loyalty. The only way that this can happen is if OZ manages to make an example out of 01. We suspected that the trust will not be there if they cannot utilize this example publicly. They are planning to execute the five of us as well, unless they have 01 in custody.

Your mission is to find 01 and eradicate him before OZ can do it. If you refuse, another pilot will be contacted to carry out the mission. I expect this to be carried out successfully, and without delay. If 01 survives, it will be a liability to all further missions.>

They don't know me very well. Not as much as they think they do, at least. Yes, I'll go after Heero. And even though I'm starting to think I may have ulterior motives in mind for this heroic gesture on my part, I owe him one, regardless. After all, one favor deserves another, right?

Destroy the new Gundam at the Lunar Base. The mission came in a little bit ago, and I left immediately, without my own Gundam. That would be too obvious. The Scientists are being forced to build a new Gundam against their will, and I have to destroy it before its completion. Luckily I managed to get Duo back from the other base, and he's recuperating on Earth - the last thing I need right now is a partner who can't keep up. I'll get away easier, just me.

I enter the base through a hanger entrance and quietly creep my way past mobile suits and mobile dolls until I find myself alone in a long corridor. Pulling off my spacesuit, I leave it on the floor and continue down the dark passage toward a faint light ahead, looking for the work bay, or wherever it is that they're building this new Gundam. Gun in hand, I slide against metal walls, holding my breath so that I can hear every little noise, and not the sound of myself. Then pausing, I exhale and take another breath.

With total stealth, I descend the corridor to the end and peek around the corner. I'm in the mobile suit bay now. I can see sparks flying from a welder, but not who's operating it, as the machine is between me and them. Looking around the area, I try to notice everything about the place - exits, doors, vents. There are a few armed OZ soldiers guarding the far entrance to the bay.

Hearing the buzz and click of the welder again, my attention is once more brought to the mobile suit that's under construction, and I see someone move around to the front of it. It's J, and he's accompanied by another weird looking guy in a white coat, presumably one of the other scientists. The other one, he's got this mushroom-shaped head of hair and a long pointy nose - he sees me, and yanks on J's coat and whispers something to him, his beady eyes still on me. When J turns to look, I nod, and the old man goes back to what he was doing, pretending to be oblivious to me.

I think they're all afraid of me, but rightly so. J wanted a war machine and that's what he got. Ruthless, calculating, and not afraid to die. I'm not sure he thought I'd turn out as well as I did, so I think I surprised him, just how hardened I really am. As my cold eyes watch him like a hawk, I start to make my way across the floor of the work bay heading straight for J, my gun aimed, and he turns to me again. Out of the corner of my eye I see the other one with the funny hair waving someone in, and I look around. Soldiers. Appearing out of nowhere. They're everywhere now. Apparently I've been sold out.

J is getting uncomfortable as I stop in front of him and OZ soldiers surround us. "H-heero," he says. Now I know he's afraid of me, because I can feel the fear radiating off him. I don't say a word, but merely stare him down with my icy glare. He always was unnerved by it, all through my upbringing and training. He always said my eyes were a weapon all their own.

"I had no choice," he finishes, as I'm disarmed by an OZ soldier.

"I will kill you," I tell him, and there's a bead of sweat on his brow, as the other scientist, now accompanied by three others that I can only assume make up the five, stand behind him, watching.

J straightens and his face becomes sympathetic, confusing me. "No, you won't, Heero. They will. If they don't kill you instead."

It's been five days since Heero has been in contact with any of us, and three days since I got the message from G. I suspect that Heero must already be on the Lunar Base, but I really can't be sure. Knowing him, though, if they lured him away from whatever it was that he was doing, he's there. He just drops everything and goes, no questions asked. Me, I had to cover my tracks before I could get back to outer space, and then be careful that I wasn't being tailed by more Ozzies. That's all I'd need - to get captured while I'm supposed to be carrying out a hit on someone that they are already going to kill. I'd be next, I'm sure. This little escapade had to go according to my plan in order for it to work, and I had to be very careful to ensure that it did.

I manage to grab a mobile suit and get myself to the base without too much trouble. Well, that's not entirely true. Actually, I get myself purposely arrested, and brought here by some soldiers, one of them a cute little new recruit. Heh, cute, except I have to convince her not to blow my head off. I guess charm and wit are a good thing to have. So, off I go in an OZ mobile suit and just hop right on in to the base as if I belong here. I leave the Taurus where it will hopefully remain in the amount of time it will take me to get out of this place, and away I go. Now is when it's going to start getting a tad difficult though.

I have to find Heero, and quickly. They are apparently going to kill him so, I let myself get captured once I make my way away from the MS hanger. I'm nervous as hell, having just recouped from my last OZ whipping, but thinking like Heero would, I figure it's the best way to get them to take me to him, or to someone who knows where he was. Besides, even if it doesn't work out as planned, I know they'll toy around with me first before killing me. The OZ boys seem to like doing that, getting their frustrations out on Gundam pilots. I'm pretty sure I'll last at least a couple of days.

I walk out into the middle of the mobile suit hanger like I was nobody's business, and before long there are guns at my head and soldiers all around me. Perfect. Now take me to my friend. I struggle and complaine the whole time so they don't get the idea that I'm planning something.

"Hey! Watch it!" I yell as I'm poked in the side with the barrel of a gun.

"Move it!" One soldier yells back at me while shoving his gun into my ribs.

"Take him to Lady Une!" A second calls out. Damn. Her again. Boy she gets around, that Une.

Before long, they're leading me through a long hallway and then past an open mechanics bay, where I see what must be the new Gundam that OZ is forcing the scientists to put together for them. Very impressive, from what I can see of it. As we walk past, me with my hands resting on top of my head and surrounded by half a dozen soldiers, we pass a group of white coats, G among them. The rest of them must be the other four nuts that got us all into this mess. I look over and smirk slightly, my gaze connecting with G's, as they nervously watch me being led past them.

They lead me to a dark, cold metal cell with a concrete floor and deposit me there, shutting the gate tightly behind them. There isn't a pinch of light showing from anywhere, so I feel around with my hands and feet until I find a wall, then slide down to sit and wait. At one point, some soldiers come in to question me, and while they do, I observe the cell, and the fact that there is a big ceiling vent in one corner, a toilet in another corner, and nothing else. While they ask me things, my eyes wander across my surroundings, utilizing the light that they let in to its fullest. I don't answer their questions. I don't say anything, and it annoys them to no end. Before long the men have grown frustrated with me and leave again, and the darkness of the cell returns.

Sitting in blackness, I start thinking of a plan. The job is to destroy the new mobile suit, so, I'll have to get out of the cell somehow. From the look of the progress on the suit, the self-detonation device should already have been installed, and I can use that to explode the it, but if it isn't, I'll have to have a backup plan. My only other option is to grab another mobile suit and blow it up that way, and probably half the base in the interim. The task now is simply to wait for someone to come back, so that I can get out of this cell.

Then next time the gates open, there are only two soldiers. Perfect. Before they even know what hit them, I'm at them. I side-kick the first one in the stomach, doubling him over, then once across the back of the head with the hard edge of my hand, and he slumps to the floor. The second guard tries to grab me, but I slip past him and kick his legs out from under him, sending him to the floor as well, and he hits his head on the wall as he falls. Then I take off as fast as my legs will run and head to the mobile suit bay, where the scientists are still hard at work on the new unit.

"Heero!" J is surprised to see me by his look.

I run past him without even a blink of an eye, and begin to climb the front of the mobile suit. By now, someone has tripped the alarms in the building, and I can hear the sound of running soldiers getting louder as the bay fills with men. Jumping in the cockpit, I search until I find the self-destruct button and then push it quickly, half expecting that it wasn't going to work. Time for plan B. However, right now, I'll have to play it their way for a little while longer since the bay is now filled with soldiers, their sites trained on me, and those soldiers stand between me and the other mobile suits. All guns following me, I slowly descend from the cockpit of the mecha and I'm roughly seized by two men. The whole episode lasts a mere fifteen minutes, and before I knew it, I'm back in the cell.

The guards don't leave this time, and instead, remain outside the cell door until she arrives. Lady Une. I'd heard she was elsewhere, but I had a feeling that she was the one responsible for the new Gundam in the first place. I knew I'd run into her at the Lunar Base, and I'm quite sure at this moment how I feel about it. While she may be easier to overtake than some, she is also a viscious woman with no regard for human life if it got in the way of her progress. To her, everyone has a purpose, and when that purpose is served, a person is useless, and quite frequently simply "done away with". But then, in a way, that's exactly what I am, too - here for a purpose, and then needless beyond that.

They shove me past the work bay and past the scientists, and we're met in the hallways by none other than Lady Une. She smirks at me.

"Didn't have enough the first time, I see, 02?"

My old injuries whine and I sneer at her. "Your hospitality was so nice, I just had to visit again."

She gets flustered and barks orders to the two soldiers who are holding me. "Take him to lockdown."

OK then - now we're getting somewhere. We leave Une behind, her tight little skirt in a bunch, and I grin sadistically as I walk past, continuing down the hallway.

They take me, surprise, surprise, to a holding cell. I have no gun, no weapon of any sort, and my mind is fumbling over the ideas that I'd cataloged for getting out of this place, now that I was in. Shoving me in the doorway, I quickly turn to face the steel door closing in my face with a loud clang, and then darkness. I can hear the footsteps as the soldiers walk away and down the long hall, disappearing from hearing range.

Once I know they're gone, I turn again, and try to get my eyes accustomed to the dark. I've always been able to see in the dark. If there is but one hint of light leaking in from anywhere, it's enough for me to see. This time I'm out of luck, though, because the place is sealed up tighter than a can of sardines. I see nothing but thick, heavy black, accompanied by the stench of stale air carrying the faint aroma of blood.

Lots of long hair does have its advantages though. I reach up with both hands and feel my thick braid, near the back of my head, and confirm that my implement is still in place. Wiggling the hair around, I re-secure what I've hidden until I'm satisfied that it isn't going anywhere, and then I sigh. Think. Think. Think. OK...so, I let them catch me. Here I am. Now I need to get them to bring me to Heero. Then...we blast our way out of here. Damn...sounds like an adventure novel or something. Rethinking that line, I guess it is an adventure novel.

Stepping forward until I touch the steel door, I slide my hands to the handle and check the locks. Naturally, solid. They wouldn't be that stupid now. Continuing along the wall, I feel my way around the cell, noticing that all the walls are made of steel as well, just like the last cell I was in. If my memory serves me, and these bases are all constructed the same, there should be a toilet somewhere in here, and of course, there will be a ventilation unit in the ceiling. I'm still slithering down the wall, having turned a corner, and suddenly I'm blasted with warm air from above. The heating vent. Mental note. I keep going, looking to find the john next. It's in the opposite corner.

Having walked my way around the entire cell in the pitch black now, I sit myself down against the wall and rest. Nothing I can really do now until they come for me. Not going to try escaping until I find what I came for, so I guess I'm going to have to behave myself, at least for a little while. I let my head rest against the steel, and yawning, I close my eyes. Sweating in my space suit, I unzip the front down to my chest and enjoy the coolness that rushes in momentarily. Then sitting in silence, I hear something move, startling me back to full awareness.

"Who's there?" I call out, but there is no answer. The sound, nothing more than maybe someone moving an arm or a leg, came from what I think must be the center of the cell. I ask again, "Tell me who's there!" Nothing. No answer, at least, but now there is another noise. Someone, or something, is definitely in here with me, but I don't know who or what. I feel a tingle at the hairs on the back of my neck, but I think it's from my collar separating from my moist skin, allowing the cooler air in.

"Heero? Is that you?" No answer, once more.

Rolling to my knees, I start to crawl ever so slowly around the floor of the cell, my hands searching out in front of me, coming up with nothing but air over and over again. I stop and listen, then follow the noise. I stop again. It's over...here. My hand reaches out one more time and brushes against something soft. Fabric. "Hey!" I say one last time, and I'm answered by only a muffled moan. OK, well...I think it's human, I kid myself. Crawling up closer, I touch the fabric again, and then follow the curves of whoever this is, is it Heero?, trying to define up or down, front or back, male or female. One fabric ends and another begins, and fingers continue to feel their way, now reaching armholes in a shirt. It's a cotton shirt, no sleeves. Heero? Is it you? I continue to touch and find a face - there are lips and a nose, and they are crusted in dried blood. Oh God...Heero. Suddenly I flash back to what I'd endured in OZ captivity not too long ago and I nod to myself.

"Heero...it's me. I'm here, pal."

The "Lady" orders me out of the cell, and for a few minutes, simply stands and stares.

"Heero Yuy, pilot of the 01 Gundam, I presume?" Her voice is cold and hard. As cold and hard as mine.

"You presume correct."

Une smirked haughtily. "Well, I guess you aren't dead after all, after self-detonating your Gundam. I expected as much."

I glare at her as she glares back at me.

"So interesting that you would find your way to me, 01. I happen to be looking for you. I appreciate you making my work easier for me." The smirk was back. I don't say anything, and she continues. "It seems as though the colonies are interested to see you hanged for the killing of Noventa and Vente, and the rest of the peace officers. Interesting 'mistake' you made, wouldn't you say, 01?"

"It was no mistake, and you know it." Try as I might, I accidentally let a slip of angered emotion past, and she sees this.

Une laughs under her breath, her eyes flitting about until coming to rest on me again "Yes...but only you and I know that, and soon, you'll be dead."

"I wouldn't be so sure." My face and my demeanor remained true this time, but my insides were twisting up. Just the thought of what went on that day at the New Edwards Base was enough to suck me into an internal despair, knowing that I'd been so stupid as to have acted so quickly and not given myself the chance to think about the situation. Even though I am seemingly standing in the face of death right now, the only thought that occurrs to me is of the innocent and important people who died because of that mistake. The weight that my action was going to have on this whole war, until someone exposes OZ for what they really are, is immeasurable.

Then for a fleeting second, I wonder how, exactly, J did what he did - how he molded me so expertly that I can stand here, unafraid, and face up to this terrible woman when I know I will probably die.

"Once you have been executed, 01, the colonies will surely appreciate the service that OZ has provided them, eradicating the universe of a war criminal such as yourself." She walked slowly around me and the soldiers stood back and out of her way. "What a shame...just a boy, too. That Dr. should be reprimanded for involving such children in his war games. But don't worry, Heero. He will pay, along with the others, just like you will."

"Are you going to kill them too?"

"Perhaps. After I'm finished with them. I may be able to use them to further solidify relations with the colonies." A low chuckle escapes the woman as a mischievous glint appears in her eye. Then turning to her soldiers, she addresses them. "Put him away for now. Once I am gone, I want you to see to it that he looks like he put up a struggle while being captured."

"Lady Une, how..." one soldier tries to question.

"Use your imaginations. Just make sure he stays alive until I can execute him myself, witnessed by the colony leaders." Une's stone cold eyes burned into me as the two soldiers grab me and push me backward, back into the holding cell. Then the door is shut with a loud bang, and I can hear the lock mechanism working, followed by the cadence of boots departing.

I find myself sweating again as I my hands run like a whisper over Heero. His eyes are closed, mouth open, probably because there is all that dried blood under his nose. My stomach does a flip. I hadn't planned on this. I don't know why, but I just assumed that if they were going to kill him and use him as an example to the colonies, they wouldn't necessarily beat the hell out of him first. Stupid me. I recite to myself that damn phrase that Sister Helen taught me about making assumptions.

"Heero... It's me. Can you hear me?" I'm searching all over where I know his face is, even though I can't see a thing in this blackness. Sliding around to his head, I lift it slightly until it's cradled on my kneeling thighs. The movement startles him and he tries to jump up suddenly, but I hold him down. "It's Duo... buddy... It's OK." I think he recognizes my voice, because he relaxes and lets his head fall to my lap again, and I hear a big, long sigh.

"D-didn't I tell you to stay p-put?"

My one eyebrow rises for no one to see. "I came out here to save your ass."

Heero opens his eyes and looks up at me - I can feel the skin on the side of his face move, so I know this. "I don't need your help."

I start to chuckle. Well, truthfully, as I had acknowledged before, I hadn't planned on saving his already-half-dead ass. I was supposed to be just helping him escape so they didn't kill him. But, since he was incapacitated now, I was going to save his ass either way you could look at it.

"You don't need my help?" He can't see my smirking. "Heero, buddy...I guess they hit you on the head pretty hard, didn't they? Look at you! Hell, I think they may have done you over even better than they did me!"

His voice is muffled. I imagine that his lips might be swollen or cut. "I was doing just f-fine... I'm not that bad."

"You're one foot in the grave, Heero. And if you're not that bad, you will be. Give it up. If I hadn't come, you'd really be a goner. And... we still haven't gotten out of this place yet, so, there's still no saying that you won't be. Me right along with ya."


"Whaddya mean so? I, for one, don't want to give OZ the pleasure, thank you. If I'm gonna die in this war, I'm gonna die IN this war. No prisoner stuff... I'm going to die making a difference. To hell with rotting in a cell and waiting for someone to beat the crap out of me until I choke on my own blood." I was annoyed.

"Good thing I... got you out then, huh?" Heero Yuy was trying to have a sense of humor as he lay bleeding on a cold cement cell floor. Now if that didn't beat all.


Heero made a 'hmpf' sound that I assume was accompanied by a smirk. An "I told you so" kind of smirk.

"Yeah, yeah, OK. I know. YOU had to come and get me before I became a bloody pulp. Fine. Rub it in, why dontcha... but let's not forget the fact that right now it's you that they wanna kill."

"Hai." That was all he said, and he let himself relax more, his head still pillowed on me. It was the least I could do for the guy.

"Heero,.I have to tell you something. Are you listening?"

There's a long, tired silence before he responds. "Yeah."

"They lured you here, the doctors. Because OZ wants to use your death to gain the trust of the colonies."

"I figured that out already," he remarks, snidely.

"The doctors traded your life for theirs." My knees are starting to ache on the cold cement floor, but I remain kneeling, and before I know it, I find my hands softly pushing his hair away from his face. I feel him stiffen slightly when I do this, which is what caused me to realize what my hands were up to. At least I didn't poke him in the eye.

"Well...," he begins, relaxing again slightly at my touch. "...the joke is on them, because she's going to kill them all too. After they're finished the new Gundam." He pauses again. "I have to destroy it."

"Look, Heero," I start, my hands still winding wisps around my finger. I catch myself again and feel my face grow hot. I must be blushing. I stop fiddling with my hands and put them at my side. "I came here supposedly to kill you before OZ can, before they can make an example out of you. That's my mission."

"So go ahead."

"Damn it, Heero! What the hell is it with you and this death wish?" My tone is very annoyed now. "I'm not going to kill you...I came to get you out of here before anything could happen to you."

Again silence in the dark. "Why?"

This time it's me that remains quiet.

"Why?" He asks again.

I sigh. "Because... because..." why? Why am I doing this in the first place? There's more to it than just a returned favor, right? "...you're my friend, Heero, and as stubborn and set in your ways as you are, I like you." I like you a lot, Heero, and I want to get closer to you, not watch you die.

I feel his head roll back on me slightly, as if he's stretching to try to see me. "Your friend?" His tone is sarcastic.

"Yeah... my friend. Well... I don't have many of those these days so,... I wanna hold onto the ones that I have."

Then Heero tries to force himself into a sitting position, but he's weak that he can't do it on his own, so I help him. "I don't need friends. I don't need you. I don't know why you came here. It's going to be harder to get two of us out of here now, than just me alone."

Well, that kinda hurt. Never was one for tact, that Heero.

"Well, whatever, but the fact remains - I'm here now, and you're in no shape to fight yourself out by yourself. I'm not leaving ya, so you better just shut up and play this my way this time." You'll thank me later..I hope.

When I first became aware of someone else in the cell with me, I had no idea who it was. My stomach sank as the possibility that the soldiers had come back struck in my mind. My head was playing tricks on me. My instinct to stand and fight was so strong, so ingrained, that I let them drag me to the edge of death before they let me rest. This has been going on for days now, since Une is waiting for her perfect moment to show me to the colonies and ram a gun to my temple and squeeze the trigger for all to see. I never expected to find that my 'visitor' was Duo. What an idiot. As if this mission wasn't going bad enough, now there were two of us captured.

I realized it was him before he found me lying on the cell floor. I recognized his voice, but was too hazy to respond. I think I've been floating in and out of consciousness for a day or two, so I don't even really know what day it is, or what time it likely is. When he called out the second time, I moved my arm - just enough to make a sliding noise on the floor, and I moaned slightly, so he could find me in the darkness. The next thing I felt were fingers...tracing my clothing and carefully sliding up my body and to my face.

"Heero... it's me. I'm here, pal."

He surprises me with the emotion that he's trying to hold back. I can feel his tension rolling over me as he realizes that it's me lying here.

We talk, quietly, in pitch black, uncovering what exactly is going on. He tells me that he was sent to kill me before OZ could do it. Somehow that doesn't surprise me, but what does is his sudden attention to me. Actually, its unnerving me some, and I don't like to be unnerved. He leans my head on his thighs so it doesn't have to rest on the hard floor. His fingers mingle in my hair. He thinks I don't notice these things, I would guess. Either that, or he doesn't notice he's doing it.

"Why?" I ask him for the second time. Why did he care so much that he had to follow me and stop what was happening? Why? No one has ever cared about me beyond my ability to get my job done before. I'm used to that. No liability that way, since I'm the only one I'm responsible for.

"Because... because... you're my friend, Heero, and as stubborn and set in your ways as you are, I like you."

That's what he tells me. That he likes me. That I'm his friend. I've never been anybody's friend before. Why start now? My answer is harsh, and I know I've offended him, but I don't really care at this point... or do I?

The conversation ends there. Duo slides back against the wall to lean on it, and I painstakingly join him, sitting myself far enough away that we don't touch, but close enough to feel heat radiating from him. His warmth on my one side causes a shiver that emanates from my other side, and he asks if I'm cold, getting ready to offer me whatever he can pull off himself.

"No, I'm fine."

I imagine Duo shrugging about now as he says "Suit yourself, tough guy."

As I sit, feeling my bruised body, accepting it as part of my life, part of my purpose, I close my eyes and just rest. My mind returns to the plan, and how I'm going to get to that mobile suit before they deliver my justice, but something keeps invading. A thought, a little voice... a twinge inside me. The harder I tell myself that I don't need anyone, the more persistent the voice becomes. Needing someone is so foreign to me...I don't know how to need anybody but myself.

The building becomes silent and I think it must be night. There is only the occasional guard walking past, and even then, it's infrequent. I finally manage to get all thoughts and voices out of my head, and I drift to sleep, Duo sitting next to me, also asleep.

When we wake to the sound of soldiers unlocking the cell door, my body is revolting against me. Sore from the beatings and sore from sleeping upright against the wall, I'm embarrassed by the fact that I can barely get to my feet, as if I should still be able to. I'm seized by two pairs of hands, and they yank me off the floor and drag me to the doorway, Duo trotting beside. I try to squirm away, but days of torment and nothing to eat or drink are winning me over. I'm disgusted in myself, my weakened state, to say the least.

"Hey!!" Duo yells to them.

One of the soldiers looks back and curses him. "Shut up, ya runt. You're turn is coming soon enough."

"Heero!" He yells back to me, and for a brief instance, our gazes connect in the slice of light flowing in from the gateway, his full of anger and hurt, mine full of emptiness -- so empty that I can feel it through my entire body. I am empty. I always have been. This should be no different, but looking into Duo's eyes this time, the emptiness starts to feel inadequate.

Waking us from our sleep, the soldiers come and take Heero away, but they don't touch me. I can hear commotion close by from within the cell, but can't exactly make it out. It isn't until the soldiers return with Heero, opening the gate and dropping him down roughly onto the cement that I realize the noises I overheard was Heero being punished again. I'm amazed. Through all of it, he didn't utter a sound. I don't know whether to admire that or pity it, honestly.

Once the cell door is closed again, I'm immersed in blackness like before. The light is starting to hurt, making the dark a soothing haven for my eyes. I carefully step over to where I know they left Heero, and kneel down to him. He's on his side, and breathing heavy.

"Heero?" No answer. I think he's passed out.

Sighing, I roll him onto his back and begin feeling him again, and my hands come up wet this time. Blood. I instinctively raise my fingers to my nose and smell, confirming it. If they're going to kill him on TV, I don't know why the hell they don't just do it, instead of torturing the guy like this, but secretly, I think these soldiers enjoy it. They enjoy making someone like Heero so vulnerable, because they know what he has the ability to do to them one-on-one. He could snap their necks in an instant - but four or however many-on-one, well...even Heero can't protect himself against that.

I have to act. If I'm going to do anything, I have to do it soon, before they get their wish and do away with him, only not as they originally planned. Well, I guess that would ultimately make the scientists happy - if Heero were killed by the soldiers before Une could do it. Then the next thing would be Une taking out her frustrations on her soldiers for not having any better judgement on 'how far is too far'. I have to chuckle at that one, it's so pathetic.

I reach back to my stash in my hair and confirm once more that it's there and untouched. Tonight then. Once things get quiet in the halls, I'll start, and see about getting us both out of this place before we both croak in here. I just hope Heero wakes up by then, because I can't carry him that far. I'll be forced to wait another day if he doesn't, and at the rate he's going, I don't know how many more of these little sessions he can take.

Besides... they've already promised that my turn was coming as well, and frankly, I'm still plenty painful from what their comrades did to me earlier at the other base.

Sliding over next to Heero, I lay down on the hard floor beside him, one hand on his chest, feeling for his breathing. Slowly, rhythmically, the rise and fall lulls me to sleep. It's exhausting, being a Gundam pilot, especially when you're a prisoner. Add to that the stresses of guarding over your severely "injured" partner, and quite honestly, I could probably sleep through this entire base exploding. Yet somehow I manage to keep semi-conscious and aware of the breathing, letting me know that everything is at least - stable - right at this moment.

I'm awakened to someone tapping my face lightly. It's Duo.

"Heero, wake up." I'm vaguely aware of him leaning over me. "Heero?"

"Mmpff," is about all I can muster right now.

"We're leaving. Now. You gotta wake up."

My eyes flash open, although all there is, is black. "What?"

"Let's see if you can walk." He's pulling at me to get me into an upright position.

Slowly, painfully, I find myself sitting up, and I bring my hands to my eyes to rub them. Everything on me either hurts, is wet with fresh blood, or crusted with dried. I can feel my skin pinching as little flakes of it detach from me. I have the weird feeling of my head spinning, and in total darkness, it's a sensation that threatens to bring me to the brink of heaving, although I have nothing in my stomach to heave up.

"We're getting out, Heero. We have to make our break." Duo slides up next to me, kneeling, and touches my arm to see where I am.

"How?" Yeah, what's this great plan that you have that's going to get us out of here?

"No one can ever accuse me of arriving unprepared at any Oz event," he chuckles, and I feel him fumbling with something. Then he puts it in my hand. Lock pick. Nice. Must have been hiding it in his hair all this time. For a second my thought ponders what would have happened if he'd somehow lost it, or they'd gotten the pick away from him, but since that isn't the case, and it's right here, I let the thought pass.

We whisper in the security of darkness for a while. My internal clock is totally disoriented at this point, so I'm not really sure how long. I have to force myself to stay coherent at this point, because the coldness of the floor and the chill of my drying blood keep trying to lull me back to sleep. I hear the plan, and psyching myself up as best I can in my current state, I tell him that I understand. I think he's taken a little bit off guard in that I'm not arguing any points with him, or trying to create my own plan right now. But if I had to be perfectly honest with myself, I'm not thinking too clearly, and it's going to be a trick to see if I can simply follow his instructions, let alone make up new ones myself. That said, we begin.

"I've been timing their walk-throughs. They come down this corridor, it seems, once every thirty minutes or so. All we haveta do is wait for the next guard to come by, and then we know we have about a half-hour window to get out." Duo informs, keeping his voice hushed.

Smart. I don't know why this surprises me, but it does. Maybe I haven't given him enough credit all this time.

We sit in silence, waiting and watching, and then finally it happens. We can hear the footsteps of the guard as he approaches. They get louder until they are just in front of the gate to the cell, and there is a barely-noticable pause in his steps, probably as his head turns to look at the gate latch and lock, and then he continues on, looking before him again, his steps regaining their regularity. After a few more seconds the sound disappears and we are once more alone. That's when Duo jumps up.

"Let's go," he says, and as I try to rise to my feet, I nearly fall on my face.

"Fuck," I whisper, wincing at my screaming body, and then before I know it, he's there, helping me stand. Once I've regained my foothold, I instinctively push him away, and then only afterward question my actions.

Duo fumbles with the lock pick, its metal scraping against the metal of the door as he searches nervously for the lock hole. I hear him sigh with relief, and I know he's found it. Then there is some grinding as the pick is twisted and shuffled and prodded inside the opening. He's at if for a good eight or ten minutes, by my poor estimation, and I hear him curse softly to himself. Apparently it's happening slower than he'd planned. When finally I hear the clank of the lock releasing and notice a faint hint of light appearing at the edges of the door as it unseals, Duo is breathing heavy.

"Come on, let's get the fuck outa here." He grabs my arm, pulling me with him, and we step into blinding light.

We get out into the corridor and I, dragging Heero with me, instinctively start heading in the direction that I know the MS hanger is, in spite of the fact that I can't see a damn thing for a few minutes. He stumbles behind me for a few steps, then as our eyes adjust, I feel him yank his arm out of my grasp, and he's matching me stride for stride, in spite of the pain he must be feeling. I need to learn how to do that - block pain out the way he does. I mean, the guy has to be hurting bad, but you'd never know it by looking at him. Me... I get the job done, but I'm sure there's always someone taking bets on whether I'm gonna actually make it or not, since I just can't hide pain the way he does.

Finally my eyes adjust, and we're heading as quietly as possible down the corridor, and the MS hanger opens out before us. It must be late. I estimate it to be some time between midnight and three AM, because there's no one around. We enter the work bays and for an instant, both stop and stare, looking at the half-constructed new mobile suit that the docs are being forced to build. I'm not sure whether we are actually awed by it, but it is remarkable, that's certain. Very different looking than the five that exist now. We exchange blank glances, and then head off across the floor of the hanger. The item that we need is waiting for us at the end of a row of mechs in the process of being repaired - the Taurus I left behind earlier - which will take us out of Hell, and back to earth.

We're half way to the Taurus when we hear footsteps running up behind us, and then suddenly shots fly out all over the place, accompanied by the yells of soldiers telling us to stop.

"RUN!" I scream as we both put it in high gear, and the action begins. I expected as much, but I was really getting hopeful there for a minute.

Heero is limping beside me as we make a break for the Taurus, and I look back to find a hanger full of Oz soldiers. Apparently we've woken up the whole place at this point, and they are all firing at once, hitting mobile suits and the metal walls left and right, sending bullets ricocheting with a twang. My chest is heaving as I run, and for a second I wonder how we've managed to get this far without being shot. As I come upon the leg of our vehicle, Heero hides behind it, and I start getting the hatch down as the soldiers close in on us.

It feels like days before the hatch lowers and the guide wire slides down, and I'm sweating bullets as big as the ones they're shooting at us. Heero looks over and nods, then quickly jumps up next to me, wrapping his arms around my waist as I hold him tightly. Then we both grab the guide wire and start to ascend into the cockpit of the Taurus. We've just about made it to the top when one of the Ozzies gets lucky, hitting Heero in the shoulder, the very shoulder that he's hanging onto the guide wire with, and he nearly falls out of my arms as his hand goes weak and he lets go of the wire. Hanging on to the wire with everything I'm worth, I fight to hold him up with my one arm, he hanging limply beside me, and I feel like my other arm is going to rip out of its socket.

"H-hang on... 'lmost there!" I'm gritting my teeth as we reach the cockpit, trying unsuccessfully to bear the pain my arm is in. Heero is now visibly in a lot more pain as well, and it's all he can do to hang on to me.

Waking from my sleep, I let my eyes flutter open. I have no idea where I am. I go to rub away the sleep and grogginess, and I'm suddenly attacked by an excruciating pain in my shoulder, burning so white hot that I nearly lose consciousness again. Mentally forcing myself to relax and my muscles to loosen, I breathe heavily for a minute or so to regain my composure, allowing the wave of pain to pass.

When finally I can open my eyes again, I see that I'm in bed - a bed - although I have no idea where. Next to me, facing the opposite direction, is Duo. He's on top of the covers, and fully clothed, his rope of chestnut hair flopped casually over his hip, while I'm naked except for underwear and a lot of bandages. I try to move my legs under the blankets and they complain, but eventually do obey. My shifting in the bed wakes the one next to me, and he rolls over to face me.

"Hey," he says, sleep coating his voice. His violet eyes are clouded with sleep. I never really noticed his eyes before. What an odd color, purple. I guess there's a lot I never noticed about him.

"Where are we?" I demand, but the harshness in my voice is lost on an accidental yawn.

"Hiding out. L2. You were hurt too badly to go much further, so I pulled in a few favors." Duo's eyes search my face, and I can tell he's looking at my bruises and cuts. Then finally his gaze meets mine. "How ya feeling?"

"Like Hell," I say, but that doesn't even come close to the truth.

"I can imagine. You seem to have a thing for near-death experiences."

I don't reply at first. "How long have we been here?"

Duo flops onto his back and starts twiddling his thumbs. My eyes fall to his hands, and I find myself watching, mesmerized.

"Couple days. I got you taken care of first, of course. They pulled a nice slug out of your shoulder there. You've been out ever since leaving the Lunar Base. You should see the bloody mess you made in the cockpit of that Taurus we stole. Got you help just in the nick of time, before you bled out, you know."

"Hn," I say, as per my usual response when I have no response.

My body is throbbing from the abuse its been through for the second time in only a few months passing, and I feel sleep closing in on me once more. But I need to know some things before I allow myself to doze off, so I force my eyes awake again.


"Yeah?" He's relaxed, next to me on the bed, his eyes closed as we're talking.

"Why did you risk getting yourself killed just to come for me, when you knew I would have accepted dying like that?"

For a few seconds, maybe thirty seconds, there is no reaction from him, but then this little smile spreads across his face. Eyes still closed, he answers, "I already told ya Heero... I like you. And there's one thing I can tell you - I do what I can to help my friends."

"Why do you like me?" I asked him point blank. "I'm not the most likeable guy around, even I realize this. I haven't had much in the way of niceties for you either. So... why?"

Duo rolls onto his side to face me this time, and opens his gem-colored eyes. "You really want to know? I mean... really?"

"Hai," I nod, and I feel that nod all the way down to the muscles in my chest.

Then he proceeds to tell me that he likes me because underneath the ironclad exterior, I'm the same as he is. That behind the icy glare, he sees the warmth of a caring person that just hasn't been given a chance "to" care. He tells me that I needed someone to show me that I'm not the monster I perceive myself as being.

"You, Heero, are a great person. You just don't know it yet. And you've been way too brainwashed. But I like you, and I thought you were well worth the risk, to run in there and get you out." He winks at me.

For quite a while neither of us say anything, he reading my expression, and me trying to figure him out. And myself, for that matter.

"Duo?" I say, once more, my eyes still connected to his, entranced.

"Yeah, Heero?"

"Thank you."


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