Title: Linked
Author: Becka
Pairing: 1+2 (sorta)

Warnings: Angst, Dark, Duo-torture, and Violence.

Disclaimer: Gundam Wing does not belong to Becka; characters are used without permission for a non-profit purpose. No infringement is intended.

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Dr. J tells Heero that thinking is a bad habit. He says second-guessing the "what ifs" and the "might have beens" is a waste of time. After all, Heero is a perfect soldier, because dreamers have no place in war.

o

Sometimes Heero stares at Duo, because he can't help it. Duo's loud and obnoxious and American but he's beautiful in his own way.

/ You understand, Duo. You know how I'm feeling, what I'm thinking. Even if I can't say "thank you," or "you mean so much to me," or "I love you," you know, don't you? You're special like that, special and beautiful. You love me; you have to. Don't you love me, Duo? You give me everything you have and more, so that must mean you love me. /

o

Sometimes Heero stares at Duo, because he can't help it. Duo's loud and obnoxious but sometimes Heero thinks he sees shadows in the amethyst eyes and scars on the pale white chest.

/"Lemme' put it this way – nothing in this world is relative, not even the people. _Everything_ is a matter of perspective. All the insults and the names you hear your buddies call me... that's their perspective. And because that's their perspective, I make it a part of me as a whole. See, I want to be complete. What I am right now is a pale shadow of who I could be, and slowly, bit by bit, I'm working towards that vision. By accepting who they perceive me as, I accept who I am. Every cut represents one perspective."

"See this one?" He touched the first mark on his chest, right below the nipple, gently. "That's my mother's perspective. A mistake." His finger moved down to the next mark. "And this one here? That's my father. A bastard who wasn't even his own."

The mouth quirked up, but the eyes remained dull and listless. "Shall I continue, Heero?" His finger touched each wound as he spoke what it represented aloud. "Failure. Sinner. Killer. Whore. Slut. Freak. Joker. Weirdo. There are sixty six in total."

He paused, then skipped down to the very last cut, right above his pelvic bone, still wet with blood. "This one is yours. The braided baka."

Heero's eyes were wide with surprise, and he barely managed to choke out a harsh, "But... why?"

"They make me who I am. I think it's only fair I remember them, don't you?" /

o

Sometimes Heero stares at Duo, because he can't help it. Duo's loud and obnoxious, and he's always got that crazy grin plastered on his face. Who thinks they're the God of Death, anyway?

/ Duo smiled a little, a half-crazed, almost maniacal sort of grin. It frightened Heero to see that sort of expression on the otherwise sweet face, but of course he'd never show it. With deliberate care, the braided boy reached over and moved one of his pawns forward a step. Then he hopped up, switching sides, and quickly made a counter move. Shifting to the first side again, he intently studied the board. After five minutes of silence, Heero uncomfortably cleared his throat.

Duo glanced up with a small, "Hm?"

Heero forced himself to meet those two brilliant amethysts. In careful monotone, he spoke. "If there's something wrong with you, tell me."

"Why? 'cause you don't want me to become a liability?" came the lightning quick response.

"Hn."

Tilting his head to one side, Duo's smile broadened a bit until it seemed a little less than sane. He raised one hand and wagged a finger. "Don't worry about it, Heero. I'm fine. If I honestly thought that I was into something I couldn't handle, I'd ask for help." He tapped the finger against the side of his head. "Besides, I don't plan on loosing this for a while, so relax."

The Japanese pilot gritted his teeth, frustrated. Shrugging, he decided he had better things to do then watch Duo play chess against himself. He stood, glancing once more at the braided, smiling boy, then headed out of the room, towards the hanger bay and his Wing.

Duo studied the board intently, hesitation written plainly across his features. He nudged one of the white rooks forward, removed the black king, and looked up.

"Well?"

Shinigami smiled darkly, whispering, "I _will_ win the game, Duo."

"You already lost," he replied, placing the king beside the board.

There was a bark of laughter, then, "That's not the game I was talking about."

And to a casual observer, the white king toppled over for no reason, rolling from the board and shattering as it hit the floor. /

o

Sometimes Heero stares at Duo, because he can't help it. Duo's loud and obnoxious, but sometimes Heero thinks he sees something like love in those dazzling eyes.

/ "Do you really hate me that much, Heero?

"I mean, I know I can be pretty annoying sometimes. It's intentional, because it's the fastest, easiest, and most believable way to get people to loosen up around you, to be comfortable with you. Besides that, G ordered me to. You know better then anyone about orders.

"Could you get past that? Past my joker's mask and my jester's cap? I thought you could, at one time. I thought I could lay down my baton and take off the glitter and jewels and show you exactly who I am.

"Perhaps that's what you didn't like. A street rat, a killer, and a whore. It's amazing the things you pick up as a child of joy. Perhaps, more accurately, a child of sin. I'm both, but you know that. Is that why you ran?

"I'm not innocent, and I don't ever remember I time I was. I'm just a young boy with the eyes of an old man who smiles and tries to die. Doesn't matter much, because no matter how much I try, I always survive. Shinigami's blessing, and Shinigami's curse. Were they too much for you, Heero? Was it really so hard to believe that I could match you, self-destruct for self-destruct and strike for strike? To know that as long as you came back from each mission, you'd find me waiting." /

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Sometimes Heero stares at Duo, because he can't help it. Duo's loud and obnoxious, but sometimes Heero thinks he's trying to cover up for something. The idiot isn't sick, is he?

/ Duo put his hand to his forehead, fighting off a wave of dizziness and nausea. His thoughts were jumbled and he had trouble standing upright. His skin's pallor was an unhealthy shade of pale white and his pupils were dilated and unseeing. Confused, he reached out with one hand blindly, and as luck would have it, encountered the soft cloth of his partner's tank top.

Heero was blind to Duo's condition. The Japanese boy simply saw a cocky American bastard who never knew when to leave well enough alone. One who laughed and smiled at all the wrong times and spent more time irritating _him_ then he did paying attention to the mission.

He was sick of it.

So he shoved the braided boy away rudely, muttering, "Baka," under his breathe. Then he took off, exiting the room and not looking back. He had more important things to do, after all.

Duo staggered a little, then stumbled and fell to the floor with a sick thud. Rumbling welled in his chest and he began to cough. Wetly. Painfully. Soon red stained the floor, and all the while his horrible cough filled the air. A cough that sounded as though someone was attempting to remove his lungs manually, with a dull spoon.

His condition was serious.

It was rapidly becoming worse.

Before long, it would be deadly.

And though he didn't know it, had Heero taken one moment to check on Duo, he could have prevented it all. /

o

Sometimes Heero stares at Duo, because he can't help it. Duo's loud and obnoxious, and sometimes Heero pretends that Duo's just a regular kid with no worries in the world.

/ "C'mon, Duo! Can we _please_ go to the mall?"

Duo Maxwell flicked his braid absently over his shoulder and fixed his blonde friend with a baleful look. "Oh, sure," he responded, voice thick with sarcasm, "Easy for you to say, Q-man. _You're_ not the one who has to drive!"

Lips curling up in a deceptively cherubic smile, Quatre Winner threw his hands up defensively and exclaimed, "It's not _my_ fault I haven't gotten my license yet." He paused and pressed the palm of his hand to the side of his face dramatically, eyes comically wide. "After all, that tree hit _me_, not the other way around. I think I should be compensated for his reckless endangerment!"

"No, of course not. That crash wasn't your fault at all. Stupid tree." The violet-eyed boy grinned impishly and drawled, "Ri - i - i - ght."

Both boys were in the blonde's small cubical of a room, sprawled out across the box mattress that could just barely hold both of them up. The rickety thing had been in the house even before Quatre's grandmother had purchased the place and would most likely remain there long after both of them were long gone.

Quatre fingered his blanket, slender fingers plucking at the soft cotton sheets. "You know," he said, somewhat thoughtfully, "_I_ could always drive if you really don't feel like it."

"No thanks, Q," Duo quirked a brow, "I'd like to keep my car in one piece, thanks."

Theatrically the blonde thumped his fist against his chest. "Duo, you wound me!" Then his beautiful aqua eyes began to waver, tears gathering in their corners. "If you won't take me to the mall, I won't be able to go. Please, Duo? Pretty please with sugar on top?"

Duo felt himself faltering under the pressure of those puppy dog eyes and groaned, "Fine, fine! I'll drive you. Cut the waterworks, would you?"

Instantly cheerful once more, the blonde boy bounced up from his bed and began to rummage around in his closet for something to wear. He sandwiched in between several coat hangers loaded with all sorts of clothes and his muffled voice managed to be sound smug and thankful at the same time. "Thank you!"

Duo fell back onto the bed with a half smile and stared at the paint cracks and watermarks on the off-white ceiling. "No problem, Q. Just don't take forever to get ready, okay? The mall closes around nine on Fridays, I think."

"I'll just be a couple of minutes..." The offhanded response floated to Duo's ears and was greeted with a half grimace.

:: Right. Just a couple of minutes. :: Duo glanced at the digital clock which read, "6:15," and shook his head. :: Just a couple of minutes, like Rome was _just_ built in a day. Christ, with twenty some odd sisters, I guess I should be grateful that he's only a _little_ concerned about his appearance... ::

Realizing they probably wouldn't be leaving any time soon, the braided boy settled back on the bed and began to reminisce. :: Man, I've known Q for like... how many years now? We met up in the sixth grade, way back when he still had long hair. He's a sophomore now, and I'm a senior. I'm gonna' be graduating this year, fer cryin' out loud! I'm off to college! Three more years and I'll be _twenty_. :: He shivered a little. :: Scary. ::

One of the shirts Quatre was so casually slinging out of the closet smacked Duo in the face and violet orbs narrowed a little. He growled, "Watch where your flinging those things, man!"

"Sorry," came the unrepentant reply. Then the blonde boy spontaneously burst out into a surprisingly accurate rendition of that God awful song from Titanic, hitting the high notes in a disturbingly effeminate falsetto. Suppressing a sigh, Duo grabbed a crumpled blanket and tugged it down over his ears.

:: Why me? :: The braided boy sneaked a look at the clock with its cheerful green numbers. "6:18," it read.

"And I- a - a - i - i will always love y - o - u - u - e - w, will always love –"

Duo tugged the blanket over his head a little more securely and thought again morosely, :: Why me? :: /

o

Sometimes Heero stares at Duo, because he can't help it. Duo's loud and obnoxious, but he's a Gundam Pilot, too, and Heero doesn't think Duo would leave him.

/ "You don't love me, Heero. I can live with that. But seeing you everyday, like this... and _knowing_ that you're never gonna' care about me the way I care for you – hell, that'd drive a priest to drinking. So I'm leaving. L2 Scrap is yours now."

"Duo." The rawness in Heero's voice was painful.

"Don't worry about it," the American smiled gently. "I can take care of myself. S'what I always do."

And after that he was just... gone. /

o

Sometimes Heero stares at Duo, because he can't help it. Duo's loud and obnoxious, and sometimes Heero wants to reach over and wrap his fingers around that slender, dove neck.

/ Why won't you wake up? Wake up. Please. C'mon, this isn't funny. Wake up. Why won't you wake up. Wake up. I would have changed, baby. I would have been better. This is all your fault. Please, please, wake up. /

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Sometimes Heero stares at Duo, because he can't help it. Duo's loud and obnoxious, right? But yesterday Heero was walking by Duo's door and saw him frown and punch his mirror.

/ "Not crazy," said the too bright eyes. "Crazy?" said the off curved smile. "Not I," said the back tilt of the head. "Not crazy," said the small, sharp teeth. "Not much," said the soft hitched breath. "Crazy?"

"A bit," Duo said to his reflection, smiling sweetly, clawed fingers scratching down the smooth surface. /

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Sometimes Heero stares at Duo, because he can't help it. Duo's loud and obnoxious, but sometimes Heero catches him staring at his hands.

/ Duo scrubbed his hands furiously, silent save for the rub of skin against skin, and the slosh of soapy water as it poured over them. The fleshy palms were red, scalded, and his nails were spotless, too. Still he scrubbed, and cleaned, and washed, until minutes ran like water into hours, and the hot water slowly diminished leaving frigid ice in its wake. And hands, once bright with heat, turned pale and blue. Still he worked furiously, elfin fingers tangling and twining, scrubbing and rubbing, furious and frenzied. And soon the hands came to a point where they could no longer move gracefully, so cold were they. Jerkily he moved, then, and scrubbed, and scrubbed, and finally, while it seemed to him as though he'd been cleaning his hands for only moments though the sun had risen, then sunk low, the well ran dry, and he was left rubbing his hands in an empty sink.

There was a knock at the bathroom door, but he didn't answer. He continued to move his hands against one another, though they were dry, and still so pale.

The door swiveled slowly, and a fair, unruly mop of satin tresses cautiously poked its way around the door.

"Duo?"

The braided boy said nothing, only scrubbed at his hands a little more.

"Duo?" came the insistent voice again.

Still no response.

Heero inched forward, and caught the throaty, hoarse mumble that he previously hadn't noticed.

"Still not clean… why can't I wash it away? Dirty… so fucking dirty…" /

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Sometimes Heero stares at Duo, because he can't help it. Duo's loud and obnoxious, but sometimes he'll stop mid-sentence and cock his head to the side.

/ "Shh…" Duo placed on finger against his mouth, the slow smile there chilling Heero's very soul. He cupped his hand to his ear and murmured, "Listen. Can't you hear them?"

"I hear them every day, every minute of every hour. Waking. Sleeping. Screaming." Eyes touched with a hint of madness looked to the heavens. "They won't let me die. They'll never let me go… because I'll never serve a penance great enough." /

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Sometimes Heero stares at Duo, because he can't help it. Duo's loud and obnoxious, but sometimes at night when he's sleeping, he'll scream.

/ "Nightmares?"

A curt nod in the affirmative.

"I'm here, you know. If you need to... talk."

A small, bitter smile.

"Duo?"

"You couldn't handle the monsters in my head." /

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Sometimes Heero stares at Duo, because he can't help it. Duo's loud and obnoxious, but whenever he notices Heero staring, he does this saucy little wink.

/"Sex."

"What?"

"We don't make love. We have sex. Don't pretend."/

o

Sometimes Heero stares at Duo, because he can't help it. Duo's loud and obnoxious – it that why Wufei stares at Duo all the time, too?

/ "Hey, Wu-man, y'know you'd miss me if I were gone."

"About as much as I miss this war, Maxwell."

"That proves it, then!"

"What?"

"You just as good as said you'd miss me, beautiful!"

A splutter, "Kisama!"

A laugh, "Love you too, Wu-chan!"

A roar, "MAXWELL!"

And the echoing tinkle of laughter which always managed to keep the shadows at bay.

...

The war is over.

Duo Maxwell is dead.

And now I find that he was smarter then I ever gave him credit for.

How much do I miss him? As much as I miss the war. Maybe more. Because both he and it gave me a purpose. And now that they are gone, I find it hard to breathe, sometimes.

So I'll sit here until Heero comes to fetch me, wraps his arms around me and mourns the boy he loved.

A whisper, "Love you too, Duo."

Indeed, he was so much smarter then me.

I never told him. /

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Sometimes Heero stares at Duo, because he can't help it. Duo's loud and obnoxious, and he always wears that stupid priest uniform. Heero thinks Duo wouldn't make a very good alter boy.

/ Fire burned, flames licking at the once beautiful tapestries. Tables, pews, and candles had all been overturned carelessly. A few were intact, but most were shattered into a hundred different pieces. Soot marred every inch of floor that was not covered in debris, and a thick smoke permeated the air. The church literally looked like a war zone on Hell's playing field.

And there, at the center of the wreck, trussed up on the altar with binding cords like some kind of pagan sacrifice, was Duo.

Sprawled across the altars surface, blood and semen moved sluggishly down his body, dribbling and congealing along the smooth, stained marble surface to pool around him. His clothing was torn and tattered, the priest's attire having been literally shredded from his frail form. His hair, his pride and joy, tangled in a knotty mess, matted to his head with crusting blood and dirt. /

o

Sometimes Heero stares at Duo, because he can't help it. Duo's loud and obnoxious, but he wouldn't look right any other way. Sometimes Heero imagines the other boy completely still and fails completely.

/ "No, no, no. Not right at all. Not dead. Not Duo. Duo's Death, he told me so. Death can't die, but he can kill. He's not dead 'cause he can't die. Not dead. Not Death. Not Duo. My Duo."

"Sorry, sorry, gomen nasai. Love you so much it hurts, never told you, wished I could. But J's in charge and my mission. But you're Duo, you're Death, it's okay to love you 'cause you promised not to leave me."

"Baka, baka, baka, love you so much. Sorry, so sorry, not Duo, my Duo."

"You always wake me up when the nightmares come to this. You know, you know, you understand."

"You always wake me up when I see you die. You know, you know, I know you do."

"Please wake me up, Duo. I promise I'll tell you I love you this time."

"Love you, love you, so much it hurt. Sorry, so sorry, aishteru, Duo."

"Love you, forever, 'cause you love me."

"You can say the words. I can't but I want to so bad."

"Sorry, sorry."

"Love you, so much."

"Duo, my Duo, my Death."

"Please wake me up." /

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Dr. J tells Heero that thinking is a bad habit. He says second-guessing the "what ifs" and the "might have beens" is a waste of time. After all, Heero is a perfect soldier, because dreamers have no place in war.

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fin

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