Hiya!

I'm back with another chapter: Chapter 4 - Fire and Light

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3 days later...

True to her word, Relena delivered Wing Zero rather promptly. Quatre had a space set up for Heero's gundam to reside until Duo could bring himself to destroy it. Much to everyone's suprise Duo came out to meet the convoy and oversee the placement of Wing Zero. Afterwards, Duo stood outside staring up at it, almost as if just being near Wing Zero could bring him nearer to Heero.

Or at least, that's what Quatre thought. He had watched from the sidelines, letting Duo do as he pleased, just grateful that the American was actually out of his room. He hadn't left it since Relena's visit. But, he was still eating and talking, so Trowa told him to calm down and relax.

"Otherwise, you risk pushing Duo back into his shell. He'll be fine. He's just hurting still."

"I know," said Quatre. "This probably isn't helping anything either. I should be doing this and letting Duo rest. I'm just worried about him, Trowa!"

Trowa pulled the young Arabian back against him, wrapping his arms around Quatre's shoulders.

"Shhhh, mi amore."

Trowa rested his head atop Quatre's as the young man relaxed, leaning back against him. Trowa smiled lightly.

"I know you're just trying to help him, but Duo needs to do this. Yes, it's going to hurt him, but he isn't going to really heal until this is done. The best thing we can do is stay out of his way but be here if he needs us."

Quatre sighed but nodded in agreement.

"I know. It just hurts though, to look at him I mean. To know how much he's hurting..."

His hands came up to hold onto Trowa's arms. He continued quieter.

"I mean, I can't imagine what I'd do if I lost you. I'd die. I feel so bad for Duo, and yet, I can't help thinking how glad I am that it wasn't you."

Quatre hung his head in shame. Trowa turned his young lover in his arms to face him and lifted his chin gently.

"It's o.k.,Quatre. I know. I'm glad it wasn't you, too."

He placed a soft kiss on Quatre's lips before pulling him tighter in his embrace. Trowa didn't want to say it aloud, he didn't want to further upset Quatre, but he was uneasy. Although Duo was still doing better, he had the bad feeling that Duo was still contemplating something...drastic.

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Duo stood at the foot of Wing Zero, oblivious to his audience. Heero, however was looking at the Arabian and European with a mix of joy and sadness. He had never realized how blessed he was to have such great friends. He had never told them that either.

'And now I'll never get to,' he thought.

Heero shook his head in disgust. He had wasted so much time!

"There's another thing I'd add to my 'Gotta do that' list, IF I could."

Duo chose that moment to interupt his reverie by climbing up Wing Zero.

"What are you doing, Duo?"

Heero rolled his eyes as Duo just kept climbing. He couldn't hear Heero.

"Of course he isn't going to answer you, Yuy. He only hears you when he's asleep." 'Not that he hears you very well then either.'

With that Heero started to climb up after the American. Duo didn't stop until he was at the entry hatch. Then he popped it open and ducked inside. What worried Heero was when the hatch closed and he heard the start up sequence begin. And although he hated the way he could pass right through things, Heero had no choice if he wanted to follow Duo.

He phased right through the hatch and into the cockpit. Considering how little room was left for a passanger, Heero started seeing the usefulness of his transparent state. Duo was sitting in the pilot's seat, going through all the start up sequences, with an oddly calm look on his face. Heero watched Duo as he flew through the start up like he had thousands of times before in his own Gundam. It was unreal to see someone else in HIS Gundam. Heero wasn't sure if he'd handle it so well if it were anyone but Duo. As all the panels started showing green, Duo checked them once again, took the controls and lifted off. Originally Heero thought Duo was just going to sit up here or maybe take Wing Zero for a joy ride, but now he wasn't so sure.

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"What the..."

Trowa's quiet comment was drown out by the starting engines. He had seen Duo climbing up Wing Zero but he didn't think that the American was actually going anywhere.

"What's happening, Trowa?"

Quatre pulled away from the European to turn and look at the Gundam. The engines came to full blown life just then and you could almost see Wing Zero taking it's first 'breath' in over a month.

"WHAT!"

Quatre watched as Duo lifted Wing Zero up and took off.

"What IS he doing!"

And then he ran back into the house. Trowa sighed.

"So much for keeping calm."

When Trowa caught up to Quatre he was trying to raise Duo on the radio.

"Duo. Duo, this is Quatre. Come in...Come in, Duo. Come in..."

Quatra looked up at Trowa, obviously worried.

"He's not answering, Trowa!"

"What's going on? Who's taking off in Wing Zero?''

Wufei asked as he entered the room that acted as Mission Control at the Winner Estate.

"Duo! He's taken off in Wing Zero and he won't answer me on the comm!"

Quatre answered him, rather excitedly.

"Trowa, calm down Quatre. Keep trying to raise Duo and I'll get Nataku ready to lift off."

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Duo was listening to the other three pilots over the open channel.

"No."

Quatre's worried voice came back to him immedeately.

"Duo! Duo, what's going on? Where are you going?"

Duo's answer did nothing to assuage the young Arabian's fears.

"To do what I said I was: I'm going to destroy Wing Zero."

Heero flinched when he actually heard those words come out of Duo's mouth. Even knowing it was coming did nothing to help the sting. But Heero knew this was different. Duo was on a mission and Heero knew all about completing missions.

"Duo. This is Trowa. Are you o.k.?"

"Yeah, I'm fine, Trowa. Sounds like Quatre isn't doing so hot though. Maybe you should be more worried about him."

"Well, he's just a little worried about you at the moment. Something about you taking off without telling us anything."

"Yeah, well...I just figured I'd get it over with, you know."

Then in a smaller voice..."Standing there, looking up at Wing Zero, it was like I was waiting for Heero to climb out of the cockpit and flash that bare twitch of the lips that passed for a smile and I'd know everything was alright. And the longer I stood there, the more it sank in that he was really gone. I can't deny it any longer. And the longer I put off destroying Wing Zero, the longer I torture myself, and everyone else."

Quatre's voice came back,

"So, where do we need to pick you up?"

Duo didn't answer.

"Duo, damn it! Answer me!"

"Stop screaming, Quatre. I can hear you just fine."

"Then answer me! Where do we pick you up?"

"You're not coming back, are you, Duo?"

Trowa's voice came over the comm, much calmer than Duo had expected.

"Trowa...I'm glad you understand. Somehow I knew you would. I want you to listen to me very carefully, because I'm only going to say this once. I have always looked on our exploits as fond memories to be held deep inside and drawn on to give me strength when I needed it most. A guy couldn't find better comrades anywhere in the galaxy. And I will always hold the memories of all of us together deep in my heart. We all lost everything that mattered to us to war, and we found everything that we needed in each other. We became our own family. We always knew that no matter what happened we could trust each other. We could always rely on each other to be there when we needed it most."

Duo sighed, taking a breath.

"Duo, please don't do this. Please..."

Duo smiled sadly.

"Oh, Quatre. I have to. Listen to me, Quatre. I appreciate everything you've done for me, before and now. But I can't live like this anymore. The whole mansion is like a waking nightmare with a silver lining for me. Everywhere I go I am reminded of better times, with all of us there. ALL of us, Quatre. ALL. It's not like that anymore. Heero's gone and I can't just sit there watching you and Trowa and not think of Heero! I don't want you to feel bad. I know you don't mean to hurt me and it's not just You. It could be ANY happy couple. It hurts. I loved him, Quatre, and I miss him. And there's nothing you or Trowa or Wufei or anyone can do about it!"

A sniffle and a whimper told Duo that Quatre was probably being cradled into Trowa's shoulder by now. Duo sighed again and pressed a hand to his eyes.

"Quatre...It seems I have an uncanny knack for upsetting you lately. I'm sorry. Trowa..."

"Yes, Duo?"

"Take care of Quatre, o.k.? Make him happy. Make him laugh now and again."

"You got it, Duo. Anything else?"

"No. You've been great friends. I love you guys."

Duo switched the comm frequency to the battle channel used by the Gundam pilots.

"Wufei. Wufei, can you hear me?"

"Yeah, I hear you, Duo."

"Good. Can you do me a favor?"

"What's that?"

"Take care of Quatre and Trowa for me. Make sure they have a chance to be happy. Don't let anything happen to them."

"You can do that yourself, Duo. I've got you on my scope now and I'll catch up before long. Why don't you just save me the trouble and come back here. I've beat that gundam before, don't make me do it again, Duo."

"You really think you'll catch me, Wufei? Altron's fast and powerful with you piloting it, but you'll never catch Wing Zero. You've been a great friend."

"Duo, .."

Duo reached over and turned the comm off.

"So, are you really gonna do it? I never wanted you to kill yourself, you know."

Duo sat there piloting Wing Zero into the upper atmosphere, never hearing Heero. Heero looked at him sadly. Then he jumped as Duo started talking again.

"Heero? Can you hear me? I feel like you're here with me."

Heero laid a ghostly hand on Duo's shoulder.

"I'm here, Duo."

"I hope you can hear me, that way you can be getting ready for me. I'll be joining you soon. I hope you're not mad that I'm blowing Wing Zero to kingdom come. It just seemed right."

Heero shook his head.

"No. I'm not mad, Duo. Just sad that it's come to this. I failed you. I couldn't save you in the end. I'm sorry, Duo."

After another minute of silence, Duo said,

"I'm close, Heero. I'm almost there. I can detonate soon."

Duo was already starting the Self-Destruct sequence. Soon, sooner than Heero thought, the system was ready. Heero moved himself to twine around Duo until he was basically sitting in Duo's lap with his arms wrapped around him.

"I love you, Heero."

"I love you, too, Duo."

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And just as Wufei had a visual on Wing Zero and it looked like he might actually catch the damn fool before he did something drastic, Wing Zero erupted into a bright star of light and fire, taking with it the souls of the two best Gundam pilots ever.

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Heero jerked as he sat bolt upright in bed, gasping to catch his breath. Then he flopped back on the bed in relief. A dream. That's all it was...a dream. Heero let out a breath of relief. It had been so real!

Just then Duo moved in his sleep, snuggling back against Heero, trying to get comfortable again. Heero's throat tightened almost closed with the lingering emotions from the dream so fresh in his mind.

'He's here.'

Heero rolled over wrapping his arms around the American, cradling him gently. He breathed in a deep wif of Duo's scent.

'He's here, he's warm,...and he's mine.'

Heero remebered the dream and wondered if it wasn't someone trying to tell him something. Last night, he and Duo had gotten into a horrible fight and Heero had left saying he wasn't returning and that Duo could find another toy, perhaps Wufei. Then he left. He had gone out to do some maintenance on Wing Zero. He hadn't returned until very late. Heero used time like that to think and he had come to the conclusion that not only did Duo not deserve that kind of treatment, but that HE couldn't bring himself to leave Duo. Not really. And although he saw that as a major flaw and weakness, he knew he'd never leave Duo willingly. So he had come back late and slipped into bed well after Duo was asleep, telling himself that he'd try to straighten things out and tell Duo how he felt in the morning.

'I've never told him...I've Got to.'

"Duo. Duo, wake up."

Heero gently shook the American, trying to wake him.

"Duo. Duo, wake up. I've gotta tell you something."

Heero kissed one eyelid then the other and then smiled as he saw a small sliver of Violet peek through.

"I'm dreaming, You're smiling. You never smile."

That made Heero's smile broaden even more. Duo's eyes opened wider to look at Heero with a mixture of wonder and confusion.

"Are you o.k., Heero? You're really starting to freak me out."

"Never better, now that you're awake and I know you can hear me."

"Hear you? Did I miss something you said?"

Heero shook his head.

"No. I haven't said it yet."

"What?"

"I love you, Duo."

Duo's eyes, which had been drifting closed, shot open in shock.

"WHAT?"

Heero blushed a little, but repeated himself.

"I love you, Duo Maxwell. With all my heart and soul, or, whatever's left of them."

"When d..., I mean, Why? What brought this on? Not that I'm not thrilled, because I am! I just...Why now? Because of our fight?"

Heero shrugged a little.

"Maybe a little. Mostly because it's true. I love you and I've never told you. Even when you've told me that you love me, I've never said the words. I just tried to show you. It's not enough. I had to tell you."

Heero looked deep into Duo's eyes.

"And I swear to you Duo, that I won't hide it any more. I love you, Duo, and there may come a day when I won't be here to say it or show you. So I swear to try my hardest to tell you and show you every day how much I love you."

By this point tears were streaming down Duo's cheeks.

"I never thought I'd hear you say it, Heero. Never."

Heero kissed the tears away from Duo's eyes so he could look into them again.

"That's something I'll just have to make up for."

Heero spent the next several hours showing Duo exactly how much he loved him.

And afterward, as Duo snoozed lightly in Heero's arms, the Perfect Soldier knew that Duo wasn't his biggest weakness anymore, but his biggest strength. In defeating the demons in his mind, he had defeated his fears, his fear of commitment and love. And in doing so, he found the one thing that could make him truly unstoppable: HOPE. He now had hope, for their future and their relationship. And as Heero looked into the face of the one person that meant more to him than anyone or anything in the galaxy, he knew that their future would be a bright one indeed.

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O.K., It's Finished!

(jumps up and down in glee)

Hope you all enjoyed the ride and much as I enjoyed making it!

Thanx to everyone for their support!

And thanx to everyone who reviewed this story! I really appreciate it!