It's funny, the things that go through a person's mind when they are on the verge of death. There is always the situation at hand, consuming the majority of their thoughts, but slipping in between those thoughts there always seem to be that feeling of remorse - remorse for all that's been done wrong in life, and all that hasn't been done that should have been. All those feelings of "would have" and "should have" and "I'm sorry I...," occupying the mind as it alternates between ideas. Remorse and fear - the all-consuming fear that death is around the corner and there's not a damn thing that can be done about it. Some, faced with a disastrous situation in which they realize there is no way out of, will resort to uncontrolled laughter, but most just wallow in their remorse and their fear, stomachs tied in knots, hearts heavy with abandon, as they await the final moments of their lives.
Heero Yuy was floating. Whether it was in a dream or in real life, he was uncertain; all he could recognize was the sensation of floating. That, and a stinging, burning cold. Bobbing against a shred of what remained of a small shuttle that had been shot out of the sky, he gripped with all his waning strength to stay afloat, passing in and out of brief periods of unconsciousness. Barely awake, he could feel the cold sucking the warmth right out of him, and his mind fought valiantly to stay awake by thinking thoughts, all kinds of thoughts.
"Who's going to get the mission completed?" He'd had that thought first. That was before he'd begun to suffer from the piercing cold. The next idea that flashed in Heero's rapidly slowing mind was "How do I get out of this water?" followed shortly thereafter by a slightly less optimistic "Is someone going to be looking for me?" The young gundam pilot wasn't afraid. Heero Yuy didn't get afraid. He was just cold. Very, very cold. His limbs and joints slowed and his muscled cramped up painfully, and he shivering uncontrollably as he began to have minute blackouts. All he wanted was to feel warm again.
By the time Heero could no longer feel his body, and the shivering had all but stopped, he was only able to cling to his makeshift raft because his arms were practically frozen around it. His mind began to change in ways he'd never considered before, as the cold slowly warped it. When he'd self detonated his Gundam months earlier rather than allow OZ take it, there hadn't been any question as to what he was doing. He was prepared to die, and offered himself in the name of his cause without blinking an eyelash. It was his duty to do so, and it was over within a few seconds. He hadn't counted on surviving that incident, but regardless, it was something that he did, and did in full acknowledgement of what the outcome would probably be. But this, this was completely different. He was always willing and ready to sacrifice himself for his cause, but this was not only unexpected,...he wasn't dead. He was still alive, only waiting, watching as death came for him, its cruel grip getting slowly tighter as the minutes passed. Death was taking its sweet time in seizing him, and his mind was playing tricks on him now.
"Oh God," Heero said, either out loud or to himself, he wasn't sure, but it must have been to himself, since his lips were so blue, he couldn't work them. "I'm going to die out here. I'm going to freeze to death." His moment of clarity was followed by many moments of haziness. "Please," the boy thought quietly to himself as a faint steam continued to escape from his wet head, "If there really IS a God. I didn't want to die like this." Heero closed his eyes for a moment, then opened them finding himself loose from his piece of shuttle. Agonizingly, he forced his arms to paddle until he could get close enough to grab it again, and even then, he could only get one arm around it. It was just enough to keep his head from going under as his numbing body felt heavier every minute that passed.
"I'll stop fighting... I'll... I'll tell them that I refuse to kill anyone else. I DO have a heart!" Heero begged with his invisible deity, realizing for the first time that even he had fears and desires and the ability to feel, much to the contrary of the joking that had gone on behind his back from the other pilots. Surely they'd have expected him to just accept the fact that he was going to die out there in the cold, cold ocean, but this time Heero wasn't prepared for that. He hadn't given himself the orders to die yet, but it was happening without his consent. "Please, God, I can't feel anything...I'll be a better person...please don't...let..." His mind wandered and his recurrent nightmare - the one of the little girl with the puppy - appeared in his vision. She wasn't real, Heero knew that, but why then was she out in the middle of the ocean with him, still chasing that dog?
Flooded with memories of people and places and things, the boy went through life passing unconsciously before his closed eyes, and he smiled weakly, pathetically, as his mind brought him back to a place of comfort. He had just rescued Duo from the OZ base, and managed to get the injured boy to a medical facility. "Duo," Heero whispered, remembering the other boy, and finding comfort in his vision. Except for their rather rocky initial introduction, his acquaintance with the other boy had been nice. He'd never really acknowledged that before, having passed the other off as a nuisance and a threat to the missions, but to be honest with himself, he'd actually grown to like the longhaired teen's company over time. "What better time than the present to be honest with one's self," Heero thought as he bobbed beside the floating scrap of metal and fiberglass. "I'm sorry, Duo," Heero noted. "I should have been nicer to you. I should have at least told you that I do consider you a friend, but... I've never had a friend before, so I didn't know how to act around you."
For hours, or maybe just minutes, Heero clung desperately to the section of the shuttle, pondering his recent and distant past. Eyes closed, he ignored the hot, stabbing sensation that was starting to grow in his extremities and also the idea that he was entering that stage of hypothermia where his body was giving its last ditch effort to remain alive. Nothing worked now except his brain and his heart, although his heart was getting slower as the cold began to render his body motionless, and his mental capacity was draining as well. His lungs hurt as he drew shallower and shallower breaths, separated by more seconds each time. Although he wasn't aware of it, for the first time in his short life, Heero wished he'd known who his mother was. Then after a few more moments, all he could think about was sleeping. Closing his eyes, and his mind to any more thoughts, the young pilot fell unconscious once more as he waited for his life to ebb away.
The lapping water on his face is what finally brought Duo Maxwell back into his consciousness. Lapping water, followed by an urgent stinging sensation in his side. Every time the water came, the stinging would return, but then it stopped when the water left. Forcing himself to come awake, Duo was slapped once more by a low wave, causing him to cough and sputter as brine snuck its way into his mouth and down his throat. As his senses began to return to him, the burning sensation was soon accompanied by searing cold - a cold almost hotter than the burn, and he forced his eyes open. Looking straight up, all he could see were stars in a clear black and purple sky. From that vantage point, his body felt like it was spinning, making his head ache.
They were on Earth again. They were supposed to be in space, but they were back on the Earth.
For a little while longer, the stunned boy simply lay, watching the stars and the steam of his breath rising as the furious, feverish sensation eventually died. Then pulling himself into a sitting position, Duo became aware of a number of things. First off, he was incredibly cold. He was sitting on a shoreline, just within reach of the waves, and the water was absolutely frigid. Soaked to the bone and covered in clinging sand, he wore his deep space suit, with his regular clothing underneath, and every last stitch was cold and wet. The second thing the young Gundam pilot took note of was his friend and fellow pilot, Heero Yuy, lying a few yards away on the shoreline, unconscious. Shivering, Duo started to get to his feet as another wave hit him, knocking him back down, and he noticed the third thing. He was bleeding.
Duo forced himself once more into a sitting position and pushed himself backward on chilled, clumsy limbs until he was further out of harms way, and he began to inspect himself to find the source of the blood. He found a large tear in the side of his suit and, pulling back the fabric, uncovered a crimson-colored mess underneath. It wasn't until he'd actually seen the wound that it started to hurt again, and then not only did it hurt, but it screamed with pain. Covering the wound back up with the space suit, Duo looked over to his friend who still hadn't moved, then mustered up all his strength and stood up. A wave of nausea passed over him, and he had to fight to keep himself upright.
Wincing from the pain, Duo made his way over to the other boy. Heero still hadn't resumed consciousness, and he lay with his body halfway submerged in the chilly surf. Fighting to hold his balance against the swells that rushed him, Duo grabbed the other boy under the armpits and dragged him slowly out of the water, then collapsed backward in the sand beside his friend. He tried to rouse the sleeping boy.
"Heero," Duo called out. His voice was dry and ragged.
"Yo, man! Heero!" Duo gently slapped the other boy on the cheeks to try to rouse him.
"Fuck... Heero, man, you're freezing." Heero's skin was white, and noticeably cold to the touch, even by Duo's already cold hand.
A twinge of concern started to take hold in Duo's gut, and he leaned over, putting his ear over the sleeping boy's nose, trying desperately to hear a breath, but all he heard was the ocean. When that didn't work, he thought a few seconds, then tried something else as a second resort. Unzipping the front of Heero's space suit, Duo slid his hand inside until it rested on the boy's soft belly, and then he waited. He waited and waited, and then finally felt the faint movement of muscles indicating a shallow breath. Duo let out his own breath that he was holding in anticipation. He pulled his hand out and zipped the fabric back up.
Duo contemplated his situation. They were stranded somewhere, at night. It was cold, and they were wet to top it off. He had a wound in his right side and Heero was unconscious. He had no idea where they were, nor could he remember at that moment what had happened to them, but he did know that somehow, someway, they had to get off the shoreline and warm and dry before one or both of them succumbed to hypothermia. It was already looking like Heero had a considerable head start on him, but Duo knew he wasn't far behind him if he didn't figure out something to do for them, and quick. Freezing to death wasn't high on his list of priorities; that he was certain of.
"Think, Maxwell, think."
He looked around him, at this place where they had "landed". Lots of sand, and a biting wind that was chilling him even more, now that he was out of the water. He saw, quite a ways back on the shoreline, a stand of trees, and that reminded him of something. Digging furiously in the interior pockets of his suit, Duo started pulling out the few items he had with him - a pocket knife, a foil-wrapped cereal bar, a couple of sopping pieces of paper that used to have some notes for something-or-other jotted on them, and finally, a pack of two small flares. Waterproof flares. Fire starting flares. The first time he'd ever suited up, he'd questioned having flares stuffed inside the suit, a suit to be used in space, since everyone knew you had to have oxygen to use flares. He ate his crow quite willingly in this case - those flares meant that he could hopefully at the very least start a fire. Those flares meant the difference between life and death.