Background music: Innocence Faded by Dream Theater
The mirror falls behind you
I break down walls to find you."
I am the perfect soldier.
I am the perfect soldier.
I don't hesitate. I don't second-guess. I don't fail.
I have no fears. I have no regrets. I have no...humanity.
I have nothing.
I am nothing...but a machine that kills and kills with no remorse. In a dawning era of absolute peace, I am the antithesis of everything I fought for. Relena thinks she loves me. In reality, I am that which she hates.
Are you lost, niichan?
The floor beneath my knees is real enough, the burning heat in my eyes a pain I can't deny. Perhaps I do have the capacity to feel. Do you think that makes me human? It doesn't. If anything, I am a monster, some freak of nature or science or both, cobbled together from machine and man. Someone once told me it was alright for humans to act by their emotions. I wonder sometimes if they realized the irony in giving that advice to something less than human.
Are you lost, niichan?
I've been lost since I was born.
"Heero!" There was a blur of motion to my left, then hands clasping my shoulders, a wiry body kneeling down in front of me.
"I'm not going to ask you if you're ok because it's obvious you're not." He sounded unaccountably grim. "Can you stand?"
Good question. An even better question was if I wanted to stand. A still, quiet part of me offered up that it was not uncommon for animals to choose the place and time in which to meet death. They simply lay down and don't get up. The idea had a certain irony to it that I could deeply appreciate.
In the end, he didn't give me a choice. A slim shoulder thrust itself beneath my arm and he clasped me around the waist, hauling me to my feet with fierce determination. My legs supported my own weight, several days in a Brussels hospital had seen to that. My body wasn't the concern, I think he knew that when he found me. I think, as he approached, he made a split-second decision to fight a battle he had every chance of losing. Baka.
"Come on, one foot in front of the other," he prompted gently. All around us, the world was engaged in celebration. Peace had won out over war. At last. I closed my eyes, my jaw clenching convulsively. All of the instruments of war had been destroyed. Almost all.
I realized his grip on my waist had gone slack, realized that he was attempting to direct me into a chair. Somewhere along the way, we'd made it into a hotel room. His by the look of it. I slumped over with my elbows braced on my knees. Distantly in my mind, I could hear what was slowly, surely driving me insane... the clash of battle, the screams of the dying, the high, sweet voice of one small, innocent child...
"It's over," he said quietly. The emotion in his voice was awe, fear and wonder intertwined.
I drew a slow, shaky breath, making my own decision. "Not quite." I knew what I had to do now. Ninmu ryoukai. I stood, pulling the empty gun from the waistband of my jeans. "Do you have any ammo left?" I felt calm, cool...empty.
"Yeah, why?" His eyes narrowed, I think he was beginning to realize what I meant to do. He just wasn't ready to admit it.
"It's not over," I said quietly. "It has to be over before there can be peace." I took a deep breath, and then another one. "All of the weapons have to be destroyed."
"Kuso, Heero!"  He'd admitted it now, and I've never seen such cold fury in his eyes before. They weren't violet anymore, they were black. "Are you out of your mind?"
Mute, I merely met his gaze. Empty. I was so empty. "I have to."
"You are, aren't you?" The fury became anguish. "Heero, God..." His arms slipped around me, holding me tightly. I just stood there, not pushing him away, not holding him back. I don't think I knew what to do. "Iya, Heero. No." His eyes found mine, and the look in them was fiercely intense. "You're not going to do this."
"What do you suggest I do?"
He reached up, touched my face. The intensity was still there in his eyes. Along with a bone-chilling fear. "Let me make love to you," he said at last.
It was probably the last thing I expected him to say. Startled, I stared at him. "Why?"
I held him, the thump of his heart through our clothes a frantic, desperate rhythm. There were any number of things I could have said to answer him, all of them the truth. Because I love you. Because it's taken me a year to figure out that the only times I'm really alive are when I'm with you. Because it's the only time I can fool myself that you feel the same way.
However, none of those would have soothed the almost-wariness in his eyes. So, I cocked my head to one side, smiled crookedly and shrugged, fingers traveling the tightly-clenched plane of his jaw. I never lie, but that's not a guarantee of the whole truth. "Because you're beautiful," I whispered, the word hanging between us like a silken cord. "Because I don't think you should be alone inside your thoughts and your skin right now. Because I want to get under there and silence whatever has you screaming." And he was screaming...God, I could hear it even now. Once you've heard the shrieks of the painfully dying, you never forget them.
"There are a hundred good reasons, Heero, so you can pick the ones you're comfortable with, but they all come back to the same thing." I slid my grasp to the back of his neck and gently tugged him forwards, placing my breath and my answer delicately in his mouth. "Because I want to."
Even if I wanted to lie, I couldn't. No matter their expression, those eyes have never deserved anything but the truth from me.
My eyes narrowed slightly. For a moment, I had every intention of arguing the point with him. But Duo didn't stop, he didn't offer me the chance. His words kept battering at my already ill-used defenses, reaching inside of me until I couldn't shut him out anymore. I was too tired, and the touch of his hand was too warm, too soft, too...
Damn it. Stop.
'Because I want to.' Why Duo? Why? I can't imagine. I couldn't. I had no comprehension of why he saw any reason to prolong what had become agony... but... I had no argument against him, no firm footing to stand on. "If you want to..." There was no tone to my voice, no emotion. I felt empty inside, as though there were a great, yawning void where my soul should be. I looked up at him, and I have to wonder what he saw in my eyes. Misery, perhaps? I don't know. My voice echoed my thoughts. "I don't know..." I shook my head restlessly. "I need...something..." ...to hold on to.
I wanted to cry, but machines don't shed tears.
Reluctantly withdrawing my mouth from his, I shook my head just a bit and covered his lips with the tips of my fingers. His skin was cool to the touch, almost as though he was in shock, though I could feel the heat lurking deep beneath it. Perhaps that was the best description of him: smooth, glacial surface covering molten, fiery depths. No matter how glassy-dead his eyes looked, the smallest spark of that life-fire burned within.
My own eyes stung slightly with the tears I could feel buried far inside his, and I glanced down to blink them away. Yeah, yeah, I know...boys don't cry. Me and my big mouth. Spout off one pithy remark while getting the shit beaten out of you--cause who wants to look like a pansy in front of five whack-job scientists?--and suddenly it's a way of life. Besides, I'm starting to think that notion might not be true. A Y chromosome doesn't stop you from hurting inside.
'I need...something...' he whispered, hollow and tinny. The strong Heero I knew so well was nowhere to be seen, and this brittle doppelganger both scared the shit out of me and broke my heart. "I know." I know what you need... My voice was no louder than his, perhaps softer, even, for if there had been more breath it would have trembled from the emotion in my chest. My fingers slowly traced around his lips, following the path of memory alone. He was in there, and I had to reach him, fast, before he drowned in himself. "That's why I want to."
I was shaking. I couldn't stop it. Control was breaking loose in a terrible avalanche in slow motion, leaving the Perfect Soldier trembling like a leaf in a strong wind.
Are you lost, niichan?
Shut up! God, I'm losing it... No.. no, I was lost a long time ago. So long ago the memories are nothing but ashes.
Swallowing hard, I leaned into his touch as though it were a lifeline, clinging to reality, to sanity.
"Help me," I whispered. I shouldn't be doing this, I was just going to drag him down with me, but... Just help me. "Onegai...Duo...onegai..."
Our eyes stayed locked for a moment, an hour, a lifetime...I wasn't sure. For the most part, I don't practice iron emotional control--if I'm happy, I laugh, if I'm angry, I shout...fairly simple and straightforward. Something in me steeled when the shivering took him, though. I held the shredded, bleeding remnants of his soul in my hands; on some level I knew if I wavered one bit, I'd lose him. And I refused to fail him now.
"Heero..." I'd been repeating his name over and over since I found him. My free hand slipped around him, lacing through the thick, dark hair at the nape of his neck. He was trembling uncontrollably; he's stronger and heavier than me, and only the power of the almighty adrenaline let me keep us both on our feet. Even so, I couldn't strip my eyes from him, not for a second. "I have always been here to help you." Whether you wanted me there or not.
My fingers drifted from his lips up the lines of one cheek, whispering without words exactly how much I wanted to soothe, to worship him with my touch. I leaned closer, nearly enough for our mouths to touch. Lost to him, I was, swallowed whole in his eyes. I hoped and prayed he could find at least a little of the strength he needed in mine. "All you had to do was ask." The soft beginnings of a kiss temporarily silenced the last of his plea.
I don't think I've ever needed something so much in my entire life. It was terrifying.
Needs are weaknesses, needs can be exploited. If you need someone, they can hurt you, because you've revealed to them the ultimate vulnerability. Don't need, don't want...don't feel.
Why does Duo break all the rules? No one else could have stopped me or thwarted my single-minded attempt to courteously remove the threat I presented to the world. You're so dangerous, Duo. So. Fucking. Dangerous.
I leaned into him harder, trying to escape into the refuge he presented. He nuzzled against my cheek, urging my head up, and suddenly we were kissing. I kissed him back almost helplessly, giving up on any last remnants of resistance.
For a little while, I just wanted to stop the screaming inside..
He kissed me with manic desperation, something I was far more used to feeling in me than in him. A frantic, impassioned need to swallow the moment whole for fear it would get away and never come again. Yet, bubbling under that frenzied flood was another current, a bend in the river. I had the oddest sensation that he was waiting for me, that he needed me to tell him where we would go. It wasn't inexperience--I have the scars to prove it--but something else made him hesitate.
I kissed him one more time and opened my eyes, pulling back just enough to where I could see his tightly-closed eyelids. My fingers continued to act on their own, unable to stop touching him, mesmerized by the achingly soft hairs at the nape of his neck, the corded-muscled and drawn-bow strength of his shoulders that lurked beneath his shirt. He opened his eyes and...I have no other word for it. I drowned.
And yet, is it any surprise that for Shinigami revelation should come in death?
Wakatta. Ryoukai.  It felt strange to be thinking in his words, his language (even though I had busted my ass and lost countless hours of sleep to master the perversely confusing language known as Japanese, and not to read shoujo manga, no matter what he thought), but also ironically appropriate. Japanese gets through to him when nothing else will. J proved that when he ordered Heero to self-destruct. I still owed psycho doc a good killing for that.
The look in his eyes stunned and frightened me. I was raised on the streets, with no guarantee the morning sun meant any of us street kids would eat that day, but I had never seen an expression of such complete and utter loss in my life. Seeing it in his eyes...hurt far more than when the Oz goons thoroughly kicked my ass. That kind of pain touches just your body, it doesn't leach into your heart or soul. Both of mine irrevocably belonged to the guy clutching me like a lifeline.
I wrapped my arms around him, untucking his tank top from his jeans and sliding my hands underneath to touch his warming skin. To feel every desperate breath rattle in and out from his lungs. To feel the fervent pound of his heart against my chest and know he was still alive. And to affirm I would do anything to keep him that way.
"Shhh," I whispered against his ear, tightening my hold on him, turning just enough to kiss that exposed hollow where collarbone joined neck, my tongue traveling upwards to suckle the pulse at his jugular. I refused to offer him blithe, worthless assurances that everything would be all right. I wasn't fool enough to believe that would help. Everything wasn't all right, and neither of us was pretending at that anymore.
But what I did give him was the one thing in my power to promise. "I'm here, Heero. I'm not going to leave you alone." My mouth traveled back up towards the delicate curve of his ear. I exhaled softly, feeling my breath stir the wispy hairs there, and kissed his earlobe. "I'm here," I breathed again. "Itsumademo." 
God, do you know how beautiful he is? I'm insane, totally lost to reason if that's all I can fixate on, but there it is.
Beauty is so far outside the realm of my experience. It's an abstraction, a curiosity that I simply don't have the understanding to grasp. I've held it in my arms, crushed it to my chest and possessed it with a ferocity I never knew I was capable of... but I never comprehended it until now.
He is beauty. He is all I have known of beauty, all I want to know. And you know, if I can still recognize that, then maybe there is a little hope left for me. But right now, I don't have any hope, or any ferocity left in me. I'm tired...so very, very tired... and I think he could see it, knew that that weariness was his enemy, his opponent in this impossible game.
'I'm here, Heero. I'm not going to leave you alone.'
The Perfect Soldier whimpered softly at the very thought of being left alone. If J had been there to enjoy it, he would have laughed...and shortly thereafter I would have been put down like a rabid dog. But he couldn't hear it, it reached Duo's ears alone, and Duo merely tightened his grasp on me, whispering something soothing in my ear.
I tugged at his jacket, clumsily pushing it from his shoulders. I felt as though I'd never done this before, as though the countless nights that had begun just this way meant nothing. It was like going through the motions, following the steps to some dance I couldn't quite remember.
Hold onto me, don't let go. I have to find something...
I don't want to hurt anyone anymore, I just want to die... I want the screaming to stop, and the pain to ease. I want to tear the aching heart from my chest and slow the painful breaths that mean I have to exist for another moment... I just--
I buried my head against his chest. "Please, Duo, make me forget..."
'Make me forget...' he whispered in this broken, little-boy voice. How had I missed all this time exactly what it cost him to be what he was? Baka, he always called me, and in my mind I had twisted it into the closest thing to a term of affection Heero was capable of offering, but God, when I'm wrong I'm really wrong.
Stupid. For loving him with everything I have and still knowing so little about him.
Had he been, in his own way, reaching out to me and asking for my help the whole time? And I was too fucking blind and crazy to see it for what it was?
Yet, here he was now, asking me in a way I understood for what he needed most. Humbled, I turned and laid my cheek against his hair as he ducked his head against me, almost like he was trying to hide. Slowly, reverently, I breathed in the scent of his skin, his shampoo, the million indefinable factors combined into the unique olfactory sensation of Heero Yuy. So familiar, I nearly came out of my skin with want. After no sight or word of him for almost a year, I had woven thorns of hopelessness around my heart. Thorns the rekindled fires between us sought to consume.
Air whispered over my shoulders, and it was only then I realized my jacket had become a pile near our feet. Normally, I would be curling my body against his, absorbing his warmth--I tend to get cold easily, and I don't think I'd survive a day in Heero's regular wardrobe--but not today. Today he had nothing to give, no warmth to offer me. It was my turn.
"I want to feel you." Under his shirt, my hands crept higher, nudging the fabric towards the shoulders whose breadth hinted at a growth spurt on the horizon. "I want to feel your skin against mine, with nothing in between."
I want to love you. I thought I knew what that meant, I thought that was what I was doing before, but I was loving me. I was loving my idea of what you were. But now, I want to love you as you are, as you've finally let me see. I want to be what you need. Whatever that is, whatever it takes, that's what I want to be.
It hurt. Being touched, being alive, it hurt almost more than I could stand. I shook my head, fidgeting in an effort to ease it, but stood my ground, letting him touch me. Slowly the pain seeped away, replaced by heat, longing, comfort. Comfort that smelled and tasted of Duo.
The soft, worn fabric of that battered tank top slid over my skin, guided by a pair of slim, sure hands. I lifted my head but not my eyes, raising my arms so that the shirt could fall away completely... and then I stood bared from the waist-up to his perusal. Distantly, I caught his eyes flickering over my skin, counting every mark, every scar that had made its appearance since last he'd seen me without clothing. I lifted my eyes at last, looking out at him from beneath the jagged shade of my bangs. It was an oddly comforting thing to do, a familiar thing to do.
Just one problem there. Duo's not stupid. The look might be the same as in the past, but the eyes were still broken and lost.
One breath followed another, eyes falling closed as I felt the warmth of him radiating against my own, chill skin. I sought his mouth blindly, a soft, desperate sound escaping my throat. Moth to a flame, lodestone to polar North...I could sense him giving me his strength, pouring it into that empty place inside of me. It was like the fierce brightness of a star pitted against the depths of a black hole.
No matter how bright the star, no matter how strong, sooner or later the vacuum will drag it down, eclipsing its light.
I almost pulled away then, but he wouldn't allow it, holding onto me stubbornly, drowning me in his warmth, his presence. Bathing me in his light.
I didn't ask him to undress me. Tonight--now--wasn't about me at all, and it certainly wasn't happening for the purpose of making a newly-unemployed God of Death all tingly and romantic. I untucked the crimson T-shirt I was wearing and quickly slipped it off, letting it cascade down until it resembled nothing so much as a pool of blood on the floor.
Heero glanced back up at me, and that look once more speared my soul. I didn't care if it took me all night, next week, the rest of my life, I did not want to see it again. Instead, I turned my attention to his body, to the roadmap of muscle and scar tissue heretofore hidden by his clothes. And all I could think was 'beautiful.'
My arms glided around him, holding him to me as if I wanted him to crawl right inside my skin. Maybe I did. He made a small noise in the back of his throat that shattered my heart again, and then he was kissing me. I kissed him back, threading my fingers along his jaw and guiding his chin downwards to let me inside. Everything about it was different. Even though my role had been to initiate, once our feet were on the path Heero had always fallen into the role of leader in our physical relationship without hesitation.
Except now. Just as he'd done when we were on the stolen shuttle, he put the controls in my hand, depending on me. Trusting me not to let him fall. He'd seemed tired then, just a short time ago. Now? Magnified a hundredfold into exhausted. Drained. Empty.
"I won't let you go," I gasped out against his mouth, answering my words with a fierce, hungry kiss that trailed down his chin and throat. Beneath my tongue, I felt both his pulse and convulsive swallow. Ai shiteru! I wanted to shout--I think that's part of why I talk a lot, things don't seem real unless someone says them--but I knew I couldn't.  I couldn't shoot holes in his floundering strength by casting out the full depth of my feelings.
Besides, it wasn't a lie if my body spoke them without words, was it?
God Duo, it would have been kinder if I'd killed you.
I don't understand you...
He's everything I could never be. Everything I long to be. Real and genuine in a way that makes him glow with a fierce inner light... but he has the darkness inside, too. Maybe that's what made him willing to make love to a monster... to give that monster a piece of his soul until it could find its own.
Holding on took all of the strength I had left to me. But when I felt that strength buckling... he was there. I squeezed my eyes shut, listening to his harsh breathing, the pound of my own heart deafening in my ears. It finally drowned out the screams of the dying that echoed in my mind. He gently pushed me down onto the bed, and I took him with me, keeping our bared flesh in contact, clinging to his warmth. His braid unraveled beneath my questing fingers, chestnut hair spilling down to cover us both in a cloak of gleaming silk.
For a little while, it held the world at bay, casting the illusion that there was nothing left but the two of us. Barriers dropped, words discarded for the language we understood best. It was enough to block out the chaos... to let me pretend that there was nothing left but the two of us.
For a time, perhaps it was true...
I had no idea which of us slept first, but I woke before him, his body splayed full-length against the side of my own, his head on my shoulder, wisps of my hair--I didn't clearly remember it coming undone--covering us both. The worst of the tension was gone from his face and it bore the slight sleep-relaxation I used to lie awake and watch, fascinated.
And it fascinated me still. His eyes were closed, long eyelashes like black lacy fans against his cheeks. Thank God the first thing I saw that morning wasn't yesterday's dead, empty eyes. I'd managed, but I didn't know if I was that strong today. "Ne, Heero," I whispered softly, knowing I would hate myself if I woke him, but unable to keep the words silent, "I'm still here. I'm not going to leave you alone." I pressed a smooth, dry kiss to his forehead, stroking back the mussed hair that hung in his face. Ever.
He stirred, but he didn't wake. His head shifted against my shoulder, a haunted expression flitting across his face. Every muscle in his body tensed, his hand tightening into a fist around the bed sheet. "Yurusu," he murmured, "gomen nasai." Forgive me, I'm sorry. "Gomen nasai." Tossing his head, he finally settled back against my side, quiet if not peaceful. Unbidden, unnoticed, a single tear slipped between the thick, dark lashes and rolled down his cheek.
I'd carve up my soul to stop your pain. I wanted to draw him inside my own skin and hold him there, give him a place of safety and peace. The Wing Zero pilot's capacity for self-flagellation and blame bordered on legendary. And it hurt seeing him like this.
My mind flashed back to something Sister Helen told me. Skinny, scrappy, seven-year-old me had been out to prove that my nickname of 'Maxwell's little demon' was well-earned, fighting with the other boys. This time I'd picked the wrong one to tangle with and several bruises and scrapes later, I was manfully gritting my teeth as she swabbed off each one, her eyes liquefying with each hissed protest I made. Why are you crying, Sister? I had asked, the end of my braid knotted around my fist; I tugged on it when the antiseptic burned, because it made me think of pain besides what was stinging most. I'm the one who's hurting.
She had given me a watery smile and a quick hug. It's because I love you, Duo. When you hurt, I hurt....
God, she was right. I loved him. When he hurt, I hurt. As misery contorted his face and he drew taut as a bowstring next to me, I nearly gasped with the sheer amount of his anguish. How did Quatre ever stand it, I thought, feeling what we were feeling? It only raised my estimation of him as the strongest of us all. Strong enough to bend around us, unite us, without breaking.
"Daijoubu, aisuru," I breathed, which sounded almost like a sob to my own ears. "I'll protect you." It fell with a hard thump in my stomach to realize just how strongly I meant it. I'd been a little at odds future-wise in the month or so prior to the Mariemeia incident, but...now I felt I had a noble purpose. A soul to save. It probably wasn't the manner Father Maxwell or Sister Helen would have chosen for me, but I think they knew I was never destined to be a priest.
I curled my body around Heero's and drew him closer against my chest, determined to defend him from without...and from within.
 Japanese for 'shit!'
 Best translates as 'Understood. Acknowledged.'
 Japanese for 'forever'
 Japanese for 'I love you', a very intense version of it.
 Japanese for 'It's all right, beloved.'
Innocence Faded Main