"You always felt like suede"


Heero stood next to Une at the glass wall of the hospital. He faced away where she looked through the glass to the small cot beyond. He leaned against the safety glass and crossed his arms. "There's your new mission, Heero." She said looking into the small hospital ward, it had been cordoned off with screens that made the bed seem bigger, it also served to make the bed's inhabitant seem a lot smaller. The bed was an ocean that the figure drowned in. All that really showed was the sparkling white bandages around his wrists.

"If you had a sense of humour I'd ask if you were kidding." He answered her.

Her long brown hair was down and her voice was a soft whisper. She placed her fingers against the glass. "Then you know I don't joke, especially about things like this. This is a very delicate situation, Heero Yuy," she enunciated the name carefully, "and it must be managed delicately. You are among my best agents, and I trust that you will deal with it, properly." She turned to look at him. "I ask very little of you for this." Then she turned her eyes back to the figure that seemed so tiny on the very huge bed.

"Why me?" He asked. This was not the kind of mission he understood. Some things were uncomfortable and although he welcomed the change from being Relena Peacecraft's private bodyguard duty he wasn't sure he wanted to take this mission.

It was his turn to look at the sedated figure on the bed. The boy, and it was a boy, no older than seventeen, lay on his back with the sheet pulled up to his armpits but his arms laid out on them with the bandages like gauntlets over his wrists. His hair was a snake alongside him on the sheets, and his eyes were closed. He looked drained and not at all peaceful. There was an IV running from his arm into a drip that was the dark black red of blood. The boy could cope on his own, he didn't need a bodyguard. He knew that well enough.

"Because he trusts you." Une answered. "We found him this morning, in one of the stock rooms, hidden behind a pile of parts, gas tanks to be precise. Dr Po thinks that had we waited half an hour longer that he might have bled out." Her eyes moved to the IV and then back to the boy. "Normally we would put him on suicide watch, but this is not normal, is it, Heero?" Although her hair was down and her voice was soft there was no doubt which Lady Une he was talking to. "There would be great problems if word of this leaked to the press."

"And you want me to what?" Heero asked.

"Watch him, make sure that he doesn't hurt himself. Be his friend." Une smiled at the sleeping boy. "He needs someone that will never leave him, that's your mission, don't leave him."

"What makes you think that I won't fail this mission?"

Une smiled as if he had cracked a very funny joke. "You won't fail, Heero, you won't let yourself."


Duo woke slowly and carefully, a task that was made more difficult by the terrible languor in his bones. He felt like he was in heavy G. he could feel the strangeness of heavy medication that he couldn't fight off, suggesting it had been in his blood stream for several hours. Looking around his cubicle at the hospital he became aware of several things at once, foremost of these was a dark head resting on a pillowed pair of arms. It was something that he had never expected to see.

It was Heero, he raised his head to stare at Duo through his dark brown bangs. His eyes were accusative. "Baka." He said firmly with absolutely no tenderness.

"I missed you too." Duo answered calmly without a hint of his obvious sarcasm in his tone, though his expression was wry well beyond his years. "Why are you here?"

"Because." He answered sharply, he didn't look at the bandages on Duo's wrists or even at the IV that steadily fed into his arm, he avoided all traces of the injury and looked into his eyes. He had forgotten their colour, he had forgotten so much about him. They were almost the colour of lavenders, and the blue veins that traced under his pale skin.

"That's not an answer, Heero." Duo chided.

"Why did you do it?" Heero answered him with a question.

"Because." Duo answered.

"Then we're even." Heero said sitting up and stretching his back, "when you tell me why so will I."

He took Duo home that day, he brought him a long sleeved hooded sweater, and tucked his braid down his back and helped him with his jeans. Heero wore a pair of wide legged trousers that ended at mid-calf and his yellow trainers that he had worn through the war, and a baseball cap whose shadow hid his eyes. There was a dignitary in the hospital and the press were thick about the door.

They walked out with their eyes down, making sure that the bandages on Duo's wrists were covered by the dark sweater and that no one caught their eyes. He opened the door to the car and made sure that Duo got in before sitting at the driver's seat and then reaching over and belting Duo in. "Come on, Heero." Duo protested tugging at the belt but not undoing it.

Heero ignored him and fastened his own seat belt before starting the car.

He drove not to Duo's small house but his own large apartment. It was a second floor apartment that looked over a park, but he knew how his home worked and had the vision of Duo's house to be incredibly cluttered and messy. "This isn't mine." Duo said looking up at the Georgian fronted house in Brussels where Heero lived. "I live no where near here."

"This is mine." Heero said parking the car, "You're staying with me."

Duo unbelted himself and turned around to look at Heero, "Look, I can look after myself, Heero, I don't need you to abduct me."

"Baka." Heero answered, getting out of the car, "we can pick up some of your things later, the doctor says that it's either stay with me or be committed."

Duo lowered his fabulous eyes for a moment then conceded. "Don't ask me why." He said finally, "just don't ask me."

"Then we're even," Heero answered opening the door for Duo, "there's lots of questions I don't want to answer either."

The apartment was spacious and sparsely decorated, the walls were painted a dull off white that complemented perfectly with the pine that dominated the room. There was a small open plan kitchen that was bridged by a glass dining table.

There was a series of small sash windows along one wall, and they were mirrored by artful photographs of space battles that had been taken from a distance and gave the overall feel of an expressionist piece of bright colours exploding over inky blackness. They suited the room perfectly.

There was a wicker couch in the centre of the room with a paperback novel open on it, it looked almost lived in. Behind it was a huge bookcase that was stuffed full of books, they were dog eared and for the most part second hand, with a low moan of surprise Duo moved towards it, running his fingers over the cracked spines, all these books were antique and well loved, in several languages. Each shelf was stuffed with books stood vertical and then horizontal on top until there was no more room for more. "I had no idea." Duo whispered, reading some of the titles, "you really do read anything don't you, it's not often you see Edgar Allen Poe next to Now We Are Six."

"Help yourself." Heero said lifting the kettle and carrying it across the small kitchen to the faucet. "I've read them all, there are more in the spare bedroom."

Duo gave a low whistle. "I think I will," he said with a small smile that never reached his eyes. "Thank you."

As the kettle boiled on the stove he lifted down two small tea cups, "I have no coffee in at the moment, so you'll have to make do with tea. It's probably better for you at the moment anyway." Heero said measuring the tea into the pot, "the bathroom's through there and the spare bedroom," he gestured to the door, "you can't miss it, it's the one on the left of the bathroom with the huge bookcase."

"Heero," Duo said, "look, I'm fine now, really, you don't have to go to any bother."

Heero poured the boiling water into the tea pot with a weary sigh. "Unless you want to stay in the hospital for another couple of days, I have to." He answered. "Now you are my guest, do guest things and stop refusing my hospitality."

Duo looked at him for a moment and then a slow smile crossed his face, it was almost a smirk. "Yes, sir." He said trying not to laugh. "Only you, Heero, could make enjoying yourself an order."

Heero came in with two cups of green tea and offered one to Duo thanked him. He sat down on the surprisingly comfortable sofa and looked across at Heero, where his sleeves had slid down his arms the white bandages on his wrists were clear but Heero managed to completely ignore them. It was a reassuring gesture. "Make yourself at home, you don't have to sit at attention."

Duo's shoulders noticeably lowered, the tea was hot and slightly sweet, smelling of jasmine that swirled around his face in a perfumed cloud. "I didn't…" He began but there were no other words.

Heero's smile was a little wan and surprised. "I'm your friend, aren't I?" He asked. "We are partners, are we not?"

A single tear escaped Duo's left eye and he swallowed uncomfortably. He wiped it away quickly and then emptied his cup. "Thank you."

Heero was made uncomfortable by the show of emotion, even though the doctor had suggested it as a possibility, that Duo would be tired and his emotions would boil over for a little while, after all he had nearly died, and so Heero ignored the tear and offered him a tray of biscuits instead. Duo, unsure of how to react, took one of the offered biscuits. In his place he would have offered Heero comfort, possibly wrapped his arms about him and held him through the wracking sobs that would have followed. Instead he took a tiny bite of the biscuit and found it spicy sweet. He splutter-coughed as he realised that Heero had made these biscuits and the image of the perfect soldier baking brought a smile to his face. The image of the most feared terrorist of the war stood in a kitchen with flour in his hair, in a frilly pink apron that said kiss the cook with icing on his nose amused him no end and before he realised what was happening he was laughing, hard, holding his sides.

"Baka." Heero said, but rather than the killing glare he normally graced them with it was softened to a maiming glare, for Heero it was almost fond. "Watch out for your stitches."

Duo was still laughing as he tugged his sleeves down over his wrists.