Title: Even Duo Maxwell Bleeds
Warnings: AU. Angst. Brutality. Character Death. Dark. Heero-bastardizing. Language. NCS. OOC. Quatre-bashing.
Disclaimer: Gundam Wing does not belong to Becka; characters are used without permission for a non-profit purpose. No infringement is intended.
"Ne, Heero," Duo Maxwell absently tugged on the tip of his braid as he stared at his silent partner's backside, illuminated by the laptops glowing screen, "When are y'gonna' be done?"
"Why?" came the curt reply.
Amethyst eyes blinked, a downward flicker betraying uncertainty. "Just 'cause." Duo scratched the top of his head and plastered a smile on his face, even though he knew it wouldn't be seen.
Again, the response reflected Heero's trademark brevity. "Hn."
"Y'know, Heero, people are gonna' think you're strange if you spend your whole life in front of a computer. Like you're a pervert or something. Not," the American amended quickly, "that people don't already think you're strange. Surviving self-destruction tends to do that. I mean, I can count how many people have survived blowing themselves up on my _thumb_ for cryin' out loud, and besides that, you don't meet too many blue-eyed Japanese people these days." Pointless rambling was better than silence, he supposed.
Heero looked at him momentarily and Duo _thought_ he saw a brief flash of annoyance on the stoic features he'd come to love. Swallowing the lump in his throat, the braided boy raised his hands as though he could fend off his partner's scowl. "I'm not complainin', mind you. You've got nice eyes! Honest! I don't even think you could find a prettier blue in the ocean or sky or anything..."
The cobalt blue eyes in question narrowed slightly and seeing this, Duo stuttered, "Um... right... not that I think you're pretty or anything. Pretty isn't a good word to describe boys, unless they're really bishonen, like Quatre... and you can't call Quatre pretty 'cause he's too cute."
Duo paused to catch his breath and realized that there was total silence from Heero's end of the room. The Japanese youth had stopped typing and now fixed an unwavering stare at Duo, unnerving the American to no end. Duo continued to ramble, "I didn't mean to say that you're ugly or something, 'cause you're really not. Not ugly at all. I mean, you're the total opposite of ugly. Um..." He glanced around the room, now small and constricting. "And I know I said that you're not pretty and that 'pretty' is the opposite of 'ugly,' but... um..." Amethyst orbs eyed the door in speculation. He decided he'd definitely had enough of this one-sided conversation and wondered if Heero would let him make a run for it.
Covertly studying the frightening lack of expression on Heero's face, Duo knew there was only one way to find out.
He darted off the bed and managed to make it across the room, but just as his hand reached the doorknob, he was violently spun around, two hands at his throat effectively pinning him to the wooden door (and consequently cutting his circulation off, but he was sure that was only an added benefit). Looking into Heero's eyes, the root of his troubles, he shivered and prayed to Shinigami that he escaped the wrath of an irritated Perfect Soldier with a pension for homicide somewhat unscathed.
A moment passed and Duo swallowed and said timidly, "D'you think you could... maybe let me go now? 'cause the sooner I leave, the sooner I can stop annoying you, right? I can sleep on the couch tonight. Quatre has really nice couches. Did you see them when we came in? They're all pink and ruffly. I bet they're comfy. Hey, here's an idea! Why don't you let me go so I can find out-"
The American trailed off as Heero tightened his grip on the collar of his shirt.
"Or," Duo amended, "you could, y'know," he gestured to the hands at his throat, "choke me to death and hide the body. Whichever is easier for you. I'm all in favor of you letting me go, though. It's less messy."
"Duo," Heero addressed the braided youth for the first time that night, "shut up."
Duo opened his mouth to say that he was going to do just that when Heero surprised him and leaned forward, tracing soft lips along the American's dove neck. The velvety warmth was unexpected considering the Japanese boy's mouth was usually set in such a strait, unyielding line. Not to say that Duo didn't prefer this above death by strangulation. In fact, the touch was very welcome. So welcome that he let out a soft gasp of appreciation. The gasp turned into a whimper, quiet and unsteady. The whimper deepened into a moan as Heero's questing lips tickled up the braided boy's neck, pausing briefly to nibble on Duo's earlobe.
/ Christ, oh God... wet dream. This has to be a - / a whisper of breath trespassed cool lips, causing the hair on the back of Duo's neck to stand on end like soldiers in formation / - wet dream. This isn't real, no, can't be real... Heero hates me - / calloused hands slid up underneath his priest's shit, begging to differ as two thumbs stroked his sides, fingers impressed there to leave small, crescent marks / - hates me so much that he can't stand it when I talk, when I even open my mouth - / a mouth currently occupied with making small, helpless mews, and breathy, muted cries / - and he hates me, hates me, hates me so much - / but the mouth that moved across his face and the hands that splayed against his skin and the growls that matched his pleas spoke of something else.
As Heero pulled him away from the door, maneuvering him around to one of the beds, Duo found he didn't care if it was some figment of his overactive, horny imagination. He simply wrapped his arms around the other boy's neck, closed his eyes, and prayed to God that he was the one on laundry detail tomorrow.
Unforgiving sunlight filtered through Duo's eyelids and he swatted absently at the air with his left hand. He'd never claimed to be coherent in the mornings and certainly _not_ before he'd had his cup of coffee (lethally treated with sugar, of course).
It wasn't until he tried to move his right hand that he realized something was amiss. More specifically, something was pinning him down. Something as solid and immovable as stone, but as warm and comforting as only the weight of another person's body could be.
Blearily opening his eyes, he glanced down and spotted a wiry arm carelessly strewn across his chest. Following the arm to a shoulder, he discovered it belonged to none other than Heero Yuy. Of course, making the connection between "arm" and "Heero" took a bit of work. And making the connection between "Heero" and "in-bed-with, doing-the-snuggle-thing" almost blew the American's precariously unbalanced mind.
Duo swallowed the lump in his throat and stared at the other boy through wide eyes. _Heero Yuy_. Perfect Soldier. Homicidal maniac extreme. Fixation of his wet dreams throughout all of the war. Currently occupying the other half of the bed! Yes, _that_ Heero Yuy.
The Japanese boy had the face of an angel, though Duo didn't think he'd ever been able to study it for such a length of time without receiving a black eye or two. The sculpted cheekbones, the smooth, pale skin, and the slightly parted, pouty mouth all melded together to form a sculptor's dream. A thought crossed his mind, one of the many terrible pickup lines he'd memorized and tucked away for later mockery -
/ "Did it hurt?"
"Did what hurt?"
"Falling from heaven." /
- but he wasn't laughing as he thought it now. How could he when said angel was asleep, in his _bed_?
The night before came back to him in snips and pieces - mouth, hands, skin, and moans - and a faint blush heated his face, tinting his cheeks a pale pink. There had been a _look_ in Heero's eyes, possessive, yes, but tender and confused as well, almost as though the Japanese boy knew he wanted Duo but couldn't quite understand why. Duo could sympathize with that; he didn't understand why either.
/ Does he... care about me? I mean, maybe last night was just some elaborate ruse to get me to shut up for once, / he almost snickered as he thought what the others would do if they found out Heero planned to trade him sexual favors for silence, / but... could it have been more than that? I've had casual sex before and last night he made me feel like... like I was needed. If he just wanted sex, he could have gone to anybody, right? Waitasec! What about Relena? I though Heero lo- /
Duo's thoughts cut off abruptly as his partner's breathing pattern changed from that of deep slumber to complete awareness in less time than it took him to blink. One minute Heero was laying there, arms secured around Duo as though he was some sort of demented teddy bear, and the next the Japanese boy had rolled out of the bed and was pointing a gun directly at his partner's heart.
Seeing the glazed, not-quite-there look in Heero's eyes, the American held his breath, praying that the other boy came to complete awareness before he accidentally squeezed the trigger any tighter and followed through with the many "omae o korosu's" he'd threatened. Cautiously he said, "Ano, Heero...? I know you aren't the kind of guy who does the 'morning after' talk thing, but do you think you could maybe put off shooting me until _after_ I get my coffee?"
Hard blue eyes blinked once, then again as Heero woke up completely. They softened imperceptibly and a small, almost smile teased the corners of Heero's mouth; hope surged through Duo's heart.
"Hn. Good morning, Duo."
And that was that.
For a while, it seemed as though Duo's life couldn't get any better. The war was over. He had a home he shared with his four closest friends, and a job that paid him well and afforded him the opportunity to do what he always wanted: to help other people. There was always food and water in the house, more than any street rat from L2 could ever hope to find in his lifetime, and Quatre insisted that he eat as much as he wanted, bathe whenever the mood struck him.
But most importantly, Duo was in love. With Heero. And despite all of his doubts and insecurities, it seemed as though Heero loved him as well. Perhaps it was naïve of him to believe that such a thing could last for him, but for a time, he was happy.
Until it all came crashing down.
It started over Relena. It was a stupid little argument, really, but Duo had never gotten a straight answer from Heero about his feelings for the blonde girl and it plagued him, playing on his fears without mercy. Which is what prompted him to bring it up again, and again, and again. For a while Heero simply dismissed the question and Duo left it at that, but it always came up to trouble his mind and he couldn't hold his peace. He _had_ to know.
In retrospect, he realized many, many months later, this was the conversation that started it all, the downward spiral, the agony and fear, the painfully slow destruction of his psyche which would inevitably leave him nothing more than a simpering vegetable. Maybe if he'd left it alone, none of that would have happened. But hindsight, though perfect, always comes a little too late.
"Ne, Heero, what do you feel for Relena?"
The stoic boy glanced up from his laptop, glared at him, and "Hn"ed.
Duo persisted, driven by an unknown force. He gave Heero a little glare of his own and pressed on. "C'mon, Hee-chan. Can't you give me a straight answer? I just wanna' know how you feel about her. I mean, you _did_ sorta' save her life, even after that whole 'Omae o korosu' bit. You always follow through on that. I'm the only other person you've said it to who you _haven't_ gone and blown up." He paused, then snickered, "Well, we do sleep together, so it's kinda' understandable that you wouldn't kill me, even if I do piss you off a lot, but what is it about her? Huh?"
Halfway through the American's speech, the typing stopped. Heero turned around in his chair, stood up, and stalked over to stand in front of the other boy, trademark Glare o' Death(TM) turned up to full force. Curiously, Duo looked up at Heero, head tilted to one side. He opened his mouth as if to say something more, but was silenced as Heero reached around and grabbed him by his braid. With a yank, the violet-eyed boy was sent tumbling off the bed.
"Duo," Heero towered over him, a hint of madness in his cobalt blue eyes, "shut _up_."
The American in question blinked, shocked that his lover would treat him so badly. He scrambled up, cradling his braid protectively in one arm, and said, "Christ, Heero, what the hell was that for?" Rather than answering verbally, Heero took a swing at Duo's face. The braided boy spotted it just in time and ducked, instinctively lashing out and cuffing Heero soundly across the face.
Something flitted across the Perfect Soldiers face. Something that made Duo take a step back. It didn't matter through - in a movement quicker than the human eye could follow, Heero stepped close in front of Duo and slammed a fist into his stomach, not bothering to restrain his genetically enhanced strength.
Duo went down, hands clutching his middle as he suppressed a soft moan of pain. The other boy stood over him, hands curled into two fists. The look in his eyes changed, becoming almost loving. That is, if you ignored the grim set of his mouth, the cruel glint in his eyes.
Kneeling almost reverently beside Duo's form, Heero spoke without inflection. "I don't know what Relena is to me, but you're the one who makes me feel." He stroked a finger down the braided-boy's cheek. "You're the one who makes me lose control."
Duo stared at his ceiling, confusion marring his usually cheerful countenance. Yesterday, he'd been the happiest boy on any of the colonies. He hadn't thought anything could bring him down. He had everything he'd ever wanted, the love he'd craved his entire life. Heero Yuy loved him and he loved Heero Yuy and nothing anyone said or did could change that.
And then said Heero Yuy had hit him.
Heero loved him, right? And if Heero loved him, and Heero thought he deserved to be treated like... like...
/... like a common whore ... /
... then who was he to say Heero was wrong. Heero was the Perfect Soldier. Perfect, implying that he didn't _make_ mistakes.
/ ... except maybe fucking me ... /
... and maybe _that_ was why Heero hit him. Because if the Perfect Soldier _did_ make a mistake, the proper course of action would be to _fix_ that mistake.
/ ... fix me? Heero wants to fix me...? /
All in all, Duo didn't like the course of his thoughts.
The braided youth closed his eyes, his thoughts jumbled. He knew that he couldn't figure this out on his own, and the only people he could trust to understand would be one of the other pilots. Trowa would never talk to him, period, and he had no idea how to go about locating Wufei. Quatre would listen to him, though. Quatre would make time for him, lend him an ear and a comforting shoulder.
He let out a soft sigh and tried to drift into sleep. Tomorrow he would go and talk to Quatre.
It never once occurred to the American that maybe, just maybe, he wasn't the one at fault. That just maybe, _Heero_ was the one with a problem that needed to be fixed.
Quatre Winner worried his lower lip between his teeth. He'd had a meeting earlier that morning, and Heero was supposed to act as a bodyguard. The occupation seemed to fit the Japanese youth. With his extensive background in terrorism, it seemed logical that he would take up a job in protecting people to atone. After all, who better than to fight terrorists than an ex-terrorist?
That wasn't what was on Quatre's mind, though. Because that morning when Heero had shown up to play the part of bodyguard, all Quatre saw was the vivid black and blue bruise, slightly brown around the edges, that colorfully decorated the side of his friend's face. And when he'd asked his friend what had happened, he'd gotten a sullen glare and a grunted, "Nothing," in return.
A thousand possibilities ran through the Arabian's mind, the most disturbing of which he didn't want to contemplate. Who could get close enough to Heero to hit him? Who was strong enough to hurt the Perfect Soldier like that? And, more over, who could mean enough to the Japanese boy that he felt the need to cover up for them, to the point where he refused to tell a trusted ally and a friend who'd hurt him in such a brutal manner?
The only person he could think of, and Quatre prayed he was wrong, was Duo Maxwell.
Quatre _knew_ Heero and Duo's friendship had recently elevated to another level, that the two had begun to pursue a romantic relationship, exploring the feeling that had been present all throughout the war. He knew that they were falling in love; his space heart told him so.
So _why_ would Duo _ever_ jeopardize that by hurting Heero?
After some careful thought, Quatre realized that, with Duo's background, it seemed plausible that the American might become... abusive. After all, he never expressed anger unless provoked, and what was more aggravating than a potential boyfriend? The saying, "You always hurt the ones you love," crossed the Arab's mind, and it suddenly struck him how unbelievably _true_ that adage was. Beyond that, Heero's training hadn't taught him to recognize emotions. He probably thought that Duo loved him and wouldn't want to jeopardize that. Maybe he even believed that violence in a relationship was natural; he might think that he _deserved_ it, and that the pain he felt would help him to atone for his crimes during the war.
All in all, Quatre didn't like the course of his thoughts.
The blonde youth closed his eyes, his thoughts jumbled. He knew that he couldn't figure this out without first talking to Duo. But the real question was, how could he get to Duo without alerting Heero? If Duo _had_ hit Heero, and Heero thought that Quatre knew about it, then Heero probably wouldn't let them talk unless he was present. And if he _was_ covering up for the American, having Heero in the same room would probably be detrimental to the conversation. He probably wouldn't be able to get a straight answer out of either of them.
He let out a soft sigh and leaned back in his padded chair.
His intercom beeped. Absentmindedly he reached out and flicked it on.
"Duo Maxwell is here. He wishes to speak with you. Shall I tell him you a busy?"
Quatre sat straight up in his chair, leaning forward and practically shouting into the comUnit, "No! Please, Rashid, send him in."
There was a curious pause and his faithful servant and friend replied, "As you wish."
The blonde turned his com off. If Duo had come to see him... then perhaps he knew what he was doing was wrong. Perhaps he'd come to ask for advice. Or maybe it was a coincidence - Quatre had never wanted so much to be wrong about something in his entire life.
Duo peeked his head into the grandiose office. It was so strange to see his friend behind the monumental desk at the far end. The room was so big and Quatre was so small that it almost looked like he was a king in his castle, looking out across his vast kingdom.
He made his way over to the desk, smiling at the blonde, and took a seat.
"Hello, Duo. What brings you here?" Quatre returned his smile.
The American took a deep breathe, deciding it was best if he just got it all out at once. "Q, I came here 'cause I needed someone to talk to, an' I don't think Trowa would talk to me, an' I have no clue where Wufei is, but it had to be a pilot, 'cause you're the only ones who can really understand and..."
"Relax, Duo. Now, what happened?"
"It's just... I mean... I didn't want to press the issue, but it was always in the back of my mind. Y'know, what Relena is to Heero, and just thinking about it could get me so worked up and all I wanted from him was an answer, y'know? Just a 'I feel this and that about her.' And I just _asked_ him, and..."
"Did you give Heero that bruise?"
Duo blinked, wondering what bearing his defending himself had on the conversation.
Quatre repeated patiently, "Did you hit Heero?"
Because he couldn't lie, the American nodded, "Yes. I did."
The young Arab sensed the anger and fear in Duo's heart, the overwhelming confusion overridden only by a sense of guilt. He closed his eyes and let out a shaky breath. He'd prayed that it wasn't true, that Duo wasn't an abuser, but his space heart, and Duo's own admission, damned him in Quatre's eyes.
"Duo," he began delicately, "You have to understand you can control this. Really, you can. You're a strong person..."
The American shook his head. "It's... it's not my fault, Q."
Quatre's restraint snapped and he said harshly, "No, Duo, it _is_ your fault." He took a few more breaths to calm himself, then continued, "There's something wrong with you, Duo." Seeing the panicked look in his friend's eyes, he amended, "_But_, you can fix it. Control yourself, Duo, before you hurt Heero anymore. You _can't_ hit Heero, Duo. It's wrong."
"I... I didn't want to hit him..." The violet eyes cast downward, the voice unsteady and guilty.
"I know that, but does he know that? Have you apologized?"
"N... no. Not yet."
"Apologize to him, Duo. I only want the both of you to be happy, but if you continue with your dreadful behavior, I wouldn't blame Heero if he left you."
"I... I'll apologize. I love him, Q. I don't want him to leave me."
"Good. Then you promise me something, Duo. Promise me that you'll never hit Heero again, no matter what. It's not his fault, you know. It's your fault, and you need to control yourself.
Duo blinked back the tears in his eyes, and he wrung his hands. Quatre was a trusted friend who would never lie to him, and the blonde's words rang accusing in his ears.
/ My fault. It's my fault. Quatre's right; Heero's perfect. He would never want a screw up like me. Maybe that's why he's trying to fix me. Maybe I do have a chance to be happy, that is, if I don't fuck it up. /
Quatre continued, "I should report you to someone, but I won't, Duo. You deserve a second chance. If you promise me, I'll let you and Heero work out your problems. He can help you."
"You must promise me, Duo. And I know you'll keep true to your word." The blonde smiled beatifically. "You don't lie."
"But I -"
Quatre's face hardened. "No 'buts,' Duo. You need to control yourself. Promise me."
"I... I promise..."
Quatre smiled. "Good. Now how about you go and find Heero. You have some apologies to make."
Duo stood as if in a daze. "I... I have to apologize to Heero. I love him. I don't want him to leave me." He stumbled to the door, fumbled with the handle, and left.
The blonde boy watched Duo go and mentally congratulated himself on saving his friend's relationship. Heero would certainly help Duo, and with time they would be happy again. The two of them would overcome this pesky little problem, and love each other all the more for it.
It got worse with every day that passed. It festered and grew and no matter what Duo did, he couldn't seem to please Heero. If he talked, he was too loud, a distraction to whatever the dark-haired boy was doing. If he remained silent, he obviously wasn't paying attention. If he touched Heero in public, it was too affectionate. If he kept his hands to himself, he was accused of cheating.
Once he'd smiled at a passing stranger. He hadn't been able to talk for a week, but thankfully his priest's outfit had covered up the imprint of his lover's fingers around his neck.
If he took a second serving of food, he was being greedy. If he didn't take enough in the first serving, he obviously didn't appreciate what had been made. If he let his hair down in public, he was portraying himself as a cheap whore. If he didn't take it down in private, he wasn't being a dutiful lover. If he answered a question that was asked, he was showing off. If he didn't, he was clearly an idiot who didn't know anything. If he laughed too loud, he was making a scene. If he didn't laugh loud enough, he was being disrespectful.
/ Don't touch me, Duo. Shut up, Duo. You're not paying attention, Duo. You're bothering me, Duo. Why aren't you talking, Duo? What's wrong with you, Duo? You're cheating on me, aren't you, Duo? You're lying to me, aren't you, Duo? Why do I even bother with you, Duo? You're such a distraction. A failure. A weakness. What's wrong with you, Duo? /
/ I'm sorry, Heero. I won't do it again, Heero. I was wrong, Heero. I'm sorry, Heero. Forgive me, Heero? I'll do better next time, Heero. I'm sorry, Heero. I messed up, Heero. No, I love you, Heero. I'm so sorry, Heero. I'll never do it again, Heero. I was wrong, Heero. I'm sorry. /
And he was sorry. Sorry he wasn't good enough. Sorry he was a failure. Sorry he was just some cheap piece of L2 gutter trash playing at being worthwhile.
But no matter how many times he apologized, no matter how many times he begged for forgiveness, no matter how many instructions he remembered to follow... he just wasn't good enough.
/ What's wrong with you, Duo? /
/ I'm sorry, Heero. /
/ Why do I even bother? /
/ I'm so sorry, Heero. /
/ You're such a fucking waste. /
/ I'll never do it again, Heero. /
/ This is all your fault. /
/ Forgive me, Heero. /
/ What's wrong with you, Duo? /
/ I'll do better next time, Heero. I promise I will. /
But he never did.
"You shouldn't do that, Duo. Why do you have to be the center of attention everywhere we go?"
Quatre peeked around the corner of the building curiously. The five of them were at another political get-together and he'd spotted Heero dragging Duo out of the back exit.
"I'm sorry, Heero. I don't try to be."
The blonde saw his two friends facing each other. Anger swirled from Heero's mind, guilt dripped from Duo's. He saw the braided-boy clench his fists and was about to interrupt when Duo abruptly dropped both hands to his sides, his head bowed.
"I'm sorry, Heero. I won't do it again."
With a smile, Quatre turned away and went back inside. He was so pleased with his friend, controlling his temper so well and doing his best to make it up to Heero. It was more than the Arabian had hoped for.
Had the blonde not gone back inside, he might have been surprised to see the perfect soldier slam his fist into his lover's stomach. Duo curled up on the ground, covering his face with his hands.
Disgusted, Heero spat, "See that you don't."
Six months had passed since the end of the war. It was a peaceful and prosperous time, and as a member of the Preventers, Wufei was proud. His latest mission report instructed him to join forces with his old comrade, Yuy, and he entered the Japanese boy's office unannounced. His brow furrowed when he spotted Yuy and Maxwell in what appeared to be a lover's quarrel. The Chinese boy didn't want to invade their privacy on such a personal matter, but before he could leave, he saw Heero silently backhanded the braided boy, sending Duo sprawling to the ground. He listened with morbid fascination to the calm voice which bordered on frigid.
"You're in my way, baka."
And with that, he stalked out of the room. He was so angry, he didn't even notice the Chinese boy standing unobtrusively in the corner.
Swallow hard, Wufei headed toward the door, not wanting to embarrass the American by having witnessed whatever it was that had just transpired. On impulse he tossed a quick look over his shoulder at Duo, and his breath caught in his throat.
The boy in question was just beginning to pull himself off the floor. Blood stood out boldly on his face like red ribbons streaming across white silk; originating from the corner of his mouth, it tricked down his chin, disappearing into his black shirt, occasionally dripping to the floor with a soft, pitter patter.
But that didn't matter to Wufei.
What mattered were that Duo's eyes, beautiful amethysts set in a cherubic face, weren't laughing or smiling. They were locked onto Heero's retreating back as he moved down the hall, but they weren't laughing. They mocked his mouth as it moved into a wide, guileless smile, but they weren't smiling. They were gaping, open pools of pain, searing and intense, and so bitter that the Chinese boy felt the irrational instinct to fall to his knees and weep before them. Nataku, it hurt. Hurt to see the clown loose his mask for the sparsest of moments and bare his bleeding soul to the world. Those eyes, by all that he held dear, those eyes.
And abruptly the pain was cut off, so completely that he almost believed he'd imagined it, and Duo's eyes were once again laughing and smiling. His mouth turned up a little further, grinning.
"Heh, Wufei, what'cha lookin' at?" There was a pause, and Duo absently wiped the blood from his mouth with the back of his hand. "Didn't think that Shinigami could bleed?"
The words caught in his throat, mutely, Wufei nodded.
Duo shrugged, "Hey, it happens." He paused, then added with a laugh, "It doesn't bother me, though."
But Wufei knew better. Those eyes... they begged to differ.
Duo didn't know what he was doing wrong. For a year, he'd tried his best. He'd worked so hard to become someone who Heero could love. Tears of bitterness welled up in his eyes, but he brutally suppressed them.
Was he really such a waste? Was everything he'd hoped for, Heero's love, a home to call his own, friend's that understood him and cared about him... was all of it just the sorry dream of a brat from L2? Was he a fool to think he could be happy? Was he wrong to believe that someone could love him?
He laid on his bed, the bed he'd shared with Heero for as long as they'd been together, and he wished he could cry. He wished that someone would tell him what he was doing wrong. He wished... he wished Heero could be the same man he'd fallen in love with during the war. But most of all, he wished he could stop hurting.
Miserably he looked at the invitation in his hands. Quatre was throwing a party in celebration of the one year anniversary that marked the war's end. He and Heero had been cordially invited.
Maybe... maybe it would be different tonight. Maybe Heero would take pride in him as they celebrated the success of everything they'd been trained to fight. Maybe in the company of his comrades, in the arms of his love, he could be happy. If only for just a little while.
Maybe tonight would be different.
Relena Peacecraft sat at the front of the banquet, smiling at everyone and toasting to their good health. But her eyes were riveted on one Duo Maxwell.
She could admit to herself that she'd been a little bitter when Heero had chosen Duo, but she could also admit that she wasn't surprised. And while the wound in her heart was still fresh, she knew that with time, it would heal completely.
But what concerned her tonight was less about Heero and more about Duo. When they'd first arrived, she'd been delighted they came, but the more she watched Duo from her perch at the front of the hall, the more concerned she became. The American had always been slender, but now clothing that had once fit him snuggly hung loosely from his shoulder and his waist. And she was no expert, but even she could tell he was moving stiffly, wincing when he bent over, mouth smiling, but eyes pained.
She remembered the loudmouthed joker who she'd come to respect, and was more than a little alarmed when she was how still and inanimate he was. He didn't talk with the people around him as he once had, didn't laugh and make silly faces. All he did was sip a glass of water and push the food around his plate.
Heero seemed the same as ever, though. Surely if there was something amiss with Duo, he would know about it.
Softly, she spoke to the two men at her table: the first, a brother she had been denied for most of her life, the second, an invaluable friend who she'd made during the war.
"Does Duo seem... all right to either of you...?"
Zechs glanced at his sister, then to the boy in question. Quatre mirrored his gaze.
"What do you mean?" The smaller blonde asked curiously.
"Well, it's just... I know it seems silly, but he doesn't look as though he's well. And isn't it strange that he's not talking to anyone? The Duo I know would be the center of attention right about now." She sipped her wine, wondering if her concerns were valid.
"Now that you mention it..." Zechs frowned. "He does seem rather... subdued..."
Quatre blinked, staring at the American as though seeing him for the first time. He _was_ thin, his pallor sickly, and the blonde wondered long those changes had been present. How had they slipped by him?
Zechs stood abruptly. "I think I'll go talk to him." He politely excused himself and made his way to the American's side. Duo didn't seem to notice him, so he placed a gentle hand on the American's shoulder.
To the older man's dismay, Duo started, a look of pure panic on his elfin features.
"I'm terribly sorry," Zechs said, and he meant it. "How's life, Duo?"
"Ah, Zechs," the American fidgeted, his eyes scanning the crowd for his lover, "You startled me. Um... life's good. I mean, same old, but good..."
The blonde quirked a brow. "Just good? I suppose we'll have to do something about that. Would you care to dance?"
Zech expected a number of responses from his smaller friend: a casual smile, a hint of laughter, or perhaps even acceptance, if only for the chance to shake his booty in front of the Prime Minister with the brother of the Queen of the World on his arm.
What he _didn't_ expect was for Duo to jerk away from him, stuttering, "Um... thanks, n-no... I mean, I can't, but it's nice of you to-"
Concerned, the blonde asked softly, "Are you certain you're all right, Duo? If there's anything you need, please... I'm here to help."
The American's eyes wavered and for a moment Zechs thought Duo was going to open up to him. Then those same eyes fixed on something behind him and the pain he read in them nearly brought him to his knees. He turned to see what was making the boy, an ex-Gundam Pilot for godsake, shake in his chair like a child. He met two angry blue eyes and heard a nasal voice grit out, "Zechs. A pleasure to see you."
The blonde answered slowly, "Heero."
The hatred in those eyes made him take a step back and he watched as Heero grabbed Duo's arm and roughly pulled him out of his chair. "We're going now. Duo?"
"Yeah, Heero?" The voice that answered was subdued.
With one last glare at Zechs, the couple made their way to the exit.
The blonde swallowed hard. He'd seen that look in Heero's eyes before. It usually meant someone was going to bleed.
"What's wrong with you?" Heero shoved Duo into their shared bedroom and slammed the door behind him. "You were flirting with _Zechs_!"
The American landed on the bed, his body curling into a familiar ball. He whispered, "I'm sorry, Heero. I won't do it again. It wasn't like that. We were just talking. I'm sorry. I'm sorry, Heero. Please don't-"
"Duo." The growl in his lover's voice warned him and he felt a tiny cry catch in the back of his throat. "Shut _UP_."
In the space of a heartbeat, the Japanese boy was on him, hitting and tearing at his clothes like a man possessed. There was a kind of rage in his eyes Duo had become familiar with over the past few months, and softly the braided boy whimpered, "I'm sorry, Heero. Please stop."
The cries became softer.
"I don't want this. Please, Heero, I love you."
And softer still.
And when the Japanese boy flipped him over, ripping his pants and exposing him like a whore, he stopped talking all together and bit his tongue to keep from screaming.
A soft snore alerted Duo that it was over. He gingerly extracted himself from blood and semen-stained sheets, staggering to the bathroom. His hand snagged the phone and he shut the door softly as not to wake his lover.
He hadn't been too successful in the "not-screaming" department, and his throat was sore from when Heero had choked him to shut him up. Coughing, he spat a bit of blood into the sink, then turned on the faucet with shaking hands. He felt so stupid. And so very, very dirty.
It was difficult, but he cleaned himself to the best of his abilities. Everything was sore, and finally he gave up trying to get out of the shower. He simply let the water wash over him until it ran cold. Trembling, he dialed Quatre's number.
/ Please, Q... I need someone more than ever. Please be there... /
"Hello?" a sleepy voice answered after the fifth ring.
"Q?" Duo said hoarsely.
"Is that you, Duo? It's nearly four in the morning..."
"I... want to ask you're advise on something..."
"It couldn't wait 'til morning?" The sentence was punctuated with a drowsy yawn.
"No, it's just..." Duo swallowed hard. "I promise I won't take too long. But... if someone has a problem... I mean, if someone can't handle something by themselves, does that... I mean, if Heero's always distracted by... something... is the only way to make him happy... should I remove that distraction...?"
There was a pause and Quatre yawned again. "I guess. You know how Heero hates distractions."
Duo whispered softly, "Thanks, Q. Bye."
"Bye." The phone clicked and Duo knew he was alone again.
Still shaking, his hands reached for Heero's razor. He knew what he had to do.
Heero woke up groggily. He didn't remember how he'd gotten to his bed, but something was nagging at him from the back of his mind. Zechs had been talking to Duo, and he'd stopped them and...
His hands brushed across the sheets, and bits of red and white flaked away from him. He felt so... disoriented. Flashes of Duo begging him, pleading for him to stop, but...
Quickly he sat up in bed. The space next to him that Duo always occupied was empty. The sheets were stained red with so much blood. No, wine. He hadn't hurt Duo that badly. The braided baka had probably just spilled a bottle of wine or something.
A knock at the door had him on his feet in two seconds flat. He opened it quickly and met Trowa's blank stare.
"Quatre was concerned about Duo," the boy said quietly. "He asked me to stop by and check on him. Is he here?"
Heero blinked, putting his hand up to his face. "I..." He looked at Trowa, a thousand expression flickering there, "... I don't know."
Trowa stepped into the room, eyes falling on the bloodstained sheets. He glanced at Heero, his eyes widening in sick understanding. Slowly, he walked to the closed bathroom door. The perfect soldier made no more to stop him.
The Latino boy pushed the door open, feeling more helpless than he had in a long time. And he saw something that would be burned into his mind forever.
The fragile, broken body, crumpled on the floor like a discarded napkin, so very, very pale, but the stark red blood stood out so very well against the white canvas of his wrists. The matted hair, the pain-filled eyes open and unseeing, and more than anything Trowa wanted to run screaming from the room.
A jester without his jewels or glitter, stripped bare for the world to see.
The hospital's waiting room was packed with people. No one spoke a word. No one spared so much as a glance at Heero.
The Japanese boy sat alongside the other pilots, and all of them were amazed that so many people had dropped everything they were doing to come to the hospital. Relena, Zechs, Noin, Hilde, Lady Une, almost every Preventer, and a fair number of people who they didn't even recognize. Ordinary, everyday people, and even some of the most powerful, political forces in the world, joined by their feelings for a Duo Maxwell.
Sally Po stepped out of the operating room, looking pale. All three pilots, save Heero, stood.
"Is he...?" Quatre asked softly.
"Stabilized. But..." She glanced at Heero, whose face was buried in his hands as he rocked back and forth in his seat. "Duo..." She began, then seemed to choke on the words. Suddenly she stepped forward, fists beating at the Japanese boy. "My God, Heero, how could you? How could you how could you how could you?"
Wufei grabbed her arms and pulled her away from the object of her fury. Heero didn't move.
Sally screamed, "Do you know what you did to him? Do you have any idea what you fucking did to him? How long, Heero? How long have you...?" She trailed off, ignoring the stares from all present. "You fucking raped him! You fucking raped him, and you've done it before, and you beat him and... do you have any idea how many fractures he has? How many broken bones that didn't heal quite right? How many bruises, black, blue, purple, brown, yellow... he looks like a fucking coloring book! And you... you bastard, how long...?"
"Since always," the Japanese boy answered truthfully as he stared at the floor. Two foreign tears streaked down his face. "Since always." He paused, then looked up at his friends. "Can I see him?"
The pilots stared at Heero, horror and disgust on their faces. Relena gasped and buried her face in her brother's shoulder. Lady Une bit her lip, and her eyes went wide. Hilde quietly emptied the contents of her stomach in the trash can.
Sally's face twisted hatefully. "You can see him, all right. You can see _exactly_ what you did to him. And then you can leave because I don't think I can stand to look at you much longer."
Without a word, she opened the door and let the pilots in.
The room was white and smelled of sterilizer. The thin, broken body that lay on the bed looked worse than a corpse, IVs and machines set up all around him. All four pilots heard the soft, frantic whimpers.
"... I kept my p-promise, Q... I never hit him after that first night. You were right. S'my fault... if only I could control myself better, if only I didn't have such a big mouth and bother him... I tried, Q. I'm sorry, Heero, I'm so sorry..."
The blonde boy brought his hand to his mouth to cover his pained gasp.
"...please stop, please don't hurt me. I love you, Hee-chan... I'm sorry. I'll be good..."
Wufei swallowed hard, reaching out to the wall for support.
"...Father Maxwell, Sister Helen, I'm sorry. I'm such a screw up. I'm a mess. I'm sorry. I love you, Heero. I love you so much..."
Trowa turned to Heero, hatred in his eyes, a snarl on his normally blank face.
"...I'm so sorry..."
Heero slipped to the ground; his legs refusing to support him any longer. His eyes were riveted on the boy he loved. And the one he'd destroyed. Every frantic whisper stabbed at the heart he thought he'd destroyed. Every word made him bleed inside.
"...I love you, Heero..."
J had taught him to destroy his weaknesses.
"...I'm so sorry..."
J had taught him to destroy his heart.
"...I love you, Heero..."
And J had taught him so well he hadn't even know he'd been doing it.
"...I'll do better next time..."
And so Duo paid the price.