A/N: Okay, so it happened again. Yet another Gundam W 1x2 short inspired by the boredom and angst music hole that is Andi's brain. Moderate to heavy angst in this one, but it should be worth it considering the end is sappy as hell. :3 I don't own Gundam W or any of those lovely boys contained therein. Even as much as I wish I DID own them. T.T

-Almost and Always-

"Are you certain?"

"Yes, dammit. I am NOT going to fucking pull the plug."

"This may not be the most humane option, Mr. Maxwell."

"HUMANE?!" Duo roared, turning angry, bloodshot eyes onto the phycisian who stood in the hallway across from him. "You tell me to pull the plug and you're accusing me of being inhumane?!" The last threads of control had finally snapped, sending Duo's heart down on its proverbial knees, and he was shaking with the force of his rage. His eyes, already dark, narrowed to angry slits, stark against his pale skin. "Go to hell." And he disappeared inside the hospital room once more.

Quatre had come to a dead stop in the hallway, having just returned from getting them both coffee, as it was his turn to sit for a few hours with Duo to make sure he got some rest during his vigilant watch. He padded back down the hallway and walked in the door. Duo was back in that chair again. Quatre sighed, stepping into the room and handing Duo one of the steaming cups. "You should be going home to get some rest," he said softly, though his blue eyes were stern. "And let me take over. Just for a few hours. You look horrible."

Duo shook his head. "I can't leave him," he said, staring down at the face of his self-designated charge.

Heero was pale and wan. The bruises were finally starting to fade from his once-bronzed skin, the cuts and bandages finally reduced when the need for them declined once he started to heal. The breathing tube and IV were still present, though, as were a dozen other tubes leading to God only knew what apparati, and the slow, steady beep of the pulse monitor was the only sound in the room aside from the two young mens' voices. "He'd never leave me."

Quatre nodded, sinking down in a chair beside him. "You really refuse to give up, don't you?"

"I can't give up...Quat, I love you and Tro dearly...and even Wu sometimes...but Heero's the one thing in my life that keeps me sane...if I give up, I'll have nothing left." The blue-violet eyes usually so full of mirth and humor were full of pain and fear. "I...I love him, Quat..." Tears welled up in Duo's eyes, his face sinking into one hand.

Quatre sighed, pulling the coffee cup from his hand to set it on a nearby table. He hurt for his friend, understood exactly the kind of pain Duo was suffering. After all...if it were Trowa in this situation, who's to say Quatre wouldn't react exactly the same way? He stepped back to Duo's side and pulled the braided young man into his arms. "Just let it out, Duo," he counseled gently. "You'll only drive yourself mad if you don't."

And so it was that when Trowa showed up to relieve Quatre, he found the blonde boy sitting in the chair with Duo passed out in his arms. Quatre looked up when the movement at the doorway caught his eye, and smiled faintly as Trowa stepped inside. "He finally gave out," Trowa said softly. The one green eye visible beneath the shining curtain of his hair was carrying the same sorrow that mirrored in Quatre's own.

The blonde boy nodded. "He's been here for four weeks, Trowa...I think I've only seen him eat about five times during the entire stretch...this isn't good for him. He's going to put himself into a coma if he doesn't stop punishing himself for this."

Trowa nodded in return, sitting down beside his lover. "I know. But we both know how stubborn he is. He won't go home, he won't eat, barely sleeps...he's going to kill himself. And when Heero does wake up, he'll throttle us for letting it happen."

Quatre nodded. "I know. We should take him home now...at least make sure he gets a few hours of sleep in and a decent meal."

Trowa nodded. "Good idea...I'll help you get him out to the car, and then come back, okay? I'll call if anything changes."

----------

Cut to five weeks before. An undercover mission. Duo and Heero sent out to gather recon on the activities of some of the small splinter groups off of the main branch of the government that had formed in the years since Mariemeia's takeover attempt.

The mission had gone fine, at first. And then the house of cards that was their delicate cover had fallen apart. One of their contacts disappeared. Vanished. As if he'd never existed.

It turned out later that someone had found out about the two young men and decided to knock the only leg they had to stand on out from under them. Duo had gotten away at Heero's insistence and was deeply unhappy about it. The rescue mission he'd mounted in defense of his partner and lover had seemed to go well at first until a rookie soldier tripped a rigged door.

The base they were in was set with explosives.

Enough to blow a mobile suit to pieces.

When the smoke had cleared, Duo had been certain Heero was dead, and felt his world coming to pieces as he searched through the rubble in a panic.

After six hours of searching, he'd managed to pull Heero from the wreckage, and nearly had a heart attack when he found the boy to be alive, if somewhat beat up. He'd hugged Heero to him, crying openly, and been further surprised when Heero had apologized for playing decoy and making Duo run to escape on his own. He'd then proceeded to thank Duo for finding him, and, in what Duo considered an odd turn of phrase, asked him not to give up on Heero.

And then he'd passed out.

Five weeks after the rescue operation, Heero still hadn't woken up.

And now the doctors were beginning to think there was a chance that he might not ever wake up. Duo was devastated from the getgo, especially when he'd found out how much internal damage had been done to the more delicate-set Japanese boy. He'd planted himself in a chair at Heero's bedside and hadn't moved but twice...both times at Quatre's pleas for him to go home and get at least a little rest.

Heero wasn't waking.

But Duo hadn't given up.

Heero had asked him not to. Heero had never asked Duo for ANYTHING. But he asked Duo for this. Don't give up on me. And it wasn't a promise that Duo was going to break.

----------

Needless to say, the braided pilot was less than happy when he woke up not in the hospital where he'd expected himself to be, but in his own bed in the safehouse. "Damnit," he growled. He'd just thrown back the blankets to haul himself back to the hospital when Wufei appeared in the doorway, holding a covered tray.

"Sit down, Maxwell," he said sternly, though there was a note of understanding in the Chinaman's voice. "You're not going back until you've had a shower and a proper meal. You look like hell."

"At least Quatre was kinder about it," Duo grumbled under his breath. "Wu...I HAVE to get back there."

"And you will. AFTER you eat. And bathe. You smell."

The braided boy couldn't help but laugh. Wufei never had been one to mince words. If he said it, he meant it. "All right, all right. Fine...what'd you cook me?"

Wufei snorted. "I don't cook for you. Just shut up and eat." He handed Duo the tray and disappeared from the room. "And don't think you can sneak out just because my back is turned. I know all your secrets."

----------

Duo arrived back at the hospital exactly two hours later. Wufei had kept him down for as long as he could, but Duo was suffering from a severe case of cabin fever and refused to be detained when he felt he should be at his lover's side. It wasn't until he'd reached the floor of Heero's room that the hairs began standing up on the back of his neck. There was a lot of activity down that hallway. For a moment Duo maintained the hope that it was another room near Heero's that was gaining such attention, but when he saw that it was not, he broke out into a run. Outside of the room stood Quatre and Trowa. And neither one of them looked happy. Far from it.

Duo tore down the hallway to them while the medical personnel filed in and out of the room with the same hurry that ants marching around the hill possessed: steady, swift...and panicked.

"What's going on?" Duo asked, heart pounding, fear making a pit in his stomach. "Quat, tell me, what's happening!"

Quatre couldn't speak; he didn't trust his voice to operate.

Trowa put a hand on Duo's shoulder. "Heero went into cardiac arrest about ten minutes ago, Duo. They can't get his heart started."

Duo's eyes widened, panic swirling in the blue-violet depths, and he made a break for the door. "NO! HEERO!" he roared desperately, fighting to try and get past the orderlies blocking the door and protesting his entrance loudly.

Quatre and Trowa fought him, finally restraining him and pulling him back by his arms. He simply wasn't strong enough to succeed in getting away, and finally collapsed against Trowa, sobbing brokenly. "Heero...you told me not to give up on you...that means you can't give up on me either!" he cried over Trowa's shoulder, eyes centered unblinking on the still form in the hospital bed while tears streamed down his face. "Don't leave me!" Duo cried desperately. He reached out toward Heero, straining to break free from Trowa's grip even though he could not, and finally just crumpled. Trowa lowered him slowly to the ground. "Don't leave me," Duo said again, voice cracking as tears of ultimate loss continued to roll down his face. "Don't leave me," he murmured one more time, heart breaking all over again when he realized that the doctors were putting the equipment away and preparing to leave.

The silence in the next few moments was only broken by Duo's devastated sobs.

"Wait a minute. Doctor!" a nurse cried, gesturing the physicians back in. The medical personnel tore back in the room in a tidal wave of motion, an exclamation of pure shock escaping one doctor's lips.

Duo's head lifted and he watched in shock while the medics bustled about, wondering what the cause for their surprise and hurry was. It wasn't until they'd cleared out that Quatre looked inside the room and then gave Duo a beaming smile.

Duo got shakily to his feet, leaning against the wall and Trowa for support.

All thoughts vanished from his mind when his eyes came to rest on the figure in the bed. Heero was lying in the bed. Alive, breathing...and awake.

"Heero..." Duo whispered, almost reverently, and tore from Trowa's grip, stumbling at breakneck speeds into the room, new tears of absolute joy streaming down his face. He dropped to his knees at the side of Heero's bed, his shaking hands closing around one of Heero's, and put his face down against the mattress, forehead touching the back of his lover's hand even as his tears fell upon it. They remained that way for what felt like an eternity.

Trowa and Quatre slipped quietly out of the room, shutting the door behind themselves as they left.

"How?" Duo finally asked, finding his voice after several minutes of quiet weeping.

Heero was silent for a moment, as though he didn't really know the answer to it himself. "I could hear you calling me," he finally said. "I could hear them talking about me...like I was dead...and then I heard you asking me not to go...not to give up..." He moved his hand out of the way to rest it against Duo's head. "So I came back."

"NEVER scare me like that again, Heero," Duo ordered. "I thought I'd lost you."

"You should have known better," Heero chided. "I'm indestructible, remember?"

Duo started laughing and shot his lover a glare. "Indestructible my ass," he hooted. "You DIED just now, remember?"

Heero looked away, the mask of expressionlessness slipping for a moment. "Yes, I did," he said quietly.

Duo stood, bending over the side of the bed, and slipped his arms around Heero, hugging him as tightly as he could without fear of hurting the Japanese youth. "The next time you think of playing decoy so I can get out, nix it. Because if this EVER happens again I am going to kick your ass so hard."

Heero didn't speak. He simply put his arms around the braided boy, holding him close as the tears once more began to fall, a soft, barely noticeable smile on his face. And a few moments later would find them both nestled snugly in the hospital bed, Heero with a book open in his hands that Quatre had brought for him, Duo asleep and dead to the world at Heero's side. Now that the storm had been weathered, Duo could rest. His vigilant watch had paid off. Quatre poked his head in the door, causing Heero's eyes to lift. The recovering patient nodded, catching Quatre's eyes, and smiled faintly. Quatre grinned back and carefully shut the door. Afterward, he breathed a sigh of relief, leaning back against the door he'd just closed. Trowa smiled. "All quiet on the homefront?"

Quatre nodded. "Heero's got a book and Duo's out cold. I think they're going to be just fine."

"Until they get home and Duo beats the ever-living hell out of Heero for scaring him so badly."

Quatre smiled again. "Of course." His face went serious. "We came very close to losing them both today," he said. "Heero to death...and Duo to his own mind. If Heero had died...it would have broken him."

Trowa nodded as the pair of them made their way toward the hospital's exit. "I think I can safely say he's not the only one," he mused. "I mean...what if it had been you in there?" The green eyes were suddenly distant. "I would have been the exact same way."

Quatre nodded, slipping an arm around Trowa's waist as they walked. "I understand."

----------

Heero let his eyes drift back down to the book in his hands, and he skimmed the lines briefly before realizing that he'd just read the same page for the third time. Setting the book on the table beside his bed, he glanced down at the soundly sleeping boy at his side. Heero threaded the fingers of one hand through Duo's braid briefly, shifting against the mattress to better pull Duo in at his side. Duo stirred, his eyes opening slowly at Heero's movement, and he smiled faintly. "Finally got tired of that book, hmm?"

"Reading the same page repeatedly can get a trifle dull," Heero replied in the same quiet voice as always. "You should go back to sleep." A pause. Duo waited for it. "You look like hell."

There it was. He cracked a faint grin. "That's what Wufei said."

"He was right. As soon as we get out of here, you're going to go home and shave." Heero didn't seem interested in requesting.

One of Duo's eyebrows went up. "You mean scruff isn't my thing?" he shot back.

"Not by a long shot." Heero made a face. "It's poking my arm."

"Ah." Duo smirked. "Then for you, I'll get rid of the five o'clock shadow."

Heero shook his head. "That's not a five o'clock shadow."

"It's not?"

"No."

"Then what is it?"

"Dead rat."

Duo couldn't help himself. He laughed outright at that comment, head back against the pillow. "Geez, Heero, could you be a little more cruel to my poor bruised ego?"

Heero thought about it. "Probably." He smiled faintly, leaning his head back against the pillow. "But right now I'm tired. So stuff it so I can get some sleep."

Duo stared at him. Looked like Heero was already feeling better, he mused wryly. And then he laughed again. "All right, all right, I'll shut up. Just...get some rest, Heero." His eyes softened and he put his head down, content to simply be there at his lover's side. He reached over, twining their fingers together, and smiled, listening to Heero's heart beating. Heero's heart was beating. That knowledge made Duo's eyes sting again. After coming so painfully close to losing the thing he cared about more than anything in the world...let's just say he could definitely appreciate the simpler things in life. Like the sound of Heero's heartbeat. Or the way his breath had just started to even out as he fell deeper into sleep. Duo reared up onto his elbow and bent his head, pressing a light kiss to Heero's forehead. Thanking whatever gods might exist, he laid back down and pressed close in at Heero's side. Finally, the healing could begin, both body and soul. The mission was over.

Now they could live.