He didn't hear anything, just the dull hum of the machines that were connected by wires to his forehead.  But he blinked as if he'd heard it, and his dark eyes
snapped to the screen to his right.  First he was met with gray fuzz, then the image clicked and he stared at the shadowed face, the dark cap hiding everything
but his lips as the boy spoke silently.  His uncaring expression wasn't feigned at all, and he turned his head back, long dark lashes disguising the fact that his
gaze stayed on the boy.  As he'd known his exact location without any investigation, so he also knew the boy had come to break him out.  He knew this before
those lips began to move, and he didn't have to read them.  Watching the boy, it wasn't until he disappeared from the screen that he closed his eyes in truth,
seeking the darkness.

//One mistake after another, since coming to Earth I have yet to succeed on a single mission.  He can't be here for me, then, I have proven how useless my
retaliation is.  The Gundam is the only reason, it's evident.//

As he waited for the promised rescue, Heero's mind turned back to the last day, his hands continuing their steady strain against the straps that held him.  
First, he'd followed orders, taking his suit into the atmosphere.  From there nothing had gone right and he didn't fool himself by trying to place the blame on
anyone else.  The civilian shuttle that had spotted him in that first instant, the OZ carrier that had been hovering in the vicinity, these were things that he
accepted as fate, just as he accepted his missions as goals.  But he'd failed that mission.  It was true that he had made it to the earth, but in doing so he failed
to remain hidden.  And he'd lost his Gundam.  

True to his training, he'd worked to undo his mistakes, taking steps to eliminate the witness who'd found him on the beach after he'd escaped his ocean
grave.  Enrolling in the school had seemed to be a stupid idea, a foolish notion of remaining inconspicuous that Doctor J had recommended.  The man
obviously didn't understand the ways of the earth; he didn't realize that Heero was not the sort who could hide in the open.  Oh, he'd done well to start with,
and perhaps if his target had not been such a public figure he might have accomplished his goals.  But the girl was Relena Dorlain, and even from the
colonies Heero had learned enough to know that her death would draw worldwide attention.  So he'd turned his sights on getting rid of that which she'd
witnessed, the witness guarded well enough by her very identity for him to be hesitant in killing her.  The Gundam she'd seen was his target; eliminate that and
it wouldn't matter what she told.  With no proof, hers would be just a story told by a teenage girl.

Changing his mission, he'd chosen to initiate the Gundam's detonation device and thereby destroy the suit.  But he hadn't counted on the girl's obsession, or
her dogged determination to get in his way.  She'd followed him to the base, inserting herself into his view of his goals.  It was a reminder that he'd failed once,
in not having killed her, and he'd given in to the distraction.  Then, as he'd been about to finish it, he'd felt the presence.  That same one who was now
somewhere inside the hospital intent on setting him free had prevented him from both of his missions, killing the girl and destroying the suit.  He must not have
known that Heero's missions didn't allow for failure.  Whether the boy was a pilot or not, he didn't seem to have the same outlook.

//Another Gundam pilot; Doctor J should know about this before I die.  But it wouldn't make a difference now, the Gundam is on Earth and even if he could find
another pilot for it, I doubt that boy will allow it to be found.  And he is a Gundam pilot.  In my case, one pilot with a Gundam is enough.  If the same can be said
for him then the colonies might win.  If not, then there isn't a point in my escaping here.  I've proven my uselessness.  There isn't a point in this.  At the very
least, OZ will have the body of a pilot.  Assuming they only know about my Gundam, the one they've seen, they will think the colony offensive is over.  It's
better if I *don't* make it out of here.  And...I don't want to make it out of here...//

* * *

The explosion rocked the entire building, causing a wide grin to curve Duo's lips as he braced himself.  His arms lowered from where they'd protected his
ducked head from the plaster and debris as the wall had blown out and his eyes glinted on the figure before him.  The boy was looking at him, those dark eyes
void of any surprise.  Of course, he'd told him he was coming, but he should have at least been a *bit* startled, not having known the moment or manner of
Duo's arrival.  But he wasn't and Duo didn't waste any time as he crossed the white floor, his bag of bombs slung over one shoulder as he leaned down.  The
bed was unlike anything he'd seen, and he searched for the release.  Not finding one, he had made up his mind to use his knife and simply cut through the
straps when the boy moved.  It was then that he found himself to be the startled one and his eyes froze on the streams of blood that trailed down the hand that
stretched to him.

//He ripped the strap.  The strength that would take, the pain...there is so much to him that I just don't understand.  But now isn't the time.//  He handed the
knife to the boy, hiding his interest behind a shocked expression.  The straps were cut in less than a minute, and his offer of assistance was met with a cold
stare.  "Put this on," he said, holding the bag as he shifted the pack off his back.  The boy accepted it, glancing down then hooking his arms into it.  Then he
looked up and Duo grinned, his mind laughing at the blank expression.  //As if he'd say thank you, he doesn't look like his mouth works.  Then again, he did
ask who I was before I shot him the second time.//  Turning on his heels, Duo ran toward to door he'd made, a glance back showing that the boy was right
there with him.  

There was a hall right outside the room, and Duo ran for the window, bomb in hand and escapee beside him.  He would have warned the boy as to his
intentions, but he got the feeling he already knew.  When he threw the small missile and ducked, he grinned again as the boy's elbow touched him, the pilot
just as fast.  Then the window was gone, along with the wall, and he gave one last grin and glance to dark blue eyes before jumping.  Mere seconds passed,
and Duo's wide eyes were the evidence of the exhilaration he felt.  Wind rushed through his clothing, his cap barely kept on his head and he loved every
second.  //Catch me, death, I'll fall into your arms...but...not today.//  Curving in the air, he stretched the device, pressing a switch as the small propeller
started.  The moment over, his eyes turned and he sought the boy out.

"What are you waiting for?!"  The boy's eyes were closed and his body seemed slack, as if he was unconscious.  He was obviously deaf to Duo's cries, and his
descent was unhampered as he made no move to pull the parachute's cord.  //How many stories are we up?!  Time's running out, if he doesn't pull it now...//  
Duo's free hand rose, covering his eyes as he turned his head aside.  It wasn't fear, but he had no wish to see the boy die so gruesome a death right in front
of him.  The thought that he was choosing that death made it all the worse.  //I've played with death, but he's a pilot, he could have done so much good.  What
a waste.//

* * *

His eyes were closed, but he could feel gravity pulling him down, the wind tangling his hair, tugging at his arms and legs.  As if his mind was already dead, he
couldn't think of anything, no final thoughts, no flashes of his life behind his eyelids.  Nothing but darkness and a sense of falling into an unending pit,
drowning.  He stopped breathing.  There wasn't a reason to try and he was suddenly afraid that if he did he'd taste thick liquid; oxygen denied.  He heard
something, but it sounded so far away, the wind too loud in his ears.  Then a sound beamed through, high and piercing, his name screamed aloud.  //"Heero?  
Do you really have to go?"//  Time stopped, and Heero's eyes flickered as he could hear a soft voice in his mind and he listened to it, straining to see who was
speaking.  //"...you'll be leaving someone behind...not wanting to hurt me by dying..."//

Heero's eyes snapped open, his hand jerking reflexively on the cord he held and his downward plummet was halted for a second.  Then the parachute ripped
and he looked at his surroundings for the first time, taking in the rocky terrain below, the beach, water beyond.  He could hear himself, as if he were speaking
to someone and the words made his eyes narrow.  //"My life has meaning now...I'm *not* going to leave you."//  He unsnapped the pack on his back and hit the
ground rolling.  Pain shot through him from the landing and he knew instantly he'd broken his leg, but his progress continued until the land smoothed beneath
him.  For a moment, he lay still, his breath knocked from him as sand and dust settled.  Then he rose on stilted legs, pain shooting through him from the
snapped bone and his dusty eyes opened to the ocean.

Silence filled his mind; no voices murmured comforting if confusing words, no whispers in his ear.  There was nothing, save a cold knowledge that he'd lived to
fight again, to move and breathe for the next mission.  His hands curled into fists and he barely heard the soft shuffle as the boy landed a few feet away.  
Muscles clenching, his arm rose and he glared, gritting his teeth furiously.  //I could have ended it.  Why didn't I?//

* * *

He heard the impact, and despite himself his eyes were drawn down to where the boy had hit.  But he didn't die immediately, the slope was too inclined and his
body traveled down it, rough tumbles that made Duo wince.  It was when he lay still on the sandy beach that Duo started to close his eyes, a tiny token for the
life lost that might have done some good.  The boy stood, shaky then firm and Duo's mouth fell open.  //There's no way.  I just don't believe this guy.  What is
he?//  His own slow descent was irritating him and he finally let go, falling a few feet to land in an easy crouch.  He stared at the tense form, and he heard his
words.  //He's cursing himself for living, for not having succeeded.  What a fool.//

"I can understand why you'd want to kill yourself," he said slowly.  It was true, though he doubted he'd ever know the real reason behind the boy's death wish.  
"Maybe you should think of a better way."  Crossing to the boy, he took his wrist, not flinching from the intense glare of those dark eyes.  "This might sound
corny," he managed, his lips twitching as he failed to smile, "But right now you just have to trust me."  He pulled the boy's arm, holding it over his shoulders to
take the weight off the boy's leg.  There was a slight bump on it, and his occasionally gruesome side told him the bone had snapped.  The boy didn't speak,
dropping his eyes and Duo glanced away from him, relieved to see the boat.  His plans had met with unexpected change, but the rendezvous was a success
and he took more of the boy's weight, putting an arm around his waist.  "That's our transport."

* * *

The grip on him was strong, but Heero still wanted to push it off, he wanted to be left behind.  Reality was harsh, and he knew he'd be taken to his Gundam, to
more missions, more fighting.  It was his life, he'd been fighting since childhood and he'd never really known anything else.  There wasn't a reason to dwell,
and he moved forward, following the boy to the waiting ship.  He could have made it alone, he was sure, but this was quicker.  Resigned to living and
continuing his attack on OZ, he knew they had to hurry so they wouldn't be caught.  The hospital had surely sent out guards and the ship was large enough
for them to spot and follow.  

"Cooperate a little, eh?"

Heero blinked and frowned before glancing to the boy who held him.  Bright eyes turned to him and his glare intensified upon sight of a small smile.  It was a
moment before he understood what he was talking about, then the boy hitched him closer.  He'd been leaning away, avoiding the contact without even thinking
about it and he slowly tightened his arm.  The boy beside him promptly beamed and he glared in response, looking away again.

"Much better," Duo said quickly.  The look he'd been given was enough to make him want to laugh.  "It's not like I'm going to drop you or something."

//"I'm never letting you go, Heero...that's both a warning and a promise."//  Heero glared as he heard that voice again, warmth rising once more in response.  
He didn't know where it came from, but it was annoying.  The boy beside him said something, but he didn't hear it or care at the moment.  His body was still
warm and he didn't like it, because he didn't understand it.  The arm around him wasn't helping any and the moment he set foot on the boat he shoved away.

Duo knew the surprise showed on his face, and he glared suddenly, turning away from the boy.  It wasn't often that he got angry, not visibly, but he hadn't
expected that.  True, the boy didn't need to thank him, he hadn't thought he would, but being ignored was something Duo didn't take kindly to.  //What did you
expect?  Him to smile and let you lead him to a seat or something?  Look at him.  He's still angry he didn't kill himself, he isn't even thinking about you.//  
Smirking as his mind railed at him, Duo moved to where Howard was waiting, the shore left behind them.  //You always have to ruin my moods, don't you.  
Okay, so he doesn't care if I'm here.  That's fine.  But he better be more polite when we get his Gundam.  After all, I risked my neck to get him out of there.  I
could have just kept his suit and left him to rot.//  Even as he thought of it, he shook his head, a small smile playing over his lips.  //Like I'd really do that...//

* * *
TBC



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