"Duo, sit down."

My head whips up, and my eyes meet Wufei's. "What?"

He sighs. "Sit down and stop pacing. It's not helping, and you're just wearing yourself out."

"I suppose you're right." Sighing, I sink into a chair, just to stand and begin pacing again five minutes later. Behind me, I hear Wufei sigh, but he remains silent this time.

My eyes drift to the clock. 1:30. We've done all we can, planned all we could, and now...now all we can do is wait. Heero's on the roof with a pair of binoculars, watching, Quatre and Trowa are...somewhere, and Wufei and I are in the living room--him trying to read, and me pacing like a nervous cat.

The silence is wearing.

"'Fei?" I say, thinking that I can at least draw the guy into a little casual conversation, help lessen the nerves somewhat.

He immediately stiffens. "Do *not* call me that, Maxwell," he hisses.

I plop down on the sofa. "You know, I always wondered why that bothered you more than 'Wu' or any addition to that nickname. Can you tell me?"


I bat my eyes. "Please? We might die soon...."

He looks at me, and his demeanor changes. I didn't realize that I was *that* tense.... "If I tell you, you promise it won't leave this room?"

I nod. "I promise."

Wufei sighs. "Well...do you know any Chinese?"

"Not much."

"Well...there are several translations for 'fei.' The one that is in my name-when written in characters, not romanized letters, translates as," he blushes, "'imperial concubine.'" [1]

My jaw drops. "Well...that would explain a lot, wouldn't it?" I grin. "But don't expect me to stop calling you that. I won't tell anyone else, but I retain my right to call you as many annoying nicknames as possible!"

Wufei sighs. "Maxwell...." He pauses. "I give up. As long as I have your word that you will *never* reveal what I told you."

"Scout's honor!" I say, holding up my hand, smiling. Our moment of levity was interrupted by Heero.

"Where's Trowa and Quatre?" he asks without preamble. Before we can respond, they walk in.

"What's up?" asks Trowa. But...I can see in his eyes that he knows. I think we all know.

Heero's eyes are flat and cold-the 'mission' look. "It's time."

I swallow. "Then let's go."


It's terrible...a living nightmare.

And I've lived this one before.

Fate is a real bitch sometimes-even when you think you've taken every variable into account, there's always one you missed. We plan for a surprise attack-they have larger forces. I'd ask someone to shoot me, but there are too many people here all too willing to do just that.

"Duo! Behind you!" I hear someone shout, and I whirl in time to shoot the bastard before he can shoot me.

"Thanks," say, finding myself next to Quatre, who had shouted me the warning."

"Hey, what happened to that whole 'harm none' thing?" Quatre asks, as we move in back-to-back and begin shooting.

"There's a proviso to that," I respond over the hail of gunfire. " 'Harm none, except in defense of yourself or others [2].'" I tilt my head, indicating the battle raging around us. "This looks like someone trying to harm me and mine to me."

Gradually, we manage to fight our way into an easily defensible corner. A quick look around shows that Trowa and Wufei have managed to do the same thing, while Heero.... "He's going to get himself killed," I murmur.

Quatre gives me an odd look, but doesn't comment. "Are those protection spells working at *all*?" he asks me instead.

"Of course." I gesture to the soldiers who are within my boundaries. They're stumbling a little, looking disoriented and a little in pain from things other than gunshot wounds. "All I could be able to do was throw them off some. But a moment of disorientation may be all we need when it comes down to it."

Trowa makes his way over to us. "You all right?" he asks, mainly focusing on his love."

"We're fine," Quatre assures him. "You?"

"Flesh wounds-nothing serious." Trowa shrugs, and pauses to fire off another round. "But look-the tide is turning."

He's right. We're defeating more soldiers, and they're becoming less accurate the closer they come. I smile grimly. "It's not over, though."

"No-are you *sure* you can't create giant fireballs?" Trowa asks, trying to make it seem like he's joking-but I can tell he's serious.

"I wish." A muted shout catches my ears, and I turn just in time to see Heero collapse-shot in the leg. "Heero!" I cry out, all instincts propelling me to rush to defend my love.

"Duo-" Quatre catches at my sleeve, but I brush him off, jamming my last clip into my gun. Heero's up again, but-that wound has him now at a disadvantage. A weak spot-and weak spots can be exploited.

I'm not as stupid as to go running straight out into the middle of a firefight, though. I work my way over to him, keeping to cover wherever possible, and darting quickly wherever I can't. I can hear Trowa laying cover fire, and I offer up silent thanks.

I'm just about too Heero, when I see something I don't want to. I have to force myself from closing my eyes to block out the sight, and one Sight replaces another, as I am greeted with something straight out of that nightmare vision.

I had thought we were safe. The danger signs I had seen for the others had come and gone, and everyone was still alive-a bit battered and bloody, perhaps, but alive. Foolish me-I thought we were safe.

But Heero...Heero shooting those in front of him, those he catches in his side vision, but...the downfall of the Perfect Solider-he is so focused, he doesn't see the danger behind him. A lone Oz solider-raising his gun. All I can see is Heero-him now, in my mind's eye, holding him, making love with him, his small smiles just for me, the Sight I saw as the bullet tears through his head....

My decision is made. "Goddess protect me," I whisper, grasping my pentacle. "Heero!" I cry, launching myself at him.

Have you ever felt like something is happening in slow motion, like it does in the movies? That's what this moment is like. I can see Heero turn, just as the Ozzie pulls the trigger, I reach him, throw myself into him....

A streak of red rushes through my vision and I scream as I feel the bullet penetrate my flesh. I see Heero's eyes narrow in rage as he gazes at my form as I fall to the ground. I wish I could remove my spirit from my body, but I only have time to send a quick prayer to the Morrigan [3] before everything goes black.


I open my eyes slowly, fully expecting to find myself on the other side, but instead find aqua eyes meeting my blurry gaze. "Praise Allah," I hear a voice whisper, then the eyes leave my range of vision. The same voice then shouts, "He's awake!"

'Quatre,' my mind supplies, putting a name to the eyes and voice, and as soon as I do that, memory returns. A fight, Oz soldiers, Heero.... 'Guess I survived...but....' Suddenly feeling frantic, I try to raise myself up from wherever I'm lying, but a pair of hands forces me gently back down.

"Easy...you'll hurt yourself again-or worse," a quiet voice tells me. 'Trowa.' My mind is becoming less and less fuzzy.

I lick my lips, trying to moisten them. "W' happ'nd?" I mutter.

A glass of water is raised to my lips, and I sip slowly. "You were shot," Trowa informs me, drawing the glass away.

I find I have a voice again. "Duh, but I mean...the fight...what happened?" I'm propped up, and I look around the room. Trowa's with me, and I saw Quatre, but what about Wufei, and.... "Heero?" I look around frantically. No...he can't be....

Quatre appears in the doorway, flanked by Wufei, and-"Heero!" I cry-well, express as loudly and joyfully as I can, which, in my condition, isn't much.

He comes over and takes Trowa's place on the bed beside me. "Baka," he says, but I can see the worry and relief in his eyes as he takes my hand in his.

"Love you too," I retort quietly, causing him to smirk a little. I clear my throat and speaking at bit louder so everyone can hear me, I ask again, "What happened with the fight?"

"You saved our lives," Wufei says from where he is leaning on the doorjamb. "After we finished killing the Oz soldiers, Heero found a message from the scientists. Oz had managed to hack our systems, and thus were able to locate us. If it hadn't been for your...unorthodox warning, we would most likely be dead by now."

Quatre smiles. "After you were shot, I...I've never seen Heero so angry. He just...stood over you, shooting with a deadly calm and accuracy I've never seen. And you were so still, we...." He blinks back tears. "We thought you were dead-dead trying to defend those you had doubted you. I think we *all* fought harder because of that." Trowa and Wufei nod their agreement.

I look at Heero. "You...you did that?" I ask, incredulous.

"They hurt the one I love," he says. It was said flatly, blandly...but I can hear the emotion behind the words-and what it cost him to say them out loud. "I...had to protect you."

I raise his hand to my lips, kissing it gently. I'm about to say something, but something else penetrates. "But-if our safehouse was found...where are we now?"

"A new safehouse," Quatre replies. "After we finished fighting, we gathered as much stuff as we could-and you-and fled to a new location. We've moved one more time since then, to here."

I blink. "Just how long have I been out of it anyway?"

"Ten days," Heero whispers, and this time the pain is evident. "We...we were wondering if you were ever going to wake up. You...you were shot in the neck...it almost killed you, almost paralyzed you."

I grip his hand as tightly as I can. "But it didn't," I whisper fervently. Out of the corner of my eye I see the other three making a discreet exit, but I shove that to the back of my mind, focusing on Heero. "They were going to *kill* you-I couldn't watch that, not again."

He doesn't need to ask what I mean by that. "Baka," he hisses again. "You could've been killed...and I would've lost my life still."

"Your...life?" I can't hope...I won't let myself....

"Hai...you *are* my life, Duo. A-aishiteru...I love you...I don't know...what I'd be without you...."

I raise a finger to his lips, silencing him. "Shhh...I know. I love you too, and I *know* what would happen to me without you. Why do you think I risked everything to *save* you?"

Heero lies down next to me, wrapping me gingerly in his arms, like I'm made of fragile porcelain. We lie there in silence, until Heero breaks it. "Duo," he says, brushing a lock of hair from my face so his eyes can meet mine. "I want to be with you...forever."

My breath catches in my throat. So many dreams coming true.... "Then...then would you be willing to handfast with me, to join your life, destiny, and soul with me? Would you be willing to be mine for this lifetime [4]?"

"Only if you will be mine." Heero's lips brush my forehead.

"Heero...I've *always* been yours."

Our lips meet in a gentle, yet deep kiss, and I discover a new magick, a magick that I now realize has been fueling me in it's hopeful form, a magick that is now fully realized. The magick of love.

I'm glad I didn't See this in the fire that day, or any other. I used to wish that I *knew* how Heero felt for me, but now...now I wouldn't give up the surprise and passion for anything.

I may have risked everything when I revealed my vision and my Wicca ties, but...I've gained so much....

As our kiss deepens, I give into the sensations and stop thinking, giving in to the fire now burning in my soul...a new eternal flame.


[1] *Many* thanks to my friend Theresa for this little tidbit :) The things you discover from your friends at mealtimes.... And we're not kidding, too. There are about six translations for 'fei,' and one of them *is* 'imperial concubine.' We both found this *very* amusing :-p I have no idea if this is the official translation used (probably not), but...well...it's cute :-p Thanks, Theresa, and I hope you don't mind my using this-I needed a humorous moment before the heavy stuff :)

[2] If you remember, the original statement was, 'Do as ye will, an' ye shall do no harm.' Just a quick clarification-harm means hurting someone intentionally, or thoughtlessly by not considering all potential consequences. However, if someone is trying to harm you, or another innocent, then you are allowed, and even encouraged to fight back. The ancient Celtic priestess often would kill a man who would attempt to rape them-this was a theme that was employed by the Rennunicates in Marion Zimmer Bradely's Darkover novels, among other books. Basically, in many ways, Wicca is a religion of empowerment-and allowing yourself to be a meek victim is not exactly empowerment. I hope this makes some sense to y'all (sorry-my Southern blood coming through :-p).

[3] The Morrigan is a (I say 'a' because there are a few) Celtic goddess of death, wrath and vengeance. She's also called the 'war hag.' I chose this for two reasons-one, the connection to the whole 'God of Death' thing Duo has, and two, because, well, the Morrigan is a vengeful bitch :-p Either you'll have the strength take the bastard who hurt you to the other side with you, or can get up and kill their sorry ass :) And I have feeling that Duo would be feeling a touch vindictive right now :-p

[4] This is a formula that is used by many Wiccans I know when asking their loved one to handfast-i.e. marry-with them. I use 'this lifetime' because there are some people who feel that the concept of being mated to one soul throughout all lifetimes a bit confining. And besides, even those Wiccan who *do* believe in the soulmate connection often feel that it is unfair to lock someone into a promise that they might not be able to keep for various reasons, like if both souls don't incarnate at the same time, or one of the two happens to die in a lifetime before the other does. Since I feel that Duo would take *any* vow made seriously-as would most Wiccans-that's why I had him say this.


The End

Well, it's been a long trip, but it's over! I'd like to thank everyone once again for your encouragement and wonderful feedback during this whole process. Hope you enjoyed it :)