Inspired by the thought of a blazing fire to warm them, Duo got to work as quickly as he could on cold-numbed feet. Limping his way across the beach, he entered the grove of trees and began to gather branches and twigs - anything that would burn - and carry them to a spot just outside of the wood. A neat pile of dry brush and kindling was collected, and it eventually got bigger as the boy rushed to gather as much as he could. By the time he felt there was enough gathered to try starting a fire, he was shivering uncontrollably, the only warmth that he could feel being that of his own blood oozing from his wound before it too became as cold as the night air. Little drips ran down his side, sticking to his drying clothing, and it pinched his skin where it stuck.
Kneeling, Duo took out one of the two flares that he had, and fumbled with it while he tried to convince his trembling fingers to work. His hands were slow and unyielding, the circulation in them poor from cold, and handling the flare took some doing. Once the cap was off and he'd managed to strike the end a few times though, the flare burst into a glowing red flame and the boy breathed a sigh of relief. Then he shoved the flare under the pile of twigs and prayed.
"Come on...come on..." Duo whispered impatiently, watching as the flare smoldered under the twigs and branches.
Finally, he began to see little yellow and orange flickers peeking out from the pile of branches as a couple of dried up leaves caught fire, and Duo relaxed a little bit. It took a few minutes, but soon the entire pile of twigs was ablaze, creating a warm glow before him. His eyes transfixed on the fire, Duo put his hands forward to warm them, turning them over and back, wiggling nearly-frozen fingers that slowly began to regain movement as circulation improved. The cold in his hands was then replaced by a scorching heat as his skin responded, and for a few minutes his fingers felt like they were puffed up and swollen as blood rushed back into the appendages. God, it felt so good!
After he'd regained the feeling in both hands, Duo stood. As soon as he moved out of reach of the fire he could immediately feel the cold creeping up again, but he had to get Heero before it was too late. For all he knew, it was too late already, but he quickly limped off to find the other boy anyway, wincing with every step that he took, ignoring his own pain. Heero was right where he'd left him, and didn't look like he'd moved at all. Duo's worry returned as he began to drag his friend toward the fire.
"Heero...man," Duo said, grunting. "...I never realized you were...this...heavy."
Duo dragged the boy from the armpits, stopping every few feet to catch his breath. The surf crashed loudly in the night, and the wind howled around him, its biting cold ripping through his wet clothes and chilling him once more to his very core. It was a vicious wet cold, the kind that could slice right through your skin and render your blood to sludge in a matter of minutes, and he was already shivering again. Every move he made caused his clothing to shift, and every shift allowed the cold air to create more evaporation from his skin, taking more and more of his vital body heat with it. His long braided hair, heavy with sea water, hung on him like a thick rope, and the back of his wet scalp felt like it was freezing, giving him a low-grade headache. Then, thinking about how cold poor Heero probably was, Duo had to force himself to think of other, less depressing thoughts.
He dragged the boy over to the fire and laid him out before it, it's heat radiating over both of them; he threw a few more sticks onto the flames. It was the last of the wood that he'd gathered, so Duo knew he would need to go scrounging again before long. However, before he did that, he had to figure out what to do about Heero, and how to get him dry and warm. Remembering the survivalist training that he had during his training to be a Gundam pilot, he recalled that the most important thing was getting the other boy out of his wet clothing and getting him dry. Hopefully he'd slowly start to warm up once he was dry, although the winds were a significant concern, too.
Still shivering, Duo started to unzip Heero's suit and peel him out of the sopping garment. It was no easy task, since his limbs were stiffened and his joints weren't cooperating with being forcefully bent, but eventually Heero was stripped down to his black shorts and nothing else. The space suit was laid out to dry, along with the rest of Heero's clothing, and returning to his friend's side, Duo felt him once more - his skin was frighteningly cold and clammy, but there was nothing more that he could do for Heero, other than pray. Then, stripping his own trembling form down to his underwear, he laid his clothing out as well, and sat beside Heero, watching the fire, his mind wandering as he tried to warm himself.
The young pilot hovered over the flame for quite a while, coaxing his body to respond to the heat being generated before the winds could chill him again, but it only worked so well. He was finally beginning to dry, as was Heero, but he still shivered violently. He thought to pull out the band in his hair and undo his long braid, but decided against it, since the winds were strong. It would whip his tresses into a rat's nest that he had no way to comb out right there, so Duo left well enough alone. The hair would dry eventually, and until then, he would just deal with the chill it caused along his back from its heavy dampness. His wound had slowed its bleeding and now there was more of a stickiness than a wetness, but it hurt terribly every time he moved.
Heero, thus far, had remained motionless, and Duo realized that it was not a good sign. There was no indication that he was improving any, so Duo decided that he needed to make the fire bigger. He got to his feet, looking down at his side when he did, noticing that the movement caused more, fresh bleeding. Ignoring his pain once more, he forced himself to go back to the wood to find more kindling. He made four trips back and forth, bringing enough branches and twigs to pile onto the bonfire so that it was crackling loudly, and also make an extra pile beside the fire, so he could keep it going for a few hours.
By the time Duo was finished gathering the wood, he was exhausted, and there was a track of fresh blood down his side to his underwear, where the cloth was stained a bright red as it soaked it up. Blood had saturated the fabric, and had begun oozing down his thigh as well. The cold had really taken its toll on him, and he dropped down beside Heero, whose condition wasn't much different than it was before Duo had gotten up.
"Heero," Duo sighed, looking dejectedly over to his friend. "Please, Heero. You can't die on me like this. You just can't."
It was the first time Duo had thought or said the word "die" since finding the two of them stranded, and it scared him. Touching the other boy's chest, he waited again until he felt movement, then fixed his attention once more on the situation. Maybe all wasn't lost. Maybe Heero was going to be OK, after a matter of time. Duo had been trained that in cases of hypothermia, the victim needed to be slowly warmed up again, or there was a high risk of cardiac arrest - what was too fast? What wasn't fast enough? He had no way of knowing. The only thing he could do at this point was, do what felt right.
Rising to his bare feet, the longhaired teen grabbed his friend and maneuvered him once more around the fire, this time putting him on the side away from the wind - far enough from the flames that he couldn't get burned, but close enough that the wind would bother him less. There was sand stuck all over both of them, in Duo's hair, and now in his wound from all the activity, but he kept at it until he had Heero just where he wanted him in front of the fire. He was satisfied only when he could feel the other boy's skin warming ever so slightly from the blaze, and hoped that he'd done the right thing. Throwing some more branches on the fire, Duo sat behind his friend, who was laid out lengthwise in front of the blaze. The wind blew, but all it blew was the warmth of the flame onto them, and it felt good.
"Yes, this might work," Duo thought.
For quite a while, Duo simply sat beside the fire and his fellow pilot, letting things roll over in his mind. He contemplated how he wound up getting stuck here, stranded and nearly frozen to death with, of all people, Heero, and he chalked it up to paybacks. After all, Heero had already helped him once, back when he'd been captured by OZ and they'd beaten the snot out of him. Heero had shown up just in time, for Duo wouldn't have been able to withstand another "interrogation" by the officers, and he'd gotten the two of them off the OZ base alive. He owed Heero a lot for that one. For, no matter how many times he touted himself as Shinigami, and that he could withstand anything the Ozzies could throw at him, he'd been starting to face the grim reality that if someone didn't come for him, he was going to die in that God-awful dark, damp cell at the OZ base. Enter one Heero Yuy to save the day, and Duo Maxwell too.
Until that point, he'd always thought of the Japanese boy to be quite arrogant and rather unfeeling. He seemed to care for nothing other than his mission, whatever that might be, and nothing stood in his way of completing it. Nothing. No one. The kid was a killing machine, and he could take on men twice his size. It had been a little bit daunting at first, when Duo had just met him. He was so cocky and sure of himself that it made Duo feel uncomfortable, but eventually that feeling passed, and they started to at least get along better. Although he'd never really considered that Heero might actually be enjoying his friendship, the fact that he'd shown up to rescue him was encouraging. Heero's orders had been to destroy Duo, but he didn't, saving him instead. So perhaps, Duo mulled, this little turn of events was payback for the past.
Even if it was, though, Duo was more than ready to call it quits right then and there, and wake up back in his bunk, or in his gundam, or someplace else only to find out that this whole shuttle thing was just a bad dream. A bad dream would be worlds better than what this had the potential of becoming.
By this time, sleep was trying to overtake him, so Duo allowed himself to lay back on the sand, his right side facing up and his hand placed protectively on the unconscious boy's chest, comforted by the shallow rise and fall of it. He could tell if Heero stopped breathing this way, and at least be able to try resuscitation if he needed to. For many minutes Duo just watched - the fire, as it danced in reds and yellows, and Heero, as shadows played on his face from the light cast by the fire. His own shivering was finally starting to cease as he warmed internally, and for a while, he was able to let his mind venture once more to other things besides how cold he was and how his side hurt. Lying on the sand, his head resting on his one arm as his other arm rested on Heero, Duo considered tomorrow, and let himself relax, the hiss of the ocean lulling him into a quiet calmness. After a few minutes he was in a deep sleep.
Duo woke suddenly, hours later, to the feel of Heero trembling under his arm. It was early morning, from the fading stars and washed out pinkness of the sky, and the winds had died down, but so had the fire. It was completely out.
"Oh shit!" Duo jumped up from his reclined position, then cringed with pain from the injury that he'd forgotten about. His reminder was a sharp, shooting pain, followed by a wave of nausea that converged upon him for a few seconds.
Returning his attention to Heero after a few deep breaths to regain himself, Duo was encouraged by the apparent life in the other boy, as his body trembled and shook all over. He still felt cold to the touch, but this involuntary action was a good sign.
There was still no answer, but the shivering continued. "I need to get this fire going for us again, buddy," Duo said to the other boy even though he went unheard, and started to pile on more kindling from the stack. Grabbing a second flare from his small pile of items, Duo pulled off the cap and struck the end. It burst into flames, and then, like the first one, he put it under the pile of branches and watched cautiously until there was once more a bright, blazing flame before them. Duo had scrounged in Heero's suit when he took it off him and located two more flares, along with another small knife and a single-serve portion of space rations, so there was only enough to start two more fires. He would have to be diligent about keeping this one going. Yes, they certainly were well equipped, these two, considering all of their first aid supplies and other gear had gone down with the shuttle.
It was then that Duo's memory served him, and he remembered what happened to them to land them in this predicament in the first place. There was a mission in space, so they teamed up, and were flying a small craft up to Peacemillion, when they were attacked by who knows who. Probably OZ, even though Duo really had no idea how they'd have figured out that the shuttle was anything more than just a civilian craft. Either someone knew they were on that shuttle, or OZ had managed to breach their communications, but at this point it was of little consequence, because they'd downed the shuttle alright, and nearly killed both of them in the process. Duo was positive that was the intent anyway, so the fact that they were both still alive was definitely a bonus. The problem was, where, exactly, had they landed, and did anyone else know they were there? For all he knew, Peacemillion would receive communication that the shuttle had been downed and assume the worst. In that case, it was doubtful that anyone would be around to look for them. After all, if it weren't for the fact that they had been flying fairly low at that moment, reducing the crash impact, they really would be dead.