A/N: This fic was inspired by the song "One is the Loneliest Number". The title of chapters 1 and 2 are from the song and the third was made up to fit the same tempo. I just came to me so I wrote it.
Warnings: TWT, Heavy Angst!! Some OOC, but he's sick for gods' sakes! Heero-centric
Pairings: 1(2x5), 51, 21
Disclaimer: Not mine. If it were, GW would be rated NC-17 for hot boy boffing.
Days between missions were the most confusing times Heero Yuy ever spent. It had little meaning when he wasn't injured or Wing needed no repairs. Nights between missions were even worse. Nights with all four of the other boys were the most pleasant, as they usually slept in shifts and he didn't feel as obligated to watch them. When alone, the sounds of each new safe house kept him from sleep. These times were usually spent bunking out in Wing. Staying with one of the others was horrible. He constantly jumped at every sound, determined to protect his teammate. However, the worst of them all was being with either of the couples. It was nights like those that made him ache within his heart and wish to be anywhere else. Neither Maxwell and Chang, nor Winner and Barton, meant to exclude him from their happiness, but he still felt the pain of loneliness. It was his dirty secret.
This two weeks would be one of the last kind, and the worst of either choice. That was the reason he lay awake in his bed, staring up at the ceiling as he listened to the other two in the throws of passion. They had been quiet at first, but soon forgot the last of the three staying in their small cabin. Heero rolled himself onto his side, away from the sounds. He would have put his pillow over his head if he didn't fear ambush. A glance at the clock told him it was nearly one A.M. Heero sighed softly as he got up and quietly left his room. The sounds were quieter in the hall, but he kept on, going past the bathroom and the kitchen to the backdoor. Outside, he couldn't hear Maxwell and Chang's cries of ecstasy. Heero sat down on the back porch, looking up at the stars. Before him, they formed images in his mind. He saw Maxwell and Chang, could imagine what they looked like in their bedroom, could tell the love between them. His chest tightened painfully and he turned away, eyes shut tightly. He could imagine all this because he had seen it first hand a few times, accidentally. Their perfect unions were burned into his retinas.
Heero fisted a hand in his hair. He hated the pain he felt, his very damnation. It meant he was not perfect, that he was not yet good enough. The longing broke every law that governed him. He could not control this feeling while every other was under his careful guard, and it only got worse with every day. A glance of those violet eyes. The movement of muscle under dark skin. Joyous laughter. Beautiful philosophy. They bit and ripped at his flesh until he could barely stand to be alive.
It started so…innocently. Chang had pushed their competition so viciously, had shown so hard that he was just as good, just as important. He, himself, cared little for this at first but soon grew to need the competition just as badly, determined to strive just as hard. Then, Heero began to notice things about his rival. He could tell what the other was thinking merely by looking at his eyes. He began to recognize every expression the Chinese pilot displayed. He felt fear every time the other pilot went on a solo mission. Heero saw too late that his rivalry had turned into something much more complicated. Panicking, he resolved to forget the feelings and pushed them far back into his mind.
After Chang came Maxwell. Again, it was unexpected. The bubbly American annoyed him at first, always hugging him and joking, or playing pranks on the other pilots and him. They were paired often on missions and in safe houses. Heero got used to the other's casual touches and exuberant manner. After some time, he found he had grown fond of it all. The panic returned, this time with horror that he could feel the same thing twice, and Heero distanced himself once more.
He knew very little about these feelings, but he did know enough to know that what he was feeling was probably wrong. Wasn't a person only suppose to feel for one other? He was male; shouldn't he be attracted to a female? Had he gotten it wrong? Heero tried not to think about that, or about the strange feelings at all. Now, it was getting harder and harder to keep everything to himself. The others had each other to confide in. Even Barton, who spoke less than himself, could tell his soul to Winner if he wished. He could tell no one. Winner would listen, but only offer pity, something he truly did not want. He couldn't imagine talking to Barton would be much help, and telling Maxwell or Chang would only complicated all three of their lives. They would not wish to be near him and while being near caused pain in his heart, the thought of being away from them was excruciating.
And so, all this led to him sitting on that porch in the warm night air as he had for nights prior, after getting there. He was tired. Before arriving, he had spent forty-eight hours awake on a mission and hadn't slept for more than an hour at a time since. He had a day of rest after getting to the safe house before a short mission came in, which he completed and got back from on the same day. Still, he'd not slept that night nor the one after it. Now, the forth night, sleep seemed to finally come. His eyes burned with need to close and his body felt heavy with exhaustion. Heero got up and opened the door, only to shut it once more. They were still at it? Apparently, for the sounds were still reverberating through the house. The brunette boy sighed and sat back down, leaning his back against the house.
He was a bit surprised about himself then. He felt much more lethargic than he should have. Frowning, Heero raised an arm to his forehead, manually checking the temperature. The heat against his forearm had been there for two days now, despite his efforts to cool it, and seemed to be getting worse. He sighed softly and dropped his arm, letting his eyes fall closed. So, he was getting sick. The long week of sleeplessness and even longer missions must have weakened his powerful immune system.
He knew he should have gotten up and taken care of himself then, but he didn't have the energy to even stand again. His eyes refused to open again and his limbs were weighted down. It was warm enough out there not to worsen whatever cold he had caught. A short doze would be fine there. He had his gun with him and his senses would alert him to anything about. Yes…A nap was authorized. Heero let go of himself and surrendered to the darkness.
It was barely dawn when Wufei woke. He carefully disentangled himself from his lover and got out of bed. His clothes from before were thrown about the floor with Duo's. Wufei rolled his eyes at their antics and gathered the garments up into a pile in the corner. Then, he got dressed and started to leave the room to do his morning kata, but paused. His dark eyes flitted back to the form still on the bed, now wrapped about his pillow. Duo's form moved gently with each breath, a content look on his smooth face. His dark lashes fluttered for a moment, but settled again. Wufei felt his heart leap and quietly exited the bedroom.
His relationship with Duo wasn't exactly new, but it still surprised him. It seemed only yesterday that he pined for the other boy in silence. Instead, it had been many weeks since. The other pilots seemed fine with it. After all, Winner and Barton had been together since the beginning of the war and Yuy didn't seem to care about anything of the sort anyway.
A frown caught him as he thought of Yuy. The other boy hadn't looked well since they arrived. Dark rings under his eyes got bigger by the day and his tan didn't hide the paler tone of his skin. Yuy was ill and keeping quiet about it. Sick meant that his performance wasn't up to spec, which meant danger on a mission. He would have to speak to the other pilot about it.
Trying to push thoughts of the Wing pilot away, Wufei made his way into the kitchen to get a bottle of water from the fridge. It was stocked mainly with water bottles, though Duo had snuck in a few cans of soda that he hid in the back. The shelves had foodstuffs, all canned or dry. More of it was protein bars that tasted like cardboard but afforded most of the nutrients they needed. This, of course, was Yuy's doing. Wufei got his water and filed out the door. There was a clearing near the house that was perfect for his training. Something stopped him, a feeling of strangeness. Wufei frowned and began a search of the perimeter. Usually, he left this to Yuy but today he felt…off. He went around the border of the property slowly, but found nothing amiss. His frown deepening, Wufei began back to the house when he caught sight of something on the porch. A body lay there, curled and unmoving. Wufei approached it silently until he recognized the green and black ensemble.
"Yuy!" he hissed, dropping to his knees beside the other body. He grabbed his shoulder and pushed him onto his back, dismayed when he found no resistance. The Japanese boy's cheeks were flushed and a layer of sweat had formed on his skin. When his cobalt eyes rolled open, they were foggy and half there. Wufei felt his forehead and scowled at the heat rolling off the other teen. "Damn it, Yuy…"
"Wufei…?" Wufei was shocked by both the tone and the familiarity of his name. The other boy's voice was small and distant with a tone of vulnerability that Wufei didn't like in the least. He quickly gathered the other boy up and stood, stepping into the house. Yuy laid slack in his arms, not even bothering to keep his head up. This worried Wufei more than anything. He took the other boy into his room, carefully laying him done on the bed. Yuy was shivering, his eyes half open and even cloudier. Wufei couldn't help but wonder why the Japanese pilot had let himself get so bad.
'He may be reckless, but he's not completely suicidal,' he thought to himself as he covered the boy over with blankets. 'He hasn't been sleeping either…what's bothering him?'
Yuy watched him with cloudy eyes, his heavy lids dipping lower and lower over the cobalt depths. He looked so young then, so very, very vulnerable. Wufei left to get washcloths and bowl of water. On the way back, Duo poked his head out, fully dressed and awake.
"Ne, Wu-chan," he called cheerfully. "What's that for?"
"Yuy is ill," Wufei answered with a frown. Duo's eyes went wide.
"Heero?! Sick?! I figured that was impossible!!"
Wufei saw through the goofiness of his lover immediately. Duo was very worried. With the American in tow, Wufei returned to Yuy's bedroom, finding the other pilot barely awake. Duo stayed back, eyes impossibly wide and staring at a sight he'd never imagined. Ignoring his lover, the Chinese pilot sat down on the bed next to Yuy and carefully folded the cloth before soaking it. He squeezed most of the water out and laid it upon Yuy's forehead.
"01, status," Wufei murmured kindly. Yuy stared up at him almost sadly.
"Cold," came the quiet, childlike voice, so very different than the Japanese pilot's normally strong tone. "Aches...mind's fuzzy..."
"Any pain?" Wufei continued, using another cloth to dab at Yuy's cheeks and neck.
"Head," replied the other boy.
"Go to sleep," the Chinese pilot ordered. Yuy continued to stare at him, eyes half lidded. It truly scared Wufei just how far gone the other pilot was. He was barely conscious and so physically weak at that moment. It made him want to protect the other pilot, to soothe him from the stupor. Yuy closed his eyes and Wufei got up.
"Wufei..." It was no more than a whisper, but the Chinese pilot looked back. "Please stay?"
The ebony haired boy stood still for a long while before sitting back down on the bed and going back to cooling Yuy's fevered skin. The other boy slowly fell into a fitful sleep.
Fixing soup was not a hard job, but it wasn't an exciting one either. Duo watched the numbers count down and willed them to go faster. He wanted to go back to Heero and know that the other pilot was doing better. Seeing him so sickly in that bed scared Duo almost to death. In his mind, Heero was so strong, so untouchable. There was nothing Heero couldn't do. Well...nothing but feel.
Duo sighed softly and slumped in his chair. "I am not going to think about that..."
He didn't mind remembering when Heero had suddenly pushed them all away the first time. It had been sudden and no one could figure out why it had happened in the first place. But it wasn't painful. After all, it had been Duo who got back into the other pilot's good graces. He almost thought he'd become friends with the stoic boy, only to have Heero run from them all once again. That time was painful. It was no secret that Duo had fancied the other man. Duo had been so close to finding the other boy's heart. So very close...But he'd lost his chance. Something had screwed it all up, but he couldn't figure out what.
Duo would have fallen into sadness, had Wufei not come to him. Their relationship hadn't been quick, but each needed the closeness. Duo thanked every deity there was that Wufei loved him. The other boy's strength and kindness kept him going. It had been a rocky start, learning about each other and coming to love one another for both the good things and the faults. Duo wouldn't trade it for the world.
The microwave chimed. Duo pulled out the bowl of soup, careful not to burn his hands on the hot container. With slow, cautious steps, he brought the meal back to the bedroom. After a few hours of sleep, Heero was better, but still rather fuzzy. It was odd, listening to him talk with that quiet tone, like he'd forgotten to be such a hardass to them. It was...strangely endearing.
When Duo walked in, both Wufei and Heero looked towards him.
"Hi Duo," Heero mumbled almost happily. Duo felt a flush try to form at the familiarity. Heero rarely called them by their names before, but had been doing so since Wufei brought him inside.
"Chicken noodle okay with you?" Duo replied, setting the bowl on the bedside table before moving to sit on the other side of the pilot. Harry gazed up at him. The Japanese pilot's expression was strangely open, blue eyes shining through fog. Duo had never seen him this way.
"Heero was just telling me about a new anime he'd heard about," Wufei said, grabbing the spoon. Duo's eyes jerked up to stare at his lover. Wufei always referred to Heero as 'Yuy'. Always. He couldn't help but feel a pang of jealousy. Duo knew Wufei would never betray him... He was just used to being the only one he was that familiar with. Wufei caught the look but said nothing.
"What kind of anime?" Duo said, putting a grin on his face. He looked back at Heero and was surprised at the serious expression that now adorned the Japanese pilot's face.
"Don't hide," he said quietly.
Heero nodded, eyes falling half lidded. "You hurt a second ago.."
Duo was silent, staring at the pilot openly. Heero knew him that well? Wufei was just as surprised. However, after a moment, the Chinese pilot got up to help Heero sit, propping pillows behind him. Once Heero was situated, Wufei sat back down and took up the soup bowl. Heero ate in silence, eyes riveted on his food. It seemed to Duo that he realized he'd said something he shouldn't have. Duo wondered what else the other pilot would say during this. It intrigued him, what might lay behind the normally quiet pilot's mask. He wanted to know and now was the best time.
"How'd you know?" Duo asked, tilting his head. Heero put down the spoon and looked up at his face. Duo was again surprised to see something more swirling in those blue eyes. Intense sadness.
"Your eyes went dark," responded the pilot. Duo blinked. "They always turn dark blue when you're sad."
"My eyes change colors?" He turned to Wufei for confirmation and blinked again when he nodded. "Wow..."
"They get more purple when you're really happy," continued Heero sleepily. His eyelid were drooping. Wufei carefully withdrew the bowl and spoon, and lowered Heero back down to lay. "They're purple a lot...now that you're...with Wufei..."
Duo watched as sleep claimed the blue eyed pilot finally. Neither he, nor Wufei said anything until they'd left the room and were safely in their own.
"Are my eyes that noticeable!?" Duo cried as soon as the door shut. Wufei raised a brow.
"Not really. The change isn't much. I doubt even Winner noticed."
"Then how the hell did he?!"
"Heero is very observant."
Duo threw himself eagle spread on the bed. "...You called him Heero."
"He asked," Wufei responded, sitting next to his lover. "While you were making the soup."
"What else did he say?" Duo asked curiously, propping himself up.
"Random things, mostly. His favorite color is yellow, by the way." The Chinese boy blew a stray strand of hair from his face. It was coming undone from the ponytail. "He mentioned that he enjoyed this safe house as well. He likes all of the green things, apparently."
"That's a shocker," Duo said truthfully. "You'd think a guy like that wouldn't be able to stand it..."
"Heero has a great love of life, Duo," Wufei retorted. "Not of his own, but of life itself."
Duo sighed and dropped back onto the bed, staring at the ceiling. "He looks so strange."
"I know...I've never seen him so open..." Wufei laid down beside the plaited pilot and reached out, idly stroking down the side of his face. Looking intently, Wufei watched the subtle change in the other's eyes. Blue to purple. So very little, so very unnoticeable, yet Heero had. Easily. That made Wufei wonder if the other pilot was as unfeeling as he tried to make them all think.
That night, Heero's fever skyrocketed. The clarity he'd gained that day was completely gone to the point that he could barely speak. Even breathing was a chore for him. Wufei and Duo sat with him, each feeling helpless as they dabbed away the other pilot's sweat and murmured soothing words to him. Neither had more than the basic medical training, and that was more for injuries than sickness.
"If the fever gets any higher, he could be in danger of brain damage," Wufei growled after taking Heero's temperature again. "Duo, fill the tub with warm water."
"If it's cold, we could send him into shock."
Duo disappeared into the bathroom while Wufei carefully extracted Heero from the covers. His tank top was soaked with sweat and clung tight to his skin when Wufei tried to remove it. Heero helped as much as he could, but his movements were slow and weak. The green fabric was finally wrestled off his body and thrown onto the floor. Wufei lifted Heero's shivering body into his arms and moved to the bathroom. Duo had just turned off the water when he came in. Stepping around him, the Chinese boy slowly went to his knees and laid Heero into the tub. The other Asian hissed at the liquid, his pitiful blue eyes opening partially.
"Cold," he whispered. "It's cold..."
"It's not cold," Duo said in a quiet, comforting voice, taking up a washcloth to dab the other's face. "Your body's just really warm right now."
Heero's eyes stared up at him with such trust that it amazed the American. Lip trembling and gaze hazy, the vulnerable pilot nodded and closed his eyes, trying to get used to the temperature around him.
"Arigato, Duo," murmured the boy. Duo brushed his soaked bangs away from his face.
"Anything, Heero," he replied. The blue eyes opened once more and stared at him in tired confusion.
"How can you stand me?" said a small, whispered voice of brokenness. Duo blinked at him.
"You're my best friend," he replied.
Heero gazed at him cloudily. "You're too nice...I'm...never kind to you..."
"It's okay, I understand," soothed Duo. Inwardly, he was marveling at the openness of the other pilot. Behind him, Wufei was as well.
"Duo, I..." Heero's eyelids drooped. He was going to fall asleep again. "I loved you, you know...but I'm happy...that you're happy now..."
The American stared at him in stunned silence. Heero watched him sadly before his eyes fell closed.
"I'm sorry...I never meant to tell," he whispered, voice trailing off into oblivion. Duo sat very still, eyes wide and body tense. Wufei slowly dropped his arms around him and hugged him close, head resting on the boy's chin.
Wufei sighed softly and tightened his arms as the braided boy collapsed back against him.
"Fei, he loved me....he LOVED me..." Duo's shoulders began to shake. "Fei, that means...that means...What the hell does that mean?!"
The Chinese pilot turned his lover about and hugged the boy close, rubbing his back and hair. His eyes were tightly shut, but his voice was soft and calm as it murmured comforts. Duo clung to him tightly, desperately needing the anchor. They took comfort in each other, in the bond that had formed between them.
They didn't leave him the rest of the night. The fever broke in the wee hours of the morn and Heero was put back to bed.
Morning sunshine pricked at Duo's eyelids. Groaning, he turned his back to the light and snuggled against his pillow. Wufei must have gotten up early again... After a few minutes, Duo decided it wasn't a battle worth fighting. His violet eyes slowly opened and took in the scene before him. Wufei had fallen asleep in a chair, his head resting on his folded arms on the bed. Duo wondered why the other pilot hadn't climbed in after him. There was space enough between them. Wait...this wasn't their room... At once, the American pilot remembered the night and he shot up, looking around. Heero was gone.
"Wufei!" cried Duo, shaking his lover awake. "Heero's not here!!"
Wufei snapped awake and the two ran out of the bedroom. They searched the safe house diligently, Duo's calls for his friend ringing through the house. He was about to dash outside when the kitchen door opened and Heero stepped through. He still looked a little pale, but the hazy look in his eyes was gone and he was back to cold indifference. He gave Duo's rushed appearance a glance but otherwise looked unsurprised.
"What it is, Maxwell?" he grated out, frowning lightly. Duo almost winced at the return to his surname. He should have guessed...But it had felt so good, having Heero call him 'Duo,' being close instead of pushing him away. It hurt to be denied that.
"We woke up and you were missing," replied Wufei as he stepped into the quickly crowding kitchen. Heero gave him a blank look before shrugging his shoulders.
"I had to do a perimeter check," he said. Wufei sighed a little. Leave it to Heero to be worried about safety while he was on the mend.
"You should be in bed, Heero," the Chinese boy said sternly as he folded his arms. Heero blinked a bit, surprised by something. Wufei arched a brow. Beside him, Duo tried his hardest to not giggle at the absurd picture his lover and best friend were making. "Bed. Now."
Heero had to ruin it by giving the both of them one of his best death glares. "I am fine and shall do as I please, Chang."
Wufei gave him a surprised look before Heero ducked back out the kitchen door. Duo and Wufei glanced at one another.
"...Suppose he was delirious last night?"
"That seems rather obvious, Duo."
"Then it stands to reason that he doesn't remember it..."
"Or he does and would prefer to forget about it. He did profess his love for you, after all."
"And Heero Yuy isn't suppose to feel."
They sat at the kitchen table in silence.
Near the safe house, there was a little pond surrounded by all sorts of water loving plants and constantly in lively motion by the animals living within it. The water was a constant ripple of bugs, frogs, and small fish, all living in perfect balance with one another. The canopy of green leaves kept it well shaded and cool. The pond was a comfortable place to get away from everything. Which was precisely why one Heero Yuy was found sitting beside it. His dark stare went through the water, watching the little lives go about their business.
Chang had called him 'Heero'. For years, the only one to do that was Maxwell. The rest kept to the respectful surnames. His thoughts turned to Maxwell. Those vibrant eyes had gone blue when he called him by his surname. Had something happened? Heero tried to remember the night before, but it was all hazy in his mind. Random images that told nothing, a few words out of sequence. Something had changed and he couldn't remember it. Heero got up and began to pace, going over the things he could remember. He'd had a fever, that was certain. At some point, Change and Maxwell had had to cool his temperature with a bath. That...was about all he knew. He pondered questioning the two about it, but decided not to.
Heero couldn't afford to let himself fail in hiding his feelings for the two. If something happened, he would blame it on delirium. That would fit. He hadn't ruined everything he'd worked for. His hands moved to fist his brunette hair. No, he can't have ruined it all... The wall was still there. He was still separated from the two he...felt strongly for. If he could just win this war, he could either die at the end, finally...or he would disappear and never interact with them again. It was best for all three of them.
Survive until they won. Heero closed his eyes and felt himself calm. He carefully locked away his doubts and insecurities. They were useless to him. When he had successfully purged himself, Heero set off back for the house.
A/N: Tally ho, and all that..Hn. I think this will be the first fanfic I've ever written without an original character...hm...